Saturday, August 29, 2009

Veterans Day Parade, II

August 28, 2009
(12:30 PM)

Once again, the people of this great city have humbled me with their generosity.
After recognizing the difficult decisions being made by the City Council in these trying times – including having to cut funding for the Veterans Day Parade – many citizens of Jacksonville and a number of private sector companies have stepped forward.
They didn’t rise in opposition to the cuts; rather, they stepped up saying that they wanted to further galvanize their support for this great military town by privately funding this year’s parade! As the grandson of two of our military heroes, I am overwhelmed and deeply appreciative and as a Jacksonville native, I am as proud as ever to call this city home. This is another example of how a great city responds to adversity. We band together and make good things happen. Here’s to you, Jacksonville! Let’s make this year’s parade bigger and better than ever!


Richard A. Clark
Council President

Friday, August 28, 2009

Veterans' Day Parade

Tight budget times has driven a Jacksonville City Council committee to ax the annual Veterans' Day Parade and the Memorial Day Observance at the Veteran's Memorial Wall. One councilman called these "feel good" events and were not necessary in these times of economic crisis. Mark was the keynote speaker at the Memorial Day event in 2008.

I used to take great pride that Jacksonville was a military town and went to great length to honor its veterans. I'm not sure what to think now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday news and notes

Sons report: Mark starts his second semester at the University of North Florida today. Jon has new job at a veterinary clinic taking care of the animals and starts at Florida State College and Jacksonville next Monday. Mike and Tara completed their move Saturday and are now permanent residents of Port St. Lucie.

VA: No news. Congressional Rep. has been called.

Herding the herder: Life is never dull here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday news and notes

The weather here has been extraordinary. My youngest, Jon, is out taking advantage of the remnants of Hurricane Bill.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark resumed his place in the stands Saturday night for the preseason game against the Tampa Bay Bucs. This is the first true sign that we are settling in from four years with the Army.

Friday, August 21, 2009

That was then, this is now

I arrived in Washington D.C. in 1972 as a shiny new private E-2 newly minted from boot camp at Ft. Jackson, S.C. I had been caught in the last draft call in the Vietnam War and 50,000 of us were sent off to basic training around the country. While we were in double-timing out to the ranges every day, the Nixon Administration announced that an agreement had been reached on the Paris Peace Accords effectively ending the war.

So here were 50,000 newly trained draftees with no place to go (home was not an option). During the first week of training, all of us new guys were given skill proficiency tests. On the typing test, I scored 19 words per minute (I could do 45 but didn't want to blow the test). I would have qualified as a clerk typist at 12. At 19 wpm, I was a typing superstar and a couple drill sergeants glommed on to me to do their paperwork. So it was only logical that when I finished basic the Army would send me to it's world wide center for typists...D.C.

I was given temporary quarters at the in some World War II area barracks at South Post at Fort Myers, near the Pentagon and next to Arlington National Cemetery. (In fact, they tore down South Post and it's now part of the cemetery...very near where the Iraq and Afghanistan casualties are buried.) I was eventually assigned to the Military Awards Branch in The Adjutant General's Office in a sprawling complex of glass and steel at L'Enfant Plaza. In the meantime, I ran errands for NCOs, which often meant trips to the Pentagon.

On one such trip, I was sent to deliver some papers to an office in the Pentagon basement.

At the time, my brother was career Army, an SFC stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. He had been due to transfer to Germany but he had been waiting for his orders for more than 90 days. He asked if I could help. I told him that I was just an E-2 and what could I do?

But on that last trip to the Pentagon, I saw a brown Army issue desk with a sign hanging from the ceiling that said "Enlisted Personnel Transfers." Behind the desk, was a very pleasant, middle-aged woman (civilian). I asked her if this is where the orders are cut for overseas transfers. Lo and behold, it was. I gave her my brother's name. She rifled through a pile of brown folders a about 18 inches tall. Near the bottom was my brother's folder. She pulled it out and put it on top. He had his orders a week later.

That was then, this is now.

We are rolling up on 90 days on Mark's GI Bill benefits. I suspect his name is at the bottom of some computer queue in D.C. Our task now is finding that person at the VA who could wander over to some clerk's desk and move Mark's name to the top of the list. Regrettably, it will probably take a call from my Congressional representative to do that.

Some things don't change much. Even in 30 years.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday news and notes

Bug attack: I was on the phone this morning when screams started emanating from the kitchen. It seems a cicada and found its way into the sink and startled Gayle. Mark came in and rescued the bug and it started screaming. I guess if you have spent 17 years in the ground and your big moment is about to end, you would start screaming too. Mark turned it loose. The yard is full of them this year. They actually drown out the noise from A1A.

News from Afghanistan and Iraq:Couple of long pieces in The New York Times Magazine the last two weeks. The first dealt with the Karzai government and the difficulties of ruling an unruly country. The second story...a quite shocking with a woman from Baquba who wants to be a suicide bomber.

VA: No change. School starts next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday's news and notes


Aug. 13: My bride of 35 years celebrates her birthday today. She was born on a Friday the 13th, my lucky days. We are going round up as many as sons as we can and go to dinner.

Ideas: I have talked to the local paper here about linking to this site so I am probably going to revamp it a bit...especially because we have transitioned out of active duty and harm's way. Any suggestions?

Honor roll: The News Hour with Jim Lehrer is still running names and photographs of the fallen. Hard to predict when it runs because the put it together as photographs are made available. The photographs are heartbreaking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday news and notes

The blahs: After blowing out my back before Memorial Day and injuring my rotator cuff...get this...playing has been reaallly boring summer. I was hoping to break the sedentary cycle of being glued to the computer or TV during Mark's tour of duty. Hasn't happened yet and may not until after Labor Day when I hope all of the physical therapy is over. The only interesting thing about PT was the first day I was in traction, the traction contraption pulled my pants's an all-female staff.

The VA:Not much happening so not much to report.

CPT Speicher: Returns home Thursday night. His remains were found west of Ramadi a while back. He will lie in state in the Jax NAS chapel and then Friday there will be a public procession through the city. CPT Speicher was the first American casualty of the first Gulf War. He grew up here and attended Forrest High School.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday news and notes

MSM: The mainstream media are at the numbers game again but this time it is Afghanistan.

Isabeau: Our new kitty was caught typing on the computer this morning. So if anyone received an e-mail that said "qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq,"
that was the cat and not me. My apologies.

No news is bad news: Still nothing from the VA. It's been nearly two months now and the new semester starts in 10 days.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Today's post

accidentally was posted on La Florida. Sorry about the inconvenience. I will try to fix it later.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Coming home

Marine PFC Donald Wayne Vincent arrives at Jacksonville Naval Air Station yesterday en route to his hometown Gainesville. He died in Afghanistan July 22. He was 26.

His story and a photo gallery can be found in the Gainesville Sun here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

CPT Speicher: the family reacts

From The Florida Times-Union:

By Timothy Gibbons

After an 18-year saga, the remains of downed F/A-18 pilot Michael Scott Speicher have been found in Iraq, the Pentagon announced Sunday, buried in a grave near where his plane crashed on the first day of Operation Desert Storm.

“We thank the active duty men and women whose diligence has made this happen,” the family said in a statement about the search released by their lawyer, Cindy Laquidara.

The family, which declined to comment, is digesting the news but still has questions, Laquidara said, particularly relating to exactly when Speicher died.

“We’re discrediting the rumor that he died in the crash,” Laquidara said in an interview. “That’s just not accurate.”

That information does not fit with data the family has collected over the years, she said, an issue it will bring up during an expected meeting with the Defense Department.

The rest of the story can be found here:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CPT Speicher

CPT Scott Speicher

CPT Speicher was stationed in Jacksonville. I was running the news coverage of Desert Storm for The Florida Times-Union the night he was shot down. Mark was stationed at Camp Speicher on his first tour to Iraq.

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 2, 2009; 9:27 AM

WASHINGTON -- The remains of the first American lost in the Persian Gulf War have been found in Iraq, the military said Sunday, after struggling for nearly two decades with the question of whether he was dead or alive.

The Pentagon said the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology on Saturday had positively identified the remains of Navy Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher, whose disappearance has bedeviled investigators since his fighter jet was shot down over the Iraq desert on the first night of the 1991 war.

The top Navy officer said the discovery illustrates the military's commitment to bring its troops home.

"Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be," said Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations.

The rest of the story can be found here.