Monday, November 29, 2010

Lost to a War, But Not Unknown

An article about Adam Dickmyer's funeral appeared in the Boston Globe newspaper on November 23. In the article the writer, Kevin Cullen, mentioned the connection of Adam to the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy, and how the the Senator's doctor's nephew - an Army Captain, along with Mrs. Kennedy, attended the funeral. I appreciated what Cullen wrote, so sent him an email last night thanking him. He wrote back today. Below is my note, and his reply - followed by the article - Lost to a war unknown. There are always stories behind the stories - these are no exceptions. (1)
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November 29, 2010

Dear Mr. Cullen,

Thank you for your follow-up article to the funeral of SSG Adam Dickmyer at Arlington National Cemetery. Our son served with Adam for three years at the Tomb of the Unknowns - his loss was close to home for us. I appreciate you mentioning the Army connection to the Kennedy's family through the Senator's physician, as well as Mrs. Kennedy's attendance. You may not know, but another attendee of the funeral was SSG Salvatore Giunta, who the day before was presented the Medal of Honor. My understanding is that the Tomb Guards had helped him shape up his uniform for the presentation at the White House, and later the day of the funeral, his induction into the DoD Hall of Honor at the Pentagon - he walked unnoticed with the mourners from the chapel to the Section 60.

There are many ways that those in the military support one another. Thank you for your support of our troops through good articles such as you wrote about Adam.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Steiner
Annapolis, MD
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November 30, 2010

Thanks.
Dr. Ronan called me when his nephew told him about Adam being KIA.
He asked me to write something to recognize Adam, and I'm glad I did
because it reached a lot of people, and Adam was, like so many of our
people in the military, the best of us.

Cheers
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Lost to a war unknown
By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / November 23, 2010

For six years, Army Staff Sergeant Adam Dickmyer was a “sentinel,’’ one of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

He was one of the elite Old Guard, the select soldiers who, in rotation, bear silent witness every minute of every day, in all kinds of weather, honoring the unknown soldiers who died on foreign battlefields.
It was something he took seriously.
 
Dickmyer spoke to Robert Poole for Poole’s book, “On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery,’’ which was published last year. He explained the Old Guard’s mission with a poignant simplicity.
 
“We want the guys who sacrificed everything to know that they are still remembered, that someone still cares,’’ he said.
 
Sometimes, his duties took him away from Arlington. Dickmyer was lead pallbearer for Senator Ted Kennedy last year. He was with the casket every step of the way, from Hyannis Port to the Kennedy library to the Mission Church. Tens of thousands of people from Massachusetts and beyond would have seen Dickmyer or passed close to him, but they wouldn’t have known who he was.

Hundreds of thousands would have watched him over the years at the Tomb of the Unknowns as he faced the tomb for 21 seconds then marched 21 steps, a ceremony of remembrance practiced over and over again. But none of those tourists would have known his name.
 
Dickmyer was part of one of the most distinguished units in the Army. Less than 20 percent who try out make the Old Guard. Still, he volunteered for combat duty, leaving the Old Guard for the Second Battalion of the 502d Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. In June, his unit arrived in Afghanistan for a yearlong deployment. On Oct. 28, Dickmyer dismounted from his armored vehicle and was on foot patrol in Kandahar when a hidden bomb exploded, killing him. He was 26.
 
He was just the third sentinel killed in action. Two others, Staff Sergeant William Spates Jr. and Sergeant Marvin Franklin, were killed in Vietnam.
 
Dickmyer was the first of five soldiers out of Fort Campbell in Kentucky to be killed in Afghanistan in five days. The day after he died, Specialist Pedro Maldonado, 20, was killed by grenades and gunfire. A day later, Specialist Brett Land, 24, was killed, like Dickmyer, by an IED.
 
Four days after Dickmyer was killed, a guy on a motorcycle drove up to the Second Brigade’s base. Specialist Jonathan Curtis, 24, a great kid who grew up in Belmont, and Private First Class Andrew Meari, 21, were on guard duty and stopped the motorcycle, preventing it from entering the base. In doing so, they saved many lives, but lost their own when the guy on the motorcycle detonated the explosives he was wearing.
 
The war in Afghanistan is the ultimate war of the unknown soldier. So few Americans have their own flesh and blood in harm’s way. So few think of the war on a daily basis. The war trundles on, unknown to so many.
 
They remembered Jonathan Curtis in Belmont Sunday, and last week they remembered Adam Dickmyer, the face of the unknowns, who had been seen by so many and known by so few, at the cemetery where he stood in silent witness before he went off to war. Dickmyer’s cort├Ęge was escorted by Army Captain Mark Boyle, whose uncle, Larry Ronan, was Ted Kennedy’s doctor. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, was there, too, as Dickmyer’s widow, Melinda, accepted a tightly folded flag.
 
“It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud,’’ the sentinel’s creed reads. “Surrounded by well-meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.’’
 
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.
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(1) Rex Looney has posted photographs from the day of the funeral on his Flicker site, as a part of the memorial portfolio to Adam. No doubt there are more stories behind these photographs - beyond the captions that Rex provides. A personal photographic narrative account of the impressions from participating in a funeral procession can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pensacola Birding - Santa Rosa Island

Doing the tourist thing and birding are not necessarily optimally the at the same time. We have had a relaxed pace for looking around the Pensacola area. Tuesday I bought a couple of field guides for Florida birds. I really like the color plates in Florida's Birds by Maehr and Kale, but found that the Birds of Florida by Alsop was more useful. My wife and son were patient to let me do a little dedicated looking on the west end of Santa Rosa Island after we had toured Fort Pickens. A
Mississippi Kite was my first spot when walking out into the bush as seen in the photograph to the left. On the drive out we saw Brown Pelicans, Great Cormorant, Herring Gulls, and Osprey. On the drive out of Gulf Islands National Seashore park on the way back to Pensacola, there was a Green Heron just off the road in the low vegetation. The Gulf barrier islands are pretty cool - parts of Santa Rosa Island are only 300 feet wides and have sparse tufts of beach grass and other plants to hold the sand together, while other parts like in the photograph above have more complex combinations of vegetation. Inland, I spotted Northern Mockingbird, American Crow, European Starling, and Tree Swallow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010 - Life Long Service

We are waiting for the broadcast of the Wreath Laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. As I grew up, the word Veteran and my mom's brother Gordon were synonymous - even though I lived a long ways from where he lived. He served in the Army Infantry during World War II in Europe (1), and after the war as a guard at Nuremberg. I remember when we visited Wisconsin for a month in 1964, going to his apartment and seeing his collection of patches from uniforms - it seemed impressive to a kid who with his brothers would play Army for hours at a time during the summer - inspired by episodes of the old Combat! television series. Only a fraction of the veterans from World War II are still alive (2) - I am fortunate that my dad, father-in-law, and uncle are still counted among those who remain of the Greatest Generation (3). For my uncle, today is to be a busy day. He is the American Legion Post Commander in the village of Hilbert, Wisconsin - the Veterans Day Parade, and all of the flags that have to be displayed. He notes often when he writes or talks, that he is also busy other days with the steady stream of veteran funerals that he helps with. A retired U.S. Postal Service employee and the long-time Postmaster of Hilbert, his name is a synonym for life-long service as well.
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 (1) Records of Purple Heart recipients are found in a search of the Roll of Honor at the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in the Town of New Windsor, New York.

(2) Of the approximate 16-million American men and women who served in WWII, an estimated 2,583,000 veterans were still alive in September 2008, but dying at the rate of about 900 per day. This puts the total living population at just over 2 million in November 2009 (Department of Veterans Affairs).

(3) In today's commemoration ceremonies at Arlington Nation Cemetery, Vice President Biden in his Veterans Day remarks described the present generation of men and women who serve as whom could
be described as the next Great Generation. "Over the past decade our militaries have embarked on a longer period of sustained combat than in all of American history." Now counted among the most tested of Americans, the Vice President went on to quote his wife, "only 1% of this nation is fighting these wars, 100% of the nation owes them a thank you." (4)

(4) For information about the challenges some families face with the return of their loved ones who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, watch the testimony given last year to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee that oversees Veterans benefits by clicking here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another Round of Season Change

The weather outside has definitely gone to the cool side - had no motivation today to go out and plant the daffodil and tulip bulbs. When the season changes like this, my volume of reading goes up, and the desire to get into video series rises as well. This afternoon my wife and I watched the second of three stories in an Agatha Christie Poirot The Movie Collection, Set 5 - Third Girl - it was excellent. We bought the set last month as Sam's Club - whenever a new set shows up, I buy it (1). We have quite the collection of Hercule Poirot videos from PBS Mystery program (2), and later ones that were broadcast on the A&E cable channel. This set is from a more recent PBS Masterpiece Theater series - we didn't catch these when they played this past summer. Looking ahead, there are newer movies that have not yet been shown on television in the United States - if my Web browser was registered in the United Kingdom, I would be able to watch them on-line.
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(1) The DVD sets at Sam's Club are about $10 cheaper than at Amazon.
(2) When the kids were young, we used to watch Poirot on Mystery every Thursday evening.

Newest Addition - Carolina Wren

We put up a suet bird feeder last year, but it didn't seem to get that much attention. I tried again this this autumn - putting in a block that contained insect parts. The owner of the Wild Bird Center shop where we go to here in Annapolis recommended it since the weather was still warm and the suet still stood a chance of melting. I used fruit-based suet cakes before, but didn't seem to get much success - I had hoped
these would attract Baltimore orioles. Earlier in the week, I noticed a downy woodpecker frequenting the feeder a couple of times. Yesterday evening I saw a wren make a quick stop, but couldn't tell which species. This morning, for sure it was a Carolina wren - distinguished by the white eyebrow stripe and the short tail. These markings are different from the Bewick's wren that also has the eyebrow stripe, but a longer tail with white striping. The Bewick's wren is a threatened species - see information here, so is not seen very frequently. The National Geographic bird site gives a nice description of the Carolina wren here. For suet recipes, go to the Website here. Also, I have been noticing a lot of activity by tufted titmouse at the seed feeder this week as well, along with the house finch and sparrows.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DRK i'd Junk-o

I got to see a new bird in our backyard this evening. I had meetings downtown this afternoon, and when things were finished there, it was too late to take my Metro train back out to where my car was parked and then drive back to the office - so I drove straight home from the Landover Station. At the beginning of last month I figured out how to use the hands-free feature in my car, so I can do some work calls while commuting - as of October 1, the Maryland law went into effect that disallows use of hand-held cell phones while driving. When I got home
and stepped out of the car, I was welcomed to the chirping of a northern cardinal - a male was in the top of the cherry tree in the front yard, his bright red coat contrasted against the dark gray clouded sky. After taking off my coat and tie, and placing my ID badge on the table next to the front door, I looked out the patio sliding glass door at the feeder to see if there was any bird action going on (1). There were three house finches jockying for position on the feeder. Just then a few darkish colored birds swooped into the yard, with one lighting on the gravel path. I had a pretty good idea of what general kind of bird it was, so a quick look at my copy of Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America confirmed what I though: a dark-eyed junco. A description of this junco that is similar to the Oregon junco we were familiar with back home in Corvallis can be found by clicking at the U.S. Geological Survey Website here. When the birds swooped into the yard, their flight pattern was different from the other more regular frequenting species we see. The question for today is whether there were just passing through, or will be new regulars to our yard this winter. The dark-eyed juncos are widespread across much of the United States during the winter.
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(1) Did I ever mention that I can be a very dull blogger? Definition of dull found by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Giants Win, Four Games to One

The first baseball team I was aware of was the San Francisco Giants - the Giants were our family's team - the Dodgers, were not talked about. As I watched this year's game five of the World Series, I could tell that it was with a bit of distant interest. Being on the East Coast, it is hard to stay up on work nights with the time zone difference to watch games that end after 11:00 PM when they are broadcast from the West Coast - but then, maybe that is the tell-tale-sign that I really am no longer the Bay Area fan I used to be. I know that 17 years in the Pacific Northwest turned me and my family into Mariners fans (1) - the year we moved to Oregon was the year Oakland lost to the Dodgers, and the following year was the Battle of the Bay Series, with earthquake (2) and all when Oakland trumped the Giants. Don't get me wrong, I am tickled that the Giants won last night, and stayed up way past my bed time to watch the analysis of the final game and the series on ESPN2. I know that I would have an easy time rooting for Giants if they matched up with almost any American League team - except, maybe the Mariners. The photo above with Tim Lincecum the winner of games 1 and five tells it all. A great ESPN This is Sports Center commercial featuring Lincecum is found clicking here. It is these kinds of things that I miss during the six months Major League Baseball is not up and running.
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(1) There are much better Giants fans than me. Tonight on All Things Considered on NPR, there was a short report about 74-year-old Bill Kent, head of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society, and his decades-long love for the New York and San Francisco Giants - 56 years after the Giants moved from the East to West Coast, he is still a fan. That is dedication to a team, regardless of geography.

(2) Because of the earthquake, a ferry dock had to be constructed to accommodate commuters crossing the bay while the Oakland Bay Bridge was repaired. As is happened, my brother was a worker on the dock, and one day Dave Stewart, an Oakland pitchers came by, and Brian was able to get his autograph on a Heath candy bar wrapper. He mailed it to us in Oregon knowing that our then nine-year-old son Dan was a real fan (3), but for some reason, the envelope never made it.

(3) In the fall of 1988, Brian, Dan (seven years old), and I saw the game in Oakland when Jose Canseco hit his 40th home run in his 40-40 season (first to get 40 home runs and stolen bases in the same season). The only down side of the game was that Dan threw up at the game soon after the blast over the left field wall, so we missed the rest of the game - it turned out to be 11 innings. It is interesting to see how a crowded walk way filled with people coming and going to the concession area parts like the Red Sea in front of Moses when a kid projectile vomits.
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SF Giants On Top Of The World With 1st Series Win
Henry Schulman, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday November 2, 2010

Arlington, Texas -- There stood pitcher Matt Cain, at 26 the longest-tenured player on the 2010 Giants, raising the circle-of-flags trophy above his head on the field so hundreds of San Francisco fans who refused to leave the Rangers' ballpark could see it.

"Wow, this is sick," Cain said. "We're the World Series champions of 2010."

How long the faithful have waited to hear those words - not years, but generations. The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 and had not touched that trophy until Monday night, when they beat the Texas Rangers 3-1.

The Giants needed only five games to win the franchise's sixth World Series, its first since 1954. They dominated Texas in ways they could not have imagined during a 162-game regular season and two rounds of playoffs that lived up to the team's unofficial motto of "Giants baseball: Torture."

The unlikely Most Valuable Player for an unlikely World Series winner was Edgar Renteria, an injury-plagued shortstop from Colombia who might retire after the season and whose two-year, $18.5 million contract was ridiculed because the Giants gave it to a player thought to be washed up.

Renteria already belonged in the pantheon of World Series heroes. In 1997, then 22 and a big-leaguer for less than two seasons, he won Game 7 for Florida with an 11th-inning single. On Monday, Renteria secured a seat at the head table when he supplied all of the Giants' runs with a three-run homer in the seventh inning that broke a 0-0 tie.

Renteria called his shot against Cliff Lee, twice telling center fielder Andres Torres before the game he was going to go deep.

"He told Andres he was going to hit one and he did it," outfielder Aaron Rowand said. "He Babe Ruth-ed it, I guess."

Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, allowed three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings in the most important win of his 26-year-old life.

On a team with so much youth, it was fitting that Buster Posey, a 23-year-old rookie catcher, did the keenest job summarizing what this championship means to an organization and a city that was starved for it.

"It's crazy to think with all the great baseball players who have come through San Francisco, there hasn't been a World Series championship," Posey said.

"The beautiful thing about the organization is, you've got guys like Will Clark here. You've got J.T. Snow here. You've got Shawon Dunston here. When we get back to San Francisco, we'll have Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry. The list goes on and on. It's so humbling to have won the first World Series in San Francisco. It's unbelievable."

How fitting that the Series ended with closer Brian Wilson blowing a strike-three fastball past Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, setting off a celebration sure to rock the Bay Area for a long time. After all, everyone had generations to plan it.

52 title-free years

With the first toast, revelers could bid good riddance to the ghosts of failures past.
McCovey's line drive to Bobby Richardson in 1962, the earthquake sweep in 1989 and the Game 6 collapse in 2002 - their power to spook the faithful is gone, defused by a championship year led by four homegrown pitchers, including Lincecum, who came up huge in the clinching game.

Former managing general partner Peter Magowan, a Giants fan since 1951 who could not guide the franchise to a title during 16 years at the helm, said this title makes up for everything.

"It does. It erases it," Magowan said. "I don't think a day goes by that I don't think about the '02 World Series. I still think a lot about '62, to say nothing about all the other near-misses. This does knock it all away."

Nailing it down

With two outs in the seventh inning of a 0-0 game, and Cody Ross and Juan Uribe on base after singling, Renteria knocked a 2-0 cut fastball from Cliff Lee over the wall in left-center field for a three-run homer that helped secure the trophy.

First baseman Aubrey Huff, who broke into tears as the World Series win truly dawned on him, said he was happier for Renteria than anyone.

Renteria was derided by fans for not living up to his contract. In 2010, he spent three tours on the disabled list with three different injuries. He also was injured in late September when the Giants, who were not hitting, held a pregame meeting inside the batting cage at Wrigley Field.

In one of the season's most emotional moments, according to those who attended, Renteria rose to speak. He was in tears.

"I had a feeling this was going to be my last year," Renteria recounted Monday. "I told my teammates, 'Let's go. Let's play hard. I know we can do it. I believe in you guys. If you guys have a chance to put us in the playoffs, I'll help you once we get there.'

"The Giants organization gave me a two-year contract and I was not able to help them. But they always had my back. I just wanted to do something big for them."

The Giants still had to get nine outs after Renteria's homer. Lincecum got six. Though he allowed a seventh-inning homer by Cruz, he also struck out three hitters in the inning and one more in the eighth.

Lincecum was lights-out

Lincecum was not sharp during the Giants' Game 1 win. In Game 5 he was lights-out and became the 15th pitcher in history to win four games in one postseason.

Posey said he knew it would be OK before the game when he saw Lincecum's demeanor.

"It's called being a gamer," Posey said. "Walk into the clubhouse today and the guy's as loose as he can be, joking around, same old Timmy. He had no idea he had an opportunity to go out and win Game 5 of the World Series and win us a championship."

Afterward, it still had not sunk in.

"It'll take over later on tonight," Lincecum said, "when we get to be by ourselves and really think about everything."