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I grew up in the '60s and '70s, when Americans didn't appreciate the sacrifice by military members and their families. You see, my father shipped out to North Africa only weeks after graduating from the Military Academy at West Point and marrying my mother in June 1942. He served our country in the U.S. Army during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. My oldest brother followed in my dad's footsteps, but was killed during his first patrol of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in 1968. I also served, in Germany from 1984 to 1988, so I know firsthand how someone stationed overseas views photos from home. Currently my nephew is serving in the Navy. Yes, the U.S. Navy—nobody's perfect!
Many Americans forget that our service members, especially the "weekend warriors" called to active duty, are just fulfilling an oath they took when they joined the military. That oath was simply to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." I think people either forget or just don't understand that the so-called balance of powers defined in the Constitution gave a Republican president the sole authority to order our military members into harm's way and gave a Democratic Congress the sole authority to decide to fund or not to fund this decision.
The members of our military are just fulfilling their promise to us: The People. During my youth, Americans took out their political frustrations on service members like my father and brother. As the conflict in Iraq drags on, I hope Americans will understand our military follows the orders of our elected politicians, and their family members suffer as well.
I want you to know that I enjoy reading your articles and looking at all the photos of folks taking pleasure in smoking a good cigar. Most of all, I look at the pictures of our military members, hoping that I will see a fellow "Centaur" with whom I served while a member of the Second Battalion, Sixth Field Artillery, 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead)—the original U.S. Army "Spearhead" unit!
Thanks again for all you do, and I look forward to reading and studying your work in the future.
Thank you so much for having Armand Assante as your April cover story. I have always enjoyed the roles he has played throughout his career. You see him as an actor who plays characters "with a hard edge." I see him as a sexy and intellectual artist. His involvement in raising awareness about land mines in his documentary Blind Dragon shows that he is a person who cares about people. I imagine that the solace he receives from working on his farm assists to develop his concern and activism for his causes. As it happened, upon reading the article on Assante, my thoughts went to a friend visiting from Houston last weekend, who bought some C.A.O. cigars while here. A relaxing time was had that evening.
Thanks again for your informative and wonderful magazine.
San Diego, California
Today, very few bastions for interactive free speech exist. Cigars bars and clubs are pretty much our lone survivors. They are our Alamos, scattered across the country doing their best to stay in business and provide an environment for free speech and great camaraderie. Inside these hallowed facilities, individuals share a common denominator: a love for a good cigar. And that love opens up an environment where people from all walks of life are on equal footing, sharing opinions on various challenges and obstacles facing them in life.
Regardless of their careers, a plumber, doctor, lawyer or sports figure all share the respect of one another because they have a common denominator: a love for a good cigar.
The rewards each shares in this ritual are diverse. All discover they are not alone; they get a chance to vent, espouse their opinions and gain a new level of confidence from the respect they receive from the group. The bottom-line benefit for most of a cigar shop's patrons is a recharged battery and the knowledge that no matter how their day goes, there is an extended family waiting to hear the good, bad and the ugly while enjoying a great smoke. Personally, I find my cigar shop much more effective and a lot cheaper than visiting with a neurotic $250-an-hour psychiatrist.
When did free speech and a friendly environment to share it become such a threat to this country? How did we allow nonsmokers to take over the Constitution and eliminate our rights to congregate in a place of our own choosing? A cigar shop caters to cigars smokers only. There is no reason for the general public to visit and/or shop in these facilities. If they are not visiting, how can the smoke be a problem? The company line is that it is done in the interest of good health for all. What about mental health? Social interaction is paramount to good mental health. Who knows, we may not have had to add the term "going postal" if those workers had come in for a good cigar and a friendly environment to unload excess stress. America was always the land of opportunity. It gave anyone the chance to build a quality of life in direct proportion to his efforts. Many of these Americans are cigar shop owners and taxpayers who are being destroyed by a few who think they know what's best for everyone. Small-business owners support much more of the tax base than the big corporations. What small businesses will be next in the name of better health? Liquor stores? Fast-food restaurants?
Today, a man's home is not his castle, nor is a man's business.
Shouldn't we be scared to death when we realize that we can no longer smoke in our own backyards, our homes and in our car, as well as our local cigar shop?
Is this attack on smokers really about smoke or is it an attack on free speech, the right to congregate and communicate? The majority does rule, but is the majority making the rules in America today?
I will head over to my local cigar Alamo to share my thoughts with other Americans who have exercised their free will to enjoy my company, views and their own brand of great cigars.
Douglas S. Keane
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