Remembering a forgotten war (5 x 8 – 11/6/13)


The American news media — that’s us — don’t bother covering the war in Afghanistan anymore. Allegedly, people are tired of it and don’t want to hear about it unless a local kid is killed. And yet, people go out of their way to welcome home soldiers as a group found in Chicago this week, the Associated Press reports.

“Afghanistan is a very complex and ambiguous war … and a difficult thing to keep track of so it is amazing when we are 10 years (into) a war and there is still that kind of community, that level of support, the level of willingness to go out of one’s way,” Capt. Pravin Rajan said.

The welcome home started with a phone call. Stephanie Hare, a native of Illinois who now works in England, called the USO at O’Hare and explained that her fiance, Rajan, who had served seven months in Afghanistan, was with a dozen other Marines on a plane bound for Chicago from Baltimore.

“I just thought if they could get them some Chicago pizza, champagne or something, that would mean a lot,” she said.

On the other end of the line was John Colas, a 74-year-old former Marine USO volunteer. He told Hare he’d try to do something in the hour or so before the flight landed. But he cautioned that while volunteers make an effort to welcome military personnel whenever they come through the airport, he wasn’t sure he could pull anything off in such a short time.

Colas got on the phone with the police and fire departments, the airlines and anyone else he could think of.

“There must have been 15 Chicago firemen and an equal number of Chicago police and they formed a corridor for the Marines when they got off the airplane,” he said.

Rajan said the Marines didn’t know what to make of it, starting with the slightly unnerving experience of looking out a plane window to see a fire truck.

“For a second, we were like, ‘Are we in trouble?'” he said.

Late last week, a returning soldier also got a water salute, but he didn’t know. He had been killed in the war.

And people stopped what they were doing:

(Johnny Jet blog)

Travel writer Johnny DeScala was on the flight:

It only got more emotional when I deplaned. There was a large number of passengers, who are normally in a hurry to get home or make a connection, standing by the window to witness something truly moving. To see the Honor Guard and family waiting patiently, while LAX baggage handlers and a military loadmaster remove the flag covered casket first from the cargo hold, was humbling to say the least. I’m not sure if it was the fallen soldier’s mother or wife who I watched slowly walk up to the coffin while a few other family members, wrapped in blankets, stood near with a dozen or so of the Honor Guards standing in salute.

As soon as I saw her reach out to put her hand on her baby’s casket, I walked away.

Here’s an interview with DeScala on NPR’s Here and Now.

As of this week, 2,151 members of the military have been killed in the war.

Related: As U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, poppy trade it spent billions fighting still flourishes (Washington Post).


Following up on yesterday’s battle of the generations, as envisioned by a Boston Globe writer, James Sollisch writes in the New York Times about his son, Max, who is pursuing a life in music, which doesn’t pay much or provide the success symbols that a lot of old-timers value.

Max gets up when he likes and does what he loves. He avoids most of the things that most of us numerically successful people complain about all the time: racing from one unreasonable deadline to the next, sitting in unproductive meetings and watching simple things made complicated by committees. And he doesn’t want for much, largely because he’s smart enough to know that the only way to be rich is to want little. He takes no money from his parents. If he doesn’t make enough from a particular tour to cover the next few months, he gets jobs substitute teaching.

Somehow he manages to save a little money. So recently, while on vacation, I was sitting on the beach with my friend Dale, a 62-year-old hospital administrator, successful by every measure. He was lamenting that our families’ vacations were about to end and he would have to go back to the daily grind. He described what he was going to do in a few years when he retires. “I’m going to wake up when I want and take a long bike ride,” he said. “Then I’m going to read. I love to read. I’m going to finally learn to play the hammered dulcimer. And if I need a little extra cash, I’ll work a few hours a week as a physical therapist, which was my first career and first love before I got an M.B.A. and ended up herding cats.”

Am I crazy, I thought, or is Dale describing Max’s life? My friend, who has everything, is working his tail off, making maximum contributions to his 401k and buying rental properties, so he can afford to have the life of someone who has none of the trappings of success.


School and prayer is going to get you nothing but trouble. A bus driver in Burnsville found that out after leading the kids on his bus in prayer, the Star Tribune reports.

George Nathaniel, 49, of Richfield, is a pastor and says his firing violates his freedom of speech. He was warned to stop but he continued anyway. “I let them know I am a pastor and I am going to pray,” he tells the paper.

“We start out with a song,” he said. “Then each person will pray if they want to pray. If they don’t want to pray, they don’t have to pray. Then I will pray and ask them if they want to join me in prayer. Just give them something constructive and positive to go to school with.”

Public prayer is back in the spotlight on another front today, too. The Supreme Court will hear the case of Greece, NY., where the town board starts its meetings with a prayer, according to NPR. Two women objected.

“I don’t feel like … I’m welcome at my town government anymore,” (Susan) Galloway said in an interview with NPR. “My grandmother had to leave Russia because of the Cossacks. My father had to leave Germany because of Hitler.” She feels strongly that Americans must “make sure that our government and religion are separate, because we are a diverse country.” This is necessary, she says, to recognize diversity and “protect the minorities’ rights.”

Supervisor Auberger is no longer granting interviews, but earlier this year, in , he explained why he instituted and has fought for prayers at board meetings. “Our Founding Fathers believed in the right for us to pray and have that freedom of expression in prayer,” Auberger said, and the town of Greece is simply continuing that tradition. There are no guidelines for what prayers are appropriate, he said, because that would amount to censorship.


How is it possible that with all the attention WCCO’s Jason DeRusha has gotten over the years, someone is just now getting around to writing a decent profile of the most recognized TV personality in the Twin Cities?


If anyone has a good way of dispatching with crows, please contact the Rochester City Hall. The city is inundated with crows around this time every year and this year is no exception, KAAL TV reports.

“I think in the long run we’re probably just gonna have to just have some services available to deal with the messes as it comes forward and try to move them on as well, but ultimately as long as there’s a concentration of light and warmth in the downtown cities, the crows are gonna find it,” Councilman Mike Wojcik, said.

Bonus I: Column: Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous.

Bonus II: The art of the obit. Thanks to Bill Childs for calling our attention to this one:

Michael Sullivan’s later years have been spent fishing, hunting, collecting books and living a life of quiet solitude at his beloved home in the Boca Chica Apartment Complex. His daily attire has usually been an old pair of Levi jeans, a t-shirt decorated with fishing logos, a long sleeve 100%, cotton shirt (preferable teal blue) with a left breast pocket that contained a black pen, a # 2 pencil and a small notepad. The shirt always had holes at the elbows. In the evenings, when not watching the Rachel Maddow show, he could be counted on to spend at least two hours preparing his evening meal of homemade tomato Bolognese sauce, spaghetti cooked exactly for 11 minutes, a lettuce, tomato and sweet yellow onion salad, two pieces of rye bread with real butter and a single malt scotch and water. A devoted fan of anchovies, he always included at least two in his sauces. His friends knew he could never be counted on to eat his evening meal until a little past midnight and true to his late mother’s instruction, he always chewed his meat at least 52 chews.

Bonus III: How to tell if your mayor is smoking crack.

Are you willing to swap passwords for biometric data?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The National Security Agency scandal continues to grow – with latest developments that the agency is tapping the phones of foreign leaders and spying on Google, many Americans feel that the organization’s reach has gone too far. Who in the government is in charge of deciding who to monitor – and how much of this oversight is truly working to keep Americans safe? Do we need the NSA as a first line of defense? Three guests join us to offer varying views on the NSA developments and what they mean for our new security state.

Second hour: Writer Justin St. Germain was haunted for years by the murder of his mother at the hands of her fifth husband, by the signs he might have missed. In his new memoir “Son of a Gun” he tries to make sense of what happened, and the role that it plays in his life.

Third hour: What makes a company truly innovative?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Sue Haigh, Peter Bell and Charles Zelle speak on transportation.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – What the races in New Jersey and Virginia say about national politics.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – It’s been a year since Washington state legalized pot for recreational use.
That’s meant some big changes along the I-5 corridor, once known as the “Marijuana Highway.” For instance police are phasing out pot-sniffing dogs. Meanwhile law enforcement is becoming more vigilant about “Green DUI’s,” people who smoke pot and drive. NPR reports on the new reality along the “Marijuana Highway.”