Sunday, February 26, 2006

Not the compassionate president

I think the president has better things to attend to, like holding onto US ports and not selling them to the highest bidder without a thought to this countries security. Maybe he can oversee the rebuilding of New Orleans and Homeland Security, not necessarily in that order. He could work on an exit strategy for Iraq. He should be working on something presidential, but instead he is making nice as a goodwill ambassador to visitors from Iraq.

Imagine how thrilled I was to read that this president recently met with the victims of Saddam Hussein to discuss progress in Iraq.

"It's been my honor to visit with folks who know firsthand the brutality of Saddam Hussein. These are folks who have suffered, one way or the other, because the tyrant was a law unto himself, and was willing to deny people basic human rights. The stories here are compelling stories. They're stories of sadness and stories of bravery.

The dictionary defines a victim as "one who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition". I don't think of myself as a victim although I suppose one could make a case for that. I won't give this administration one more bit of power over my life by saying that they ruined my life. They turned it upside down, they changed it, but they did not ruin it. So, I'm not calling myself a victim and meeting with this president is nowhere on my "To Do" list.

Our President, who has sent hundreds of thousands of US military into an illegal and unwarranted invasion of Iraq, a country that was no threat to us, does not attend funerals. He doesn't honor the military's sacrifice with a ceremonial visit to Dover AFB as these flag covered "transfer tubes" come back to US soil either. And finally, when he wishes to comfort families of casualties, he hand picks those families to insure they support his policies. No wonder he thinks we are all grateful that he is the president and that our children died for his noble cause.

The truth is, I don't want to meet with President Bush. I cannot think of anything he could say to me that would make me feel he had any feelings about the loss of life in Iraq. I believe that he has not shed one tear for my only child, Lt Ken Ballard, or the 2290 other American soldiers who have died or been killed in Iraq. Furthermore, I'm guessing he doesn't think about the tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths. Let's not get into the wounded on both sides; they aren't anywhere on Bush's radar.

When Bush made the comments above after a White House meeting on 1.18.06, it is ironic that he easily could have been referring to the families in this country who have been affected by his policies if only the name Geroge Bush was substituted for Saddam Hussein. I wish I could look to my president for the kind of compassion he offers to citizens of other countries. Connecting those dots seems a bit too complex for this president to manage.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Good job, Mom!

From the day that I was told my only child, Lt Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq, the Army somehow managed to mess up everywhere they could. I wish I was exaggerating, but I have a letter of apology from the Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey to that effect. I dare say there aren't too many of those kinds of letters in existence. When I met with the Secretary last fall, he conveyed his regrets to me personally.

I was initially told Ken was killed by enemy fire; he was actually killed by the accidental discharge of the unmanned machine gun on his M1 tank. When the Army notified me of the change in circumstances of Ken's death back in September, 15 months after he was killed, I found I had done a fair amount of healing. My heart was ripped open and I had to hear in minute detail about the last hour of his life. I found out his last words.....

The Secretary of the Army called for an investigation into why I didn't know the truth from the beginning, when everyone involved did. He also called for an investigation into the casualty process and on 1.31.06, the Inspector General of the Army and 2 of his staff presented me with their findings. Am I satisfied? Hmmm, Ken is still dead, he's never coming home. But, yes they treated my allegations and concerns with dignity and respect. The execution of the casualty process was very poor, the recovery was amazing.

The Stars & Stripes, a daily newspaper serving bases, posts, ships, and embassies around the world wrote a story about the draft of the new casualty process that is being proposed. GI's legacy: Changes in easing families' losses, MotherĂ‚’s work led to revision of casualty notification I am happy to say that I see evidence of my involvment in many places of this draft document. I read ALL 166 pages to make sure.

I belong to a group of Gold Star families, Gold Star Families Speak Out. We are a chapter of Military Families Speak Out. We believe the best way to support our troops is to bring them home now, take care of them when they get here and to never let a war like this happen again. Nobody wants to be in this group, even we don't want to be in this club, but we are extremely close now. Each one of us knows the other's story, each one of us knows the other children as if they were our own. The circumstances of death vary, certainly, and out of that comes a mission for each of us. One mom & dad are pursuing the story of weapons of mass destruction, another IED's, another land mines and still another family wants to know why the Humvees have inadequate armor. Our son's and nephew's and cousin's voices have been silenced, but we will not let their conscience and their legacy die; so we speak. My mission is fixing the Pentagon. Okay, I know that's a big job, but someone's got to do it! ;-)

The thing about the Army is, they are a bureaucracy just like any other big company. I know they can do better than they did with me. I know they should respect Army families and do better by the soldiers. Fortunately, I have met many members of the military who agree with me. Changing processes and procedures is one thing, changing a culture is another.

Ken volunteered to serve his country and he loved being a soldier. It's shameful that this administration betrayed his patriotism and sent him to invade a country that was no threat to ours. Because the Army tells soldiers that the Army is their family, and they take care of their own, I know that Ken would have been so disappointed to see what I had to go through, but I do think he would be proud of me and he would say "Good job, Mom"

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Military Public Affairs you got

Rumsfeld is at it again....He says the extremists are winning the media war, and his hands are clean.

The extremist groups are able to act quickly on the information front, with relatively few people, while the U.S. government bureaucracy has yet to keep up in an age of e-mail, blogs and instant messaging, he said. "We in the government have barely even begun to compete in reaching their audiences," Rumsfeld said.

In his speech, Rumsfeld said the military needs to focus more on adapting to the changes in global media. "In some cases, military public affairs officials have had little communications training and little, if any, grounding in the importance of timing and rapid response, and the realities of digital and broadcast media," he said.

The government's public affairs system is antiquated, he said, working mostly on an eight-hour, five-days-a-week schedule that cannot keep up with the rest of the world. "This is an unacceptable, dangerous deficiency," he said.

But wait, who does the military public affairs report to? The Department of Defense, of course. And who is the top dog in that organization? The Secretary of the Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, of course. Donald, dear Donald, it was back in December 2004 that you said "As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want," We have been fighting this war nearly 3 years, and it's been over a year since that famous quote. If we want to have the military public affairs that we *want*, then it is Rumsfeld's obligation to make that happen with training, management and intra-agency co-operation.

Rumsfeld's comments of today act as if he thinks the public affairs fairy is going to magically fix this little media problem. I suspect that most government workers would belly up to the bar and do what needs to be done, provided they have the proper training, equipment and resources. It is the job of the Secretary of Defense to insure that happens. Once again, the DOD can do better.

One more question, if we have "barely begun to compete", might I ask when we might begin? If we don't start now, we'll always have the military public afairs that we have and not the one we want and deserve. This country and our troops deserve better.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Worst Day of My Life

2.15.06- Dick Cheney on Fox TV crying crocodile tears about the "worst day of his life", when he filled his friend with buckshot.

5.31.04- The day I was notified that my only child was killed in a war I never supported brought to us by an administration I never supported. Welcome to my world, Dick!

But Dick Cheney doesn't really have a clue. If last week was the worst day of his life, he is no where near mine and he is no where near the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and marines who have the worst days of their lives nearly every day in Iraq. These men & woman are seeing their friends fall in unimaginable ways and we still don't know why. Those images may never leave their minds. EVER!

Let's get a collection together and send Dick Cheney to stand by those men and women this adminstration has sent into harms way and let him see "the worst day of their lives". On second thought, I wouldn't wish Dick Cheney to be anyone's shooting buddy and I certainly wouldn't want to spend the money on the body armor he would surely keep from a deserving soldier!