Tuesday, December 27, 2011



“In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  Thus begins John’s Gospel and in the fourteenth verse of the first chapter he unveils the mystery of the Incarnation in its full glory. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”.

As we enter Advent, our time of preparation for the Celebration of Christmas, how do those scripture verses penned over two thousand years ago impact our Heartside community and a country, indeed a world, plunged into horror and uncertainty following the events of September 11?

Our belief is we are made in the image of God.  Peter Chrysologus asked and answered, “Why then are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God?   Why render yourself such dishonor when God honors you?...It was for you that light dispelled the overshadowing gloom, for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars…You were made in God’s image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth…"

Ok, God is in everyone.  Then why is the world so screwed up?  It is and it isn’t and God is! Really confused?  For the answers to the mystery of the Incarnation we need only look around us and sometimes in us.

How many times have the neighbors of Heartside rallied to the aid of each other, and more often than not, complete strangers?   I have witnessed the “Word made  Flesh” incarnate in our neighbors as they constantly protect the weak, welcome the different, defend the oppressed, and give whatever they sometimes have to others in need.  Our Benevolent Fund is often replenished with dollars and dimes at a time from those who benefited from the generosity of neighbors and want to return the kindness they received by giving to others.

On a national level we witnessed the “Word made Flesh” incarnate through the carnage of the Towers and the actions of individuals like Abe Zelmanowitz who refused to allow a quadriplegic friend to die  alone forfeiting his own life, recovering alcoholic Father Mike Judge who perished while ministering to a fallen firefighter, the heroes of Flight 93 whose actions saved the United States Capitol, and the countless ordinary people who lived out the noble conclusion of the Incarnation by showing that there is no greater love than giving your life for your friends, thereby joining their sufferings to Christ and participating in the Mystery of Redemption.

And lest we fall victims to the normal emotions of righteous indignation and vengeance, let’s reflect on the Restorative Justice we try to practice at Heartside.  Christ came and died for all, no one is ever beyond God’s mercy.  

The story of Saul persecuting Stephen shows the power of love over violence as illustrated in a sermon by Fulgentius of Ruspe, “And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven…Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle…love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him…Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven.  In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition…It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered a multitude of his sins, it was love that won for both the kingdom of heaven…Love is the source of all good things…One who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides, protects, and brings you to your journey’s end.”

As we remember the Child born in a manager, we should reflect on why he is called Immanuel. It means God With Us.  Our faith, our hope and our love incarnate in each one of us.  The greatest gift of all that we share with everyone.  For “the Word was made Flesh and DWELLS amongst us!"  Love triumphs!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


la veille de Noël

This is the night
when children dream,
of flying reindeer and Santa,
sugar plums and wreaths.
This is a night full of magic
and presents under the tree.
This is the night of all nights
it’s Christmas Eve.
This is the night
When parents dream,
of childhood memories
so precious, dear and sweet.
 A time to remember loved ones,
who once gathered round the tree.
This is the night of all nights
It’s Christmas Eve.
This is the night
promised of old.
When the Virgin gave birth in a stable
windy, dark and cold.
Our Father sent to us His son
the greatest gift we could receive.
This is the holiest of Nights
It’s Christmas Eve.

This is the night of all nights
It’s Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 5, 2011


 “The envious person grows lean with the fatness of their neighbor.” Socrates

“Envy and wrath shorten the life.” Ecclesiastes

“There is no sweeter sound than the crumbling of one’s fellow man.”
Groucho Marx

Whether it’s theology, philosophy, or satire envy doesn’t come off well, nor should it.  It’s human, it’s understandable, but it’s also deadly and divisive. Envy can only tear down and divide, never build or unite.

Faith and reason both despise it.  If you believe in sin it’s the second oldest. Ancient philosophers recognized its deadly consequences. Sacred or secular, through grace, reason, or both envy has been identified and decried since the beginning of humanity. Because of envy Cain killed Abel and the dog in the manager kept the ox from eating the straw. Genesis or Aesop the truth is the same, envy begrudges others what it cannot enjoy itself.

Envy isn’t just an emotion, but a crippling and corrosive impulse. Both a verb and a noun Webster’s defines it as a feeling of grudging admiration and desire to have something possessed by another.

Why all this talk about envy?  Because envy over the benefits and income of workers has become an aliment afflicting members of our society.

While we’re defining terms let’s look at what a benefit means. Once more we have a noun and a verb. Citing Webster’s again, financial assistance in time of need or something that aids or promotes well-being: “for the common good” and to derive benefit from or be beneficial for; “This will do you good”.

Cutting to the chase a large number of people seem to “envy” the “benefits” of certain workers.

In the heyday of automobile manufacturing organized labor earned high wages and other hard won contractual benefits agreed to by Detroit’s Big Three and others in a thriving manufacturing climate. From cars to cereal, furniture to frozen food and everything in between, whatever America made everyone wanted, and the manufacturing sector and everyone in it thrived.  Living standards increase, the quality of life improved for everyone because the unionized companies caused a rising tide elevating incomes and benefits in all sectors. Spin offs included growing the service sector while igniting a purchasing cycle that drove a robust economy, the most powerful economic engine the world has ever known.  

Taxes of well paid workers provided stability and jobs in state and local government and public schools. Yet some even then derided the unions and their employers apparently for having a higher standard of living than they had.

Why? Envy would seem one possible reason.  The Capital Sin defined as sadness or melancholy at the good fortune or success of another precisely because they are seen as a loss to oneself.

Things began to change.

Over the last several decades poorly, negotiated unfair trade agreements closed factories and sent jobs overseas or across our borders. Corporations left communities not out of need but out of greed. Not because they were losing money, but because they were not making enough. Wall Street and big banks lusting after higher profits went on irresponsible spending sprees and then the Great Recession hit.

Unemployment and underemployment caused a downward spiral of economic disaster. Unions took reasonable concessions to help employers stem the financial bleeding, the operative word being reasonable. Management makes the decisions yet many try to use the workers as scapegoats. Unions therefore have to balance the need to save jobs with ensuring the jobs saved are worthwhile. They also bear the responsibility of protecting the rights of the retirees who built the economic giant that once existed.

As I’ve said before, low paid workers are not going to return us to economic prosperity. That can only be done on the shoulders, buying power, and tax paying ability of well paid American workers.

Back to what I referred to as benefit envy.

When concessions are made the goal should be how to make the corporation or governmental entity more efficient and cost productive. It may mean changes in operation and the reduction of compensation and benefits, but it should be done in a just and honest fashion. Shared sacrifice and shared success. If the bottom line is REALLY ABOUT saving money then how the concessions are made and what is sacrificed---benefits or wages --shouldn’t matter if the shared financial goal is achieved. Remember a benefit is for the common good, it builds community.

Now I’ll concede the public sector is different in that it is taxpayer funded and delivers services mandated by law and vital to the community, along with other services either wanted by the people or directed by elected officials. We the people are the government and the elected representatives answer to us and our priorities. Never-the-less the standards of justice and efficiency remain. Public workers and unions did not create this situation and should not be the fall guys. Priorities on funding and how to best run our governmental entities to serve the public should be our goal. Administration and middle management should be reduced to lean, effective levels with the excess eliminated just like in the private sector before rank and file workers are touched. Then we decide what services we want delivered and resize accordingly. If there is a need for concessions after that again have it done justly and not as an excuse to erode fair wages and benefits.

Let’s take the fiscal problems facing the City of Grand Rapids. Instead of focusing on priorities and efficiencies some are calling for even more massive reductions in wages and benefits. Concessions  have been made and there may be more to come, but again in a just way and meeting the test of common sense, not capriciously in order to protect sacred cows or a bloated bureaucracy.

Grand Rapids employees’ health care benefits have been pointed out as too expensive, yet name me another entity that has saved millions in health care costs over the last 5 years with the help of their employees. The unions still stand ready to help as always yet want to be recognized for what they’ve sacrificed already and simply be treated fairly.

The same situation exists with their pensions that are targeted as too generous. Tell that to current retirees struggling to make ends meet. Examine the facts. For fifteen years the City didn’t have to put a dime into the pension fund while the employees did.  Additionally, if the City had to pay the Social Security payroll tax on the salaries of police officers and fire fighters the current deficit would be three times larger and millions more added in budget expenses every fiscal year. That’s right, Grand Rapids police and fire fighters retirees don’t receive social security benefits from their city jobs.  Again changes may have to made, but justly.

Does benefit envy drive some of this anger fueled by politicians and editorial boards? All I know is I’ve heard people say I pay this and they don’t and their pensions are better than mine, though I’m not sure they know the real truth. Why let facts get in the way of scapegoating?

Benefit envy is toxic, corrodes the good in a community and divides us. Maybe I’m too hard using the term envy, but it sure seems to fit.

I believe the person with envy suffers more from it then the object of envy does. Aristotle defined envy as the sorrow caused by the good fortune of others. How sad? Shouldn’t we be happy for a person with adequate health care or a secure pension during their golden years? How do we build ourselves up by tearing others down?

Again there is a legitimate role in deciding want is fair and sustainable. Let’s have that discussion, but let it be fact based, devoid of emotion, and minus envy.

From another perspective workers and citizens are rightfully angry over the financial shenanigans, legal or not, performed by banks and corporations profiting from the taxpayers bail out and the misfortunes of others.  

Predatory lenders, Wall Street Wolves, greedy Multi National corporations and their lapdog elected officials game the system, crash the market and then blame average workers and unions for making too much and having health and pension benefits. Many pensions were depleted by this chicanery. Our Middle Class is being squeezed out of existence by unemployment, underemployment, and foreclosures along with skyrocketing medical dental, fuel, and utility costs. Even families with stable and decent incomes face major fiscal crises as they try to assist friends and family. Johnny and Suzie face unpaid college loans and unemployment. Grandpa and Grandma can’t make it on their fixed income. So everyone ends up scrimping and living under one roof out of need.  Small businesses and local governments are failing from reduced customer purchasing power and an eroding tax base.

Ironically most states, counties, and municipalities’ pension liabilities, as mentioned previously, are largely the result of Wall Street losses yet employees who sacrificed raises for a secure pension in their senior years are blamed heaping insult onto injury. 

Yet it’s been revealed finally under the Freedom of Information Act that beyond the $700 Billion TARP  authorized by Congress to bail out our financial institutions the Federal Reserve dedicated $7.7 trillion as of March 2009 to prop up our banking system.   Imagine what that sum could have accomplished being applied elsewhere? To put this mind blowing sum of $7.7 Trillion in perspective it’s almost half our National Debt and more the 50% of the value of EVERYTHING produced in our country during 2009! 

Rubbing more salt in the wounds, a number of banks scored an estimated $13 Billion in profits from the bailout. Banks too big to fail have gotten bigger and even more powerful. Without reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act (It stood the test of time for nearly 80 years) which mandated separating customer deposits from speculative and risky investment banking there is no effective regulatory restraint to prevent the 2008 crisis from happening again.  Dodd-Frank provides some transparency but lacks the teeth to take on the biggest banks.  It’s like giving Paul Blart: Mall Cop a whistle and having him keep an eye on John Dillinger.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement was born out of this injustice (as was to some degree the Tea Party). 

 Entrenched wealth controlling government and fiscal decisions is a threat to us all, but we must be cautious righteous anger and the need to change the system does not turn into the envy of wholesale class warfare. 

Remove policies favoring the ultra rich, close loopholes, mandate payment of their fair share of taxes, and work for a system that provides an even playing field of opportunity, education and just wages while treating human labor as capital.  It is very American to protect private property and not take others’ wealth for our own. Envy of the rich is no better than benefit envy and as caustic.  Though it is just as American to demand fair trade laws; effective and reasonable safety, health, and environmental protections; the right to form unions and collectively bargain to gain a share of the fruits of your own labors; establish a system of taxation sensitive to income levels; and most importantly ensure small businesses are treated in the same manner as large corporations and our citizens (rich or poor equally) are treated better than any business or institution.

Empowering the people through improving our current system to gain economic justice for all, not envy which often throws out the good with the bad is the road we need to take.  Looking at alternatives such as Distributism and The Just Third Way also make sense to consider as economic solutions to our problems.

It’s the height of irony when a billionaire blithely claims “workers high wages” are to blame for Michigan’s economic woes, multi-millionaires, and even over paid elected officials and top salaried government bureaucrats, begrudge the fairly earned benefits and wages of law enforcement officers, fire fighters, teachers and other hard working public employees yet scream class warfare when anyone questions their economic status.

Without a Middle Class America will fall, not to mention the only ones with incomes left to pay taxes will be the super rich.

Envy- benefit, income or any other kind- poisons whoever touches it and never leads to lifting up only tearing down.  It’s about time we realized no one wins in a race to the bottom and revolutions rarely turn out well with ours directed by leaders of honor, intellect and vision as a notable exception (yet in some ways America still is paying the price of their prejudices).

A wise person once told me never compare yourself to anyone, you’ll either end up being arrogant or envious and either way you will lose something of yourself.

Sage advice, I envy such wisdom. 

Friday, November 25, 2011


Forgiveness was ordered out of town on November 8, 2011 when virtue lost and ignorance prevailed at the ballot box and the City of Kentwood officially became No Mercy, Michigan. Prodigal sons might be welcome if they know their place and never try to hold elective office but they’re banned from taking any position with government as the Chief Executive officer has bragged many times about denying jobs to felons.

Stunned by the lack of compassion and common sense displayed by the majority of voters falling for this vengeful and distorted campaign to rid the City Commission of one duly elected member, it has taken me over two weeks to absorb and analyze this political farce. Yet perhaps the day after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to dissect this turkey of a law.

True the ballot measure had a lot of political appeal because it allowed people to vent anger against two unpopular groups, ex-felons and elected officials.  Combine the two and you have the perfect scapegoat for electoral slaughter.

According to the Grand Rapids Press article (KENTWOOD VOTES OUT FELONS, November 9, 2011) the gloating Mayor of No Mercy Richard Root Out My Non-Rubber Stamp Commissioner declared “…citizens have spoken and are upholding community values…” Really Mayor McFaultless?

Like the values you and the other Commissioners displayed when you did nothing but huff, puff, and bloviate but failed to act in any substantial way to remove a sitting Commissioner convicted of  soliciting prostitution while in office.  You could have moved for a re-call or asked the Governor to remove your colleague but you and the other Commissioners did nothing of consequence but blather in self-righteous pontifications.  Apparently the degrading and disgusting treatment of women is not an evil worth amending the charter or asking the Governor to expel a sitting newly convicted criminal to uphold community values.  Seems hypocritical at the  very least to not act then,  yet this year seemingly mount a crusade against a Commissioner you cannot control in what looks like a selfish act of political vengeance.

I must admit my shock at the voters aiding and abetting your apparent personal vendetta.  It seems like the majority asked, “how many times must we refuse to forgive Lord Mayor?” and you I guess commanded them “I say to you not seven votes, but at least seven times two hundred and forty nine votes must be cast to exorcise this sinner from our midst!”  Sadly 68% of the less than 13% of the city’s registered voters responded out of fear, ignorance, confusion or misguided trust while 31% of the citizens showing up at the polls backed forgiveness and redemption. Which group truly spoke for community values and virtue?

In the aforementioned GR press article His Honor Cotton Mather, I mean Richard Root (easy mistake to make), according to Press Reporter Julie Makarewicz “…expects commissioners will have a hearing Dec. 6 to determine whether VerWys should serve out the remaining two years of his term of office  or face immediate removal from the board.”

Kentwood Second Ward City Commissioner Ray VerWys  is the “felon”  all of this expense and fuss is about.  VerWys  was guilty of two felony convictions for embezzlement at a young age, did his time and was elected by his constituents in 2009 even after they were made aware of his record.  He committed a stupid crime and there is no excuse for it, but I believe it’s not as bad as exploiting a prostitute and degrading your elective office.  Obviously Mayor Root views community standards and values differently.  Perhaps Commissioner VerWys’ greatest sin was defeating an incumbent political favorite and daring to challenge the Mayor on some policies.

Yes I know Ray, and he has co-hosted on my show in the past, but I have never been involved with his campaigns and we disagree on a number of issues. Clearly I am not defending his actions in the past, rather what I’m speaking out for is his right to be given a second chance and have the opportunity to serve in government if his constituents want to elect him. It also disturbs me to see such rank hypocrisy and political vengeance being disguised as concern for the common good.  Finally I firmly believe in the virtue of mercy and the message of redemption putting me at odds with Mayor Root and his band of punishers passing as community guardians. 

I agree with President Lincoln who wisely said, “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”  Too bad Honest Abe with his “Malice toward none and charity for all” would not meet the community values of Richard Root.

Not to exempt the Yes voters from blame, their ballot -their responsibility, but when the majority of elected leaders are telling them it’s needed and their Mayor is proud the city doesn’t give felons a second chance and operating under the misguided belief Commissioner VerWys  tried everything to conceal his record when he ran for office there was some room for confusion.

In fact Ray publicly told his story on radio before even the primary.  If his opponent  didn’t  have the unbridled arrogance of many incumbents he could have easily done a Lexus Nexus or other search of public records and then he and Mayor Root could have released it or planted the info with the media. Maybe it would have made a difference and maybe it would not have?  To blame Ray VerWys for their lack of opposition research and lazy campaigning is ridiculous.

Ray was not required to show up at the doors of voters and say, “ Hi my name is Ray and I’m a felon but vote for me”, anymore than Richard Root, Commissioner Cummings or any of the other Unforgiving Five authors of this vindictive amendment are required to say when campaigning, “ Hi I’m Richard or (fill-in your favorite ex-con tormentor)and I didn’t use the charter to remove a sitting Commissioner convicted of soliciting for prostitution or speak out when a County Commissioner played with  dangerous weapons almost injuring a person  and another one cowardly beat up a woman but hey those were only misdemeanors and they aren’t a thorn in my side like Ray VerWys.   Why the voters had the gall to elect him to office with us, the moral judges of this city!”  

Where were the faith leaders or the voices of restorative justice and the advocates for ex-felons?  If they spoke out I never heard them. This was a teachable moment  yet only silence.  Love should have won, but the lost sheep were not deemed worthy of help.

St. Thomas  Aquinas defined the virtue of "mercy" as "the compassion in our hearts for another person's misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him." Most religions hold that mercy must temper justice. Sin has you miss the mark and mercy restores you.  It is Divine grace healing and making people whole.

Clarence Darrow the great lawyer and agnostic called mercy, “the highest attribute of man.”

Secular or sacred mercy defines and impacts a society.  What is a town without Mercy? (Sorry Gene Pitney)

Travel with me for few moments into a world of fantasy that as Chesterton might say is more real than our own.

We can just imagine when December 6th arrives. Mayor Root will be cranky after St. Nickolas leaves a note in one shoe simply saying, “Luke 11:14” and  in his other one just, “Matthew 5:7”.  He will spend the day with the truth gnawing at him as he tries to prepare himself to execute the political career of his enemy.

Preparing his statement is difficult as the verses of scripture torture his conscience and the words of Shakespeare’s Portia haunt him echoing maddeningly through his mind.

“The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown. His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; But mercy is above this scept'red sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings; It is an attribute to God himself, And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice.”

A legal fight is also looming born out of legitimate Constitutional and Michigan Home Rule Act questions.  Scarce tax dollars squandered to rid him of this miserable felon. Expulsion may not be possible under the law.  What if he has to testify with other Commissioners in open court on their legislative intent for the amendment? How will he and others answer under oath and pain of perjury why no action was taken against a previous sitting City Commissioner who committed and was convicted of a vile crime while holding office?  Was this amendment personally directed at Commissioner VerWys?  Is it right to use the powers of your office and amend the charter to eliminate a particular Commissioner?  Is that not an abuse of power?

Root is sweating like Nixon in the first 1960 Presidential TV Debate. Fortunately Screwtape dispatches one of his most skilled tempters to aid the confused Mayor. Eschewing the ones adept at corrupting great leaders, instead choosing  Magnanimofarinata a specialist in seducing minor officeholders by convincing them instead of  being bound by a public trust to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States they have a personal obligation to  rise above politics and determine the values of their less qualified and confused constituents, for their own good of course .

With Hell’s finest assuring him nothing is more important than his duty to purify his city from ex-felons Richard Root once again feels the passion needed to expel his adversary.

Screwtape himself trained the demon using that damnable but useful play by T.S. Eliot MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL.   Magnanimofarinata subtlety twisted the temptations to fit the need:

“Mr. Mayor you hold the keys to purify politics in this city.
Power to improve the quality of office holders.
Improve, Richard improve and bind good representation into law.
Bind all future Commissioners, Mayors and especially the poor voters to high standards
Good honest government ensured by your actions despite those meddlesome critics!”

The thoughts take  root in the Mayor’s mind and he is prepared to clean every taint of criminal pasts and questionable judgment from his beloved city.

Sadly Richard Root was not like the real or even TS Elliot’s literary Thomas Beckett who replied to his tempters in that great play:

“Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

With the deed yet not done, Screwtape and Magnanimofarinata will fret until the action is finally carried out.  The Enemy’s love for these miserable creatures is as infinite as His patience even with those denying his greatest gift-- Mercy.

Using Elliot was a risk. Real Truth is far too easily untwisted and many times Screwtape and his minions themselves bungle into aiding the Enemy with His Mysterious ways to the anger, but not the surprise, of their father below.  Hope was a curse they could not destroy.

Pardon me for my humble and poor imitation of literary greats.  I presumptuously created a fantasy imagining the internal struggle of one I am barely acquainted with, but it was to make a point regarding human nature and particularly the temptations facing well meaning and sincere politicians that I know personally far too well.  Screwtape, if he exists, may be waiting to toast with a draught of Rick Tormala even more than a sip of Richard Root.  

Returning to the tragic vote of November 8th, I urge Mayor Root and his colleagues to abandon any efforts to expel Commissioner VerWys. It is wrong will cost your city legally and embarrass it even more publicly. Besides: Pulchrum est vitam donare minori;  It is noble to grant life to the vanquished, and Lord knows a little act of nobleness couldn’t hurt right now.

I still hope you and your colleagues will gathered the moral courage needed to admit this all was a misguided, cruel and unnecessary measure, apologize to the voters for confusing them and move to repeal this nonsense at the next election.  People will forgive you and it would be a good step towards showing your city understands and believes in Redemption.  The City of Kentwood would be rid of the title No Mercy, Michigan!

Yet if you continue with your vendetta than please strip “ by the Grace of God” from the Preamble of your City’s charter.  You rejected governing by His Grace when you decided to become No Mercy, Michigan though I am certain it is still available. He forgives, so should you. So should we all!

Thursday, September 29, 2011



----- Forwarded Message -----
From: WDVA Media Relations <WDVA.Media.Relations@dva.state.wi.us>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:21 AM
Subject: FW: New NPRC Address - Request widest distribution

Please pass this information on to those members of your organization that interface with veterans.  Your assistance with this initiative will allow us, and you, to better serve the needs of our veterans.  If you publish a newsletter, we would appreciate it if you include this preferred channel for submitting requests in an upcoming issue.  You can also post this information to any web site that you have.
The new address for the National Personnel Records Center is:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St Louis , MO   63138-1002
The majority of personnel have moved to the new location and the mil itary personnel records are in the process of moving.  The entire move should be completed by the end of the Summer of 2012.
As a reminder, ALL retirees and Honorably Discharged veterans should ensure that their fa mil y knows the location of their mil itary Separation Document (DD Form 214 from 1950 to present and WD (War Department) Form 53-55 and other variations prior to 1950).  Note that registering a copy at the county court house may make that document a public record.  Separation Documents issued after 1969 may contain a Social Security Number which could be used for identity theft.  Storing the Separation Document in a safe deposit box may make it difficult to retrieve immediately upon the death of the retiree or honorably discharged veteran.  The better storage locations are:
1-Fire safe in a secure location of the house (not in the bedroom, as this is where most thieves search first).  Be sure spouse/NOK knows the location and has key/combination.
2-In a watertight food container (Glad, Tupperware. etc.) in the refrigerator.  Most refrigerators are fire resistant.  Additionally, a refrigerator is heavy enough to fall through the floor of a building into the cooler part of the fire in the basement and better survive. Finally, a refrigerator is large enough to be easily located in the ash and ruble of a fire or other serious incident.  (As a bonus, everyone has a refrigerator, not everyone has a fire resistant storage box).  Be sure to inform your spouse and relatives where to locate your Separation Document - and any other important papers.
As a reminder, the preferred method of submitting a request to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) is via the Internet.  Please note that in some cases using a browser other than Internet Explorer may create problems with data entry.  As you know, the NPRC provides copies of documents from mil itary personnel records to authorized requesters. Our web-based application will provide better service on these requests by eliminating our mailroom processing time.  Also, since the requester will be prompted to supply all information essential for us to process the request, delays that occur when we must go back for more information will be minimized. You may access this application at:
           This improved on-line request process should be used INSTEAD OF Standard Form 180 for requests from the veteran or the veteran’s next of kin, if possible. Your assistance with this initiative will allow us, and you, to better serve the needs of our veterans.  If you do not wish to use the Internet, you should use Standard Form 180.  You should print Standard Form 180 as you need it, not in advance because the form is periodically revised and updated.  It should not be available on your web site. You can have a link to the NPRC web page. 
The link is:
Since the Standard Form 180 is updated periodically, it is NOT recommended that large quantities be printed/photocopied and stocked.
The form will be updated with the new address within six months.  The US Postal Service will forward mail if requests are mailed to the old location until February 2012.

Friday, September 9, 2011


From the dawn of humanity our ancestors looked into the night sky with a combination of fear and wonder imagining shapes and gods. The movement of the sun and moon fascinated them. Observations led to knowledge setting standards for time, seasons, and navigation riding the tides and charting courses by the stars.

As civilization advanced the secrets of the night were uncovered. Egypt’s Pyramids, England’s Stonehenge and other wonders still standing begs the question how advanced were our predecessors and how much more did they know than us? Are those secrets lost forever or just waiting to be rediscovered?
Over the centuries every discovery in astronomy captured our imagination while challenging long held beliefs and understandings. The vaunted, controversial and widely misunderstood treatment of Galileo and his defense of Copernican astronomy and the possibility the Earth revolved around the Sun raised the ire of confused philosophers and theologians and is fodder for a story of its own but here I use his work as a stepping stone for exploration.

I urge those interested in the truth to examine the article Galileo and the Inquisition by the great historian William E. Carroll. I’ll entice you with the end of his work that will compel you to seek the beginning.
“How then do we understand the Galileo Affair? Despite the powerful legend of the warfare between science and theology, we need to recognize that the errors in judgment committed by the theologians of the Inquisition involved the subordination of the interpretation of certain biblical passages to a particular cosmology, and that these errors resulted in disciplinary abuses, not doctrinal falsehoods. Without a demonstration for the motion of the Earth, it was indeed possible to believe that the Bible affirmed that the Earth did not move. To insist upon such an affirmation, however, is to violate principles established by Augustine and Aquinas. Nevertheless, the controversy between Galileo and the Inquisition is inconceivable were it not the case that both sides shared common principles: the complementarity between faith and reason, the Bible and science; the role of the Church as the authentic interpreter of scripture; and a commitment to an Aristotelian ideal of demonstration in science In an ironic sense, we might say that the "Galileo Affair" offers ample testimony, not for the warfare between science and theology, but for the harmony between the two.”

Bottom line, science advanced under the patronage of the Church. Faith and reason are not enemies and theologians and scientists both seek the truth. Besides everyone knows the Earth and everything else revolves around we Baby Boomers. However I digress. One friend suggested the blog be changed to the Digressions of the Last Dinosaur.

Where was I? Humanity envying our feathered friends soaring across the heavens, spurred an insatiable desire for us to join them. Lives were lost and limbs maimed when men took to building artificial wings trying to imitate birds without understanding how they fly.

Thanks to a legion of innovative pioneers creating the field of aerodynamics: from Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings of his never built Ornithopter; to inventions where there were actual humans taking flight such as the Montgolfier Brothers Hot Air balloon; George Cayley’s and Otto Lilienthal gliders; Samuel Langley’s aerodrome; and finally America’s own Wright Brothers flying into history at Kitty Hawk and really thrusting the United States into the dominant force of the skies.

Fast forward through the days of Lindberg, Amelia Earhart, both World Wars and other conflicts, passenger flights, to the 50’s when the Soviet Union stunned us in 1957 by putting Sputnik the first artificial satellite into orbit in September and quickly followed with Sputnik 2 in November carrying the little dog Laika, who died in space. I remember even as a four-year-old, joining my parents and neighbors in the back yard waiting and watching this bright small object from earth circle over head until it faded out of sight in a matter of minutes. I would not have been happy to know a dead dog was inside. Even our own program lost a number of monkeys to the cause.

It was game on! US Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson, the father of NASA asserted to the President and Congress if the Soviet Union could put a satellite in space they could put a nuclear bomb right above us. America got serious about space.

Let’s examine the political climate for a second. The Cold War was at its height reflected in our culture of bomb shelters and school safety drills- put your head down and go under your desk and the evil Russian atomic bomb will just pass you by. Popular culture and Science fiction movies were impacted by the times. Invaders attacked us like; Red Planet Mars, Them, It Conquered The World, and of course The Thing From Another World with its classic ending as the reporter in the artic outpost contacts the outside world cryptically warning, “Look to the skies! Keep watching the skies!” Sometimes the aliens were already amongst us taking our bodies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or controlling our minds as in Invaders from Mars.

Actually I have a problem deciphering if the scriptwriters and directors were warning of communism or lampooning the hysteria of McCarthyism. Perhaps it was both? For most people the subtleties were lost and the message became the ancient mysteries of space.

I digress again, surprise! At any rate the US hustled to catch up while the Soviet Union kept notching firsts sending dogs in space and returning them and in April 1961 making Yuri Gagarin the first human in space.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and least I’m not digressing unless I’m digressing over not digressing.
Back to the US and space, shocked into action and determined not to lose the space race Ike, spurred on by LBJ and other Members of Congress including Jerry Ford , signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) with the futuristic mission “to improve life here, extend life there, to find life beyond”. Sound’s like it was written by Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry.

Moving fast in December of that same year with the American satellite Atlas 10B President Eisenhower gave the first radio broadcast from space. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDhNsZFtf64 “This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space. Through this unique medium I convey to you and all mankind American’s wish for peace on earth and good will toward men."
With the birth of the Mercury Project, American manned space exploration was the goal and our nation looked to the gutsiest astronaut candidates available, our military flyers and test pilots. They were indeed as Tom Wolfe titled his book, which tells the story I can’t contain in a blog, THE RIGHT STUFF. Do yourself a favor read it and watch Philip Kaufman’s movie by the same name.

These novice astronauts knew the dangers of flight, but also the incomparable thrills of speed and spectacular sights. Everyone one who has ever flown in a plane, helicopter, or even a hot air balloon has experienced a small portion of the beauty, sense of freedom, and sheer joy of soaring through the sky. Imagine orbiting the Earth or even piercing the atmosphere for a short time.
In 1960 President Kennedy was elected bringing energy to our nation with his clarion call for public service and the space program embodied the adventurous spirit and unbridled optimism of the New Frontier. You had to be alive and a child in those magical years to really understand how school children idolized the Mercury 7 and the space program along with a President you actually wanted to imitate.
It should be stated NASA and the space program considered the safety of the astronauts paramount. This was still a country valuing highly the sanctity of human life. Everyone knew and accepted the dangers, the astronauts themselves, everyone connected to the program and even the elected officials but a live pilot returning was the only acceptable measure of success.
We rejoiced May 5, 1961 when Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Less than 3 weeks later JFK took it all up a notch when he addressed a joint session of Congress and declared his intention to land a man on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish…We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations—explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon—if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”

People working for the space program and all of us embraced the challenge, the wise wondering how it would be done, while the blissful ignorance of youth crowded out our doubts. John Glenn reinforced everyone’s optimism as the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 but in the very next year on November 22nd our hero died in Dallas.

Things began to get crazy. Vietnam divided us, social changes buffeted the world and people wondered how we could afford a space race when millions of Americans and others lived in poverty. The problems of civil rights rightfully called for correction. Then in January 1967 tragedy struck again this time killing astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Grand Rapids own Roger Chaffee in an accidental fire in the command module on a launch pad.,

Past often is prologue and President Johnson the father of the Space program became its savior using his political acumen to keep it on track and transform JFK’s dream into a reality.

Richard Nixon was President and supportive of our Space race. Literally the whole world watched or knew when on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and for that moment mankind truly was one. Buzz Aldrin joined him and they both passed into legend and history as the first humans on the lunar surface watching Earth setting in the distance. This was indeed the collective efforts of many and the hope of President Kennedy but it was decisively achieved through the efforts of LBJ.

The story of America’s Space Race is best told by Sandy Cohen Curator at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum and an expert on their exhibit: To the Moon: The American Space Program in the 1960s . Tuesdays with Tormala was honoured to have Sandy Cohen as a guest and he regaled listeners with President Johnson’s role as Father of NASA, and as the political force providing the leadership that made President Kennedy’s vision of placing a man on the moon within the decade a reality. You can listen to Curator Cohen’s interview at the following link.

There have been other tragedies in our shuttle program and we mourn the loss of those heroes also, but I daresay not one astronaut would ever say we should abandon our space program or even reduce it.
The by-products alone are invaluable to us all :Computer-Aided Topography (CAT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologies; cordless power tools; freeze dried food; virtual reality; micro-lazers; Charge Coupled Device (CCD) chips for digital imaging breast biopsies; improved kidney dialysis machines; smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; satellite navigation; and many, many, more! Now think of the good paying jobs and the impact the space program has had on our economy and quality of life.

Then there are the intangible, but maybe even more important, by-products of enthusiasm, inspiration and the gift of imagining almost anything is possible etched in the hearts and minds of our youth.
A young Matt Johnson watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon and now he is a Born-Again Rocketeer & N-1 Russian Moon Rocket Historian, Level 2 NAR flyer.

Matt explained he became a Born-Again Rocketeer after his father died in 2006, a common occurrence in the field. The desire to regress to father-son days of old finds a great vehicle to honor that relationship through model rocketry. Matt achieved Level 2 National Association of Rocketry (NAR) two years ago. He can fly about 30 lbs.

Johnson became captivated with the Russian Moon Rocket N-1 four years ago by researching the design when he wanted to launch a 30 engine rocket, as the N-1 is.
Over time Johnson became friends over the Internet with Alex Shlyiadinsky, the focal point of Russian documentation on the N-1 and creator of the AutoCAD file for it, and Vladimyr Antipov, photographer and Buran engineer. Matt also befriended the late Mike Dorffler, of Estes Rockets, and the CGI designer of the N-1 file in England, Nick Stevens. After a time Johnson decided they had enough information to produce a book on the physical nature of the N-1, A Modeler’s Reference Guide to the N-1: the Soviet Moon Rocket. The book should be ready by this Christmas.

I was privileged to have Matt Johnson as a guest on the same radio show with Sandy Cohen and Matt’s enthusiasm connected with the listening audience. Johnson is an outstanding ambassador for the rocket modelling community, as he explains in his own words.

“For the vast numbers of parents out there who are looking for a way to connect with their kids, model rocketry may be a starting point! Nothing quite captures the imagination of kids (and adults) like building and launching your own rocket, powered by an honest-to-goodness black powder rocket engine. Model rocketry is a safe, sanctioned and proven hobby for all ages. And relatively cheap, compared to the gear needed for sports. The hobby allows for mentoring of beginners and group enjoyment for hobbyists.
The good news is that we have two clubs in the immediate area, SMASH smashrocketry.org, (Southwest Michigan Association of Space-modeling Hobbyists, 2nd Place National Section) and MMAR Muskegon Michigan mmarocket.com, Area Rocketry), available at their respective web sites. These clubs fly out of Muskegon Waste Water Facility almost every weekend. The kids, adolescents and adults are always ready to help newcomers. The NAR is even offering free kits with their instant sign-up box this year!
Building model rockets with the family supports historical study, hand-eye coordination, modeling skills, painting skills, and scientific understanding. Quite a lot for one simple package! The NAR supports school groups through the TARC (Team America Rocketry Challenge) which sends kids to DC every year for Nationals. The NAR also gives scholarships to schools, individual students and first-time NAR National Attendees under 18yrs.”
One can conclude from our past accomplishments Americans need to reach once again for the stars.
Investing in our space program is a stimulus program that is ready to fly. It will create jobs and products while bringing new discoveries and industries. But most importantly of all ensure America leads the world in technology, science, and knowledge.

If President Obama and Congress are serious about reinvigorating our economy and taking on the National Debt then position the United States to grow a new space industry with the potential to create good paying jobs and a sustainable tax base.
It’s time to dream again! It’s time to believe again! It’s time to do again!

Fire up the Shuttle program, build even better rockets to take us to the Moon and construct a base there to mine minerals and launch us onto other missions.

Mr. President at the dawn of the 21st century how about using the hope and change we voted for to conquer the last frontier?

Let me end this by going back to the beginning and may we follow NASA’s original mission jazzed up by Hollywood as spoken by actor William Shatner, Star Trek’s own Captain James T. Kirk on the start of every program when hope to travel in space lived even though we had yet to step on the Moon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5YCACHWO4Y&feature=related“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Beam us up Mr. President!