A Girl Scout Who Does More than Sell Cookies

Jacqueline Parker with her "Veterans Heroes" project that earned her the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor given by the organization.

Jacqueline Parker with her “Veterans Heroes” project that earned her the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor given by the organization.

A love of flying isn’t the only thing that links an 18-year-old Tampa Girl Scout and an Air Force Brigadier General who retired here.

Ben Nelson Jr.’s dad flew B-29s, B-17s and B-24s for the Army Air Corps in World War II. So it’s not surprising that he ended up in the pilot’s seat for the Air Force flying more than 200 combat missions in Vietnam.

“We all got shot up every once in a while,” Nelson said in a recorded interview for the “Veterans Heroes” project. “I’ve got a picture of me standing and a hole in my wing looking up through it. You know sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not.”

Nelson’s luck held for a full and distinguished career in the Air Force. He retired as a brigadier general in September 1994 as deputy commander of NATO’s 5th Allied Tactical Air Force, Vicenza, Italy.

Air Force Brigadier Gen. Ben Nelson Jr. Credit: Dept. of Defense

Air Force Brigadier Gen. Ben Nelson Jr. Credit: Dept. of Defense

Nelson is one of 12 veterans who shared their military stories for Jacqueline Parker’s Girl Scout project “Veterans Heroes” that earned her the highest award given by Girl Scouts, the Gold Award.

The interviews she collected became part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and are also available at the St. Petersburg Museum of History and Girl Scout Leadership Center.

Parker is proof that Girl Scouts do more than sell cookies. The Plant High School senior said scouting gave her the foundation to try things like Junior ROTC where she will serve as the executive officer this school year. She’s also deputy commander of the Civilian Air Patrol at Plant.

“My main goal is to be in the military but also preferably as a pilot,”

It’s an interesting choice because no one in her immediate family is in the military and most of her high school friends aren’t interested in serving.

“My friends respect the fact that I want to do this. I’ll tell them about a camp I went to and they’re like ‘you actually did that?” Parker said.

Jacqueline Parker holds a "dummy" M16 while at the Marine summer leadership camp 2013.

Jacqueline Parker holds a “dummy” M16 while at the Marine summer leadership camp 2013.

This summer,  besides participating in Girls State and a cross country camp, Parker was one of 500 chosen  nationally to attend the Marine Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy held at Quantico.

“We were wearing full Marine uniform. It was as if we were deployed,” she said. “Each squad was 12 people approximately. My group didn’t do so well. We quote-unquote killed our civilians. We had dummy M16s and if you wanted to shoot you go bang, bang, bang.”

She said the course was designed to help the squads learn from unpredictable situations.

“It was very hands on and if you were to do something wrong, you weren’t penalized for it. It was okay here’s how you fix it, now do it right,” Parker said. Whereas in high school, you do something wrong then it just effects your grade and it just tumbles down from there.”

At yet another camp, this one was a week at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., she learned she could tolerate a “boot camp” setting with yelling instructors and tough physical training.

Her love of flying is in full display as Jacqueline Parker enjoys one of her "orientation" flights with the Civil Air Patrol.

Her love of flying is in full display as Jacqueline Parker enjoys one of her “orientation” flights with the Civil Air Patrol.

She survived and even thrived in that environment where she was  treated like a swab, an incoming Coast Guard Academy freshman. It strengthened Parker’s confidence that she belongs in the military.

She applying to the Coast Guard and Air Force academies.

“I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not going to have a regular college experience if I go to an academy, but because I am giving that up I’m getting something much better,” Parker said.

Her definition of “much better”: “an opportunity to lead others and help this nation be a better place to live.”

You can listen to the WUSF radio story featuring Jacqueline Parker HERE.

WWII Veterans’ Honor Flight Returns Tuesday Night

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

So far, more than 700 veterans from central Florida, many from World War II vets, have been treated to a day in Washington D.C. touring the Memorials.

The 11th Honor Flight for West Central Florida returns tonight at 8:30 at the St. Petersburg Clearwater Airport carrying some 80 WWII Veterans. The public is invited to come out and give the a true “hero’s welcome home.” The celebration is planned at the baggage claim facility.

To learn more about the Honor Flight program in the Tampa Bay area visit the website Honor Flight WCF.org or call  727-498-6079.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FMn0zRlU0QA#!

Memorial Day Events: Many Ways to Remember

flags-multiple-in-groundMemorial Day is an opportunity to remember all  those who died while serving the United States of America in all wars.

National Cemetery Ceremonies

An easy reference for all Memorial Day ceremonies at National Cemeteries throughout the United States is available HERE. This listing is in alphabetic order by state. Note that there is not a VA national cemetery in every state.

National Moment of Silence

On Memorial Day at 3 p.m., local time around the nation, Americans will pause for the annual Moment of Remembrance to reflect on the sacrifice of America’s fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite Americans. The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains approximately three million gravesites at its 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites.

On Memorial Day at 3 p.m., local time around the nation, Americans will pause for the annual Moment of Remembrance to reflect on the sacrifice of America’s fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite Americans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains approximately three million gravesites at its 131 national cemeteries and has the potential to provide six million graves on more than 19,000 acres in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites.

To learn more about the history of Memorial Day, visit VA’s Memorial Day page.

– See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/May/Memorial-Day-When-America-Remembers.asp#sthash.tyM8C7bQ.dpuf

On Memorial Day at 3 p.m., local time around the nation, Americans will pause for the annual Moment of Remembrance to reflect on the sacrifice of America’s fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite Americans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains approximately three million gravesites at its 131 national cemeteries and has the potential to provide six million graves on more than 19,000 acres in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites.

To learn more about the history of Memorial Day, visit VA’s Memorial Day page.

– See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/May/Memorial-Day-When-America-Remembers.asp#sthash.tyM8C7bQ.dpuf

An Online Memorial

If you do not have time this weekend to visit a national cemetery or personally thank a military veteran for his or her sacrifice after more than 10 years of war, take just a few minutes and look into their faces. The 100 faces in 100 hours is a project of CNN.com and features photos and bios of 100 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Washington D.C. Ceremonies

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY – Monday, May 27  at 11 a.m. a Presidential Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath-Laying Ceremony is set at the Tomb of the Unknowns, to be followed by an observance program hosted by the Department of Defense in Arlington’s Memorial Amphitheater. A prelude by the U.S. Air Force Band will begin in the amphitheater at 10:30 a.m. Attendees are encouraged to be at the Tomb of the Unknowns or seated in the amphitheater by 9:30 a.m.

NATIONAL PARADE – Monday, May 27, beginning at 2 p.m.
The parade of Marching Bands and Veterans units from all 50 states steps off at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 7th Streets, NW and proceeds along Constitution Avenue, past the White House, ending at 17th Street. The National Memorial Day Parade is sponsored by the World War II Veterans Committee and includes patriotic floats and helium-filled balloons.

WOMEN IN SERVICE MEMORIAL – Monday, May 27, at 4 p.m. The Women In Military Service For America Memorial, located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, will hold a ceremony that includes formal military honors, a keynote address, wreath-layings and the Memorial’s signature event, the scattering of rose petals in tribute to departed comrades. Members of the public are invited to join in the personal tribute segment of the program.

Continue reading

A Chance to Welcome Home and Celebrate WWII Veterans

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.

If you live in the Tampa Bay region and have a free Tuesday evening this week, you’re invited to be a part of the welcome home crowd at the St. Pete-Clearwater Airport.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., the West Central Florida Honor Flight is scheduled to return after a full day in Washington D.C. where some 80 WWII Veterans and their escorts visited memorials that honor their military service.
But organizers don’t want to stop there. They are hoping a large crowd will turn out and top off the full day with a genuine “hero’s welcome” as the veterans return home. The welcome home celebration will be in the baggage claim facility. The public is invited to attend this free event.  For more information on Honor Flight in the Tampa Bay Area go to www.HonorFlightWCF.org or 813 842-5843.

Fred Karl from the Battle of the Bulge to a Life of Service

KIC Image 0006The Tampa Bay area has lost another of its World War II veterans and heroes – a tank commander who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

In addition to his distinguished military service which earned him a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star, Fred Karl worked at almost every level of state government from the Florida Supreme Court to Tampa City Attorney.

Karl will be remembered for many things. But he said World War II shaped him and taught him leadership.

He was a student at the University of Florida at the start of World War II. Karl enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant while still 18 years old.

Karl commanded a platoon of five tanks – 25 men all older than him – at the Battle of the Bulge. They were part of the 2nd Armored Division.

“We got set up for Christmas Eve.” Karl reminisced in 2008. “It was really a bittersweet time. I remember early Christmases at home, the smell of incense and pine trees, but I was terrified about the attack the next day. On Christmas day 1944, we attacked the Germans and cut the point off.”

Karl said his division captured the 2nd Panzer Division in the woods. Then, they were told to flank the bulge and drive south to meet Gen. George Patton’s tanks and relieve Bastogne.

“About the third day of fighting, I mean big, wicked fighting really a lot of resistance, my company commander was lost. He got blown up in a tank,” Karl said. “And then the next day, I was hit with a piece of shrapnel in my arm and my chest and went back to England. So, I missed everything from Jan. 5th.”

But he made it back with his troops in time to join the triumphant entry into Berlin. Continue reading

Nearly a Century of Women Serving in Combat

Beatrice MacDonald’s American Hospital identification, 1915. Ann Fraser Brewer Papers, Schlesinger Library

Beatrice MacDonald’s American Hospital identification, 1915. Ann Fraser Brewer Papers, Schlesinger Library

Women have been serving under fire just like men for almost a century as members of the Army Medical Department and even longer as volunteers.

There have been thousands of women. A few are featured an article published online by Lewis Barger, AMEDD Office of Medical History:

Beatrice MacDonald was the first of three nurses to receive the Distinguished Service Cross after she volunteered to accompany a surgical team reinforcing a British Casualty Clearing Station on the front lines during World War I.

On the night of August 17, 1917, Germans bombarded the hospital tent where MacDonald was on duty, according to an article on the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Harvard University:

During the course of this raid, MacDonald was gravely wounded and lost an eye. She eventually recovered and insisted upon returning to duty, claiming, “I’ve only started doing my bit.”

Ruby Bradley, (sitting with her arm over the side rail and waving to the camera) during the liberation of the POW camp at Santo Tomas in the Philippines during World War II. Photo courtesy AMEDD.

Ruby Bradley, (sitting with her arm over the side rail and waving to the camera) during the liberation of the POW camp at Santo Tomas in the Philippines during World War II. Photo courtesy AMEDD.

During World War II, Capt. Annie Mealer was serving on Corregidor as a chief nurse.

Instead of evacuating, she stayed to tend to the casualties being brought in as the Japanese took control of the island.

According to Mealer’s online account by Army.mil, “… I reviewed the cases in the tunnel. They all needed help that only a nurse could give them. I sent word to my commanding officer that I would stay with them. Here in this tunnel choked with shell smoke and misery was a group of people that meant more to me than anything else.”

Mealer was captured along with the remainder of the garrison and spent nearly three years as a prisoner of war at Santo Tomas, along with the other women who had been captured in the islands including Maj. Ruby Bradley, would remain in service after the war and find herself in combat again in Korea as chief nurse.

You can read the full AMEDD article here.

You can learn more about women’s service at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum website.

Daniel Inouye: Courage on the Battlefield and in Congress

Photo credit: Sen. Daniel Inouye bio page

Photo credit: Sen. Daniel Inouye bio page

I have been remiss not marking the passing of another WWII Veteran, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye.

He fought both on the WWII battlefield being awarded the Medal of Honor and in the halls of Congress earning voters’ continued approval since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962.

Of all the comments memorializing the long-serving senator, one of the most heartfelt came from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki:

“Senator Daniel K. Inouye stood among the ‘greatest’ of our ‘Greatest Generation.’  Recipient of the Medal of Honor, our Nation’s highest award for valor; distinguished service as a long-serving member of the U.S. Senate; and role model to generations of Americans of Asian-Pacific Islander heritage, especially those growing up in his beloved Hawai’i, Senator Inouye made public service a noble and honorable calling.

Dan Inouye’s courage on the battlefield and in Congress, his passion for making a difference in the lives of average Americans, and his intense modesty spoke volumes about a remarkable American, who embodied the bedrock values and quiet virtues of our Nation.

On behalf of America’s 22 million Veterans, I salute the memory of a brave man, a great patriot, a devoted public servant, an unwavering benefactor to Servicemembers and Veterans of every generation, and my friend and mentor.  I extend my deepest personal condolences to the entire Inouye family.”

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