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Here (until the front page changes - sorry, no permalinks) is the original news story (and photos) from the 3ID's (The Division Smith served with in Iraq) web page.
Here are the google news results for Paul Smith Middle School- the only four news sites to cover the story are military-based. Hard to break into the mainstream media during Jon Benet week, I guess.
But earlier this month the New York Times did run an op-ed bemoaning the lack of Medals of Honor given for Iraq and Afghanistan. While I agree completely with the sentiment, I was a bit surprised to see it expressed in that particular venue. But the following two paragraphs leave no doubt as to why the topic of American war heroes might get more attention in the mainstream media:
For reasons I can’t fathom, the Pentagon top brass don’t feel that our heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan are especially meritorious. President Bush has yet to award a single Medal of Honor to a living veteran of combat in either place. (Only one has been given posthumously.)"We aren't reporting on heroes - because of Bush!!!" There are other Medals being processed, of course, and it would suit me fine if this sort of thing accelerates the process. But no doubt after that the New York Times would pretty much ignore them too.
During the Vietnam War, 245 Medals of Honor were awarded. If President Bush awarded the medals at roughly the same rate for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than two dozen would have been bestowed by now.
You may have heard this news:
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has angered a few Republicans, and perhaps a few foreign war veterans, by calling for Utahns who oppose President Bush's environmental stands, the Iraq war and other Bush policies to protest when the president visits Utah's capital city next week.Anderson has also invited Cindy Sheehan to join the festivities.
Bush is scheduled to address the 15,000-member Veteran of Foreign Wars convention in the Salt Palace on Monday.
Anderson, a Democrat who serves in an officially nonpartisan office, sent an e-mail Friday to selected environmentalists, Democrats and a few of his top administrative staff. It said of Bush's visit: "Don't let him come to Utah and not see huge opposition, even in the reddest (most Republican) state. This would send such an important message. A tepid response will just send a message of apathy and resignation."
Anderson went on to write: "Let the Bush administration — and the world — hear from Salt Lake City!!! The advocacy community should be organizing the biggest demonstration this state has ever seen!"
But while I'm not sure how Salt Lake could have a "non-partisan" mayor, I'm certain that he's managed to do more than "annoy" more than "a few Republicans".
Many in her country had turned against the war. The mayor of her city was organizing a protest against the president. And the insurgents in Iraq, Amy Galvez feared, were growing bolder by the day.Here's the rest.
Galvez decided she had heard enough.
Hoping her words might persuade those who support the president, the war and the troops in Iraq to assemble in a great demonstration of patriotism and support, Galvez sat at her computer and began to type.
"My son, who is a resident of Salt Lake City, is now in Iraq," she wrote in an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday. "American lives have been lost in this war because the enemy has been emboldened by our own words, actions and lack of support for our own mission."
Galvez was still sitting at her computer when she heard a car door close outside her northwest Salt Lake City home. Peering through the window, she saw two Marines coming up the walk.
And here's the e-mail she sent the Tribune.
One of my favorite Soldiers' Angel turns 50 today.
Yes, we made it safely back. Yes, I'm slow to write - but the hours have been filled with the sorts of things that fill these types of hours. Homeless, car-less, school-less, and damn too little time or money from on high to deal with the situation. Not complaining, you know all this as well as I (been there, done that, got the t-shirt) but I really believe the relocating is a greater sacrifice than time in a war zone. I definitely know which brings the most stress, hands down. Funny that in hindsight neither seems quite so bad. I guess that's part of human nature, that tendency to forget (or block) the worst of anything, and the reason we can do such things repeatedly. Or maybe it's not part of the universal condition, and is in fact an affliction that those of us who do things like 20+ years of military service suffer in blissful ignorance. If so, God help us if it's ever cured.
Sorry - wandered a bit. I will say this for the record - I may go back to Iraq, or visit Afghanistan for a first time, but I'll be damned if I pack the family off to any other spot after this one. You can taunt me with that vow should I break it in some distant future, but I'll add that the house I've committed to buying isn't the sort one lives in for just a few dozen months before driving the For Sale sign into the curbside grass, so factor that in before placing bets. The place in Germany was fine, and well situated, and I hated to see it and the adjacent acres of forest in the rear-view mirror, but the new place will certainly help make any longing for those days easier to bear.
Don't get me wrong - home in the USA is a good place to be. But there are indeed some things that were better about Germany. You and I know this, but for those who believe everything about America is better than anything about any other place, I offer one word: Beer. If they choose to continue arguing they are fools. As far as beer goes, I've hit upon something that might compensate - more about that in some near-future correspondence. No really, I'll be writing regularly now - I promise. It was the house-hunting that kept me afk - and the laptop shared with three kids maintaining contact with their friends on distant shores while I used my turn to plan another day's assault on my realtor’s patience. So, more on houses and the hunting thereof later too - for now I'll jump back to day one back here in the good ol' USA and offer my first impressions.
But darned if that doesn't bring me right to another thing the Germans do better than us - the highways. Once the big long plane ride (on a too-small plane) was over we still had miles to go. Seems there aren't any planes big enough to fly big dog in his crate to the smaller airport near Newbase. (Another "funny" story there too - it's actually cheaper to fly to Smallport than Big One, even with stopover at same big airport, so Uncle Sam was a bit reluctant to drop the extra dime. More on that later too. Maybe.) So we loaded 5 people, luggage, and two dogs in crates into rental vans (yes, two minivans, and we travel light) and set off down the highways. After a two-hour drive to Frankfurt, a two hour wait for departure, a many-hour flight across the Atlantic (during which we passed through a strange time-warp that saw us on the ground a mere three hours after departure - heh) and two hours to clear customs and one more to secure said rental cars we were entitled to a nights sleep, but we did so on the plane (24 hours without sleep prior to departure is the secret to "successful" sleep on a trans-Atlantic flight - at least it works for me) so with just enough daylight to get where we wanted to be we elected to press on.
We took the first exit to stop for food. For the record, our first American meal was Arby's - one of the few fast-food places not all over the German landscape or at least in the AAFES food courts. When we got back on the highway, we promptly found ourselves in our first American traffic jam. It was big-city rush hour, we were headed out of town, and apparently there was an accident. Given the quality of American drivers and laws governing their use of the highways, I expect there are multi-car pileups every day at rush hour, but could be wrong. Bottom line, big city was in the rear-view, and I had no problem with that.
In Germany a traffic jam is called a stau, and the Germans handle them very well. Wherever two lanes become one, the "zipper" is automatically used, and vehicles from each lane take turns merging into the one surviving lane. Meanwhile, back where the two lanes have slowed to a crawl, the vehicles in each lane split as far as possible to the outside of their respective lanes, creating an effective center lane for use by emergency vehicles that may need to move quickly forward to the source of the delay. In America none of these things are done, and the best you can hope for is that not too many of your immediate neighbors will lean on their horns in hopes of moving the row of vehicles extending to the horizon before them.
I've always enjoyed traveling America's highways, but the autobahn has probably ruined that for me, at least in some regards. Once we cleared the stau we sped back up to the government mandated speed limit of 55 mph (yes, less than 100 kph - I can hear you laughing now, but the trick is to barely press the gas pedal) and a few more miles out of town that limit jumped to 70. Of course, we couldn't actually go that fast - the left lane was filled with folks who apparently felt that speed was excessive. That happens when big trucks decide to pass other big trucks in Germany, but in compensation you can go as fast as your tire rating will allow. (I'll bet most Americans don't even know that the tires are the real determining factor in their ultimate safe driving speed - and since most here aren't rated above 80 mph those who do chose to drive faster than average probably don't realize the engine can do much more than the tires can bear - but I digress). The bottom line, I felt better and safer cruising the autobahn at 100+ mph than I did an American highway at 50-70.
The sad thing about American drivers tooling along slowly in the fast lane is that apparently they can do so even when not passing. You can pull right up behind someone going under the speed limit in the left lane with the right lane open, and they'll actually expect you to shift into the open right lane to pass them. I did that about 20 times in the first 100 miles.
I confess I fought the urge all the way to floor the accelerator and drive that speedometer needle to the far right - even with open road in front of me. But it wasn't a lack of urgency, it was a complete awareness that Americans on highways are the most dangerous people on earth, absolutely unaware of the world around them (a large number are chatting on cell phones) and completely unpredictable.
American comedians, if they aren't concerned with "political correctness" will sometimes refer to Asians as stereotypical bad drivers. The real joke here is one you'll get only if you've driven somewhere where people can actually drive. Unfortunately, the highway was my first impression of America, a place I've been absent from for all but a few weeks of the past four years. But I'm going to guess that most visitors here from foreign lands don't get their first impression of the USA from behind the wheel of a car. This is a good thing. Keep them away from the highways, and keep them away from the canned piss we call beer, and they'll likely believe this a nice place to visit.
Me, I want to live here.
Gotta go, daughter needs to chat with a friend in Chile. More later.
...which is apparently a happy place.
It's good to be home.
..will end soon.