Do You Know the Real Meaning of Memorial Day?
There is something special about observing Memorial Day and it involves reconciliation. In other words, the history of this observance finds its genesis in the Civil War and the families who carried on with their lives after losing loved ones in combat.
There are a lot of claims as to its actual beginnings, with many cities claiming to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. Organized women groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War to observe the lost of the war dead.
President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day. He attributed it to Henry C. Welles, a druggist in Waterloo, New York. At a social gathering Mr. Welles suggested that a day should be set aside to honor the dead of the Civil War. The following year he repeated his suggestion to General John P. Murray, the two men and a group formed of local citizens gained the support of the village they lived in and on May 5, 1865, the first complete observance took place in Waterloo, New York.
Given there were numerous claims of who was the first to commemorate this observance, it was evident each of the towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in General John Logan, National Commander of the Republic giving his proclamation in 1868.
It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that the observance was established. Memorial Day is not about reconciliation, it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all. Where are we today in our understanding of Memorial Day?
Sadly, some American citizens are not aware of the real meaning of Memorial Day, in fact some people think its about cookouts and or vacation time at the beach. While there is nothing wrong with special family outings and having a good time, this observance is about the men and women in uniform who went in harms way, lost their lives so we can live with liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
It is easy to see how our lack of understanding this observance has declined, simply drive by cemeteries and you will see the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. Some towns and cities still hold Memorial Day parades, however many have not held a parade in decades.
What is most alarming is some people think Memorial Day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country. After World War 1, observances also began to honor those who had died in all American Wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed on December 2000 which asks that at 3:00pm local time, for all Americans to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to taps.
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
I highly encourage you to participate in an observance in your local community, without our men and women in uniform making the ultimate sacrifice, likelihood is we would have lost our liberty, freedom and way of life to an enemy.
Today as our men and women in uniform fight two simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some have lost their lives in defense of a grateful nation and all of us should honor their service. I highly recommend you encourage your family and neighbors pay their respect to Americans who gave their life so we could live.
Paul Lawrence Vann delivers insight on the meaning of Memorial Day. He served 20 years in the United States Air Force and worked on the personal staff of a member of Congress and the House Armed Services Committee. Paul is author of the book, Living on Higher Ground and is interviewed by radio stations throughout the U.S. to provide awareness to a new generation of Americans, unaware of the significance of this observance. http://www.paullawrencevann.com, (240) 416-5077.
Obama's Strategy on Afghanistan
It is difficult, even impossible, to accept President Obama's "New strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan" as described by him in a formal speech on March 27. It fails by imperial and non-imperial standards.
First the imperial: Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA agent, reports in his book Nemesis: "The Carter administration deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan... In his 1996 memoir, former CIA Director Robert Gates acknowledges that the American intelligence services began to aid the anti-Soviet mujahideen guerillas not after the Russian invasion but six months before it.... President Carter's purpose was to provoke a full-scale Soviet military intervention... to tie...down the USSR." Will an expanded military effort in Afghanistan tie down the U.S. as it did the USSR?
Obama plans a U.S. military effort in Afghanistan lasting at least five years in a country 50% larger than Iraq in area and population. The NATO allied forces are token in size and commitment and rarely leave their base camps. A serious U.S. military effort will require at least 250,000 troops tied down in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Will America be unable to react to other challenges as they arise especially its obligations, to protect Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, to deter Iran from a nuclear program, to support Pakistan from collapse; etc..
The invasion of Iraq could be justified on imperial grounds because it is strategically situated in the heart of the largest concentration of oil in the world. Afghanistan has no comparable resource, one of the poorest countries, no industry, little farming, rugged terrain, a land of banditry and bribery.
The adventure fails from a non- imperial perspective. Obama says "That country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can." None of the 19 people who perpetrated the September 11 criminal tragedy were Afghan or Taliban. Fifteen of them were Saudi. There are no Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan any longer. Osama bin Laden and what is left of his crew is in hiding somewhere in the wilderness of Pakistan. The Al Qaeda operation is scattered and disorganized. Yes, another 19 thugs could infiltrate the U.S. and kill Americans, but sending an army into Afghanistan is not going to prevent another such criminal act. In fact, the hyped war in Afghanistan is more likely to divert us from protecting ourselves against another September 11.
Jerome Grossman's Website
Jerome Grossman is a former Member of the Democratic National Committee, Retired President of Massachusetts Envelope Company, Chairman Emeritus of Council for a Livable World, Author of Relentless Liberal
His opinions can be seen at relentlessliberal.com
The Expanded Role of the National Guard
When I enlisted in the Air National Guard it was never in my mind that I would be traveling all over world and becoming involved in major conflicts for my country. I thought of the National Guard as defending the USA from attacks and preforming duties in possibly other states or providing disaster assistance.Now some 26 years later I have seen the role of the National Guard change into an important co-equal partner with my active duty brothers and sisters. It makes me really proud to say that when we were tasked to perform those duties, we did them with professionalism and pride that made the active duty counter parts I worked with take notice. We have something that the active duty for the most part cannot easily duplicate, years and years of experience.
This is not a slam of the active duty forces, it is just the fact that many of the people of the Air and Army National Guard have had much more time to perfect those skills. I have seen with my own eyes the quality, speed and efficiency that the National Guard displays when asked to do it's duty. It is awesome to be quite honest, and as a former active duty person I know both sides. The people of the USA should know, and I think they do already that the National Guard has represented our country well, in spite of the many rotations and long separations from our civilian jobs and our families and communities. I see them volunteering time and time again to go back as well.
So it is not the mission I signed up for, I still believe it is worth it to ensure the freedom that we help protect, even for people who may have a different opinion of our mission, is what we do, and it is our civic duty. The support that I have seen from people in the US while I was deployed is nothing short of truly amazing. So I say that if you choose service in the National Guard today, remember that the role may change again for you as it did for me, and be prepared to be a part of a team that will rise to that challenge as well. It would be wise to remember that like many other occupations it is always changing and evolving as well.
The National Guard still does some of it's traditional roles, including an expanded mission to protect our borders and it will be successful there as well, that is certain. So take some time and learn more about National Guard units in your community and understand they do much more than two weeks a year and one weekend a month, but they are doing it for you, as they always have.
Jeffrey Meier at Jam727 Enterprises at http://www.thearticlehome.com blog offers even more detailed information on a wide variety of topics.
How to Send Care Packages to Troops Overseas
For example, prepaid phone cards are the best and most useful things to send troops overseas, according to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, whose phone campaign is called Help Our Troops Call Home. Prepaid phone cards can be sent to individual troops or to any troop via a service such as the American Red Cross. As well as phone cards, send a batch of blank greeting cards, so that troops can remember loved ones back home.
Food and beverage items that remind troops of the tastes and smells of home are always cherished. Small individually packaged items such as instant coffee, hot chocolate packets, and sugar packets, are always needed. Instant food items such as breakfast foods, instant soup mixes, and ready-to-eat meals and salad kits, are ideal. Also, individual packs of snacks, such as chips, peanuts, pretzels, cereal and granola bars, brownies, cakes, candy and gum. Chocolate items are a bad idea, because chocolate melts.
Personal items, such as T-shirts, hats and gloves, flip flops or shower shoes, and shoe polish are great.
Other items such as sunscreen and lotion and wrap around sunglasses are vitally important as many troops are stationed in very hot areas. Other hygiene items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, Band-Aids.
Entertainment is a luxury that troops need. Send items such as movies DVDs and music CDs, magazines, handheld electronic games, and playing cards.
But most of all, send cash. In this post-911 world some items may have difficulty getting through and the military's supply system is already overloaded. Sending cash, while less personal, is often quicker and more practical. A quick Internet search will bring up websites with lots of information on how to send cash or packages to troops overseas.
Dylan Miles, journalist, and website builder, lives in Texas. He is the owner and co-editor of http://www.militarylife.info on which you will find a longer, more detailed version of this article.
Connecting With Our Armed Forces
As of right now our Troops have 3 typical ways of communication with us: phone calls, bulk e-mails, and letters. Typically, the soldiers are looking to call their family members but not their friends. Friends usually get the emails and the letters. However, this is not a daily occurrence you might get a phone call once every 3 -5 days, or an email or letter once a month. Following the war and our efforts to help our troops it has been noticed that there has been an evolving effort to donate computers to soldier sites and bases.
The idea for soldiers to be able to text message our cell phones from any computer in the world that has internet access, is a proactive form of communication. The program is simple and quick for our troops to use. It allows troops to upload cell phone numbers to a secure database and then take those cell phone numbers and break them down into groups (i.e friends 1, family, and friends 2...). Once they are broken down into groups they are free to send out as many messages as they want. They may chose to send messages to a whole group, their whole phone list, or individual numbers. The convenience of this service is unbelievable because now it will actually feel like that soldier is involved of our daily lives. We could be driving down the street and receive a text message. As a matter of fact we could receive a text message in the morning, afternoon, and night.
This service was built to cater to the troops, families, and friends. Someone can sign any person in the Armed Forces up for this program, all you have to do is give them their user name and password and their service will be up and running. Though the service is not free we will be donating $1.99 to 3 different Non-For-Profit organizations a month. Most likely one (1) of our donations will go to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the other two will be for supporting our active troops.
To learn more about the service please visit our website at http://www.soldiertext.com Please feel free to call us about this service we would love to answer your questions.
Nicholas P. Bruett
USA Patriotic and Armed Forces Charms
More Patriotic and Armed Forces Italian Charms at Italian Charm Bracelets market.
Support Our Troops & Their Families
A gourmet gift basket online is a unique affordable way to send a little pick me up to someone who may have to spend the holidays away from their friends,family and community.
A chocolate gift basket would surely raise the spirits of a young man or woman who has given up so much of themselves to help ensure the way of life that the rest of us have become accustomed to.
With todays instant access to the internet you could order a unique, affordable holiday gift basket online without ever leaving the comfort and security of your own home.
Nearly every one of us knows a young person from our state,city or even our own street who would appreciate being remembered during this season of giving by receiving a gourmet gift basket online like a Chocolate Gift Basket,a Welcome Home Gift Basket,a Spa Gift Basket,a Holiday Gift Basket or any of the other Gourmet gift baskets online available at http://giftark.net/
Another great way to show your support for your troops would be to send a gourmet holiday gift basket to the family of a soldier who has to be away for the holidays.
A Holiday Gift Basket,or any of the other gift baskets that you can purchase online at Gift Ark, could be a special way to say "thank you" to the family of our dedicated soldiers.
During this season of giving lets all remember the troops who make our happy holiday season possible.
National Anthem Project Concludes With Grand Finale Events
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2007 – In the shadow of the Washington Monument, with its 50 American flags snapping in the breeze, the “President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band helped kick off the grand finale of the National Anthem Project here yesterday.
The National Association for Music Education’s multiyear project to get America singing its anthem again began when a poll showed two-thirds of Americans didn’t know the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“It wasn’t just the words, it was not knowing anything about who Francis Scott Key was,” said Earl Hurrey, the association’s assistant executive director. “We had kids that didn’t know what the name of the national anthem was. They thought it was just the ‘National Anthem.’”
The staggering results of the poll prompted the National Association of Music Education to launch the National Anthem Project on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on March 10, 2005. The project was intended to re-teach Americans the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and to emphasize the importance of music in school, Hurrey said.
“We created the National Anthem Project to make people aware that music education in schools is far more important than just ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,’” Hurrey, a former Marine master gunnery sergeant and member of the “President’s Own” said. “The songs of our heritage are an important part of our culture, and when you cut music from schools, you’re also cutting those lessons about our music and our heritage.”
The students from Patterson Elementary School in Gilbert, Ariz., who were part of the nearly 5,000 music students from 42 states who gathered on the National Mall for the program, don’t have that problem. Their music teacher, Diane Walker, makes sure her students know the words to the multiple verses.
“I was excited for the kids to learn all of (the verses). We talked about the words and what the words mean,” she said. “I think when they sing those words today, being in this setting, it’ll mean more than it ever has before.”
Her students agreed. With red and blue bands on her braces, Kelsi Helfrich, 11, said she appreciates her teacher’s zeal for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I only knew the first verse of the national anthem, and I didn’t really know the rest,” she said. “There’s a lot of history behind it, and it probably took a long time to write it.”
Helfrich admitted that until recently she thought there was just one verse to the song. “Apparently there’s four,” she said with a colorful grin.
Yesterday’s events began the grand finale capping the two-year project. When the Marine band’s musical salute to American culture ended, the Oak Ridge Boys took center stage and, along with Mrs. America representatives, led the crowd in singing the national anthem.
The celebration concludes tomorrow at the U.S. Naval Academy’s Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with a musical festival. A drum corps competition will end the day’s festivities.
Simple Ways To Support Our Troops
Sending Gift Cards
Sending Care Packages
Sending Calling Cards
Being A Pen Pal
Sending Gift Cards - You could also show your support by sending gift cards.
Sending Care Packages - If you choose to support our troops by sending care packages, be sure you know what to put in them. Iraq is an extremely hot country so don't send anything that will melt (i.e. chocolate). Soldiers have access to just about all the cheap snacks they could ever want at the Post Exchange.
So what could you put in the care packages? Think entertainment. Soldiers love watching movies and playing video games in their off time. In most circumstances a Soldier would be delighted to receive a new release movie as opposed to melted candy, foot powder, etc. Movies are also supplied at the Post Exchange but the selection is often limited.
Sending Calling Cards - You could also show your support by sending quality phone cards. The calling cards offered to our troops often times have hidden fees. This means Soldiers may pay for a four hundred minute phone card but their minutes get cut in half by hidden charges. Find a quality phone card to send to a Soldier and he or she would be extremely grateful.
Being A Pen Pal - Another great way to support our troops is to become a pen pal. As much as care packages are appreciated, it is only logical to conclude that a personal note that you took the time to write from your heart would be equally (if not more) treasured.
A quick internet search led to to penpalsforsoldiers.org. Check them out or conduct your own search to find Soldiers wanting pen pals.
Family Life and the US Military
There are many special challenges for dependents of service members. One of the first are periodic moves to different locations. Uprooting a life with friends and known conditions is at best harrowing even if everything goes correctly. When something goes wrong, such as belongings that show up late, it can get downright horrific.
Another special challenge is the community standard. Living on post exposes everyone to the needs and requirements of the service. While it is possible to annoy neighbors in a community by letting the grass grow too high, in a military community that is a punishable offense.
Another of the challenges to be overcome is relative isolation. While military bases have many amenities, this is not the same as having everything you might desire or need, and typically the area immediately around a military base isn’t family friendly.
The most harrowing issue is of course deployment. Staying behind while the service member is sent overseas, possible to a war zone is one of the hardest tasks a family will ever face. While military units will try to prepare both the service member and dependents, this is never really enough.
The ways to combat this vary from family to family, but all units will have some sort of family association that should provide help. From a welcome committee which can provide you with maps and tell you where necessities can be found to a support group which can help each other out with needs or a shoulder to cry on during deployments. Having other families who can show up and help deal with the burdens when they grow overwhelming can be a lifesaver. Helping others in need can also provide a needed lift for you.
Dependants will quickly learn to have their ID handy. This will be required for services like the commissary. The actions and appearances of dependents will effect the promotion and progression of their service member. Military posts are much like small towns, with enough people around to make secrets difficult to keep. There is an old saying that anyone can make colonel, but it takes a wife to make a general. This emphasizes the importance a family can have on a career.
Military posts will normally have a commissary of some sort where you can purchase groceries, other stores and franchises to allow some semblance of normal life, a post laundry, a library and a school or schools. Often there will be neighborhood playgrounds.
Sometimes there are other facilities, such as workshops where service members and dependants can perform automotive maintenance, woodworking or other tasks.
There are visitor’s centers which can point you towards the various features of the post. Another option is to search online. Many posts will have websites which discuss the post and locale, and there are many blogs where dependents discuss life around the service and how to deal with it.
For more information on the US military please check out the author's site at http://usmilitary.com
Drunk Driving Vs. The War In Iraq
In listening to the news, we are quick to hear about the rising death toll in Iraq. Interestingly enough, though, it still loses out to the number of fatalities caused by drunk driving in the United States by a ratio of about 17 to 1 (according to MADD and DoD Reports, comparing fatalities of 2005 to both causes). 17 to 1. 17 to 1. That’s in favor of drunk driving. There aren’t 17 reports against drunk driving for every report of some legislator fighting Bush’s Iraq policy. In fact, I’d wager that the number is quite inverse.
There are some big differences, too. Those who serve in our military do so with a commitment to laying their life on the line in the defense of our nation. Those killed by drunk driving accidents are often on their way home from the store, taking kids to a school play, going to see a movie, etc. They never chose to have their life unnecessarily endangered. How is that fair?
So what I don’t get is why we can spend so much energy slamming Bush for his foreign policy while we let 15 more people die here for every one that loses a life in Iraq and we do relatively nothing about it. Why? I guess it’s a weak and easy strategy to heave blame on someone else so we don’t have to feel guilt for our own misdeeds. Plus, if we really cracked down on alcohol misuse, we wouldn’t have those hilarious commercials. I mean, talking frogs. That’s good stuff. That’s worth 16,000 citizens a year.
Lewis originally posted this article on his blog at TheGoont.com, where he posts fairly regularly.
Progress in Iraq
The report reveals early on the complexity that is post-Saddam Hussein Iraq: “It is important to note that violence and progress coexist in Iraq.” With each year that passes since the American-led invasion in 2003, the violence seems to get worse. To be sure, as the report says, “In 2006, Iraq saw its most complex security and political environment ever.”
But amid the steady stream of violence and chaos that fills the television airwaves, remarkable strides are in fact being made. According to the report, “…in 2006 Iraq reached its goal of 325,000 trained and equipped police and military security forces while taking control of its navy, air forces, multiple Iraqi Army divisions, and security responsibility for three entire provinces.”
The report goes on to note that “Baghdad...remains the main stage,” giving implicit support to the President’s plan to boost troop levels in order to quell the violence in the capital city.
Providing statistics to demonstrate the progress made thus far, the report says Iraqi military forces have grown from 102,199 personnel to 135,783. Similarly, the police forces have grown from 110,816 to 167,210 and nearly 100 logistical support units have been formed. From January to November, the report says, the Iraqi Army went from one to six division headquarters in the lead, from eight to 30 brigade headquarters in the lead and from 37 to 91 battalions in the lead for security operations.
Those in Washington who say the Iraqis aren’t moving fast enough to stand up their own security forces fail to appreciate the difficulties involved. The United States and her allies in Iraq are creating military and police forces essentially from scratch. Under Saddam Hussein, positions of leadership were based on loyalty to the state (which was Saddam) and political standing within the Ba’ath Party, and not on competence or ability.
Such a system is no longer valid for Iraq. Not only do we have to create Iraqi units, which involves both equipping and training the personnel for these units, we have to develop leaders and we have to train and equip the specialty positions required for units to sustain themselves. Such specialized positions include logistics personnel, medics, radio operators, engineers, bomb disposal technicians, etc. It is a vast undertaking made even more difficult by the fact that these fledgling forces are incessantly targeted for attack by insurgent groups.
As the report goes on, it says the coalition’s plan is to move away from active combat and toward a support and training role as Iraqi units grow in confidence and ability. Embedded trainers are expected to increase from 4,000 to 40,000 this year, a move that sounds almost identical to plans put forth by many Democratic critics of the President’s efforts. Maybe that’s where those calling for a change in course got the idea. The coalition plan also calls for active combat to target al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists, an idea recently touted by Senator Reid and other prominent Democrats and one that has been included as a provision in at least one non-binding resolution proposal.
There is progress in other respects as well. According to the report, more Iraqis own cars, air conditioners, cell phones and satellite dishes than ever before. Per capita Gross Domestic Product, according to the International Monetary Fund, has grown from $949 in 2004, to an estimated $1,237 in 2005, to a projected $1,635 in 2006.
The point of all of this is to say that progress is indeed being made in Iraq. The going has been slow, to be sure, but we are still moving ahead. The sectarian divide that is bleeding Baghdad may not be overcome short of a full-scale genocide campaign. But the Iraqi government needs more time to work toward a national reconciliation that will bridge a divide developed over decades by Saddam Hussein’s Sunni minority government. Before the diplomatic process can move forward, the violence has to be reduced. That is where the President’s new security plan comes in. If American and Iraqi troops can bring the violence in Baghdad under control, then Iraq has a chance for a peaceful outcome. The initial results are encouraging, but the road ahead will be a long one, and a bloody one.
Virtually no one anticipated the post-invasion chaos that has enveloped Iraq. But that doesn’t mean we should just leave it for the Iraqis and hope for the best. As the report concludes, “Iraq is in a new stage of its evolution, and the impatient should consider all that liberation unleashed.” Now is the time to recognize that not all in Iraq is bad. Now is the time to support our commander in chief and allow his plan the time it needs to take hold. Anything less undermines our mission, our troops, and our coalition and Iraqi allies.