Posted on: Wednesday, May 17th, 2017
Debb Hirsch Clay ('70) is a member of the American Legion Unit 291, and her work on behalf of the Legion is a result of watching her father’s work as a medic in World War II. After she retired, she decided to honor his service by volunteering for the American Legion.
Her volunteer work for the American Legion Auxiliary sees her attending troop deployments, helping with family days for troops before they leave, and supporting Camp Pendleton children and spouses. She also is a member of the Elks Club and part of her service there is preparing meals for the Fisher House of Long Beach (part of the V.A. health care system). She also has been crocheting sleeping mats for homeless veterans using discarded plastic grocery bags. “We have distributed hundreds of mats. We hope that there will someday be no need for them.”
Part of Debb’s service to the American Legion community was a creative endeavor. She wrote a poem honoring Gold Star Mothers entitled My Gold Star. Gold Star Mothers are the women who have lost a child in service to our country. As Debb says, “It is a club no mother wants to join.”
Her poem was written to “honor Gold Star Mothers and express my concern for their loss.” She was particularly honored when it got the attention of others in the military and government community. “I was recently invited to an event where I met Brigadier General Nathaniel Reddicks-Air Force, Dave Perry-US Navy, and National Veterans Services Chairman and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Rohrabacher asked if he could read My Gold Star into the Congressional Record. I agreed. My goal is for all Americans to know what a Gold Star Mother is and to honor their sacrifice; these women are truly amazing.”
Debb’s poem is printed below.
After leaving Emory & Henry back in 1970, Debb went to California where she completed 3 mentorships, was an National Science Foundation grant leader in the 1990s for their Mathematics Renaissance Project, and received 2 Golden Bell Awards from the state for innovative programs.
Debb says one of her favorite quotes is by Albert Schweitzer: "The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." Debb concludes by adding, “I am truly happy.”
My Gold Star
I took the road ”less traveled” and arrived upon a shore
Where sunlight danced on surface currents-opening a door
To memories of you and me –our feet upon the sand
And how our voices filled the air as your touch filled my hand.
You were just a little child but even then you knew
That giving of yourself was all that you were meant to do,
And day by day you walked the path that led you toward the day
You’d place your country and its worth ahead of “Self” and say,
“I’ll go and serve and do my part to keep my homeland free,
When others tread a different path it matters not to me,
For this I know and will profess to all who choose to hear,
Our country needs us all to serve and that is why I’m here.”
I stand alone now on that shore, as sorrow fills my brow
A mix of tears and smiles collide with thoughts of then and now,
Yet as I witness warmth and sparkle from the water’s skin,
The silent streams upon my face with brilliant light begin
To fill my heart, the air, this place with who you really are
And what you did and why you had to venture out so far,
So now I’m left without you here- my grief I try to hide
But what I can show is my “star” – it shines as does my pride.