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When Families Facing Autism Also Face Isolation . . .

16 Mar

When Families Facing Autism Also Face Isolation . . .

I remember one of the sweetest compliments I ever received came from a female admiral in my Navy community who, seeing Joey walking on the beach with Noel and me during a Navy “wetting down” celebration, told me how much she admired us for bringing him to as many events as we did.  

She said there had been children with autism in her extended family and they were kept hidden, out of the public eye. 

We couldn’t do it any other way.  I am a fairly social animal!!!

Even when Joey had a hard time handling gatherings like this wetting down, we would just take a half hour off and go walking down the beach, hand in hand with him.  

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

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Worst Example of Journalism I have seen since High School!

16 Feb

Worst Example of Journalism I have seen since High School!

This article is an example of purple prose. It is an example of a tempest in a teapot. And, for those who dislike such phrases from bygone eras, it is also an example of rampant racism (or some other type of “respect of persons” as forbidden by the Bible).

Let’s list the reasons why:
1) The “crisis” seems to have started right before Jason Cosby, the Virginia Beach Director of Public Works, was sent to Afghanistan on a mandatory military deployment. I would suspect someone at the city didn’t want to hold his job until he came back (as required by the law called USERRA). So they started a trumped up process to fire him . . .
2) The “infractions” are so vague and minor (if this news article can be believed) that they would probably apply to hundreds of other employees of Virginia Beach. There is no evidence that any other employee has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb like this. It is as though Mr. Cosby were suddenly looked at under a microscope to pick apart any mistakes made during his twenty years with the city. I regard that as racism (or at least as undue scrutiny of just one person) until I see evidence that everyone else has been subjected to the same level of inquiry. Who else was followed around at Virginia Beach rec centers to see whether they actually worked out when they swiped in, for example?
3) The article does not specify, in most cases, what was done when these infractions came to light. They could have been innocent mistakes that were later made right. For example, I once grabbed my business American Express card to pay for some Christmas presents I bought while on travel. I was shopping with a friend and not paying attention. That card was the one on top in my wallet. Since I had to pay the card off anyway, after my return, it was a “no harm, no foul” situation which I brought to the attention of my supervisor. I believe many people accidentally use official credit cards to pay for things at some point in a twenty year career. It is what they do when they find that out that matters!
4) Mr. Cosby is not currently profiting from receiving city pay (only benefits like medical, which the military also offers in most cases). The first year, the city paid him the differential between his city salary and his lower Army salary, as required by law. This is, again, a common factor for all people who work a full-time job while maintaining a reserve career in the military. If people don’t like the way that works, they need to lobby to change the system, not persecute one person who is doing it as though he were doing something wrong. In this case there not only is no fire, there is no smoke!
5) The article smears a decorated veteran with a 20-year city career that was, until now, regarded as exemplary. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech, two of them advanced degrees. His case is making its way through the city system, with lawyers on both sides working it. Why put this case in the paper to be tried in the court of (ignorant) public opinion by many people who don’t understand the USERRA law and how it is used to get quality military personnel to serve in places like Afghanistan?
6) At best, releasing the requested freedom of information files in the paper today is meant to sell papers. At worst, it is meant to produce an online lynching of someone who is, due to the ongoing process, not allowed to talk to the press and defend himself. Ya know?

Band of Brothers–History is Just Everyone’s Story Combined with Everyone Else’s

21 Jan

I finished the Band of Brothers series on video last night.  It was clearly HBO’s finest hour!

I love the personal touch.  Never have I seen so eloquently the fact that history is a very large river made up of the smaller trickles and streams of everyone’s personal story!

I love that the producers (Tom Hanks, whom I learned is a huge World War II buff, and Stephen Spielberg, who has produced some epics about World War II already in the past) took very little creative license with the stories of the individual men of Easy Company, 101st Airborne.  

If a man lost a leg in a specific battle in real life, that is how it happened in the film.

In fact, the most interesting part of the entire series was the documentary at the end in which the survivors were interviewed and gave more details of their individual stories.  

I wept as they introduced the real Major Winters, who remained lifelong best friends with Lieutenant Nixon, and even moved to New Jersey so he could work for Lieutenant Nixon in the factory he inherited from his father.  

The men of Easy Company have held annual reunions, along with their families, ever since the war ended.  Can we even fathom an annual reunion that has lasted for almost 70 years so far?

Since Easy Company was the assault company of their battalion, they saw some things they still cannot express, especially in the Battle of the Bulge, where they lived in foxholes in the Ardennes Forest for a winter.  Even a documentary cannot get some words past their lips.  And many wept as they spoke, even after almost 70 years.  These men, who refer to themselves as ordinary and to those who died as heroes, gave the best of their youth to their country.  Many entered the Army at age 17 or 18 and served for at least the next three years.   

Often life is so much fuller with warmth and love and heroism than fiction ever could be!

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Slippery Slope: How Private Schools and Racial Segregation Can Go Hand-in-Hand

20 Jan

Slippery Slope: How Private Schools and Racial Segregation Can Go Hand-in-Hand

A thoughtful article.

I do have to give a shoutout to my own church and its academy. I haven’t done an exact count, but the academy seems to be approximately 50% non-Caucasian, with students who are black, Asian, and Hispanic all there. And the most popular ethnic group nowadays–those beautiful kids who are of such a mixture of heritages that you couldn’t even classify them if you wanted to do so!

That, my friends, is heaven.

We are advantaged here by having the military as the great integrator. In our area, we host all five military branches. People are comfortable with those of other races because they learn to be comfortable at their government/military jobs.

I suppose a place like Jackson, Tennessee (in the article) isn’t advantaged like we are with a working environment in which people of various races get to know each other well.

But our church also reaches out to all ethnic groups and has a low enough tuition for the private school that it is more easily accessible for members of ethnic groups who might be the first in their family to consider private education. It is a sacrifice for everyone, but it is one that an increasing number of African-American, Asian, and Hispanic parents are choosing at our school . . .

Band of Brothers and the Liberation of the Camps

16 Jan

Last night, I saw the penultimate episode of Band of Brothers (episode 9).  It affected me in a way I can almost not put into words.  

After Easy Company parachuted into France on D-Day, fought their way across France and the Netherlands into Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge, stood off with the Germans in the Ardennes Forest for a winter, protecting Bastogne while being encircled by enemy forces as the other U.S. forces withdrew from them (that was the gist of the Battle of the Bulge for them), and fought on into Germany, they encountered the worst thing of all . . .

On patrol, they accidentally stumbled on a Jewish work camp. This was while the Russians were in the process of discovering death camps like Auschwitz on the other side of the Reich. The footage in Band of Brothers is unreal. The work camp guards had fled that morning, in advance of the American arrival in the area. They had burned some huts, with the prisoners trapped in them. They had mowed down as many prisoners as they could before they ran out of ammunition. There were already corpses stacked in piles three feet deep that had been left in trains on the tracks in that camp. They looked to have been dead for days, if not week. There were dead bodies lying (and swelling up) everywhere. There were the walking dead, awaiting the American GI’s at the fence or lying in bunks, unable to get out of them.

The Americans broke down at this point. These brave 20 year old soldiers were openly weeping for the first time in the series. The segment is called, fittingly, “Why We Fight.”

The next thing we see, the American General Officer in that area has declared martial law and is sending the well-dressed “respectable” German townsfolk from the town right outside the camp into the camp to remove the bodies for a decent burial. One of these “decent” women catches the eye of a GI who had earlier gone into her house looking for supplies. He had thrown the photo of her German Army officer husband on the floor and broken it. And this was before he knew about the atrocities with the Jews. As he catches the eye of this lady, in an expensive dress, picking up rotting remains of humans that many Germans did not even acknowledge as human, he just stares, with the knowing look of a young man who realizes that she and her husband have knowingly profited from this misery. For many Germans may have been ignorant of the Final Solution, but if you were ignorant half a mile from a camp with the stench of death hanging over it 24/7, it was only because you didn’t want to ask questions!

I was so undone by this segment that, for one of the only times in the 23 years we have lived here, on half an acre with no curtains over our backdoor and the lower parts of our breakfast nook bay windows, I got up from the den chair, at 2 AM, with a feeling of panic because I did not have a working lightbulb in the light on our deck. I feared evil eyes looking in at me as I sat and watched the movie. And how silly was that, when we have lived this way every night for 23 years, in a fairly safe neighborhood, and rarely turn the decklights on, even when they are in working order?

Yes, this segment literally sent me into a panic attack. I suspect it does that for others, too. I understand from German friends who talked freely to me while we lived in Germany, that it was a complex time and many were afraid to speak up for persecuted people lest their own young families be ripped apart. But isn’t that how evil thrives–when everyone is too afraid to call it out as evil? Good lessons for us all in this segment, lessons from World War II and the generation of giants who fought it.

P.S. This segment probably singlehandedly gains an R rating for the series with a gratuitous sex scene in the first five minutes, as peace is breaking out. The woman never shows up further in the story and her tryst with an American GI has nothing to do with the plotline. She is just there so the producers could say, “See, even HBO can do R-rated material.” Which is kind of sad, because the violence would have gotten it an R-rating without that. And now I cannot unreservedly recommend the series to my Christian brothers without telling them to advance past the first five minutes of episode 9, to avoid the topless woman. Just saying.

Band of Brothers . . . Living History

15 Jan

For Christmas this year I treated myself to the six-DVD set of Band of Brothers, as originally seen on HBO.  I had long looked forward to seeing this series.

I have seen all but the last DVD (two episodes).  It is a fine, historical series.  No huge surprises, as most of us know the story of World War II.

What is awe-inspiring is the interviews at the beginning of each episode with Easy Company, 101st Airborne survivors.  I so hope at the end of the series they identify the survivors by name, as it is easy to fall in love with the amazing young men in the series, as portrayed by today’s young actors.  It would be wonderful to know which ones have survived to a ripe old age (many, many of them die in the series, as they did in real life). 

The series does not veer too far in either direction–it does not glamorize nor vilify war.  It shows that many bodies were (and are) shattered by it.  It is not for the faint of stomach, in fact.

But it allows us to form our own conclusions from history, as it should. It leads people to think.  

I did not realize that the 101st Airborne’s winter defending Bastogne was much like Washington’s winter at Valley Forge.  One survivor says he still tells his wife, when it gets cold and snowy outside their home, “At least I am not sleeping outside in the snow in Bastogne.”

Men are shown huddled under blankets in foxholes, sleeping like a heap of kittens with other men for warmth.  Amazing times.

It is totally understandable how the men of Easy Company have remained best friends and closest of brothers during the ensuing decades.  They say no one else could even understand what rigors and horrors they undertook that winter.  

In the battle for Bastogne and in their other battles, they had over 100% casualties (lots of replacements sent in were killed or injured, too).  

Amazing times.  Amazing men.  I am glad this series was made.

The Damage that can be done by People without Knowledge of History

14 Jan

This is going to be dangerous territory.

There are some ideas that you cannot call out in the U.S. without people who hold them realizing they are being called out for holding those ideas.  

You can call it a “conversation” if you wish, but if you have talked with said individuals numerous times and have found it to be like hitting your head against a brick wall, then you doubtless are aware that this is not really a conversation.  

Sometimes you just have to say things plainly and . . .if people hold other views and feel their views are being attacked, well, that is actually true.

You see, not all ideas are equally valid, no matter what we say about free speech.  You have a right to say it.  But just saying words does not gain you validity, nor followers.  You have to know what you are saying and be able to back it up.

People who have not studied history have the same right to free speech as the rest of us.  But they also have the right to listen to others laugh at them when they say silly things, due to not knowing history.  

In the marketplace of ideas, laughter is a valuable thing.  We don’t need to suppress speech.  But we do have to research what we are saying if we hope to have our speech be respected.  

I have a friend in my age group who has been a valuable person to help me understand how some folks in younger generations look at the military in the U.S.  She has helped me with that because she holds many of the same views as our younger generation generally does.   

The military is regarded, nowadays, as an unaffordable luxury.  What are we protecting, after all?

As a student of history, I see that mindset as myopic.  Tragically so.  

But it may take another world war to turn that mindset around.  

My friend has often made statements about the military not having a right to an opinion about what she calls “other entitlement programs.”  Yes, she will say, “You have your entitlements like the commissary and Tricare, so you have to keep quiet about the entitlements of the rest of us.”  

Really?  So when you serve 27 years for it, as I did, it is still regarded as an “entitlement”?  

So when the government signs your paycheck because you work for the government, it is the same as when the government signs a welfare check?  Have we told the President and the Congress that their paychecks are “entitlements”?

I totally get it about not treating welfare recipients as pariahs.  But that does not mean they earn their checks in the same way the military does.  You don’t turn it around and elevate the self respect of welfare recipients by lumping them in with the military, for whom we have traditionally held the highest respect of all.  

In an era of limited resources, it would go far toward healing some of the U.S.’s divides if people would at least act appreciative of the military while asking them to take 50% of the budget cuts (note:  the military is not 50% of the budget, but we are regarded as having more discretionary dollars than Medicaid, Medicare, social security or welfare).  

I totally get it that most of our Senators and Congresspeople have no military service, for the first time in history.  So they can’t really appreciate us unless they are students of history.  Sometimes they try to give us lip service.  Sometimes they don’t bother.  

I totally understand that most people sleep through high school history classes and some even do that in college.  But . . . I entered the military with a very sparse knowledge of history and just started reading . . . It is amazing what history books, even good historical fiction, can do for you!  I always loved history.  Now I have a pretty broad background in it.  

There is no excuse for not understanding the Cold War or what the U.S. did to preserve freedom in World Wars I and II.  There is no reason for anyone to not tell a Viet Nam vet “thank you for your service” with full understanding of why that phrase matters to him.  

And, more recently, our next “greatest generation” that gave the strength of its youth in Iraq and Afghanistan needs to be praised and encouraged, not lumped in with welfare recipients as “entitlement folks.”

It is important.  Very important.  

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