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Sunday, December 31, 2006

"Let's go home, Debbie" ~ The Searchers, 1956.

Please check out Day by Day by Chris Muir. In fact, go by and see his latest cartoon everyday.

Before we ring out the old year ~ 2006, and ring in the new ~ 2007, a few of my favorite pictures of this past year in random order.

This much I do Remember
by Billy Collins

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,

a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder

at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter

next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,

and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,

gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,

while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,

and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter

the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment

and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,

giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,

I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,

minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Always do the right thing."
"That's it?"
"That's it."
"I got it, I'm gone."

Do The Right Thing, 1989.

I know I am backtracking here. It's almost New Years and I'm still talking about Thanksgiving.

However, I ran across this article while visiting a site I check into often. Scott takes great pictures and knows from first hand experience what it is like to live like they do. He is an embedded reporter for kgw.com, Oregon and SW Washington state.

Operation Drumstick Brings Hot Meals to the Troops
About midway down the page, there is a click here.

December 26th, 2006

On Thanksgiving Day in southern Afghanistan, hot meals were flown to soldiers stationed at some of the most remote firebases. It was a mission conceived and organzed by Command Sgt. Major McClure, an Oregon Army National Guard Embedded Trainer. The mission was appropriately named Operation Drumstick.

On the other hand, other people had a hard time finding someone to sit with during holiday feasts......

Apparently, John Kerry "visited" the troops in Iraq during Christmas and had no soldiers to eat breakfast with.

Remarkably, Bill O'Reilly came .... the same day and the line for autographs extended through the palace and people waited for two hours to shake his hand.....

Now why wouldn't soldiers want to shake Mr. Kerry's hand?

When addressing college students in California, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry said people who don't study hard would likely "get stuck in Iraq." Aides say Kerry mistakenly dropped the word "us" from his prepared text and meant to say, "you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq," referring to President Bush. Uh huh.

Word of what the failed presidential candidate said got to Heather Ward and her fellow members of the Minnesota National Guard in Talil, Iraq, south of Baghdad. Quickly, they knew how to respond: with a sarcastic sign reading "Halp us Jon Carry - we r stuck hear n Irak."

David Ward said his daughter told him that while the picture was meant to be private, her unit is happy their message is getting across.

"When they saw and heard what Kerry said, they were just furious and they were sitting around and one thing led to another," he said. "Kerry is a preening peacock and the best way to respond to him is with humor," he said.

Ward said his daughter was particularly incensed by Kerry's comments because her résumé is nothing like the "stuck" soldier the senator seemed to describe in his comment. Heather Ward has 31/2 years of college credits in chemistry and biology and is about to graduate when she gets back. She hopes one day to be a radiologist, he said. And what's more, she joined the armed forces soon after 9/11 because she wanted to help her country, her dad said.

"These aren't uneducated people with no options in life," he said.

The picture drew heaps of praise, even as the military declared that the soldiers cannot talk to the press about what they did. It is a violation of military rules for service members to get involved in elections, and it was unclear if the members of the unit - the 1/34 Brigade Troops Battalion - would face any discipline for the stunt.

"Thank you so much for responding so eloquently to his uneducated, ill-thought and unwanted gibberish," wrote commentator Margie Lozada, who identified herself as a Navy vet. "I am so proud of you guys."

I hear you. JR Salzman is a member of the Minnesota National Guard.

Friday, December 29, 2006

JR Salzman is a milblogger, someone currently serving in the military who writes an ongoing blog for updating friends and family back home. Sort of like I do, but in reverse I guess. Anyway, that is the way I understand it.

This came to my attention and I wanted to share it with you. It is from his blog. It may take some time to read, but please do.

From JR Salzman, Saturday, September 09, 2006

Three years ago today I signed on the dotted line. The date was two days short of the two year anniversary of 9/11. I recently received an email from a friend of mine I met through ESPN's now defunct Great Outdoor Games. I was sitting in class in college chatting with her online when suddenly she started freaking out (she lives and works in NY). I learned about it instantly from her as the events unfolded, before the rest of the world even knew what was happening. In her recent email she said, "It's just nice to look back knowing that you have taken action on behalf of your country, that you have taken your feelings from the September 11th attacks and have actually DONE something to make a difference."

I didn't sleep for days after the attack on our country. I spent every minute on the couch glued to the TV. I slept, ate and lived there, watching in horror with the rest of my country while wondering who, and why someone could do such a thing. It was this giant slap in the face to our country that spurred thousands of young men like me to take action in the following years and answer the call to defend our country's freedom. Do I believe I am defending freedom here in Iraq? Yes. Do I think it is a worthwhile cause? Of course. I've given 18 months of my life to the cause.

While sitting around tonight, we were talking a little bit about what it's going to be like when we get home. We're not going to have a clue what has been going on in the world. Trends, fads, music, movies, TV, radio, the presence of family and friends again, getting accustomed to not wearing body armor when leaving the house, and not driving armored vehicles with loaded weapons everywhere; it's going to be very confusing and frustrating. Getting back into the swing of things, I'm looking forward to college, but in a way I'm not. I'll be the crazy old war vet sitting in class, giving scowling looks to the 19 year old who complains about writing a report, or having to read 50 pages, or how much books cost. They've never met people who come to their front gate to beg for food and water on a daily basis. People who walk barefoot across the desert in 130 degree heat just to try and sell you some worthless Saddam money so they'll have money to buy food. They've never lived in a country that has known nothing but death, torture, and destruction from dictatorship. They've never met people whose neighbors were executed for speaking out against the government. They've never had their entire town or village buried in a mass grave. These are the hardships the people of Iraq have had to face over generations. Sure, I may whine about how bad the food is, how little sleep I get, or how bad the weather is here, but it's nothing compared to these people. They live it every day. At the end of my deployment, I go home. They stay here, trying to make something out of nothing. There have been speed bumps along the away, and will be many more ahead. Things are getting better here. I don't give a rat’s ass less about what you read on CNN, FOX, Newsweek, or any other large media outlet. They only see what they want to see. They only dish out the news they want people to here, even if sometimes it’s not even news. Life is better for the Iraqis because of us.

I believe in the cause here. I believe we are creating a better world by creating a stable region in the Middle East. I believe we are correct for finishing "unfinished business" left over from the first Gulf War. Most of all, I believe in giving these people freedom. Even if the term or even the definition is still vague or unknown to some people here in Iraq, its meaning is becoming well known. Out of tragedy in our own country comes a blessing to another. I do not regret coming here. I do not regret joining the military. If I should have to give the ultimate sacrifice while I am here, I know it is not in vain.

The anniversary of the Sept. 11th attack on our country is in two days.

What have you done for your country? ~ JR Salzman

Then recently, shortly after JR returned from leave……

From JR Salzman, Thursday, December 21, 2006

It is hard for me to tell you all this but I was hurt by an IED here. My right arm has been amputated below the elbow; my left has four working fingers. My legs are fine so l can still logroll! (JR is a lumberjack at home) I am on my way to the hospital in Germany, and then back to the states for more care. I am in high spirits. I am going to be ok, but I will have a long road to recovery. Please remember me in your prayers, as well as those who were injured with me. I will let you know more as time passes. ~ JR Salzman

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm here at Walter Reed and I'm doing OK. I have surgery pretty much every other day. They are trying to close up my amputated right arm/hand, and they are repairing the smashed knuckles on my left hand. I'm in a lot of pain and it is making it hard to sleep and do normal tasks. It's going to take a long time to learn how to do everything over again. Thank you all for your words of comfort and support; all the e-mails, all the comments, I can't tell you how much they mean to me. My parents and my wife are here taking care of me. My wife will probably remain here with me the entire time. I just want you all to know that even though I am in a lot of pain and it really sucks undergoing all of the surgeries and treatments, I'm keeping a positive attitude. I will keep you all updated as time passes.

JR Salzman is now at Walter Reed.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Now I know that some of you put Flick up to this, but he has refused to say who. But those who did it know their blame, and I'm sure that the guilt you must feel would be far worse than any punishment you might receive.

Now, don't you feel terrible?

Don't you feel remorse for what you have done?

Well, that's all I'm going to say about poor Flick."

Adults loved to say things like that but kids knew better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.

A Christmas Story, 1983.

Tanglefoot, Swampcat and Dirt ~ looking like trouble in the making.

Heidi, I need names for everyone here, please.

Heidi and random snowman.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper" ~ Knute Rockne All American, 1940.

An update on my friend Kate's son Chris

God Bless You and Your Family, Kate. Merry Christmas!

"The best gift of all is having Chris home for Christmas! He looks great and is fine spirits! Although he loves NAS Pensacola, he is so happy to be home for three weeks. As a mother, it was joy to see my two sons so happily united! As a M.O.M., there is an intense pride, tempered by sear fear, especially knowing I have two dear friends with kids in harm's way and mine will probably be there too...OK more for the Pride part...

Chris raised his rank to Private First Class while at Aviation Ordnance School at NASP. He has gone through hundreds of hours of classroom training in aviation mechanics, electronics and weaponry. He also volunteered for Toys For Tots. He should be done with schooling at NASP in early February and is hoping for practical training at Camp Pendleton, CA. Pendelton is were the Mairnes hold "Helo" training for the assault Black Hawks. Ironically, we visited there some 6 years ago and the boys got to sit in one! This assignment would also put him close to Uncle Ray and Aunt Libby's home.

PFC Christiansen will be working part-time in the roll of "Recruiting Support" while on leave. He will be working out of the Recruting Ofifces at Liberty Tree Mall and Rt 1 Saugus. If you are in the area, stop by to say hello, if you'd like. He will also be on-call for the Hamilton Fire Department.

Dale and I will be picking Chris up at the Pensacola Airport and transporting him back to NASP on January 7th. Hopefully, we will get to spend sometime touring the Station with him. I know first-hand when one sees the level of commitment, training and decorum these Marines have, it makes me more patriotic!

I want to thank you all again for your support; it means more than you might know! Have a Merry Christmas with your families and friends! Please say a prayer for those in service and their families. OK, I'm going to bed, finally, but this is MY Christmas Eve!"

Love, Kate

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city" ~ Anatole Broyard.

Merry Christmas Eve, Heidi.

Your pictures of Rome are finished. I had them framed at Get The Picture in Oviedo.

My favorite of the two is still the Pantheon, though I know you prefer the Colosseum.

Double click them and you can see each one better.

The Pantheon is one of the great spiritual buildings of the world. Built as a Roman temple and later consecrated as a Catholic Church, its monumental porch originally faced a colonnaded temple courtyard and now sits on the Piazza della Rotonda. Through great bronze doors, one enters one great circular room. The only natural light enters through an unglazed oculus (hole) at the center of the dome (rain drops right through here) and through the bronze doors to the portico. As the sun moves, striking patterns of light illuminate the walls and marble floors.

They did a fabulous job on the framing, but wow, I am in the wrong business. I thought I might have to sell either M or D to pay for it. Hey, Merry Christmas, huh?

The Colosseum (or Flavian Amphitheater as the locals call it) was begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D. and completed by Domitian. With seating for 50,000, it was the first permanent amphitheater to be built in Rome. For all the info you will ever need about the Colosseum, including 3D views, please look here.

The Colosseum. It still amazes me to think of it. If the walls could talk, we might not want to hear what they would have to say.

It was a good idea to purchase our Italian art in the Piazza Navona in Rome. The local artists were fabulous and the prices were within our budget.

Heaven knows we didn't realize what it would cost to frame our 'bargains', now did we?

But in the end, it doesn't really matter. No one will ever take away that beautiful day we had lunch under the cafe umbrellas in front of the Pantheon. See them there in the picture? It is a memory I will hold dear to my heart, forever.

I shall bring your pictures to you when I see you at Ft. Drum in February. Counting the days until then.