• 64°

War on terrorism hits home literally

By By Sonny Callahan
U.S. Rep.
The flag flew at half-staff in front of the George Bush CIA headquarters in the Washington suburb of Langley, Virginia, last week, a sign that a fallen comrade had paid the ultimate price in service to his country. 
But when the news had finally settled in that the brave patriot was, in fact, from Winfield, Alabama, a town of about 4,500 in Marion County just northwest of Tuscaloosa, the chilling reality of the loss became a bit more personal.
I didn't have the privilege of knowing Johnny Michael Spann, age 32, a former captain in the Marines who had decided to continue his service to his country by becoming a special intelligence officer for the CIA.  That said, I can only imagine the pain felt by his family, friends and community right now.
Less than a month before Christmas, most American families are busy getting their homes ready for the holidays.  Trees are being decorated, gifts are being wrapped, bikes are being assembled.  This is normally a happy, festive time of the year.
Unfortunately, for the Spann family and many others around the country, this holiday season will have far too many empty seats around the dining room table.
Clearly, Mike Spann wasn't the first casualty of America's war on terrorism, although he was the first U.S. victim of the war in Afghanistan.  The lives of thousands of other innocent people n many of which have already been well documented n were lost on that fateful day in September in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
Sadly, as President Bush has often reminded us, there will be more blood spilled in the weeks and months to come.  That is the gripping reality of war.
But while Mike Spann wasn't the first casualty, his death is a poignant reminder of the tremendous risk so many young Americans face every day in the service to their country.
Some, like Mike Spann, are soldiers of freedom who serve in either our Armed Forces or the intelligence or justice department communities.  Others, like the brave firefighters, paramedics and police officers who died in New York, are on the front lines of protection and service closer to home.
But as Mike Spann's father said late last week in confirming that his son had, in fact, been killed in the line of duty, Mike was willing to do "the things that no one else wants to do." And he did so, according to his dad, "because he felt he would be able to make the world a better place for us to live."
That, in fact, he has done.  And while he leaves behind a wife, two young daughters and an infant son, not to mention his mother, dad, and two sisters, Mike Spann will be remembered as yet another brave Alabamian who answered the call to serve his country and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice.
I know I speak for a grateful community of fellow Alabamians who express our heartfelt respect and sympathy to his family and friends.  May God bless them during this difficult time.
Local children contribute to fund
Several weeks ago, I mentioned the creation of the "America's Fund for Afghan Children" by President Bush. 
For those who may not have heard, this program was created to encourage children and their families to contribute to the relief efforts in support of Afghan children.  It was modeled after the March of Dimes campaign initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt for the battle against polio.
I am very happy to be able to say that the current president's call for assistance has been heard and answered right here in south Alabama.
Recently, the 470 students at Bay Minette Intermediate School presented my office with a $500 check for the Afghan fund which they raised through various fun day participation programs.  
My office was contacted by Mrs. Anne Davis and Principal Abbie Hamilton regarding their desire to have me personally deliver their contribution to President Bush.  I was very touched and impressed that these students made so many sacrifices in order to raise money for children halfway around the world that they may never meet.
At the assembly where the check was presented to my staff, Mrs. Davis' class recited word for word a portion of President Bush's address to the nation from September 11th. In addition, the students sang God Bless America and presented patriotic artwork that will be displayed on my website in the near future.  I understand it was a very moving ceremony, and it makes me incredibly proud of each student.
It is very gratifying that the spirit of giving and going above and beyond is found in some of our youngest Americans.
May God bless each of you and your families, our armed forces here and abroad, the president, and may God bless America.