Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"He's in my food chain" A Decoration Day post

When I was child, my grandparents always referred to it at "Decoration Day". .. we would go to the cemetery and honor our war dead.

Then it became "Memorial Day", we still went to the cemetery to honor our dead.

My Dad and his brothers are dead veterans. They are buried in military cemeteries. Uncle Frank and Uncle Bill in Jefferson Barracks Cemetery and Dad is buried here in Springfield.


When asked why Billy Long, NOT a military veteran, was chosen to be one of the key note speakers at the Cemetery Service ( "Springfield Veterans Cemetery service begins at 1:30 pm. Keynote speakers are Congressman Billy Long and Lt. Gen.(ret) Marc Rogers USAF. Phone is 417-823-3944), Springfield Cemetery director Steve Maples told the bus driver Long was chosen because "He's in my food chain."

This afternoon I called the Missouri Veterans Commission expressing my displeasure with the selection of Billy Long as a keynote speaker at a cemetery service honoring departed veterans. Especially since the news release identified each speaker at the other four cemeteries as a veteran.

When he answered the phone, after being appraised by his secretary what I was calling about, Maples said to me "You got a problem with that?" or "What's your problem with that?" I'm not sure what because I was astonished that a veteran's affairs person would use that kind of language with a veteran.

My concern with Billy Long being a keynote speaker is best exemplified by looking at Long's "YEA" vote for the Paul Ryan budget which cuts veteran funding-- Long's votes do not match his rhetoric.

Another concern with Billy Long being a keynote speaker is that fact that he is NOT a veteran. Did you know that between 1965 and 1975 the enrollment rate of college-age men in the United States rose and then fell abruptly. Research seem to think that this rate is a result of draft-avoidance behavior. Google it.

When a non-veteran congressman such as Billy Long speaks praises for veterans and greats them at the Honor Flights and then votes to cut funding for programs that benefit veterans --I just believe that this is not the person we want honoring our veteran's on Decoration Day.

When I expresses those sentiments to Steve Maples, cemetery director, he told me if I didn't like Billy Long being on the program, I could just not attend the service.

Maples also told me the press release was wrong, Long was not to be a keynote speaker but was to introduce the keynote speaker.

Maple's use of the phrase "He's in my food chain" struck me as an odd thing to say.

A quick google search: http://www.federalgrantswire.com/national-cemetery-system-department-of-veterans-affairs-federal-grants.html

National Cemeteries (64.201)

To provide burial space, headstones and markers, and perpetual care for veterans and members of the Armed Forces of the United States whose service terminated other than dishonorably, and for Reservists and National Guard members having 20 years...

Procurement of Headstones and Markers And/or Presidential Memorial Certificates (64.202)

To furnish lasting memorials for the graves of veterans and eligible family members throughout the world and honor the service of the veteran through Presidential Memorial Certificates.

State Cemetery Grants (64.203)

To assist States in the establishment, expansion, and improvement of veterans' cemeteries.

By choosing to use the phrase "in my food chain" -- is this some sort of 'cemetery slang'? or is Maples acknowledging that he has to 'suck up' to Billy Long. I don't know.

I do know that I certainly hope that Mr. Maples is more empathetic with the families of dead veterans than he was with this 63 year old veteran.

I spoke with Larry Kay, Executive Director of the Missouri Veterans Commission. He gave me permission to publish his Memorial Day Speech:

I am here on this beautiful Missouri Day – Memorial Day to share with you and honor those who have done their duty and gone before. As the Director of the Missouri Veterans Commission I tell people that, by definition, a Veteran is alive. Today is not Veterans Day – it’s Memorial Day – a day that we are to look backward – to reflect upon what was – and maybe even what might have been. To take a look – even for a brief moment on how the lives of those Veterans who have gone before us have changed our world.

In his book Safely Rest, David Colley describes October 26, 1947. The Joseph V. Connolly is sailing past Ambrose Light, through the Narrows and gliding slowly into New York Harbor. With her are the destroyers USS Bristol and the USS Beatty along with the gleaming white Coast Guard Cutter USS Spence. The 16 Inch Guns of the USS Missouri boom a salute that echos off the New Jersey Palisades and through Manhattans man-made canyons. As the thunder rolls away a flight of fighter planes roars overhead and gracefully turns away to leave the streets of New York in an eerie quiet.

At the same time the United States Army Transport Ship Honda Knot slips through the frigid waters on the west coast beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The aerial escort of 48 fighter planes flies over the vessel and dips their wings in salute before banking away. The Honda Knott is escorted to the marina pier by surface ships from the Coast Guard and Navy where a Navy launch greets the ship and offers a massive wreath from President Truman.

On the deck of each ship is a United States military-issue metal casket draped by a Flag of the United States of America. Each Casket is escorted by an honor guard representing each branch of service. On board the Joseph V. Connolly are 6,248 coffins containing the remains of Soldiers killed in the European Theater of World War II. In the hold of the Honda Knot are 3,112 coffins of those Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines killed in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was the initial stage of what has been called the most melancholy immigration movement in the history of man – the return to the United States of 233,181 Americans dead after the end of World War II. Think about it – 233,181 Americans. America’s army of fallen warriors was coming home from the four corners of the earth – from Guadalcanal and Australia, from New Guinea, Japan, China and Burma in the Pacific Theatre. From the Mediterranean Theater men were returned from Libya, Sicily, Italy, Yugoslavia and Romania. The bodies of men who had died in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany also came home. Most had been killed in action or had died from wounds received in combat against the enemy.

An additional 93,242 men were buried in overseas American Cemeteries because the families believed it more appropriate for them to rest with comrades near the battlefields upon which they had died.

The families of 78,976 dead had no choice. Their sons were listed as missing in action and their remains were never recovered. Even today the number missing has been reduced by only a fraction. About 8,000 of the lost have been recovered but are listed as unknown in American Cemeteries overseas.

The entire repatriation program took six years to complete from 1945 to 1951 at a cost of two hundred million 1945 dollars or several billion dollars today.

In comparison, More than 1200 were returned after the Spanish-American War and 46,292 were returned from France after World War I with 30,921 being buried in eight American Military Cemeteries in France following the conflict.

Today our Nation glorifies World War II – the Great Crusade and we idolize the men of the Greatest Generation and immortalize the dwindling legions of heroes in our midst. But in our idolatry, we have lost touch with the immense pain and suffering caused by the war and the ripples of sorrow that flowed though our land for decades. Since their time – they have been joined by comrades of Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf and Iraq and Afghanistan. Those families and friends who have experienced the pain know it clearly.

So what are we to learn from this – what do these rows of perfectly aligned grave markers tell us?

First, they describe the definition of a hero. Here today rest the earthly remains of some of those who came home on October 26, 1947. All of those are recipients of the Purple Heart. There are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients here - there are Generals with awards arching over the top of their dress jackets. Yet there are also those who died bedridden decades after their duty qualified them for this sacred place. There are Privates with a one line pedigree on a DD214 stating simply that they served. There are spouses of Veterans and dependent children – all of whom were familiar with the sacrifice of having served – true Patriots in their own right.

Is the Service of the 87 year old Veteran any less than the service of the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient? Is the Spouse who was charged with the care and conduct of their family to be afforded the same respect as their spouse whose exploits were celebrated and lauded when they returned?

Take a look – really, take a look. Look at the rows of white stones in this cemetery. This is the great equalizer. Here among these stones there is no African American Section – there is no special place for Generals or a separate section for Marines. Rank, color, creed – religion – they have no place here. To be a member of this club you had to raise your right hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. That simple act began the journey of sacrifice that led service members and their families to this place.

Second, what do you take away from this? To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln – “in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men and women have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Many of you believe that you have come here to pay respect to those who have gone before. I honestly don’t believe that’s what they would have wanted. Much as Jesus served Communion to the 12 – these Patriots are here to honor you today. They are here to tell you that America is worth both service and sacrifice. They are here to tell you that there are things more horrible than being killed in a righteous cause for which you believe. I think they would smile when they see the professionalism, service and sacrifice of today’s military. Today’s military is built squarely upon the backs of those in this cemetery. They would also be proud to learn that it’s no longer a Band of Brothers but a Band of Brothers and Sisters upon whom rests the security of our Nation.

If you listen they might tell you to square you life and circumscribe your passions. They might tell you to not be a part of spending your children’s future. They might tell you to get right with God and seek his forgiveness.

And I think they would tell you to take care of Veterans – for they are the ones who have gone into the night to ensure that everything you take for granted is secure.

Day is done,

Gone the sun,

From the hills, from the lake, from the skies,

All is well,

Safely rest, God is nigh. ---- Thank you.

Larry D. Kay

BG, USA (ret)

Executive Director

Missouri Veterans Commission

14 comments:

Horse-farmer said...

I will call the cemetary tomorrow and express my discuss at a moron beign the speaker at memorial day services, Just because he is a congress wimp....oops sorry congress person...
this from a veteran of 21 years, and service connected at 50% for disabilities incurred during that 21 years of service.
tomlee

Bungalow Bill said...

Apparently people haven't bought into Billy's no earmark rhetoric. It appears Long delivers like Dominos when it comes to "boatloads of federal money". Maples knows he is in line.

Anonymous said...

As a veteran, I've attended lots of Memorial Day events where the speakers were widows of veterans; dads of veterans; on one occassion the sister of a pilot who died in Vietnam; one where the daughter of a soldier who died in Afganistan; and, non-veteran members of the clergy. I know Mr. Maples as a person who has given much comfort to my family and friends as we have buried our loved ones in Veterans Cemetery. I guess I'm just a little different than you guys. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Long, Mr. Blunt, and, Mrs. McCaskill and Jay Nixon, as politicians, recognize the solumn responsibility we all have to remember, and are will to speak out about passed loved ones in Memorial Day services. If you have a problem with that, well, we will just have to agree that we disagree on that point. Have a safe Memorial Day and thank you for your service to our country.

Busplunge said...

ANON 9:42 PM:
As a veteran and even before I was a veteran I have attended Memorial Day services for as over 50 years.

My point and apparently I wasn't succinct enough was that the blatant hypocrisy of a politician, such as Billy Long, who, in voting for bills that make significant monetary cuts to programs that support veterans, to speak at a Memorial Day at a veterans cemetery.

And I guarantee that Mr. Long will lavish praise on the veterans remembered, he'll praise them for their service, he'll speak of their ultimate sacrifice, he'll speak of freedom, yadda, yadda, yadda (to paraphrase Long).

And that is wrong.

Have a safe Memorial Day and thank you for your service to our country.

Busplunge said...

even simpler, my message here to Long is words are cheap.

Busplunge said...

I've only deleted three comments since I started this blog. Tonight I made it four.

Don't make the bus driver mad.

Mass forwarded emails are not appropriate for the comment section, especially one that has been around since before 2008.

Bungalow Bill said...

@anonymous 9:42 words from politicians are meaningless as long as these same politicians vote against the liberty and freedom these soldiers gave their lives for to defend. All three of the politicians you refer to have done that very thing.

Anonymous said...

@1:16, that was a Ready-Fire-Aim statement. What are you even talking about?

Which three are you picking on? If they vote for appropriations to fund veterans benefits like service connected disability; medical facilities for health care; cheap, cheap, cheap medicines at Ft. Leonard Wood; provide places for final internmant; and, the list goes on; are they not supporting the liberty and freedom you are preaching about?

Most of the veterans I knew from WWII came home, got a job and didn't think the government owed them anything. The Vietnam group mainly acted the same way except for the dope smokers. This bunch coming home from everything happening in the Middle East for the last 20 years have lots more programs to support them, and apparently want more.

Sometimes, I read stuff from imposter posters and have to just say......Ah..Jeez.

Anonymous said...

As a volunteer that worked at this event I can tell you two things. One, Mr. Maples did an outstanding job organizing this event. Two, Mr. Maples is a salty army guy that doesn't speak politically correct and that seems to suit him fine. Maybe instead of griping about the speakers and organizers the writer should go after those people that aren't working to benefit others and instead target, oh, I don't know, maybe people that deserve it? Sorry but Mr. Maples was being friendly and joking with you. If you knew him at all you'd have realized this. He was joking and obviously made you blow up over nothing.

Busplunge said...

Anon 11:47:

"One, Mr. Maples did an outstanding job organizing this event." Judging from what I read in this morning's paper, I would probably concur with your statement here.

"Two, Mr. Maples is a salty army guy that doesn't speak politically correct and that seems to suit him fine." Unfortunately for Mr. Maples and the Missouri Veterans Commission that may not suit others fine. Just because it 'seems to suit him fine' doesn't mean it suits those who come to him for service.

"Maybe instead of griping about the speakers and organizers the writer should go after those people that aren't working to benefit others and instead target, oh, I don't know, maybe people that deserve it?" Read the post and the comments. When a congressman repeatedly votes against veterans and veterans programs while at the same time praises veterans.... you're a smart bus rider, do the math...

"Sorry but Mr. Maples was being friendly and joking with you. If you knew him at all you'd have realized this. He was joking and obviously made you blow up over nothing."

I don't know Mr. Maples other than speaking with him on the occasion mentioned in the post. I do not have, as you appear to have, a personal relationship with Mr. Maples.

My expectations of a Veteran's Cemetery Director's behavior were not met in my conversation with Mr. Maples.

To paraphrase Mr. Maples: if you don't like what I write here, don't come here. You got a problem with that?

Anonymous said...

Bus, you should take the time to have a cup of coffee with Maples and get to know him. He deals with the sorrow of others on a regular basis and is much appreciated by everyone I know who have buried family there.

I've watched him volunteer for the Christian County Sheriff's office; local veterans groups and civic events; and strongly supports his community as a man of faith. I don't know you but I hope the same can be said of you, me and others.

I believe he is an asset to our community and I appreciate his kindness and understanding as I've buried uncles, their wives, two cousins and about a dozen friends there. He handles a tough job with dignity, and, doesn't have to kiss up to anyone to get the job done.

Yeti coolers said...

Thankful for our past and present Military who provide us our Freedom.

Anonymous said...

"My expectations of a Veteran's Cemetery Director's behavior were not met in my conversation with Mr. Maples."

I guess when you started this conversation, you did not realize how petty you would look.

I'm glad Maples is in charge and............not you.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know that the folks in Jeff City have found out what kind of a jerk Mr. Maples can be. Hope he remembers that those folks as well as the veterans and their families and the taxpayers are also in his "food chain".