Friday, December 21, 2012

When Children Die

It has been one week since the mass murder of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.  Although this is not the original topic I had planned for the Friday before Christmas, I believe it is one we need to take a closer look at – because mass killings are becoming all too frequent in the U.S.

Children have always been the easiest to succumb among us.  Throughout history, diseases have claimed countless lives – especial those of children.  In the 1600’s, it was small pox and the Plague.  Add measles and scarlatina to the mix during the 1700’s.  By the 1800’s, typhus and cholera were two more deadly diseases taking countless lives.  With the 20th century came the influenza pandemic where 50 million people died, worldwide.

However, with the dawning of the 20th century, we were able to put health issues to the forefront and began developing treatments and cures for those childhood diseases.  We began a plan of treatment, inoculations, and the eradication of those deadly diseases.  We stepped up to protect our children – as best we could.  But by the end of the twentieth century, new threats had overtaken us.   

Now, the top five major causes of childhood deaths, ages 1 – 20, are accidents, cancer, drowning, homicide, and suicide. It is stunning and shameful that homicide is even on the list of five major causes of death for children in the 21st century.  But it is - the child murderer exists.

There are three well-known types of mass killers in our world today; the serial killer is defined as someone who commits a number of murders over a period of time.  The spree killer is one who murders two or more people in various locations.  The mass murderer kills several people in a single event, like last Friday’s school shootings.

FBI stats show that from 1980 to 2008, 4,685 people died in 965 mass murders in the United States.  The FBI classifies a mass murderer is someone “who kills four or more people in a single incident, not counting himself, in a single location.”

Between 2006 and 2008 alone, the U.S. averaged 163 incidents of people killed in clusters of four or more – mass murder.  Mass murders have occurred in school, shopping malls, restaurants, places of worship, work places, government buildings, and military bases in the United States.

Of the over 900 mass murders that have happened since 1980, only two, at Westside Middle School (1998) and Columbine High School (1999) - were carried out by more than one shooter.  Two shooters each, were involved in those two school killings.

The “typical” mass murderer is a white male with an average age of 35.  (Out of the 62 people who committed mass murder, from 1980 to last Friday - only one has been a woman.) Almost all were loners. Over half of them committed suicide at the scene.

Reports indicate that the majority of mass murderers within the past 30 years in this country had mental health issues – most had problems with rampage violence.  Reports indicate that the murderer was seeking revenge for some perceived shame, only he knew or imagined. Many killers were reported to have been delusional, pathological, paranoid, psychotic. Some were diagnosed as schizophrenic. Experts say the mass murder externalizes his blame – punishing others for his own faults. The victims may or may not be deliberately chosen. 

The horrendous realization is when you consider that most mass murders are well-planned executions.  These events have been prepared for – in detail.  These killers are not the victims - they are ruthless murderers without empathy, conscious, or an understanding of reality that is needed to live and function in our society.  The true victims are those who are killed.

James L Knoll
According to James L. Knoll, in the Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, March 2010, “The pseudo-commando is a type of mass murderer who kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance, and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons. He has no escape planned and expects to be killed during the incident. Research suggests that the pseudo-commando is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs about being persecuted or grossly mistreated. He views himself as carrying out a highly personal agenda of payback.”

Adding to this crisis is the media – by not dealing with mass murder in a responsible manner.  Clear, concise, and accurate reporting seems to go by the wayside when a sensational and dramatic news story occurs.  News now takes on more of a reality show format; get the names, get the sound bites, get the money shots.

Last Friday, media organizations across the country had to recant their information as just plain wrong. When the Newtown Police Department issued a statement that it would not release the name of the gunman, or information on the shooting until it was verified, the media was not patient.  There were ratings to consider – another media outlet to scoop…  All in all – it’s no longer about the necessary information to keep us safe and informed; it’s about the rating numbers, the sensationalism, the number of viewers watching that equals the amount of money made. 

When did we, (How did we…) become a society that accepts a media that can’t wait to release the name of the mass murderer, show his picture, and give him fame?

David Brooks
New York Times columnist, David Brookes said last Friday that he felt the media should not identify the gunman.  I agree. Stop making these mass murders ‘famous.’  That is, after all, what they wanted, to be infamous, to go down in history having “settled their score.”  Do not release their names, their photos, information about their childhoods, or family stories. Mourn those who should not have died – do not give credence to the murderer for taking those lives.

Charlie Brooker
Regarding the media's coverage of such events, Charlie Brooker of the BBC’s Newsswipe summed it up well: 
“If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24-7 coverage. Do everything you can to not make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. DO localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market.” 

As a country, we should not; we cannot tolerate these acts of senseless violence any longer.  We need to come together and start looking for answers, for our children, our families, ourselves…


Friday, December 14, 2012

Wreaths Across America - Saturday, December 15, 2012

Arlington National Cemetery
Tomorrow marks the twentieth anniversary that holiday wreaths will be placed on veteran’s graves in Arlington National Cemetery.  What began as a labor of love for a Virginia man has grown into a national organization known as Wreaths Across America. Wreaths are now being laid at veteran’s graves and cemeteries throughout the country, in all 50 states, on one special Saturday in December.

WAA Logo
Wreaths Across America (WAA) is a non-profit organization that was founded to continue and expand the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery that began in 1992.  Their motto:  Remember, Honor, Teach, is still as important and vital as it was when the organization began.

Military Graves
Unboxing Wreaths
Over 100,000 balsam wreaths will be displayed on the headstones at Arlington this year.  Over 400,000 wreaths will be shipped to locations throughout the US, and abroad.

Unloading Trucks at a Cemetery
S.A.R. Volunteers
This year's annual theme: Then, Now, Forever – Let’s Make it Personal” was chosen because many military families fear that their loved one’s sacrifice might be forgotten.  According to WAA Executive Director Karen Worcester, “Our goal is to make this year come alive in the stories, imaginations, and memories of all those who serve and sacrifice.” 

Awaiting the Veteran's Parade
Parade of Trucks
The Veteran’s Parade is a week-long trip from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. WAA stops along the way for tributes and ceremonies to remember our fallen veterans, honor those who serve, and teach others about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. 

Patriot Guard Riders
Trucks In Route to Virginia with Wreaths
The Veteran’s Parade is escorted along the East Coast route by the Patriot Guard Riders.  The group volunteered their services in 2006 and has continued to offer their support for the weeklong driving event.

Children Line Parade Route
Volunteer Trucker Scott Harris
Over 50 national trucking companies have volunteered the use of their trucks this year, and volunteer truckers from across America are giving of their time in picking up and delivering the wreaths to designated towns across the country, just in time for this Saturday's official wreath laying ceremonies.

All Veterans are Honored
WAA uses live wreaths as a living tribute to recognize and honor those who served.  They would like this symbolic gesture to be seen as a tradition, as a living memorial to honor veterans and their families.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Wreath Laying Ceremony

Wreath laying ceremonies will take place around the country tomorrow, in cemeteries large and small. A wreath display will also be set up to honor the victims of 9-11 in New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

WAA Radio
The National Wreaths Across America Remembrance ceremony at Arlington Cemetery will be held at 12 Noon EST tomorrow, December 15th.  You can follow the events on WAA Radio @

Wreaths are paid for by individuals, groups, sponsors, and corporate donors. Individual wreath sponsorships are only $15.  Last year, over 1,100 groups raised funds to assist the wreath sponsorship program. If you would like to sponsor a wreath for the 2013 Wreaths Across Americas Remembrance celebration, visit

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, visit

Or find them on Facebook @

Pierre Claeyssens
Wreaths Across America
As Pierre Claeyssens said, “To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen. To be lost is not the worst that can happen... to be forgotten is the worst.”


Friday, December 7, 2012

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy….December 7, 1941

Attack on Pearl Harbor
Hawaii Coast
Today marks the 71st anniversary of the surprise aerial attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor.  On a quiet, sunny Sunday morning, just before 8 A.M., the Japanese launched over 350 fighter, bomber and torpedo planes, along with several submarines, in an attack against the base in Hawaii.

Battleship Bombing
The surprise attack had been in the planning stages since January 1941.  The Japanese decided to attack on a Sunday morning because they believed that they could catch the Americans by surprise and do tremendous damage to the aircraft carriers.  But the carriers were out to sea, so the Japanese decided to attack other targets of opportunity, the battleships.

Battleship Row
Battleships Bombed
Eight battleships, the entire U.S. Pacific fleet, except for the Colorado, were at Pearl Harbor that morning. Seven of the ships were lined up in ‘Battleship Row,’ presenting easy targets from the air.  Of the eight ships sank or damaged during the attack, all but two, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, were eventually returned to active duty.

USS Arizona Sinking
USS Arizona
The U.S.S. Arizona was struck several times by bombs, and exploded when a bomb hit her forward ammunition room.  Approximately 1,170 of her crew died on board.  The Arizona became the war memorial to Pearl Harbor.

USS Oklahoma Capsized

USS Oklahoma Before
The U.S.S. Oklahoma was struck by nine torpedoes before listing on her side and turning upside down.  Most of her crew was trapped on board.  Only 32 crewmen were saved.

Japanese Zero
The Japanese launched two destructive waves against the island that morning, one at 7:55 and the other at 8:40.  The cry of “Tora, Tora, Tora” was a signal to the Japanese Navy that the Americans had, indeed, been caught unawares.

Direct Hit
Arial Attack
But during that short two hour period, 21 ships were severely damaged or sunk.  This included eight battleships, four destroyers, three light cruisers, one minelayer, one target ship, and four auxiliaries. 

Airfields Attacked
Wingtip to Wingtip
The Japanese also destroyed 188 U.S. planes and damaged over 150 more on the airfields at Hickam, Wheeler, Bellows, Schoefield, Barracks, Ewa, and Kaneohe Naval Air Station.  The planes had been lined up on the airfields wingtip to wingtip in order to thwart sabotage attempts. They were easy targets for the Japanese strafing and bombing runs. 

Pacific Fleet
U.S. Aircraft Carrier
Although profoundly shaken and stunned, the Pacific fleet still maintained its aircraft carriers, submarines, and fuel supplies. None of those had been damaged.  This would be the foundation on which the U.S. would build it's destruction of the Japanese forces four years later.

Battleship Explosion
Sinking of Ships
The total number of U.S. servicemen killed on December 7th was over 2,400.  The U.S. military reported 1,143 personnel were wounded during the attack. Sixty-eight civilians were killed, and more than 30 were injured.

USS Utah
USS Oklahoma Capsized
Of those who died that day, it was reported that two-thirds died within the first 15 minutes when the Arizona, Oklahoma and Utah were bombed. Nearly half of the lives lost were on board the Arizona.

A Zero is  Hit
Anti-Aircraft Fire
U.S. personnel rallied quickly under attack, using anti-aircraft fire to defend the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  The Japanese lost 29 planes, a large submarine, and five midget subs in the encounter.

Remains of Japanese Plane
The total number of Japanese personnel lost was 65 servicemen, killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured.

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took to the airwaves, attempting to explain what had happened in Hawaii. Roosevelt began his address with these famous words, 
President Roosevelt's Radio Address
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Addressing Congress
During that short six-minute radio address, the President appealed to outraged Americans to support him in the abandonment of the U.S. policy of isolationism.  The President then asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

Signing the Declaration of War
That same day, Congress voted that a state of war existed between the United States and Japan, and gave the President the power necessary to wage war with all of the resources of the country.  Three days later, Germany and Italy joined Japan in declaring war on the United States and the U.S. responded in turn.  The attack on Pearl Harbor was the defining incident that brought the U.S. into the Second World War, more than two years after the conflict had begun.

The nation entered the war with the rallying cry, “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

After the attacks, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Stars were awarded to American servicemen who fought in the combat at Pearl Harbor that December Sunday.  Later, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, a special military award was designated and given to all military veterans of the attack.

Wreath Laying by Members in 2006
In December 1954, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association held its first meeting to commemorate and remember their fallen comrades.  The first organized meeting was held in California where over 1,000 Pearl Harbor survivors attended the event.  Last year, on December 31, 2011, the association terminated its existence, citing the reasons as the age and health of its remaining members.

Names of Those Who Died
USS Arizona Memorial
Today, the island of Oahu is home to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.   It was during 1950 that the Arizona’s midships structure, which remained above the water level, was used as a location for memorial services.   In May of 1962, the memorial was dedicated as an open-air shrine. The names of the dead are carved in marble on the memorial’s walls.  

USS Arizona Memorial
Tossing a Wreath
Wreaths and leis are tossed onto the water as tributes to those who died.  And still, after 70 years, an iridescent slick of oil continues to leak from the Arizona’s ruptured bunkers, at the bottom of the sea. It is sobering when you realize that the memorial is situated over the gravesite where 1,177 men lost their lives that December morning.
More than 1.5 million people visit this memorial each year.

Pacific National Monument
The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument opened in 2008, and the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center was opened in 2010.  Both sites assist in enhancing the experiences of this historical area – and in explaining why this became “A date which will live in infamy!”

~ Joy