New(er) Car Time


1375293_772107363774_1294164881_n 1380771_772107338824_1387191646_nAs much as I wish I did not have to buy anther car it finally was time.  My 2002 Chevrolet Impala finally let me know that it was time to go.  I had it fixed but there were still some serious electrical issues remaining that I did feel I wanted to sink an unknown amount of money into.  I shopped around, already knowing I was going to look for a newer used car.  I test drove several vehicles ranging from small economy cars, SUV’s, a Mustang (I just did not feel cool enough to own a Mustang) and finally decided on a very well maintained and clean 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis GS.  I just felt very comfortable in it and it felt very much like me.  I’m sure spending many years in a Chevrolet Crown Victoria patrol car had a lot to do with it.  I guess I have officially entered the ‘old guy” car stage but I like it and it really drives well.  I did not but this car out of a ‘mid-life crisis’.  Whoever that one owner from Dayton, Ohio was took very good care of it and maintained the vehicle maintenance records very well.

Fall Season


Bell Tower, Furman University, Greenville, Sou...

Bell Tower, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, USA. View of tower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nothing exciting here, just beautiful Fall weather settling in here in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Yesterday was when I really felt it was here.  I worked the Furman University Football Game in the afternoon.  The weather was cloudy with a little rain but then it cleared up to a wonderful cool. crisp night just in time for the Men’s Soccer game.  A full bright moon rose up during the game and the cool turned to cold during the game.  This is the time of year I like best.  The crispness in the air and the changes in natures backdrop.  On the campus of Furman University is one of the best places to experience this with its 750 acres of tree covered landscape, beautiful lake and mountain views.  I worked 13 hours yesterday but came home feeling relaxed and refreshed and ready for another day at work today.  Even though Fall is looked as the end of things I find it to be the souls renewal.  If you have not had a chance to get out a just look you should do it soon before the Fall season is gone.  Oh,and yes Furman won both of the games which just made it an even more perfect day at work!

 

Let’s Make A Deal


United States Capitol

It appears that there has been a deal reached to re-open the partial shutdown of the U.S. Government and to raise the debt limit, temporarily.

The Senate deal under discussion would reopen the government, funding it until Jan. 15. It would also raise the debt limit until Feb. 7 to avert a possible default on U.S. debt obligations for the first time.

I have been watching CNN and they are now showing all of these happy politicians patting each other on the back and publicly thank each other for ‘a job well done’ and this infuriates me to no end.  First, this ‘deal’ is only temporary so I am sure we will be right back here at the start of 2014.  Second, this is not a job well done by any of the politicians in Washington.  A job well done would consist of a long-term deal, a real budget and not ‘kicking the can’ down the road.  For the record, I am a Liberal Democrat.  That being said I am not happy with either side.  I am also tired of the blame game on one side or the other.  This problem has been building for decades and has been caused by all politicians in Washington, the Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Tea Party.  The President is ultimately responsible by virtue of his elected position but every elected representative in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are also responsible for letting this keep getting out of hand and waiting until the last-minute to place a bandage on the problem.  The American people also have to accept some of the responsibility for the problem as well.  We voted these people into their respective positions yet when things go array everyone says wait until the elections.

We hold elections every two and four years for our government and I am always hoping to see this ‘great change’ after we have challenges like we have been going through but it never really happens.  We have let the process get out of hand and out of reach for most people.  There are many people who would probably be better suited to represent Americans in Washington but unless you are very wealthy of have very wealthy ‘friends’ the common person has no chance at winning an election.  We have allowed politicians to become ‘professionals’ in office.  I believe there should be strict term limits on all politicians.  They should not be there to become a fixture in Washington.  The ability to become a representative of the people should not be determined by the size of your wallet or your friends, it should be determined on the willingness and ability to serve the people who you represent.

Let’s stop the blame game and do our part as Americans.  Vote your heart and not your wallet, vote for what you believe in and not for what people tell you to believe in.  Until we, as Americans, can work together to elect a government of the people things will continue as they have.

 

Volunteering


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After all these years I have become more active in volunteering with two very different groups.  The first group is call Team Rubicon.   The Mission of Team Rubicon, from their website, is:

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

 

Team Rubicon Saves Lives.

Since its creation in January 2010, TR has impacted thousands of lives – in Haiti, Chile, Burma, Pakistan, Sudan, and here at home, in Vermont, Maryland, Missouri, and Alabama.  TR reaches victims outside the scope of where traditional aid organizations venture; victims on the fringe.

Team Rubicon Engages Veterans.

Hundreds of US military veterans, many returning home after fighting ten years of war, find a renewed sense of purpose for their skills and experiences through TR.

Team Rubicon Sets Itself Apart In the Nonprofit World.

Is it a disaster relief organization? A veteran-focused enterprise?  The truth is it’s both. TR pioneered a new paradigm in disaster response while redefining the meaning of veteran reintegration into society.

Team Rubicon Pioneered the Concept of Veteran-Focused Disaster Response.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, in the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, TR’s military veterans realized a simple truth – natural disasters present many of the same problems that confront troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: unstable populations, limited resources, horrific sights, sounds and smells.  The skills cultivated on those same battlefields – emergency medicine, risk assessment and mitigation, teamwork and decisive leadership – are invaluable in disaster zones.

The second group I have started to volunteer with is called the Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network (URRKN).  The Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network (URRKN), started on October 31, 2011, is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) organization that arranges safe transportation for rescued cats from foster/shelter to forever homes. We smile every mile!  Safety and security are always our first consideration.

Both groups have a wide range of volunteer opportunities so most anyone can find the time to help out.  I have found both groups to be very worthwhile in their missions and they both fit my background and personality very well.  In today’s society I truly believe that volunteering is something anyone can do and should do.  It is a way to give back to your community.

 

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12th Anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole (DDG-67)


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On 12 October 2000 was attacked by a suicide bomber while it was harbored and being refueled in the Yemen port of Aden. Seventeen American sailors were killed, and 39 were injured.  The terrorist organization al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.

On the morning of Thursday, 12 October 2000, USS Cole, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, docked in Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. Cole completed mooring at 09:30. Refueling started at 10:30.  Around 11:18 local time (08:18 UTC), a small craft approached the port side of the destroyer, and an explosion occurred, creating a 40-by-40-foot gash in the ship’s port side, according to the memorial plate to those who lost their lives.  According to former CIA intelligence officer Robert Finke, the blast appeared to be caused by explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat.  Around 400 to 700 pounds (200–300 kg) of explosive were used.  The blast hit the ship’s galley, where crew were lining up for lunch.  The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control after 3 days. Divers inspected the hull and determined that the keel was not damaged.

17 sailors were killed and 39 were injured in the blast. The injured sailors were taken to the United States Army‘s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany, and later, back to the United States. The attack was the deadliest against a U.S. naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark on 17 May 1987. The asymmetric warfare attack was organized and directed by the terrorist organization al-Qaeda.  In June 2001, an al-Qaeda recruitment video featuring Osama bin Laden boasted about the attack and encouraged similar attacks.

The first naval ship on the scene to assist the stricken Cole was the Royal Navy Type 23 frigateHMS Marlborough, under the command of Capt Anthony Rix, RN. She was on passage to the UK after a six-month deployment in the Gulf. Marlboroughhad full medical and damage control teams on board and when her offer of assistance was accepted she immediately diverted to Aden. Eleven of the most badly injured sailors were sent via MEDEVAC to a French military hospital in Djibouti and underwent surgery before being sent to Germany.

The first U.S. military support to arrive was a Quick Response Force from the United States Air Force Security Forces, transported by C-130. They were followed by another small group of United States Marines from the Interim Marine Corps Security Force Company, Bahrain flown in by P-3. Both forces landed within a few hours after the ship was struck and were reinforced by a U.S Marine platoon with the 1st Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company (FAST), based out of Norfolk, Virginia. The Marines from 4th Platoon, 1st FAST arrived on the 13th from a security mission in Bahrain. The FAST platoon secured the USS Cole and a nearby hotel that was housing the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

USS Donald Cook and USS Hawes made best speed to arrive in the vicinity of Aden that afternoon providing repair and logistical support. USNS CatawbaUSS CamdenAnchorageDuluth and Tarawa arrived in Aden some days later, providing watch relief crews, harbor security, damage control equipment, billeting, and food service for the crew of the ColeLCU 1666 provided daily runs from the Tarawa with hot food and supplies and ferrying personnel to and from all other Naval vessels supporting USS Cole. In the remaining days LCU 1632 and various personnel from LCU 1666 teamed up to patrol around the Cole while the MV Blue Marlin was preparing to take up station to receive the Cole.

A memorial to the victims of the attack was dedicated at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on 12 October 2001. It was erected along the shore of the Elizabeth River near the USS Wisconsin, and overlooks the berth of the USS Cole. Seventeen low-level markers stand for the youthfulness of the sailors, whose lives were cut short. Three tall granite monoliths, each bearing brass plaques, stand for the three colors of the American flag. A set of brown markers encircling the memorial symbolize the darkness and despair that overcame the ship. In addition, 28 black pine trees were planted to represent the 17 sailors and the 11 children they left behind.

The memorial was funded by contributions from thousands of private individuals and businesses to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which gave the memorial to the Navy. Its design originated as a vision of USS Cole crew members, who then teamed with Navy architects and the Society to finalize the project.

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30th Anniversary of the Beirut Barracks Bombing


http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil/2dmardiv/18/BN_His...

October 23, 1983 the Marine Barracks in Beirut was bombed killing 220 Marines, 18 Sailors and 3 Soldiers.  This year is the 30th anniversary is this tragic and sad event.

Suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team – BLT 1/8), the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II‘s Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Vietnam War‘s Tet Offensive, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.  Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died. An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast. The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.

At around 6:22 a.m., a 19 ton, yellow, Mercedes-Benz stake-bed truck drove to the Beirut International Airport (BIA), where the U.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) was deployed. The 1st Battalion 8th Marines (BLT), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach, was a subordinate element of the 24th MAU. The truck was not the water truck they had been expecting. Instead, it was a hijacked truck carrying explosives. The driver turned his truck onto an access road leading to the compound. He drove into and circled the parking lot, and then he accelerated to crash through a 5-foot-high barrier of concertina wire separating the parking lot from the building. The wire popped “like somebody walking on twigs.” The 19-ton Mercedes-Benz truck then passed between two sentry posts, passed through an open vehicle gate in the perimeter chain-link fence, crashed through a guard shack in front of the building and smashed into the lobby of the building serving as the barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (BLT). The sentries at the gate were operating under rules of engagement which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. Sentries were ordered to keep their weapons at condition four (no magazine inserted and no rounds in the chamber). Only one sentry, LCPL Eddie DiFranco, was able to load and chamber a round. However, by that time the truck was already crashing into the building’s entry way: armed.

The suicide bomber, an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari, reached the entry way at 6:22 and detonated his explosives, which were later estimated to be equivalent to approximately 9525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.  The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story building into rubble, crushing many inside. According to Eric Hammel in his history of the U.S. Marine landing force,

“The force of the explosion initially lifted the entire four-story structure, shearing the bases of the concrete support columns, each measuring fifteen feet in circumference and reinforced by numerous one-and-three-quarter-inch steel rods. The airborne building then fell in upon itself. A massive shock wave and ball of flaming gas was hurled in all directions.”

The explosive mechanism was a gas-enhanced device consisting of compressed butane in canisters employed with pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) to create a fuel-air explosive.  The bomb was carried on a layer of concrete covered with a slab of marble to direct the blast upward.  Despite the lack of sophistication and wide availability of its component parts, a gas-enhanced device can be a lethal weapon. These devices were similar to fuel-air or thermobaric weapons, explaining the large blast and damage.  An after-action forensic investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) determined that the bomb was so powerful, it would probably have brought down the building even if the sentries had managed to stop the truck between the gate and the building.

Less than ten minutes later, a similar attack occurred against the barracks of the French 3rd Company of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment, 6 km away in the Ramlet al Baida area of West Beirut.  As the suicide bomber drove his pickup truck towards the ‘Drakkar’ building, French paratroopers began shooting at the truck and its driver. It is believed that the driver was killed and the truck was immobilized and rolled to stop about fifteen yards from the building. A few moments passed; then, the truck exploded bringing down the nine-story building and killing 58 French paratroopers. It is believed that this bomb was detonated by remote control, and it is estimated that this bomb, though similarly constructed, was not as large as and was slightly less than half as powerful as the one used against the Marines at the Beirut International Airport. Many of the paratroopers had gathered on their balconies moments earlier to see what was happening at the airport It was France’s worst military loss since the end of the Algerian War in 1962.

A Beirut Memorial has been established at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and has been used as the site of annual memorial services for the victims of the attack.  We shall never forget!

For a list of those that lost their lives in the bombing go here http://www.beirut-memorial.org/memory/brtnames.html.

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PTSD – Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs


US Navy 101118-F-5586B-144 Marine Sgt. Brian J...

US Navy 101118-F-5586B-144 Marine Sgt. Brian Jarrell pets his dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the past couple of years I have read many articles about veterans with PTSD that have been denied access to businesses with what have been described as service dogs.  On the surface I found this to be very disturbing that our veterans would be treated this way so I decided to do some research into the issue.   Based on information I found through the Department of Veterans Affairs I found that there are two distinct categories for these dogs.  The first is classified as a Service Dog.

A service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily. For example, a service dog can help a blind person walk down the street or get dangerous things out of the way when someone is having a seizure.

Protecting someone, giving emotional support, or being a companion do not qualify a dog to be a service animal. To be a service dog, a dog must go through training. Usually the dog is trained to:

  • Do things that are different from natural dog behavior.
  • Do things that the handler (dog owner) cannot do because of a disability.
  • Learn to work with the new handler in ways that help manage the owner’s disability.

Because the handler depends on the service dog’s help, service dogs are allowed to go to most public places the handler goes. This is the case even if it is somewhere pet dogs usually cannot go, like restaurants or on airplanes. But there are a few exceptions. For example, service dogs can be asked to leave if they are not behaving well.

The second is classified as an Emotional Support Dog.

An emotional support animal is a pet that helps an owner with a mental disability. Emotional support dogs help owners feel better by giving friendship and love. These dogs are also called comfort dogs or support dogs.

An emotional support dog does not need special training. Generally, a regular pet can be an emotional support dog if a mental health provider writes a letter saying that the owner has a mental health condition or disability and needs the dog’s help for his or her health or treatment.

In most states, emotional support dogs do not have special permission to go to all public places like service dogs do. But, emotional support dogs are sometimes allowed special consideration. For example, the owner may be able to get permission to have an emotional support pet in a house or apartment that does not normally allow dogs. Or, the owner may be able to get permission to fly on a plane together with the dog.

To get special permissions, the dog owner needs to show the mental health provider’s letter to the landlord or airline. Sometimes, the landlord or airline will also want to see information about the mental health provider, such as a copy of their professional license.

While a dog’s companionship may offer emotional support, comfort or a sense of security, this in and of itself does NOT qualify as a “trained task” or “work” under the ADA, thus it does not give a disabled person the legal right to take that dog out in public as a legitimate service dog.  Setting up a realistic training plan to transform a dog with a suitable temperament  into an obedient, task trained service dog is the only way to legally qualify a dog to become a service dog [service animal] whose disabled handler is legally permitted to take the dog into restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, medical offices and other places of public accommodation.

The key to the issue with dogs is knowing which category the dog is in and having the proper documentation to show what category your dog fits in.  Education to the public and business owners is also very important so that there is more tolerance given when situations arise concerning our veterans and their service dogs.

My personal belief is that when in doubt that the veteran should be given the benefit of the doubt.

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