Reasons for gratitude abound

Even with the recession still bearing down on south-central Kansas, blessings abound this year. Everyone will have his own reasons for gratitude today, including personal ones related to family, health and home. As The Eagle editorial board wishes its readers a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day, we offer a few thanks of our own:

* Thanks for the guardians of public safety in our communities and the defenders of our freedom around the world. On this day we are especially mindful of Sedgwick County Deputy Brian Etheridge, who was cut down in the line of duty in September, and the more than 60 warriors that Kansas has lost in Iraq and Afghanistan; the latter is where Sgt. Tyler Juden of Arkansas City and Cpl. Daniel Cox of Parsons (a Winfield native) were killed Sept. 12.

* Thanks to United Way of the Plains and its donors, who defied fears with more than $15.8 million in pledges in the fall campaign. All area charities will need special attention and generosity from the community in the coming months to meet the unprecedented growth in numbers of people needing help.

* Thanks to the Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders, whose motorcycles and flags are such an inspiring, fitting show of respect for fallen soldiers and effective shield against funeral protesters. More than 50 of the American Legion Riders also made an impressive showing at the June funeral of slain abortion doctor George Tiller, honoring his U.S. Navy service.

* Thanks not only for the looming Jan. 2 ribbon cutting of the Intrust Bank Arena but for the fact that it's already paid for. Part of the remarkable deal with voters in 2004 was that construction of Sedgwick County's long-sought, 15,000-seat venue would not begin until the 30-month sales tax ended — which it did, after having generated $206.5 million for construction and other costs.

* Thanks to Central Prairie Honor Flights, a Great Bend-based group that has flown more than 700 area World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., over the past 20 months to see the National World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and other sights. The national network of such groups is racing against time, as the nation loses 1,800 World War II veterans each day and many others can no longer travel. As the veterans' T-shirts on one of the Kansas group's recent flights read, "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a World War II veteran before it is too late."

* Thanks for this month's opening of the Kellogg freeway at Rock Road, which means it's finally possible to cross 14 miles of Wichita's midsection from east to west without a stoplight. The construction continues, but it's remarkable what tenacity and millions of tax dollars can do. So much for the prediction by the late City Manager Chris Cherches, upon hearing that the sun was going to burn out in a billion years, that "we'll have to finish the Kellogg freeway construction in the dark."