August 2010 Archives

On Saturday, 28 August 2010, over a year's effort of planning came to fruition with the Recognition Ceremony and Celebration Honoring Starkville and Oktibbeha County Veterans of World War II. I was a small part of the planning committee for this event but it success is due solely to the tireless work of Bill Poe and Joan Wilson.

The event was sponsored by the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum funded in part by a SOAR grant from the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. In addition to honoring the veterans, there was a panel discussion hosted on Thursday which detailed the early involvement of Oktibbeha County in pioneering aviation. The museum also conducted and recorded interviews of World War II veteran which will be available in the museum.

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) gave the keynote address on Saturday and he is to be commended for his outstanding address. His remarks were on target and stayed focused on honoring the veterans. All too often people who give speeches get off track with their personal agendas and actually detract from those being honored. Senator Cochran did not do that. He also kept his talk brief in recognition of the length of the program and the age of those being honored.

The keynote address can be heard below. The sound quality is not all that good but the video camera did the best it could.

Prior to the start of the ceremony, each veteran was given an opportunity to have his picture taken with General Freeman from the Mississippi National Guard and Parker Wiseman, mayor of the City of Starkville. Each veteran was photographed holding a steel plate with a cut-out of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. These plates were furnished by Gulf States Manufacturing, a company with a long history of honoring veterans.

Following Senator Cochran's keynote address, former Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck, the master of ceremonies, called the name of each veteran and their branch of service while a member of the Boy Scouts of America presented them with their personal steel plate.

When we first began planning this event we were hoping to have around 30 veterans attend. We ended up with 43. There were perhaps 200 or more from the community who came to honor these members of the Greatest Generation. It was a bittersweet time in that many who served are no longer with us and could not be honored. I thought of my grandfather most of the day. There were also many other World War II veterans in Oktibbeha County who were unable to attend the ceremony. We honor them all.

1) Nothing in the world beats great friends. Doug, Beverly, Meg, and Molly let me visit anytime I want and we always have a good time. We've been friends for so long we are like family and always pick up right where we left off.

2) When someone says "thank you", especially at a restaurant to wait staff, the correct response should be "you're welcome", not "no problem".

3) I continue to be amazed at how adaptable and resilient the military is. I arrived at US Joint Forces Command the day after it was announced that it was going to be closed and expected to see a campus of depressed people. It was obvious that people are concerned and a little worried but they remained professional and mission-focused. Personally I think most of them will keep their jobs. There will be new wiring diagrams and some signs will change but the mission is important. Once the reviews are complete I can see most people moving to DISA or another organization. The facilities are also an investment so I wouldn't be surprised to see many people even keep their same offices. Just my opinion though.

4) Emergency flashers are to be used for emergencies, not while driving down the road. People of Alabama: Rain is NOT an emergency. Your driving in the left lane with your flashers flashing slowed me down and destroyed my night vision. I could see your tail lights just fine thank you. And for those who chose to pull over to the side of the road: what we experienced were isolated thunderstorms. That means they are only occurring over a small portion of the area. While you were sitting on the side of the road (creating a traffic hazard) waiting for the storm to move over you at 15 MPH, I continued to drive at about 65 MPH. Roughly 90 seconds after I passed you I was out of the rain.

5) To the people of Alabama and Georgia: When driving along the Interstate and see a policeman sitting in the median, there is no need to apply your brakes. He has a device called radar (or perhaps a laser) and it works at the speed of light. That means that by the time you see him, his radar or laser beam has seen you, been bounced back to his device, and while you are thinking to apply the brakes, the policeman is looking at your speed displayed on his device. In other words, if he wanted to catch you, you have already been caught. Slamming on your brakes only draws attention to yourself and risks causing an accident.

6) I am not opposed to driving while talking on a cell phone. I am however opposed to allowing people to drive who can't think and breathe at the same time. If you fall into the category of not being able to multi-task, then do not talk on the phone and drive. I am amazed at how people slow down when they talk on the phone and then speed up when the conversation ends.

7) Is it just me or have truck drivers become more rude over the years? I remember when they used to share the road and now they think the own it. Noting is more frustrating than having one truck in the right lane driving at 69 MPH and another in the left lane driving at 69.1 MPH. Come on truck drivers, share the road!

8) I-20 in Alabama has become one big construction zone although I didn't see much construction--just lowered speed limits. Recommendation: avoid Alabama if possible.

9) I have figured out a solution to border security in Arizona. We should move half of the policemen sitting in the median of I-85 in North Carolina to Arizona and put them on border patrol. It would help Arizona and I don't think North Carolina would suffer because I only the policemen sitting in the median--didn't see them writing any tickets. They could put mock police cars in the median and get the same effect.

10) Screaming kids at restaurants are not as cute as their parent's think they are.

Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone reporter whose article resulted in the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, was told his request to embed with a unit was denied. Some reports I read said he had originally been told he could embed but that decision was reversed. Mr. Hastings is not too happy about it from what I have seen. I'm truly surprised that he thought for a minute he would be able to do this so soon after the article.

Let me be the first to say that the things Gen. McChrystal said were inappropriate for a military officer but, I do admire the man for not trying to squirm out of the comments and resigning. In my opinion, he left with honor.

What surprises me is the Hastings would think for a minute he would be welcomed back as an embedded reporter. I think he really does not understand the military and he seems to have no respect for it. First, if he knew anything about the military, he surely knew what consequences would be suffered by Gen. McChrystal once the article was published. The Inspector General is now conducting a review of those involved in the article to see if any are guilty of insubordination but one article states that Hastings has refused to cooperate with the investigation. That, to me, is a sign of his disrespect for the institution.

Let's look at what Hastings really did and why the only explanations I can up with for his surprise at being denied an embed is ignorance or tunnel vision. Hastings was invited to a house as a guest. Once there he drank all the beer, left trash all over the place, ate all of the food, kicked the dog, and insulted all of your family members. He leaves. Then, when he wants to come back a few weeks later for another visit he is told no and is surprised. He really must just not get it.

But what did he get for himself? Well he got an article that seems to have resulted in record Rolling Stone sales. He seems to have made somewhat of a name for himself. And it also appears he got a book deal out of the article. It seems to me like he came out with a pretty good deal.

But what did it cost? Well, it cost a great general his career. It broke up what seemed to be a good team (Petraeus-McChrystal) on the right track in Afghanistan. But the greatest cost may well be the lack of information and insight the American people--no, the people of the world--will get. His self-glorification means that every embedded reporter is going to be scrutinized likely resulting in fewer being able to report. Those who are allowed will be around military people who are closely guarded in what they say. The result will be less information, less insight, and less of an idea of what the people are who are fighting these wars.

And it was all unnecessary. Hastings could have reported on what he found in a way that would not have resulted in embarrassment and resignations. But then again, learning that military people may actually have opinions is not news. Reporting that some in the military approve of what the President is doing and some do not approve is not titillating. But publishing the article in the way it was published did help him make a name for himself. In my opinion he sacrificed his honor and it is unlikely anyone in the military will ever trust him again. On the other hand, by his actions after the article was published preserved his honor and will likely be trusted by all he meets. Rare is the individual who will stand up and willingly be held accountable for his actions; rare, that is, everywhere except in the military.


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