Westboro Baptist Church Attracts “Pigs,” Causes Clash

PETA protestors step in front of the media cameras – blocking Westboro Baptist Church demonstrators – during a demonstration Tuesday outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Photo courtesy of WUSF’s Mark Schriner.

This post is for all those who have turned out to protect military family members of fallen warriors when members of Westboro Baptist Church – known for demonstrating at their funerals – show up.

Six members of the Kansas-based church came to Tampa to demonstrate during the Republican National Convention. Their demonstration at first attracted only a few onlookers and two members of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Dressed in pig outfits, the PETA protestors, stepped in front of the Westboro folks and mugged for the media cameras.

Later there was a brief clash between Westboro folks and anti-RNC protestors marching by according to the Huffington Post.

The anti-GOP protesters were marching from “Romneyville” toward the official protest zone created by the city when they clashed with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which had been protesting homosexuality, Tampa police said. Church members also frequently picket funerals of military members.

After about 20 minutes, the half-dozen Westboro church members retreated from the protest area under police escort.

The Tampa Police reported there were no arrests .The Westboro protestors are scheduled to hold another demonstration Wednesday in downtown Tampa several more during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week.

Bay Area VA Clinics Re-Open after Isaac Passes

Tropical Storm Isaac on September 30 at approx...

Tropical Storm Isaac on September 30 at approximately 1947 UTC. This image was produced from data from NOAA-9, provided by NOAA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s “situation normal” for veterans living along the west coast of Florida.  Outpatient  and community clinics associated with both Bay Pines VA Hospital in St. Petersburg and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa resume normal operations Tuesday.

Both veterans hospitals cancelled clinic appointments with Tropical Storm Isaac blowing into the Gulf.

For those who like tracking hurricanes, you can follow real time “Tweets” from researchers aboard a Hurricane Hunter at @HRD_AOML_NOAA. The Hurricane Research Division (HRD) is a part of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML).

Isaac Forces Monday Cancellations at Tampa’s Haley VA

James A. Haley VA Medical Center, Tampa, FL.

Outpatient appointments and elective surgery are canceled Monday, 27 August 2012, for veterans served by James A. Haley Veterans Hospital due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

Patients are being rescheduled by Haley hospital staff.

The Monday cancellations also  include these Haley facilities:

  • New Port Richey Outpatient Clinic
  • Brooksville Community Based Outpatient Clinic
  • Lakeland Community Outpatient
  • Zephyrhills Community Based Outpatient Clinic

Patients will be phoned by VA staff to reschedule appointments. Updates are available on the Haley Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/vatampa.

However the Haley Emergency Room(ER) will be open, yet, patients are encouraged to go to the nearest ER if they need emergency care.

Blue Star Tribute to Neil Armstrong

The Blue Star Families website ask its members to take a moment and leave a comment to honor the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

… the man who was a part of one of the greatest moments in our Nation’s history. Neil Armstrong was a Navy #vet who flew 80 missions in the Korean War. He embodies every trait of a hero and will continue to inspire us all for decades to come.

Hurricane Hunters Take Aim on Tropical Storm Isaac

As a resident of Florida, I want to sent a big thank you out to the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron as they fly missions into Tropical Storm Isaac.

Their willingness to head directly into the storm on 12-hour long missions helps land based forecasters keep folks informed and safe. The American Forces Press Service reports:

Three six-person crews from the 53rd and their maintainers and support staff deployed to St. Croix from Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., last weekend, Air Force Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, the squadron’s chief meteorologist.

Operating out of the international airport there, they began flying their specially equipped C-130J Hercules aircraft through the storm Aug. 21.

Their missions gathered data using on-board instruments and small canisters dropped by parachute to collect details on location and intensity.

“The reason this data is critical is because, with satellites, you can track where storms are and get a general picture, but you can’t peer into the storm and physically measure what is happening at the ocean’s surface,” Talbot said. “That is the important piece of information you need to know when it comes to providing warnings to the public. The emergency management community needs to know what is going on near the surface of the ocean, because those are the winds that are going to come ashore.”

With about six missions already under their belts during the past three days, Talbot told the American Forces Press Service that the pace will increase considerably as Isaac moves west toward the United States.

“Currently, we are doing about three missions a day, but that will go up to four or five when the storm comes within 300 miles of the U.S. coastline,” he said.

The Hurricane Hunters expect to move west along with the storm, redeploying to Keesler Air Force Base to resume those missions beginning this weekend.

Officials say it’s too soon to know whether it will hit Tampa, site of next week’s Republican National Convention. Northcom has a team deployed there to support the Secret Service during the convention.

A Tribute: NYT Faces of the Dead – “I See Them Every Day”

Photo courtesy of Paving the Road Back blog.

Rod Deaton is a psychiatrist who cares for veterans in Indianapolis.  He also writes the blog, Paving the Road Back: Serving those who have served in combat.

I follow his blog to gain insight, to find solutions, to share stories.

This time it’s one of his veterans who taught Deaton and me a lesson. It all started with the New York Times tribute to those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq with the photographic reminder, Faces of the Dead.

I encourage you to read Deaton’s full blog entry, but I’ll start you off with a portion:


I knew that I would end up having to write about this experience.  But before I could even get enough breathing room to consider doing that, within hours of my having viewed that screen, I was sitting before my patient.

He is not doing well.

He is not suicidal.  He is not giving up.  But he is tired.  He wants to move forward in his life.  He wants at least some of it, the pain, the memories, please, God, to stop.

I debate whether to say anything to him.  He is distressed already, after all.  Yet I also wanted him to know that I had not forgotten, neither him nor the name of his best friend.

“Have you seen the pictures in The Times?” I asked.

He hadn’t.

“Would you like to?”

He looked at me, an odd mixture of blankly and knowingly.  That was such a dangerous move for a therapist.  I’d taken the risk that he’d say “yes” for my sake, not his.  I might have misstepped.

“Yes,” he finally said.

I believed he meant it.  I was tempted to check that out.  I kept my mouth shut, though.  What’s done was done.  He didn’t owe me any more assurance than that.

Continue reading

Veterans Unemployment Drops 20 Percent in Past Year

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks announcing a major veterans and military spouse employment milestone during a Joining Forces 125,000th hire event at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, Aug. 22, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Some 125,000 veterans and their spouses have found jobs or been trained in the past year through the Joining Forces campaign. That’s thanks to more than 2,000 private sector companies stepping up to the challenge to hire veterans and military spouses.

First Lady Michelle Obama presented the latest veterans’ job numbers Wednesday from Naval Station Mayport, Florida.  She also announced that the private sector companies have pledged to hire or train 250,000 veterans and spouses – double the initial goal in the coming years. Mrs. Obama:

And that’s part of the reason why the unemployment rate for veterans has been dropping.  And so far this year, the number of unemployed veterans is nearly 20 percent lower than it was a year ago.  So we are moving in the right direction.  But let’s be very clear that we are nowhere near where we need to be — nowhere near.

The new goal for Joining Forces is to hire or train 250,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2014.

The following companies are new among the 2,000 businesses that are recognizing that hiring veterans is good for their bottom line:

  • NatLabs, Inc. committed to bring 400 jobs back to the U.S. from overseas starting in 2013 and hire veterans as 75 percent of their labor force. These 400 jobs in hi-tech manufacturing will be located in the Jacksonville, Florida, area.
  • Companies like, Dupont and Exelon have made commitments to have veterans constitute 10 percent of their new hires in the coming years.
  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) – consisting of more than 140 companies – is committed to hire 50,000 military spouses in the coming years. This unique partnership is coordinated by the Department of Defense and consists of companies who have pledged to hire military spouses and support their continued employment and professional development by transferring a spouse’s job with them when they move to a new military duty station. More information on MSEP can be found at: https://msepjobs.militaryonesource.mil/video/military-spouse-employment-partnership

A complete list of every company and their commitment to veteran and military spouse employment through Joining Forces can be found at www.joiningforces.gov/commitments .

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