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OPINION: A Forest Grove combat veteran says he has come to understand the importance of addressing equity.

I am 75. Raised in the Northeast, I served 20 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. I served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star there.

I've taught in major universities. I started my first W2 job in 1960 and was employed every day until I retired in December 2019.

I've been married to the same woman for 48 years. We have three sons, two of whom served in the military. My wife is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was raised in Colombia, South America. All of our boys speak Spanish.

I have visited over 25 different countries. As you might say, I've been around the block. What I have learned in these 75 years of travel is that all people, across the globe, are very similar in what they want for their families, themselves and their neighbors.

I've recovered the bodies of American soldiers from the fields of Vietnam. Some were white, some black, some Hispanic, some Asian, some older, most very young. The color of their skin may have been different, but they all bled red.

All humans share over 99% DNA. Imagine that; 99% genetically similar to each other. Let that sink in.

Regarding the social justice image that has been suggested for public property in Forest Grove, I have some thoughts to share.

Some people don't like the idea that the image was suggested by Pacific University students (after all, they don't really live here). We should stop and think about Pacific University. It has been in Forest Grove since 1849. That is a lot longer than I have lived here, and I would guess a lot longer than most citizens have lived here. It has generated income for our citizens and employees for our businesses. Much of the faculty live in town, providing additional income to the city. Pacific University has helped make this a community to live in.

Read our Oct. 13, 2020, update on the mural planned for Forest Glen Park.

Social justice in this nation needs to be addressed. I have learned this the hard way. For most of my 75 years, I thought anyone could climb to the top just by hard work. By extensive reading and opening my mind to information that conflicted with my view of the world, I have learned how difficult it can be for people of color. Many Americans can get ugly with people who differ by race, religion, language and place of origin. It's age-old and continues.

I was part of that culture. I denied the impact of Jim Crow laws. I did not understand "redlining." I did not understand how "white privilege" is so subtle; it is easy to miss.

There are countless examples of deliberate acts to keep "the blacks in their place." I've learned some of the underhanded tricks, and, as a citizen, I intend to do what I can do to stop these actions and promote "social justice" for all of our citizens.

A benefit of aging is wisdom. A story I learned highlights this. When Konrad Adenauer was the chancellor of West Germany, he reversed his position on an important issue. The German press was hounding him and when asked about his change of position he replied, "Ladies and gentlemen, as long as I am the chancellor of this country, I reserve the right to be smarter today than I was yesterday." Change is not always bad or evil.

Our founding fathers were not perfect people; some owned slaves. Slavery was something generally accepted around the world at that time, but that does not make it correct or acceptable.

Read the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The social justice image suggested by the Pacific students should contain these words so all Americans can stand behind them as we do our Constitution.

Michael Perrault is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and Forest Grove resident.


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