CHARLOTTE, NC, December 10, 2017 – Every now and then I feel a little embarrassed by my service during the Vietnam era in the 1960’s. This past week was one of those times. It was also a week that renewed my faith in the compassion of the Christmas season and reminded me that the Spirit of Santa Claus really does exist.
The 60’s and 70’s tumult in the United States
The 60’s and early part of the 1970’s were turbulent years in the United States. Three great leaders were murdered in cold blood; two Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King.
It was a time of confusion and doubt. It was an era when soldiers returning from an unpopular war in Asia were vilified for their service to their country.
Since those days, members of our military are no longer chastised for protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. Even the most dovish of people do not fail to thank our fighting men and women for their service and commitment.
The Spirit of Santa Claus in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
My service was in the Marines during Vietnam. But unlike some of my high school classmates and friend and relatives, I was fortunate and did not see combat. Many other young men left our shores never to return home. Others came back maimed, disfigured or mentally incapable of dealing with daily inconveniences after witnessing the horrors of war.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with ALS, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where I reside is, began making an all-out effort to be pro-active toward veterans. One thing the county was offering and now waiting for approval is a military exemption from residential property taxes.
Since I am rated 100-percent disabled due to ALS and because I did have military service at Camp LeJeune which had a water contamination problem during my time on the base, I applied for the tax exemption. I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain in my battle to sustain some quality of life.
A few months after we applied, we received a letter denying our request. Upon inspection, the reason was because the paperwork to activate the exemption had not been validated until January 26, 201. We missed the deadline by slightly more than three weeks.
We went back to our voluminous four notebooks of accumulated paperwork and located a letter stating the actual diagnosis was in early November 2016. Naturally, the real fight had begun months before that, but, even so, the official date was still nearly two months prior to the deadline.
Nothing to lose
Using the “nothing to lose” argument, we sent a letter to the county requesting a review of our situation. Not long after, another letter arrived, telling us to appear for a hearing in December.
Upon our arrival at the county offices, we learned that their computer system had been compromised by hackers who were traced to Ukraine. According to the county officials, the hackers were demanding a ransom to be paid in bitcoin.
Being a technical moron I had no idea what that meant. However learning that the hearing will likley suffer a delay, that everything would be done manually, my heart sank. Though I have no comprehension of how computers work, I do know that the world cannot operate without them and the information was enough to discourage my hopes.
Being the first to arrive put us at the head of the list. Though everyone was in a bit of disarray, they could not have been nicer or more cordial despite the inconveniences they were dealing with.
Fortunately, our promptness placed us at the top of the list to present our case to the three-member panel. I was fully ready to explain the situation from the corner of the room where I was sitting in my Lexus version of a power wheelchair.
A Reversal of Fortune
As it turned out, my letter along with the documentation from the ALS clinic was all that was necessary. With the county attorney sitting behind the county clerk, the clerk presented our case for us. I didn’t even have to move my chair, much less say a word.
Following the clerk’s brief two minute presentation, there was a vote among the board members.
“First let me thank you for your service,” said the first board member, “I vote for the exemption.”
Next came the chairman who stated,
“I hope this is the most difficult decision we have to make today. The exemption granted and thank you for your service.”
The third member also thanked me and voted “yes” making the decision unanimous in our favor. In less than ten minutes, we had our property tax exemption, thus providing additional personal funds for our on-going fight against ALS.
The Spirit of Santa Claus in action
Indeed the spirit of Santa Claus was truly somewhere in that room. And yet, considering the price so many others have paid in their personal sacrifices for our country, it somehow seemed incongruous that the county board and its members should be thanking me for my service.
Such sentiments represent a sea-change in the attitude Americans hold for our men and women in uniform. Be they hawks or doves, Americans no longer treat military personnel with the disdain that was recently so prevalent.
In September of 1897, a little girl named Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the “New York Sun” inquiring about the reality of Santa Claus.
Veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church quickly replied with an unsigned editorial that has become part of Christmas lore ever since. The first part of the answer reads:
“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.”
Mr. Church had it exactly right to which I am a living testimonial, “Yes, VIRGINIA, there really is a Santa Claus.” The Spirit of Santa Claus is alive and well.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up