A candidate forum for the 16th Legislative District will be held on July 13, 2020 beginning at 7:00 pm at The Patriot Barn at 22202 N Hinzerling Rd, Prosser, WA.
A candidate forum for the 16th Legislative District will be held on July 13, 2020 beginning at 7:00 pm at The Patriot Barn at 22202 N Hinzerling Rd, Prosser, WA.
From the Yakima Herald, Yakima County has highest rate of COVID-19 cases in Washington, double the state rate:
Yakima County has the highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the state by a significant amount, and is double the state average, according to state Department of Health data.
The county had a rate of 337 cases per 100,000 people, according to the latest state data, accounting for the 840 Yakima County cases recorded by the state as of midnight on Monday.
That’s significantly higher than the next highest county rate in the state, Snohomish County, which has 274 cases per 100,000 people. It’s double the state rate of 168 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
Yakima County also has the second-highest rate of testing for COVID-19 in the state after Snohomish County, according to Yakima Health District spokeswoman Lilian Bravo.
As of Tuesday evening, Yakima County had 886 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 38 deaths, according to the Yakima Health District. Twenty-five people were hospitalized with the respiratory virus. The health district did not provide updated numbers Wednesday due to technical difficulties.
On Tuesday, the health district released a map showing the breakdown of confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in each city and town in Yakima County.
The health district map shows where community members infected with the virus live, not where they contracted the virus, said Bravo. Community members can contract the virus from anywhere in the community, she said — not just areas with higher rates of residents with confirmed cases.
The health district mapping is based on COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, not actual case numbers in each town or city. Cases in long-term care facilities, which account for about a third of cases in the county, were not included in the map to prevent the data from being skewed. P.O. Box addresses were also excluded.
High densities of cases can be seen in parts of Yakima, Sunnyside, Toppenish, Wapato and Tieton, among others.
The high case rate in the county compared to elsewhere in the state can be attributed to outbreaks in long-term care facilities, as well as the high proportion of essential workers in Yakima County, Bravo said.
Cases at seven Yakima County long-term care facilities make up 25% of the county’s total cases.
About 72,700 of 115,000 Yakima County jobs, or 63%, are in essential industries like agriculture, health care and wholesale trade, according to job figures from the first quarter of 2018 provided by the Yakima County Development Association.
This compares to 54% statewide.
“Context is that over 60% of jobs are still considered essential in Yakima, so we’re not as shut down as some areas in the state,” Bravo said. “Having more individuals still working, not necessarily always being able to work from home, having to show up to work — that’s going to put them at a higher risk of infection.”
This article comes from Samantha Biggers at Backdoor Survival – What Can Prepper Groups Do To Support Each Other During Quarantine. You may not be able to have physical meetups, but what can you do?
A lot of people have been members of preparedness groups for quite some time. While some groups may have been just casual meetups once in a while, others were seriously training and getting together on a regular basis.
pandemic is not necessarily the event that most groups considered likely. This is not an event where people can all feel good about gathering together to ride this thing out.
But that doesn’t mean that prepper groups cannot offer a ton of support and help to one another. This article is going to talk about what prepper groups can do to support one another during this time of social distancing.
What Can Prepper Groups Do To Support Each Other During Quarantine
- 1 Learn skills via video
- 2 Have some classes that are designed to help entertain and offer constructive activities for the teens and kids of those in the group.
- 3 Check-in on each other. Sometimes it is nice to just know that others are thinking about you.
- 4 Share recipes
- 5 Practice Communications
- 6 Let’s talk about barter and trade via social distancing.
- 7 Drop Off and Pick Up Points
- 8 Exercise Together and Talk Via Online Video or Voice Chat
- 9 If your group has a shared faith or can agree on a non-denominational online service or prayer, it is something to consider.
- 10 If you are not a member of any prepper groups, consider joining an online one during your stay at home time.
- 11 Set up a mental health support network.
- 12 We don’t know how long this is going to last so we must be supportive of one another.
Learn skills via video
Prepper groups often have people with a huge variety of skills and knowledge. If each person takes a turn offering an online webinar, then everyone can use this time to learn and come through this even more prepared than ever. Some of these classes could even be added to your homeschool curriculum where appropriate.
Have some classes that are designed to help entertain and offer constructive activities for the teens and kids of those in the group.
While kids are going to have some homework to do, I know from my own homeschool experience that doesn’t take up anywhere near the entire day. Kids are going to need things to do and if you don’t want them to spend all that time watching television or playing video games, then you are going to need to give them some other constructive options.
Check-in on each other. Sometimes it is nice to just know that others are thinking about you.
The pandemic is making it so that people are suffering from extreme stress and anxiety. For many, there is a lot of uncertainty. Regardless of where you get your news, there has been an overwhelming amount of information and some of that info changes faster than you can keep up. There has also been planting of conflicting information.
When people don’t know what is true and a lot of promises are being made that it is impossible for any human being or government to be able to guarantee them, it can feel scary and lead to extreme stress. Poor mental health can affect your body and immunity.
Talking to others through this hard time, especially friends can help. Isolation can be very hard on some people that are older or those that live alone. I would not be doing so well with isolation if I did not have my husband right here with me and my father very nearby.
For many people, this is the first time they have had to cook with at least some basic foods or be responsible for all the meals consumed. If you get takeout or deli food 5-7 times a week, it is a big change to suddenly have to take care of that yourself and plan your day so that you have time for it.
Getting creative with all those prepper foods you have stashed back can make eating a more enjoyable experience. Variety helps more than you might realize. There are ways to make comfort foods from very basic things with just a few skills and some knowledge.
Some prepping groups have communications procedures and codes in place. Now is a good time to practice those skills. Some people are getting more into shortwave radios and learning how to operate a HAM radio…(continues)
Kara Stiff at The Organic Prepper has written How to Help Your Community Be Better Prepared for Covid-19 (and Future Emergencies). It’s worth your time to read.
…Some people can’t get their doctors to prescribe a reasonable stockpile of essential medications, or they need regular access to a hospital for dialysis or some other life-saving service. Some don’t have an extra dollar to spend on food for later because they can’t cover food for today. Others can’t stay home even when they’re contagious because they’ll lose their job. And some are suffering from depression or other mental states that make it literally impossible to think about the future, much less plan for it.
Some of these have been issues for me in the past, and I’m just lucky those periods of my life were short. There are millions of people who live there permanently.
Systemic and personal barriers to other people’s preparedness affect me personally, even though my family is in pretty good shape. We live out in the country but we’re still surrounded by neighbors, and our fortunes will rise and fall with theirs. My family can only be as prepared as our neighborhood, our county, our state. Which is to say, not very prepared at all.
How I’m working on community preparedness
So instead of further addressing our personal preparedness with diminishing returns, I’m working on community preparedness. I’m not an elected official or a leader, just a private citizen, so the things I’m doing are friendly and neighborly things.
Before we got our little cold I did my friend’s monthly livestock feed run for her, saving her a day in the car so she can rest up and take care of things at home. Then, I took my elderly neighbors some extra eggs. I haven’t seen them in a while, and it’s to both of our advantages if they remember who I am. I reintroduced myself to my neighbor who just moved in, so he remembers who I am, too.
Of course, it’s safest to live in a tight network of preparedness-minded people with diverse and complementary skills who unconditionally support each other. But how many of us are actually achieving that right now?
It’s difficult to build and maintain that sort of situation in a nation where most people aren’t interested, and people are always moving. Some of my neighbors form a pretty good support group, but I also have neighbors I’m not close with. Knowing their names and faces is far better than not knowing.
Another thing I’m doing is giving extra money to my local food bank. In these times when all the headlines scream that unemployment is low and the economy is hearty, about 15% of my county is already leaning on the food bank, including lots of elderly people and families with small children. These are the people who can least afford a health problem or a wider financial disruption, and it’s ultimately better for me if they have access to the resources to stock up.
The greater the proportion of the population who can meet some of their needs in any emergency, be it a virus, a weather event or just a personal job loss, the more likely it is that any forthcoming disaster assistance can cover the remaining needs. More needs met equals less unrest (certainly not none, but less) and less unrest equals my family being safer (certainly not safe, but safer).
It’s easy to feel that because I’m all set, all those grasshoppers who won’t see to their own needs can suffer and it doesn’t affect me. But it isn’t true. I am safest when everyone is safest.
This week I’m reaching out gently to friends and family, especially those who are vulnerable because of asthma, pregnancy, age or other preexisting conditions. Because my anxiety about my own family is relatively low, I can speak to them in encouraging, soothing, practical ways, sharing information and urging them to get some extra food so they have the option to stay home, hopefully without stressing them out too much. A few people actually contacted me, and I was able to better answer their questions and listen to their feelings because I’m not panicking myself. They weren’t interested last week when I mentioned the virus offhandedly, but this week, they are.
People become receptive to preparedness on their own timelines.
You might have found in your personal conversations that people are uninterested or even scornful about your preparedness ideas. I’ve certainly found that. My dad was polite but not too excited about my thoughts during last winter’s ice storm. Now he’s been following the Covid-19 news, and all of a sudden he wants to talk more in-depth about water catchment, food storage, and communication if the cell service is ever disrupted.
His change of mind just goes to show that people have to become receptive all on their own. In my experience, all we ordinary private citizens can do is try to gently plant a seed of interest in preparedness topics, and then be there to water it when the circumstances are right. For a lot of previously uninterested people, those circumstances are right now, and they might be looking around for somebody to learn from. Groups you’re already a part of (such as clubs or churches) may also be more receptive now that they used to be.
I’m not suggesting giving them a guided tour of your storage, or anything else that compromises your own security, but something as simple as speaking quietly to group leaders, assisting them to support others…
There have been some stories shared on social media of people being carefully approached by strangers who are in the high-risk categories for COVID-19 (older adults and people with heart disease, diabetes or lung disease) and asked for help with shopping or other resources, because the strangers are afraid to expose themselves by going into crowded stores themselves. Sometimes they are being given cash and a shopping list, which exposes these high-risk people to both theft and then not having supplies. If you have neighbors whom you know are in a high risk group, it is a good idea to contact them (ideally via a remote method that doesn’t expose them to anything you may be carrying) and ask if you can assist them with any preparations. You could also print them an OK/HELP sign so that they can notify neighbors if they need assistance, and the people for whom they have phone numbers aren’t able to respond to help.
Be mindful that you still need to practice good hygiene to prevent infection in either direction when passing off goods or payment.
NC Scout at American Partisan has an article up about the southern tradition of Community Cooking, how it aids a community, and how communal cooking may help in a disaster.
So we’re finding ourselves in a rush once more. The reality of a pandemic is setting in and people are buying up as much freeze-dried supplies as they can get their hands on. But while I don’t think the physical consequences for an overwhelmingly large percentage of healthy persons will be severe, I do think that the economic disruptions, and the trickle down interruptions in our food supplies, have the potential to be far-reaching. Then again its one of the very real reasons that a good number of people I’m friends and neighbors with have taken every opportunity to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Its not just about having solar power or ‘living off the grid’ for my own sake, but a creation of better resiliency against these sort of inevitable disasters. So you’ve got all those beans and rice put back, but how are you gonna cook them? And are you cooking off-grid? I draw on lessons I learned from my childhood growing up in the rural south and as an adult living in the third world, among Iraqis and Afghans, where a supply chain wasn’t taken for granted. Top among those lessons was the value of cooking for a whole community.
In America we’re culturally predisposed to thinking individually, permeating all the way down to our eating habits. This has led to incredible amounts of wasteful practices, but its also led to us isolating ourselves to a large degree. In many respects this filters down to our own preparedness practices; the things we buy, the things we buy in bulk, and the justifications behind them. It is an attitude of “I GOT MINE!” negating the reality that hungry masses are motivated masses- and they’ll simply take what you have when they get desperate enough.
On the other hand, a community protects what a community values.
Every fall in the rural southeast communities have a stew. Every church, every volunteer fire department, and many civic clubs. Its a good fundraiser but its a hell of a lot more than that. Its a tradition and a symbol of our cultural connection with the land. Back in the less-modern era people ate a diet based on what they had at the time. Vegetables followed the harvest seasons, meats followed the livestock slaughter schedule, and at the end of the year and through the winter, stews were made from whatever was left over to prevent spoilage. Crops and livestock were hard earned like everything else. Waste not, want not.
&amp;lt;img class=”size-medium wp-image-9608 alignleft” src=”https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163.jpg?resize=300%2C200&amp;amp;#038;ssl=1″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=300%2C200&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1024%2C682&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=768%2C512&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1536%2C1024&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 1536w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=2048%2C1365&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 2048w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=610%2C407&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 610w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?resize=1320%2C880&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 1320w, https://i0.wp.com/www.americanpartisan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/100_1163-scaled.jpg?w=2160&amp;amp;amp;ssl=1 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ /&amp;gt;Its a tradition that my own family and friends still follow today, and one that I always look forward to. The Fall is my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons, and making a hearty stew, chili, and chicken mull is a big part of that. But that annual stew wouldn’t be possible without a few critical tools. I have a large cast iron stew pot, its iron stand, a large steel disk wok, a large dutch oven and a medium dutch oven, all cured with lard and easy to cook on off-grid. With these tools I can make nearly any meal and feed large groups of people in the process.
There’s a strong parallel to this and those cultures overseas, especially in Afghanistan. In most rural cultures around the world you’ll find a community kitchen in the small villages or groups of mud huts. In the center you’ll typically find a firepit, a few pots, usually a pressure cooker, and in some places a large metal disk much like the discada that I use. Its cooking gear that they’ve been using for generations, much like we did not that long ago.
The community kitchen, so to speak, is built to feed everyone- not just individually. A group learns to live off what they have, source their food from their environment, and know what goes a long way to sustaining the most, quickly and efficiently. Rice and beans are a staple food in most parts of the world. Cooking them is fairly straightforward and its a cheap food to stock up on. You can pick up a 20lb of rice and another 4lb of red beans for just over $30 total- and that will feed a small group of people for a good while. All you need is clean water and wood for the fire, and you’re good to go. Add in some bullion cubes for flavor and have some canned meat for long term storage and you’ll be the rock star of your group when people get burned out
on freeze dried food or MREs.
Maybe its the attitude I hold towards greater sustainability, maybe its my ongoing love of re-wilding, or maybe its partly trying to squeeze everything I can out of my hard earned money, but my approach to prepping and survivalism is to know how to provide and prepare that next meal for my family- not just tomorrow, but forever. There’s a learning curve to it, but for me at least its worth it on many levels to have and practice the skills to survive rather than simply bank on prepared foods alone to carry us through. I have those too, but they’ll be the last in the rotation after I’ve exhausted every other option. No matter what the crisis, I’ve got the tools and skills to use it. And you should too.
Don’t panic. Just prepare.
The First Annual Community Chili Cook Off is being held on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 at the Prosser Community Center, 1215 Dudley Ave., Prosser, WA at 12:00 pm.
You are invited to bring your best chili to the Prosser Community Center. There will both a prize for best judged entry (1st, 2nd, and 3rd places) and one for the people’s choice. To register your chili, it must be at the community center for judges no later than 11:20 am. Judging begins at 11:30. They recommend the use of crock pots to keep your chili warm.
This event is hosted by the Prosser Senior Citizen’s Club, who will also be selling bowls of chili for $5, served with corn bread. Drinks available for $1.
For more information, contact Prosser Community Center at 786-2915.
In another example of the importance of being prepared and the importance of community, some residents who live along US Highway 2 have been stranded in their homes and without electricity since last Friday as over three feet of snow fell in the area. Miles of the highway are still closed, but WSDOT was able to open a portion of the road and community volunteers have been bringing supplies to some.
Patience is wearing thin for residents impacted by the closure of US Highway 2 near Skykomish. Most living in the area have been without electricity since 2 p.m. Friday.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) opened a portion of US 2 on Wednesday at 2 p.m. for local access to Skykomish for people living between Money Creek tunnel and Skykomish. US 2 remains closed between Skykomish and the Stevens Pass summit.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10,” said Baring resident Charlie Preston. “It’s hell.”
But help arrived Wednesday when WSDOT escorted a group of volunteers across US 2 with supplies donated by community members for residents stranded by the closure.
“We’ve got like four trucks packed full right now with more coming. Everything from pellets for pellet stoves, gas for generators, diesel, the normal amenities that everybody needs,” volunteer Dave Mergenthaler said. “Food, bread, milk, tons of water, anything and everything we could gather between last night and this morning is going up.”
“This is the type of help that just warms you when nothing else does,” said one resident when the help arrived.
Some residents have posted videos showing at least three feet of snow on the ground. Mergenthaler said some people have been trapped in their homes for days.
“We don’t have news, we don’t have phones, we don’t have internet. We’re totally isolated,” said Preston. “I don’t know if the governor has called this an emergency. If he hasn’t, he needs to. We need all the help we can get.”
While the decision to survive is a personal one, your ability to survive is exponentially enhanced by having a community which has decided to survive. In this article from Citylab, one neighborhood in Portland discusses how and why they formed and what they are doing to be prepared. Have you met your neighbors and mapped your neighborhood? Meet people, build trust, and grow community. It will help you survive – not just in disasters.
…“One of the main elements of disaster preparedness is knowing your neighbors,” Michael Hall says as the meeting begins. He’s the bell-ringer and leader of Alameda’s self-titled “Council of Blockheads,” which represents a two-block, 25-household area. For the last four years, the residents of this leafy neighborhood have convened twice annually over a lofty goal: ensuring the survival of everyone on the block in case of a disaster.For the next 30 minutes, the group talks about whether to order more stackable emergency water containers and how much extra food to stock up on (the new advice: enough for two weeks). They listen to earthquake survival tips from a guest speaker, Marilyn Bishop, who sells pre-made emergency prep kits full of freeze-dried rations. Four years ago, these neighbors hardly knew each other. But after seven meetings and counting, they now see each other as their lifelines. Hall is one of the many residents of the Pacific Northwest reckoning with the terrifying potential of the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake that many experts believe will strike in the next 50 years. The overdue super-quake could trigger devastating coastal tsunamis—waves up to 85 feet high—and deliver potentially massive damage to homes, highways, and water and power infrastructure. Galvanized by Kathryn Schulz’s 2015 New Yorker story “The Really Big One,” Hall was eager to do something. So he gathered a few neighbors at his house over beers to brainstorm. The result was their first disaster-awareness block party, where nearly every household had a representative. The block parties became the way to make catastrophe preparation less overwhelming.
They started holding twice-yearly informational meetups with guest speakers and workshops that covered how to create a family emergency plan, human waste storage systems, and water and food storage. They made a bulk order of water bricks. And they created and continue to update a comprehensive inventory of neighborhood contact information, emergency supplies (such as generators, tools, and camping equipment), and skills (e.g., first-aid, carpentry, childcare). Some neighbors even gained additional training as Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteers—city-trained residents who deploy in a large-scale emergency…
Benton REA will be hosting an American Red Cross blood drive in their Prosser community room on Thursday, January 23rd, 2020 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Please donate blood.
O My God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee
in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou has given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing sense to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.-From The Valley of Vision
It’s nice to see people come to the realization that community is pretty important when a disaster hits. Seeing it in a major, mainstream publication is good, too. This article comes from Wired magazine. It’s pretty brief and the “houses we would pillage” comment is a little worrisome, though hopefully they at least mean unoccupied, but the message of working with the people around you is there.
September is Emergency Preparedness Month. I don’t find many National Days to be very useful (I’m still not sure what to do about “Meow Like a Pirate Day”), but for those of us who live in disaster-prone areas, like the hurricane-strewn Gulf Coast or the tornado plains of the Midwest, September is a good reminder to make sure that your emergency gear is up to date.In my particular part of the country, “our” disaster is the inevitable Pacific Northwest earthquake. I live in a tiny corner of Portland, Oregon, a city that will be affected by any quakes on the Cascadia subduction zone. When The New Yorker‘s in-depth investigation was published in 2015, it kicked off a days-long group text among my neighbors that was only mildly panicked in tone.
About my neighbors on that group text: We all live within four blocks of each other, in wood-framed houses in varying states of renovation or disrepair. Some of us have backyard gardens and chickens; we all have partners, small children, and dogs. Without my neighbors, I’m not sure I would’ve even prepared for an earthquake at all.
I first got a hint that I might need to get my butt in gear when I received a plaintive note: “When the earthquake happens, will someone check on us to make sure we’re not stuck on the second story of our house?” someone asked.
“We’ll make your house the meeting point,” another responded.
“We have water filters and sterilizers,” my husband said to me, since he was receiving but pointedly not participating in the group text. “You know we can just walk down to the river and fill buckets, right?”
It took a few more back-and-forths about which houses we would pillage and when, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the most important resource to have on hand wasn’t my neighbors’ stuff; it was my neighbors themselves.
My Emergency Kit…
Benton REA will be hosting an American Red Cross blood drive in their Prosser community room on Thursday, October 24th, 2019 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Please donate blood.
In this video, intelligence analyst Sam Culper of Forward Observer focuses on the five areas that he want to do for his tribe or community in case of a worst case scenario or without rule of law (WROL) situation. Intelligence drives operations. You can’t respond effectively without knowing what is what and who is who.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Senator Tom Cotton on April 9, 2019, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
Every headstone at Arlington tells a story. These are tales of heroes, I thought, as I placed the toe of my combat boot against the white marble. I pulled a miniature American flag out of my assault pack and pushed it three inches into the ground at my heel. I stepped aside to inspect it, making sure it met the standard that we had briefed to our troops: “vertical and perpendicular to the headstone.” Satisfied, I moved to the next headstone to keep up with my soldiers. Having started this row, I had to complete it. One soldier per row was the rule; otherwise, different boot sizes might disrupt the perfect symmetry of the headstones and flags. I planted flag after flag, as did the soldiers on the rows around me.
Bending over to plant the flags brought me eye-level with the lettering on those marble stones. The stories continued with each one. Distinguished Service Cross. Silver Star. Bronze Star. Purple Heart. America’s wars marched by. Iraq. Afghanistan. Vietnam. Korea. World War II. World War I. Some soldiers died in very old age; others were teenagers. Crosses, Stars of David, Crescents and Stars. Every religion, every race, every age, every region of America is represented in these fields of stone.
I came upon the gravesite of a Medal of Honor recipient. I paused, came to attention, and saluted. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor. By military custom, all soldiers salute Medal of Honor recipients irrespective of their rank, in life and in death. We had reminded our soldiers of this courtesy; hundreds of grave sites would receive salutes that afternoon. I planted this hero’s flag and kept moving.
On some headstones sat a small memento: a rank or unit patch, a military coin, a seashell, sometimes just a penny or a rock. Each was a sign that someone—maybe family or friends, or perhaps a battle buddy who lived because of his friend’s ultimate sacrifice—had visited, honored, and mourned. For those of us who had been downrange, the sight was equally comforting and jarring—a sign that we would be remembered in death, but also a reminder of just how close some of us had come to resting here ourselves. We left those mementos undisturbed.
After a while, my hand began to hurt from pushing on the pointed, gold tips of the flags. There had been no rain that week, so the ground was hard. I asked my soldiers how they were moving so fast and seemingly pain-free. They asked if I was using a bottle cap, and I said no. Several shook their heads in disbelief; forgetting a bottle cap was apparently a mistake on par with forgetting one’s rifle or night-vision goggles on patrol in Iraq. Those kinds of little tricks and techniques were not briefed in the day’s written orders, but rather got passed down from seasoned soldiers. These details often make the difference between mission success or failure in the Army, whether in combat or stateside. After some good-natured ribbing at my expense, a young private squared me away with a spare cap. Continue reading “Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery”