Monday, May 27, 2013

Moved to Tears

Since 1988, hundreds of thousands of motorcycling U.S. Military veterans from around the country have congregated in Washington for Memorial Day weekend. Their Rolling Thunder roars through Arlington National Cemetery and through the city reminding all of us of their comrades’ sacrifices during the wars Americans have fought.

Most of the guys are around my age, having fought and survived the war in Vietnam. They are MY vets.

Matt McClain’s picture in the Washington Post this morning brought tears to me eyes. Two of MY vets in jeans, black shirts, hats and dark glasses stood on the narrow island dividing north bound and south bound traffic on 23rd Street, heading north, away from Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial. Between them was an Army Pfc. In dress uniform holding a stiff salute.

This has been done before and too few realize what a fete it is to stand at attention, holding a formal salute for several hours. That’s how long it takes for Rolling Thunder to make its way out of the cemetery and up 23rd Street. Two of MY guys left their bikes to support the Pfc. One braced his saluting arm and the big, tattooed guy on the other side was touching his other hand.

I’m so very proud of MY vets because they have been making extraordinary efforts to assure that their brethren at arms returning from the Middle East are welcomed home. MY vets were made to feel ashamed and unwelcome when they returned from Southeast Asia. Most of them were not volunteers as today’s military members are, so the ugly homecomings were even harder on them. Too many of them still suffer following their horrific experiences.

I credit MY vets for inspiring military bigwigs to recognize and treat things like PTSD and traumatic brain injuries as the real afflictions they are. Too often, in the past, only injuries that were visible to the human eye were taken seriously.

My own, late father only revealed a few of the horrors he witnessed in WWII during the last days of his life. I had to press him for details after watching a documentary on WWII in the Pacific, where he served in the Navy. My mother, his beloved wife of 62 years, had the strength and unconditional love to enable him to live a long, mostly happy life. (I say mostly happy because raising five kids wasn’t always a happy experience for any of us.)

Families left behind suffer the most, I think. Receiving word that someone is categorized as Missing in Action is almost worse than learning of someone’s death in war. For years I wore my MIA bracelet in remembrance of an Army Pfc. who was unaccounted for. I reluctantly mailed it in when a project to make a statue out of the metal from all those bracelets was proposed. I never heard anything about it afterwards. If anyone knows what happened to this project, I’d sure like to know.

I just opened an email from a friend wishing me a Happy Memorial Day. What on Earth is happy about this day?! Businesses hold Memorial Day sales in hopes of making more money and others just enjoy a day off.

I wouldn’t call myself a kill-joy, but come on, people -- this is a day to remember our war-dead. Amen.




Friday, May 17, 2013

My take on the IRS mess

I'm 100% sure that the President knew nothing about the nefarious dealings going in inside IRS offices until very recently.  I'm also convinced that the plan to deny/delay granting nonprofit status to conservative groups was hatched around water coolers in one or more regional IRS offices.

Supervision of thousands of employees must cause major headaches for the leadership of any federal agency, particularly when some of them are furloughed for the sake of saving tax dollars.

This is not the first time the IRS has been slapped on the wrist for stupid stuff some of their staff do.  There have always been employees who, just out of curiosity, looked up the tax returns for famous people.  Even the lowest clerk on the totem pole can access very personal information about any one of us. Unfortunately, the age of electronics opened a Pandora's Box. There is no privacy anymore.

Personally, I'm a liberal thinker.  However, workers in government agencies must remain neutral and obey the regulations and laws governing their responsibilities.  It's not always easy when one is passionate about his or her political beliefs.  But trust is hard to earn back once it has been questioned.

Since no one really loves the IRS and paying taxes, heads must roll.  Sadly, that usually means heads high on the totem pole who very likely had no idea what those working several management levels below them were doing.  It's time to take a closer look at those on the bottom of the totem pole.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bury him at sea.

All the hand-wringing and nasty commentary about where to put the remains of one of the Boston Marathon bombers disappointed and disgusted me. He’s dead, so what more damage can he do?!

Some said his remains should be sent “home” to Russia. Who would pay for that? -- American taxpayers. I’d prefer that my tax dollars go to feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.

No cemetery wanted to accept the remains and it took great courage on the part of a funeral director to accept the body. Even then, he was threatened and scolded for doing the decent thing.

Granted, for some, Tsarnaev will become a martyr. His gravesite could become an impromptu shrine where like-minded extremists visit for inspiration. Another possibility, listening to some who are angry about his burial in American soil, is that his grave could be desecrated.

The decision to bury Osama Bin Laden at sea was brilliant. It left no gravesite where his followers could exhume and display grizzly remains to incite more violence. It also preempted any shrine in his honor.  Since Islam does not approve of cremation, burial at sea seems like a better, more decent choice, even for "the bad guys".  Better out of sight and out of mind.