Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Totally Scary!

If you want to be totally scared, check out this website that shows the US National Debt a couple of other clocks. The numbers are so big, it takes a while to comprehend them....but when you do, the fright sets in....big time!

Monday, July 20, 2009


For me, there are certain memories of my life that stand out like the vibrant colors of a beautiful painting. Some of those memories are of experiences or feelings that I knew at the time that I wanted to keep with me for the rest of my life. The joy and wonder I felt on the birth of each of my children, the happiness that comes with healthy grandchildren, the pride I felt when when my daughters graduated from college and my son graduated from Marine boot camp are just a few examples of memories of "big events" in my life that I cherish and want to keep with me forever. Other memories imbedded themselves into my consciousness for other reasons. Memories of this type include little things: like the smell of the lye soap when my mother and grandmother washed clothes using a wringer-washer and a washtub set up in the kitchen of my grandmother's house, the feel of doing a perfect backflip, or the comfort of a dog sleeping on your feet. The importance of these memories, of the little things, kinda sneaks up on you. You may not know these things are important to you at the time you're experiencing them, but the memory of them becomes critical to you later on.

There are other situations that you know as you experience them that the situation will be "historic" to you and to others, and you deliberately take notice of what is happening, where you are, what you think, and how you feel. People of a certain generation can tell you just what they were doing and how they felt when they learned of President Kennedy's assignation, for example. For a more current example, ask anyone what they were doing on September 11th, 2001, and they can tell you where they were when they heard about the terrorist attacks, what they did when they heard, and the emotions the attack generated.

When I was a young girl we lived in Nevada. My dad was in the military and during the time we lived in Nevada, he went to Vietnam three different times for 6 months each time. I remember a time when he was home; not at work and not in Vietnam. I don't remember why he was home, if it was a weekend or a weekday, but he was there. We had a "TV room" where the family watched our favorite shows (I can honestly say we didn't have more than three channels, and might have had less). Anyway, I vividly recall coming down the hallway from the kitchen and seeing my dad on one knee, tuning in the TV picture (or sound...we had to do that in those days). He was wearing a white, short-sleeve t-shirt and his hair was short, cut in what was called a "flat-top." He looked up at me with a different expression on his face and said, "come here, sis" (he always called me sis). He said, "you need to watch this with me." Now, I don't know if it was my dad's expression, his demeanor, what he said, or if there was something that what was "in the air;" but even though I was just a young girl, I knew right away that this was one of those "historic" occasions that I would remember all my life.

So I sat with my dad and watched grainy, black and white pictures of men walking on the moon for the first time. I remember the darkened room (to see the TV picture better). I remember the warmth of the day (it was Nevada in July and we didn't have air conditioners). I remember that my dad smelled like Old Spice aftershave and he had tears in his eyes when Neil Armstrong took that historic step. I was amazed by the idea of those pictures coming all the way from the moon into our TV box. I was proud that America was the first country to put men on the moon. I was awed by the poetry of Neil Armstrong's announcement about small steps and giant leaps. Most of all I felt loved; because I was there with my dad, his arm was around me, and he wanted to share that special occasion with me.

That was 40 years ago today. A historic day, and a beautiful memory for a young girl to have shared with her dad.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Angels Come in All Shapes and Sizes....So Do Heroes

The official website of the Multi-National Forces- Iraq (MNF-I) has a tear-jerker of a story about a wonderful was so good that I had to copy it here:

‘Camouflage Angel’ Spends Last Moments With U.S. Combat Casualties
Friday, 10 July 2009

Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Casualty Liaison Team at Joint Base Balad, stands in Hero's Highway. Each patient brought via helicopter to the Air Force Theater Hospital passes through Hero's Highway. Watson, a native of Peru, Ind., is deployed here from Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

JOINT BASE BALAD — The emergency-room trauma call and the medical staff's immediate action upon his arrival is only a memory to her now; sitting quietly at the bedside of her brother-in-arms, she carefully takes his hand, thanking him for his service and promising she will not leave his side.

He is a critically injured combat casualty, and she is Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson of the Casualty Liaison Team here.

Although a somber scene, it is not an uncommon one for the Peru, Ind., native, who in addition to her primary duties throughout the last 14 months, has taken it upon herself to ensure no U.S. casualty passes away alone. Holding each of their hands, she sits with them until the end, no matter the day or the hour.

"It's unfortunate that their families can't be here," said Watson, who is deployed here from Fort Campbell, Ky. "So I took it upon myself to step up and be that family while they are here. No one asked me to do it; I just did what I felt was right in my heart. I want them to know they are heroes.

"I feel just because they are passing away does not mean they cannot hear and feel someone around them," she continued. "I talk to them, thanking them for what they have done, telling them they are a hero, they will never be forgotten, and I explain my job to them to help them be at ease knowing the family will be told the truth."

In general, Watson explains to the patients that the CLT works within the Patient Administrative Department here, acting as a liaison for all military and civilian patients in-theater and initiating the casualty-notification process to the patient's next-of-kin.

Upon their arrival at the Air Force Theater Hospital, Watson speaks with each combat casualty getting as accurate information as possible about the incident. Once the doctor gives their diagnosis and severity of the patient's injuries, Watson and her team complete and send a Defense Casualty Information Processing System folder report to the Department of the Army or the patient's respective service so that their next-of-kin can be notified.

"I make sure we tell their family everything they want to know, so they know everything that's going on," said Watson. "[Through the report], we'll tell the families everything that is going on with their family member ... so that they don't have any questions."

Furthermore, once the initial report has been sent, the CLT and Watson make hourly rounds to the intensive-care ward or unit to check on the patient's well-being, or, for the more critical patients, to check on their stability.

"We are constantly communicating and making sure the family knows everything we know," said Watson. "We want to put the families at ease and let them know that everything is being done for their loved one. From the moment a servicemember is brought in through Hero's Highway, they are never alone."

Each month, the AFTH, the equivalent of a U.S. Level-1 trauma center, treats more than 539 patients; more than 101 are trauma cases in the emergency department. Although Watson can never predict if and when her fellow brothers- or sisters- in arms may need her, she is always available here.
"The hospital staff is wonderful," said Watson. "They know how important it is for me to be there with them and if they know it's time, someone will come and get me no matter where I'm at.

"I see it as a form of closure, not just for me, but for the families so that they know that somebody was there with their son or daughter," she added. "My heart goes out to every patient that comes into the hospital, especially my wounded in action Soldiers. I feel like everyone who comes through the door is my brother or sister."

Not surprisingly, Watson's dedication to duty and her hard work have not gone unnoticed. She has touched the lives of all those who she has come in contact with, to include the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group commander, Col. Mark Mavity.

"Sgt. Watson's story is one of the most compelling here in the Med Group," said Mavity. "She is a Soldier's Soldier who combines an unparalleled level of compassion and commitment to our most grievously wounded warriors with amazing professionalism each and every day.

"What is truly incredible is that she is a personnelist by training but with the heart of a medic who has taken it upon herself to hold the hand and keep a bedside vigil with every mortally wounded Soldier who has spent their last hours within the AFTH," continued the colonel. "She will not let her brave brothers or sisters pass alone. This is a heavy burden to bear and at great personal emotional cost to Sgt. Watson, but she is unwavering in her final commitment to these Soldiers. You don't have to look any further than Sgt. Watson to find a true hero."

"Angel" and "hero" are only two of the many titles Watson has been given since arriving at JBB; although she is appreciative of the kind words, she remains humble.

"I am far from an angel," said the sergeant with a smile. "I just do what is in my heart. I guess for me, I think about the family and the closure of knowing the Soldier did not pass away alone. To say I'm a hero ... no. The heroes are my guys who come in [through Hero's Highway]."

Reflecting on her time here, Watson said she is extremely thankful for the opportunity she has had to work side-by-side with the Air Force.

"The staff of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group has done an amazing job since I have been here," she said. "They are incredible. They have done procedures and saved the lives of the most critically injured Soldiers, and have been some of the most professional people I have ever worked with.
"I want the families to know that their servicemember was a hero," Watson concluded. "They made the ultimate sacrifice, but before they passed on, they received the best medical treatment, and the staff did everything they could -- they were not in pain and they didn't die alone."

(By Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing)

h/t CJ & The Armorer at Castle Argghhh

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is it the result or the journey?

Did you ever try to find your way to a place without having good directions? You know that your destination is somewhere "over there a ways" but you're not sure of what roads to take or where to turn. So you generally fumble around, maybe taking a wrong turn (or two). You might never find your destination, and may have to settle for someplace you really don't want to be. Even if you eventually do find the place you want to go; your journey has been long and convoluted.

I think that, most of the time, judges who are "results-oriented" are like a traveller who does not have (or refuses to follow) good results to reach her destination. A "results-oriented" judge knows how she want to rule; but often has to twist the law and take convoluted logic to get the desired result. A "results-oriented" judge will let policy, politics, or empathy drive her decision, rather than follow the law to a conclusion. A "results-oriented" judge may pay lip service to the law, but does not truly respect it.

I had the good fortune to work for a wonderful Federal appellate judge; one who takes the facts of the case and applies the law to those facts to reach a decision. Although the results of a case are important, he doesn't let the results drive the decision....the law does that. The law, statute and precedent, gives the directions for his legal journey. Now don't get me wrong, he is well aware of the impact the decisions he makes will have and how those decisions might drive policy; but he nevertheless applies the law, as he sees it, to reach his decisions. He does not let the result of his decisions drive how he rules. He is a judge who truly respects the law.

Supreme Court nominee, Sonya Sotomayor, appears to be a "results-oriented" judge. While all judges bring their background, including their legal training and their life experiences, to the bench with them (after all how could you leave who your are at home?), Judge Sotomayor is willing to use her background as a sounding board to determine what result she desires in a case, rather than applying the law to the facts. She wants to rule with "empathy." She wants to make policy. She wants to interpret the law and the Constitution to reflect her idea of what a result should be in a particular case. In this respect, she's like that traveller on a journey without clear directions. She will twist the law and apply convoluted logic in order to reach her destination. This is not the type of Justice we need on the United States Supreme Court. Her desire to reach a specific result, in order to make policy or achieve a political end, doesn't respect the law or the Constitution.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

America's Battalion

The Marine's 2d Battalion, 8th Regiment is fighting in Afghanistan as a part of the "surge" into Helmand province. The 2/8 is called "America's Battalion" and has a storied history, having served at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Okinawa in World War II as well as service in Iraq and other places around the world. Now they're in Afghanistan, doing what Marines do best, taking the fight to the enemy. Check out the 2/8's Official Website for some great information about "America's Battalion."

Although for some reason the "mainstream media" seems to think it more important to report on the death of and memorial services for a suspected pedophile and confirmed strange, weird, sad man, there are some excellent reports on "America's Battalion" and the "surge" in Afghanistan on the internet. National Public Radio has been following the 2/8's deployment into Afghanistan and has been reporting on the 2/8's efforts, as well as the impact of the deployment on families and loved ones. Unlike some of NPR's reporting, this series seems to be pretty balanced. Check out the series articles on NPR's website. Pat Dollard also has a post about the 2/8 Marines on his excellent website.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Buddy

I have two younger sisters. Once upon a time, my middle sister categorized us as "the smart one, the athletic one, and the pretty one." She called me the smart one. Well, I'm not so sure about that most times; but I do know that our youngest sister (I'll call her Buddy) was the athletic one. In High School, many-many moons ago, Buddy played basketball, softball, and ran track. As a Senior, she was named the athlete of the year for her High School. She's stayed active in sports, particularly softball, while raising three great kids. She coaches and she referees. She's most definitely still the athletic one. But you know, she also is a pretty smart cookie. It takes smarts to raise three kids, particularly after a divorce. It takes smarts to realize what you need in your life in order to be happy and then courage to go for it. It takes smarts to learn what you need to learn to have a good career and a wonderful future. I think Buddy is really the smart one. (Maybe that makes me the pretty one....well maybe not....)

Anyway, today is Buddy's birthday. I want to tell her how much I love and admire her; for her compassion, for her intelligence, and for her beauty. She is another strong woman in this family of mine that contains so many strong women, and I'm very proud to be her sister.

Happy Birthday, Buddy! Have a wonderful day today, and a fantastic deserve it because it's never to late for happily ever after!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Amazing Nature

I live in "Flyover Country." It's beautiful here where the Earth's wonders are displayed in all their glory. Within 30 miles, you can be in the midst of Alpine splendor or deep in the awesome grandeur of desert country. You can see nature's sandstone sculptures and marvel at the vastness of open spaces. I live close to one National Park, a National Monument, and two National Forests. It's marvelous to be surrounded by such natural beauty. But even with all this beauty, the Earth can be treacherous. Yesterday, we had an example of just how quickly all this beauty can become dangerous. It rained. Flyover Country needs the rain, but this was a RAIN. It came down hard and fast. Then it quit. But, as happens in there was too much water, coming down too fast. The ground just couldn't absorb it fast enough. So we had a little flash flood. Fortunately, most of the flash flood was contained to the river that runs through Flyover Country, but it still demonstrated just how furious, and how dangerous, Nature can be. A friend of mine, Torrybob, took videos of the river (at a place where the river goes down a little fall) before and during the flood.

Here's how the river normally looks at the falls:

Here's how the river looks during a flash flood:

Awesome, isn't it!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

I love Independence Day! Maybe it's because Independence Day comes in the know those days when you were a kid when you wore a bathing suit all day long and played outside from the time you went to swimming lessons in the morning until the street lights came on in the evening and you had to come in the house. Maybe it's because Independence Day is a day you can make things explode and sparkle...remember waiting for dark then lighting sparklers and using them to write your name in the air or the thrill of watching a wonderful fireworks display? Maybe it's because of the celebratory picnics and BBQs with friends and family eating tasty burgers, hot dogs, and watermelon. Maybe it's because of all those things and because Independence Day is a day for remembering and celebrating just how wonderful our National experiment is and how blessed we are to live in the United States. I love this Country. I'm glad that I've been able to use my talents in her service. I'm proud that my children have chosen to do the same. I guess one of the reasons I love Independence Day is because it's the birthday of this great Nation. So have a safe, happy and fun-filled Independence Day, and take time to remember and say a prayer for those who celebrate this day while serving overseas.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Breaking the Barrier

Now this is a really cool picture of an F-22 breaking the sound barrier! GO AIR FORCE! According to FoxNews (where I saw the picture, although it's going around the internet), here's what scientists think happens:

"A layer of water droplets gets trapped between two high-pressure surfaces of air. In humid conditions, condensation can gather in the trough between two crests of the sound waves produced by the jet."

Whatever it is that produces the vapor cone, or shock collar, or whatever it is they call it....the picture is really cool!