Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day in my hometown

Englewood NJ, my hometown, has an annual Memorial Day Parade. My father used to participate in the parade, riding up Palisade Avenue in his candy red Lincoln Continental convertible. The parade still features convertibles. This year there was a hearse too,
 from Eternity Funeral Home, advertising their services while honoring the troops at the same time.

I met World War Two veteran Joseph Austin and his wife Claire who were locating the names of his friends etched on the Liberty Plaza Memorial
 across from the Palisade Avenue Memorial. Both felt the speeches before the parade should have mentioned the Memorial so people who came out for the parade would take notice and honor the dead. The Memorial has the names of all local soldiers who lost their lives in all the wars America has participated in.

It is easy to forget what Memorial Day is about, with barbecues, shopping and parades with marching bands, dancing girls and beauty queens, unless you are unlucky enough to lose someone in a war. President Obama went to Arlington Cemetery today where he honored the dead and thanked those serving in the military. He laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There were many visitors in Section 60, the area for those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is know as the “saddest acre in America." I fear Section 60 will continue to grow despite Obama’s dream of world peace.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Iraqi police will be taking over the security of Iraq though many fear they are not ready

Hillary Clinton told the press during her visit to Iraq at the end of April: that the recent upsurge in sectarian violence is a major concern. It is a few terrorists making their last hurrah, as America gets ready to turn the baton of security over to the Iraqis. She is confident, she said, that all will be well. The MPs I have been talking to aren’t as confident and neither am I.

The last five days I have been at FOB (forward operating base) Shield, embedded with the 39th Louisiana National Guard MPs, checking on the progress of their mission. They were tasked as a PTT, police training transition team. While accompanying them to an Iraqi police station in Sadr City, two bombs went off in the sector. Time will tell if the Iraqis are ready to handle their own security or not.

I'm headed back to America. The first leg of my journey back starts the morning of the 9th- with a book and a film in the works on my time in Iraq. Check back for more images and a link to the final story on fox 8 in New Orleans.

Images top: Iraqi police bike with fake flowers / Sgt. Prince putting on her kevlar/MP's stop at check point in Sadr City
Bottom: CL. Jamal at his desk / Preachrd at check point/Car that had car bomb in it which only partially detonated/Al Jazaeer Police Station/Iraqi tank painted with flowers at check point/NaquinNaquin in police commander's office / MP checks for snipers as Phin Percy films on roof of police station /Fake flowers - landscaping at Iraqi police station/Smith takes down numbers of supplies in weapons room at Iraqi police station via flashlight since the station has no power/Craft cleans his nails with knife in commander's office at Iraqi police station