Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank a firefighter this weekend

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Stormy weather …

Those words are not only the the title of a song, made famous by Lena Horne and Billie Holiday, they are synonymous with weather across the U.S. during the early months of 2011.

Parts of the country have been devastated and many lives have been lost. Our area has been spared for the most part and we have been lucky that we have not seen weather in the same league as those in Tennessee and Missouri.

While our area has been spared the death and destruction, we have had more than our share of rain, wind, thunder and lightning.

And, in spite of the fact that our weather is never as bad as some of our professional weather prognosticators make it out to be, there has been damage and a few of our friends and neighbors have suffered losses.

Most of us think of our local firefighters as, well, men and women who fight fires. We are blessed in Miami County to have a mix of professional, full-time and volunteer, firefighters who are among the best in the business.

What many may not realize is that our firefighters, and rescue squad members, have been losing lots of sleep in recent months, not due to house or barn fires, but rather, to reports of utility poles burning and downed trees due to wind and lightning.

They, along with area law enforcement officers, brave the driving rain and wind to identify danger and either repair or isolate it until utility crews can arrive.

I don’t mean to paint their efforts, under these circumstances, as “heroic”, but most of us have, at one time or another, been caught, outdoors, in a thunderstorm. I think that we would all agree that it is not a lot of fun. And, there is an element of danger involved. Lightning and falling trees are dangerous.

Most of us, given the choice between sitting at home where it is warm and dry, or standing outdoors in a deluge of rain making sure that someone does not drive into high water or a downed tree, would probably choose to stay home.

A couple of months ago, when a series of storms came through the Covington area, a downed electrical wire left a large portion of the community in the dark. Out of the darkness came the Covington Fire Department. As calls came in to the Miami County 9-1-1 Center, members of the department patiently and methodically investigated every report of downed wires, high water and arching power lines. Once they caught up with the calls and tentatively identified the source of the problem, a number of the volunteer firefighters stuck around until Dayton Power & Light arrived on the scene to begin repairs.

Similar scenarios play out in other communities with every storm.

It also bears mentioning that most of these firefighters are married and have families. There is a natural feeling when potentially dangerous weather is targeting your community, your home, to want to be there to protect those you love. When things are looking the worst, these firefighters have to leave their family and go out to help and protect others.

Family members of our volunteer firefighters deserve credit for their strength during these times. One might tend to think that circumstances such as these would see wives, or sometimes husbands, and children feeling scared and abandoned during crucial times. It have been my observation that it is a sign of strong families who know that they can take care of themselves when the chips are down.

Maybe, this is one of the reasons why so many firefighters, both paid and volunteer, are second and third generation firefighters.

Most firefighters love “sinking their teeth” into a big fire. It is a rush to be involved in putting out a large blaze. For every hour a firefighter spends pouring water on a raging fire, he, or she, probably spends 20 or 30 hours standing on some country road next to a fallen tree or power pole, waiting on someone to arrive to clean things up. Few of those hours are during pleasant weather conditions.

There is an old saying, “it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.” Thank God for our firefighters who respond to disasters, large and small, and almost always, with a smile on their face, even in a rainstorm.

Memorial Day weekend is to honor our fallen military heroes. Many of us will be attending parades on Monday. Taking part in those parades will be members of our local fire departments. As they pass by, how about giving them a special wave and thank you for a job well done?

Friday, May 13, 2011

No such thing as a second place winner

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

Educating our children is always one of our biggest concerns. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear or read about some aspect of education.

Many profess alarm that America’s youth have fallen behind their counterparts in other counties. Many suggestions and opinions are offered to put American kids back “on track.”

As usual, there are too many American’s whose ultra-liberal opinions seem to carry the day. And, as usual, they are dead wrong. Legislators and self-proclaimed education “experts” who are flapping their jaws about year-round school, for example, are probably parents themselves who cringe that they are keeping score at their kid’s soccer games.

Sports and life are intertwined. Parents who interfere in either, or both, are usually doing their children more harm than good.

An example is parents who call a newspaper office and complain that their little “Johnny” did not have his photo in the paper and the paper should be ashamed of itself for not giving “Johnny” his moment in the sun. After all, the parent will say, “Johnny” works just as hard on the JV squad as his varsity counterparts. Or, there is the parent who will complain that their kid didn’t make the paper from a particular game and we should rectify the situation because their kid “deserves” to be publicized. (Please note: we do not photograph “players,” we photograph the game.)

A couple of lessons are to be learned from this. First, life isn’t fair. Second, let “Johnny” pay his dues, just as the rest of the varsity team did. With rare exceptions, they had to earn their way to win a varsity spot. There are two key words there that too few of our kids know much about - earn and win.

When our kids are in first or second grade and participate in a sport, it is fine to give everyone a ribbon or a medal for participation or good sportsmanship. But there are way too many wishy-washy parents out there who think that keeping score can make a kid feel bad because he or she will be devastated to find out that he or she did not win.

Guess what folks? If you want to be a success as an adult, you have to learn about competition. You must learn about winning and you must learn about losing. It is part of life.

Sure, kids are going to cry if they lose. As a parent, you feel for them. But you don’t create a winner by creating an environment where everyone who shows up “wins.”

I can remember when I was a kid, playing my dad in checkers. He would teach me the game and we would play. He would always win. I can vividly remember being upset at one point and asking my dad, “why don’t you ever let me win?” His answer was, “If I let you win, you will never learn to win on your own.” It hurt at the time, but not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate the lesson he taught me. I eventually learned to play well enough to beat him, not always, but I learned how to win.

Parents need to learn that there is no entitlement for our children. We cannot live life for them and, while it hurts a little, learning how about losing is a part of life.

In case someone is not getting the message about what winning or losing at a school-level sport has to do with life, if you don’t learn about winning and losing in school, you are destined to get your butt kicked in life.

American kids need to learn that competition can be brutal. They need to learn, at a younger age, that not everyone makes the varsity team. They need to learn that if you are not gifted with God-given athletic ability, you have to work harder to make the team. You have to want that varsity spot bad enough be willing to work for it. Too many of our kids do not know anything about hard work.

Kids need to learn to lose gracefully but to never be satisfied with losing. They need to learn to fight their own battles, both literally and figuratively.

Children, and adults, in other parts of the world are winning the sporting events and the jobs because they still grow up learning to fight to win, to succeed in life. Americans don’t like to hear that. We are too busy still living off the reputation earned by our parents and grandparents.

A reality in life that we had better learn, before it is too late, is - there is no such thing as a second place winner.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden is dead, remember the moment - and move on

Osama Bin Laden is dead. The mastermind behind so many terrorist attacks over the past 20 years is gone, killed, appropriately so, by United States troops.

Last night and into today, Americans celebrated the death of this heartless, ruthless and I might add cowardly terrorist. There are reports that, ever the coward, Bin Laden died while hiding behind a woman.

It is time to ask ourselves what the death of the world’s most infamous terrorist really means. In short, what is next?

As usual in America, less than an hour after the announcement, some were throwing political accusations about. Anyone who reads my weekly column is aware that no one would like to see Barack Obama out of office more that I. There is no doubt that knocking off Bin Laden is a feather in Obama’s cap.

There are times to disagree with our president and there are times to rally behind him, or at least give due credit for a job well done. This is one of those times. The task undertaken by our military was the stuff that movies are made of.

I do feel for President Obama in this instance. No matter how one feels, politically, about any given president, I cannot think of a more troubling decision that one to eliminate, yes kill, another human being. We can talk about it all we like. “Yeah, I’d have not trouble makin’ that call,” many of us would say.

Think about it though, from the president’s perspective. He is giving an order to kill someone. In giving that order, he is committing a number of United States servicemen to accomplish his order. His order is putting them into a position where there is a likely-hood that they could die. It is their job, we know. But, knowing all of that, are you so sure that you could give the order?

It should also be noted that it is not just the President of the United States who is responsible for locating and killing Bin Laden. President Bush had people hot on his trail and Obama picked up the trail after taking office.

To accomplish the mission that culminated in Bin Laden’s death took years of intelligence gathering. The mission did not require Republicans and it did not require Democrats. It required Americans – working together, as a team, toward a common goal. That is what American’s do best.

I do not wish to judge how, or to what extent, Americans celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden. Yes, some will argue, he was a human being, after all.

I do not wish to argue how Bin Laden was buried. The decision was made. It is done. Drop it. Second-guessing at this point is useless.

Now is not the time to spend too much time celebrating the victory. The battle has been won. The war is not over. Terrorists are still alive and a sizable number of them would still wish to continue in the footsteps of their fallen leader.

Well done to the CIA. Well done, U.S. military troops. Well done, Mr. President.

Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo. (The code name, and “go” signal, for the operation.)