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Archive for February, 2013

by Catherine McCarthy

These are the words that have come to define what is known as “Sequestration.”  And it’s a feature, not a bug.  Sequestration, part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, was intended to give a very real incentive to Congress to reduce the annual deficit by $1.2 billion by the end of 2012.  If they failed to do so, and to date they have, a very unwieldy axe was to be taken to the National Security budget.  It was meant to produce such an undesirable result that Congress would be loathe to not come up with something, anything, to prevent it from taking effect.

These automatic cuts are scheduled to occur on March 1after an 11th hour reprieve at the beginning of the year.  It was frustrating this morning to hear our local news refer to that as “next month.”  As of the writing of this blog, next month is actually next week.

This is going to hurt.

It will hurt our military families, who already shoulder a heavy burden, emotionally and financially.  Longer deployments, no ability to plan, a life of limbo, more stress.  Base services potentially cut, curtailed or eliminated, like commissaries, exchanges, Family Service Centers, gyms, etc. Many of those positions are held by military spouses, and others are employed by contractors and agencies that support our military.

With maintenance, training and equipment being sidelined, it could also cost lives.

It will hurt our veterans.  More than two out of five of the approximately 800,000 Department of Defense employees facing furloughs are veterans. Unemployment for 18-24 year old veterans was over 20 percent for 2012. Still more are employed by private industries who facilitate the readiness and capability of our armed services, and who are currently looking at their bottom line and who may be sent a layoff notice.

The impact won’t just be immediate in nature.  If, and when, we can turn it around, will the skilled workers still be there?  And in the years to come, will we experience the talent drain and beat feet that we did in the 1990s? It takes years to rebuild from that.  And a great deal of money.

It will hurt us all. Congressional Budget Office estimates sequestration would cut additional 1.4% to 2.0% off economic growth in 2013. Fourth quarter 2012 Gross Domestic Product already contracted for the first time in over 3 years on defense cuts. When people don’t have money, or jobs, they don’t spend money.

In an interview with NPR, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey is quoted, “We will weather this. The military is never going to fail to answer the call when the nation is threatened. So we will weather this, but shame on us all if we weather it at the expense of those who choose to serve in uniform.”

Yes, we will weather this.  The question is how bad is this storm going to be and how long will it take to pick up the pieces?

Addtional Info:

DoD Special Report on Sequestration

Budget Uncertainty Impact on the US Army 

Defense Leaders Brief Press on DoD Worker Furloughs 2/20/2013

DoD Details States Hit Hardest by Sequestration

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mcoy-logo

Congratulations to the finalists for the 2013 Military Child of the Year® Award! The top 5 from each branch of service are listed below.

AIR FORCE
Caitlin Horner – Age 16 – Yorktown, Va.
Azalee McAlpine – Age 17 – Biloxi, Miss.
Mark Newberry – Age 17 – Fairchild AFB, Wash.
Elizabeth Urtso – Age 17 – Andrews AFB, Md.
Derrick Wallis – Age 13 – Poquoson, Va.

ARMY
Isabelle Berry – Age 13 – Harker Heights, Texas
Loran Cook – Age 18 – El Paso, Texas
Nicole Daly – Age 16 – Fort Lee, Va.
Haleigh Grimes – Age 17 – Chesterfield, Va.
Hunter Hotaling – Age 11 – Valrico, Fla.

COAST GUARD
Reino Graves – Age 14 – Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Keandra McDonald – Age 14 – Bellingham, Wash.
Reagan Smith – Age 12 – Sequim, Wash.
Amanda Wimmersberg – Age 18 – McGuire AFB, N.J.
Matthew Yarbrough – Age 17 – Fairhope, Ala.

MARINE CORPS
Matthew Graham – Age 17 – Bristow, Va.
Michael-Logan Jordan – Age 13 – Kailua, Hawaii
Kelly Kochanski – Age 17 – Meridian, Miss.
Abigail Perdew – Age 17 – Bahrain
Salvatore Sablan – Age 16 – Camp Lejeune, N.C.

NAVY
Alexander Burch – Age 17 – Grand Forks, N.D.
Daniel Knolla – Age 13 – Lake Stevens, Wash.
Jack Lund – Age 12 – Corpus Christi, Texas
Jackson Seniff – Age 14 – Coronado, Calif.
Tyler Zimmerman – Age 17 – Suffolk, Va.

The recipient will be chosen by a committee including retired military leadership, teachers, veteran service organization leaders, military mothers, and community members.

The recipient of the Military Child of the Year® Award for each branch of Service will be announced March 5.  Each award recipient will receive $5,000 and will be flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. for a special recognition ceremony on April 11, 2013.

Ideal candidates for the Military Child of the Year® Award demonstrate resilience and strength of character, and thrive in the face of the challenges of military life.  They demonstrate leadership within their families and within their communities.

“The sons and daughters of America’s service members learn responsibility and citizenship at a very young age,” said Jim Knotts, President & CEO of Operation Homefront.  “Children in military families understand sacrifice, service, and strength of character.  This is what the Military Child of the Year® Award honors.”

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Share the Love

This Valentine’s Day, we want to share some of the moments that represent the profound love and joy that our military families get to experience every day.  Feel the LOVE…

Of the mothers and fathers…

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children.
One is roots. The other is wings.
-Hodding Carter, Jr.

A mother sees her some for the first time after returning home from Afghanistan. This mother and son are two of six service members in an immediate household of eight. There are a total of 9 service members in both Navy and Army.

A mother sees her some for the first time after returning home from Afghanistan. This mother and son are two of six service members in an immediate household of eight. There are a total of 9 service members in both Navy and Army.

For The Families…

In family life, love is the oil that eases friction,
the cement that binds closer together,
and the music that brings harmony.
-Eva Burrows

For the Spouses..

“Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it enkindles the great.”-Comte DeBussy Rabatin

VDayBlogSpouse

For the Brothers and Sisters…

 Brother and sister, together as friends,ready to face whatever life sends. Joy and laughter or tears and strife, holding hands tightly as we dance through life. ~ Suzie Huitt

Even our four legged friends feel the joy of being reunited…

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. -Anatole France

Emmit Thunderpaws in on Twitter.  Go ahead and follow, we know you want to.

In the spirit of these moments, and Valentine’s Day, let someone know they are loved, that they are not alone, and that their sacrifices are remembered, and we are forever grateful.

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Medal of HonorToday, President Barack Obama  will award the Medal of Honor to former SSGT Clint L. Romesha at the White House.

SSGT  Romesha joins an incredible legacy of heroes, 3400, who have been awarded the MOH since 1861.

“At 6 a.m., Oct. 3, 2009, Combat Outpost Keating in Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, came under complex attack by an enemy force estimated at 400 fighters. The fighters occupied the high ground on all four sides of the combat outpost and initiated the attack with concentrated fire from B10 recoilless rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, known as RPGs, DSHKA heavy machine gun fire, mortars, and small-arms fire.

Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha displayed extraordinary heroism through a day-long engagement in which he killed multiple enemy fighters, recovered fallen Soldiers, and led multiple recovery, resupply, and counterattack operations.”

Read full narrative.

For more on that day, and the Medal of Honor:

Senior White House Correspondant Jake Tapper wrote of that day, one of the deadliest attacks in the Afghan War,  in The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.

History of the Medal of Honor, with full citations.

Better than honor and glory, and History’s iron pen,
Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men.
~Richard Watson Gilder

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by Catherine McCarthy

Amidst all of the post super bowl chatter about the Raven’s win, and the best and worst commercials was this Monday morning quarterbacking from the Washington Post: When we cheer for our team, do we have to cheer for America, too?  The writer, for some unknown reason, wondered why our service members and patriotism HAVE TO be a part of every big sporting event.

Normally, I just roll my eyes at this kind of drive by piece, but for some reason, this essay struck a nerve with me. I found myself mentally responding to every sentence in the first paragraph:

Certified "Real" Veterans

These veterans appreciate it.

The customary flyover by fighter jets may be absent from this weekend’s Super Bowl; after all, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is covered.

But the Louisiana Air National Guard 159th Fighter Wing was flying over…providing security.  Just a regular day for a lot of our service members.

CBS will cut to shots of troops watching the game overseas.

We hope every one of them enjoyed it and returns home to their family.  Some won’t.

Veterans will be recognized on the stadium’s video boards.

At least they are getting recognized…as more than a suicide statistic.

And flag imagery will abound, as will stirring renditions of the national anthem and, most likely, “America the Beautiful.”

The Newtown children’s choir singing America the Beautiful was kind of nice, I thought.  And The Star Spangled Banner is actually quite hard to sing as written.  Two competitors sang it a capella at my daughter’s swim meet last Wednesday night.  When that beautiful soprano voice hit that high note, I had goose bumps. Not something I get when I hear “All the Single Ladies.”

It is so tempting, and would be all too easy, to go down Professor Jenkins essay piece by piece and respond.  But those of us who are or have been serving for any length of time have been down this road before. Been there, heard that.

But, why she is scratching her head and bemoaning the mystery of all of the “militaristic rituals” is beyond me.  That concept dates back to the Greeks (Olympics, anyone?) and further.

What? No VIP boxes?

These guys were hardcore, and didn’t have Beyonce. Plus, Zeus was watching.

Has the professor who wrote “The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television” ever seen one of the numerous hour long recaps of prior Super Bowls and big games?  The ominous music as they flash to the teams lined up at the line of scrimmage, the slow motion clashing at the hand off.  The description of players as “warriors”, even going so far as the close up of bloodied and bruised fingers and stained jerseys.  Games are referred to in glorious voiceovers as “wars” and “battles”.  With football being arguably a 100% American sport on top of it, it isn’t hard to see why the patriotic theme runs throughout the big game.

That’s a theme.  Not political statement.  And while I reject rudeness as a general rule, what the athletes held up as being mistreated for their stands did was a political statement.  I may not like pink, but I don’t go to my friend’s daughter’s birthday party and start railing on gender roles because of her choice of pink decorations.  File that under “tact” and “no brainer.”

Party on, America!

This was a pretty cool theme to a January party.

I am going to assume that the Professor is quite learned, and that none of what I have written above is news to her, so it begs the question of the purpose of her piece.  I’ll leave that up to each reader to decide.

Not A Gimmick

Certified “real.”

In a few days, I’m going to be at Old Dominion University watching my daughter, her teammates, and many others compete in a huge meet that will decide if they go on to the State Championship.  The flag will be flown.  The National Anthem will be played.  I guarantee that behind the blocks, at that moment, will be a teenager with an aching heart for a parent who won’t be there to see this moment.  There will be veterans there for whom the National anthem reminds them of friends lost, the pain of injuries, but the sweetness of watching these children live free. Men and women in uniform (we call them parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and friends).  Some coming off duty, some going on, some on their lunch break.   It is not “vaudeville silencing political dissent”, “gimmickry” or a “cheap thrill.”

I live in a heavily military area, with major bases.  For many in this area, the words “war”, “veteran” and “service member” are not abstract terms, or political statements, they’re realities.  The weekend before the “theatrics” that so irritate the Professor, Hampton buried a native son.  KIA in Afghanistan.  25 years old.  Folks stood in sub freezing weather, on snow covered sidewalks to pay respects as the procession went by. My children go to school daily with children whose parents are on their umpteenth deployment. Their field trips are to places like Yorktown Battlefield.  You can’t throw a rock in this area without hitting a Civil War site.  My daughter regularly competes at Hampton University, where you can still visit the Emancipation Oak. It also happens to be in sight of the major VA Regional Medical Center.  Look a little further and you can see Ft Monroe.  Real history.  Real reminders of who we are and the reason we can get up every morning and not be afraid. Rough men, and women, have and will continue to stand at the ready.

Something happened here in 1781.  There's even a Mel Gibson movie about it.

The battles are our history. Something happened here in 1781. There’s even a Mel Gibson movie about it.

My challenge to the Professor is this: dig deeper.  Look beyond Iraq, Afghanistan, September 11, 2001. Talk to a military family, a veteran, a wounded warrior.  Might take some effort as we tend to look like everyone else. We hide in plain sight, so to speak.  Even in crowds at the Super Bowl.

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Capt. Robert Phillips of Langley, Va., is the first “A Few Goode Heroes” contest winner! As Hero of the Month, Phillips will receive a $1,000 donation in his name to the Fisher House Foundation, the charity of his choice, with a $1000.00 match to Operation Homefront.

Nominated by his wife, Trina, who described him as “someone who always puts others first,” Phillips is a father of eight children. He returned from deployment in Afghanistan last September, and recently transferred to Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia from the 49th Operations Support Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Congratulations, Capt. Phillips!

murphygoodejanuaryheroes

In case you haven’t heard, Murphy Goode is looking for a Few Goode Heroes. They want to hear about the people who are making a difference in your community. Nominate your hero by submitting a photo and a 250 word essay. One monthly Hero will be selected through fan votes and a team of judges to receive a donation to the charity of their choice*, and Murphy-Goode will make a matching donation to one of our heroes, Operation Homefront.

One grand prize hero will win a 4th of July BBQ in their hometown, sponsored by Murphy-Goode and catered by their Grill Sergeant!

murphygoodeheroes

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Does it look like THIS outside?

BRRRRR!

BRRR!!!

But you’d like it to look like THIS?

Feel the warm breezes!

Aaaaah…

Then don’t hesitate and enter to win an escape for you and a guest to the Western Caribbean from Princess Cruises! Their first-ever Cruise For A Cause, sails from Houston Nov. 5-9.

Don't You Already Feel Relaxed?

The cruise is created to honor men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, with special military-themed events and entertainment onboard. You can enter at http://www.operationhomefront.net/cruise/. After you have entered the promotion online, you may submit up to three different patriotic photos to earn additional entries.

This 4-day Western Caribbean vacation cruises from Houston, Texas Nov. 5, 2013. The ship, the Caribbean Princess, features a host of onboard restaurants, cafes, lounges and spas for guests to enjoy, and will make one stop in beautiful Progreso, Mexico. You can dine by the pool, enjoy 24-hour room service and make new friends as you sail.

NO PURCHASE OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE OR DONATION WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Open only to residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, 21+. Sweepstakes ends May 31, 2013. Subject to complete Official Rules.

Operation Homefront thanks Princess Cruises for hosting this trip. A portion of every purchased cruise fare ranging from $100 to $300 per person, depending on stateroom category, will be evenly donated to Operation Homefront and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Inc. Princess Cruises is dedicated to matching every dollar donated, up to $500,000.

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