Tag Archive: memorial day

Memorial Day 2015

My father Alex Efthim was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, combat intelligence, Pacific Theater, World War II. He always taught me in any peace march to find the veterans and walk behind them. I always have. My father was a member of Veterans for Peace, and his idea of peace was about human rights and justice. So is mine.

doc4d2b606c29a091703548121My friend Michael McPhearson now runs Veterans for Peace; he served in the Gulf War. For a while, Michael lived in New Jersey while his wife Deborah Jacobs ran ACLU-NJ. Now they’re in St. Louis, and after Mike Brown was killed, were on the ground in Ferguson. This is Michael’s Facebook status of a couple days ago, and I find it about perfect. I hope you find a way today to honor those who never came home, and to let your concern for living veterans move to action on their behalf. This is Michael:

Teaneck Politics Takes an Uglier Turn

I had some nasty flashbacks this past week. All the way back to 2005. That was around the time that the soon to be convicted Boss Tweed of Bergen County – Joe Ferriero – attempted to turn Non-Partisan Township of Teaneck into his own personal fiefdom.

Judging from what just happened in Teaneck last week, those awful poisonous seeds planted 8 years ago by Boss Joe, and which I have blogged about in the past, have come to fruition.  In fact some of them are sitting on the Council as we speak.  

Memorial Day 2012 Open Thread

Ledger tells us Memorial Day’s fading. I suspect it’s true. I don’t ever miss it. But the crowds are older and fewer even if returning vets are still young, (not as young as before they left). This is an open thread. Do we need to update this? Does it matter anymore?

I learned two things about Memorial Day; one from my father, one from some old guys I never met before.

Turns out, they were the same. My father –  Army Air Corps captain, combat intelligence, Pacific Theater, WWII, anti-war activist, veterans advocate – said if you want to know a country, look at how it treats 2 groups; its prisoners and its vets. I’ll leave the culture of incarceration for another day; to a degree we put many of the same people at risk for both, each with a whole class of tycoons itching to make a profit off them. Another day.

My father always flew the flag today. Not because he cared about the damned flag, but as a signal that when vets saw it, they’d see support at our house. He was an organizer in the early American Veterans Committee, fighting for jobs, education, desegregation.

After my father died, Joey & I went to Memorial Day in Plantation, FL during Bush’s War. These old guys were on fire. Railed against the war, needless risk of young lives, Halliburton raking in a fortune, idiocy of Americans conned into believing Saddam ordered the 9/11 planes. They said: If you really care about the soldiers, don’t waste their lives. See to it their families aren’t struggling. When they get home, give a damn about their health and their rough patches. Jobs. Education. Training.

So here’s the thing for me: I hate war, but I can’t think of any better use for my taxes than making sure vets get good health care for the rest of their lives. Including mental health care for those who carry the war home, PTSD research/care, aggressive suicide prevention. Gay people’s service must be respected; women can bring value to the military. I wish we had a manufacturing sector to employ people, but we don’t make stuff anymore. We do, however, need infrastructure and both vets and non-vets need living wage jobs.

I can’t begin to understand what a military family goes through. I do know that patriotism is empty if it never moves beyond pageantry. Priorities, policy and funding are where it lives. Thanks, to all vets.

Marking Memorial Day In Baristaville

For some reason the blokes and babes on the other side of the political spectrum seem to think they have a stranglehold on Patriotism. This past weekend I had the opportunity for a photo assignment for Baristanet documenting Memorial Day celebrations in the area. I’m not sure I gave the editors what they expected, but the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I thought I’d share the link to the item on Baristanet which proves that even Progressives know a think or two about patriotism and service to country.


Memorial Day Open Thread

I’m not a vet, so for me this day is about Captain Alex and Private Bernie. Alex Efthim of the Army Air Corps 1941-45, combat intelligence, Pacific Theater, WWII. And Bernie Novick, USArmy, Artillery, European Theater. They’re both gone. But they saved the world, and you don’t get to talk me out of that.

My cousin Tom. Tom had a low draft number during Viet Nam. He was horrified having to face even training to kill people he had no argument with. His parents thought that was disgraceful. One day, he walked into a local store, bought a rifle and some bullets, and killed himself instead.

My Uncle Billy died in the trench war of the Hurtgen Forest 1945. His mom worried no one would remember him, and think to say his name – my Uncle Billy.

Bill Martin. Never told us he had a Silver Star and Purple Heart in Korea. On the day he died, I was traveling with a film crew from Daily Kos, and Linda Stender had Max Cleland campaigning with her, for vets. Max told me that the ones who get to live through their wars never think they’re the heroes. He knew without my telling him Bill thought the only heroes were the ones who never made it home.

The wars of my lifetime have been especially rough. Most of them have been wastes of lives and treasure. But now we also need to worry about the ones we get back, but are not the same. And I want my tax dollars to go to repairing not only their physical bodies, with top-flight everything. But also heal their soldiers’ souls, because we’re getting back too many of these guys and women who can’t make awful war go away in their minds. I want my tax dollars to fill in all the cracks so they don’t fall through them. That’s for you, Coleman Bean of East Brunswick.

So, here’s to the ones who never got to come home. And an extra measure for those that did, but are missing buddies today. Here’s to the hope they all come home soon.

This is an Open Thread.

Beyond the suspension of disbelief

Promoted by Rosi Efthim

Rosi asked me a few days ago to write something about Memorial Day, and I told her I didn’t want to. I don’t think most people really care much about our soldiers and I don’t want to play a part in assuaging guilty consciences.  Or worse – granting assurance to those who believe that any cost is worth paying, so long as it is paid by someone else.

The truth is that we don’t honor our soldiers. There will be a few dozen parades in the state in their name (I’m giving a generous guess…it isn’t like anyone actually promotes their Memorial Day Parade). I would guess that much, much fewer than 1% of the population will participate or even watch one. Now, understand that I think watching a parade is a pretty pathetic way to honor our soldiers, and such an insignificant minority of people will do it that it begs for comparison with Christians who attend church only on Christmas…except that Christmas is celebrated in many other ways and there are always a few who really seek deeper meaning in the traditions and pageantry.

Memorial Day Reflections: Lessons Learned by a Latter-Day Soldier

Tod is a candidate for Congress in NJ-5. Promoted by Rosi Efthim

My military service best falls under the heading better late than never.  I had hoped to enter the Army or Marine Corps after college but acquiesced to my parents’ wishes to attend law school.  It meant a great deal to them as I would be the first “professional” in our family.  Upon graduating law school in 1987, I once again flirted with entering the military.   Unfortunately, my father suffered a massive heart attack that summer and I opted to take care of my family.  Two decades later, I would be given another chance to give something back to my country as a soldier.

In January 2007, I was commissioned into the New York Guard (the “Guard”) as a 1st Lieutenant.  The Guard was created during WWI in response to homeland security concerns.  The prospect of German U-boats surfacing off the shores of Long Island and Brooklyn were enough to have the State of New York charter what amounted to a State Militia.  The Guard allowed men and women such as me who were too old to serve in the “regular” armed forces an opportunity to participate in domestic defense initiatives.  

I had initially attempted to enter the Guard in 2004, but the particular unit I was applying through made errors with my paperwork.  I was frustrated, yet never gave up the dream I harbored since childhood.  In 2006, I reconnected with the Guard through a fellow attorney who served as recruitment coordinator for the 7th Civil Affairs Regiment.  I told my wife that I wanted to join and explained the nature of and duties inherent in the Guard.  I also told her how much this meant to me.  With her blessing, I entered the Guard.

My unit is a remarkable collection of men and women.  Our personnel include Judges, partners at major New York law firms, attorneys from various backgrounds and non-professionals who bring myriad experiences to bear in performing their duties.  We receive no compensation for our service and provide anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000 in legal services to soldiers and their families every year.  We also receive training in numerous areas of homeland defense.  I have received certifications in suicide bombing prevention and response along with completing nearly a dozen learning modules in emergency preparedness.  I have also been trained at a very basic level in dealing with weapons of mass destruction.  

This training is critical given that I and my comrades are first and foremost soldiers.  The fact that I work just a few blocks from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan brings a sense of immediacy to my service.  My BDUs (battle dress uniform) often hang in my office and I have made my peace that in the event we are attacked again, I will put them on and do whatever is necessary to protect our nation and save as many lives as possible.      

My tenure in the Guard has had an indelible impact on how I view not only war, but peace.  When my unit travels to Fort Hamilton, Floyd Bennett Field or some other military facility to perform what we affectionately refer to as “will drills,” we are confronted with a reality most Americans never witness.  It is a sobering experience to sit down with a young man or woman to discuss things like the disposition of their remains or draft a health care proxy in the event they return from Iraq or Afghanistan incapable of making decisions regarding medical care.  It is heart rending to make small talk with a twenty-year-old about how he wants his kid brother to get his prized hot rod if he doesn’t make it back.  Even more difficult is addressing issues involving children and what happens to them when mommy or daddy comes home in a flag-draped casket.  

Our soldiers are not action movie characters or cartoonish fodder for our entertainment.  They are flesh and blood.  They are our brothers and sisters.  They are our sons and daughters.  They have precious dreams that they sacrificially defer in order to preserve our liberties.  I often find myself looking for a quiet place amidst the frenzy of our legal services operation to bow my head, say a prayer and shed some tears at the prospect that some of these soldiers will not be coming home or that their lives will be forever changed by the hell that is war.  That their families will sit down for Christmas dinners to come with an empty place setting that will never be filled.  That their children will grow up never knowing their mothers or fathers.  That they will leave a piece of their soul in an Iraqi desert or Afghani mountain range.

Sending servicemen and women into the line of fire is the most solemn decision any elected official will ever make.  Before such a decision is made, it is incumbent upon those in power to consider exactly what they are placing at risk.  I subscribe to a very simple standard for whether to commit troops to the field – would I send my own son or daughter to fight.  Most politicians could not answer this question in the affirmative.  Yet they wrap themselves in the flag and reflexively send other people’s children across the globe to fight for causes not worthy of their own progeny’s blood.  I hope there is a special corner of hell carved out for these hypocrites.  

My service in the Guard has, more than anything, taught me to value our troops at a very human level.  I pray on this Memorial Day that I never discount who they are for the sake of political expedience.

Tod Theise

Democratic Candidate for Congress

5th District – NJ        

Support the Troops

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi Efthim

Cross posted at deciminyan

Every day of the year, our uniformed military sacrifices life and limb to fulfill the missions that we assign to them. Yet on only one day per year, Memorial Day, do we formally recognize these sacrifices. We do so with parades, flags, speeches, and barbecues. During the rest of the year, we may send care packages and drive around with magnetic yellow ersatz ribbons on our cars, but for the most part unless we have a loved one serving in the war zones, we go about our business and the soldiers are largely forgotten. Despite the fact that we are in the longest war in American history, news from the front is relegated to the back pages – after the headlines about Dancing with the Stars or the sexual proclivities of a politician.

While we say we “support the troops”, do we really? We send them to an ill-conceived war without adequate body armor. We put them unnecessarily in harm’s way by spending millions of dollars on corrupt or incompetent contractors who provide unsafe facilities that electrocute our servicemen and women. We go through eight years of Bush Reaganomics which wrecks the economy, making service in the military not “voluntary” but rather the “employer of last resort” for some. We stretch our troops so thin that they are cruelly redeployed for three, four, and five tours after they have bravely served our nation. We kick out motivated, well-trained, and well-qualified troops simply because of their sexual orientation.

So how can we support the troops this Memorial Day? Certainly we should continue sending care packages and displaying ribbons on our automobiles, whether or not these activities are symbolic or meaningful. More importantly, we need to realize that the nation is at war, and the justification for that war is subject to debate. If it weren’t for vigorous debate and endless protest, the war in Vietnam might have stretched out several more years, killed more Americans, and had the same outcome. It would be a fitting tribute to our troops if, by next Memorial Day, they were all home and the billions of dollars that we are throwing into overseas wars were spent here in America on deficit reduction, jobs, health care, and education for our veterans and for all Americans.

Honoring the sacrifices on Memorial Day

There have been plenty of events this long holiday weekend to honor the service of our military. Elected officials and candidates have and will participate in ceremonies, events and parades to commemorate the service, but perhaps the most significant occurs today when our National Guard troops begin to return home from Iraq.

Memorial DaySergeant Christian Bueno-Galdos, who was among five gunned down on May 11 and was laid to rest on Saturday, will have a headstone bearing his name dedicated at the Hayden Heights Veterans War Memorial today.  The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation is holding its Memorial Day ceremony at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel Township.

Thousands gathered at the state Memorial Day ceremony at Brig. Gen. W illiam C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Provinceline Road in North Hanover on Saturday to remember the sacrifices made.Towns throughout Salem County planned to hold observances to mark Memorial Day. Along with individual events in municipalities, they had a countywide remembrance ceremony at the Salem County Veterans Cemetery in Pilesgrove Township. At the cemetery, following the memorial service, officials dedicated the new committal shelter there.

Memorial Day Governor Corzine and Major General Glenn Rieth attended the Department of Military & Veteran’s Affairs Annual Memorial Day Ceremony at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, N.J. (Thank you to Tim Larsen in the Governor’s office for some great photos)

On Saturday in Newark, we saw Mayor Cory A. Booker, Congressman Payne, Assemblywoman Tucker, G.I. Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous, other City dignitaries, and Newark veterans observe Memorial Day and honor the City’s fallen warriors with a flag raising at City Hill:

“We will welcome our brothers and sisters home with more than hugs and pats on the back. We will welcome them home with actions and deeds,” Mayor Booker said. “The men and women from Newark who have worn our country’s uniform and sacrificed their lives paid the highest price for the freedoms and liberties we enjoy. We must remember their sacrifice and the values they manifested in their lives – courage, honor, and commitment to country,”

The Go fund sounds like a pretty good initiative as the partnership connects Newark veterans of all generations to health care, job training, career development, and benefits programs. The Courier Post has created an interactive map of South Jersey War Memorials. The Daily Record has a listing of events and parades in Morris County. Senator Menendez in his statement honored the veterans but focused on what is being done by Congress to assist:

In Congress, we are working to reverse shortcomings in our Veterans Affairs system that became painfully evident since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are also working to implement responsible foreign policy. We have passed into law a GI Bill for the 21st Century that allows our servicemen and women to get quality educations. As part of the economic recovery package this year, we made investments in VA medical facilities and cemeteries, in a more efficient Veterans benefits and services system and in supporting Veterans and their survivors during this economic crisis. Personally, I have championed investments in State Veterans Cemeteries to ensure that the Greatest Generation has respectable final resting places. These are just some of the actions we are taking and will continue to take to support our troops and veterans. They deserve nothing less.

While that all sounds great and I appreciate his efforts, everyone acknowledges that much more has to be done. There are numerous challenges facing our returning veterans that make it home safely. I’m sure there are plenty more events and ceremonies going on in the state that I wasn’t able to mention, but are no less significant. Thank you to our military members, their family and friends for their sacrifices on this Memorial Day.