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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The Friday morning before Memorial Day, I read the letter in your column from Carmella La Spada from the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. On Memorial Day, I was invited to a barbecue at the home of friends, so I decided to create our own moment of silence.

The gathering included myself, my teen-age son and the host family, which consisted of two more teens and several older relatives. The host had served in the Navy during the Gulf War, so the moment of remembrance held extra meaning for him.

At 3 p.m., the group gathered around the American flag in the front yard. I read Ms. La Spada's letter aloud, as it explained beautifully the reason for the moment of silence. Then my son, who plays the trumpet, played a beautiful rendition of "Taps."

The experience gave me a deep sense of gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, made possible by all of the men and women who have served in our armed forces down through the history of this country. In that moment, I felt the connectedness of us all.

Thank you, Abby and Ms. La Spada, for helping to make the day truly meaningful. Please sign my name. I am proud to live in the land of the free. -- TERESA ST. GEORGE, WENATCHEE, WASH.

DEAR TERESA: I'm sure Carmella La Spada will be as pleased as I am to know her letter spurred you to action. And I hope your letter reminds everyone who sees it how fortunate we are to live in this great country. The freedoms we enjoy today are the result of great personal sacrifice, and we must never forget it.

DEAR ABBY: The letters you have printed about acts of kindness -- as well as those about the insensitive treatment people with disabilities have received at some restaurants -- reminded me of an experience I had.

My father had many strokes and could no longer speak. However, in spite of his disabilities, my father was excited about giving me away at my wedding.

I took him to a tuxedo shop in North Seattle for a fitting. The young man who helped us could not have been more than 19 or 20 years old. He looked my father in the eye and addressed every question to him, although my father could answer with only a nod or a shake of the head. He was courteous and respectful, and accommodated my father's need to have a tux with a loose collar because of his trach tube.

I'll always be grateful to this kind and sensitive young man. He treated my father like the gentleman he was. The memory of that incident brought me a bit of comfort when my father died a month after the wedding.

I regret that I never properly thanked the young man, nor did I get his name. I hope he sees this -- and that other service providers will realize how much respectful treatment means to people with disabilities and their family members. -- MARY R. SWEENEY, ISSAQUAH, WASH.

DEAR MARY: I, too, hope he sees the letter, and that others in the service professions will learn from that fine young man's example.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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