Friday, February 26, 2010

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars - 5,384 U.S. Military Personnel Have Been Killed in Action

The following article appeared in the New York Times this week:

Distant Wars, Constant Ghosts By Captain Shannon P. Meehan (Ret)

Since the two recent NATO-led military strikes that accidentally killed dozens of Afghan civilians, I have been thinking a great deal about the psychic toll that killing takes on soldiers.

In 2007, I was an Army lieutenant leading a group on a house-clearing mission in Baquba, Iraq, when I called in an artillery strike on a house. The strike destroyed the house and killed everyone inside. I thought we had struck enemy fighters, but I was wrong. A father, mother and their children had been huddled inside.

The feelings of disbelief that initially filled me quickly transformed into feelings of rage and self-loathing. The following weeks, months and years would prove that my life was forever changed.

In fact, it’s been nearly three years, and I still cannot remove from my mind the image of that family gathered together in the final moments of their lives. I can’t shake it. It simply lingers.

I know that many soldiers struggle long after they leave the battlefield to cope with civilian deaths. It does not matter whether they were responsible for those deaths, whether it was a mistake of the command, of the weaponry, or even the fault of the enemy, who in parts of both Iraq and Afghanistan have been known to intentionally place or involve civilians, even children, in their operations. Just seeing the lifeless body of a little boy or girl is all it takes.

For many soldiers, what follows a killing is a struggle of the mind. We become aware that what we’ve seen has changed us. We can’t unlearn it, and we continue to think of those innocent children. It is not possible to forget.

Killing enemy combatants comes with its own emotional costs. On the surface, we feel as soldiers that killing the enemy should not affect us — it is our job, after all. But it is still killing, and on a subconscious level, it changes you. You’ve killed. You’ve taken life. What I found, though, is that you feel the shock and weight of it only when you kill an enemy for the first time, when you move from zero to one. Once you’ve crossed that line, there is little difference in killing 10 or 20 or 30 more after that.

War erodes one’s regard for human life. Soldiers cause or witness so many deaths and disappearances that it becomes routine. It becomes an accepted part of existence. After a while, you can begin to lose regard for your own life as well. So many around you have already died, why should it matter if you go next? This is why so many soldiers self-destruct when they return from a deployment.

I know something about this. The deaths that I caused also killed any regard I had for my own life. I felt that I did not deserve something that I had taken from them. I fell into a downward spiral, doubting if I even deserved to be alive. The value, or regard, I once had for my own life dissipated.

Five weeks ago, my first child, a son, was born. Not surprisingly, my thoughts often race back to the children I killed. With the birth of my son, I received the same gift I destroyed.

The fact that soldiers are trained and expected to kill as part of their job is something that few people wish to talk about. Many men and women coming back from war don’t risk telling the stories that have so profoundly changed their lives.

In recent months I’ve been trying to honor the lives I took by writing and speaking in public about my experience, to show that those deaths are not tucked neatly away in a foreign land. They may seem distant, but they are not. Soldiers bring the ghosts home with them, and it’s everyone else’s job to hear about them, no matter how painful it may be.

* * *

Captain Shannon P. Meehan (Ret.) was a leader of a tank platoon for the 1st Cavalry Division of the U. S. Army. He is the author of “Beyond Duty,” written with Roger Thompson, a chronicle of his experiences in Iraq.


This week's statistics show that there have been 4,379 U.S. Military personnel killed in Iraq and 1,005 have been killed in Afghanistan. The number of Iraqi and Afghanistan civilian and military personnel killed is well over one million.

There are no accurate statistics for the number of U.S. personnel suicides but it is reported that the number is increasing daily due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression and other related issues. Capt Meehan's article tells us clearly that the burden of having killed another person is very hard to bear for most people.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy News - Haitian Children Evacuated to Shriners Hospital

As I remember back to my childhood, which was blessedly free from major trauma, I can still vividly recall many experiences both good and bad. I try to imagine what a child from Haiti must be feeling right now. Many have become separated from their parents who are missing or dead, and so many others were critically injured. A friend of mine who lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, told me the following story.

Recently eight Haitian children were evacuated to Massachusetts for treatment.

Carolyn Y. Johnson, of the Boston Globe reported:

‘In the midst of swirling snow, a private jet carrying eight Haitian children with life-threatening infections and injuries suffered in last month's earthquake landed at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut at dusk yesterday. (Feb 10th)

The eight children, aged about 2 to 15, were wrapped in blankets, and given stuffed animals before six ambulances transported them to Boston and Springfield hospitals.

Without the kind of medical care they will have access to here, the children would have died, said Dr. Peter Kelly of Wilbraham, who met the plane at the airport and described the children, many of whom were clad in casts, as "stoic kids."

Kelly is president of the board of CRUDEM, a nonprofit that runs Hopital Sacre Coeur, the Milot, Haiti, hospital where they were treated before being transported to the United States with the help of a private jet provided by an anonymous donor.’

Five of the children who have serious orthopedic injuries and infections are being cared for at Shriners Hospital in Springfield, two with burns were brought to Shriners Hospital in Boston, and the most severely injured girl was admitted to Baystate's pediatric intensive care unit. The five children at Springfield Shriners were operated on the following day.

Springfield is home to the Shriners Hospital, which has been providing free medical care to children since 1926. Many years of dedicated service.

Can you imagine being a child, experiencing an earthquake, being severely injured, taking your first journey on a plane, seeing snow for the first time in your life, being transported many miles in an ambulance and then being settled in at a hospital where you do not know a single person and no-one speaks your native language?

Here is the ‘happy news’ part of this story. Upon their arrival the children were greeted by the soothing voices of a group of students who could speak their language.

Over the next few weeks, local American International College students are taking turns at Shriners Hospital and Baystate Medical Center to translate for the children, who were all severely injured in the January 12 earthquake.

"They got off the plane, and we just comforted them," said Cherline Arnoux, a junior from Boston who is studying criminal justice and business.

Fedeline Osyln, of Boston, a first-year graduate student studying clinical psychology, said she moved from Haiti with her father when she was 9. Her mother and some siblings are still in the country but were not hurt in the earthquake.

She said she remembered how overwhelming it was when she first came to the United States, and hoped she could make it easier for the children.

"I want to give something back to my country, and this was a way I could help," Oslyn said.

Twelve students have volunteered to help and pledge to see the children through this crisis in their lives.

I pray that the children will recover not only from their physical injuries but also the psychological trauma that they are experiencing. They are being comforted with the professional care from the medical staff at the hospital and from the sincere love that is being given to them by twelve young Haitian college students.

The children will have an incredible story to tell one day, when they become adults. I am guessing that some of those students may still be around for them even then. Life has a way of bringing people into our lives in the most unexpected ways.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy News -The Story Behind the Olympic Flowers

There's quite a story behind the Olympic flowers

By Trey Kerby


After every Olympic event, rather than receiving their medals, athletes are given a bouquet of flowers. At the Beijing Olympics, roses dominated the bouquets. In Turin, it was rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias. This year, it's green mums and hypericum berries.

The bouquets come from Just Beginnings Flowers and Margitta's Flowers in Surrey, British Columbia. Their entry was chosen from 58 contending florists. June Strandberg, the bouquet designer and owner of Just Beginnings, teaches floristry to women who have left prison, are recovering from addiction, or have been victims of violence. It's a pretty amazing program, and Strandberg has even taken it behind bars, where she educates convicts. She believes it's her work with these correctional programs that secured the Olympic contract.

For the Vancouver Olympics the florists made 1,800 bouquets, 1,707 of which will be given to medal-winning athletes in the Olympics and Paralympics. The flowers are grown locally, but they aren't in season during February, so additional supplies were flown in from Ecuador.

The flowers were chosen to represent British Columbia and Canada, and are intended as keepsakes for the athletes. There are even strict regulations for the bouquets presented at the flower ceremonies. Per IOC protocol, bouquets must be 20 to 30 centimeters tall and about 25 centimeters across.

Though these flowers might look like something you give your mom at a homecoming football game, a lot of thought and planning goes into choosing and making these bouquets. When you consider the societal benefits behind these flowers, it almost makes the bouquets as valuable as the medals.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

History - African American - Today is Toni Morrison's Birthday

Today is Toni Morrison's 79th Birthday

Writer and editor. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. Considered one of the best contemporary novelists, she graduated from Howard University in 1953 and continued her education at Cornell University where she received a master of fine arts degree in 1955. After graduating from Cornell, she taught English at Texas Southern University and at Howard University.

Ms. Morrison left academia in 1965, taking a job as a senior editor for Random House in New York City. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970 and told the story of a young African-American girl who believes her incredibly difficult life would be better if only she had blue eyes. She continued to explore the African-American experience in its many forms and time periods in such works as Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), and Beloved (1987), which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Morrison developed a strong following among both readers and critics whom fell for her lyrical style, sharp observations, and vibrant storytelling.

Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and continued to produce great works. In recognition of her contributions to her field, she received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be selected for the award. The next year, her novel Jazz was published, and she established a special workshop for writers and performers known as the Princeton Atelier.

Along with her novels Paradise (1998) and Love (2003), Morrison wrote several children's books, including The Big Box (1999), The Book of Mean People (2002), and The Ant or the Grasshopper? (2003), with her son Slade.

In 2006, she announced she was retiring from her post at Princeton. That year, the New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best novel of the past 25 years.

Married to Harold Morrison from 1958 to 1964, Morrison has two sons—Harold and Slade. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and Upstate New York.


At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. –Toni Morrison

Happy Birthday to Toni Morrison who has given many hours of enjoyment to those of us who have read her books.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Astronomy Picture of the Day-Space Shuttle Endeavour

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

Waterway to Orbit

Credit & Copyright: James Vernacotola

Explanation: The 32nd shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-130, left planet Earth on February 8. Its early morning launch to orbit from Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A followed the long, graceful, eastward arc seen in this 2 minute time exposure. Well composed, the dramatic picture also shows the arc's watery reflection from the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, in Ponte Vedra, Florida, about 115 miles north of the launch site. In the celestial background a waning crescent Moon and stars left their own short trails against the still dark sky. The brightest star trail near the moon was made by red supergiant Antares, alpha star of the constellation Scorpius.

Night Launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour

Credit: NASA

Explanation: Sometimes, the space shuttle launches at night. (Feb 8, 2010) Pictured above, the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off in yesterday's early morning hours from Launch Pad 39A in Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, bound for the International Space Station (ISS). A night launch, useful for reaching the space station easily during some times of the year, frequently creates vivid launch imagery. The shuttle, as pictured above, is framed by an enormous but typical exhaust plume ejected as the shuttle's powerful rockets began lifting the two million kilogram space bus into Earth orbit. Endeavour's mission, labeled STS-130, includes the delivery of the Tranquility module to the space station. Tranquility will provide extra room for space station astronauts and includes a large circular set of windows designed to bestow vastly improved views of the Earth, the night sky, and the space station itself.

Some of you will remember how excited we would get whenever there was a space launch. Nowadays it barely gets mentioned in the news.

A friend introduced me to this website sometime ago. NASA posts a photo daily of the wonders of the sky. It is worth visiting. Let me know what you think.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy News -Playground for Senior Citizens in London

AP – Susan Edgar 65, is seen on a piece of fitness machinery in a play area for older people.

U.K. opens playground for senior citizens.

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer – Wed Feb 10,2010

LONDON – Swinging London will take on a whole new connotation for the capital's aging baby boomers, who will soon get their own specially designed outdoor playground.

The park will offer low-impact exercise equipment to help older people improve their balance and flexibility and tone muscles that may not have been tested for decades.

"Every park has a children's playground, very few have playgrounds for adults, and none have playgrounds for the elderly," said Madeline Elsdon, whose local residents' association has won funding for the playground, which is planned for London's popular Hyde Park.

"We wanted something that would be of long-term benefit to people, so we came up with this idea for an older person's playground."

Exercise areas aimed at the elderly are popular in Europe and Asia, and there's already a U.K. precedent — an over-60 playground billed as Britain's first opened in Manchester's Dam Head Park two years ago. The equipment there was still seeing use Wednesday — with senior citizens swinging their legs and working their hips on the machines despite temperatures that hovered around freezing.

Elsdon said the Hyde Park playground, which is due to be built by this spring, will have six pieces of equipment bought in Denmark, including a stationary bicycle, a cross-trainer and a sit-up bench.

British group Age Concern, which works to help the elderly, said the playground sounded like a great idea.

"Frankly, it's the first time I've ever heard of such a thing," spokesman Stefano Gelmini said. "It looks like a nice initiative."

The group's charity director, Michelle Mitchell, said in an e-mail that the playground "could be a great way to encourage older people to exercise and socialize."

"Many older people aren't exercising enough," she said, adding that working out with others their own age could help older people alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.

Elsdon said she had been "absolutely overwhelmed by the number of people who have shown an interest" in the free play area.

Westminster City Council, which gave 40,000 pounds ($60,000) to fund the project, said a sign would identify the area as the "Hyde Park Senior Playground" but anyone of any age was welcome to use it.

It raises the question — why not just go to the gym?

Elsdon said older people have been hard hit by Britain's recession and many found gyms too intimidating in the first place.

"Too much firm flesh," she said, laughing.


When I lived in Germany it was very common for adults to go to the parks and the exercise areas for adults where one can stretch and bend and hang from metal bars, etc. And I have seen video of Tai Chi classes in China were seniors meet daily in the parks to exercise.

To my readers who like to be considered 'elders' this sounds like an excellent idea. Here in Buffalo they have two beautiful dog parks (one for large and the other for small dogs) and they have plenty of playground equipment for children and youths. But nothing for seniors. Now that this park has been created I am really wondering why no-one thought of this before.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

History - African American - Today is Alice Walker's Birthday

Today is Alice Walker's 66th Birthday

Alice Walker Biography - in full Alice Malsenior Walker (1944–)

Novelist, poet, feminist. Born Alice Malsenior Walker on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. Alice Walker is one of the most admired African American writers working today. She studied at Spelman College, Atlanta, and Sarah Lawrence College, New York, and then worked as a social worker, teacher, and lecturer. She took a brief sabbatical from her writing in the 1960s to live in Mississippi and work in the civil rights movement, returning to New York to write for Ms. magazine.

An accomplished poet, Alice Walker is best known for her novels, most notably 1982's The Color Purple for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book was later made into a successful film, which tells the story of two black sisters in the segregated world of the Deep South. Later novels include The Temple of My Familiar, Possessing the Secret of Joy, and By the Light of My Father's Smile. She has also written volumes of short stories and essays, including You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down and In Search of My Mother's Garden.

Recently, Alice Walker published a collection of essays entitled We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Light in a Time of Darkness (2006). She also wrote the well-received picture book, There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me (2006). Her most recent novel was 2004's Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart.

Alice Walker was married to activist Mel Leventhal from 1967 to 1976; the couple had one daughter, Rebecca Walker.



1970 The Third Life of Grange Copeland

1977 Meridian

1982 The Color Purple

1989 The Temple of My Familiar

1992 Possessing the Secret of Joy

1996 Banned

1998 By the Light of My FatherO's Smile

2004 Now is the Time to Open Your Heart


1960 The Location of Things

1968 Once: Poems

1973 Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems

1979 Good Night, Willie Lee, I'll See You in the Morning

1984 Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful: Poems

1991 Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems

2003 Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth

2003 A Poem Traveled Down My Arm: Poems And Drawings

2005 Collected Poems


1973 In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women

1981 You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down


1983 In Search of My Mother's Garden: Womanist Prose

1993 Warrior Marks

1996 The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult

1997 Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism

1997 Go Girl!: The Black Woman's Book of Travel And Adventure

1999 Pema Chodron and Alice Walker in Conversation

2001 Sent By Earth: A Message from the Grandmother Spirit After the Bombing of the World Trade Center And Pentagon

2006 We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness (Meditation)

Last month I watched a documentary on TV where Ms. Walker was being interviewed in her home.
I was spellbound as I listened to her philosophy of life.
If anyone knows the name of that interview please let me know so that I can pass it along to others. She is indeed one of the most interesting people that I know of and certainly a person who I admire.

Happy Birthday Ms. Alice Walker

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Total # of U.S Troops Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – 5,348

Globally our attention has been taken with the tragedy of the earthquakes in Haiti. Meanwhile, we still have troops and civilians being killed in the Afghanistan War. I would like you to pause for a moment at take a look at these up to date statistics that record the casualties of war.

Worldwide millions of people have demonstrated against war. How sad that this is still needed today. Here are the latest statistics on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:

Total of U.S Troops Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan Wars – 5,348

Since war began (3/19/03): 4375

Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 147

Total U.S.Wounded: 31,639 Over 100000

Latest Fatality Jan 28 2010

320,000 Vets Have Brain Injuries

War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked

18 Vet Suicides Per Day?

Iraqi Casualties – 1,366,350

Other Coalition Troops - Iraq 325

US Military Deaths - Afghanistan 973

Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan 635

Contractor Employee Deaths - Iraq 1,395

Journalists - Iraq 335

Academics Killed - Iraq 431

Sources: DoD, MNF, and

All data was compiled from

The proposal of $708.2 billion in spending for the Department of Defense -the highest military budget in the history of our country. Of that money, $159.3 billion will go for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Administration is also asking for a $33 billion Supplemental to pay for the troop increase in 2010, on top of the $138 billion already allocated.

Federal dollars are being poured into weapons and warfare, while our states, cities, communities and families are suffering from a lack of funds for urgent human needs: for new jobs, health care, housing, repair of infrastructure, social services. The Obama budget includes expenditures for many worthy domestic purposes. But the size of these programs is far too small and they are already under attack because of the deficit.

It is vitally important that we link issues and publicize this point: we cannot solve our domestic problems so long as our tax dollars are being squandered on unnecessary, destructive and foolhardy military projects.


Call your member of Congress and let them know you are outraged by the upside-down priorities in the proposed 2011 federal budget. Tell them its time to end the wars in Afghanistan and to use our tax dollars to solve economic problems here at home. Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121

You can also call or write to the President:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Phone Numbers: Comments: 202-456-1111

Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

Take a look at these up to date statistics and if you find them ‘sobering’ –


Friday, February 5, 2010

Inner Peace


If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

I love this photo and call the dog 'Bessie"- my sisters will know why