Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy 30th Birthday, Ken

July 21, 2007 was an especially hard day. Since Ken was killed in Iraq on 5.30.04, we have celebrated his life on his birthday and on his deathday. For the anniversary of his death, we travel to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to celebrate his too short life. For his birthday in July, we go to a local park in Mountain View, CA. This is our local community who have always been supportive of me as I travel this journey of bereavement.

This birthday, Ken would have turned 30. I'm not sure what made the day more difficult; that we were celebrating this 30th anniversary of his birth. 30 should have been one of his milestone birthdays, so we celebrated without him physically present, but always in our hearts and on our minds (some of of on our bodies, with the tattoos in Ken's honor. Or was it that we were celebrating on his actual birthday? I had always run away from home in previous years and being around people, especially on Ken's birthday was difficult.
My local paper, the San Jose Mercury News wrote a very nice accounting of our celebration. The reporter is Kim Vo, the photographer is Pauline Lubens. I am grateful that they both saw a story in this celebration and understood that our loss is not only Ken's families. His death was a pebble dropped into a smooth pond and touched lives of his friends, his community and of our country. I heard from friends and family all over the country wishing me well and acknowledging missing Ken, too. I am not alone in missing Ken. I do not know if I will ever know the lives that Ken touched in his short time here, and we must always remember that our loved ones lived and not just how they died. Happy birthday, buddy!

Here is an audio slide show, too "Celebrating Ken's Life" (thanks, Pauline, as always, for your amazing photography)

Keeping a soldier's memory alive

Like most birthday parties, there were balloons, bubbles and stories. What was missing was the birthday boy.

Ken Ballard died May 30, 2004, in Iraq. He would have turned 30 on Saturday.

"He shouldn't just be remembered for how he died," said his mom, Karen Meredith. She has held posthumous birthday parties the past three years "as a celebration of his life."
For military families who've lost loved ones in the war, such events are common. They host backyard barbecues and park picnics.

Every year, Fremont mom Diane Layfield, whose son Travis died in Iraq, goes to El Burro restaurant. She places his photo at the head of the table, then orders their favorite: two cheese enchilada verde.

For the Meredith family, Cuesta Park in Mountain View is the spot. It's where they celebrated after Ballard graduated from Mountain View High School in 1995. It's where they wilted under the sweltering heat last year, cooling themselves with ice cubes as they toasted his memory.
Celebrating is a must for Meredith, who raised Ballard as a single mother. When he was young, she indulged him with "Star Wars" and firefighter-themed birthday parties. She even baked a firetruck-shaped cake. After he joined the Army, she shipped brownies to the Middle East, packing candles in the box so his fellow soldiers would get the hint.
The day after his burial, five of his relatives inked their bodies with memorial tattoos. Others followed suit.
At Saturday's gathering, the body art ranged from black ribbons to gold stars to a banner that read "Ken-21-RTFO" - a reference to Ballard, the number of his tank and his profane utterance to "Rock the f--k on."
Power in numbers
Still, even with all the past memorials and tributes, Saturday was tough. Thirty is a milestone year, one usually marked with black balloons, over-the-hill jokes and hints about marriage.
In past years, the parties hovered near his birthday. This year, it fell smack on: Ballard, who made first lieutenant, was born July 21, 1977.
Other years, "I could run away, go to the beach, pull the covers over my head" on Ballard's birthday, Meredith said. She never knows how she's going to feel, when a memory will make her smile or steal her breath, leaving her sobbing. "You don't know when you're going to get slammed."
It's a sentiment shared by Ballard's family, who were among the 30 guests at the park - including Ballard's grandmother, Pat Meredith.
When asked how many grandchildren she had, she momentarily flinched.
"We've got 14 now," she said quietly.
"This is a hard day. Usually we're well," she said. "But it's good for people who know Ken and understand. Most of our friends don't have a connection to the war, so they don't understand days like this."
Among the guests were other moms who've lost sons in the war and parents who are about to send their children overseas. Ballard's former Mountain View High teacher also came, as did peace activists, people who knew him as a boy and those who only heard about him after his death.
"I met all these people through the loss of our sons and daughters," said Layfield, whose son Travis was killed in 2004. "We've become a family through that."
The guests held varying opinions about the war. Meredith has criticized the government for not telling her for 15 months that her son was killed by a machine gun accidentally discharging - not in combat as the military initially reported. But none of that mattered Saturday, she said. Saturday was about Ballard.
A new family ritual
Guests flipped through photo albums, swapping stories. Here's Ken wearing that loud red Hawaiian shirt over his fatigues. Remember how the cousins loved riding his back while he did push-ups? Ken declared "No Pants Days" in Iraq, allowing his unit to wear only boxers in their tank, where the heat could rise to 160 degrees.
Cathy Patton stopped at a photo of Ken with his cousin Elizabeth, Patton's daughter. The two were born four months apart and raised like siblings. Elizabeth turns 30 this November, another reminder of something Ballard was supposed to achieve first - but never did.
"It's all things, like when my daughters have babies, he won't," she said. "Get married, he won't."
Throughout Cuesta Park on a picture-pretty Saturday, other families gathered for their own rituals: a summertime picnic and volleyball game, a baby's first birthday party with purple and orange balloons hanging from the tree like fat Christmas ornaments.
Meredith had balloons, too. People attached notes to the long, thin ribbons: "Thank you for your service," "Happy 30th Birthday, Ken" and "Kenny, I miss you so much."
The man at the balloon store had asked her how much helium she needed. It didn't matter, she said, she was releasing them into the sky. He looked horrified - such disregard for the environment!
"How else," she asked the clerk, "are they going to get to heaven?"
When it was time, she invited up all the women like herself - Travis' mom, Erik's mom, Pat's mom - who had lost their sons. They clutched at the balloons, red as hearts and carrying loving thoughts.
Then, they opened their fists and the breeze blew by, carrying the balloons high and away from this earth. People kept staring after them, long after they had disappeared from view.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What I Learned from Bush

What I learned from BUSH
1. Lying is O.K.
2. Cheating is O.K.
3. Torture is O.K.
4. Taking people's rights is O.K.
5. Neglecting the poor is O.K.
6. Being a religious hypocrite is O.K.
7. Killing is O.K.
8. Incompetence is O.K.
9. Cronyism is O.K.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

At military burn unit, difficult recoveries bring stresses and deep bonds

From the Asociated Press, here is a glimpse inside the daily activities at Brooke Army Medical Center and treatment of the members of the military who have been severely burned in Iraq & Afghanistan. They have been sent to San Antonio, TX to begin their long, painful journey of recovery. The soldiers & marines are not the only heroes; so are the medical staff who do this day after day after day. May all of their families find some peace and respite.

If you dare read the whole thing and do not shed a tear, I worry about your soul.

The five badly burned soldiers arrived around 11 p.m., sedated and swathed in bandages from head to foot _ the screech of the plane’s wheels on the tarmac and waiting ambulances marking the end of a 7,500-mile journey.
Dr. Kevin Chung had just returned from dinner as the ambulance convoy zipped through the gates of Brooke Army Medical Center. He paced back and forth from his office to intensive care, waiting for the soldiers who were coming in from Germany, after being evacuated from Iraq.
A three-continent marathon, and this was the finish line.
Chung had reviewed the soldiers’ charts and ordered medicine. He donned a blue surgical gown and put on his mask and gloves as the men were wheeled in one by one, tethered to a blinking, beeping, buzzing nest of tubes, ventilators and monitors.
Now Chung and some 30 doctors, nurses and others took over.
They cut open the men’s bandages and, using diagrams of the human body, mapped the soldiers’ burns _ shading in red for third-degree, blue for second-degree _ to plan for surgery.
They called the soldiers’ families. They needed permission to operate.
The men had been injured days earlier when a roadside bomb in Iraq turned their Bradley fighting vehicle into an inferno. One man who had escaped ran back to help a trapped comrade.
"This one’s the hero," Chung said, as the first stretcher rolled in.
"They’re all heroes," a nurse replied.
The "hero" was in the worst shape, with burns ravaging more than 70 percent of his body. His skin was leathery, his eyes swollen shut, his body bloated.
Chung did a bronchoscopy to check his lungs. He threaded a fiber-optic scope into the tube connecting the soldier to a ventilator. Tar-like soot deposits appeared on a video monitor.
To Chung, it looked as if someone had smoked 100 packs of cigarettes in 10 minutes.
If this soldier _ the one who had escaped _ had so much lung damage, what about the men who had been trapped?
He examined them and answered his own question.
Their lungs were worse.
Brooke’s burn center _ the only one of its kind for the nation’s military _ has its own rhythms and rituals.
The center’s 40 beds are tucked in a fourth-floor wing of the sand-colored hospital at Fort Sam Houston. In the halls and on the walls, there are constant reminders of the war _ the scarred young men, the clocks set to Iraq and Afghanistan time.
This is a place where the wounded celebrate small steps toward recovery, even bending a pinkie finger, and mourn the loss of the pain-free lives they once led. Where patients can spend months in intensive care and years in rehabilitation.
It’s a place where a groan or a clenched-teeth grimace speak more eloquently than words.
And it’s a place with a quiet sense of urgency.
Doctors operate in womb-like, 90-degree heat, sometimes six at once working on a soldier; nurses, in boots, masks and long gowns, sweat as they scrub down patients in steaming showers; families congregate, longing for the day loved ones will emerge from the cocoon of bandages.
In another era, another war, many patients probably would never have made it this far.
But troops today have better body armor, fast evacuation from the battlefield to war zone hospitals, then state-of-the-art treatment in Germany and the United States.
Brooke has special teams that fly to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to bring home the most severe cases on a C-17 transport, sometimes handling emergencies in midair.
A soldier burned in Iraq can be in a hospital bed in San Antonio within 72 hours, sometimes less. In Desert Storm, it took nearly 12 days. In Vietnam, it was closer to 17 days.
Once patients arrive at Brooke, skin grafts are usually done within 24 hours to stave off infection, the major cause of death. Decades ago, doctors waited days or weeks to do surgery.
"The faster you get the burn off the patient, the better off you’re going to do," says Dr. David Barillo, chief of the flight evacuation team.
Brooke’s burn center also treats civilians. But these days there is a steady flow of wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan _ more than 570 thus far, of which only about 6 percent have died. Many survivors, however, are permanently scarred. Some also suffer from blast-related wounds, such as head injuries or fractures. Others can’t walk, sign their names or tie their shoes.
"We now have an entirely new population of burn survivors ... with oftentimes lifelong and life-changing injuries," says Dr. Evan Renz, a Brooke surgeon.
Some will recover. Others will learn new ways to become independent.
"You have to believe that you’re doing the best thing for the patient by helping them survive," Renz says. "You have to believe that in the end, when all is said and done, they will be glad they made it through."
There are always people, he says, who will look at severely burned patients and ask why put them through all the agony.
"We try not to judge too much," he says. "When you’re talking about how far should you go to save someone’s life, I think in the case of these tragic injuries you have to be realistic. You have to look at what can be done. Just because we can do it, should we do it?"
He pauses, then adds: "I certainly have no regrets about those things I’ve been able to do."
Chung woke from a quick nap on his office couch the morning after the five badly burned soldiers arrived, and walked down the hall to check on them.
All were stable. But the news quickly turned grim.
One soldier went into shock. His heart, lungs and kidneys failed. He never regained consciousness to see family members who had flown in to be at his bedside.
It was not Chung’s first loss, but, he says, every one leaves him shaken.
Chung had treated seriously wounded troops as a fellow at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But Brooke, he says, is more intense. Patients rally, nearly die, rally again _ and then sometimes lose the struggle.
"I can’t think of a more devastating injury," Chung says. "In the most tragic instances a lot of us say to ourselves ... sometimes life is worse than death."
Some burn survivors say that, too.
"We have patients that tell us, ’I want to die. I want to die. Let me go.’ ... That’s very tough," Chung says. "The best we can do is manage the pain."
Of the five patients arriving that night, one was transferred out of intensive care.
The "hero" was rebounding, too. He was talking with his family. Everyone was excited. But it was that roller coaster again. This was the top. Then, the dip: An abdominal infection set in.
The "hero" died. Within three weeks, four of the five were gone.
Chung was reeling.
"You start wondering, ’Do I even matter?’" he says. "You start doubting whether you’re making any difference. Looking back, I felt I was very naive. I was thinking, ’I’m a young physician. I have all this knowledge. I can do all these great things. Maybe I can help save them.’ You quickly realize that that’s not the case. You have absolutely no control. I felt completely helpless."
And stressed out.
He couldn’t sleep. He was irritable with his two young children. He didn’t always want to talk with patients’ families.
Chung knew he had to change _ and he did, in several ways.
Working with other doctors, he immersed himself in developing a new treatment to help burn survivors in shock. He also made sure he spent more time with his kids.
Sleep began to come more easily. So, too, did energy for the next day’s emotional whirlpool.
"I still have my compassion," Chung says. "I want to hold on to that."
He needs it.
"You walk a tightrope," he says. "I tell the family members that they need to be realistic. ... At the same time, I don’t want to be the person to take away hope. How can you justify giving up on anybody?"
Chung always reminds himself of the most critically burned patient he helped treat who survived.
One name instantly comes to mind: Sgt. Merlin German.
German’s survival is a story of numbers:
Burned over 97 percent of his body.
In intensive care 11 months.
Nearly 17 months in the hospital.
More than 40 surgeries, and counting.
Practically everyone who has met German describes him with one word: Miracle.
How in the world did this Marine survive, rebound from infections, and manage to exceed doctors’ expectations so many times?
Renz, one of German’s doctors, offers an explanation: "God meant for him to do something else. He wasn’t meant to be beaten by this."
German knows he’s one for the medical journals.
Sitting in the therapy gym, sucking on a "fentanyl pop" _ a plastic stick tipped with a morphine-like painkiller _ he pulls a T-shirt of his own design from his gym bag.
On the front, it says: "Got 3 percent chance of surviving; What ya gonna do?" The back lists four options: "a. Fight Through. b. Stay Strong. c. Overcome Because I Am A Warrior. d. All Of The Above!" The last one is circled.
But living choice "d” means one surgery after another to replace almost every square inch of your skin.
It means learning to walk again because your new skin doesn’t allow you the mobility, strength and balance you once had.
And it means looking into the mirror at a ripple-scarred face, learning to make do without fingers (German was a saxophone player) and figuring out, at age 21, what to do with the rest of your life.
But more than two years after the former Marine turret gunner nearly died from a roadside bomb, German accepts what is _ and all he has going for him: A steel resolve. Great genes (his doctor calls it "wonderful protoplasm"). And a tremendously supportive family led by his mother, Yvonne, who moved from New York to tend to her son.
"At the beginning, my mother was the one to tell me ... ’You look great,’" says German, a baseball cap pulled low on his head. "She was the one who made me survive. Her and God. ... Me and my mother pray three, four times a day."
German’s determination has wavered at times, though, as he considers college and a career. "Sometimes I do think I can’t do it. Then I think: Why not? I can do whatever I want. ...
"Nobody has ever been 97 percent dead and survived, and lived to walk ... and dance."
Last December, after months of practice so he could lift his arms, turn and pivot, he donned his Marine dress blues and hit the dance floor at Brooke’s Holiday Ball.
He surprised his mother, taking her into his wounded arms, gliding smoothly across the room to a melody he chose _ a Rod Stewart song, "Have I Told You Lately That I Loved You?"
The crowd stood and applauded. And cried.
German’s path to the dance floor began in the intensive care unit.
It’s where Capt. Kristine Broger, an ICU nurse, thrives in heat and silence.
She’s accustomed to rooms set at 80 degrees or warmer if heat lamps are on to help those who can’t control their body temperature after their burned skin has been removed.
And she’s familiar with patients who can’t speak _ at least, at first _ because they’re sedated or hooked to ventilators.
Broger meets those patients by talking with loved ones and looking at photos they tack up on the walls _ snapshots that remind everyone of the person beneath the bandages.
Seeing these "kids" month after month, "it’s very difficult not to get attached," says Broger, just 27 herself, a veteran of Iraq with piercing blue eyes and a direct manner. "They become part of you and you get to know the family like your own."
There was one badly burned young soldier she particularly remembers. His mother, a nurse, stood vigil at his bed, day and night for four months. Early on, he was on a ventilator. But he gradually improved and was able to joke and chat. He seemed to be recovering.
Then, suddenly, he died. Broger broke down in tears.
With burns, she says, there is no timetable, no guarantee of recovery.
"Sometimes," she says, "God has another plan for you."
Broger has a strategy for coping with the ICU’s stresses. Work stays at work. When she and a colleague have dinner, hospital talk is taboo.
"After the locker room, I try not to bring anything home with me. But some days," she says, "it’s more difficult than others."
Chris Edwards is in Year 3 as a burn center regular.
The Army staff sergeant was wounded when a 500-pound bomb exploded under his Bradley as he was crossing a bridge in Iraq. Sitting just inches from 100 gallons of diesel fuel, his body was set ablaze.
Edwards was burned over 79 percent of his body.
Since then, he has endured 34 surgeries. He ticks them off as if reading a grocery list: Grafts over his entire body, eye operations (including a cornea transplant), corrective work on his ankles and fingers, holes drilled through his lower right leg bones and heel and metal rods inserted to stabilize them.
And more.
"You start thinking, what did I do to deserve this?" says Edwards, who also served in the Marines. "It really tests your faith. Not only that, you’re really thinking: What did my family do to deserve this?"
Edwards, 36, wonders how he can make up lost time with his 5-year-old son and make his older boys, 10 and 13, understand why he can’t play catch as he once did.
He worries, too, about pressure on his wife, Tammy, who helps bathe him. "That’s not something you just expect to do when you marry someone physically fit," he says.
Then there’s the pain. Some days, it’s tolerable.
Other days, he says, "I just ... beg somehow for God to kill me and take away the pain and let me die. ... It’s like walking on hot coals, having your hands put in boiling water ... and breathing with a 10-ton weight on my chest."
But as hard as it has been, Edwards still finds humor _ as he has all his life.
"If you’re a patient and you laugh for a second, that’s one second more that you don’t have to worry about how bad things hurt. ... For that second, you’re a regular person. I try to keep people laughing as much as I can."
Sgt. Shane Elder patched up the wounded in Iraq and sent them home to be healed.
Now he’s home, treating burn survivors at Brooke, gently massaging and stretching their scars so they don’t shrink and turn fingers into claws.
Elder, a former medic with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is an occupational therapist’s assistant. Off-duty, he’s just one of the guys, hosting an occasional poker game for patients at his home or joining them for dinner or a movie.
"They’re my comrades," he says. "You don’t work with these guys an hour, an hour-and-a-half every day and just talk about your burn scar. They become your friends."
One of his first patients was a severely burned Marine who had part of his brain’s left frontal lobe removed because of shrapnel. Elder figured he wouldn’t be able to talk. But when he entered his room, the Marine started chatting amiably.
The men found they shared the same dry wit and taste in rock music. And when the Marine was about to be discharged, Elder invited him over.
Elder prepared his older son, then 3, knowing he might be frightened by the Marine’s disfigured face. Instead, the little boy was fascinated by his prosthetic arm and asked:
"Are you a robot?"
"Sort of," the Marine replied.
After that, Elder’s son would joyfully squeal the Marine’s name every time he visited. And last fall, Elder was a groomsman at his wedding.
At Brooke, Elder helps patients face their fears.
"They’ll say, ’I’m a 19-year-old single male,’ " Elder says. "’What girl would ever want to date me? How will I ever have a family? I was a young healthy stud fighting the good fight. Now I need help buttoning my pants in the morning.’"
His advice: Move on with your life.
"You’re not the same person you were before," Elder tells them. "If anything, you’re a stronger person. ... Get back out there."
Marine Cpl. Roy VanWey is plotting his path away from the burn center.
A year ago, a bomb turned VanWey’s Humvee into a fireball, killing three Marines who were with him and leaving him with burns over 70 percent of his body.
Since then, he has been through 10 surgeries _ he recently had one to hold his head straight. Slowly, he is regaining his independence. He can now spool pasta, draw and sign his name, even though he lost most of the fingers on his right hand. But he still is adjusting to his changing face _ pink, blotchy, raw.
He knows people stare when he goes to the mall, the movies or out to dinner.
"When I’m talking to people, I feel like the same person inside," he says. "But when I look in the mirror, I feel like I’m looking at a stranger."
His wife, Cassi, offers a visitor a laminated Marine photo identification card showing a handsome man with bright eyes and a wide smile. Then she turns to her husband of 18 months and says: "I don’t care what you look like. I love both faces the same."
With her at his side, VanWey sorts out his life after Brooke, "mourning the death of the person I used to be," he says, "and having to come to terms with who I’m going to be the rest of my life."
Determinedly, he looks ahead.
"I’ve got to make the best of it," he says. "At least I’m alive."

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

Monday, July 09, 2007

2 1/2 Hours

2.5 hours is what Colin Powell is telling us he spent trying to talk George Bush out of invading Iraq. He said I took him (Bush) through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.

Those 2.5 hours that Colin Powell spent trying to talk the Commander in Chief from illegally invading a sovereign country averages out to .04 minutes for each of the 3606 US military fatalities from Iraq since the war began. I'd like to think that my son's safety and ultimately his life was worth more than .04 minutes of trying. What kind of General places such little value on the lives of his men? Not much of a General, and even less of a man.

One might point out that Powell was a former General back in 2003, but that argument is lost with me. Members of the Bush administration have a decided lack of military experience, and even less with combat. Colin Powell served in the military for more than 33 years during peacetime and in combat. Another General, the 34th president of our United States, Dwight Eisenhower said I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. Colin Powell knows of war's brutality, futility and stupidity. He owed every member of the Armed Forces more than .04 minutes. He owed our country a voice.

I have no sympathy for Colin Powell, the man, the general or the former secretary of state. He has to get up in the morning and look himself in the mirror and know that he sacrificed the lives, limbs and mental status of each and every casualty from a war that he should have been able to stop and he knows it. Colin Powell has to stand in front of the citizens of this country and know that his inability to convince his boss that he was doing the wrong thing had deadly results. The blood on his hands is no different than those on Dick Cheney's, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Don Rumsfeld or the rest of the PNAC neocons who started this mess.

Frankly, the mea culpa's coming from Washington are tiresome and disingenuous. Where was George Tenet before the invasion? Did Paul Wolfowitz express any concerns in the run-up to the war? They were keeping good enough notes to write books about their concerns well after people realized that this war was wrong. If they had fears, you wouldn't have known it back in 2003 and it's a little too late to say "I told you so" after hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's and nearly 4000 US military have been killed. That kind of a judgement error deserves more than "told ya".

Colin Powell is correct about one thing. “It is not a civil war that can be put down or solved by the armed forces of the United States.” He adds “It’s not going to be pretty to watch, but I don’t know any way to avoid it. It is happening now.”He added, “The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms,” “It’s not going to be pretty to watch, but I don’t know any way to avoid it. It is happening now.” A man of his supposed intellect and tenure as a Secretary of State fails to discuss diplomacy as an option.

On a side note, those of you who support Senator Barack Obama on his run for the presidency, you should know that he is conferring with Powell on foreign policy. Be very afraid! Obama supports a phased withdrawal that could leave a “significantly reduced force” in Iraq for “an extended period”. That doesn't sound anywhere near "Bring the troops home now", so please don't be fooled when Obama says he supports the troops. That doesn't fly anymore and our troops deserve much better.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

4th of July Wishes

I wish that this war in Iraq had never started.

I wish for our troops in harms way that this 4th of July, there will be no explosions, no RPG's, no fireworks in Iraq and I wish that our military wouldn't be waiting for them to start again on July 5th because the war would really be over and they could all come home.

I wish that the person who resides in our White House, the people's house, would just resign and let us heal this country. But I'm afraid, really afraid that he doesn't think he has done anything wrong. I'm more afraid that he really believes he is doing right by this country.

I wish that our Congress would stand up to this administration, really stand up, and use the powers that the Framers of the Constitution gave them more than 200 years ago. It's okay, we will back you, I promise.

I wish that I had never heard the names Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rice, Hannity, O'Reilly, Coulter, Limbaugh. They are all a pox on our nation.

I wish that 3586 families were whole again, that those families hearts were not broken by this hideous, endless war. I wish for them one more hug from their loved ones, one last goodbye.

I wish that 20,000+ families did not have to worry whether, when or if their soldier was going to get the medical treatment that she or he needed to make their life as whole as we could get them. We owe them that....for the rest of their lives. If this nation cannot or will not care for our military; we have no business sending them to fight for us.

I wish that the Iraqis will someday forgive us for invading their country on false pretenses and for their oil. The lies of this US administration are forever the fabric of their nation, too.

I wish that the citizens of this country would awake from their slumber and realize that they can and MUST do something to change the misguided course this administration has set this country on. Read the US Constitution; if you don't have time, read the study guide. The work of many minds, the US Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise- words that are unfamiliar to this administration.

I wish that Ssgt Keith Maupin, Ahmed Qusai al-Taei, Spc Alex R Jiminez, Pvt Byron W Fouty would all come home alive soon. These are the MIA from Iraq, regardless of the DUSTWUN (Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown) status as the Department of Defense refers to them.

I wish that hundreds of thousands of military families did not live in dread every single day that hearing a knock on their door, was the knock on the door that would change their lives forever.

I wish our country well. We have been battered and bruised before, but never, ever like this and not from inside our government, the people who should be trusted to hold our country firm and safe. I truly believe that there will be better days, but I don't know if it will be in my lifetime.

I wish for all of America, a day with family and friends and a day to remember our country's birthday and our independence from a King with a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Finally, a wish from the Declaration of Independence that we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, July 02, 2007


I have not had the opportunity or the pleasure of meeting Jim Hightower yet, but I suspect that someday I will. If you haven't read anything by him, this is a good place to start. I would not attempt to say what he did; I would not be as eloquent. But I agree. Protest more. Protest louder. PLEASE!


Let’s be blunt. It’s no longer the Sunni insurgents, Shiite militias, or al Queda bombers killing our troops in Iraq. Washington is killing them.

George W – still clinging to his disgraced neo-con fantasies – and the congressional leaders of both parties – unwilling to use their budgetary and oversight authority – are the ones who have 150,000 American men and women trapped in Iraq’s civil war. The troops are doing all they can, yet they have been betrayed by a White House and Congress that has no strategy to make “victory” possible and is unwilling either to provide the massive troop strength it would take to secure that country… or to bring our troops home.

So, our men and women are locked in a gruesome shooting gallery by U.S. politicians who apparently intend to keep them there for the year and a half or so left in Bush’s term. Hundreds of them will die, thousands will be horribly maimed, and all will suffer trauma. They are not victims of the “enemy,” but of America’s own failed “leaders.” It is immoral to do this to them, but there they are.

Meanwhile, Bush keeps saying that his war is essential to America’s own security and is the “challenge of our generation.” But he is obviously lying to us. If it was true, all Americans would be enlisted in the cause. If it was true, we’d have half a million troops in Iraq, or more.
But that would mean that the families of the elites would have to be called to duty – and this is politically unacceptable to Washington. As one Bushite, Sen. Jeff Sessions, put it: “We have a limited number of men and women we can send to Iraq.” In other words, don’t call on his family or friends to make any sacrifices for this "essential" war.

They are killing Americans in a war they know they can’t win – and a war their families won’t join. This is a dishonorable sham, and only We the People can stop it. Protest more. Protest louder.