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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: It was heartwarming to see the letter shortly before Memorial Day from a 13-year-old student who wrote you about a veteran who spoke at her school. He helped all of the students to better understand the significance of the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. It shows that our young people are concerned about liberty and justice.

I wonder how many Americans pause to consider that the pledge of the flag is really a pledge to the ideals of our forefathers. These men fought and many died to build our great nation.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a pledge to fulfill our duties and obligations as citizens of the United States and to uphold the principles of our Constitution.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt explained, "It is a pledge to maintain the four great freedoms cherished by all Americans: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Thank you, Abby, for the many years I have enjoyed your column. You may sign me ... KEN NELSON, SOMIS, CALIF.

DEAR KEN: Although I received your thought-provoking letter a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist saving it to print on Independence Day. It is meaningful to reflect upon the fact that our founding fathers wrote our Constitution after having lived in a monarchy that guaranteed none of these blessed freedoms.

DEAR ABBY: I am a professional musician who makes my living working for the church. As you might imagine, no one gets rich in this line of work, although it has its rewards.

My problem is, in recent months I've been taken advantage of more than once. Some wealthy relatives insisted that I play the organ for their son's wedding. When I offered to play as my gift, they insisted that if I didn't accept payment, they wouldn't let me play. The wedding came and went; everyone else received a thank-you note, but I haven't received payment OR a note of thanks.

In another incident, a couple in my church who have a limited income decided to get married. Since I've known them for quite some time, I offered to play at the wedding for free. To date, I have not received a thank-you note for this gift either.

At the risk of appearing immodest, I am a very good musician, and the music at both weddings was superb. I'm no amateur -- I hold both a bachelor's and master's degree in church music.

Abby, the services of a professional musician normally are in the range of $100 to $300 or more for a wedding. The issue I'm bringing up is not so much the money as the fact that the couples seem to have had so little appreciation for what they received. Apparently my years of practice, experience and expertise are not worth their time to say "thank you." The very least the couples could do when they receive a gift is to send a note of appreciation. Don't you agree? -- MIFFED MUSICIAN IN ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.

DEAR MIFFED: Yes, I do. As you said, the very LEAST the couples should do is to send an acknowledgment of your gift; a special thank-you note would be an even more fitting acknowledgment for such a generous gift.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY WOMB-MATE: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SISSY!

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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