Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, also commonly referred to as VE Day, which was a public holiday celebrated on May 8th in 1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the United States and the Allied powers of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers, resulting in the end of the World War II in Europe. Beginning on that day, airplanes flying overhead meant celebration and the return of good times instead of fear and destruction.

During today’s bike ride I had the opportunity to stop and watch an unusual event to mark this anniversary. In celebration of the anniversary of VE Day, and to honor the heroes who fought in the War, as well as other members of our country’s “greatest generation” who contributed to the war effort on the home front by building the aircraft, tanks and ships that enabled the United States and its Allies to win the war, there was a flyover event above the national capitol city today. And the airplanes flying overheard today to celebrate the victorious end of the war were some of the same aircraft that flew 70 years ago.

The event was named “Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover,” and featured more than 50 World War II-era bombers, and fighters and trainers. Included in today’s flyover was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress nicknamed Fifi, the only known model still flying, which was the type of plane that dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Also among today’s airplanes were B-25 Mitchell bombers, which were adapted for the aircraft carrier Hornet for the Doolittle Raid over Japan. Dick Cole, who will turn 100 years old this fall, and who was co-pilot of the first bomber flying off the Hornet, was in attendance today. A TBM Avenger also participated today. It led a “missing man” formation, and was scheduled to be flown by Congressman Samuel Bruce “Sam” Graves, Jr., with Congressman Theodore Edward “Todd” Rokita riding along as a passenger.  The Avenger is the type of plane flown during the war by George H.W. Bush, who was the event’s honorary chairman.

Flying just 1,000 or so feet off the ground over the city’s highly restricted airspace where aircraft are otherwise prohibited, the planes flew south along the Potomac River flew down the Potomac River, turned left at The Lincoln Memorial and followed Independence Avenue along the south side of the National Mall and over The National World War II Memorial, where there was a large assemblage of World War II veterans gathered at the Memorial for a special ceremony honoring them.  The aircraft then banked right away from the U.S. Capitol Building and turned south again and flew along the Potomac River.  As they passed over the city the aircraft flew in over a dozen historically sequenced warbird formations that were designed to commemorate the War’s major battles, from Pearl Harbor through the final air assault on Japan, and concluding with a missing man formation to “Taps.”

It was a near perfect day for an air show, with very few clouds in the skies and clear visibility.  The flyovers were scheduled to start at 12:10pm, and started right on schedule.  By that time I had found a shady spot under some trees near the Lincoln Memorial, where I sat back with some blueberry ice tea and then watched the show.  It lasted approximately an hour, and then I had to head back to my office.  And it’s a good thing I was on a bike, because traffic downtown was nearly gridlocked from the thousands of people who came to see the show.

After the flyover was over, some of the airplanes flew to Dulles Airport where they will be on display tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  I did not ride my bike out there to see them though because it’s about 60 miles, and my lunch breaks are not long enough for that far of a bike ride.

[Click on the thumbnails below to view the full size photos]
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The Pentagon

The D.C. area is not only home to the largest library in the world, it is also home to the world’s largest office building.  Located just outside of D.C., across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia (MAP), that building is The Pentagon, and it is where I rode on this bike ride.

The Pentagon was dedicated on January 15, 1943, after ground was broken for construction two and a half years earlier, ironically on September 11th.  It is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, although it was not initially intended to be.  In the 1930’s,  President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned another building for the War and Navy departments, but they quickly outgrew that space. That’s when a new building was commissioned. The old War Department building is now the State Department.

The Pentagon also serves as a symbol of the U.S. military.  “The Pentagon” is often used metonymically (which is today’s vocabulary work of the day, and is defined as “a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept”) to refer to the Department of Defense, rather than the building itself.

Although it remains the world’s largest office building, The Pentagon currently ranks only 12th in the world, and 2nd in the U.S., of all buildings in terms of floor area, with approximately about 6.5 million sq ft, of which 3.7 million sq ft are used as offices. (Dubai International Airport is the largest in the world, and The Palazzo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is the largest in the U.S.)

Over 23,000 military and civilian employees and non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. It has five sides, five floors above ground, two basement levels, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of corridors. It is thought of as one of the most efficient office buildings in the world. Despite the 17.5 miles of corridors it takes only seven minutes to walk between any two points in the building. The Pentagon covers 34 acres of land and includes a five-acre central plaza, which is shaped like a pentagon and informally and ironically known as “ground zero,” a nickname originating during the Cold War and based on the presumption that the Soviet Union would target one or more nuclear missiles at this central location in the outbreak of a nuclear war.

The Federal government paid just over $52 million for the land and to construct the massive building.  And under the oversight of General Leslie R. Groves, who also oversaw the Manhattan project,  building of the Pentagon was accomplished in just two years.   After the September 11, 2001 attacks, it cost $501 million dollars just to repair the damage.  And it has had one major renovation since it opened its doors in 1943.  That renovation was completed in 2011, cost $4.5 billion, and took 17 years to finish.

Some other interesting facts and figures about The Pentagon include the following. If you chopped off the Empire State Building at its base and laid it across the top of the Pentagon, it would not reach from end to end. And the Pentagon has twice as much office space as the Empire State building.  The Pentagon has 284 rest rooms, twice the number needed due to being built when racial segregation laws requiring separate facilities still existed. It also has 691 drinking fountains, including the legendary “purple water fountain.” The building was originally designed without elevators, to save on steel, but has 131 stairways and 19 escalators. The Pentagon has 16,250 light fixtures which require 250 new bulbs daily. It has its own post office, dry cleaner, barbershop, nail salon, shoe repair shop, gymnasium, clinic, florist, and even a DMV.  It also has a CVS, a Best Buy and an Adidas store. The Pentagon has plenty of dining options as well, including two Starbucks, three Subways, and a restaurant staff of 230 persons who work in 1 dining room, 2 cafeterias, and 6 indoor and 1 outdoor snack bars. The Pentagon also has: 4,200 clocks in the hallways; 7,754 windows, and; 16 parking lots with approximately 8,770 parking spaces. Over 200,000 telephone calls are made daily through phones connected by 100,000 miles of telephone cable. The building’s Post Office handles about 1.2 million pieces of mail monthly.  And, out of 210 countries in the world, the Pentagon consumes more oil per day than all but 35 countries.

The public can access The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, which is located on the grounds to the southwest of the building.  However, because it is a military facility, access to the building and other areas can be restricted.  But guided tours are available.  The Pentagon Tour includes a 60-minute presentation and a 1.49 mile walk through the building, and it is well worth the time.

The Society of the Cincinnati

The Society of the Cincinnati

While on a recent bike ride in the Embassy Row area along Massachusetts Avenue in northwest D.C., I saw a statue of George Washington on the front lawn of what appeared to be an embassy. Wondering what country’s embassy would be displaying a statue of the father of this country, I stopped to check it out. It turns out that it is not an embassy after all. Rather, it is Anderson House, also known as Larz Anderson House.  Mr. Anderson was an American businessman, diplomat and philantropist, and the Beaux Arts-style mansion was he and his wife’s winter residence during the Washington social season.  Mr. Anderson was also a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, and after his death his wife, Isabel Anderson, donated the house to the Society.  It now houses the headquarters, library, and museum of the Society of the Cincinnati.

The Society of the Cincinnati is this country’s oldest patriotic organization, and the oldest lineage society in North America.  It was founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolutionary War.  The Society’s original purpose was to promote knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of American independence, preserve the ideals and foster fellowship among the American Revolutionary War officer members who founded it, and to pressure the government to honor pledges it had made to officers who fought for American independence.

Now in its third century, the modern Society at Anderson House is a nonprofit historical, diplomatic, and educational organization devoted to the principles and ideals of its founders. Its mission is to promote public interest in the American Revolution through its library and museum collections, exhibitions, programs, publications, and other activities.

Anderson House is located at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), between 21st and 22nd streets along Embassy Row in the heart of northwest D.C.’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. The Society encourages the public to visit Anderson House and to use the library, attend a lecture, tour the museum, or view one of the exhibitions. Museum Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., and library Hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  And although it is a privately-owned museum and library, admission is free.

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When riding a bike around the city, you just never know what you’re going to encounter. This is particularly true when it comes to the variety of vehicles which can be found parked on the streets. A couple of examples of this are these armored personnel carriers/assault vehicles, which I saw on one of my recent lunchtime rides. Happening upon these vehicles caused me to think about a couple of political issues that have been in the news as of late.

The first issue pertains to the Department of Defense Excess Property Program (also known as the 1033 Program), which is authorized under Federal law and managed through the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The program is intended to provide surplus military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.

The program has recently been in the news in the wake of a grand jury’s exoneration of the police officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, when police officers wore combat gear and used armored vehicles and military-style equipment to respond to the protesters and rioters. The attention this garnered prompted The White House to undertake a study of the program, during which it was revealed that the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, and the Office of National Drug Control are also involved in providing small arms, vehicles, logistical support, and monetary grants to police departments around the country. The issue currently remains ongoing and in the public eye.

Another issue currently in the news is what is considered by many to be the alarming rate at which the Federal government is arming and equipping Federal agencies. An example of this is the recent news stories about how the Department of Homeland Security is contracting to purchase up to 1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition, along with 7,000 fully-automatic weapons including 30-round high-capacity magazines.  To put that amount of ammunition into perspective, at the height of the Iraq War the Army was using less than 6 million rounds a month.

Still more examples include: the Department of Agriculture recently contracting to purchase sub-machine guns and body armor; the purchase of 174,000 rounds of hollow-point pistol ammunition by the Social Security Administration; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s purchase of 46,000 rounds of .40-caliber hollow-point ammunition, and; the Department of Education’s purchase of a number of 12-gauge shotguns that are compatible with combat training.

Further, many think that the way in which Federal agencies have been arming and equipping themselves has been leading to confrontations between citizens and the government. One prominent example of this is the recent armed standoff in Nevada between cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and a group of protesters and militia members, and agents of the United States Bureau of Land Management.

There is no information to indicate that either of these two armored vehicles, thought to be owned by different Federal agencies, have been involved in any incidents in the news, or used in ways other than intended. However, the agencies which own and control these vehicles may want to reconsider parking them on public streets, if only for appearances sake.  And in any case, don’t park in a space reserved for the disabled, as the black vehicle was when I saw it.

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Historic Fort Lincoln

Historic Fort Lincoln

After getting temporarily lost on a recent bike ride, I got out a map when I got back to my office to see where I had been.  It turned out that the area where I had been riding, which is just north of The National Arboretum, has as many, if not a greater number of historical sites than practically any other location I’ve seen of comparable size.  While looking at the map I also noticed that I had been very near historic Fort Lincoln, so on this ride I went back to explore.  There was too much too see in one trip, however, so I’ll have to plan to go back again.

Fort Lincoln was a Civil War-era fort constructed by the Union Army in 1861 for use in the defense of the national capital city.  The remnants of the fort are just past the D.C. city limits in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and is located at 3401 Bladensburg Road (MAP) in Brentwood, Maryland.  The fort is located within the boundaries of Fort Lincoln Cemetery, near the Old Spring House and adjacent to the infamous Bladensburg Dueling Grounds.

The area surrounding D.C. had 68 major enclosed forts, as well as 93 prepared, although unarmed, batteries for field guns, and seven blockhouses surrounding it during the Civil War.  This system of forts is known collectively as the Civil War Defenses of Washington, or the Fort Circle Parks.  Fort Lincoln was part of this system of forts.

Much of what remains of the system of forts is now a collection of National Park Service properties, while other forts have become state and city parks in the area.  Forts Foote, Greble, Stanton, Ricketts, Davis, Dupont, Chaplin, Mahan, and Battery Carroll are administered by National Capital Parks-East. Forts Bunker Hill, Totten, Slocum, Stevens, DeRussy, Reno, Bayard, Battery Kemble, and Battleground National Cemetery are administered by Rock Creek Park. And Fort Marcy is administered by George Washington Memorial Parkway.

There is also a trail connecting four of the parks, the Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail, which is also operated and maintained by the National Park Service.

The inscription on the historic marker at the entrance to Fort Lincoln reads, “These earthworks are a portion of the original fortifications which made up Fort Lincoln. This fort was built during the summer of 1861 to serve as an outer defense of the city of Washington. It was named in honor of President Lincoln by General Order No. 18, A.G.O., Sept. 30, 1861. The brigade of Major General Joseph Hooker was the first to occupy this area. In immediate command of the fort was Captain T.S. Paddock. The Civil War cannons have been placed here through the courtesy of the Department of Defense to commemorate this auspicious occasion.”

I look forward to going back to the area near Fort Lincoln to explore more of the history there, as well as eventually visiting all of the other remaining Fort Circle Parks.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

The Stephenson Grand Army of the Republic Memorial

The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial

Many of the statues and memorials in D.C. seem as though they are permanent.  But this is often not the case, with many of them being moved around, placed in storage, or changed as necessary to accommodate new construction or development.  This is the case for The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial, which was the destination of this lunchtime bike ride.

The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial is presently located across the street from The National Archives and Records Administration Building and adjacent to the U.S. Navy Memorial in Indiana Plaza, at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood.  The memorial was moved in 1987 from it’s original location, which was just a few yards away where The Temperance Fountain is now located.  The fountain was moved from its original location a few blocks away during the renewal of Pennsylvania Avenue by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation.

Shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War, groups of men began joining together in fraternal organizations. These organizations were first formed for camaraderie, but eventually evolved into groups which possessed and wielded significant political influence.  Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be The Grand Army of the Republic.

Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership in the Grand Army of the Republic was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service, who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. The organization became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, lobbying the U.S. Congress to establish veterans’ pensions, advocating for voting rights for black veterans, and supporting Republican political candidates.  As one of the more powerful political organizations in the late 19th century, it also helped to establish The Old Soldiers’ Home, which would later become The Department of Veterans Affairs.  Also, under the leadership of John Alexander Logan, the organization was largely responsible for establishing the Memorial Day holiday at the end of May, as part of their Decoration Day campaign.

At it’s height in 1890, it would number almost 500,000 veterans of the “War of the Rebellion,” with chapters or “posts” in every state except Hawaii, even those of the former Confederacy.  But the organization continued to allow only Union veterans of the Civil War, and through attrition it grew smaller each year.  It was finally dissolved in 1956 when its last surviving member, Albert Henry Woolson, passed away.

Memorials to the Grand Army of the Republic include a commemorative postage stamp, a U.S. Federal highway, and various statues and physical memorials in hundreds of communities throughout the country. The D.C. memorial was erected by the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Foundation using funds that the U.S. Congress appropriated in 1907, and was dedicated in 1909.

The memorial’s pink granite centerpiece was designed by the firm of Rankin, Kellogg and Crane, and P.R. Pullman and Company, was responsible for the foundation of the monument, which had to be specially made due to the significant weight of the granite column. Scottish-American sculptor J. Massey Rhind sculpted the bronze statue and inlays for the memorial.

Also known as The Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson Memorial, it is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.  With the dissolution of the organization, the memorial is now owned and maintained by the National Park Service.

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The Wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery

The Wreathes at Arlington National Cemetery

For the past 23 years, one of the most iconic annual holiday traditions in the D.C. area has been the placing of hundreds of thousands of evergreen Christmas wreathes with red bows at the white headstones marking the rows and rows of gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery.  This past Saturday, December 13th, volunteers descended on Arlington National to help an organization named “Wreathes Across America” continue the tradition, now officially known as National Wreathes Across America Day, by placing wreaths again this year. In recognition and in support of this event, I rode across the Arlington Memorial Bridge and down The Esplanade to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP) on this lunchtime bike ride.

Wreaths Across America is not affiliated with any religion or political view. Their mission is to remember all of the fallen, honor their families, and teach children about the freedoms for which so much was sacrificed. Because they are a guest at the more than 900 participating cemeteries they visit each year, they abide by each cemetery’s rules when it comes to the placement of wreaths on veterans’ headstones. At those cemeteries without a formal policy, they do not place a wreath on the headstones of those graves marked with the Star of David, out of respect for Jewish custom. Instead, they simply pause and pay their respects. The only exception is when families of the deceased request a wreath, and then their wishes are honored.

The wreathes placed at the graves in Arlington National, as well as 544 other cemeteries and locations in all fifty states and overseas, are made in Maine by The Worchester Wreath Company, whose president, Morrill Worcester, started the annual event in 1992.   The wreathes left Maine last Monday in a convoy of eleven trucks that was escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization whose members, at the invitation of a decedent’s family, attend the funerals of members of the military, as well as firefighters and police. They form an honor guard at military burials, which helps protect mourners from harassment, and fill out the ranks at burials of indigent and homeless veterans. The Patriot Guard Riders also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations and performs volunteer work for veteran’s organizations.

Wreathes Across America expects to exceed last year’s shipments of 540,000 wreaths, all of which adorn veterans’ graves. Of that number, over 230,000 of them were place at Arlington National.  For the 150th anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery, Wreaths Across America met its goal of having a wreath for every headstone of each veteran buried there.   It should be noted that organization receives no government funding for this annual tradition. Until 2009, The Worcester Wreath Company did not accept donations and funded the project itself. The organization has since expanded to include fundraising groups throughout the country representing more than 900 cemeteries, military memorials and other locations, along with Arlington National Cemetery. To sponsor a wreath and help Wreathes Across America fulfill its mission, I encourage you to send a donation to: Wreaths Across America, P.O. Box 256, Harrington, Maine 04643.

The wreaths will be at Arlington National Cemetery for approximately four weeks.  So if you haven’t already, you should consider making a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and adding it to your family’s annual holiday traditions.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution

On this bike ride I went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. However, I did not ride to the widely-known memorial at Arlington National Cemetery which holds the unidentified remains of soldiers from World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. I rode to the one located in a cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia, which holds the remains of an unknown soldier of the American Revolution. Unknown to most tourists and even longtime area residents, the Revolutionary soldier’s gravesite is the original Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It is not included in Alexandria’s official walking-tour guide handed out at the city’s visitor center. Washington tourism materials don’t give it much regard, and the tomb is mentioned only briefly, if at all, in any guidebooks written about the area. Tucked away in the corner of the burial ground and backed up against a wall of an adjacent building, it can be difficult to locate even if you know where to look. I was fortunate to just accidently happen upon it when I was riding around and exploring.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution is located in a small burial ground behind the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, which is located at 323 South Fairfax Street (MAP) in the Old Town district of the city of Alexandria.  In addition to the unidentified soldier who is honored by the tomb, the burial ground, which was founded in 1775, is the final resting place of approximately 300 persons, including many other patriots of the Revolutionary War.

The remains entombed in the Alexandria memorial were unearthed during an 1821 construction project when workers dug a foundation for a Catholic chapel behind the Old Presbyterian Meeting House and found an unmarked grave with an ammunition box serving as a coffin. The uniform identified the soldier as from Revolutionary War and uniform adornments indicated he was from Kentucky. The remains were reinterred at their present location behind the meeting house on January 21, 1821, more than 100 years prior to the dedication of Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns, which took place on November 11, 1921.

The tabletop epitaph on top of the marble marker for the Tomb has faded with time, but is still legible. The inscription is remarkably similar to the inscription on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National, and reads, “Here lies a soldier of the Revolution whose identity is known but to God.” The inscription at the memorial in Arlington reads, “Here reset in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” An additional inscription on a plaque in front of the memorial, similar to that found on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington, reads, “In Memory of an Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. Erected by the National Society Children of the American Revolution. April 10, 1929. Temporary Marker Place by American Legion Post No. 21, Alexandria Virginia February 22, 1928.”

The Old Presbyterian Meeting House, which is the caretaker for burial ground where the tomb is located reports that, on average, only handful of people per day pick up the pamphlet explaining the memorial. This does not compare with the approximately 11,000 people who enter Arlington National Cemetery each day to view the Tomb of the Unknowns. Also, there are no guards before the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. Rather, only a small wrought-iron fence surrounds the gravesite. This stands in stark contrast to the Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns, who stand guard while “walking the mat” in perfectly measured steps.   However, despite the fact that the small marble Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution cannot compete in regard to size, the number of visitors, or the grandeur of the Tomb of the Unknowns or the other giant memorials, statues and monuments throughout the national capitol area, it ranks right up there with all of them in terms of history and meaning.

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The Vietnam Women's Memorial

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial

On this bike ride I stopped by the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which is one of the three main components of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex; the other two being the The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and The Three Soldiers Statue. It is located at 5 Henry Bacon Drive (MAP) in northwest D.C., in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, just northeast of The Lincoln Memorial.

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses.  In all, over 265,000 women served in the U.S. armed forces, with nearly 10,000 women in uniform actually served in-country during the Vietnam War. The Memorial is intended to serve as a reminder of the importance of women in the conflict.

The memorial statue depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier, creating a true sculpture in the round composition that is interesting from all angles. One of the nurses is shown as she serves as the life support for a wounded soldier lying across her lap. The standing woman looks up, in search of a med-i-vac helicopter or, perhaps, in search of help from God.  The fourth figure is a kneeling figure which the sculpture has called “the heart and soul” of the piece because so many vets see themselves in her as “she stares at any empty helmet, her posture reflecting her despair, frustrations, and all the horrors of war.”

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was designed by Glenna Maxey Goodacre and dedicated in November of 1993, nine years after the Three Soldiers Statue was added to the Memorial Wall, which had been dedicated two years earlier.  This gives it the distinction of being a first in our nation’s capitol, and in our nation.  Unveiled and dedicated four years prior to the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial was the first memorial in American history to honor women’s patriotic service.

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A "Holiday Mail for Heroes" Ride

A “Holiday Mail for Heroes” Ride

On this lunchtime bike ride I rode by the National Headquarters for the American Red Cross. Although I have ridden to their building before, I did so again on this ride so that I could write this blog post to give recognition to the organization’s sponsorship of the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

I have recently started seeing a number of Facebook posts encouraging people to send Christmas cards addressed to “A Recovering American Soldier” or “Any Wounded Soldier” to Walter Reed Hospital.  However, you should know that these cards will not reach their intended recipients.  The former Walter Reed Army Medical Center closed and merged with the National Naval Medical Center to form the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland. And in keeping with a decision by the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy, which was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense, the WRNMMC will not be accepting cards or packages for soldiers during the holidays.

Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting “Any Service Member” or “Any Wounded Service Member” letters or packages. Mail to “Any Service Member” that is deposited into a mail collection box will not be delivered.

If you would like to send a Christmas card or holiday letter to a service member, sending it through the Red Cross-sponsored “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program would be a good and reliable choice. However, beginning this year the program will be taking on a different look. Red Cross chapters across the United States and Red Cross offices on military installations overseas will take complete control of the program. There will no longer be a national Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box to which cards can be sent.

Moving forward, local Red Cross offices will collect, sort, and distribute the holiday cards using an events-based approach in their local communities.  Local Red Cross offices will hold events to sign or make holiday cards, and schedule card-sorting times. They will then coordinate card delivery to the military, vets and families in their communities.  These changes will allow local Red Cross offices to better concentrate on reaching out to the members of the military, veterans and families in their community – neighbors helping neighbors.

So contact your local Red Cross chapter directly to find out if they are participating.  If they are, consider doing the same thing.  However, if your local chapter does not have any events, you can still help by making a donation that will help them continue helping service members and veterans separated from their families this holiday season due to deployments and hospital stays.