Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dead Soldiers of Arlington Cemetery & Congressman Trent Franks

Congressman Trent Franks  (R-AZ) comments about the economy pissed me off tonight.  He said:
“There are people lying out in Arlington National Cemetery tonight and I wonder what their perspective would be If they could come back among us for just  few moments.  I would suggest to you they didn’t die so that we could spend our country into bankruptcy so that we could weaken our nation on all fronts simply because we weren’t fiscally responsible.  And they didn’t die so we could put ourselves so deeply in debt so that we sent tens of thousands for each little child born today so that they would have to carry that (debt) the rest of their lives.”
Congressman Franks, what the hell?  What does my dead son and more than 6100 other dead members of the military have to do with the economy?  Unless you are talking about the $3 trillion cost of the wars that you voted for and refused to pay for and has been a major cause of the current state of our economy. 

And really, why wonder what my son would think about the economy, when you voted to send him there.  Do you feel responsible for his death?  You should.

Congressman Franks, do not ever use the death of my son to justify your selfish and self-centered politics.  Do not ever imagine what my son would say about the economics of the day- do not go there.

Former President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the rest of that administration lied to put the US into an illegal war.  Unfortunately, while you tout the sanctity of life on your website, “Trent has worked tirelessly in an effort to protect the innocent at every stage of life.” you forgot to protect the members of the military when you voted to send so many of them to their certain death.   Look to that administration for the reckless spending on the reckless wars and that is when “we sent tens of thousands for each little child born today so that they would have to carry that for the rest of their lives.”

So, Congressman Franks, leave my dead son to lie in peace at Arlington National Cemetery and I won’t wonder what your children, Joshua and Emily think about any given subject.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

"We got him" Osama bin Laden is dead.

The email I got from my son when Saddam Hussein was killed back in December 2003 said "We got him".  Ken had been in Iraq for 7 months by then.  I wish I could have received the same email this evening, referring to Osama bin Laden, but tonight I am missing my son who was killed in Iaq on May 30, 2004.

I am not joyful to hear of the death of Osama bin Laden, I am relieved.  Much as I was relieved when the administration of George W Bush ended in January 2009.  Okay, I guess I was a little joyful watching George & Laura boarded the helicopter at the White House that would take them back to Crawford, TX.

I can't help miss the contrast of announcements on May 1, 2003 when then President Bush announced "Mission Accomplished"  and eight years later on May 1, 2011 when President Barack Obama announced that "Osama bin Laden is Dead".  Was finding Osama bin Laden a priority of the Bush administration?

The attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001 was not just a loss for New Yorkers, it was a loss for our country and eventually, a loss for our way of life. Laws changed, our freedoms were restricted and terror became the word of the early 21st century.  My son was a senior in college that day back in 2001.  He called me that September morning and we watched TV together, he in Tennessee, me in California, as the 2nd tower was attacked.  The next day, Ken wrote this in his journal:

Terror came to this nation on the 11th. The question of how runs through the mind of many and shock set in as we watch with horror the events unfolding before us. Anger fills many hearts and minds. Once that anger is focused, God help us then. The nation wants blood, but do they understand that in spilling their blood, ours will flow too? When this war does start, I should be back on the front lines. I really hope that I will make the right choices and keep those people under me alive.
Ken was 24 at the time. How did he know he truth when so many others refused to go down that path?
No one under Ken's command died during his 384 days in Iraq.

More than $1 trillion has been spent, more than 6000 US military died, countless were wounded and that is just Americans. How do we count the deaths of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? I hope that our country will learn the lesson that war isn't the answer when something goes wrong in the world.  Diplomacy and good intelligence are essential parts of any country's foreign policy.

Terrorism has not ended, of course,  but we can turn this page on Osama bin Laden.  His reign of terror is now over. 

As one of my friends said tonite- "Raise your glasses to those you fought for this moment for the last 10 years. Pour some for those who passed too."  Remember also those who were left behind to learn how to live without their loved ones.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's None of Their Business

It's not as if the government doesn't already know a ridiculous amount of information about us anyway.  The information that they've got comes from our income taxes, our jobs, our credit cards.  I'm sure they have quite a dossier on all of us already.  Some people say they aren't worried about that because they don't have anything to hide, but that theory really only goes so far.

The State Department has announced a formal notification to allow 60 days for public comment about a proposed new form  DS-5513 , a Biographical Questionnaire that would be incorporated into the process for securing a US Passport. The applicant is asked for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; all schools attended both in the US and overseas; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and other intrusive and personal information

According to the questionnaire, an estimated 74,000 applicants will complete the form.  In 2010, approximately 14 million US passports were issued, so that works out to 1 in 200 applicants who will be required to complete the form.  Neither the DS-5513 form or the announcement reveal where that number came from or who qualifies to be one of the special  74,000 applicants.

If you are one of those 74,000, please note that “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”  and "Providing the information requested on this form, including your social security number, is voluntary, but failure to provide the information requested may result in processing delays or the denial of your U.S. passport application."  That doesn't give you many options if you want a US Passport.

It is rare that the average citizen is made aware of a public comment period relating to a government proposal, but this is your lucky day because there are about another 30 days to submit comments.  If you think that this is a ridiculous waste of time as well as a terrible intrusion of privacy, it's your turn to sound off to the State Department. I recommend you let the State Department know your feelings regardless if you would be directly affected.  You know that once the questionnaire is put in effect, we will ALL be affected.

You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
  • E-mail: GarciaAA@state.gov. Show citation box
  • Mail (paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions): Alexys Garcia, U.S. Department of State, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Room 3031, Washington, DC 20037.Show citation box
  • Fax: 202-736-9202.Show citation box
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: Alexys Garcia, U.S. Department of State, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Room 3031, Washington, DC 20037.Show citation box
You must include the DS form number (if applicable), information collection title, and OMB control number in any correspondence.

I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Battle of the Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairs

Those of us who watch how members of Congress deal with Veterans issues and how they treat veterans themselves, would do well to keep an eye on the actions and actual voting record of newly appointed GOP chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL),  who promised a thorough review of spending for veterans' programs.

I support a thorough review of any DC committee's budget, but I am concerned when it feels like there may be a hidden, or not so hidden agenda.  Congressman Miller said  he thinks veterans understand why fiscal responsibility is necessary. "I think it's fair to say the veterans in this country have sacrificed in their service to our nation, but they are willing to do what's necessary to help get this country's fiscal house in order".  Wait, let's back up a minute.  Vets are "willing to do what's necessary to help get this country's fiscal house in order"?  No, NO and NO WAY!   With 1% of our population carrying 100% of the burdens of these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why don't  we make sure that our military members and our vets have their own fiscal houses in order?  THAT is what I want the 112th session of Congress to do.

GOP Speaker of the House, John Boehner said he "can’t think of anyone in the House more capable to serve as the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs than Jeff Miller"  as he announced Miller's election as Chairman of the House VA Committee, he went on to say 

““Jeff’s efforts for veterans are well documented and his credentials as a conservative leader are without question.  Jeff will continue to work to ensure that all of our nation’s heroes receive the proper respect and care that they earned.”
A quick review of Miller's  website brags about how much he supports Veterans issues with such statements from the Congressman as: 
“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the more than 22 million veterans who have so proudly served this great nation,” “I will work to ensure that we meet our veterans’ needs.” 

I hope so, but not so fast, Congressman Miller.  In October 2010, IAVA, a well known and well regarded veterans advocacy organization published their Congressional Report Card on how members of Congress voted on Veterans issues.   Sadly, Congressman Miller came out with a D, so it doesn't matter how pretty his website is, or how many nice things he says, remember how he voted on the issues when it comes to voting for your Congressional Representative.

Fortunately, Miller's newly appointed counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Patty Murray, said she will be watching Republicans "like a hawk" to ensure veterans get their financial due.  Note: Senator Murray received a B from IAVA.

As the 112th session of Congress starts working on issues, let's see who really supports veterans and their issues and who doesn't.  We'll be watching!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Oprah & the Bravest Families in America

Oprah Winfrey had an "ah-ha moment" of her own on her show about military families today. She admitted  that she was one of the people in this country who did not know anyone serving in the military, or as Tom Brokaw calls them "one of the people who really doesn't care about the war or the men and women who are fighting it".  That didn't surprise me at all.  It also didn't surprise me that Oprah didn't know what a Blue Star family was until the First Lady, Michelle Obama explained to Oprah that it described a family who had a family member actively serving in the military. Mrs Obama had already explained that a Gold Star family was one who had lost a loved one who had been serving in the military.

It didn't surprise me that Oprah didn't know anyone serving, but it does surprise me when I meet someone and I am the first Gold Star mom that they have met. I guess that goes to point that less than 1% of the country is carrying 100% of the burden of these wars. As people have told me "there have been so few casualties". Don't say that to one of the 5892 families who have buried a loved one from these current wars; any number more than zero is too many casualties.

Tom Brokaw said  "the struggles ought not to be left to these families alone" and that our military families just want to know that the public is aware of what's going on as we live in our own war zone.

Gold Star mom, Terry Arciola was shown visiting her son at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 60 where many of our loved ones who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried. I have not met Terry, but I know her son's story from a mutual friend who helped both of us through the very early days of our grief. LTC Cathy Huley, who worked with Casualty Affairs picked me up when I was so broken and guided me through the bureaucracy to bury my only child at Arlington after he was killed in Iraq. Cathy was also assigned to the Arciola family for the same task a few months after Ken was buried. I'm sure that Casualty Affairs bond with some families more than others.  I consider Cathy to be a good friend of our family and I am glad I see her and her family every year on Memorial Day when we celebrate Ken's life at Arlington and mark another anniversary of his death.

When asked if Terry felt that people have forgotten about the wars and the sacrifice, she said said yes, she thought many people had.  She referred to her son Michael when she said, "If people will forget about his sacrifice.....they did it for us.  If people don't remember that, it's like they didn't exist"  I don't think you will find a Gold Star Mom that would  disagree.

Oprah promised that "we will not forget Michael (Arciola) sacrifice, nor any of the soldiers".  I hope not and we can hold her to it. As the head of her own network, and with her powerful voice, she owes it to us.

Regarding the wars, "our country is suffering from an  epidemic of disconnection"  Bob Woodward explained.  The conversation continued with him asking Oprah "What do we owe these people?  Everything.  What are we giving them?  Not enough.  We haven't figured out how to re-engage the country in these wars.   People have got to be informed- countries get in trouble when they don't pay attention."  Mr Woodward went on to say that military families "feel we have been isolated by the country".  He got that right, too, especially the part about disconnection and isolation.  Honestly, I would not wish this life on anyone; no one should ever have to bury a child, especially as a result of war.

If someone had only watched this Oprah show, and none other, they might believe that she had never done any shows regarding the military or that she had never interacted with members of the military.  Sadly, that is not true.  When Oprah was in DC for President Obama's inauguration in January 2009, she made a trip to Walter Reed Army Hospital to visit wounded troops. If a visit to Walter Reed did not have an impact on what these wars are doing to our young service members and to our country, what else would?   I wonder if it was the power of Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward, who suggested the subject for this show to Oprah, that finally made her face our reality, our new normal.

In October 2010, Oprah did a show on Homeless Female Veterans.  How did that not become an "ah-ha" moment for her regarding military needs.

I'm glad Oprah got her wake-up call and has said she is now thinking about what she can do to help.  My question to Oprah is what took you so long?  These wars have been going on for nearly 10 years and it is disappointing that this is the first time that she did a show like this about military families. Why did these wars not become a part of Oprah's consciousness until now?

Thank you, Oprah for doing the show, we'll be waiting for your next step.  Thank you, Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward for standing up for our military families and making sure our stories were told.