Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mexico's Glass House

In doing some looking for items to submit to The Victory Caucus as "latest news", I visited the Center for Security Policy website. I saw a link named "Mexico's Glass House". It's apparently the first in a series of articles on the hypocrisy of the Mexican government when it comes to immigration and the differences between how the United States treats its immigrants and how Mexico treats theirs. Needless to say, as I pointed out here, there is a glaring double-standard...

The summary:
  • Immigrants and foreign visitors are banned from public political discourse.
  • Immigrants and foreigners are denied certain basic property rights.
  • Immigrants are denied equal employment access.
  • Immigrants and naturalized citizens will never be treated as real Mexican citizens.
  • Immigrants and naturalized citizens are not to be trusted in public service.
  • Immigrants and naturalized citizens may never become members of the clergy.
  • Private citizens may make citizens arrests of lawbreakers (i.e., illegal immigrants) and hand them to the authorities.
  • Immigrants may be expelled from Mexico for any reason and without due process.
Even though the Senate killed the latest "comprehensive immigration reform" legislation, we cannot rest on our laurels about this issue. Keep up the communications with your elected representatives. I know I will...

365 Penguins

I popped into Barnes & Noble Thursday night while running some errands after work. As usual, I was wanting to see what was new in the children's book department. I had hoped to find some patriotic Independence Day books. Sadly, there was not a single one - unlike holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and even Saint Patrick's Day, there was no display table full of books, or even a small selection of books, celebrating our nation's independence from England 231 years ago. I did make a purchase, but I also found a book I decided I would NEVER stock in my classroom library or ever share with my future students.

The oldest of my younger sisters has a thing for penguins. So, when I see a book with penguins, I'll check it out. Some of those books are on my "want" list, some have already made to the "have" list (several of the Tacky the Penguin books), but some are on the "never in a million years" list (picture books such as the gay penguin story And Tango Makes Three and the gay prince story King and King). The lastest addition to the later is 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet, which is recommended for children ages 5 to 8.

The story is of a family who, on New Year's Day, has a penguin delivered to their door. A week later, they have 7 penguins, at the end of the month, they have 31. Cleverly integrated into the story are math problems, as the family tries to figure out what to do with all the new residents, a new one arriving each new day. At any rate, they end up with 365 penguins on New Year's Eve. Then, Uncle Victor, some sort of explorer or some such, arrives and explains that he has been sending the penguins from the South Pole, because their habitat is being destroyed...

Needless to say, I refuse to indoctrinate children into believing that global warming is caused by humans. The science just can't say that - there is too much we don't know, and much we don't know that we don't know, and climate modeling just can't account for every factor that influences what happens to the climate.

If this book had been written with a different ending, I might have considered buying it (it's always nice to tuck an extra math lesson in here or there), but I just can't let my students be subtly indoctrinated into believing junk science.

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women is the second of (currently) four picture books authored by Lynne Cheney. Once again, Robin Preiss Glasser was tasked with doing the illustrations. Like America: A Patriotic Primer, it's an "ABC's of", this time focusing on American women of achievement in various arenas.

Mrs. Cheney's note at the beginning of the book concludes:

"Reaching high and working hard are recurring themes in the lives of those in this book, and so, too, are being brave, never giving up, and caring deeply about the welfare of others. America's amazing women have much to teach our children - and much inspiration to offer us, as well."

Also like America, this book, recommended for ages 4 to 8, isn't really meant to be used as a "read aloud" to a large group of children. It would be best shared between an adult and one or two children together, or a child exploring the book on his or her own - there are many "side notes" to be found within the illustrations that children wouldn't be able to see from far away.

As the title suggests, the book begins with Abigail Adams. Before reading this book, little did I know that she ran the family farm and raised the children while her husband was away doing his part in founding this nation. Abigail wrote to her husband: "I desire you would remember the ladies. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have not voice or representation."

We are introduced to the first American woman to earn a medical degree, and others who would later follow in her footsteps. We learn about some of the women pioneers who went west to places like Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.

Emily Dickinson is recalled as "our country's greatest poet". Women educators are recognized, from Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded a school for African-American girls, to Mary Lyon who founded Mount Holyoke College, which gave women the opportunity for higher education.

Each of our First Ladies are honored with an mini-portrait. Barbara Bush is quoted from a commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College in 1990: "Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps and preside over the White House as the president's spouse. I wish him well."

Noted female journalists include Nellie Bly, Mary Katherine Goddard and Margaret Bourke-White. Laura Ingalls represents all the girls who helped to make history. Many inventors and entrepreneurs are women, from Martha Coston, who "developed a system of signal flares used during the Civil War", to Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar, to women who started companies selling anything from undergarments or cosmetics to cookies and dress patterns.

Some of the women who looked after the welfare of others are Mother Cabrini, Harriet Tubman and Henrietta Szold. A number of women were aviation pioneers, such as Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart and Dr. Sally Ride.

Georgia O'Keefe and Mary Cassatt are two of several female artists to be spotlighted. Women pioneers in the "halls of power" are Frances Perkins, Esther Morris, and Sandra Day O'Connor. There are almost too many performers to count: Carol Burnett, Isadora Duncan, Mahalia Jackson, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers and Patsy Cline are just a few of them.

"R is for ROSIE THE RIVETER and women who went to war. When American men went to fight in World War II, women filled their jobs. They worked in offices and factories, became welders and truck drivers, and made Rosie the Riveter, with her can-do attitude, a fitting national symbol. Women also served bravely in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army Air Forces."

The women of the suffrage movement are named: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are just two of them.

Women scientists and mathematicians include Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (computer science), Dr. Barbara McClintock (genetics), Euphemia Lofton Haynes (mathematics) and Gertude Elion (chemist).

Women can excel in athletics, as well. Examples include Peggy Fleming, Althea Gibson, Wilma Rudolph and Mary Lou Retton.

Again, as with America, there are "Notes on the Text" at the back of the book, which includes a short note from Mrs. Cheney. She says, in part:

"A particularly important source for information about women in American history is the four-volume biographical dictionary Notable American Women, which was published in 1971 and 1980 under the auspices of Radcliffe College. With about a dozen exceptions, the women in this book were born before 1950."

The ABC's of the "Notes on the Text" include a blurb on each woman featured in the illustrations throughout the book.

Once again, Mrs. Cheney's text and Robin Preiss Glasser's wonderful illustrations combine to make this a lovely addition to any children's library. It puts a focus on some truly "Amazing American Women" and offers any child (or adult) opportunities to ignite their curiosity to learn more about the stories of the women who are found to be particularly interesting.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Military Appreciation Night at The Dell Diamond

I was at the Express-Redbirds game last night. They announced that tonight's game would be Military Appreciation Night at The Dell Diamond. Here's all it entails:

  • Free general admission ticket (grass berm seating) to the game against Nashville for any fan who brings one (1) of the following items: batteries, phone cards (AT&T), small flash lights, pens and pencils, paperback books, jokes and comics, disposable cameras, jump ropes, portable CD players, Q-tips, toothpaste and toothbrushes, dental floss, deodorant, sun block and bug spray. Food items, used or damaged items will not be accepted. Items collected will go to (complete list of requested items can be found there). Collection will begin at 6pm at the Home Plate entrance to the ballpark.
  • The team (players and coaches) will be wearing a patriotic jersey for the duration of the game.

  • After the game, the special jerseys will be autographed and will be placed for auction on eBay beginning 10am on Tuesday, June 26th. All proceeds will go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

Update 11:41pm:

The Express starter, Philip Barzilla, pitched a complete game, giving up only 6 hits and 1 run, earning himself the win tonight, with the Express over the Sounds 6-1.

As for Military Appreciation Night, in addition to wearing the special jerseys and collecting donations to go into care packages to send to the troops, they also had two big "Thank You Troops" banners out on tables with Sharpie pens so fans could write messages of support. The banners will be sent somewhere overseas. Like was done on Memorial Day, all military veterans, active duty or retired, were asked to stand to be recognized. During the 7th inning stretch, instead of Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Cotton-eyed Joe, we got God Bless America and You're a Grand Old Flag.

Once the autographed, game-worn jerseys are up for auction on eBay, I'll try to track them down and add the links to them here.


Link to list of all jerseys up for auction (will work on listing individual jerseys as time permits...)


Item will be up for 7 days (ending 9am EDT, Tuesday, July 3rd). Items have a $100 starting reserve price.

Matt Albers, RH pitcher (Since called up to Houston Astros)
Josh Anderson, outfielder
Danny Ardoin, catcher
Miguel Asencio, RH pitcher
Philip Barzilla, LH pitcher
Brooks Conrad, infielder (2B)
Travis Driskill, RH pitcher (Since named as a PCL All-Star)
Paul Estrada, RH pitcher
Jesse Garcia, infielder (SS)
Jared Gothreaux, RH pitcher
Juan Gutierrez, RH pitcher
Burt Hooten, pitching coach
Noberto "Cookie" Ibarra, bullpen catcher
Danny Klassen, infielder (SS)
Jason Lane, outfielder
Mike Rodriguez, outfielder
Mark McLemore, LH pitcher (Since called up to Houston Astros)
Ron "Papa Jack" Jackson, hitting coach
Chan Ho Park, pitcher
Humberto Quintero, catcher
Tim Raines, Jr., outfielder
Cody Ransom, infielder (3B/SS)
Chad Reineke, RH pitcher
Jose Rodriguez, pitcher
Mark Saccomanno, infielder (1B)
Danny Sheaffer, third base coach
Jackie Moore, manager
Beau Torbert, outfielder
Barry Wesson, outfielder

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Secure the Border Now

Go here and tell Congress to secure the border first.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Jellybeans: A Fourth of July Story

In Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Jellybeans: A Fourth of July Story, Heather French Henry brings us once again into the world of young Claire and her dog, Pepper.

It's 4th of July morning, and Claire complains she doesn't have any freedom because of Mom's rules, such as no jellybeans right after breakfast. Upset, she takes Pepper outside to go play with her friend, Robbie.

Claire doesn't find Robbie, but her neighbor, General Jones, is there. In greeting the General, she tells him she is unhappy. Inquiring into her troubles, he tells her: "This is the date the patriots signed the Declaration of Independence for 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.'" Claire questions, "Independence is freedom, isn't it?" The General explains, "Yes, it's the freedom to find happiness."

Claire complains to General Jones about Mom's rules. He reassures her "You have to learn how to be free, Claire. Your mom makes good rules. That's what the Declaration of Independence is about - good rules for a free country." Robbie then arrives with a bang, throwing some poppers on the ground, which startles Pepper. Claires asks him to throw them somewhere else so he doesn't scare Pepper. General Jones points out it's a good rule...

Later, a lightening storm arrives. General Jones makes a comment about Ben Franklin. Mom calls Claire to come inside, and advises Robbie to get home before it rains, too. Claire doesn't want Robbie to have to learn, but the General gently reminds her about "good rules".

While Claire is in her room, she sees Ben Franklin outside with a pair of kites. He invites her to go work on the Declaration of Independence with him. They fly away to Colonial America. Claire sees British soldiers and patriots, one of whom is Robbie. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Claire sees some men looking over a large paper. Thomas Jefferson, who looks like General Jones, reads what they've been working on:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of jellybeans..."

This makes Claire giggle. "You can't say 'jellybeans.'" Mr. Jefferson explains that jellybeans make him happy. Claire points out that not everyone feels the same way, "and the Declaration is for everybody." Claire is inspired: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Ben then takes Claire back home.

Mom wakes Claire up from her dream. Claire tells her mother:

"What a day, Mom! First I learned about rules for freedom, from General Jones. Then I flew to Philadelphia with Mr. Franklin and helped with everyone's freedom."

Later, everyone is outside watching the fireworks, and Claire and Robbie get to have some jellybeans.

Included at the back of the book is "A Brief History of the Fourth of July".

This book is recommended for children ages 5 to 9. For this age group, it's a simple story to help them begin to understand how America came to be, and that to be a free society, we all need to follow good rules. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Jellybeans would make a nice addition to a young child's library.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety, though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands, and all will understand,
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid, I go before you always,
Come follow Me, and I shall give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amidst the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side,
know that I am with you, through it all

Be not afraid, I go before you always,
Come follow Me, and I shall give you rest.

Blessed are your poor, for the Kingdom shall be theirs.
Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you, all because of Me, blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid, I go before you always,
Come follow Me, and I shall give you rest.

I have always loved that hymn. Seems Mike Yon found some of those words on a prayer card on a base in Anbar Province. He is carrying that prayer with him into battle. Go read what he has to say. As always, it is well worth it...

Friday, June 15, 2007

I saw a bumper sticker today...

My dad offered to buy lunch if I would pick it up while I was out to mail a couple of packages at the post office. Waiting at a traffic light on the way to Long John Silver's, I saw a bumper sticker:

I'd rather hunt with Dick Cheney
Than ride with Ted Kennedy

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Shamnesty revisited

Senators Cornyn & Hutchison,

Today, I learned there are plans to bring the "comprehensive immigration reform" bill back to the Senate floor. I've also learned the "grand bargainers" are going to try to buy votes by tying in a $4.4 billion bribe to "border security". We should be funding border security anyway. Border and immigration enforcement first. No amnesty. I WILL NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO VOTES TO BRING THIS BILL TO A VOTE, AND WILL NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO VOTES FOR ANY BILL WITH ANY HINT OF AMNESTY. The government needs to prove to me, over a PERIOD OF YEARS that the borders can be controlled, and that we can enforce existing immigration laws, before we do ANYTHING to deal with the millions of illegal aliens who are already here. PERIOD.

I will remind you again - I vote, and this issue, along with national security, is at the top of my list of important issue which will influence who I vote for in future elections. Do not vote for cloture if this bill is indeed returned to the floor. If cloture succeeds, do not vote for this bill. It is a bad bill. No new law is far superior to a new, bad law that will have a profoundly negative impact on our nation.


Miss Ladybug

Copied to The White House with the following note:

I cannot fathom why the President is supporting this "comprehensive immigration reform bill". It is bad legislation and is bad for the American citizens our elected representives are sworn to serve.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I will also add that I WILL NOT be making any donations to the RNC so long as you, the leader of the Republican party, and other "leading Republicans" in Congress support this Amnesty sham.

America: A Patriotic Primer

I've had America: A Patriotic Primer since before I went back to school to become a teacher. Since it was published in May 2002, it was still a time when there was much visible patriotism to be seen in public spaces. At the time, I wasn't quite sure what I would end up doing with it (give it as a gift, keep it for any children I may one day have?), but I wanted to help make sure that a book for children that celebrates America would be successful.

America: A Patriotic Primer was authored by Lynne Cheney (yes, the wife of our Vice President) and was wonderfully illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. It is the first of several collaborations on children's books they have published, each of which focuses on positive views of America. It is recommended for children ages 4 to 8. The book jacket quotes Mrs. Cheney: "America's story is a compelling one and it helps us understand how fortunate we are to live in freedom." Also from the book jacket: "Mrs. Cheney is donating the net proceeds from this book to the American Red Cross and to projects that foster appreciation for American history."

Now, on to what this book is: an "ABCs" of American history. It starts with a note from the author, which begins:

"We live in a land of shining cities and natural splendors, a beautiful land made more beautiful still by our commitment to freedom. I wrote this book because I want my grandchildren to understand how blessed we are. I want them to know they are part of a nation whose citizens enjoy liberty and opportunity such as have never been known before. Generations have passed from the earth never dreaming that people could be as fortunate as we Americans are."

While this book would be great to have in a classroom, it may not be conducive to a whole-class "read-aloud". I think this Patriotic Primer would be best shared by an adult with one or two children in order to share the details from each page. For example:

"A is for America, the land that we love.", but it also, within the illustration of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on the 4th of July, includes a quote from the poem by Emma Lazarus ("I lift my lamp beside the golden door!") and part of America, the Beautiful ("O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years; Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!").

"C is for the Constitution that binds us together. The Constitution has been the framework for our government for more than two hundred years." The illustration is framed with the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America - "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure the domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." James Madison is also quoted: "The happy union of these states is a wonder; their constitution a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world." Within the illustration is the display at the National Archives of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, as well as the monuments and memorials of Washington, D.C.

The pages for E and F include important dates and facts relating to our nation's flag, along with directions on how to fold a flag.

"G is for God in whom we trust. Freedom to worship as they chose brought people to America. Freedom to worship as we choose sustains our country today." If you are sharing this book with a class in a public school, I can't help but wonder if this part might get you in trouble...

The Heroes and Ideals pages feature pioneers, firefighters, the U.S. military, police, teachers, elected leaders, doctors and nurses, and astronauts.

Historical figures of note are Jefferson, King, Lincoln and Madison. Our nation's immigrant heritage is honored with the Oath of Citizenship: "I hereby declare, on oath, ... that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America."

"V is for Valor shown by those who've kept us free." Highlighted here are Medal of Honor winners Alvin C. York (WWI) and Audie Murphy (WWII), as well as Molly Pitcher, the men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (the movie Glory...), the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of WWII (Japanese-Americans who fought in Europe), the sailors who won the day at Midway, the Marines of Iwo Jima and those who fought in Vietnam.

"Z is the end of the alphabet, but not of America's story. Strong and free, we will continue to be an inspiration to the world."

The book concludes with "Notes on the Text", with another note from Mrs. Cheney: "I wrote this book so that children could enjoy it by themselves, but I like to think that it will most often be read and discussed by parents and children together. Those who wish to continue the discussion beyond the page devoted to each letter of the alphabet should find the following explanatory material of use."

Examples of the supplementary materials:

  • The portion of Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty
  • Facts about the Constitution of the United States of America
  • Facts about the Declaration of Independence
  • Facts about the Heros depicted in the illumination of the letter "H", such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Sam Houston, Jackie Robinson, and Nathan Hale.
  • Facts about Jefferson, King, Lincoln and Madison
  • The full text of the Oath of Allegiance/Oath of Citizenship
  • The Bill of Rights, in brief

For anyone with children, this would be a wonderful book to add to your library and share with them, to teach them a love and deep respect for our nation and its history.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

In Memoriam: 1LT Kile West - The Funeral

Correction, courtesy of a good friend of Kile's mother in the comments, made below (" wasn't the "unknown lady" who released "Kile's dove"...the parents released him when they were ready to let their brave soldier go.").

As luck would have it, the date the family selected for Kile's funeral (6/9 - for his unit, the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment) was a day I was not scheduled to work, and I had no other obligations. So, I got up early (especially for a Saturday), and headed out for Lifeway Fellowship Church in Killeen. The church isn't far off from Highway 190. When I got to Elms Road and turned right, what caught my eye was the at least 50 American flags blowing in the breeze in front of the church. The Patriot Guard Riders were already on duty, and the service was still 30 minutes away. Not wanting to intrude on friends and family, I sat in my car, working on my project for, for about 20 minutes before going in. I figured since I wasn't family and hadn't known Kile, I should hang back and let those who knew Kile have whatever seating was available - the parking lot wasn't completely full when I had arrived, but there were still lots of cars.

The church was filled to capacity. They had already set up folding chairs just inside the sanctuary doors. From the back, I could see the flag-draped casket and some of the floral arrangements, which included a white State of Texas with a Cav patch about where Fort Hood would be on the map. I noticed Kile's Class A uniform jacket was on display, as well as photos of Kile. Just prior to the service beginning, they set up a few more chairs just outside the sanctuary doors and I was invited to take a seat.

The minister spoke first, but I couldn't hear all of what he said - they had to adjust the sound system for those of us in the back to be able to hear. Next, the Army made a presentation to Kile's family of his promotion to First Lieutenant, then also his Bronze Star, his Purple Heart, and an Army Commendation Medal.

The minister spoke again, and shared something Kile's mother had written. The family had prepared a photo montage of Kile's life, which was set to music. One of the songs they played was 19 by country artist Waycross (thanks, CJ, for helping me find it!). After the photo montage was finished, Amazing Grace on bagpipes began (which got the tears flowing), accompanying the video of Kile's Last Flight into Fort Hood and his casket being offloaded from the aircraft and transferred to the waiting hearse by an Army Honor Guard.

When the service at the church concluded, we were asked to stand and clear the center of the lobby. The pallbearers were soldiers from Fort Hood. They carried Kile's casket past and out to the hearse. The funeral would continue at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. I was somewhere in the middle of the procession, and I could see neither the beginning or the ending of it. Most cars on the road not part of the procession stopped, even those going the opposite direction. In the parking lot of a small shopping center not far from the church, a woman stood with two children, with hands over hearts, as we passed. I also noticed some people actually got out of their cars, one older couple clutching small American flags in their hands.

At the cemetery, the Patriot Guard Riders lined the drive in front of the commitment service shelter. Kile's casket wasn't at the shelter yet. When most everyone was around the shelter, we were asked to line up along the drive to greet Kile's casket when it arrived. Kile had been transferred onto a horse-drawn hearse (similar to the one seen here). The pallbearers were following the hearse on foot. Once the hearse was in front of the shelter, the pallbearers carried Kile's casket into the shelter. From where I had been standing prior to everyone being asked to move, I hadn't seen all of what had been prepared for this part of the service. When I turned around for the continued service, I saw the customary soldier's memorial - the rifle planted in the ground, a pair of desert boots, a helmet and dog tags - in the grass next to the walkway leading to the shelter. On the opposite side of the walkway was a small white wooden "church" with white doves inside.

The minister spoke again, talking about a soldier's honor, duty and courage. Prior to the 21-gun salute, the assembled were given warning that it would be loud, but wasn't meant to alarm - it is intended to signal to Heaven that a soldier is on his way home. The rifle salute was followed by the bugler playing "Taps", which again brought tears to my eyes. Before the rifle salute, the Patriot Guard Riders moved to form a semi-circle around the shelter with their American flags. We were all asked to step back and fill out the semi-circle for the conclusion of the service. Finally, a woman (I don't know who she was) spoke, talking about the symbolism of the white dove, as she was held one in her hands. When she finished speaking, they played MercyMe's I Can Only Imagine. She carried the dove around for everyone to see, stopping in front of Kile's family at the end. His family reached out to touch or kiss the dove before the woman tossed it up into the air handed it off to Kile's parents, who then released it to allow it to fly home, along with the three doves released from the white cage. After the service, as the family was leaving, I noticed that some of the women in Kile's family were holding a white dove's feather in one hand, a memento of saying goodbye to Kile.

Additional information

Local news coverage of Kile's funeral service

Stars & Stripes reports on a memorial service for Kile and his fellow Apache Troop soldiers:

Punaro said that even as they died, all six troopers “would not have wanted to be anywhere else.”

“Our troopers displayed all that is right and proper about what we soldiers do by moving immediately to the sound of the guns and moving immediately to a place where Americans were in trouble,” he said.

The soldiers were part of a quick-reaction force when they received word around 7 p.m. that a helicopter had gone down.

“They were in their bunks, on their computers, in the dining facility when the call came,” Punaro recalled. “They immediately jumped up and readied themselves. ... There were two Americans in trouble.”

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Writing Senator Hutchison. About Immigration. Again.

Senator Hutchison,

As I have told you before, I am paying very close attention to the immigration and border security issues. I can only say I am completely dismayed that you, someone who is charged to helping to uphold the law, would vote against the Coburn admendment, which would have required that existing immigration laws be enforced. These are the laws you do not want enforced:

EXISTING LAW.--The following provisions of existing law shall be fully implemented, as previously directed by the Congress, prior to the certification set forth in paragraph (1):

(A) The Department has achieved and maintained operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States as required under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-367)

(B) The total miles of fence required under such Act have been constructed.

(C) All databases maintained by the Department which contain information on aliens shall be fully integrated as required by section 202 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (8 U.S.C. 1722).

(D) The Department shall have implemented a system to record the departure of every alien departing the United States and of matching records of departure with the records of arrivals in the United States through the US-VISIT program as required by section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1221 note).

(E) The provision of law that prevents States and localities from adopting ``sanctuary'' policies or that prevents State and local employees from communicating with the Department are fully enforced as required by section 642 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1373).

(F) The Department employs fully operational equipment at each port of entry and uses such equipment in a manner that allows unique biometric identifiers to be compared and visas, travel documents, passports, and other documents authenticated in accordance with section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (8 U.S.C. 1732).

(G) An alien with a border crossing card is prevented from entering the United States until the biometric identifier on the border crossing card is matched against the alien as required by section 101(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(6)).

(H) Any alien who is likely to become a public charge is denied entry into the United States pursuant to section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)).

I cannot support anyone in any future election who does not put the American people first through enforcing existing laws and protecting our nation's sovereignty by securing all our borders. Enforcement first. Build the fence Congress authorized last year. I will accept nothing less. After the disaster that was the 1986 amnesty, in which we got all the amnesty but none of the enforcement, I won't fall for that again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I was also floored when I read that you stated the Dorgan amendment, which would sunset the Y visa program after 5 years, was a deal-breaker, and that you voted against it. If the Y visa program works, it can be re-authorized by future Congresses. But, if it doesn't work, it should not be allowed to continue indefinitely.

I vote, and this issue is on the top of my list of important issues, along with the War on Terror. If you want me to vote for you the next time you are up for election, do the right thing. Enforcement first. No new law is preferable to a very bad law. I am paying very close attention to what you are doing in my name in Congress.


Miss Ladybug

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

FDR's prayer after D-Day invasion

I had not ever heard of the prayer FDR shared with the nation after the D-Day invasion of WWII. Listening to the radio today, Rush read a transcript of it. Later, Sean Hannity, with Newt Gingrich as his guest, played the audio. Later, Sean shared that the audio had been posted with video at

An article accompanies the video here.

The FDR Presidential Library & Museum posted a transcript:

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


These words still resonate today.

George Washington's Teeth

There's a new Border's bookstore close to my house that was having it's Grand Opening this past weekend. As part of their promo, I acquired a 20% off one item coupon, so I decided to check it out, with a trip to the children's section in mind (since I am woefully behind on my "other" reading, and I'm getting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for my birthday next month). While I decided I still prefer the local Barnes & Noble to the new Border's, I found a title I hadn't seen before. I was looking at the biography section with the children's books, and I found a picture book about George Washington titled George Washington's Teeth, written by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora and illustrated by Brock Cole.

Although the book cannot be considered a definitive biography of our first President, it is written in a way that will hopefully spark a young reader (or listener) to want to learn more about him. George Washington's Teeth chronicles George's life in relation of the state of his teeth. Written as a poem, it begins:

The Revolutionary War
George hoped would soon be won,
But another battle with his teeth
Had only just begun...

Like most people, I was familiar with the legend of George Washington's wooden teeth (which he never had), but I never really gave much thought to how his bad teeth would have caused him quite a bit of discomfort, and during some very turbulent times in our nation's history. The night of the crossing of the Delaware, George went from having nine teeth left to having only seven... He lost his last tooth because of a set of dentures. Because of the way George was forced to move his jaw when wearing dentures, he suffered from deafness. He disliked speaking in public because of the way he looked as a result of his tooth loss, and the way the dentures made him sound when he spoke. The story ends with George finally getting a set of dentures that fit comfortably, made of hippopotamus tusk and gold.

In the back of the book, there is a timeline of events in George Washington's life, many of which are taken from his letters and diaries and other accounts. This is where some of the details of his dental problems and the effect those problems had on his life can be found, and helps to explain the images we see today of our first President, with lips tightly closed.

This book is recommended for children ages 5 to 8 years old. I liked the book, for the rhyming poetry, the colorful illustrations, and the unique insight into the life of an important person from American history. I hope this book will help my future students to take an interest in learning about American history and the people who helped to shape our nation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I am Carole Lombard

I'll blame this one on Major Z...

Your Score: Carole Lombard

You scored 14% grit, 14% wit, 38% flair, and 42% class!

You're a little bit of a fruitcake, but you always act out in style. You have a good sense of humor, are game for almost anything, but you like to have nice things about you and are attracted to the high life. You're stylish and modern, but you've got a few rough edges that keep you from attaining true sophistication. Your leading men include William Powell, Fredric March, and Clark Gable. Watch out for small planes.

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the Classic Leading Man Test.

Link: The Classic Dames Test

A Heroine

Grim introduces us to a heroine who saved 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

Friday, June 1, 2007

In Memoriam: 1LT Kile West

While I was eating my lunch Thursday, I was skimming through the Austin American-Statesman. On the front page of the local news section, I found an article titled Soldier was living a dream (online version has a different title).

First Lieutenant Kile G. West, along with his crew, were on a mission in Abu Sayda to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter when their Bradley was hit by an IED. In seeking information on the fate of helicopter crew, unsurprisingly, I found news reports saying nothing more than "10 soldiers killed in Iraq on Memorial Day". says 1LT Keith N. Heidtman and CWO Theodore U. Church died of wounds recieved when their Kiowa came under heavy enemy fire and crashed during combat operations.

From the article in the local paper (written by a local staff writer), when he died, Kile West was only doing what came naturally to him:

"I know that when it came down to it, Kile was the kind of guy that, it didn't matter what the reason was, he was fighting for the person next to him," said Marc Parks, a childhood friend.

West was destined to be a soldier. From the Houston Chronicle:

"Kile wanted to be a soldier his whole life. I was a soldier, and his grandfather was a soldier in World War II. He just wanted to do that. He would watch the military channel on TV all the time. He wanted to go to college to be an officer in the Army. He died doing what he wanted to do," the uncle said.

Kile West graduated from Hutto High School, which is just down the road from the ballpark where I spend a fair amount of time over the summer. He had played high school football. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University where he was a member of the ROTC. He had wanted to earn a Masters from Texas A&M.

Being a hunter, Kile and his friends dealt with a grackle problem, in his neighborhood just outside the city limits. In my opinion, he demonstrated his leadership - he identified a problem and set about fixing it himself, with a little help from his friends.

Kile was due to come home to Texas for his mid-tour leave in June. His unit, the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was out of Fort Hood, which is about an hour away from where his mother lives. The Patriot Guard Riders have a confirmed mission. First Lieutenant Kile G. West will be laid to rest at Central Texas Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas on either June 6 or June 7. I will be keeping an eye on the details to see if I will be able to attend. If I can, this will be my first funeral of a fallen soldier.

God Bless you, Kile West. Thank you for your service. May you rest in peace and may your family find the comfort they need to deal with their loss.

Update 6/5/07, 1:13am

According to the PGR site, the funeral will be Saturday, June 9 at 10:30am. It will be held at Lifeway Fellowship Church, 4001 E. Elms Road, Killeen, Texas.

What Freedom Means to Me: A Flag Day Story

Quite by accident, I discovered a series of books focusing on American holidays. As I am wont to do since beginning my journey to becoming an elementary school teacher, I go to Barnes and Noble and peruse the children's book section to see if I find anything of interest. Sometimes, I was there for a purpose (course work in which I needed to find materials on a certain topic or theme), and other times, I'm just looking to see if anything catches my eye. One day, I found a book about Veterans Day by Heather French Henry. Heather was Miss America 2000, whose platform was raising awareness of the plight of homeless veterans. Her father is a disabled Vietnam veteran. According to one critic's statement, all royalties from Heather's books go to the Heather French Foundation for Veterans. I'll go back and review the Veterans Day book come November - I promise! Now, it's time for Flag Day...

Heather's books follow the adventure of young Claire, her friend, Robbie, and her dog, Pepper. In What Freedom Means to Me: A Flag Day Story, Claire is having trouble with Pepper not obeying commands. Her neighbor, General Jones, encourages Claire by telling her Pepper will learn as she grows, but right now, she's just a puppy. Claire feels bad about ordering Pepper around. General Jones suggests they all come along with him to celebrate Flag Day. Claire agrees, but says she'll have to clean her room when they are done.

General Jones takes out an old, folded flag. Robbie asked why it is folded that way. "'To look like the hats the first patriots wore in their fight for freedom,' said the general." Claire notices something else:

As they prepared to raise the flag, Claire frowned. "It's not the real one, she wailed. "It's missing too many stars."

What happened to them?" Robbie asked.

"They showed up later," explained General Jones. "The first flag, made by Betsy Ross, had thirteen stars-one for each colony that broke free from the British."

If you didn't already know, there isn't any actual proof that Betsy Ross made the original Stars and Stripes, so when sharing this book, it should be noted that this is legend, not a provable fact.

General Jones also gets out craft supplies. Claire gets the idea they can make their "own Betsy Ross flag". General Jones comments that his children did the same thing when they were little, and that's why these supplies were packed away with the flag. Together, Claire and Robbie decide that each of the stars should have what freedom means to different people. Some of the things the children heard:

"Delivering mail by day and studying law at night."

"Acting silly sometimes."

"Being true to myself."

"Voting for leaders who represent the people."

"Being elected president and always speaking my mind."

Claire's mother reminds her she still needs to clean her room. "I will...' is her response. When the children return with the stars, Pepper makes a mess of the craft supplies. The general reminds the children they haven't made stars of their own. What does freedom mean to them? "Not worrying about Pepper" and "Not being a slave." Then, the general notes they are still missing a star for Pepper...

"She doesn't have freedom," Claire balked.

"Because Claire's like that nasty British king who ordered the first Americans around," teased Robbie."

Claire pouted, thinking about her own orders and her mom's. "Are we still free when we do what we're told?" she asked the general.

He smiled. "Following guidelines doesn't erase freedom."

The general goes on to explain that the guidelines we follow, such as traffic lights, help to make life safer. As the sun goes down, the general says it's time to take the flag down. The children go home, and Claire is reminded that she still needs to clean her room. She grumbles about it, because she doesn't like doing it, but it helps her understand that with freedom also comes responsibility.

At the back of the book, there is "A Brief History of Flag Day", beginning with the legend of General Washington asking Betsy Ross to make the first flag in 1776, the Continental Congress stipulating the flag would have 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 white stars on a field of blue on June 14, 1777, then how stars were added for each new state, and finally how June 14th was declared Flag Day. The final note: "The red stands for courage, the white for innocence, and the blue for justice."

According to this book is recommended for ages 5 to 9. I'm not the biggest fan of the plot in this particle particular book - I don't think it's completely clear to a young reader that the lesson is "with freedom comes responsibility", but I do like that this book is highlighting a uniquely American holiday.