Recovering Our Lost

I recently became aware of an awesome group of volunteers whose objective is to recover the remains of 78,000 U.S. servicemen and women who were reported lost or missing in the South Pacific Theater during the Second World War.

Historyflight.com was founded by Mark Noah, a pilot with 10,000 hours of flight time, rated to fly T-6s, B-727s, B-757s and B-767s , who has donated over $500,000 of his own money to further his quest to find these veterans.

His one of his most recent missions, he and his team of volunteers spent six weeks on the Tarawa Atoll (Pacific Ocean) where a residents accidentally unearthed 20 American skeletons.  They were also able to locate five large burial sites and three individual sites that contained over 200 Marines – “the largest single MIA find in the history of the American Armed Forces.”

Imagine the closure this would bring to the surviving families who could now finally know what happened to their loved ones.

His team of volunteers (and I emphasize that word “volunteers!”) include:

  • Forensic Anthropologist
  • Forensic Odontologists
  • Geophysicists
  • Forensic Archaeologists
  • Land Surveyors
  • Former FBI Special Agent and K9 Handler
  • Flight Instructors
  • Medics
  • Field Technicians
  • Emergency Medical Expert
  • Former Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Tech

That’s an amazing list — and all committed to locating our veterans’ remains.

Overall, there were 84,000 missing service members from America’s wars.  It is Noah’s commitment to find as many as he can.

History Flight is a non-profit organization where 96% of its donations go directly to these recovery efforts – if you are interested in learning more, check out historyflight.com for more information.

Together, we can accomplish so much more!

 

DNC Reflections

I realize at times that I am a bit of a “flag-waver,” but, if you heard President Obama last evening in his speech to America at the DNC, you would understand what is beneath that deep pride I feel in being an American — living in the greatest country on Earth!

And if you ever wondered what motivates our President — he showed you last night.  I felt his deep love and deep compassion for the people of America.

This is a man who has been there with us — every step of the way — making all the hard decisions — for the benefit of all of us.  Who among us would step up to do that?

I am one of those people who get up every day and go to work, hoping that what I can contribute will be enough to make some small difference in someone’s life.  I am proud to have the freedom to achieve that every single day.

When I hear Donald Trump, I am instantly appalled.  His choice of words, his actions and his alliances raise every alarm bell within me.  President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are right.  This isn’t who we are.  This isn’t the face we want our allies to see.  The all-out childish behavior — the sheer selfishness and “what’s in it for me” attitude — it only contributes to the negative “Ugly American” image.

We are better than that. And we are smarter than that.

For the sake of America, start thinking about our future.  Think about your children and their children.  Don’t they deserve a chance to live the same lives we have? Or live in a better world?  What legacy will you be proud to have left them?

People, this is your chance. Get out there and vote this November.  Make your voices heard. Make a difference in our future.

Everything you do will determine how we live the next four years — with honor and grace in a global world — or living in a deeply dark, divisive and destructive world.

The choice is yours ….

Get Ready to Welcome the USS Detroit!

Something new is on the horizon!

The USS Detroit has just completed its acceptance trials — a necessary step before it can be presented to the US Navy.  So far, it has proved itself on launch and recovery missions and surface and self-defense exercises.

Photo: Michael Rote/Lockheed Martin Corp.
Photo: Michael Rote/Lockheed Martin Corp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ship is the fourth steel littoral combat ship and seventh in its class (LCS 7)  — able to operate in as little as 14 feet of water — and is only 389 feet long.  Size doesn’t mean a thing here!  It can travel at 40-plus knots and is capable of being configured for submarine warfare, surface or anti-surface warfare and mine countermeasures.

Joe North, Vice President of Littoral Ships and Systems at Lockheed Martin was quoted in The Detroit News as saying, “When commissioned, LCS 7 will provide presence where and when needed, with a level of force that will deter and defeat threats.”

It is capable of carrying two MH-60R Romeo helicopters — or one manned helicopter and three unmanned helicopters.

Photo: Michael Rote, Lockheed Martin Corp.
Photo: Michael Rote/Lockheed Martin Corp.

 

After commissioning, the USS Detroit (LCS 7) will sail to its new home port in San Diego, where it meet with its sister ships USS Freedom, USS Fort Worth and USS Milwaukee.

On board the USS Kitty Hawk on June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy once said:

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction. ‘I served in the United States Navy.’”

To those who will proudly serve her:

May the wind always be at your back and the sun always upon your face.

Sail on!

 

[Reference credits to: Breana Noble, The Detroit News, Beth Dalbey, patch.com; Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press]

Random Acts

Random acts of violence … something no one can prepare for.  No one can anticipate.

What can we do?

We can ask that our law enforcement men and women receive better training on how to apprehend an armed individual.  Surveys say there are over 300 million guns in America — one third of adults say they own one.  Our law enforcement needs to be better prepared and have better protection.

We can make our voices heard — with peaceful protests — and not provide a fertile playground to those whose motivations are provocative and self-serving.

We can stop reacting.

We can start thinking about how to solve our issues — without violence.

We can put more pressure on our Congressmen and women — and our Senators — to put away their childish, political agendas and concentrate on doing the job they were elected to do … and that would be to lead.  After all, weren’t you the ones with the unending rhetoric during your campaigns that assured us that you could make a difference?  That you could change Washington’s politics?  Well, why aren’t you doing it?

Living in a democracy is, at best, challenging and difficult.  Everyone has a voice.  Everyone deserves to be heard. Everyone has an opinion.

But no one deserves to be the recipient of mindless violence.

Pray for understanding.

Pray for peace.

 

 

May Our Flag Forever Wave

May It Forever Wave
May It Forever Wave

Who doesn’t look at our national flag and feel a swell of pride in their hearts?

Who doesn’t feel that lump in one’s throat, humbled by all of those who went before us and all they did to ensure our freedom — to ensure that our flag would forever wave?

As we celebrate today, I was reminded of the pride — and joy — that John Adams felt when he wrote on July 3, 1776: “The Second Day of July 1776 [the day Continental Congress voted in Philadelphia to declare independence from Britain] … ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

James Madison had an even broader vision that he expressed years later, on January 19, 1788, when he stated: “Every man who loves peace, every man who loves  his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.”

So, perhaps today is a mix of these two visions: one of joy and appreciation and one that acknowledges the gravity of our obligations and responsibilities as we move forward.

We are also reminded that the authors of the Declaration of Independence, when declaring our independence from Britain, defiantly wrote:  … “That as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, [we] have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do.  And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

To all of our fellow countrymen — and allies from abroad — that have believed in our forefathers’ visions and commitments, we honor you — and thank you — for your allegiance and your courage.

May God always bless the United States of America.

 

Hot Temperatures — Cool Wine!

Living in the desert in the winter with temperatures that can range from night time lows of 32 degrees to day time highs of 65 degrees, quickly makes you the envy of all of your “Back East” relatives, friends and co-workers.  And rightfully so!  While they’re shoveling snow — we’re shoveling sunshine!

But it’s that other time of the year where no one envies you and one that nobody really talks about — the sweltering heat waves of the summer!

I remember my first summer in the desert – June 1981.  The local news meteorologist reported the weather every night at 10, usually pointing out that the current temperatures would be coming in at about 104 degrees.  Seriously?  The sun’s been down for hours — how could it still be that hot?  Disbelieving, I would open my front door only to feel like I just opened my oven and my eyelashes were being singed!  (I never doubted a meteorologist again.)

The past ten days in Arizona has pushed even the hardiest of us!  Check  this out:

Phoenix Temps June 2016
Phoenix Temps June 2016

Yes, you are reading last Sunday’s temperature high right — 118 degrees — officially.  Unofficially, it was registering 123.7 degrees on my patio and several moments later, it raised to 124 degrees!  OK, that’s totally frying, right?

So, in looking for a way to beat the heat, I decided that a trip to the wine store was in order (this time to Total Wine) and I found a lovely bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio that kept me cool and happy!

Bella Sera Pinot Grigio
Bella Sera Pinot Grigio

For all my fellow Grigio lovers — try it!  It was one of those wines that after the first sip, you say to yourself, “Wait!  What is this again?”  Yes, it was that good!

So, while we’re out here still shoveling sunshine, know that I, for one, am staying cool with “Bella Sera” … making it one “beautiful evening,” indeed!

 

Honoring Great Dads!

This goes out as a heartfelt thank you to all of you Dads out there that have always “been there” for their children and who do, have, and continue to, love them unconditionally.

In both my mother’s and father’s side of the family — and in my husband’s family — I have seen many, many examples of fathers who truly take pride in their children.  It is so wonderful.  And Dads — you can see your impact — every time that child lights up with a smile and sends it your way!  You earned that!

And with my Forever Friends — I remember their Dads as if it were yesterday: George Buscaglia, Jim Cavalieri and Mike Bauer.  Three great men who loved their daughters with all their hearts — I saw that so many times with them.

On this day, I miss my wonderful father-in-law, too, who always endearingly called me “Little Lady.”

Most of all — I miss my Dad — a guy who never was to busy to listen (even if it was stuff he could care less about) and who was there for every step of the way in my life.  All I had to do was turn around.

So, this post is dedicated to all these great men — and to my Dad, of which there could never be another like him.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad — until we meet again …

Robert H. Blunt July 1921 - January 2005
Robert H. Blunt
July 1921 – January 2005

 

It’s About Equality — And It’s About Leadership

Women, rejoice!  We now have a woman as the Democratic Nominee for the Presidency.  Whether or not you support Hillary Clinton, really isn’t the point here.  We all know she has supporters, and she has detractors.

What IS the point is that, finally, America has demonstrated that the right person to be the President of the United States, is the most qualified person to hold that office.

Why has it taken America so long to see the light?  Look at Britain:  Margaret Thatcher served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990; Indira Gandhi served as Prime Minister of India from 1980 to 1984; and Golda Meir served as Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974.

If other countries broke this barrier as long as 47 years ago, what is it that has held us back?

CNN recently ran an article entitled, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/opinions/womens-voices-on-hillary-clinton-clinching-nomination-roundup/) in which 13 prominent women commented on Hillary Clinton achieving this historic event.  While all of the women had interesting insights, Sahar Aziz, associate professor at Texas A&M School of Law (teaching national security and Middle East law), perhaps shed the most light on this subject:

All too often I and my female colleagues in the legal profession have experienced the harmful effects of gender stereotypes.  Having a strong personality,, taking the lead, and offering constructive criticism makes us abrasive, unprofessional, or worse. 

Meanwhile, our male colleagues with similar personality traits are recognized as leaders and rewarded accordingly.  Indeed, men are disproportionately over-represented in leadership positions as managing partners, judges and law school deans.

To be sure, just having a woman as president is not good enough to advance women’s equality.  America needs a woman who is not ashamed of her strength of personality and confidently takes on the reins of leadership.”

Having worked within the legal profession for 48 years, I feel eminently qualified to comment on Ms. Aziz’s viewpoint — I believe she has cut to the very heart of the matter.

Women can, are and always have been, able to take on the “reins of leadership.”  Women should not be held back by their accomplishments; rather celebrated for what the can and do bring to the table.

At the end of the day, it is the male culture that needs to reshape its paradigm and refocus their sights … without feeling uncomfortably threatened in the process.

If elected, Hillary will clearly make this America’s “litmus test” … one with one decisive factor.

And I am betting that she is most able — and most qualified — to grab those leadership reins and continue to make America the greatest place on the planet to live.

Honoring The Fallen

Memorial Day — a day to enjoy the outdoors, picnics, ball games and other moments of leisure.  Today, we call them “down-time” days or “unplugged.”

But the origins of Memorial Day go back to May 1, 1865, when a group of former slaves — African Americans — reburied 257 Union soldiers that had been buried in a mass grave — and who had died under unspeakable conditions in a makeshift prison camp at the site of the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, SC.  Each received a “proper burial” in gratitude for giving their lives so that others may be free.

This day of honor is especially personal to my family.  Our ancestor, Darwin Olney (my great-great grandfather), was a Union soldier (Michigan) who served in the Civil War, but died in a Confederate prison camp — Salisbury Prison — in Salisbury, NC — under the same unspeakable conditions as those who were encamped in Charleston.

Darwin Olney

At the time of his death, he was 39 years old, a teacher, a husband, and father of eight children, five of which survived beyond infancy.

You see, we know him well.

He wrote dozens upon dozens of letters to his wife during his years of service to the Union.  Those original letters survived, unearthed by our family historian, Kelly Beach, and painstakingly transcribed and technologically preserved.

In those letters, he spoke of the varied countryside through which the soldiers traveled, often pointing out the hospitality and kindness frequently bestowed upon them by Southern families — even those who had family members serving in the Confederate Army.  The composition and eloquence of his letters spoke to his educational level.  As a teacher, it would have been natural for him to observe, intellectualize, and thereby describe his surroundings — and he did it well. There were days of frustration, days of joy, and days of loneliness and sadness.  All of this was Darwin’s gift to us, now, more than 151 years later.

So, as we celebrate what was then “Decoration Day,” which  is now known as “Memorial Day,” it is a time of reflection.  A time to humble ourselves to those who gave the ultimate so that others could be free.  Freedom always comes with its price.  Parents who lost their child, widows who lost their beloved husbands, and children who would live with only one parent.  Most of them never got to say “goodbye.”

Pray for peace, pray for enlightenment  … and honor those who have fallen in the name of freedom.  In God — We Trust.

A Country Flexing Its Muscles

Approximately 870 miles from Hong Kong lies the Spratly Islands — a series of reefs and shoals — claimed by nearby countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines.  The area is known for its commercial fishing grounds and has the potential for undersea natural resources.

Two years ago, China began a land reclamation project that was, when completed last October, responsible for adding 3,200 acres of land to three sites; Fiery Cross Reef, Hugh Reef and Gaven Reef.  Each of the projects began with a single structure, but now have been expanded to contain an artificial island and a dredged channel.  According to a statement by James Hardy, Jane’s Asia Pacific editor, each now has “helipads, airstrips, harbors, and facilities to support large numbers of troops.” (CNN, Katie Hunt reporting, February 17, 2015)  Even the Pentagon has gone on record, stating that they believe the structures also contain surveillance systems.  Looking at each project, they bear such a similarity to each other, that it appears that there is some standardization involved.  If that is so, it begs the question of whether there will be more projects such as these in the future?

So, why are these countries allowing China to simply invade and develop what is considered their land?

Answers to this question can vary.  Some, like Vietnam, for example, have filed mild legal protests with the United Nations citing maritime and other international law, but have become mired down in the legal hair-splitting world of definitions: What legally constitutes a “reef?”  What is the definition of a “shoal?,” further bogging down the process without resolution.  Others, like the Philippines, have protested the loudest (and perhaps the longest), as they suggest the strategic value of the reefs and shoals lie in the fact that they are adjacent to major shipping channels and trade routes in the South China Sea, which could heavily influence their country’s economics.

A recent report from the Pentagon also warned that China was committed to sustaining a growth pattern, even if it meant doing so on distant shores.  (Reuters, Phil Stewart David Brunnstrom reporting, May 14, 2016).  This seems to correspond to recent economic reports which state that China has recently cut its interest rates in order to stimulate their economy because their rising debt levels have had the effect of limiting their fiscal expansion plans.  So much so, that now regulators have now forbidden the practice of buying stocks with borrowed funds.  Also reported, $300 billion dollars have left China in the last six months, in part due to the strength of the U.S. dollar, but also because the confidence in the Chinese economy is waning.  (The Wall Street Journal, Lingling Wei reporting, May 11, 2016)

So, with the possible motivational aspects that China may have in an economic sense, are they also positioning themselves militarily in the sense that each of these three Reefs are now considered by the Pentagon to be long-term civil-military bases, each having a 9,800 foot airstrip, capable of accommodating advanced fighter jets?  More chilling, are the reports that China intends to establish naval “hubs” in countries with which they have shared interests — as they do in Pakistan.

In an effort to continue to sail in international waters, and possibly to show our support of the Philippines with whom we have had a long-standing relationship, the U.S. Navy recently deployed the USS Fort Worth, a littoral combat ship (able to patrol in coastal waters) to the South China Sea on a route that took it near the Spratly Islands.  The Fort Worth was immediately shadowed by a Chinese guided-missile frigate, the Yancheng.  In spite of Commander Matt Kawas’ official statement that “Our interactions with the Chinese ships continue to be professional,” China issued a stern warning in response against the U.S. “taking any actions that might be considered provocative.” (CNN, Brad Landon and Jim Sciutto reporting, May 14, 2016).

All of this rhetoric has prompted Secretary of State, John Kerry, to travel to Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders which he did so today and will continue to do so tomorrow.  The State Department has released a statement suggesting that Secretary Kerry will leave no doubt in China’s mind that the U.S. will continue to have a presence in international waters — and fly in international airways — even if they are in the South China Sea.

Move over, Mr. Trump.  There’s a new bully in town … and it’s called China.