Tuesday, November 05, 2013

UnderArmour & Northwestern Promote "Gore Porn"

No one has ever been foolish enough to tell me to get over my son's death.  If they did, I would point to this story nearly 10 year later and say "combat death, the gift that keeps giving" The hard part about grieving is the unexpected reminders of your loved one's death and blood splattered anything is a reminder of mine.

Yesterday, Under Armour proudly announced on their Facebook page "More than 35,000 empowered Warriors inspired the Northwestern Uniforms. On November 16, 2013, Northwestern will take the field to pay special tribute to more than 35,000 empowered Warriors." 18  of these blood splattered unis, gloves, helmets were boastfully displayed. 

I'll not address the breach of flag etiquette here, others will handle that quite nicely.  For me this is personal. When my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard deployed to Iraq in May 2003, I imagined how terrible it would be for him to be wounded or killed while deployed. I didn't think about the graphic details of the possible blood splatter, I just prayed every day for his safety.  Then, as happened to 4485 other US families, I received that knock on the door and my son came home in a flag covered casket.

My comment on the Under Armour Facebook page "Please tell me what is honorable about these blood spattered uniforms? How does this honor the wounded warriors and the fallen of our country? As the mother of a fallen soldier, I am sick to my stomach. You tout your "product" to " make all athletes better through passion, design, and the relentless pursuit of innovation". This product is none of these! You should be ashamed!"  I guess this product  is okay, as long as the blood splatter is on our flag or some other reasonable facsimile. This show of faux patriotism, that wrapping ones self in a flag gives cover to any statement, got old real fast.  It is neither honorable or patriotic.

To cover their insensitive, crass commercialism, Northwestern states on their website that 10% of proceeds from the sales of replica jerseys will go to the Wounded Warrior Project-
"The Wildcats will be wearing this jersey against Michigan November 16. Under Armour designed this jersey honoring the men and women of our armed services. Now you can support the Wounded Warrior Project and your favorite team with this replica jersey designed to match those that the Wildcats will wear on the field. The uniform incorporates a custom stars & stripes design on the shoulders & sleeves and includes a core value embellishment, "Freedom," printed on the back."Believe in Heroes" lettering is embroidered at the bottom hem. WWP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that aims to honor and empower wounded soldiers. 10% of the proceeds from the sale of this jersey will be donated to the WWP."
I am sure there will be approval from the 99% of Americans who carried none of the burdens of these wars, but I wonder about the military families who now care for their wounded warriors, and the friends and families of the fallen. I also wonder if this will trigger any symptoms of PTS to those troops who had to see and clean up the actual blood of their wounded and fallen brothers and sisters.  

It will be interesting to see how Under Armour and Northwestern University handle the backlash that this campaign has caused.  Deadspin's headline was aptly titled Northwestern Honors Wounded Troops With Gore-Porn Football Uniforms stating "isn't "flag covered in blood" a little on-the-nose for something honoring a group that operates programs for injured veterans?" Porn, it is.war porn, gore porn, you decide.
If you feel inclined to share your feelings about this supposed tribute, please share them here or contact  Northwest Head of Athletics at NU j-phillips@northwestern.edu, or call the UnderArmour Company at 888.727.6687. Don't forget to contact them on Facebookand Twitter +Under Armour, too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Death Gratuity- Victim of the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown has been going on for more than a week now. So called non-essential services were shut down and those who provide those service were also branded as non-essential and were sent home. In all of government, I suppose there are non-essential services, but I would hope that we wouldn't spend our federal budget on non-essential services.  

NBC News reported "In what veterans call an outrageous slight after the ultimate sacrifice, the shuttered federal government is witholding a $100,000 payment normally wired to relatives of fallen soldiers- including the families of five killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. 

The payment, know as the death gratuity, is typically sent to sent to families of the fallen within three days to help them cover funeral costs or travel costs to meet the flag-covered coffins of their loved ones."

Back in 2004 when my son, 1Lt Ken Ballard was killed, the death gratuity was $12,000.  This was a pitiful amount to compensate families of the fallen.  I'm not sure why, but sometime in 2005 the Department of Defense increased the amount to $100,000 and it was retroactive for those who had already died. That was the right thing to do.

If life was fair, of course our loved ones would have come home to their families and the bright future we always imagined and expected.  But that didn't happen.  
If life was fair in this circumstance, the family's Senator and member of Congress would personally go to the family to tell them why they will not receive the death gratuity that is promised to the troops and their families. Yes, they need to tell a grief stricken mother, father, husband or wife whose life has been turned upside down, why this payment is now considered "non-essential" until the government shutdown is resolved.  The family needs to be able to ask someone why their loved ones death is not considered essential or important. Now the burden of this conversation will fall to the casualty team, as if their scope of responsibility was not heavy enough.
I cannot imagine the cold heart of the person who made this decision and those who had the nerve to implement this action.  Although even one death is one too many, the number of troop deaths is minimal at this point and I hope the total of death gratuity during this time period would not exceed $1 million. 

 The decision to delay this payment is a harsh reminder to families of the fallen of their loss and the bureaucratic journey they have embarked upon. For those families who have suffered missteps during the casualty process, it is a reminder of the disrespect we experienced during those first awful days.

It is time to stop playing games with families of the fallen. It is time to stop using the military as a pawn in the government shutdown game.  Delaying the death gratuity is disrespectful and cruel to military families who already carry a heavy burden of war. I urge the Secretary of Defense to rescind this delay immediately.  The death gratuity paid to families of the fallen should be considered an essential and immediate payment during the government shutdown.  No discussion, no negotiation and no extortion. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

How Many More- 2013?

With the 12th anniversary of  the attacks on 9/11/2011 quickly approaching, I am getting grumpier by the day.  Beyond the national tragedy and devastating loss of the day, it took me awhile to figure out why I start this downhill journey every year as August turns into September. When I finally identified cause of this blue funk, this state of nervousness, fear, or depression, the darkness didn't lift and just like clockwork, it's back.

Our county's response to the attacks of 9/11 is what sealed the deal on my son's death sentence; we just didn't know it at the time. 1Lt. Ken Ballard was KIA on May 30, 2004 on the streets of Najaf, Iraq.  The Bush administration and it's supporters used the attacks of 9/11 as the excuse to invade Afghanistan in 2001and then 2 years later to the invasion of Iraq.

The blue funk of 2013 isn't much different except for the anger and rage that is deeper and darker as our country considers a military strike on Syria. The Department of Defense reports the total number of US deaths from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is 4,423, from Operation New Dawn (OND) is 66 and total US deaths from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF/Afghanistan) is 2,266.  The lives of 6755 US families and friends of these fallen troops, changed immeasurably, in an instant. I cannot bear the thought of another family whose life will change so much with a simple knock of the door. 

Of course the US casualty numbers are small compared to the deaths of innocent civilians, or collateral damage in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries affected by the US military actions since 2001 and that will occur as a result of this proposed military strike.  I have to wonder what number of any casualties will avenge the deaths of the 2,996  who died on 9/11. Surely, we have achieved that number by now.

We will not and cannot forget that horrible 11th day in September of 2001,  but we cannot and must not continue this permanent state of war that the United States has maintained for the past 12 years by initiating military action in Syria. That our current administration is beating the war drums is inconceivable to me.  Yes, the chemical poisoning of the people in Syria is bad and wrong on so many levels, but my question is how does that threaten the security or even the credibility of  the United States?  If the reasons for this proposed military strike were so obvious and in the best interest of our country, why do we need a media blitz to convince us? Where is the international support for military action?  Why is continued diplomacy not the primary method of dealing with the perpetrator's of theses egregious acts on the Syrian population?

President Obama, Secretaries Kerry and Hagel, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, Representative Pelosi and all other legislators who support this military strike- Americans are not convinced that this is the correct path for the United States.  You were sent to Washington to represent your districts, and now is the time to represent. As you cast your vote, please answer one more question.  Americans and others will die in this so-called limited military strike. How many more must die before we consider other options? HOW MANY MORE?


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Here we are again

Here we are again.  Despite my lack of updating this blog, this Gold Star Mom continues to use my First Amendment rights on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, some/most politicians seem to think that military action in Syria is a good think for the U.S.  I don't.

It's time for you to speak up and speak out, too.

Stay tuned- I'll be back! Soon.