Monday, December 20, 2004

Why my faith in humanity was redeemed this weekend

I have had a very, very busy few days. From 5pm on Thursday until 9am on Sunday I worked at the USO for 37 hours and though it left me tired, I wouldn’t have missed a second… it was great fun.

In particular on Saturday I worked at a fantastic Christmas party that was held for the children of deployed Reserves and Guardsmen. I cannot say enough great things about this party.

The USO organized the party with the Family Readiness Group at the local armory. However, the real stars of the Party was a group from Hinsdale that call itself the “Santa’s Helpers”.

This group asked for a Christmas wish list from all 150+ kids. Wow! Did they fulfill these kid’s wishes. In fact, I was told that after they got the first few lists they called the FRG and told them to not hold back - the kids should ask for EXACTLY what they wanted – regardless of price.

When I got to the armory the room was filling up with families and several volunteers from the Santa group. While we waited for Santa to come we watched the movie Elf on a huge screen and I worked with the kids at a craft table making frames for the pictures that they would soon get taken with Santa. Families were then taking turns going into the computer room to make video e-mails to send out to their active duty servicemen.

The Santa’s Helpers started to bring in the bags of toys. All the toys were beautifully wrapped and the toys kept coming, and coming, and coming. It was amazing. Santa soon appeared and the kids lined up for their turn to sit on his lap and take a picture.

Then the kids opened their gifts… unbelievable. They got Bikes, DVD players, Gameboys, video games, RC cars, clothes, movies, and much more! Everything was top of the line, brand new and exactly what the kids asked for.

At the same time each family was given a full holiday dinner in a box to take home and a tin of cookies from Mrs. Fields.

The kids were happy, and the parents were shocked.

Shocked because as one of them said – “but we’re just reservists” which just about broke my heart.

I think that sometimes it is really, really hard to be the spouse of a deployed reservist or guardsmen. They often live far from a base and without a great deal of the support that spouses of active duty military have. Add to that the fact that serving active duty will often leave reservists with less of a paycheck than their civilian job will.

I kept walking up to the Santa’s Helpers and telling them how fantastic their organization was. They kept telling me that it was the least they could do. Then the family members and military members who were there kept walking up to me to thank me and I would always reply that I had done nothing… This was all to thank them for the sacrifices they make everyday!

Then the conversation would just become competing thanks among the three groups (military, USO, Santas).

It really made me realize just how great people can be either making the sacrifices everyday as a military family, or by using their own money to ensure that stranger’s children have as good Christmas as possible – even though a parent is far from home.

For the rest of the weekend I was working at the airport USO that was open 24 hours because of the exodus of military nationwide trying to head home for the holidays. Many of the military’s schools shut down for the holidays (for example the ‘A’ schools here at Great Lakes).

It was great to see all these military men and women able to get home for the holidays. We were able to make sure all of our guests had a place to rest, something to eat, a free hone card (thanks to a donation from AT&T), a holiday tin of cookies to take home as a gift (thanks to Mrs. Fields) and a beanie baby bear to take to any kids at home (thanks to Ty).

Even better were all the stories the servicemen and women had of people who helped them out as they traveled. One soldier had a first class passenger insist on trading seats for the flight to Chicago, many had their drinks or dinner bought, and one young man had a person who walked him to the USO to make sure that we were open, and gave him $20 to buy breakfast in the morning.

Sometimes, during the holidays it is easy to get wrapped up in the fact that there is plenty of shopping left to do, or get upset with your family over the same old things. When that happens remember these stories, and the fact that there are many, many people who are far from home this holiday season, and many who are doing there best to ensure that every person in uniform (and their family) has as good a holiday as possible.

It isn’t to late to reach out to members of our military this holiday season. You can reach out by making a contribution to one of these great organizations…

USO My favorite of course, because I work there but it is a great organisation.

Soldiers Angels A non-profit run by military moms. You can adopt soldiers, or whole platoons to send care packages. You can also help wounded soldiers as they return from overseas.

There is a more comprehensive list on the great military blog Blackfive - Want to help our troops?
What the Heck Happened to ME?

So I haven't posted here in forever because it has been an exceptionally crappy year.

First my aunt died unexpectedly

Then my father was diagnosed with cancer

After a long battle my father died this summer

Less than a month later I had to have emergency abdominal surgery (not fun)

While out from work for 2 months because of the surgery I had to move (a bit hard to do when you aren't supposed to lift anything)

And now (finally) my life is on a somewhat even keel

I am sure nobody even remembers this blog exists... but that's ok... because soon some friends and I are going to launch a newer better group blog.

My hope is that a group blog will pull the pressure off me to post... while att eh same time keeping up enough pressure to guilt me into posts. (trust me it makes sense in my head)

Well, until my super cool new blog is launched I got the itch to blog... and this old homestead is still here....

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Have we as a nation willfully forgotten the threat of terrorism?

This is a serious question. Have we as a nation willfully forgotten the threat of terrorism?

On Thursday 3-11 Spain was rocked by terrorist bombings in Madrid. Evidently 13 bags stuffed with explosives were placed on trains in Madrid set to go off during the busy morning rush hour.

This act was similar in scale for the population of Spain to the 9-11 attack in the US. 200 have dies and over 1200 are injured. For a nation of roughly 40 million people this is a major blow. Last I read there among the dead were citizens of 11 nations.

What makes me think that we in America have 'willfully forgotten the threat of terrorism' is the fact that in the American media there is very little coverage of the events in Spain. With a major attack like this I go into full 'news junkie' mode and I have found that every time I try to watch the news instead of reports about Madrid there are stories about Kobe, Martha or Scott Peterson. This is making me crazy! Thank God for blogs because the blogosphere is the only place that I can seem to find any actual reporting on the attacks in Madrid.

On September 12 I would never have imagined that our nation would be able to ignore a massive terrorist attack again - no matter where in the world it occurred but... events of the last days have shown that our nation is only too able to turn our eyes away from a terrorist attack. Yet I find that my friends and work associates are not talking about the terrorist attacks in Spain at all.

Why aren't we talking about terrorism anymore? Why aren't we talking about the attacks in Madrid? Is it because we think that perhaps it is a result of Spain’s internal politics (ETA)? Why should that matter... in the end terrorism is terrorism regardless of who perpetrates it.

If the attack in Madrid is found to be Al Queda do you think that we in America will become interested... or do you think that we just don't care because of the fact that it happened so far away.

Sorry for the rant but I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that nobody is discussing these horrible attacks. I am sure that most everyone in the blogosphere has read the moving A Sad Postcard From Spain at Tim Blair’s blog
The images and testimonies that we’ve been watching are absolutely heart wrecking. Last night some of the people who were working in the mass morgue that was improvised in a convention center needed medical sedation because they couldn’t cope with what they were watching: dozens of people inside black plastic bags whose mobile phones kept ringing all the time. Several children in a school nearby one of the explosions were waiting for their parents to take them home. Their parents never came.

A woman who survived the blast has lost her husband, her two sons, and her grandsons. The radio reported this morning that she was so overwhelmed with the loss that she later tried to kill herself. In one of the destroyed trains they rescued a seven month old baby. They haven’t been able to find his parents and he has just died while in the ICU. The attack has killed people from eleven different nationalities.

I just can't get the image of body bags with ringing cell phones out of my head.

The attacks have been so terrible that the hospitals in Spain are struggling to cope and the funeral homes in Madrid have had to use staff meeting rooms for funeral vigils.

Spanish blogger Iberian Notes reported that the Spanish paper La Vanguardia will be publishing biographies of the deal like the NYT 'Faces of grief' series. The first translated couple I read moved me to tears
Ana Isabel Gil Perez, office worker, 28, Torrejon de Ardoz. Ana was married and seven months pregnant. She died in La Paz hospital after suffering five heart attacks. Surgeons performed an operation to extract Ana's baby, but he died too. Ana was looking forward to her son's birth and to her sister's wedding.

Inmaculada Castillo Sevillano, office worker, 39, Alcala de Henares. Inma was a widow; her husband had drowned when he was 31 and she was 29. She leaves two orphan children, a girl of 19 and a boy of 15. Inma had a hard road, working non-stop to support her children, to whom she was very close. Despite her misfortune, she was a lively and cheerful person, say her friends.

On Friday 10 million Spaniards marched in protest to the acts of barbarous terrorism that occurred.

In the end it does not matter why these attacks happened, or who perpetrated them. It could be any number of terrorist groups - ETA, IRA, UDF, Black September, Al Queda, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, PLF, or any of the 387 organizations listed HERE. In the end what matters is that it was an act of terrorism against a democratic, pluralistic, free nation. It was just another in the chain of events for which the goal is to destabilize the west.

This was an act of unmitigated evil committed by men of evil. That’s right, I am willing to use a ‘simplistic’ term like EVIL – because it is in the end a simple equation. Killing innocent civilian men women and children going about their every day lives = EVIL. No matter what the 'cause' there is no explanation that can forgive the placing of 13 bomb filled backpacks on busy commuter trains during the morning rush hour.

Why is our nation not talking about this? Why are we not marching in solidarity? Why are we so consumed with Kobe, Martha and Scott Peterson?


Monday, March 01, 2004

Troop 448 supports the troops

Girl Scout troop #448 of Texas is working to send a bit of home to troops ... Girl Scout Cookies!

The troop is working to collect funds to ship cookies to ship out to troops. They have a generous former Army officer who will pay all of the shipping costs. If you want to buy cookies to be shipped to the troops check out their website

I love the quote from their site
Troop 448 is very proud of our Men & Women who are serving to protect our Country. We hope the cookies we ship out to them will let them know that we think about them everyday.
I was a Girl Scout for years and know that selling cookies can teach girls many valuable skills (initiative, public speaking, salesmanship) but this troop is going a step beyond using it as a great opportunity to teach the girls patriotism.

I have sent a check for a few boxes of cookies and I hope that troop #448 is able to reach their goal of 200 boxes... perhaps with the blogospheres help they can surpass it!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I want one too

Jeff Jarvis blogs about the only item that would be on my christmas wish list.... the News Alarm Clock.

For now what I have is friends with small babies (who never seem to sleep) they seem to be the ones to call me when anything happens at an odd hour because they were up with a sick.hungry child. That is a bit undependable though and at some point thos kids are going to sleep through the night. I want a news alarm clock!


I woke up this morning to some of the best news possible. Saddam Hussein has been captured - ALIVE. I love that he was hiding like a rat in a hole. Ideally the Iraqi people will no longer fear him, or view him as any kind of powerful leader.

A moment of inside politics - I found out about this good news on Instapundit - score one for the blogoshpere! Of course I immediatley turned on the TV for live video but I found this morning that I would much rather keep the sound down on the TV and read the insights from around the blogoshere. The talking heads on TV were not worth my time.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I shouldn't be suprised

One of my new favorite blogs is Blackfive. Through him I have found my newest reason to deeply dislike a Democrat.

Dennis Kucinich is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. I always kind of viewed him as a harmless kook (he has sponsored legislation to outlaw space based mind control weapons) but a recent addition to his campaign website has gone over the edge.

It is a campaign ad that, in my view, goes way beyond the definition of tasteless.

You can see the ad Here, on the Kucinich web site.

I am horrified to see that Kucinich is using the names, ages, ranks and units of the military men and women who have dies in order to further his personal political goals. Just to be clear this is a man who wants the job of 'Commander in Chief' but he is treating the men and women who would be serving under his command as pawns.

I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to have lost a loved one and then to be confronted with the use of his name and details on a television screen. The details being used to support a position that my loved one may or may not support. Regardless - fallen heroes cannot tell us what their political positions are - that is why politicians should NEVER use the names of individuals without the EXPRESS permission of their next of kin. I highly doubt that the Kucinich campaign has taken the time to get that permission from the family of every man and woman whose name was used in this commercial.

It is one thing for a candidate to speak out against the war, or to say that too many troops died. It is appalling that individual names are used somehow implying that these men and women somehow endorse Kucinich. These men and women choose to serve our country in an all-volunteer military, they trained, fought and died for us... they deserve more respect than this commercial affords them.

Their deaths have much more meaning than a cheap piece of animation that indicates that their deaths only purpose was to advance the economic interests of a few. Perhaps that is what Kucinich believes about the war as a whole but - there in NO WAY to say that about each individual soldiers death.

I am livid with anger at this ad. I can't even rant properly which is the true sign of my level of anger. Suffice it to say... Kucinich does not have my vote and I eagerly await the reaction to this commercial from the other Democratic candidates. If it is anything short of total repudiation then I will know exactly where I stand on them as well.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Very Cool

Barrett Lyon has mapped the internet in one day... the result is some fascinating and beautiful images.

The first time I ever saw internet traffic expressed cartographically was at the Millenium Dome in London. Don't laugh, I thought it was fun (then again my tax dollars didn't pay for it)!

One of the most unique features about 'cyberspace' is that there is not commonly accepted practice on how it should be represented in a map... in many ways this is a new frontier in cartography.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Armistice Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918 the guns of WWI fell silent.

I always called this day Armistice Day because that was what I was raised to call it. My parent’s fathers had been very strict on the fact that the veterans of each war should have a recognition of their own days – so VJ day and Armistice day were very different in my household. I still believe that sometimes we in America are quick to combine holidays (Presidents day) and forget their meaning – beyond that of a day off. However, a unified Veterans day on November 11th seems just right.

Both of my grandfathers fought in WWI. One was a Corporal in the Army and On September 11th had just returned to the trenches after recovering from being temporarily blinded by mustard gas. My other grandfather was a Marine and on September 11th he was in a hospital starting a long recovery from wounds that would plague him all of his life – he was the lucky one in his unit – most of his friends were dead by September 11th 1918.

That was the “War to end all wars” but unfortunately it didn’t take. Armistice day was extended to honor all veterans of the wars that followed – WWII, Korea, Vietnam. I don’t know if I consider it an advancement in the world that we no longer go into each one of the conflicts thinking that this will be that last one – this time it will be the ‘war to end all wars’.

Now the US is in the middle of a war against terrorism – a war that I believe will have no defined end – no Armistice Day (who would sign the treaty?). In fact, this war had no real beginning – September 11 is the day that many of us found out about a war that had begun over a decade before. There were men and women who had fought valiantly for us all without our even knowing it… At Kobar Towers, on the USS Cole and in the Embassies there were already far to many casualties in this new war. Because of that I am glad that Armistice Day is now Veterans day. I am certain that my Grandfathers would be more than happy to share their Armistice Day to honor those who have fought and continue to fight to defend all that this nation stands for.

The men and women who are fighting this war deserve our recognition and our thanks – for the efforts and sacrifices that they have made in order to keep us all free. Tonight I will be working at the USO and I look forward to being able to thank several veterans in person… if you see a veteran today be sure to say thank you.