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Letters 2/17/05

Various - February 17th, 2005
A body bearer‘s tale
Two of the four years I was in the service I was stationed at a U.S. Naval Station in Washington D.C. in the Navy’s Ceremonial Guard unit.
After three months of regular boot camp we had three more months of boot camp where we were instructed of our duties at the State Department, Pentagon, White House and Arlington National Cemetery. Over 90% of my time was spent practicing and being a body bearer for funerals at Arlington.
All movement of the six body bearers had to be in unison. We practiced folding burial flags hundreds of times. The perfect flag was four stars up, no red showing.
From 1969-1971 I was a body bearer in well over 1,000 funerals at Arlington. I witnessed families in pain where, unfortunately, our administration seems to have a more abstract view of these families‘ losses.
There is one constant from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and now the Iraq War. Soldiers died and their families are left with a grief that changes their lives forever. Empty rhetoric and words of dubious sincerity will not help these families. In all war the pain is the same.
Most funerals at Arlington are conducted in a somber and dignified manner. Then there are others that are much more emotional and unpredictable.
These funerals are generally for service men killed in action. The families are distraught and in pain, almost zombie like.
In one funeral, we were carrying the casket out of the Arlington Chapel, down the stairs to a horse-drawn caisson when the widow dove onto the casket, screaming for her husband. All we could do was stop, try not to lose the casket and wait for our ushers and family members to remove this poor woman. We put the flag back and we continued through the service.
At the grave sites, six of us stand, holding the flag over the casket. There is the priest and family that encircle us. The first row of mourners is only a foot or two away from us (they are very close). You can hear them try to console those who can’t be consoled. You see a boy sitting ramrod straight, trying to be brave for his father, but he seems to be melting around the edges. His sister has already melted into a lump of grief in her mother’s lap.
One time during a service a little boy moved up next to me half under the flag with his hands on the casket talking to his “daddy” while unconsciously bumping my leg. ‘
These kinds of funeral made focusing on our job more difficult. After the priest is finished he steps back, which is a signal for the firing squad to begin.
At the first volley most of the mourners jump, because it is quite loud. After the third volley “Taps” begins and we fold the flag. This is also when families know this is the end, the last time they’ll be with their loved ones.
After the flag is folded the head body bearer gives the flag to an officer who in turn presents it to the widow or another member of the family.
While the officer gives the “on behalf of a grateful nation speech” the head body bearer gives a quiet command. We turn in unison and march slowly back to the bus to await the next funeral.
This current war has produced nearly 1,200 burial flags. Flags that will never wave on porch or pole. Flags that have become unwanted family heirlooms, with their four stars up, no red showing.

Robert Fullerton • Levering

They said it first
President Bush was only the governor of Texas when Senators Tom Daschle, Carl Levin (MI), John Kerry and others wrote to President Clinton on October 9, 1998, saying, “We urge you to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.”
President Clinton himself said on February 17,1998, “We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”
People…wake up! Who is lying to whom!

Becky Carlson • Rapid City

Don‘t count on the market
You are correct, Social Security was never meant to be a retirement program (re: Random Thoughts 2/10). I hope your readers will listen to the AARP crowd; I’m one of them.
I made money in the market even during the crash of ‘87, but I lost most of it during the minor crashes of ‘91 and ‘93. So don’t count on the market for your retirement. Also, most pensions, like mine, don’t have a COLA and since I retired in ‘88 we have lost nearly one third of our buying power even with the COLA on Social Security.
I hope young people will do the arthimetic. The President’s plan of 4% of wages for 45 years at 3% a year on $25,000 income will not generate as much income as the current SS benefits. And with all that money in the market I would be willing to bet you will not be able to get a 3% return.
No one can predict the future, but one thing is sure: because of change, whatever prediction we make based on the present will be wrong.

Richard R. Riker • Mackinaw City

The phoney ‘crisis‘
The so called crisis in Social Security is no more immediate than were Iraq’s perceived WMD’s. It’s just that -- a perceived crisis promulgated by the President who has a hidden agenda that will, once again, benefit the rich and deprive middle to low income citizens.
Privatization is not the answer! I have heard many less radical, more reasonable solutions to the future Social Security shortfall than the President’s overhaul.
For example, the President himself pays Social Security taxes on less than one quarter of his salary. If we raised that ceiling to the President’s salary, we wouldn‘t be having this debate.
Social Security is a safety net that we can’t afford to lose. The best solution is to keep it going and also provide incentives for workers to invest, in addition to their own retirement.

Alison Heins • TC

Why spare the plow?
I am concerned that this winter the Michigan DNR in Lansing made a decision not to plow the parking lots for several ungroomed trail systems in the Traverse City area. These include Sand Lakes Quiet Area, Lake Dubonnet (also called Lost Lake), and Lake Ann, which are used by numerous cross country skiers. We are not asking for grooming of the trails, since we don’t mind breaking trail ourselves. All we want is a safe place to park our cars, off the roads.
On December 16, a directive was posted on the DNR website stating, “Parking lots in the Traverse City area that serve non-groomed pathways will not be cleared this season. Parking along county roads can be unsafe and subject to local restrictions. DNR officials remind the public to use caution when accessing any state land for winter recreation activities.” At that point, there was about three feet of snow on the ground; it was too late to do anything about their decision. Many residents of northern Michigan love playing in the snow, and we are very upset about this directive.
The Granholm administration has been interested in boosting tourism within the state, specifically encouraging Michiganians from the southern half to vacation in the northern half. I frequently meet people from downstate when I am out on our local trails, and it’s a shame to think they would drive all the way up here and then not be able to ski or snowshoe in the same areas they did in the past, simply due to a lack of parking. There are also tourists from neighboring states who come here for our natural snow, and we should welcome them.
Michigan is also trying to tackle our problem of obesity. What better way to encourage our citizens to exercise than to provide easy access to get out and enjoy wintertime?
If we can find a donation of plowing services locally, that would be great. We can also set up a user fee system to help pay for the services we want. Such a system has worked well in Minnesota for ten years. In the meantime, we should express our concerns to our elected officials in Lansing.

Lois Goldstein • Williamsburg

Don‘t freeze out ICE
We are writing in concern for ICE (Involved Citizen’s Enterprises). My family has used the hockey facilities for 12 years and appreciate the low fees and community support to youth programs which help keep our families healthy and involved with a wider group of people throughout our county and townships versus limiting us to just our local neighborhoods and schools.
My husband and oldest son volunteer a lot of their time to teaching young children the joy of skating and more importantly how to participate in a team activity. As you may know, keeping a sheet of ice up year-round is not a cheap endeavor. To my knowledge these rinks have not received any taxpayer money and have had to rely on individual fundraising and volunteer labor to build the existing rinks. My entire family has supported these rinks both financially and with our own labor when building the new Centre Ice Facilities.
We are asking the East Bay Township Trustees to keep the 501C3 non profit status so that the rates to use these facilities can be kept to a minimum, allowing more families the ability to afford to participate.

Gibson and Lorine Shuff • TC

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