Cracks in wall of patriotism

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The traveling Wall that Heals left a trail of tears in Hayden, not all of them at the actual site of the Vietnam Wall replica.

Out doing what he does best, Hayden resident and full-time volunteer Graham Crutchfield was raising awareness in the greater Coeur d'Alene area a couple of weeks before the Wall arrived. Armed with a handful of 8.5-by-11 sheets giving basic information about the Wall and its sojourn to North Idaho, Crutchfield entered a Post Office branch and asked the woman at the counter if it would be OK to post a sheet on the wall. The woman said she needed to check with her supervisor, and upon returning said "No."

Crutchfield wasn't sure she understood.

"I told her we weren't asking for money. We just wanted to make sure people knew the exhibit was coming," he said. And he recalled this reply from the employee: "If we did that for you, we'd have to do it for everybody."

Crutchfield was stunned. He appealed to her patriotism. He asked if she didn't have a relative or friend who had served in Vietnam. Again the answer was no.

"There was no sympathy, no compassion whatsoever," he said. "And this from a federal employee."

While Crutchfield said he felt like he'd "been hit by a hammer," he was much more concerned about the bigger message conveyed by the postal worker. There's a disconnect between too many Americans and the men and women who fight for them, who sacrifice and sometimes die for them, Crutchfield said. Despite ongoing conflict around the world, the lack of any feeling or appreciation some people have for the incredible service rendered by their fellow citizens in the military is deplorable.

What happened in that Post Office to Crutchfield, who has worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of his military brethren, is unacceptable. It's wrong on so many levels, including the shocking treatment of a true patriot from a representative of a tax-supported federal agency historically low on generating goodwill among its patrons.

It's our hope that this was one stupid, insensitive mistake that will not be repeated, rather than an accurate reflection of U.S. Postal Service policy. Crutchfield is a veteran of far tougher battlefields than this, and despite age and increasing infirmity, he remains positive and graceful in his quest to increase awareness and sometimes money for the many needs of our veterans. If he took one on the chin but in the process raised awareness even the tiniest of notches, we know he'd consider that a sacrifice well worth making.

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