Are We Sunshine Patriots?

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Moonlight Music Festival

Mary Duty, Trib Board of Contributors: Are we sunshine patriots?

Board of Contributors

In many ways, we hold ourselves responsible for the Robinson Planning and Zoning Committee’s denial of our request for a veterans benefit in the city of Robinson. We failed to get our message out in a way that made our neighbors on Hillside Drive feel safe. We simply could not imagine anyone in this community saying no to a veterans event.

My son Caleb, a Marine Corps veteran who completed two tours of duty in Iraq, set out to transform a 121-acre plot of land on Hillside Drive in Robinson into a venue for festivals, camping and outdoor community events. His chief goal: Hold a three-day music festival during Memorial Day weekend and donate the proceeds to local veterans groups.

We sent letters to our neighbors, leaving phone numbers so that we could answer any questions they might have about the proposed event. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation and rumor made its way around the community. By the time the hearings began, there were so many “what ifs” that we had no way to address all of the concerns.

Many residents had visions of a ’60s-styled Woodstock-type event. Many were fearful of young people committing felony crimes while attending this benefit. One neighbor spoke of children trespassing and abusing farm animals. We are still not sure how to counter such fears.

Part of our failure to get the benefit approved is probably because of the nature of the permitting process itself. It was suggested the language of the permit be broad, so as to allow for planning events we might want to hold in the future. So, on the advice of city planners, we produced an application that was worded broadly and met all the requirements of fire safety, public safety and traffic safety according to the city of Robinson. Both city fire and police chiefs testified to the committee that the city was ready to handle the potential size of our proposed benefit.

Our intention was to mount only one or two events each year — and on property that has been in our family since the mid-1950s. (And, yes, one of my husband’s ancestors settled this area back in 1849 — well before most folks did!)

What we did not expect was the unified opposition of our neighbors on Robinson’s Hillside Drive.

Resident after resident came to the podium and prefaced his or her remarks with glowing praise for the service and sacrifice of the veterans in attendance at the meeting. Many spoke of loved ones who served in the military. At least one of those opposed to the fundraiser belonged to a Gold Star family. After thanking the veterans for their service, they spoke of their fears of losing their peace and quiet, potential vandalism and crime.

One of our neighbors spoke of the freedoms that she enjoyed living on Hillside Drive. She spoke of the lovely sunsets, the peace and quiet and the joys of raising her grandchildren in the country. She turned to the veterans in attendance and pleaded her case to them: “Please don’t take away my freedom.”

We humbly remind our neighbor that the freedoms she enjoys today were paid for through the service and sacrifice of all of our veterans.

The final decision is up to the Robinson City Council, which will meet to consider the permit at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

In military training, troops are taught that it is noble and good to sacrifice temporary creature comforts for a greater cause. We got this idea in part from Thomas Paine. He warned of the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, those who would shrink from service when it was inconvenient. But he reminds us that “he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” 

We will not be the sunshine patriot. We have a plan to provide that love and thanks to our veterans that Paine spoke of. We know that somewhere there is a community that will embrace the idea that it is good to return a favor to young men and women who have given so much to us.

Mary Duty, chairwoman of the humanities department at Tennyson Middle School, is president of the Blue Star Mothers of America’s Heart of Texas Chapter. Her son, Caleb, served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines in 2006 and 2008.


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