Topic: HOLIDAYS

(DEC) BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS STORY

Forwarded by Bill Thompson, who described it as “a touching Yule story that culminated about three weeks before Christmas. I especially appreciated the comment by the blind Marine thanking his host. Marines are never at a loss for words and so expressive, so poignant. The lump in my throat was just as big as the one in Mr. Levin¹s.”

It started Christmas 2004, when Bennett and Vivian Levin were overwhelmed by sadness while listening to radio reports of injured American troops. “We have to let them know we care,” Vivian told Bennett. So they organized a trip to bring soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital to the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia on Dec. 3, 2005.

The cool part is that they created their own train line to do it. Yes, there are people in this country who actually own real trains. Bennett Levin - native Philly guy, self-made millionaire and irascible former L&I commish - is one of them.

He has three luxury rail cars. Think mahogany paneling, plush seating and white-linen dining areas. He also has two locomotives, which he stores at his Juniata Park train yard. One car, the elegant Pennsylvania, carried John F. Kennedy to the Army-Navy game in 1961 and '62. Later, it carried his brother Bobby's body to D.C. for burial. “That's a lot of history for one car,” says Bennett.

He and Vivian wanted to revive a tradition that endured from 1936 to 1975, during which trains carried Army-Navy spectators from around the country directly to the stadium where the annual game is played. The Levins could think of no better passengers to reinstate the ceremonial ride than the wounded men and women recovering at Walter Reed in D.C. and Bethesda, in Maryland. “We wanted to give them a first-class experience,” says Bennett. “Gourmet meals on board, private transportation from the train to the stadium, perfect seats - real hero treatment.”

Through the Army War College Foundation, of which he is a trustee, Bennett met with Walter Reed's commanding general, who loved the idea. But Bennett had some ground rules first, all designed to keep the focus on the troops alone:

  • No press on the trip, lest the soldiers' day of pampering devolve into a media circus.
  • No politicians either, because, says Bennett, “I didn't want some idiot making this trip into a campaign photo op.”
  • And no Pentagon suits on board, otherwise the soldiers would be too busy saluting superiors to relax.

The general agreed to the conditions, and Bennett realized he had a problem on his hands. “I had to actually make this thing happen,” he laughs.

Over the next months, he recruited owners of 15 other sumptuous rail cars from around the country - these people tend to know each other - into lending their vehicles for the day. They named their temporary train The Liberty Limited.

Amtrak volunteered to transport the cars to D.C. - where they'd be coupled together for the round-trip ride to Philly - then back to their owners later.

Conrail offered to service the Liberty while it was in Philly. And SEPTA drivers would bus the disabled soldiers 200 yards from the train to Lincoln Financial Field, for the game.

A benefactor from the War College ponied up 100 seats to the game - on the 50-yard line - and lunch in a hospitality suite.

And corporate donors filled, for free and without asking for publicity, goodie bags for attendees:

From Woolrich - stadium blankets. From Wal-Mart - digital cameras. From Nikon - field glasses. From GEAR - down jackets.

There was booty not just for the soldiers, but for their guests, too, since each was allowed to bring a friend or family member. The Marines, though, declined the offer. “They voted not to take guests with them, so they could take more Marines,” says Levin, choking up at the memory.

Bennett's an emotional guy, so he was worried about how he'd react to meeting the 88 troops and guests at D.C.'s Union Station, where the trip originated. Some GIs were missing limbs. Others were wheelchair-bound or accompanied by medical personnel for the day. “They made it easy to be with them,” he says. “They were all smiles on the ride to Philly. Not an ounce of self-pity from any of them. They're so full of life and determination.”

At the stadium, the troops reveled in the game, recalls Bennett. Not even Army's lopsided loss to Navy could deflate the group's rollicking mood.

Afterward, it was back to the train and yet another gourmet meal - heroes get hungry, says Levin - before returning to Walter Reed and Bethesda. “The day was spectacular,” says Levin. “It was all about these kids. It was awesome to be part of it.”

The most poignant moment for the Levins was when 11 Marines hugged them goodbye, then sang them the Marine Hymn on the platform at Union Station.

“One of the guys was blind, but he said, 'I can't see you, but man, you must be f—-ing beautiful!' ” says Bennett. “I got a lump so big in my throat, I couldn't even answer him.”

It's been three weeks, but the Levins and their guests are still feeling the day's love. “My Christmas came early,” says Levin, who is Jewish and who loves the Christmas season. “I can't describe the feeling in the air.”

Maybe it was hope.

As one guest wrote in a thank-you note to Bennett and Vivian, “The fond memories generated last Saturday will sustain us all - whatever the future may bring.”

God bless Bennett and Vivian Levins… and God bless these troops, every one.



(DEC) WREATHS FOR THE FALLEN

Here is a wonderful, recurring Christmas deed you may have missed. If so, it is worth your time to read the entire story.

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY BENEFACTOR
Forwarded by Russ Vaughn

Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.
Know the line has held, your job is done.
Rest easy, sleep well.
Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held.
Peace, peace, and farewell.

Each Christmas since 1992, the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine has donated some 5,000 wreaths to the Arlington National Cemetery. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. A wonderful guy!

Most years, groups of Maine school kids have combined an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

READ FULL STORY HERE [http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/christmas-wreaths-2004.htm ].



(DEC) EVE OF A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY

Forwarded by Susan

Here is a southern country boy’s reaction to those who would have us all be politically correct at “Yule” time: CLICK HERE [http://www.keepingapace.com/nightb4xmas.wmv ]



(DEC) FAVORITE CHRISTMAS STORY

THE CHRISTMAS RIFLE
By Ryan B. Anderson

Published in The Draft Horse Journal, Winter 2000-2001
Back issue available at http://www.horseshoes.com/drafthorsejournal/en-us/dept_1.html [http://www.horseshoes.com/drafthorsejournal/en-us/dept_1.html]

The events of this true story - passed along by its author's grandfather - occurred in 1881, when America was primarily a rural nation. I hope it gladdens your heart, adds a lump in your throat or a tear to your eye as it did mine, and that it imparts a better appreciation for the meaning of true giving - which hasn't changed over time despite the material progress in civilization during the ensuing 123 years.

Pa never had such compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible. Instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight.”

I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed.

“I think we'll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.”

The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood—-the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing?

Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?”

“You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what?

“Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt.”

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the shed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, and then we went to the smoke house and he took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand.

“What's in the little sack?” I asked.

“Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked.

The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?”

“Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma'am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time.

There was a pair for her and one for each of the children — sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up.”

I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes, too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us.

“God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.

Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, 'May the Lord bless you.' I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

“Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night.

Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.



(DEC) NORAD TRACKS SANTA AGAIN

HELLO SANTA, IS THAT YOU?

Last year the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site had 912 million hits from 181 countries. This year, about 500 volunteers - most of them U.S. and Canadian military personnel and their families - will report for telephone-answering duty on Christmas Eve.

But already, youngsters are sending messages to Santa via the NORAD site. E-mails are arriving from India and Ireland and all over the world from children with their wish lists who want to talk to Santa, on average, 200 e-mails a day.”

NORAD Tracks Santa volunteers will answer calls from 2 a.m. MST Dec. 24 to 2 a.m. MST Dec. 25 at 877 446-6723 — toll-free in the United States — or at 719 474-2111.

OK Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma, get the little ones tuned in [http://www.noradsanta.org/index.php ]!



(DEC) OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

THE HASTERT PROTOCOL
December 3rd, 2005
By Russ Vaughn/font>

At last someone has heard our call
We, left behind, we, left to fall.
Our views no longer meet the test
Of what is true and right and best.
Was good enough for our father founders,
But not for multicultural bounders,
Who snidely slide us to the side,
Who denigrate and sly deride,
Dismiss us who would celebrate,
Our beliefs, traditions on this date.

So now we’re truly grateful all,
For Speaker Hastert’s Protocol.
Which speaks for those who truly see
That giant spruce as a Christmas tree.
Not a tree for some vague holiday,
But a tree that truly lights our way,
And signifies for us a season,
That makes us ponder, makes us reason,
And recognizes a spiritual nation,
With a founding Christian orientation.

So Speaker Hastert speaks for me
When he says that is a CHRISTMAS tree;
Not a tree for some vague holiday,
But a tree celebrates our Christian way;
A spirit we share ecumenically,
With Jews and Muslims totally,
And others who believe what ‘ere,
There’re beliefs enough for all to share.
We seek nothing more than God’s blessed life,
Sheltered from a world full of natural strife.

So thanks, Mr. Speaker, for your bold call,
We say God bless you, one and all.
Merry Christmas - Russ Vaughn



(DEC) POLITICALLY CORECT CHRISTMAS

By Byron “Jug” Varner

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.


Excuse me if I seem to be overdoing this… but I take offense at politically correct folks in schools, businesses and government who are going a bit overboard to “not offend” anyone by using the word Christ or Christmas in their cards, advertising and messages this year.

For several years now, school boards and administrators have been party to this ridiculous act, not allowing manger scenes or biblical reference to this religious holiday nor Christmas (oops, sorry about that) trees! Of course, prayer is now a no-no!

Are we fast arriving to the point where the MINORITY rules in America? Constant threats of lawsuits by ACLU and other such minority groups now make folks think twice about standing up against what seems an insidious form of thought control through fear.

As one who served in three wars to defend this nation against tyranny, I strongly believe in the four freedoms, our democratic form of government and the majority rule. Our forefathers founded this nation under God with Christian principles that until now have stood the test of time. We have invited people of all faiths to live with us in peace and harmony, regardless of their religious beliefs (or none at all) but basically we are, and always have been, a Christian nation. I wonder how much longer it will remain so.

At the very least, it is high time the silent majority started speaking up!

John Gibson’s book, “The War on Christmas,” would be a good place to start if you would like to learn what is going on in this regard!

And so, despite all the naysayers, I am proud to wish you a very, very,
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!



(DEC) SANDS OF CHRISTMAS

By Michael Marks, who added:
“I freely submit this poem for reprint without reservation — this is an open and grateful tribute to the men and women who serve every day to keep our nation safe.”
Forwarded by Joe Burdick


I had no Christmas spirit when I breathed a weary sigh,
And looked across the table where the bills were piled too high.
The laundry wasn't finished and the car I had to fix,
My stocks were down another point, the Chargers lost by six.

And so with only minutes till my son got home from school
I gave up on the drudgery and grabbed a wooden stool.
The burdens that I carried were about all I could take,
And so I flipped the TV on to catch a little break.

I came upon a desert scene in shades of tan and rust,
No snowflakes hung upon the wind, just clouds of swirling dust.
And where the reindeer should have stood before a laden sleigh,
Eight Humvees ran a column right behind an M1A.

A group of boys walked past the tank, not one was past his teens
Their eyes were hard as polished flint, their faces drawn and lean.
They walked the street in armor with their rifles shouldered tight,
Their dearest wish for Christmas, just to have a silent night.

Other soldiers gathered, hunkered down against the wind,
To share a scrap of mail and dreams of going home again
There wasn't much at all to put their lonely hearts at ease,
They had no Christmas turkey, just a pack of MREs.

They didn't have a garland or a stocking I could see,
They didn't need an ornament — they lacked a Christmas tree.
They didn't have a present even though it was tradition,
The only boxes I could see were labeled “ammunition.”

I felt a little tug and found my son now by my side,
He asked me what it was I feared, and why it was I cried.
I swept him up into my arms and held him oh so near
And kissed him on the forehead as I whispered in his ear.

“There's nothing wrong, my little son, for safe we sleep tonight
Our heroes stand on foreign land to give us all the right,
To worry on the things in life that mean nothing at all,
Instead of wondering if we will be the next to fall.”

He looked at me as children do and said, “it's always right,
To thank the ones who help us and perhaps that we should write.”
And so we pushed aside the bills and sat to draft a note,
To thank the many far from home, and this is what we wrote:

“God bless you all and keep you safe, and speed your way back home.
Remember that we love you so, and that you're not alone.
The gift you give you share with all, a present every day,
You give the gift of liberty and that we can't repay.”



(DEC) THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS

YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS
Partial reprint from the Nov-Dec 2005 Saturday Evening Post

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

Virginia O’Hanlon (Douglas), born in 1890, earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from Fordham, and had a distinguished career as a teacher and administrator of the New York City school system. But, she is best known as the little girl who wrote a letter asking about Santa Claus.

Years later she recalled, “I asked my father, and he was a little evasive about the subject.

“It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word, or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column of the New York Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the Sun, its so,” and that settled the matter.

“Well, I am just going to write to the Sun and find out the real truth, I said to my father.”

Francis Pharcellus Church, who wrote the editorial, was a Civil War correspondent for the New York Times before he joined the Sun as a writer specializing in theological and controversial subjects.

Mr. Church died in 1906.
The New York Sun died in 1950.
Mrs. Douglas died in 1971 at age 81.
But little Virginia, her letter and the answer she received will live forever in America’s heart:>

Dear Editor:
I am 8 years old.
Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in the Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? - Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia:
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think nothing can be that is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.

In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus!

It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We would have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Clause? You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

No Santa Clause? Thank God, he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. - Francis P. Church



(DEC) TWO HOLIDAY GREETINGS

GREETINGS #1
TO OUR POLITICALLY CORRECT FRIENDS:


Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great… and not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere… and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.”

GREETINGS #2 -
TO OUR FRIENDS WHO STILL BELIEVE IN THE TRUE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT:


Please accept our sincere best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.



(FEB) PRESIDENTS DAY

By Jug Varner

February brings Presidents Day - another in a long line of what I personally consider as needless national holidays. You may have noticed that only government workers have this holiday off. For most of the rest of us it is business as usual.

If I were in charge of setting national holidays, I would limit them to New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. All other categories would be simply a “Remembrance Day,” but governments would not shut down. If people wanted to celebrate any of them, they could do so on their own time and expense.

Obviously I will never be in charge of this, and eventually other national holidays will be added to the list… so let us get back to Presidents Day.

You may have seen the following item about Lincoln and Kennedy before, but it is interesting to review and to contemplate. I do not know its source — it is just one of those things I have kept in my file of oddities over the years.

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were concerned with civil rights.
Both wives lost a child while living in the White House.

Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy's Secretary was named Lincoln.

Southerners named Johnson succeeded both presidents.
Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

Southerners assassinated both.
John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Lincoln was shot at a theater named Ford.
Kennedy was shot in a car named Lincoln, made by Ford.

Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

A week before Lincoln's assassination, he visited Monroe, Maryland.
A week before Kennedy's assassination, he visited Marilyn Monroe.

Sort of spooky, huh?



(FEB) VALENTINES DAY

By Jug Varner

There must be some military valentines out there on the www, but so far I have found none. The closest thing is this military Valentines Day story that JayPMarine e-mailed to me:

Little David came home from first grade and told his father what he had learned about the history of Valentine's Day, then asked, “Since Valentine's Day is for a Christian saint and we're Jewish, will God get mad at me for giving someone a valentine?”

David's father thought a bit, then answered, “No, I don't think God would get mad. Who do you want to give a valentine to?”

“Osama Bin Laden,” the kid replied.

Somewhat taken aback, his father asked, “Why would you want to give one to him?”

“Well,” David explained, “I thought if a little American Jewish boy could have enough love to give Osama a valentine, he might start to think that maybe we're not all bad, and maybe start loving people a little bit. And if other kids saw what I did and sent valentines to Osama, he'd love everyone a lot. And then he'd start going all over the place to tell everyone how much he loved them and how he didn't hate anyone anymore.”

His father's heart swelled and he looked at his boy with newfound pride. “David, that's the most wonderful thing I've ever heard.”

“I know,” David agreed, “and once that gets him out in the open, the Marines could blow him away!”

Aside from that, I found some interesting history about this time-honored day that David probably learned. If you want to know more about it, too, click on the following links:

http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/valentine/ [http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/valentine/]

http://www.mcny.com/luv14.htm [http://www.mcny.com/luv14.htm]

I am sure there are others.

By the way, if you find any military valentines on the web, let me know.



(FEB) VALENTINES DAY 2006

By Jug Varner

Is there a drugstore-shopping American who has never heard of the Whitman's Sampler? I doubt it.

Seems like it's been around forever, and in my youth it was the one gift boys wanted to give their mothers and best girl friends on special occasions - especially Valentine’s Day, when the box was covered in red cellophane.

In retrospect, there is no way its quality (and certainly its cost) would compare with today's Godiva Chocolates or comparable brands, but in its heyday it probably was the top of the nationally marketed candy lines.

Back in those depression era days, when one could buy a hamburger for a nickel, I thought Whitman’s was the ideal gift for a girl. But she had to be very special for a kid to spend 25 cents of his hard-earned money on a box of candy.

I hope your Valentines Day in 2006 was as sweet as some of mine were back then!

Candy has been the most popular Valentines Day gift through the years, and for that special day this year, I thought the following subject might be an interesting change of pace. This collection is unusual, cleverly presented, historic and occasionally humorous… as well as enlightening.

See for yourself by clicking on [http://candywrappermuseum.com/index.html ]CANDY WRAP



(JAN) HAPPY NEW YEAR

Greetings and best wishes for your health, happiness and welfare in the coming NEW YEAR [http://www.icq.com/img/friendship/static/card_16961_rs.swf ]. - Jug



(JAN) FOR THE NEW YEAR

REPRISED RESOLUTIONS
By Larry Miller, reprint of a 2002 article from http://www.weeklystandard.com [http://www.weeklystandard.com]

I used this item last year, but you may not have seen it, so I am reprising it for 2005 as well. It still is a very relevant reminder to the liberal media who report only the bad side of the news, and to all Americans who have a tendency to become too complacent and too impatient in a struggle that may last much longer than we think.

People have been making New Year's resolutions for a long time. Usually they're personal and last no longer than a smoke ring or one of Tom Daschle's smiles. You know the drill: “I'm going to cut down on my drinking, lose a few pounds, and read more books.” Of course, by January 3rd, you get drunk, order a pizza, and buy a satellite dish.

This year, though, my resolutions won't be personal, and they won't look forward. They'll look back. Four months back. As you know, since September 11, our leaders and soldiers have done a fine job, frequently a brilliant job. (I mean, please, how about that Rumsfeld? If he were a woman, I'd — wait. Come to think of it, I'd still do nothing.) I don't even care that so many of our fellow Americans have been contrary and mealy-mouthed.

What makes me want to scream like an actress and throw things is this: Since the attack, I have seen, heard, and read thoughts of such surpassing stupidity that they must be addressed. You've heard them too. Here they are:

“We're not good, they're not evil, and everything is relative.”

Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, and nothing is relative. Say it with me now and free yourselves. You see, folks, saying “We're good” doesn't mean “We're perfect.” Okay? The only perfect being is the bearded guy on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history. If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line to see “The Producers.”

“Violence only leads to more violence.”

This one is so stupid you usually have to be the president of an Ivy League university to say it. Here's the truth, which you know in your heads and hearts already: Ineffective, unfocused violence leads to more violence. Limp, panicky, half-measures lead to more violence. However, complete, fully thought through, professional, well-executed violence never leads to more violence because, you see, afterwards, the other guys are all dead. That's right, dead. Not “on trial,” not “reeducated,” not “nurtured back into the bosom of love.” Dead. D-E—Well, you get the idea.

“The CIA. and the rest of our intelligence community has failed us.”

For 25 years we have chained our spies like dogs to a stake in the ground, and now that the house has been robbed, we yell at them for not protecting us. Starting in the late seventies, under Carter appointee Stansfield Turner, the giant brains who get these giant ideas decided that the best way to gather international intelligence was to use spy satellites. “After all,” they reasoned, “you can see a license plate from 200 miles away.” This is very helpful if you've been attacked by a license plate. Unfortunately, we were attacked by humans. Finding humans is not possible with satellites. You have to use other humans.

When we bought all our satellites, we fired all our humans, and here's the really stupid part. It takes years, decades to infiltrate new humans into the worst places of the world. You can't just have a guy who looks like Gary Busey in a spring break '93 sweatshirt plop himself down in a coffee shop in Kabul and say “Hi ya, boys. Gee, I sure would like to meet that bin Laden fella.” Well, you can, but all you'd be doing is giving the bad guys a story they'll be telling for years.

“These people are poor and helpless, and that's why they're angry at us.”

Uh-huh, and Jeffrey Dahmer's frozen head collection was just a desperate cry for help. The terrorists and their backers are richer than Elton John and, ironically, a good deal less annoying. The poor helpless people, you see, are the villagers they tortured and murdered to stay in power. Mohamed Atta, one of the evil scumbags who steered those planes into the killing grounds (I'm sorry, one of the “alleged hijackers,” according to CNN — they stopped using the word “terrorist,” you know), is the son of a Cairo surgeon. But you knew this, too.

In the sixties and seventies, all the pinheads marching against the war were upper-middle-class college kids who grabbed any cause they could think of to get out of their final papers and spend more time drinking. At least, that was my excuse. It's the same today. Take the Anti-Global-Warming-Or-Is-It-World-Trade-Oh-Who-Knows-What-The-Hell-They-Want demonstrators. They all charged their black outfits and plane tickets on dad's credit card before driving to the airport in their SUV's.

“Any profiling is racial profiling.”

Who's killing us here, the Norwegians? Just days after the attack, the New York Times had an article saying dozens of extended members of the gazillionaire bin Laden family living in America were afraid of reprisals and left in a huff, never to return to studying at Harvard and using too much Drakkar. I'm crushed. I think we're all crushed. Please come back. With a cherry on top?

Why don't they just change their names, anyway? It's happened in the past. Think about it. How many Adolfs do you run into these days? Shortly after that, I remember watching TV with my jaw on the floor as a government official actually said, “That little old grandmother from Sioux City could be carrying something.” Okay, how about this: No, she couldn't. It would never be the grandmother from Sioux City. Is it even possible? What are the odds? Winning a hundred Powerball lotteries in a row? A thousand? A million?

And now a Secret Service guy has been tossed off a plane and we're all supposed to cry about it because he's an Arab? Didn't it have the tiniest bit to do with the fact that he filled out his forms incorrectly three times? And then left an Arab history book on his seat as he strolled off the plane? And came back? Armed?

Let's please all stop singing “We Are the World” for a minute and think practically. I don't want to be sitting on the floor in the back of a plane four seconds away from hitting Mt. Rushmore and turn, grinning, to the guy next to me to say, “Well, at least we didn't offend them.”

So here's what I resolve for the New Year:

To never forget our murdered brothers and sisters.

To never let the relativists get away with their immoral thinking. After all, no matter what your daughter's political science professor says, we didn't start this. Have you seen that bumper sticker that says, “No More Hiroshimas”? I wish I had one that says, “You First. No More Pearl Harbors.”

To be more vigilant and watchful. A good warning sign that these mutts were nuts was when they started dressing their women in heavy-duty, baby blue bubble wrap. Any man who doesn't want to glance at a woman is, by definition, already very easy to talk into killing himself. Then again, to be fair, we haven't seen their women.

To scream, “Keep going!” when everyone else says, “Stop.”

I'll just cut down on my drinking next year. Hell, I really wasn't planning to, anyway.



(JUL) AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Forward by SuzyQ

Happy American Independence Day on July 4th.

Turn up the volume, click and enjoy here [http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=HW44885524 ] and here [http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=JT45565130 ]!



(JUL) AMERICA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

By Jug Varner

Too many Americans simply take freedom for granted. We all need to stop occasionally to realize that our freedom WAS NOT and IS NOT free.

It came at a dear price to those staunch patriots of the American Revolution - many of whom paid for it with losses of properties, families and their lives defending it.

It has come at a dear price to succeeding generations in our history as well. In such times, Americans have stood against tyranny and have given of themselves to retain our precious freedoms - just as they are doing today in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

The 4th of July is more than just a holiday weekend, picnics, beach parties, ball games and cookouts. It is a time to be especially grateful for those who have stood against the “enemies of freedom,” wherever and whenever challenged.

Be thankful to God if you were born free in America, or were able to come to this great nation and become a free citizen.

Think on these things, and then CLICK HERE [http://home.mathbox.com/ken-zoe/Business/fireworks.htm ]



(JUL) DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

A Time for Reflection

declaration3.gifHave you ever wondered what this historic document might be like had it been drafted by today's leaders? Or the Bill of Rights, or the Constitution, for that matter.

With all of the political dissension of modern times, we might never get one with such eloquence of phrasing, such succinct and appropriate wording, such boldness and imagination, or such quick and decisive action. We might never get one at all. To whom among our current leaders would you entrust this noble effort? This certainly gives pause for appreciation of the founding fathers' brilliant achievement, and what better time than the month of July to review it.

Every school kid has been exposed to this document, and most have read it and passed tests on it. How long since you have read it? Could you pass the test? We're not giving a test, but you can renew your acquaintance with this hallowed declaration by clicking here [http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/declara/declara1.html].

If you would like to read the transcript of the Declaration of Independence, click here [http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration.html ].

If you would like to compare it to Thomas Jefferson's “original Rough draught” of The Declaration of Independence, click here [http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/declara/ruffdrft.html].

This would be time well spent.

Byron D. Varner

ANONYMOUS FROM THE INTERNET

Ed Note: The following item on the Internet was sent to Keeping APAce by three different people, none of whom knew its origin. But, regardless of who wrote it (and I hope someone will tell us) it is certainly worthy of your time to read it. One of these added the following preface:

“It bears repeating and remembering that freedom is not free. It also bears remembering that the firewall between us and the loss of that freedom remains the Armed Forces of the United States. Of all the people in America who should be free from political intrigue, these are the most deserving. I wish with all my heart members of the Congress of the United States would take this into consideration and grant them the healthcare they have earned by fighting for and preserving that freedom for us all. It is a very small price to pay for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make.”

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

  • Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.
  • Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.
  • Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army.
  • Another had two sons captured.
  • Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?

  • Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
  • Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
  • Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
  • Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
  • At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
  • Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
  • John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
  • Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government!

Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is never free!

I hope you will show your support by please sending this to as many people as you can. It's time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games.



(JUL) MEANING OF INDEPENDENCE DAY

By Michael Berliner, forwarded to Keeping Apace by J. D. Johnson

Michael Berliner is the former executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute www.aynrand.com [http://www.aynrand.com] promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

America's cities and towns will soon fill with parades, fireworks, and barbecues. They will be celebrating the Fourth of July, the 228th birthday of America. But one hopes that — on this third post-September 11 Independence Day — the speeches will contain fewer bromides and more attention to exactly what is being celebrated. The Fourth of July is Independence Day, but America's leaders and intellectuals have been trying to move us further and further away from the meaning of Independence Day, away from the philosophy that created this country.

What we hear from politicians, intellectuals, and the media is that independence is passé, that we've reached a new age of “interdependence.” We hear demands for mandatory “volunteering” to serve others, for sacrifice to the nation. We hear demands from trust-busters that successful companies be punished for being “greedy” and not serving society. But this is not the message of America. It is the direct opposite of why America became a beacon of hope for the truly oppressed throughout the world. They have come here to escape poverty and dictatorship; they have come here to live their own lives, where they aren't owned by the state, the community, or the tribe.

“Independence Day” is a critically important title. It signifies the fundamental meaning of this nation, not just of the holiday. The American Revolution remains unique in human history: a revolution — and a nation — founded on a moral principle, the principle of individual rights.

Jefferson at Philadelphia and Washington at Valley Forge pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.” For what? Not for mere separation from England, not — like most rebels — for the “freedom” to set up their own tyranny. In fact, Britain's tyranny over the colonists was mild compared to what most current governments do to their citizens.

Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit. Independence was proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence as the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What are these rights?

The right to life means that every individual has a right to his own independent life, that one's life belongs to oneself, not to others to use as they see fit.

The right to liberty means the right to freedom of action, to act on one's own judgment, the right not to have a gun pointed at one's head and be forced to do what someone else commands.

And the right to the pursuit of happiness means that an individual may properly pursue his own happiness, e.g., his own career, friends, hobbies, and not exist as a mere tool to serve the goals of others.

The Founding Fathers did not proclaim a right to the attainment of happiness, knowing full well that such a policy would carry with it the obligation of others to make one happy and result in the enslavement of all to all. The Declaration of Independence was a declaration against servitude, not just servitude to the Crown but servitude to anyone. (That some signers still owned slaves does not negate the fact that they established the philosophy that doomed slavery.)

Political independence is not a primary. It rests on a more fundamental type of independence: the independence of the human mind. It is the ability of a human being to think for himself and guide his own life that makes political independence possible and necessary. The government as envisaged by the Founding Fathers existed to protect the freedom to think and to act on one's thinking. If human beings were unable to reason, to think for themselves, there would be no autonomy or independence for a government to protect. It is this independence that defines the American Revolution and the American spirit.

To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is “the only oracle of man,” and Thomas Jefferson advised us to “fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God.” That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.

Independence is the foundation of America. Independence is what should be celebrated on Independence Day. That is the legacy our Founding Fathers left us. It is a legacy we should keep, not because it is a legacy, but because it is right and just. It has made America the freest and most prosperous country in history.

Copyright © 2004 Ayn Rand® Institute, 2121 Alton Parkway, Suite 250, Irvine, CA, 92606. All rights reserved.

This Op-Ed is copyrighted by the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), and cannot be reprinted without permission except for non-commercial, self-study or educational purposes. We encourage you to forward this Op-Ed to friends, family, associates or interested parties who would want to receive it for these purposes only. Any reproduction of this Op-Ed must contain the above copyright notice. Those interested in reprinting or redistributing this Op-Ed for any other purposes should contact media@aynrand.com. This Op-Ed may not be forwarded to media for publication.



(MAY) MEMORIAL DAY 2004

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: ON MEMORIAL DAY

Every Memorial Day, my sister Marilyn and I would put on our Sunday best and accompany our parents to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx to visit the graves of family members. Like all kids, my sister and I were happy to have the day off from school, and I can't say we were in a solemn frame of mind. But taking part in that annual rite of remembrance gave me my first sense of the importance of honoring those who have gone before.

I grew up and chose a soldier's life. I lost close friends in war. Later, I commanded young men and women who went willingly into harm's way for our country, some never to return. A day doesn't pass that I don't think of them. Paying homage to the fallen holds a deeply personal meaning for me and for anyone who ever wore a uniform.

In 1990, when I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I took my Soviet counterpart, Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, around the United States. I wanted to give him a better understanding of what America is all about. We started in Washington, D.C. I especially wanted to take him to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

But I didn't take him there directly. First, I took him to the Jefferson Memorial. I pointed out a passage from the Declaration of Independence carved into its curved wall. All who have served in our armed forces share its sentiment. “And for the support of this Declaration,” Jefferson wrote, “… we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.” Then I asked the general to look up. Above the statue of Jefferson, in 2-foot-high letters on the base of the monument's dome, is this inscription: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

Here, I said, you see the foundation of America, a nation where “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” I told the general that like Washington, Jefferson and all our Founding Fathers, Americans of every generation are ready to fight and die for those unalienable rights.

Then, to show Gen. Moiseyev the kind of sacrifices Americans are willing to make, I took him to the Lincoln Memorial, where Lincoln's words at Gettysburg are engraved. There, Lincoln said we had fought the bloodiest war in our history so our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom” and so “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” I wanted Gen. Moiseyev to see how sacred those words are to Americans.

I showed the general the final lines of Lincoln's second inaugural address: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan…”

I then walked the general part of the way down the Lincoln Memorial's steps to the place from which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. I explained that the unfinished work of which Lincoln spoke was still unfinished a century later, so from the very spot on which we stood, King challenged his fellow Americans to make the promise of our Founding Fathers come true for all Americans.

Only now was I ready to take Gen. Moiseyev to the Vietnam memorial. We walked the short distance from the Lincoln Memorial to the Wall. I showed the general how to find someone's name on it. I looked up Maj. Tony Mavroudis. Tony and I had grown up together on the streets of New York. We went to college together. We became infantrymen together. And in 1967, on his second tour of duty in Vietnam, Tony was killed. The memorial book directed us to Panel 28 East, and there we found ANTONIO M MAVROUDIS carved into the black granite. It was an emotional moment for me, and not just for me. Gen. Moiseyev reached out gently and touched the Wall. The infantryman in him understood.

Thankfully, our forces no longer face the prospect of war with the Soviet Union. Today, we are cooperating with Russia's evolving democracy and with other former foes against 21st-century dangers common to us all. Today's deadly threats come from rogue powers and stateless networks of extremists who have nothing but contempt for the sanctity of human life and for the principles civilized nations hold dear.

I do not know or care what terrorists and tyrants make of our monuments to democracy and the memorials we dedicate to our dead. What's important is what the monuments and memorials say to us. They can teach us much about the ideas that unite us in our diversity, the values that sustain us in times of trial, and the dream that inspires generation after generation of ordinary Americans to perform extraordinary acts of service. In short, our monuments and memorials tell us a great deal about America's commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

The haunting symbolism of the 168 empty chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the heartbreaking piles of shoes in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the carefully tended headstones bearing crosses, crescents and Stars of David standing row-on-row in Arlington and our other national cemeteries - all speak to the value we place on human life.

The Vietnam Women's Memorial of the three servicewomen and the wounded GI; the Korean War Veterans Memorial's haggard, windblown patrol trudging up the rugged terrain; and the memorial of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima do not glorify war - they testify to the glory of the human spirit.

The Civil War battlefields and the monument in Boston to Robert Gould Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts Regiment of Negro soldiers who rode together into the jaws of death for the cause of justice tell us of the price past generations have paid so we might live in a more perfect union. They remind us also of the work our generation must do.

This Memorial Day weekend, we will join in celebrating the opening of the National World War II Memorial honoring the great generation of Americans who saved the world from fascist aggression and secured the blessings of liberty for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Today, their descendants are fighting the global war against terrorism, serving and sacrificing in Afghanistan and Iraq and at other outposts on the front lines of freedom. The life of each and every one of them is precious to their loved ones and to our nation. And each life given in the name of liberty is a life that has not been lost in vain.

In time, lasting memorials will stand where the Twin Towers once etched New York City's skyline, near the west side of the Pentagon, and in the Pennsylvania field where doomed heroes died on Sept. 11, 2001, using their last moments to save the lives of others and most probably the Capitol or the White House - symbols of our living democracy.

All of us lead busy lives. We have little time to pause and reflect. But I ask of you: Do not hasten through Memorial Day. Take the time to remember the good souls whose memories are a blessing to you and your family. Take your children to our memorial parks and monuments. Teach them the values that lend meaning to our lives and to the life of our nation. Above all, take the time to honor our fellow Americans who have given their last full measure of devotion to our country and for the freedoms we cherish.



(MAY) VETERAN’S MEMORIAL DAY ADDRESS

Delivered by Jim Whittington, MSGT, USAF (Ret).
Memorial Day Speaker, Sumral, MS, 28 May 2005

I am Jim Whittington, MSGT, USAF, Retired. I spent about 22 years on active duty, stationed in various places in this great country and in several overseas locations.

I was in logistics… I was a 1st SGT… I was an instructor… and I finished my military career as chief air traffic controller. My wife and three children returned to our home town of Laurel, MS after I retired. I was self-employed after I retired, and for the last 10-12 years, all that I have done is aggravate Congress, but more about that later.

I have only 3 degrees - grammar school, high school, and Sunday school.

Now for a brief background and history about Memorial Day.

Three years after the Civil War ended on 5 May 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day… a day to decorate the graves of the war dead. That date is disputed. Some local observances in some communities claim to be the first to celebrate this day.

One of the first communities to observe Decoration Day was Columbus, MS - on 25 April 1866. From that locale, a group of ladies from Columbus visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers that had fallen in battle at nearby Shiloh. But, nearby, there were also graves of the Union soldiers, and their graves had also been neglected, so the women from Columbus decorated their graves also.

Now, fast forward 100 years later. The U.S. Congress, in their infinite wisdom, got into the act and made it a national holiday. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, NY as the official birthplace of Decoration Day.

Although celebrated locally in many places, Memorial Day was not declared a national holiday unti again in the infinite wisdom of Congress… you talk about gridlock in Congress (and we thought it just started)… passed a law making Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971. The purpose was to honor those that have fallen in battle from all the wars.

Many people, sad to say of this and immediate past generations, do not really understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. Too many think it is a day off to barbecue and have a picnic. How sad, and yes, that applies to politicians and bureaucrats. It gives them a 30-second sound byte on T.V. or a public relations press release in the newspaper to say how proud they are of the military. They also make remarks such as “We thank you for your services and sacrifices.”

Today, Congress continues to tinker with the earned benefits of veterans and retirees. In fact, Congress does not understand the difference between a retiree and a veteran.

But you who are here today are here for a reason, to honor those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. Taps have sounded for over 1.1 million Americans in uniforms that have died in the nation's wars.

You only hear about the National Arlington Cemetery, but there are 120 national cemeteries in 39 states, and the U.S. operates and maintains 24 burial grounds on foreign soil. The one you hear the most about is located near a place in France called Normandy - where the D-Day invasion took place.

I had the privilege of visiting Normandy and the cemetery when I was stationed in France in 1952. Visiting that site left a profound and lasting impression on me. That impression remains with me to this day. Of course, there is a cemetery close to Iwo Jima and other areas of the Pacific.

Although Memorial Day is set aside to honor the dead from all wars, I'll pick up at World War II. I was only 13 or 14 years old at the time. I can well remember my dad and granddad talking about it. There were 16-plus million Americans in uniform during World War II, and yes, that included women… WACs (the Women's Army Corp), nurses, pilots, and others.

Many of that number paid the ultimate sacrifice. Some of you may have lost a loved one in that war and the other wars since that time… Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Mogadishu, the Balkans, the First Gulf War, and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In time of war, people lose their loved ones. This is a given fact, but the rules of engagement have changed since the early 1940's and World War II. Then, you knew who the enemy was; he was in uniform… and the same with Korea. Then in Vietnam, that began to change when some of the enemy was not in uniform.

Yes, Vietnam started to change some things… and things began to change at home with the likes of “Hanoi Jane.” Ask Jane Fonda. Her actions caused some of our POW's to be beaten, tortured, brutalized, and possibly some of them died because of her actions.

One such individual that was beaten, brutalized, and tortured, but escaped, is my friend Col. George “Bud” Day, Medal of Honor, Air Force, Retired, a lawyer and author. He was in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for 5 ½ years, and his cellmate was Senator John McCain.

Just like in Iraq and Afghanistan today, we are not fighting a uniformed army as such, and they are called insurgents or terrorists today. But make not mistake about it, our military is well trained and disciplined and they will get the job done… just as in World War II. We took the fight to the enemy and destroyed the tyranny of Hitler and his Nazi regime and to the Empire of Japan in the Pacific theater of operations. In fact, after, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, their Admiral Yamamoto said: ” We have awakened a sleeping giant.” How right he was.

That World War II generation has been chronicled by Tom Brokaw in his book, The Greatest Generation.

Off in the distance, you can hear taps being played on the trumpet in the cemeteries and burial sites as these great warriors die off at the rate of 1200-1500 per month.

Now, you are seeing another generation stepping up to the plate to become the “Next Greatest Generation.” They, too, will destroy the insurgents and terrorists that are bent on destroying the United States. But we will prevail. Don't forget that we were attacked on 9/11 just as we were on Dec. 7th 1941.

In closing, and as a reminder if you were in the military during or after World War II, tell your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about your experiences. Write them down for the next generation.

Allow me to leave you with a few thoughts from an unknown author:

Veterans love freedom more than life.

We have pride in America and Old Glory.

We believe in true patriotism.

We believe in defending and saluting our flag.

Veterans are a special breed, the cream of the crop, #1 Americans, our nation's best, mentally, morally, and physically.

I happen to believe that we still are.

If you love freedom, free speech, printed or unspoken, uncensored press, printed or visual, and the right to vote for or against our leaders, thank a veteran.

If you enjoy the right to assemble, worship God according to the dictates of your own conscience, in the church of your choice, thank a veteran.

If you treasure the right to own property, real or personal, or travel, thank a veteran.

If you like having a fair chance to work in a decent place for decent wages to provide for you and your family a decent, dignified life, thank a veteran.

If you like living in the one country on Earth with the most freedom, with the best free schools, most churches, with the best health care now causing us to live 10, 20, 30 years longer than our parents, thank a veteran.

If you like our moral standards, our family values, our faith in God, and not be put in jail for living it, thank a veteran.

If you hate wars and love living in peace, thank a veteran.

Veterans have a common bond, friendship, and brotherhood others might not understand. It's our shared experiences. We know. We care. Veterans believe in helping each other.

Out motto is: “We honor our dead by helping the living,” and “We serve our God best when we help others most.”

Veterans are members of a winning team. We proved to the world dictators that the colors in Old Glory don't run.

Why did all the people go into uniform and some of them pay the ultimate sacrifice? To sum it up in the words of General Douglas McArthur, when he gave his final speech to the class of cadets at West Point… DUTYHONORCOUNTRY!

Thank you.

E-Mail [mailto:jimw8869@megagate.com ]



(MAY) WAKE UP, PATRIOTS

The following timely note was forwarded by a friend (slightly edited by Jug):

During World War II, the Japanese developed a way to demoralize the American forces. Psychological warfare experts developed a message they felt would work.

They gave the script to their famous broadcaster, Tokyo Rose and every day she would broadcast this same message packaged in different ways, hoping it would have a negative impact on American GI's morale.

What was that demoralizing message? It had three main points:

1. Your President is lying to you.
2. This war is illegal.
3. You cannot win the war.

Does this sound familiar?

Is it because Tokyo Hillary, Tokyo Harry, Tokyo Teddy, Tokyo Nancy, et al, have picked up the same message and are broadcasting it to our troops via TokyoCNN, TokyoABC, TokyoCBS, TokyoNBC?

The only difference is that they claim to support our troops before they demoralize them (“We support the troops, but not the war” - what kind of support is that?).

Come to think of it, Tokyo Rose told the troops she was on their side, too!

MEMORIAL DAY 2006
By Jug Varner

graves.jpgMemorial Day is America's way
to honor its servants of war;
The active, reserve, civilians who serve,
And all who have gone before.

On 9-11 we became one as a nation,
after that Muslim attack.
With patriot resolve for retaliation,
We invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Smoke hardly had cleared from the tower debris
Before politicos started their game
Of accusing stingers and pointing fingers
Trying to establish their blame.

“It was all Bush's fault,” said these Liberal snobs,
Especially their Democrat leaders;
Who, with deftness expedia, and their liberal Media,
Quickly jumped in the fray as the seeders.

They have kept up this “cry wolf” approach to this day,
Damning Bush - seeking return to power.
Their only alternative program is “smear” -
No support to our needs at this hour.

This hour of history goes on day by day
and Bush is the Devil, they claim.
Our only hope is to wake up and see
That they never accomplish their game!

Yes, Memorial day is to honor the troops
But for some it just means “holiday” -
No wreath laying, or no saluting our flag - just bar-b-ques, picnics and play.

Wake up, you patriots, to what's going on,
Let your voices be great revelation.
Internal strife is a threat to the life
And downfall of our wonderful nation.



(NOV) HOLIDAY BIRDS

November honors two birds, vastly different in makeup and purpose. One is most prominent on Veteran's Day. The other one stars on Thanksgiving Day. November was recently designated “National Peanut Butter Month,” but that is unlikely to have any effect on the traditional meal.

Back in the late 1700s, Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey was such a noble bird that he lobbied strongly for its selection as our national symbol. The other movers and shakers of that time couldn't see anything worthy about the turkey except as a food source. The majority favored a keen-eyed hunter that soared high above the earth – the bald eagle. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward 200+ years and the bald eagle is bordering on extinction except in photos and graphic arts, but the turkey is alive and well, and with scientific breeding evolution has had its white meat enlarged, its tenderness enhanced, and it now poses as a great alternative for beef. Maybe old Ben's idea was just too far ahead of its time.

Of course, old baldy still maintains year-round top billing as our national symbol. He's a fierce looking, tough old bird with the unmistaken aura of one that is master of all he surveys. Have you ever tasted roasted eagle? Of course you haven't.

As the saying goes, “It's hard to soar with eagles when you hang out with a bunch of turkeys.”



(NOV) THANKSGIVING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, on this Thanksgiving week, we beseech you to continue your great blessings on this nation, founded in your name, and for your Divine support and guidance in the future.

Help us to know the true meaning of “one nation under God,” that we may heal the rifts of political anger and improve our individual efforts for worthiness to receive your great blessings.

And we pray that you will protect our Commander-in-Chief and the patriots serving in the Armed Forces who willingly offer their lives, if necessary, in the defense of “freedom and justice for all.”

Amen.



(NOV) “NO-THANKS-GIVEN” DAY

By an unknown contributor who signed it only as “Jim”
Forwarded by p38bob and reprinted here as a public service to those who still adhere to the original principles of democracy.

Friday following Thanksgiving, should be designated as: “No-Thanks-Given” Day. On this holiday we would identify particular organizations, movements, individuals, media, etc., which, over the decades have earned our deepest ingratitude, and contempt.

Here are my nominees for the inaugural dishonors:

The U.S. Congress: For its unyielding cowardice and profligacy. For never looking back, and never learning from the societal, cultural, security, and fiscal wreckage which their earlier “works” and programs have produced. That is, except when these tawdry masters of self-interest rise in phony outrage to blame others for the calamities which they themselves have either created or exacerbated.

Despite its shameful, bi-partisan history of catastrophic failure and comic ineptitude, the Senate and House, which substitute soaring hubris and empty oration for achievement, treat themselves with a regal lavishness unseen in the annals of democracy. This is vividly demonstrated, not only by the imperial pay, perks and prerogatives they continue to will onto themselves, but also by an obscene increase of 40% [almost triple the inflation rate], that Congress has regally spent on itself over the last five years.

In a time of extraordinary public debt and expenditure demands for Defense, and Intelligence, these unconscionable, budget-busting, porkmeisters have decreed that we must pay an ever higher annual premium for their extraordinary “public service”.

The U.S. Congress, consisting of America's pre-eminent legislative bodies, the hallowed temples of the “permanent government”, the dissolute holders of the national check-book, is also the central government's most counter-productive and irresponsible entity. The more they speak the less we believe. They more they spend, the worse we become. The longer they shirk their real duties, the closer they march the nation to the abyss.

Are there any good members? Sure. They're meeting over there in a phone booth.

The Federal Education Syndicate: Is there really any reason to continue to fund and encourage the continuance of a federal function, which, without Constitutional endorsement, the central government illegally took onto itself? Especially when it can be mathematically demonstrated that the money spent on said function, has succeeded only in continually and tragically degrading the function's very nature. And this while also polluting the national culture and sabotaging the future of us all?

Of course in a true democracy the majority's thundering shouts of “No!”, in answer to this question would result in major reform.

In America's “democracy” though, the arrogant, permanent government's response, is further expansion, increased waste, and more devastation. Can the Federal government give the American citizenry, “the finger”? Haven't you been watching?

Since Jimmy Carter made his gift of the Department of Education to the teachers unions which enabled his disastrous election, the DOE budget has gone from $14 billion to $57 billion. But that's not bad enough. Over the intervening years, 5 or 6 other agencies have horned their way into position at the “education” trough. So now the overall 2006 expenditure is closer to $130 billion. And still Kennedy and his packs of leftist jackals yap that we are short-changing education. Maybe we are. But we sure aren't short-changing the parasitic bureaucracies that devour 80 or 90 cents of every one of these dollars, before it can reach the classroom!

But money is actually the least of this problem. Just as Congress is about waste, fecklessness, and re-election, “Education” is about waste, payoffs, and indoctrination. So, even though children continue to slide, when it comes to the acquisition of the necessary knowledge and skills once provided by traditional education; they are extraordinarily well-versed in the codes of the Left. In the dumbed-down classrooms of “the mighty Beltway school marm”, fewer than 50% now possess even a basic understanding of American history. All are expert though, when it comes to women's “reproductive rights”, the civil rights “struggle, the distorted history of slavery, the separation of Church and State, how Clinton was “abused” in Office, how Bush “stole” the 2000 election, and America's legacy of “imperialism” against “indigenous peoples”.

The D.O.E.'s exalted founding goal of: “Promoting educational excellence for all Americans” vanished along with, “the 3 “Rs”.

Federal education is now nothing more than a taxpayer financed cabal of unions, pandering bureaucrats, and Marxist radicals. In close concert, they aggressively promote valueless secularism, and the toxic creeds of one-world, one-gender, and blame America first. Traditional education, with it's implied search for truth has been defeated.

The life-forming lessons of virtue's triumph over evil, the affirmation of the good over the bad, have been replaced by the Clintonian scripture: personal responsibility is anachronistic. Society or “the village” always have the obligation to provide. Immorality is inevitable, and not subject to judgment. In fact, it is to be embraced.

A lot of good all of this will do them, when hordes of these ignorant iPod, X-Box, hip-hop, cell-phone dunces seek to take a productive place in what will then remain, of our formerly civilized society.

In summary: Whether due to their pride, puffery, indifference, or treachery, there are “No Thanks Given” to either of these nominees, on this day… or on any other.

Jim



(OCT) CARVE A PUMPKIN

Thanks to p38bob

This may be a bit late for Halloween, but save it for future fun and games for your kids or grandkids.

Carve here. [http://www.cubpack81.com/images/carve_pumpkin.swf ]

And for good measure, you may want to check out and save this site. [http://www.halloween.com/ ]



(SEP) LABOR DAY

Source: United States Department of Labor

How Labor Day Came About and What It Means

“Labor Day differs in every essential from the other holidays of the year in any country,” said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. “All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.”

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers. Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, l883.

In l884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen's holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in l885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 2l, l887. During the year four more states - Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York - created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday - a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership - the American worker.