Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ISIS; A Veteran's View

     For the past several months I have been going to the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain (Boston) for weekly treatments due to several service connected issues I am dealing with. Nothing new there and I am not complaining or looking for any sympathy; there are plenty of Veterans dealing with a lot more serious issues than me. What I do want to write about today is ISIS.
     As a veteran, I considered it to have been a great honor to have served my country both in peace time and in war time. Like most other veterans I know, even with the medical complications, I would not trade my experiences for anything and if I was called upon today to go back in I would. A few years ago, I started to publicly acknowledge my service, first by putting the veteran plates on my registered vehicles, then by wearing hats or t-shirts proudly displaying my service in the Army. I never thought for one minute I was putting myself or my closest associates in danger by doing this. Rather, I felt it was an extension of my marching in the Memorial Day and Veteran's day parades. I never had the unfortunate experience of being spat upon by other Americans either. Rather I joined at a time when the country was embracing its military under a patriotic President in Ronald Reagan. During the First Gulf War, the country's support was palpable and evident, at home, and more importantly, at the front line with the troops on the ground. It did not waiver even as the conflict waned and we came home, seemingly victorious, to cheering crowds and ticker tape parades. Even after almost three thousand Americans were slaughtered on 9/11, both parties came together and supported the military actions taken later. As the wars dragged on, public support for them disappeared, yet, with the exception of a few throwback hippies from the sixties, support for the troops never did. I have witnessed this first hand while traveling around the country as total strangers would stop to thank a veteran or military person in uniform for their service. During this time, I have never thought about donning a baseball cap denoting me as a veteran, as being something dangerous to do. Until today.
     I was on the commuter rail between Worcester and Boston when the train pulled in to Framingham to pick up inbound passengers. As it came to a stop, I was looking out the window when I spotted two women on the platform wearing burqas and two men who were with them who appeared to be of Arab decent. As I made eye contact with one of the men, I noticed in the reflection of the window, my hat, which proudly read US Army Veteran. For a split second I tensed up and watched for any movement which might be construed as a threat. At that moment I was saddened to think I was now profiling people who were almost certainly citizens like myself, and who never had, nor will ever have, any ill intentions against me or anyone else. Yet, because of the attacks which have occurred in the past few years on our own soil, including in Boston, the threats made constantly by ISIS and others, and the feckless response to those threats, it was not a reaction born of prejudice or bias. It was simply the reaction of a trained veteran who could not help but be reminded of other places far away, where tensing up was a constant state of being. One big difference is, I was on a commuter train going into Boston, not on a road in Iraq.
     Last week five more American Heroes were gunned down by a radical Islamic Terrorist. This is just the latest in an ever growing list of attacks attributed to this global war between the Radical Islamists and the rest of the world. My fear, and that of many other veterans and cops alike, is that the war is surely going to escalate here at home. How many more attacks will it take to wake up the general populace to this real threat to our citizenry? Right now, it is only us veterans or those on the front lines, here and abroad, who are reacting this way, rightly or wrongly. Having our leaders pretend it is something else, or ignoring these events in the hopes they will die out, is not going to work.  These enemies are motivated by deep routed beliefs coupled with an indifference to dying never before seen. In any rational thinking persons view, that is a lethal combination which can only lead to more carnage if it is not stopped.
     After contemplating my decision to wear or not to wear my hats or shirts, I have decided to not let them dictate how I live my life. I would rather go out standing up than survive cowering under a bed of fear.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Will This Storm Deserve The Hype?

     As we wake up today and brace for what is sure to be a significant storm, I thought it would be fun to go down memory lane and mention some of the more memorable snow events in Worcester's history, in my lifetime anyway.
     Although many news stories in late October 2011 claimed the heavy Halloween storm that year was the earliest on record in Worcester, they were all wrong. On October 10, 1979 7.5" of snow fell at Worcester Airport as an early rain event ran into unusually cold air over New England. Many towns West of Worcester saw even more snow.
     As far as the latest snow on record,  May 10, 1977 has the honors. On that day an official total of 7.5" snow fell at Worcester Airport. Another late Spring snowstorm happened in 1987, when on April 29th, over 17" of snow fell in Worcester. I still have the newspaper from that day with a famous front page picture of Pleasant Street clogged with cars and snow. Many other areas received much more as 2 foot totals were common all over New England.
     Large snowstorms have always held a special place in the memories of those who went through them. As for the fiercest, meanest, most memorable snowstorm for Worcester, there can be no other choice than the Blizzard of 78' which occurred from Feb 6 to Feb 8, 1978. Although the Worcester total snowfall of 20.1 inches was not especially note worthy, the duration of the storms hurricane force winds (32+ hrs.), guaranteed that storm would live on in infamy. Worcester was paralyzed by the 12 to 16 foot snowdrifts which resulted. Commutes home, which usually took a half hour, turned into 5-8 hr nightmares, if you could get home at all. East of Worcester the storm was especially deadly as hundreds of cars were stranded on the highways. Ninety nine people died in MA and RI, including an Uxbridge boy who disappeared outside his home during the storm. Those of us who lived through it will never forget it.
     As far as the most snow from one storm, the December Nor'easter of 1992 is the king of the snowdrift! In one 24 hour period 28" of snow fell on Worcester making that a one day record. The official snow total for the storm at Worcester Airport was 32.1" but areas west of Worcester, including Spencer and Paxton received measured snow of up to 49"! This storm was remarkable for its duration as it started snowing on December 11th and did not stop until December 14th. Many people in Worcester County were out of power for over a week as a high tension line came down in Auburn.
     The official record holder for snow at Worcester airport occurred on April 1, 1997 when 33" of snow fell from March 30 to April 1.  During the peak of that storm, snow fell at over 3' per hour while strong thunderclaps were heard throughout. Although Worcester broke a record, generally the snowfall amounts were up to a foot less in places as close as Boston.
     There are too many more examples of storms which dumped over 2 feet at one time over the years to mention. Although the forecast for Nemo is dire, it would have to be an incredibly powerful storm to knock the king off the snow pile.
     Stay safe my friends.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Whoever Wins, We Must Support

     This evening, members of the Massachusetts republican State Committee will vote on who is to be the next part chairperson of the party. Both candidates, Kristen Hughes and RickGgreen are well qualified for the job. I for one am not able to endorse either candidate at this time, not because I am not happy with the choices, but rather due to a lack of knowledge about either one. My knowledge of both, and what they stand for, have been formed from the media coverage and from people whom I do know and who have shared their opinion. Many of those people, for whom I have a ton of respect, have come out in favor of both candidates.
     This campaign is exposing once again the differences in our party at this time. Conventional wisdom is that Mr. Green is more sympathetic to the Tea Party members of the party and the Ms. Hughes is more of an establishment candidate. Both of those things may or may not be true. After the election tonight, I hope those things no longer matter.
     If Mr. Green wins, I want to see all members of the party rally behind him. No games. No long drawn out battles over the vote simply because you can, no public statements of regret or subliminal messages that he is too far right.
     The same should hold true if Ms. Hughes wins. Within an hour of the final results, every single Tea Party Group and RTC in Massachusetts should immediately join hands behind her and give the full support of the party by publicly announcing their support.
     In short, our differences need to be put aside after the vote and compromises made. To my friends in the Tea Party Groups, if your guy loses, do not go away, or worse, fight against the party. Same goes for my more moderate Republican friends. If you win and then do not include some of the new ideas or strategies being brought about by those more conservative than you, we are all doomed to failure for a long time to come.
     Tonight is not the time to show the voters how divided we are. It is the time to show everyone how strong we are when we come together. I for one will start by saying this. Whoever emerges victorious tonight, I will vehemently support until or unless there come a time when they no longer deserve that support. Good luck to both of you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's Next to Ban? LEGO®s?

     While looking through the news of the day, one story caught my attention right away. It seems a future domestic terrorist has been discovered lurking in the halls of the Hyannis West Elementary School on Cape Cod in the form of five year old Joseph Cardosa.( 5 year old threatened with suspension.) What was this youngster's crime? He dared to take two LEGO®  pieces and make them into the shape of a gun. In the letter to the parents threatening him with suspension, the school says the boy was using toys inappropriately. I would like to see the policy the letter is referring to because I suspect there is nothing mentioned about what the appropriate use of LEGO®'s is.
     I remember having them as a child and all four of my own children had buckets of them too. As I recall, there were plenty of things made out of them to look like tanks, planes with missiles, and toy figures with guns lying around the house all the time. In the above referenced articled, the author cites several other absurd cases from around the country and the involved school system's ridiculous response to them. All of these things raise some serious questions.
     Who are the people we have teaching our kids who could be so stupid as to overreact to these things? If Mr. Cardosa was running around pointing the gun at other students and pretending to shoot them, I would agree with the school in intervening. Not because of the LEGO®s, more because of the behavior exhibited. Instead, what we hear from the Principal of the school is that person's own apparent irrational fear of anything which even remotely looks like a gun, as if just the shape is dangerous. This presumably educated person told FOX 25 “We need a safe environment for our students. While someone might think that making a Lego gun is just an action of a 5-year-old, to other 5-year-olds, that might be a scary experience.” Really? A scary experience to who?
     My experience as a parent and youth sports coach is the less of a big deal we adults make of things, the better off the children are. It is not mentioned, but I wonder how many of the fellow students ran out of the building screaming in fear when young Mr. Cardosa brandished his newly made LEGO® gun? I wonder if the teachers present called 911 and placed the students under the desks to avoid whatever harm could come from plastic? 
     By the way, the picture I used is just one of thousands on the web. Kind of looks like a gun, don't you think? I guess I better watch for my letter in the mail too.