Today is Memorial Day

I remember my grandmother always referred to this day as Decoration Day. When I was a child, nobody ever told me why she called it that. That is a shame.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because the day was designated as a day to decorate the graves of soldiers who had died in the Civil War.

Many people in the North and the South decorated graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and many cities claim to be the location that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place.

In the summer of 1865, a prominent druggist in the village of Waterloo, New York, Henry C. Welles, mentioned to some of his friends that it would be good to remember the patriotic dead of the war by placing flowers on their graves. He suggested that all the shops in town close for one day to honor the soldiers who were killed in the Civil War and were buried in the Waterloo cemetery.

Nothing resulted from his suggestion until he gave the idea again the following spring to the Seneca County Clerk, General John B. Murray. Murray, a Civil War hero, embraced the idea wholeheartedly and a citizens’ committee headed by Welles and Murray was formed to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead.

On May 5, 1866, the Village was decorated with flags at half mast, draped with evergreens and mourning black. Veterans, civic societies and residents, led by General Murray, marched to the strains of martial music to the three village cemeteries. There, impressive ceremonies were held and soldiers’ graves decorated. One year later, on May 5, 1867, the ceremonies were repeated. In 1868, Waterloo joined with other communities in holding their observance on May 30th. It has been held annually ever since.

During the same time period, the head of an organization of Union veterans—the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)—established May 30th as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan led veterans through town to the cemetery to decorate their comrades’ graves with flags. It was not a happy celebration, but a memorial. The townspeople called it Decoration Day.

In Retired Major General Logan’s proclamation in General Order #11 on May 5, 1868, he declared:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Waterloo the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, 100 years after the first commemoration. They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event.

Every May 30, the townspeople of Waterloo still walk to the cemeteries and hold memorial services. They decorate the graves with flags and flowers. Then they walk back to the park in the middle of town. In the middle of the park, near a monument dedicated to soldiers, sailors and marines, the Gettysburg address is read, followed by General Logan’s Order # 11 designating Decoration Day. The village choirs sing patriotic songs. In the evening, school children take part in a parade.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act.”

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

Whether or not you remember at precisely 3 o’clock to take a moment of remembrance is not as important as the fact that you know what the day is about. It is a day to remember those who gave their lives so that you have the freedom to do whatever is happening in your lives at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day and every day. It might also be a good idea to tell your children what the day is really all about. It would be a shame if they weren’t told.

Dealing With The Issue Of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

A question before Congress now is whether or not to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that was passed during the Clinton administration in 1993. This rule allowed gays to serve in the military, as long as they did not let it be known that they were gay. The military couldn’t investigate a military member’s sexual orientations so long as the member did not serve “out of the closet.”

Our elected officials will be voting on amendments that would repeal this policy, with the provision ensuring that any change would not take effect until after the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on troops. This study is due to Congress by December 1st.

This brings us to the crux of the matter. Repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” must not affect the capability of our military to do its job. You have to look at all times whether or not they are capable of achieving their mission and does a change of this policy affect the military’s ability to perform their mission.

A new poll from a Democratic pollster shows a solid majority of Americans support allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military. According to the poll conducted by the Center for American Progress, about 54 percent of the American public believe “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed while only 35 percent are opposed to the law being changed. I have to say that given the results of that poll and the trends of the past couple years, I’m surprised that the Democrats in Congress and the White House support the measure. They don’t have a good record of supporting the majority opinion of the population in this country of late…but I digress.

I am reluctant to second-guess the military on this issue, because they’re the ones that have to make the judgment about how the policies affect the military capabilities and that brings us back to what I said before… Repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” must not affect the capability of our military to perform its mission.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said he supported a repeal of the policy. Mullen said in February, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

US Central Command Commander, General David Petraeus has testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “I believe the time has come to consider a change to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think it should be done in a thoughtful and deliberative matter that should include the conduct of the review that (Defense) Secretary Gates has directed that would consider the views in the force on the change of policy. It would include an assessment of the likely effects on recruiting, retention, morale and cohesion, and would include an identification of what policies might be needed in the event of a change and recommend those polices as well.”

According to an unscientific survey taken in 2007 by retired Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Vincent Patton III, most of the younger enlisted troops really don’t care if their fellow soldiers are gay or straight.

According to a 2006 RAND Corporation study, 72 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans polled said they were “personally comfortable interacting with gays.”

As University of Florida psychologist Bonnie Moradi and Rand Corporation sociologist Laura Miller commented in the report, “the data indicated no associations between knowing a lesbian or gay unit member and ratings of perceived unit cohesion or readiness.

Instead, findings pointed to the importance of leadership and instrumental quality in shaping perceptions of unit cohesion and readiness.” According to that report, war veterans ranked “training quality” and “equipment” as way more important on the battlefield; to compare, “knowing a lesbian/gay unit member” was ranked by ex-soldiers as the least important factor, much less important than the quality of the unit’s non-commissioned officers.

There are other statements by both high ranking officers supporting the possible repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and more surveys of how the younger members of the military feel as well. It will be interesting to see what the report being done by the military says about how it will impact the force.

A strong military is key to a strong America. On that, I hope we can all agree. If some of the best people available are being turned away or discharged because of who they might choose to love, we are handicapping our military. By so doing, we are adversely affecting the capability of our military to perform its mission.

We live in dangerous times. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed, but not because of civil rights. It should be repealed so that this issue can be put behind us and our military can be stronger, not as “gay” and “straight” divided, but as Americans united against those who would do our nation harm.

Mosque Being Built at Ground Zero

Two Muslim organizations are moving forward with plans to build a giant mosque near the spot where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood in New York. A building, which was damaged by parts of one of the hijacked planes on September 11th, 2001, stands at 45 Park Place, will be refurbished to become the “Cordoba House” mosque.

Members of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative came up with the plan. They claim the project is meant to improve relations between the West and the Muslim world.

The building, standing just two blocks north of Ground Zero, formerly housed a Burlington Coat Factory store. The store’s two selling floors were destroyed when the landing gear from one of the planes tore through them during the attacks.

The dedication for the beginning of construction is currently set to be held on September 11th, 2011—the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack that shook our nation! The construction costs are expected to be over $100 million and will include sports facilities, a theater and possibly a day care.

Photo shows relationship of Mosque Site to Ground Zero

Feisal Abdul Rauf, a New York imam and head of the Cordoba Initiative, says the planned 13-story Islamic center will transform both the drab lower Manhattan street and the way Americans have looked on Muslims since 9/11.

“There’s nothing like this that we know of in the United States,” Rauf said. “This will be a community center for everyone, not just for Muslims, but for non-Muslims.”

Daisy Khan, executive director of ASMA, explained, “We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A center of this scale and magnitude will do that. We feel it’s an obligation as Muslims and as Americans to be part of the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan.”

There is, of course, objection to the planned construction. Some say it would be the height of insensitivity for the Islamic community to build a giant Islamic shrine at the resting place of 3,000 Americans who were murdered by Islamic terrorists. As is so common in America today, opponents are often branded as bigots.

I am sure that some would say that the unanimous vote to approve the permits by the governing board in the area is another case of political correctness gone wrong.

Ground Zero earlier this year.
There are those, and I am included, who are dismayed and frustrated by the fact that Ground Zero remains a hole in the ground and we can’t seem to decide what to put on the site, let alone get around to building it!

I, for one, am not as upset by the mosque being built at the location any more than I would be bothered by a Catholic, Baptist, Methodist church being built. I would not be offended by construction of a Jewish synagogue, a Morman temple or if Jehovah’s Witnesses wanted to erect a Kingdom Hall on the site. After all, the Museum of Jewish Heritage honors victims of the Holocaust just down the street and around the corner stands St Peter’s Church which is New York’s oldest Catholic church.

The dedication date is another story. It is objectionable and inflammatory to choose that date. The scheduled dedication date should be changed.

White House Should Condemn SEIU and NPA Recent Tactics

Greg Baer is an executive who works for Bank of America. It should be noted that he is not CEO or CFO. Specifically, he is General Counsel for Corporate Law. Executive, though he is, his name does not come up immediately when you think of BOA leadership.

Two weekends ago, Baer took his teen-aged son to his Little League baseball game while another teen remained at home alone. While he was gone, thugs from SEIU and the National People’s Action arrived at his house in 14 chartered buses and proceeded to scream and rant, actually going right to the front door of the suburban Maryland house.

The son at home was so terrified by what was happening outside his house that he barricaded himself in a bathroom.

After the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) received a disturbance call from one of Baer’s neighbors at 4:10 pm, four MCPD units arrived at Baer’s Greenville Rd. address at 4:15 pm.

According to a MCPD spokesman, MCPD officers found an estimated 500 people on or near Mr. Baer’s property upon arriving at the scene. At least two Metropolitan Police Department units from the nearby District of Columbia were already at the scene when they arrived. The Washington MPD’s Civil Disturbance Unit had escorted the SEIU protesters’ buses to Baer’s home and their primary role in this event was to protect the protesters.

When Baer returned to his residence and saw the crowd, he parked around the corner and went on foot to his house to rescue his frightened son and together they went back to the vehicle and left the scene.

This story is disturbing enough by having an organized group show up at a person’s personal residence in protest of the company for whom the person works and is allowed to terrorize that person’s family. It is further disturbing that the media and the politicians that condemn rallies of Tea Party supporters as a threat to our nation, says nothing while a group shows up on someone’s front lawn with bull horns and speaker systems to protest the person’s employer.

I am not saying that the White House was involved in the organization of this protest, nor am I saying they even knew it was going to take place. My point is that the past two leaders of SEIU have ties to the Obama administration and the President. The President should use those connections or any other connections that White House officials might have, to tell SEIU to cease any of these types of actions. At a minimum, the White House should comdemn this type of activity.

While I support the right to protest, the family members are not involved in the business of BOA and should be left out of it. Terrorizing a teenager left home alone will not bring about the changes the protesters claim to want from BOA…nor will it get the debts SEIU owes BOA forgiven.

Dr Donald Berwick Nominated to Head Medicare/Medicaid

In April, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Donald Berwick to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Dr. Berwick currently serves as President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and is a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

CMS is essentially the world’s second largest insurance company after the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), covering over 98 million people and overseeing roughly $800 billion annually in taxpayer-funded health care expenditures.

At issue is Berwick’s self-professed love affair with Britain’s socialized health care system. In his writings and speeches, Berwick has defended government rationing and advocated centralized budget caps on health care spending.

“Cynics beware, I am romantic about the National Health Service; I love it,” Berwick said in a July 2008 speech at England’s Wembley stadium. “All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.”

Obviously, Berwick is a great fan of the NHS, and even worked as a consultant on the project under Tony Blair. Berwick will have the opportunity to apply the ideas he gained through that experience with the power of the CMS position, which means that his nomination holds massive ramifications for not only Medicare and Medicaid recipients, but hospitals and doctors and, indeed, all Americans.

In the same speech at Wembley Stadium, Berwick said, “Any health care funding plan that is just equitable civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.”

Dr Donald Berwick will fit right in with the Obama administration with views like that.

The Progressive Defense of Richard Blumenthal

Mika Brzezinski, the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” believes the New York Times is being unfair to Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s popular and aggressive attorney general, and a front-runner for the state’s open Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Christopher Dodd. The Times story Monday night detailed a series of past Blumenthal statements insinuating that he had served in Vietnam.

Howard Dean on Wednesday took the New York Times to task for running a “hatchet job” story on Blumenthal misstating his service in Vietnam without acknowledging that the information came from a GOP campaign. Dean, in a Tuesday interview with “Morning Joe,” said the story amounted to little more that “gotcha” journalism.

“Let’s be fair about this. This is a New York Times gotcha story planted by the opposition,” said Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “It was planned by the opposition. The New York Times did not acknowledge that in their front page article.”

Today, Ms. Brzezinski, again chided the Times for releasing a film clip showing Blumenthal saying, that while the clip released by the New York Times shows Blumenthal clearly saying that “we’ve learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” that in a longer version has an earlier reference to the fact that he served during the Vietnam era. Brzezinski said she thinks the Times should have to make clear of that fact. She said she also believes that the Times should have to state in their report where they got the material which they used for the front page article.

The Blumenthal campaign and Democrats in Washington have attacked the Times for the story, which Republican Linda McMahon’s campaign has admitted originated with their opposition research.

Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty indicated that the paper is not backing down from its story.

“The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal’s long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times,” McNulty said. “Mr. Blumenthal needs to be candid with his constituents about whether he went to Vietnam or not, since his official military records clearly indicate he did not.”

“The longer version of the video doesn’t change the story,” she added. “Saying that he served ‘during Vietnam’ does not contradict or override his later, more specific, statement that he served in Vietnam.”

After the story broke Monday night, Blumenthal gave a dramatic and defiant press conference Tuesday at a VFW hall in West Hartford where he accepted “full responsibility” for his misstatements, but did not offer an apology.

Richard Blumenthal has a problem. He’s running for the U.S. Senate, and he’s been caught on video implying falsely that he served in Vietnam. In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam. It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes. Then he holds a press conference in rebuttal to the reports at a VFW hall. Mr. Blumenthal is not, nor is he eligible to be, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars because he wouldn’t meet the eligibility requirement because he didn’t actually serve in a theatre of combat.

Blumenthal has fallen dramatically in the polls since the story broke and that has his liberal friends working hard to turn the spotlight off. It is interesting that the people who question the article in the Times and suggest they should have been clear of where they got the story don’t have a problem when the same news outlet is trashing a conservative or printing classified information. One might call this hypocritical on the part of the Progressives. I would call it typical.

The Obama Administration as Champions of Women on the World Stage–Not So Much

On April 28th, the United Nations elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women. This is a four year position on the UN’s influential human rights body, which is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women,” according to its website.

Within days of Iran abandoning its high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women,” according to its website.

In a U.N. press release on the filling of “vacancies in subsidiary bodies,” was the announcement that the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with representatives from 10 other nations, was “elected by acclamation,” meaning that no open vote was requested or required by any member states. It appears that the United States did not object to Iran’s election to the Commission on the Status of Women, even though it had helped lead the effort to keep the Islamic regime off the Human Rights Council.

When it became apparent that Iran was attempting to join the women’s commission, a group of Iranian activists sent a letter to the U.N. asking that member states oppose its election.

“Iran’s discriminatory laws demonstrate that the Islamic Republic does not believe in gender equality,” reads the letter, signed by 214 activists and endorsed by over a dozen human rights bodies.

The letter draws a dark picture of the status of women in Iran: “women lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women’s admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws.”

The Commission on the Status of Women is supposed to conduct review of nations that violate women’s rights, issue reports detailing their failings, and monitor their success in improving women’s equality.

Not only has the Obama Administration been quiet about the election of Iran to its new position in the U.N., there has been no word from Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives or from any of the the Senate. You would have thought, as the champions of women’s rights that the Progressives claim to be, there would have been at least something…at least a harrumph!