Saluting a hero among heroes
This Memorial Day many Americans will pause to honor our nation's veterans. Many of these are highly decorated, true heroes, while others served their country in less distinguished roles but nonetheless honorably. Occasionally, though, we become aware of the passing of a truly singular individual — one whose feats in his country's military service deserve widespread acknowledgement.
In its May 2008 issue, the U.S. Marines magazine Leatherneck published, among a number of other obituaries, that of Col. James P. McWilliams Jr. It is of such men that Army Gen. George S. Patton once said, "We should not mourn that these people died; rather, we should glory that they lived."
Calling him "the quintessential Marine," the article described Col. McWilliams' 30-year career, including two tours in Vietnam where he earned 29 military decorations, including the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars. In addition, Leatherneck continued:
"He was also jump qualified and a Navy hard hat diver. He completed U.S. Army Ranger School, was honor graduate of the Royal Marine Commando School, top graduate of the U.S. Army Special Forces Warfare School, completed Norwegian Army Ski School and the Armed Forces Staff College and was a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval War College."
The completion of any one of those training regimens would be enough to mark one as outstanding. That he was able to complete them all is truly awesome (in every sense of that often overused word). All Americans, veterans or not, should take genuine pride in such individuals who have borne arms in time of their country's peril and continue to do so today. God bless America!
Joseph S. Baldyga, Hudson
We've been forced into unhealthy choices
As we commemorate Memorial Day it is important that we remember the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers placed in harm's way due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether you support or oppose these conflicts, their cost is beyond dispute.
We have lost more than 4,000 brave men and women in Iraq, 171 from our state alone. Another 30,000 have been injured — their injuries heightened by the urban warfare that is Iraq today. The cost has been unbearable in another way as well. The estimated $3-trillion we will have spent by the time this war is over — even anticipating a withdrawal early next year — has forced our country to make unhealthy choices. We have chosen war over health care. We have chosen war over energy independence. We have chosen war over bridges and roads. We have chosen war over programs that help Americans in need — Americans hurting because of the economic downturn.
More than ever, this is the time of year to think about those who have served us. At the same time, let us not forget about the costly choices our political leaders have made. And together, as one people and one country, let us vow to make better choices. Let us vow to more wisely invest in America's future.
Bill Newton, executive director, Florida Consumer Action Network, Tampa
A shameful failure to aid Iraqi allies | May 20, editorial
With a few name changes you could be discussing the war in Vietnam. Does our government see these Iraqis who assisted our government as disposable or expendable? Maybe the nicest thing I will say is this: "People may not believe what you say, but they believe what you do."
Every aspect of how our military troops are treated before, during and after leaves me with a sick feeling. Whether it is Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War or where we are now, or any other area of conflict where our troops were sent.
So what makes anyone think a person from these areas of conflict, who aids us, will fare better? Our members of Congress "tour" the areas, with a safety net provided. There is no safety for the people from these countries who volunteer to assist the American troops.
Christina Ennist, New Port Richey
Elephants are own worst enemies as herds grow | May 20, story
Don't resort to killing
I am incredulous that South Africa is actually considering massacring an entire herd of elephants as its primary choice for dealing with elephant overpopulation. Has it ever considered putting this highly intelligent, majestic creature on birth control? Women have been taking Deprovera for some years and seem to be happy with it. Many of the animals in our zoos are given birth control to limit any unwanted offspring. Elephants in the wild could safely be given Deprovera via a dart gun. Yet South Africa will soon be annihilating a herd of animals that is threatened or endangered.
Perhaps if these animals could roam into the neighboring land, there wouldn't be this concern. Oh, that's right. People need this land to feed the burgeoning human population. The rate of over-population has lessened greatly over the years in much of Africa. However, this still does not help the many species that have become extinct, and continue to become extinct, as a direct result, the world over.
To lose these animals would be more than just a shame; it would be a huge loss to the elephant's genetic pool, and to humanity in general. I, along with the rest of the world, implore South Africa to take some time to better deliberate this very sad solution.
Elka Zwick, St. Petersburg
Sea grass legislation
Veto is in order
As a parting shot in his legislative war against Florida's environment, state Rep. Will Kendrick, R-Carrabelle, slipped a last-minute amendment into a bill designed to protect sea grass beds. If it becomes law, this would open the door for private companies to set up sea grass mitigation banks on state owned lands to sell credits to developers who want to destroy healthy sea grass beds.
In a further show of shoddy government, all 30 members of the committee approved the amendment without reading or understanding it.
Let's see who Gov. Charlie Crist represents when this bill gets to his desk — a handful of developers or the people of Florida. If they put the sea grass beds in a museum, maybe we could charge the tourists a dollar and a half just to see 'em.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
Thin other herds
Too many elephants in South Africa are destroying important habitats for other creatures, so we must thin them out. Right?
Okay. If that is true, then shouldn't we thin out the herd of developers/humans in Florida that want to destroy sea grass beds that provide a habitat for hundreds or thousands of other creatures?
With a human population of 6-billion-plus and growing, aren't we thinning out the wrong herds?
T. W. Funari, St. Petersburg