Friday, December 30, 2011

Year-end thoughts and thank you's

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

I thought that I would share some year-end thoughts as we bid good-bye to 2011 and prepare to welcome 2012.

First of all, following a suggestion from my wife, I (we) would like to send out a thank you to everyone who took the time during this busy holiday season to decorate their home with Christmas lights.

I think that many of us take these festive decorations for granted as we drive by, casually or on a deliberate search for, houses and yards with hundreds, or even thousands, of multi-colored lights. I know that many people enjoy the task of decorating for Christmas but we should recognize that the time and expense to make a home twinkle merrily for the holidays can be a chore.

Few things say "Christmas" like driving into a neighborhood filled with homes dressed up for the season.

To each and every person and family who has taken the time to decorate, a big thank you for making our Christmas brighter. I don't know if you realize, but your efforts are a gift to the entire community.

Another year-end thank you goes out to the folks at our local sanitation departments. I could not help but notice as I made my way through neighborhoods this week that the Christmas holiday had generated quite a bit more trash that usual.

I know that these guys are "just doing their job," the same as everyone, but we all like to know that our efforts are, if not appreciated, at least recognized. I can't help but feel that as they made their way through their daily routes this week, the guys driving the trucks and the guys taking care of our trash and recyclables, as well as the guys and gals at the Miami County transfer facility, couldn't help but feel the extra weight of the holidays. (Pun intended.)

Recognition and un-dying appreciation also must go out to our police, fire and rescue personnel. While we are home with our family and friends during the holidays, these men and women are out there to watch over us. Some are full-time, some part-time and some are volunteers, but all of them stand ready to respond when and where needed.

Many of us take these men and women for granted. I suppose that is mostly because they do their job in such a manner that we just know they will be there for us in a time of need.

I was reminded of their professionalism and dedication on Christmas day when a tragic crash on U.S. 36 called emergency workers to action. Full-time sheriff's deputies and paramedics worked alongside volunteer firefighters at the crash site. One never hears someone complaining that an incident took them away from their family. Their only thoughts are of getting the job done and helping in whatever way possible.

For those of you who do not work closely with or around our Miami County emergency workers, I would like to let you know that we should feel very blessed and fortunate to have the men and women that we have on our local departments. Each and every one of them are dedicated and talented professionals. We can all sleep more soundly knowing that they have our back.

To our law enforcement officers, firefighters and medics, I offer a most sincere thank you and a "well done."

I need to remember, too, the men and women at the Miami County 9-1-1 dispatch center. Their work to organize and make sense of often chaotic and potentially dangerous situations, while seeing that help is sent quickly, goes all but unnoticed. Thank you for all that you do, as well.

All of these individuals and groups have had an effect on my life, as well as most your lives, during 2011.

I appreciate all of you and look forward to continuing to our journey in 2012.

My family and I wish all of you a very safe and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feds attempt at cell phone ban about stealing our tax dollars, not safety

I doubt that anyone has not heard about the call by our federal government this week to ban the use of cell phones while driving.

It is not hard to see that this fight is only beginning.

Keep in mind that the government will not ban the use of cell phones. They will make a recommendation to state governments, leaving the final decision to individual states. The feds, in their own quaint little way, are only suggesting the ban. Oh, they say, but if you decide not to follow the recommendation, the state will not get billions of dollars in highway money.

The word “blackmail” comes to mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that texting while driving should be illegal. I believe that a law should be in place stating that if you were engaged in a phone conversation and are involved in a crash that is your fault, an extra charge should be applied for neglect. I believe that people should keep mobile phone use to a minimum while driving.

I would even attempt to find a way to get hands-free devices into use for everyone who uses a cell phone in a car.

The bottom line though, is that this is one more case of our federal government sticking their nose into something that is a) none of their business, and b) nearly unenforceable.

Lawmakers in Washington must be proud of themselves over this one. They get to look like good guys, concerned for the safety of the motoring public while pulling yet another slimy scheme to withhold our own tax dollars from state coffers.

Congress has turned into a bunch of thugs, preying on Americans by stealing their tax dollars. We pay taxes on everything we see and do while our congressmen look for ways to put that money to use, at best, for their own pet project and, at worst, into their own greedy pockets.

I believe that this legislation on banning the use of cell phones while driving is an attempt to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

I expect that the automobile manufacturers will put up a fight over this, as well as cell phone companies. Both have been working for years to integrate all of this new technology into our driving “experience.” Now, the feds are looking to make motorists take a two-decade step backward.

I wonder if the government complained when AM car radios began to appear as accessories early in the 20th century. I doubt it. The corruption of our federal government was not quite so prevalent in those days.

Let us hope that the government does not pass this legislation. In itself, it is just one more way that Big Brother is controlling our lives.

Factored in with all of the other rights-grabbing policies that have been, and are continuing to be, thrown about in recent years, it is one more bar in the cell of the prison our government seems to be building around us as our formerly inalienable rights are grabbed away.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Honoring our national treasures

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

As I have written before, my job as a photographer carries many benefits, chief among them, the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Will E Sanders and I visited local resident Roy Woolridge, a veteran of the United States Navy and a Pearl Harbor survivor, to hear a first-hand account of the “date which will live in infamy.”

I grew up as the son of a World War II veteran. Many of my uncles, as well as a number of family friends, also served during the Second World War. Rarely did anyone discuss their personal experiences, and if they did, it was almost always something of a lighter nature.

The history of World War Two has been my passion for years. I have studied both the European and Pacific Theaters but the war in the Pacific has always been most interesting.

The story of the attack on Pearl Harbor has been well-documented. Unfortunately, we are living in a generation of revisionist history, folks, nay, nut cases, who refuse to believe the facts of history as it occurred. They would rather make up new facts that are more politically correct.

When the opportunity came for Will E and I to actually meet a man who witnessed and participated in one of America’s most tragic moments, I found myself almost shaking with anticipation.

Historians are aware that on the eve of the attack, there was a formal dance at the Pearl Harbor Officer’s Club. Mr. Woolridge was a member of the band who played in the club that fateful evening, the last evening of peace for four long and terrible years.

I hope that most of you read Woolridge’s account in our December 7 edition of the Piqua Daily Call. It is a story that we rarely have the chance to hear first-hand anymore. It won’t be many years until no one will be left who can say, “I was there.”

Will E received a letter, via fax, a couple days ago, from Woolridge’s daughter. She included an account her father’s recollections of December 7, 1941, that he had written on the 62nd anniversary of the attack.

Woolridge was 100 years old as he recalled the attack to us. His hearing is not what it used to be either. I would describe his recollections of his naval service as pretty good for a centurion.

When I took the opportunity to read his account from eight years ago, I was nearly speechless. Not only were the details very sharp and clear, but I was astounded by Woolridge’s writing ability. His account of the attack and it’s aftermath was a wonderful thing to read, nearly poetic in nature, as he describe the views of the peaceful harbor during the dance and the chaos and tragedy, death and destruction, that began less than 12 hours later.

It is events such as these that make me want to cry in despair as I realize that we are losing our World War Two generation far more rapidly with each passing year. Our “greatest generation,” as described by Tom Brokaw is responsible for making America into a world leader.

I recall when I first began hearing that we were losing World War II veterans at a rate of 1000 per day. That was 15 years ago. The figure, I believe is now closer to 1500 per day.

If there was a more defining historical event than World War Two during the 20th century, I don’t know what it was. Time is running out to talk to these living participants of the century’s most influential years.

When we were growing up, they were “just” Dad, or Uncle Charlie. Most are now gone. And, to a man, their take on those war-filled years was, “We were just doing our job.”

Those who are still with us need to be remembered by each and every one of us as what they have become — national treasures.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Chief Roy Woolridge, USN (ret) and the millions of men and women of our Greatest Generation. Your generation was defined by a quote from one of your own …

“There are no great men. There are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced, by circumstances, to meet.” - Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., USN