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by Abigail Van Buren

Camp Would Be Meaningful Legacy for Heroes' Survivors

DEAR ABBY: I am an emergency physician. Over the years, I have come to know many police officers, firefighters and paramedics who put their lives on the line daily for the good of our society. I have great admiration for them. They don't make millions for hitting home runs, but their work is vital to our communities.

Unfortunately, death in the line of duty is inevitable for a significant number of them, and consequently, every year hundreds of their children are orphaned. We have all seen pictures of funerals with an honor guard of dozens or even hundreds of the hero's comrades in attendance. A collection is taken; speeches are made. But what then? The surviving parent is left with a child or children to raise alone. Sometimes the youngest child is still in the mother's womb, never to see its father's face.

A moment of silence to honor the dead is well and good, but there are years to go before the children reach maturity. I think it would be most helpful to have several camps in our country where these children could spend a couple of weeks each summer, gratis. The benefits would be many:

Each year, these children would spend time with others who have had the same experience. Friendships would be created, and they could help each other face their loss and emerge victorious from their adversity.

The ongoing nature of the camp experience would be a permanent tribute to the memories of those who gave their "last, full measure." This would teach those children that our society is truly grateful for their parents' sacrifices. They would grow up with even greater admiration for their deceased parent, and thus greater self-esteem.

The surviving parents would be given two weeks a year of much-needed time to themselves. They would also become part of a surviving parents network that would inevitably develop.

Finally, the men and women of our nation who put their lives on the line would know that, if the worst happened, their children and spouses would not be forgotten the day after the funeral.

Surely there is land, public or private, that could be designated for this purpose. I am sure there would be no shortage of volunteers to help run these camps.

Abby, I can't think of anyone who would be more influential in promoting this idea than you. If you think it's worth mentioning in your column, I'm sure the response will be as overwhelming as it will be heartwarming. -- PHILLIP A. BREWER, M.D., YALE EMERGENCY MEDICINE, CHESHIRE, CONN.

DEAR DR. BREWER: Your idea has merit, and I hope it succeeds. With the closure of so many military bases nationwide, to create camps there for the children of public safety personnel who die in the line of duty, would be a fitting tribute.

DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law died in 1989, but my sister-in-law still sends an anniversary card to her father on their anniversary. In addition, she sends her father a sympathy card on the anniversary of her mother's death.

I have never heard of this. Is it normal? Is it healthy? -- CONCERNED SISTER-IN-LAW

DEAR CONCERNED: Not only is it healthy, it's a very loving gesture. Your sister-in-law is to be commended for her sensitivity. I have received countless letters from widows and widowers bemoaning the fact that friends and relatives ignore the anniversary after the spouse dies. They tell me it's as if the marriage never took place, and it's a very lonely day for them. Because the spouse is deceased doesn't mean that the day isn't meaningful for the survivor. It's an important event, one filled with precious memories.

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