Friday, December 28, 2012

We are, and must continue to be - the "well regulated militia" or life as we know it will cease to exist

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Running neck and neck for the top of news story controversy as we ring out 2012 are the budgetary “fiscal cliff” and gun laws in our country.

Since the only thing that I know for certain about our national budget is that we are getting nowhere on the issue due to the fact that a bunch of egomaniac congressmen and our president are more worried about themselves and their personal projects than about the overall good of America, I will talk about something I do know something about — guns.

There has never been a greater push to violate our Second Amendment rights than is going on right now.

There has always been a faction of citizens who are against the ownership of guns. By and large they are liberals who believe that the government owes a living to every person who would rather sit back and draw welfare than have a job.

I will say that this latest attempt at violating the Constitution of the United States is being done in true American fashion. The American way for the last half-century has been, if a person is guilty of committing a crime, the true blame for their actions must lie somewhere else.

If someone spills hot coffee on themselves at a McDonald’s, it must be the fault of the restaurant that actually had the gall to make the coffee hot.

If someone shoots someone with a gun, it must be the fault of the weapon. I mean, after all, how could a mere human being do something so cruel? It must be the fault of the gun.

Our founding fathers gave us an unalienable right to keep and bear arms. At that point in time, it was deemed necessary for citizens to have access to arms.

This right was not only to protect ones’ family and property, but also considered necessary to citizens to protect themselves from the evils of tyranny.

I do not mean to sound paranoid, but I do not find it inconceivable that Americans should be forced to pick up arms against our government in the future. Our system of government is not only broken, it is corrupt. That corruption runs so deep that I fear it cannot be overcome.

The words used, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” were as relevant then as today.

Those who would choose to allow our government to confiscate firearms are the same people who would roll over for a socialist or communist dictatorship without putting up a fight.

I will be the first to say that many horrific tragedies in recent history have had guns involved. This is truly a shame.

However, one has only to look at suicide bombings across the Middle East or the attacks on September 11, 2001 to know that, if someone is willing to die to accomplish their crime, lack of access to a gun, legally or otherwise, will not stop them. Let me say that again, it Will. Not. Stop. Them.

Taking guns out of the hands of honest Americans is not the answer. It never will be the answer.

Increasingly, a small group of armed Americans — legally armed Americans — have been responsible for stopping armed criminals before he/she could perpetrate their crime in a number of cases. The liberal “mainstream” media likes to keep those instances under wraps. Heaven forbid Americans would know the truth.

Another stereotypical American way is that if we are afraid of, or don’t like something, we want it banned from everyone else. Just because some Americans are afraid of guns, they seem to think that guns are bad and should, therefore, be banned.

We may not like the violence in our world, but it is what we live with today. Our police are outnumbered and, in many cased outgunned.

Legally armed citizens, who are properly trained, let me repeat that with emphasis — who are properly trained — can potentially make a difference in whether the good guys prevail, or whether we someday end up as puppets at the end of strings being pulled a communist dictator, like the one we currently have in Washington.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas - the good, the bad and the ugly

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Another Christmas holiday season is upon us.

In spite of the recent tragedy in Connecticut and the "fiscal cliff" that our president seems determined to drive us over, we do have much to be thankful for.

This time of year has a way of showcasing the good in our fellow men and women.

Area school children were regular visitors to nursing homes and assisted living centers over this past month. At each stop, the smiling faces of residents reflected the joy brought into their facility by their caroling young visitors.

This past week,  a story was relayed to me from a local resident, a long-time area educator. She was visiting a local laundromat due to water issues at her home, when a gentleman entered and began to pass out envelopes to folks doing their laundry.

The stranger handed each an envelope then, unceremoniously, left the establishment. The baffled customers opened their envelopes to find a $100 bill inside. It seems the anonymous good Samaritan was out spreading Christmas cheer, taking to heart the saying, "Goodwill toward men."

There have been several reported instances from around the area of anonymous folks going into the layaway department of stores and paying off the accounts of people they never met.

I have been using up some vacation days this past week. Since I was not working, I decided to do some Christmas shopping the old fashioned way .... actually going to a store to shop, as opposed to ordering online.

The chaos was amazing.

Most of the employees of the retail establishments that I visited seemed to be taking the purchasing blitz in stride. I must say that I was pleased at the smiles on the faces of most workers. What did not surprise me was the shopping-with-blinders attitude of many out looking for gifts less than a week before Christmas.

People were scurrying about in every store, many oblivious that they were sharing the world with others. I saw people stepping in front of others and cutting people off as if their own shopping mission was far more important.

Driving was an even bigger adventure. Of course, far too many people had their cell phone growing out of their ear, one hand on the steering wheel and a glazed look in their eye as they concentrated on what they believed the most important task at hand ... getting to the next stop on their shopping trip, when they should have been worrying about driving safely.

I have mentioned before that I believe that many of us put far too much emphasis on purchasing gifts for Christmas. Sure, we have good intentions and the thought of giving to others certainly cannot be faulted. But, we have been brainwashed by retailers and given in to peer pressure that we need to buy bigger and better each year.

As we head down the home stretch to Christmas 2012, I hope that you will all take the time to sit back, take a deep breath and relax.

Think about what are really the important things in life.

Let us remember the real reason for Christmas. Also, remember that it is a time to spend with family.

I know of several area families who have family members, a couple of them children, dealing with serious health concerns this Christmas season.

I hope that all of you will take a few minutes to pray for those families in need of some extra help, maybe even a miracle, this Christmas.

Many times, the best things we can give others, aren't things we can actually see and touch.

I wish all of you are very Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Latest school shootings leave many questions to be answered

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

In the face of another school shooting tragedy, it is hard to find words.

This week's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut leaves most Americans speechless as we attempt to come to terms with the deaths of these innocent victims, many of them children.

I realize as I write these words that, by the time many of you read this column, information regarding the shootings will have changed, added to and altered as more facts become available.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I cannot begin to imagine the horror and pain that must be weighing on not only family members but also friends and relatives in and around Newtown.

The city of Newtown is very close in size to Piqua and Troy. A CBS News correspondent described the town yesterday as "a place you go to buy apples and pumpkins."

In other words, Newtown, Connecticut is like so many other small cities across our country ... a town just like ours.

Every time a tragedy of this sort strikes, we like to say, "It won't happen here." Once again, we are seeing that "it" can happen anywhere.

Like every tragedy that occurs, there will undoubtedly be blame and finger-pointing as details come to light.

Of course, one of the most likely culprits in this situation will be the firearms themselves. People will cry long and loud that the availability of guns is to blame.

Those of us who have common sense know that nothing could be further from the truth. A gun is an inanimate object — a tool. Period. But, as was mentioned yesterday, there is a time and place for that 

discussion and this is not the time.

Another of my initial reactions to the shootings is the action taken by law enforcement investigators. I was very impressed at the way that law enforcement officials took control of the scene, worked the scene and kept journalists as up-to-date as was humanly possible, given the circumstances.

All of this was done under what must be the most trying and difficult circumstances a law enforcement officer could ever face. Many people seem to think that police officers are robots, immune from emotion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most law enforcement officers are, themselves, husbands or wives and parents to their own children.

I grieve today, not only for the victims and their families, but also for the law enforcement personnel and their families. I cannot begin to comprehend the magnitude of what they are going through.
My hat is off to all law enforcement officers who are participating in this investigation.

Members of the media are also not immune from the sorrow from a story like this. One cannot be in the vicinity of this type of tragedy without become emotionally effected.

That leaves us with, where do we go from here?

Obviously, there are many things still needing to be done regarding the investigation. There are families that are going to need support from all of us.

People will undoubtedly ask how a repeat of this tragedy can be avoided.

There will be knee-jerk reactions about more restricted access to schools, armed guards and, of course, banning guns.

As with most situations, making instant judgements are never wise.

There is no way to give a 100 percent guarantee for anyone's safety, that includes our children.

We may not want to hear it, but keeping our children behind locked doors and attempting to protect them to the nth degree also prevents them from living life as it was meant to be lived.

All we can really do is to protect them as best we can and remain vigilant to keep danger at bey.

Maybe the most important lesson is to tell those close to you, especially your children, that you love them. Life is short. You never know when you tell someone goodbye, it could be the last time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Social media posters need to engage their brain before their fingers

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

This past week has been a relatively busy one for Piqua police.

A bank robbery and an aggravated assault with a box cutter topped the list of crimes on this week’s police docket.

These situations, along with other news items were covered by our Piqua Daily Call staff, the stories appeared in our newspaper as well as being posted on our website and Facebook page.

One of the advantages — and disadvantages — of posting stories to a social media site is that readers can provide comments and feedback.

I have touched on this topic in previous columns but it seems that the time is right to mention again that some folks just don’t appreciate where they live and seem to live their lives for one reason … to complain about everything they see and hear.

Let me first address the two crimes mentioned above. Several people on Facebook chose our page to make derogatory remarks regarding the Piqua Police Department. One person was even complaining about an allegedly unsolved Piqua robbery — from 1994.

First, let me point out that both of these major crimes that occurred this week have been solved. Arrests were made in both cases. The “bad guys” are off the street.

Too many people just don’t understand reality. Life is not a one-hour cop show. Solving crimes does not happen magically, and rarely in one hour. In reality, it sometimes does not happen at all. In the real world, sometimes the bad guys win.

We are fortunate in our area to be blessed with great officers on dedicated and professional law enforcement agencies.

These men and women work every day to, as the Los Angeles Police Department motto says, “Protect and Serve.”

And let us not forget that their line of work carries with it a set of dangers that most of us never have to face .

The next time that you feel like making disparaging remarks about our local law enforcement officers, think about Suzanne Hopper in nearby Clark County, who died less than two years ago in the line of duty. Or, stop by the Miami County Law Enforcement memorial at the courthouse in Troy, where the names of law enforcement officers from our hometowns are etched in granite after they made the ultimate sacrifice … for you and for me.

Along with those few who were complaining about law enforcement were the number of people who look for excuses to say horrible things about our city. Yes, our city. I live in Troy but have been made to feel welcome working in Piqua and have grown to consider it my home away from home.

I see much good in Piqua. It is there. All one has to do is to open their eyes.

Sure there are criminals in Piqua. Stuff happens everywhere and Piqua is no more, or less, prone to violence than any other local community.

Possibly, it is just human nature, but when we post stories full of good news and progress for our city, few people take notice. Let someone break the law, however; and there are hundreds of people lying in wait to talk about how that person represents the way that Piqua is as a community. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Piqua is a great community with great schools and great people.

My thoughts are that if you live in Piqua and don’t like it … leave. If you live elsewhere, don’t presume to make judgements against our city.

None of us is perfect. No community is perfect. But all one has to do is to open their eyes and look around them to see that the good far outweighs the bad in our little neck of the woods.

I don’t know about you, but I think that I will stick around.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas = glut and greed ... American-style

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer


For many of us, December is the most magical time of the year. For others, the final month of the year is nearer the “final straw” rather than a season to celebrate.

“A season to celebrate.” That begs the question, exactly what are we celebrating?

The answer to the question, of course, is that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. The day is among the most holy of the year.

Christmas has also become known as a season for giving. The tradition of giving gifts supposedly derives from gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh brought to Baby Jesus by three wise men.

In that sense, the giving of gifts has been around since that first Christmas in Bethlehem, more than 2000 years ago.

Tied into the birth of Jesus and the giving of gifts is the legend of Saint Nickolas, a third-century Roman Catholic bishop who helped the needy. Saint Nickolas is the basis for what (who) has become Santa Claus.

So, how could two men, Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary — the son of God, and Saint Nickolas, a bishop so known for giving and helping others that he rose to Sainthood in the Catholic church, be so lost and forgotten in today’s world, during the season where the lives of both should be our primary focus?

Greed. Selfishness. Disrespect. All of the “above.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Americans are primarily responsible for the corporate, retail and personal greed and overindulgence that has become Christmas in America.

I think back to the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street.” Edmund Gwenn, who plays Kris Kringle in the classic film, talks about how he, Santa Claus, and the real message of Christmas had been lost. If George Seaton and Valentine Davies, writers of the film, could only see how much worse things have gotten since that time, they would roll over in their graves, as they say.

Christmas has developed into a make-or-break season for retailers across America and probably around the world. Money! That seems to be the only issue today. Black Friday is one of the most embarrassing "events" that has ever been created. It does nothing but showcase American's glut for material things.

The tradition of giving gifts, begun by three wise men and built upon by Saint Nickolas, has turned into a free-for-all of shopping greed and the long-practiced American tradition of having to “one-up” your friends, neighbors and relatives when it comes to the giving of gifts.

Another issue with Americans is that parents seem to have lost the ability to tell their children "no." Just how much junk, excuse me, stuff do our kids really need?

I remember when I was a kid, looking through the Sears and the JC Penney Christmas catalogs. I recall wanting a lot more stuff than Santa's sleigh could haul. I also learned that there was a big difference between wanting something and receiving something.

As difficult as it must have been, I believe that the fact that my parents grew up during the Great Depression was ultimately a good thing. My parents and those of their generation knew about what was important and what was frivolous. They knew that wanting something and needing something were two entirely different things.

This holiday season, I encourage everyone to think more about the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. Give thanks for what you already have ... family and friends.  There is nothing wrong with purchasing gifts for others, as long as the giving is done for the right reasons — and in moderation, a term most Americans have never been able to grasp.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hostess was the Mostest!

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

The sun was shining brightly on Friday morning as I woke, ready to face the coming day. As is my daily custom, I opened my computer to check for any possible news story that I might need to look into.

And, just like that, my day was ruined — possibly my entire life. One of the first things that I saw was a headline proclaiming that Hostess brands was going out of business.

What? No more HoHo's? No more Hostess Cupcakes? No more Wonder Bread? How will any of us survive?

Life can be so cruel. Okay, I survived when M*A*S*H went off the air. But, we have reruns that make life without Hawkeye, Radar and Klinger bearable.

Some of my favorite stores have closed their doors over the years, and I guess that I have managed to survive. BK Photo and Gallery, in Troy, leads the way in my mind. It was not only my place of employment (and enjoyment) for many years, I was also a customer long before I began working there.

I grew up shopping at Uhlman's and J.C. Penny in downtown Troy. I should probably say that I grew up tagging along with my mom as she shopped at those stores. (I recall standing in downtown Troy with my dad as we watched the Uhlman's store burn to the ground.)

Most of us can recall the Woolworth store at the "old" Piqua East Mall. I spent many hours there and at Mr. Wiggs across the road on East Ash Street. I never had to worry about going hungry because the venerable Ponderosa Steakhouse was directly in between those stores.

I sit here, writing this column and attempting to recall other favorite foods or products that are now just memories. The problem seems to be that I cannot recall any of them. That makes me wonder if old age is affecting my memory, potentially caused by overdosing on HoHo's, or possibly those material things were just not of enough importance for me to keep their memory stored in my head.

I am admittedly a junk food connoisseur. Okay ... a junk food junkie. There is no doubt in my mind that I will forever miss products bearing the Hostess name.

There was nothing better than opening my lunch box when I was in school — yes, a good old-fashioned metal lunch box, with Roy Rogers, James Bond 007, or Gunsmoke theme — and finding a Hostess HoHo, packed by my mom, for dessert. That made taking time out to eat before recess worthwhile.

Some of you are probably thinking by now about all the new trends toward only eating healthy foods at school. Back in "the day," our parents still cooked meals at home and eating what is today know as "junk" food was a treat, not the norm. Oh, and we also spent hours and hours outdoors playing nearly every day. We did not sit in front of a television. There were no computers or video games. We burned more calories than we took in, although, instead of calling it exercise or working out, we just called it baseball, basketball, fishing, biking ... well, you get the picture.

I'm not sure how I will ever explain to some of my younger grandchildren the pure joy of unwrapping and eating a Hostess HoHo or Cupcake. But, as with everything else, life will go on.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to rush to a grocery and buy what could be my last box of Hostess goodies.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Presidential election does not solve government corruption

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

I am not sure how much, if any, coincidence there is that this presidential election was held within  a week of Veterans Day but, at least to me, there is significance to that proximity of dates.

This election has to go down in history as one of the most divisive, turning Americans against each other, to the point violence in some cases.

That alone shows us that we have some very serious problems facing us. We were once a country that set a shining example for others, around the world. Today, we are more laughing stock, the butt of jokes to other countries.

A week ago, the issue was choosing the best man for the job of President of the United States. Since this is an opinion column, I will briefly state that — in my opinion — I don't believe that we truly had a great choice. We were forced to choose between the lesser of two evils.

Our choice of presidential candidates for this 2012 election makes me wonder if a truly presidential individual still exists in America.

I know that we are not necessarily looking for a great man. I firmly believe the words of Admiral William F. Halsey ... "There are no great men. Only great challenges that ordinary men are forced, by circumstances, to meet."

Halsey came from a different generation. Americans of his time had ambitions and values. Their values insured that, in order to achieve their goals and ambitions, they must work, pay their dues, and climb the "ladder" to be successful.

Today's generation of American's wants everything handed to them. No one wants to work for anything. Many Americans can't afford to live because the government makes it impossible to succeed.

People look at our city and county governments and complain about what they request from citizens. They need to ask for our money because the state continues to take away more and more money from our cities and counties. At the same time, both the state and Federal government are requiring more money from us. They need to pay for mandated programs. By my way of thinking, the definition of a "mandated program" is one in which the only real purpose is to give government jobs to people who don't deserve them and are too lazy to get a real job. So, politicians create a new program, steal money from local governments by "mandating" cooperation to pay for it. In other words, a mandated government program is nothing more than the 21st century version of a stage coach holdup in the 1800s.

Our political machine in Washington is as corrupt as the worst days of political corruption around Chicago from back in the days of prohibition. (Does anyone see any significance that the most corrupt area of our country is Chicago and that our president, and soon-to-be-again president has close political ties to Chicago? Al Capone would be so proud!)

Moving on, and that is what we must do now ... move on, what is needed now is to stand together as a unified country. For better or worse, the majority has spoken and we need to get on with the business of living.

We must all keep watch on our leaders, let them know that we demand a fair shake and do not care about their big-money puppeteers. Only by banding together and loudly voicing our concerns, standing beside those just and righteous politicians who cannot get anything done because of their corrupt counterparts, will we ever overcome and take back our country.

Our veterans fought and died to make us free. We owe it to them to fight the corruption in our government to keep us free.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Think! ... before commenting

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Rumors. Truth. Lies.

Ah, I'll bet that you are thinking that I am talking about political candidates and elections.

Sorry to disappoint, but in spite of the fact that rumors and lies are the "norm" from our presidential hopefuls and the truth is the last thing that you will get during a presidential election year, we are not talking politics today.

A tragic case this past week involving a series of crashes and the death of a local man is but the latest example of how rumors, misinformation and flat out made-up information can cause confusion and pain to unsuspecting and innocent citizens.

As information from the case became available, we began posting up-to-date official information on our Piqua Daily Call Facebook page.

It should be noted that the information we release has been confirmed by officials from the police department. That is one of the most serious issues that I have with this so-called "citizen journalism" that is becoming so popular with news organizations who are looking to cut costs as they lose their credibility by trusting unprofessional and untrained "reporters."

As soon as we posted the first facts regarding the incident, comments began to appear that eluded to drinking, to pedestians being struck, and a host of other rumors that were not only untrue, they had never been mentioned.

I find myself asking, where does this stuff come from? Do people just make up stuff in their head and decide to type it to see what happens?

It reminds me of a classic scene in the biographical film "Sergeant York" starring Gary Cooper. In the humorous scene, a company of World War I "doughboys" is marching down a road as news of York's incredible feat of capturing 132 German soldiers single-handed begins to surface. The guy in front turns to the guy behind him and says, "Hey, did you hear that York just captured 132 Germans, all my his lonesome." By the time the news is passed to the back of the company, Sgt. York and just captured the Kiser and effected the surrender of the whole German army.

Sadly, this is the exact type of thing that happens all too regularly. Mixed in with some of these early highly-exaggerated and wholly untrue posts were a couple that suggested the Piqua Daily Call was wrong in posting information so quickly on a breaking story.

In this age of nearly immediate information, it is true that a risk is there of a family member reading about it "in the news" before being properly notified by authorities.

I would like to believe that we are, first and foremost, doing our job, which is, as I see it, to keep the public informed as to what is happening in our community and to do so in a manner that everyone who reads a news story written by our staff, knows that the information contained in the story is as factual and as up-to-date as we can make it.

Secondarily, we have become community rumor sepulchers. After posting the initial news story about the crash and going about gathering updated information, I ended up feeling obligated to spend the next two hours on Facebook as a moderator, reading each new post and attempting to squelch rumors before they could get out of hand.

Incidents such as these are tragic enough, in themselves, without giving life to half-truths, and outright falsehoods.

As a photographer and sometimes-writer for our paper, one of the things that I love about our Piqua Daily Call News Updates Facebook page is the fact that we can keep our followers up-to-date on the latest news. I love the fact that we can get feedback and comments.

The downside of course is that all to often these comments are unsubstantiated and often turn out to be less than factual.

Thank you to all who take the time to follow us, not only in our printed newspaper but also online. Please, though, when you decide to comment or post, avoid letting your typing fingers move faster than your brain.

Friday, October 26, 2012

America's workforce more lazy than ever

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

As we approach the first of November, I am reminded that the holiday season is just about here. How can anyone help but be reminded? We are just celebrating Halloween by the calendar, yet retailers are already beginning to inundate us with Christmas ads.

Something that I believe needs mentioned as we approach the holidays is Americans preoccupation with not working.

As most Americans continue throw their arms out of joint patting themselves on the back about how great we are, still attempting to live off of, rather than up to, the reputation and work ethic of our parents and grandparents, what they are really plotting is how to get away from, or out of, work.

My father was a self-employed carpenter. I would like to think that I learned my work ethic from him. His work day began every day at 7:30 a.m. Lunch was from noon until 12:30, not 12:31 p.m. The workday was done at 5 p.m. There were no morning or afternoon breaks. His philosophy was that you did not sit down to work, even if it was more convenient for what you were working on at the time. You should kneel. His concern was that if the person who hired him showed up and saw you sitting, they might get the idea you were not working.

More often than not, Saturday was also a work day, for at least half the day. It was the old make hay while the sun shines rule. What if the weather turned bad? What if jobs dried up? If it rained ... you still worked. It it was 100 degrees or 10 degrees below zero, you still worked. It was your job. It was your responsibility to  your family, to your customer and to yourself.

Today, between breaks, holidays and "calling off", the new phrase for skipping out on work, Americans work fewer hours than ever.

One thing that jumps out as glaringly as the Griswold family Christmas tree, is the trend toward making the day before a holiday into a holiday of its own.

Since when is Christmas eve a holiday? Since when is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a holiday of its own?

These are only two examples of things that I observe Americans attempting to weasel into yet another day off work. Or, if not a day off, one in which they leave early.

Unless it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, December 24th is just another day. There is no reason in the world for anyone to have to make special plans for the day before Thanksgiving or the day before Memorial Day.

People argue that they have things to do. There are preparations to make for the holiday. You know what? I don't care.

My parents' generation, and their parents' generation, worried that their obligation to their employer might not be done. They worried that the time off would mean less money for the family. Of course today's Americans have that part figured out, they want the day off with pay.

Americans wonder why our economy is failing. There are, of course, a number of factors. Could one of the reasons possibly be that employers aren't making enough money  to do all the things employees demand, such as health care and paid vacations because the general work ethic of today's work force just doesn't work as efficiently or with the same sense of pride as our forefathers?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Support our student athletes ... or stay home and shut up

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

As we approach this second to the last weekend of the regular football season for this year, I pause to reflect on what we have seen thus far.

One of the things that I have learned, or maybe re-learned, is that not all fans “get it.” We used to see this only during the games, or maybe at the local coffee shop following the game. “Armchair quarterbacks” are full of what should have been. Win or lose, they have all the answers to a perfect season — the day after the contest.

Some of them sit in the stands during a game. They loudly proclaim to everyone within shouting distance how the play should have been run. They will complain about the officials. They will rail on the coaching staff. Sometimes, you will hear them chastise the performance or talent of a player.

Prior to the start of any Ohio High School Athletic Association contest, a narrative is read to those in attendance. It proclaims, among other things, that this is a contest between kids and that sporting behavior is expected.

I sometimes wonder what part of that can possibly be misunderstood.

Add to that the fact that the action on the field/court is a game. That’s right a game. Don’t get me wrong. I am as competitive as the next person. Many who know me might think that I am too competitive. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a second place winner.

I believe just as firmly that there is proper behavior expected by both the winner and the loser of a contest. Winners should never gloat. Losers should hold their head up and never display poor sportsmanship.

 It is okay to be sad or angry with losing. Anger should be directed at yourself. It is not the fault of your opponent that you did not win. It is your fault for not being good enough, at least on that particular night, to win.

That should not be taken out on friends, family or your opponent. What should be done is to examine what needs to be done to improve enough to not let it happen again.

This is a lot of pressure to put on college or professional athletes. That same sort of pressure is put onto our high school athletes these days, and unfortunately, also put upon many younger athletes as well. The pressure to win has long overshadowed the need for proper sportsmanship. That is sad.

Parents and fans must be vigilant to set a proper example for their athletes. These are kids. If you are a parent, you most certainly do not want other parents or fans yelling at your kid that he/she is less than proficient at his/her chosen sport. First of all, stuff happens. Sometimes our kids go brain dead for a moment and get beaten. Sometimes they face an opponent that is just flat out a better athlete.

No matter what, parents and fans should be there to support our athletes. Win or lose, these are still our kids.

If an NFL player who is paid a million dollars a season can’t be expected to catch every pass or make a first down each time his number is called, then why do we seem to think that our kids should be able to pull it off? It’s a game. And if every play was a sure thing, all the fun would be gone anyway.

Players and their respective schools and sports need all the support they can get. It is great to see a large turnout for a game. But for those few who seem to think that part of the fun is riding the athletes backsides, just stay home. The same goes for those who lurk on social media sites to second guess our kids.

As a fan or a parent, you need to leave the coaching to the coaches.

And as my mom used to say , “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.” The longer I live, the better her advice sounds, and in more situations.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Breaking my own campaign promise ....

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

At the beginning of this presidential election race, I made a campaign promise of my own. I vowed to keep my opinions to myself and avoid publicly sharing my views.

We are less than a month away from elections and I now feel just like a true political candidate — I am about to break my personal campaign promise.

I will begin by saying that I have not watched either of the debates. This was for a number of reasons.

First of all, I figure, why should I listen to two guys standing on a stage telling lies to each other and all of us? Second, even if one of them has a good idea, do any of us really believe he stands a chance in H-E-double toothpicks of getting that idea past a congress that is so screwed up it stands little chance of ever being fixed?

What I do find mildly amusing about the debates is that on Facebook, a nearly-real-time analysis takes place. One doesn't have to know the question or the issue being discussed. It is enough to watch my Republican/Conservative friends comment on the same points as my Democrat/Liberal friends.

On any given point, both will proclaim that "we" won. As each issue is raised, friends on both sides will post that the opponent was foolish, or shallow or lying.

As I watch all of this unfold, one thing jumps out with glaring clarity.

Since we clearly cannot get anything done in this country due primarily to all of the government bureaucracy, how can anyone believe that we need more government programs and government intervention in our lives?

We need less government. Actually, we need far less government. If a candidate wants to make sweeping changes to our country, put a stop to all of this government red tape and mandated programs.

We must stop giving handouts to other countries. We cannot be the babysitter of the world. I have said before, we need to look out for ourselves in America. No one, I mean no one, will look out for us.

Our government is in a shambles. I don't see it ever being fixed because their are too many people within our government and big-money lobbyists pulling their strings, who are only interested in one thing — themselves and their personal gain.

We are living a real-life Mr. Smith goes to Washington with real big-money corruption all around us, and I fear, no Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) to come to the rescue.

Our liberal friends want "free" health care and "free" birth control and a laundry list of other things for any American who wants them. What some don't seem to understand is that nothing is free. There is a price tag on everything.

What we need is affordable health care among thousands of other services. That will never happen as long as our government is involved.

If our government will not control itself, it is up to the citizens of our country to tell the government that we will not take any more of their crap. Maybe it is time to take a stand.

What I do hope is that as the 2012 presidential election looms over us, all Americans who are eligible will exercise your right to vote for whichever candidate you believe best to guide our ailing country.

In spite of our problems, we are still the greatest nation in the world. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

More to fast food industry than meets the eye

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

I am back. After a two-week break as we prepared for and then executed the move of our Piqua Daily Call offices to our new home on Fox Drive, I can finally, along with my co-workers, sit down and take a breath.

I would like to look at food for this week's column.

First, I believe that there is some acknowledgement due to some working people out there who rarely hear a good word.

Most of us take the fast food industry for granted. When we do make mention of the industry or the people who work in the trenches, it is usually to complain.

I am no different as I sometimes find myself looking at an order that I thought was given in simple, easy-to-understand English, yet received looking nowhere near my instructions.

Granted, the fast food industry sometimes does not attract the most dedicated members of our work force.

There is another side to that, however. I have been fortunate to get to know some of the folks whose responsibility is to manage and operate some of our local fast food restaurants.

The time, knowledge and responsibility necessary to successfully run a store is mind boggling. They are just like their counterparts in any other profession. And, I use the word "profession" quite deliberately as they are true professionals in their chosen career field.

These professionals have a wealth of knowledge about the food products that they serve. They deal with inventory, maintenance, cooking and cleaning on a daily basis. They also must deal with the occasional disgruntled customer, who like so many of us when we fail to get an order that meets our expectations, tends to treat even the management staff in a condescending and rude manner.

In addition to the same headaches that all management people face in any business, managers in the fast food industry face personnel issues seldom seen in most industries. The turnover rate of a largely high school age and young adult  staff is astounding. Add to that a generation or two of a work force that has no work ethic whatsoever and you have one of the more stressful jobs in the market.

The bottom line is that behind the counter at our fast food restaurants may be a handful of kids who are working at their first job. They may be just putting in their time. But, behind them is a core group of hard-working professionals who are dedicating their life to their chosen profession just as we do ours. They do care if our order is correct. They do care if we are happy with the service and that the room is clean.

Every one of us likes to know that the work we do is appreciated. I would venture to say that our professionals in the fast food industry get a "well done" far fewer times than any of the rest of us.
Maybe the next time you visit a local fast food restaurant, you might take a minute to thank the folks behind the counter for a job well done.

Wouldn't you like to know that the simple smile and thank you that you give might be the one positive thing that someone takes home from work to share with their own family?

Friday, September 14, 2012

America - and Americans first (And welcome home to Ryan Ullery and Bravo Battery. Well done, soldiers!

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Today (Saturday) is a wonderful day.

As many of you are reading this, my family and I are at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus, meeting our son, Ryan, as he and his fellow soldiers from Bravo Battery return home from their year-long, or perhaps I should say "long year" deployment in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

As a parent of a United States Army soldier, I am so very proud of our son for serving his country. As a citizen of the United States of America, I am equally proud of each and every man and woman who wears the uniform of one of our armed services and stands ready to defend our freedom.

This was our son's first deployment. For many Bravo families this was the second or even third time that they held down the fort on the home front as their soldier went to a far-away land to protect those of us at home.

As our son returns home, I find myself asking if the year that he spent away from home, was worth it. Like soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of past generations, he made personal sacrifices during his tour. He got married days before shipping out. He did make it home for mid-tour leave just in time to attend the birth of his daughter, but had to leave again within a couple of days.

Granted, there are many who would argue that these sacrifices are not the same as those who were wounded or killed defending our country. By the same token, each and every man and woman who goes to war puts themselves in harm's way. Yet, they knowingly and willingly put on the uniform and stand their post.

No matter, all of us are grateful for the safe return of Ryan and Bravo Battery.

This is an election year ... not that any of us needs to be reminded with all of the campaign garbage we are forced to endure daily.

Without getting into the "us vs them" part of the election rhetoric, I will simply say that I believe that it is time to look back at the virtues of isolationism. I know that we have a world-wide economy in this 21st century. We cannot cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, nor am I saying that we should.

I am saying that we need to have a new policy of "America and Americans First."

For decades America has been trying to be do the right thing, (sometimes even for the right reasons,) and help those who are less fortunate. All too often the recipients of our benevolence take what we have to give and then give us the finger as they walk away.

We have become the laughing stock of the world. We are, of course, much to blame for our plight. Unions, greed, laziness and downright arrogance on our part have put us where we are today.
This sense of entitlement that has a death grip on today's younger generation is endangering our way of life.

I hear loud cries of "we must take America back," from many folks who will be going to the polls in November. We cannot take America "back" until we stop giving everything we have to those in other parts of the world.

Our leaders need to get our troops out of Afghanistan and other theatres of conflict. If those people want to kill each other ... let them. If they want to chant "death to America," let them ... as long as they do it from a safe distance. That's right, we don't need them in our country. Yes, it is time to put the clamps on our borders.

As with any bully, not all countries get the concept of "If you leave us alone, we will leave you alone."

We need to maintain a strong military but we do not need to send troops to far away lands as sacrificial lambs. If a country commits an atrocity or an act of war, we respond quickly and decisively while putting the fewest number of Americans physically in harm's way as is possible — we have the technology.

America — and Americans, first! If we don't do it, no one else is going to do it for us.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Local war hero deserving of new/accurate markers

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of (his) life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Those words describe the actions taken by those who are recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery and service that our country can bestow upon a deserving warrior.

When one thinks of a hero, he or she needs to look no farther than the 3458 men, and one woman, who have earned our nation’s highest award for bravery — above and beyond the call of duty.

We are blessed to be the hometown of one of those truly heroic individuals. Staff Sgt. William H. Pitsenbarger, a 1962 graduate of Piqua High School, grew up in Piqua.

After joining the Air Force, Pitsenbarger volunteered for service as a para-rescue specialist. For those unfamiliar, a pararescueman knowingly and willingly enters a combat situation where other soldiers have already been wounded, then knowingly and willingly enters the combat zone, putting his own life in danger in order to save others.

During the Vietnam war, Pitsenbarger and fellow para-rescue men, entered situations where American troops were under enemy fire, by being lowered into the chaos and danger from a helicopter hovering above the action.

Such was the case in April of 1966 when Pitsenbarger came to the aid of fallen soldiers engaged in a firefight near Saigon. After giving aide to the wounded, Pitsenbarger refused the opportunity to leave the battlefield and chose to stay to offer assistance to additional wounded.

The Piqua native was killed while offering that aide. His body was found after the battle, a rifle in one hand and a medical kit in the other.

Pitsenbarger was originally awarded the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor in combat. In December of 2000, the Medal of Honor was bestowed upon the fallen hero.

What is puzzling to me, and some others in our city, is the lack of acknowledgement or at least accurate acknowledgement. Yes, we have a park named after him. The plaque in the park fails to recognize the highest tribute our country can give. Only the Ohio Historical Marker at the Veteran’s Memorial acknowledges that Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor. Is this the best that we can do for him?

A total of 249 Medals of Honor were awarded during the entire span of the war in Vietnam. There have been only 253 Medals of Honor bestowed on Ohio servicemen in the 151 year history of the Medal, only 10 of those during the Vietnam War.

Why then, has one of our service groups or the city, not picked up the guidon and seen to it that one of Piqua’s — and our nation’s — greatest heroes is recognized and honored properly by the latest and most accurate information?

How large of a sacrifice would it be to see that one of Piqua’s own is duly recognized? What of the sacrifice paid by William Pitsenbarger … and his family?

Someone is bound to say that cost is a factor. What of the cost paid by Pitsenbarger?

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) I’m not one to quote Bible verses, but I can think of nothing more appropriate — or deserving.

Don’t we owe this to a man who gave everything for us?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Goodbye Neil Armstrong. You will be missed.

Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Those immortal words, and of course the feat that set the stage for those words, cemented a place in history for Ohio native Neil Armstrong.

Like most Americans, I followed every step of the Apollo 11 mission as Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins journeyed toward their destiny as the first humans to walk on the moon.

And, like most Americans, all of the members of the astronaut corps were my heroes. Equal in my eyes, especially as I grew older were the test pilots, many of whom joined the corps of astronauts, who put their lives on the line in order to test and perfect the machines that allowed us to become the first nation, and to date, the only nation, to put a human being on the surface of the moon, and more importantly, return him safely to earth.

Men like Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield and Joe Kittinger, to name but a few, who tested the machines as well as tens of thousands of men and women behind the scenes are the one who allowed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to turn that “small step” into “one giant leap.”

I must mention the “tens of thousands” because, as was repeated by all who spoke at the memorial service for him at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum this past week, that is exactly what Armstrong would tell anyone who asked. Landing a man on the moon was a team effort. He was just a member of the team.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to photograph and spend time with Armstrong on a number of occasions over the years, through my work as photographer for the National Aviation Hall of Fame, in which he was enshrined in 1979.

His reluctance to speak of his accomplishments and his wish for privacy has been well-documented. I will only say that the time that I spent with him was among the most memorable moments of my life.

He was always gracious and kind. I got to the point where I would apologize in advance before he made a public appearance and tell him that if he got tired of the camera, just say the word I would stop. Not one time did he ever say stop. He would put on that Neil Armstrong grin, then go out and greet hundreds and thousands of folks, to whom Armstrong was a hero above all others.

He regularly represented the National Aviation Hall of Fame at their annual enshrinement and at the National Aviation Heritage Invitational, a joint venture for the hall of fame and Rolls-Royce. His kindness and generosity in proudly representing both organizations is just one more example of the type of man Armstrong was.

The mark left in our history books by Neil A. Armstrong, is just as indelible as that first footprint he left in the lunar surface.

In 2004, at the enshrinement ceremony for the National Aviation Hall of Fame, emcee Dennis Quaid asked me to photograph his son, Jack, who was 11 at the time, meeting Neil Armstrong, Quaid had asked me frequently throughout the afternoon to let him know when Armstrong arrived. As we walked over to greet Armstrong, Quaid told his son, “I want you to know that the man you are about to meet is just like getting to meet Christopher Columbus.”

No more accurate description of Armstrong’s place in modern history has ever been spoken.

It was a privilege to have known Armstrong and I can say that I am a better person for having known him, not because he was the first man to walk on the moon, but because he was Neil Armstrong, a kind and considerate human being.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jealousy and corruption determining factors in deciding fate of accused athletes

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Cheating and accusations of cheating have been around sports for as long as sports have been played.

Scandals have been around seemingly forever.

Two factors seem to be at play in the dirt-digging, mud-slinging chaos that follows each scandalous event. First, is the notoriety of the accused. Second, is the over-proliferation of news media and the tens-of-thousands of self-proclaimed "news" sources.

Can you imagine what would happen if the Chicago Black Sox scandal happened in the 21st century? The feeding frenzy by media and pseudo-media would probably cause Internet overload.

Granted, such incidents are indeed newsworthy. When one, or more, high-profile athletes are involved it makes the situation even more "exciting" for both the media and public.

It was announced this week that Lance Armstrong, one of the greatest athletes of our time, was to be stripped of his seven Tour De France titles after dropping his fight against "doping" charges made against him.

I will be the first to proclaim that cheating in sports should not be tolerated. I am not aware, though, of any proof that exists against Armstrong. Just lots of accusations.

It is said that "strong men breed strong enemies." I cannot help but wonder how many of Armstrong's accusers are people who somehow felt snubbed by him at one time. How many are just jealous of his success? If I remember correctly, the bulk of the initial accusations against him came from the French. I'm sorry but the French people and their government do not exactly have a strong track record for supporting anything American.

The bottom line is that Lance Armstrong did win seven, count them seven, Tour de France titles. Nothing can change that.

He has undoubtedly rubbed a number of people the wrong way over the years. Does that make him any less of a champion cyclist? I think not.

It is no different with Pete Rose, in-arguably one of the greatest men to ever put on a baseball uniform. Of all baseball records, Rose's accomplishments on the field remain the least likely to ever  be surpassed. I believe that Cal Ripken's record for most consecutive games played is the only record less likely to be broken.

Rose's indiscretions regarding his gambling addiction are well-documented. Nothing that he did off the field can ever erase what the man did on the field. Nothing that anyone, baseball commissioner to baseball writer to president, can ever say, "well, that just did not happen."

Pete Rose is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame because too many people do not like him. Isn't that a pretty stupid reason to keep him out of Cooperstown?

The recent Ohio State football autographs and memorabilia for tattoos scandal is still fresh in everyone's mind.

What comes to mind with that, and also to a certain extent with most every scandal, is that the righteous accusers are often more corrupt than the accused. They just make the rules such that they are safe from retribution. They also have billions of dollars at their disposal with which they can bury anyone who dares to make waves.

The governing bodies for many of these sports organizations perform in a highly-questionable manner. Their ultimate objective ... money. If they must throw a player, a coach or an institution under the bus in order to insure cash flow, it is considered a small price to pay.

Unfortunately, I see those trends that have been seen in professional and, in particular, college sports for decades have filtered to the high school level. The almighty dollar has usurped sportsmanship and love of the game as the driving force behind our kids playing in high school sports.

Sports of all kinds are - a game. Pure and simple.

Maybe it is time to completely dismantle the governing organizations for sports, from high school to pros, and just start over. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

As the 2012 GREAT Miami County Fair becomes a memory ...

Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer
The 2012 edition of the Miami County Fair is in the books.

As we watched participants tear down, pack and clean their respective spaces on Thursday there was the familiar bittersweet feeling. On one hand, it was a relief that it was ending, for fair week is for many of us, the longest week of the year. On the other, there was a feeling of sadness. It is like parting with a friend, knowing that an entire year may pass before you see them again.

I doubt that anyone will disagree that this year’s Miami County Fair could be one of the best ever based on our weather. Moderate temperatures during day and cool nights made this year’s fair comfortable for everyone from visitors to project and show animals.

The weather certainly had a significant impact on attendance. 

Perhaps the most talked-about event at this year’s fair was the Pig & Calf Scramble. 

The event is a much anticipated one at other fairs and it was eagerly awaited here. About 1600 people packed the grandstand to watch the event. 

In these days of Nintendo, Wii and computer games, it was refreshing to watch kids of all ages, (and any of you who watched the adult division of the calf scramble, know what I mean by “kids” of all ages,) take part in a fun physical activity. 

Much fun was had by all. The animals were probably happy when the chasing stopped. Some of the human participants wore bruises and abrasions as trophies following the event but everyone came away safe and happy.

It is also great to see our local 4-H Clubs going so strong. As a former 4-H member, (the Staunton Hustlers with advisors Bill and Mary Ann Cusac,) it means a lot to me when I see our youngsters involved in a 4-H project of any sort. The resulting lessons in responsibility and accountability for their projects, as well as the interaction with fellow 4-H Club members and adults as they present their projects for judging are among the best life lessons they can get.

A 4-H project also promotes family time and family values. Very few projects are solely that of the member. I can remember my dad keeping a watchful eye on my projects and I see the same thing today. A 4-H project for one becomes a family interest for all.

As I traveled the fairgrounds this past week with my good friend Laura Sutherly, webmaster for the Miami County Fair board and a very fine photographer, as well, I was impressed by not only the crowds and the fair patrons enjoying themselves, but also by how smoothly things ran.

Many of us take it for granted when we attend the fair but every portion of the fair requires planning and hard work to make it go. We are blessed in Miami County to have fair board members who give up much of their free time to see that the fair is safe and enjoyable for all. 

They are supported by Junior Fair Board members, most of them area high school students, who rather than spend hours out of school going to parties, plan and work to make the Miami County Fair a success.

I would like to thank all of the fair board and junior fair board members and the many other volunteers for their efforts in making the Miami County Fair … the GREAT Miami County Fair.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cheerleaders and others work just as hard as football players

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

The "dog days" of summer are here. As difficult as it is to believe, we are just a few short weeks away from the start of another school year.

Already hard at work are many area student athletes. Many have been working all summer but schools began their first official practices during this past week.

Many of us have already seen, and read, about the obvious. Football players from around the area have donned their pads and are ready for some honest contact to augment the sweat.

What many of us don't realize, or at least acknowledge, is that while football is undoubtedly king, there are hundreds of other kids out there working every  bit as hard to get ready for their chosen sport.

Soccer players of all ages are working their tails off under the hot August sun to ready themselves for their own fall campaign. The Piqua boys soccer team has already seen a measure of success this season by winning a tournament in Urbana last weekend.

Possible some of the most overlooked athletes working to perfect their skills as the fall season approaches are our school cheerleaders.

Like most people, I have pretty much always seen cheerleaders as a fun group who cheer for the "real" athletes during a game. I saw them largely as a social group.

Over the past year or so, I have become acquainted with a number of our local cheerleaders and their parents. This has really opened my eyes. Possibly it has always been this way. Possibly it is because cheerleading has been rapidly evolving, maybe faster than other sports.

From my perspective, cheerleading has all but ceased as a rah-rah-stand-on-the-sideline group of young ladies.

I now see our cheerleading squad as a group of dedicated young athletes. Yes, athletes. The moves and the athleticism necessary to accomplish some of the cheer routines are extremely difficult.

I have also seen the pain and injuries that these young ladies suffer ... and fight their way through, as they continue to practice with all of the same grit and determination as their football counterparts.
The tumbling routines which are becoming a staple to most cheer squads add even greater physical demands.

The same can be said of our marching band members. It may seem like something that is not terribly difficult to anyone who has not tried, but the skill and concentration necessary to march a routine on a football field, stay in step, in line, (in multiple directions simultaneously,) hitting your exact marks on the field even though you cannot look down to see, while at the same time playing a musical arrangement that is, by itself, difficult if you were sitting in a chair, is a daunting task.

These young musicians put in just as many hours in the hot sun as any other athlete. For a number of weeks during the football season, they will march their show for fans on Friday night, get home after midnight, only to pack up and leave early on Saturday morning in order to compete in a marching band competition.

Many of these youngsters have the same goals as their fellow athletes - to become good enough at their chosen sport to secure a college scholarship.

Hard work and dedication to a sport that one is passionate about does not stop with football, basketball or soccer players. It includes all athletes in all sports.

Maybe an old fogey like me really does learn new things, or at least just learns to appreciate the hard work that is going on in front of my eyes.

As we approach the start of a new season of fall sports, I encourage everyone to support our student athletes, every one of them, in every sport. Think back to how much it meant to you, when you were in school, to have not only your parents in the stands, but members of the community cheering for your team.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pro-gay bullies need to heed own advice - live and let live

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

America lost an aviation pioneer this week. Sally Ride, America’s first female in space passed away at the age of 61.

The news following her death seemed to be less about her accomplishments as an astronaut and as a person. Instead, many media outlets chose to look into her sexual preference. Ride had been involved in a relationship with another woman for the past 27 years.

This led some pro-gay cheerleaders to criticize Ride’s decision to not go public with her homosexuality. I wonder if it ever occurred to these people that Ride and her partner decided long ago that their relationship was their personal business and their’s alone.
In bygone times, homosexuals kept their relationships quiet so as not to be ostracized by others, just as women who became pregnant were sent away by their family, in disgrace, to hide the “mistake” and have the baby elsewhere.

The world has changed. Today, young, single women get pregnant on purpose. Families support a teen who “gets into trouble,” (to use a phrase from earlier times.)

Another thing that seems to have changed is our right to express our own opinion. The pro-homosexual community has succeeded in making anyone who dares to voice a dissenting opinion look and feel foolish. They have made being “gay” cool … chic.

Personally, I have had about all that I can take of this politically correct, walk-on-eggshells-when-you-talk-about-anything-because-you-might-offend-someone crap.

I attribute much of the change to the fact that today’s American’s are more weak-minded than past generations. We are losing our ability to think for ourselves and instead, blindly follow others. History shows us that those who choose to be led like sheep to slaughter will perish. God gave each of us a mind of our own.

The issue is not about heterosexuals accepting homosexuals for who they are. This issue is about a select group of homosexuals flaunting their lifestyle and demanding that we all express equal support for them.

Too many loud-mouth, pro-gay people seem to think that we no longer have a right to our own opinion. Those same extremists also think that we have no right to privacy in our personal lives.

Did anyone stop to think that Sally Ride and Tam O’Shaughnessy may have decided that their personal lives were no one’s business but their own? What gives the pro-gay cheer section the right to determine what others choose to share, or keep private, in their personal lives?

The pro-gay cheer section loudly yells, “Live and let live,” yet anyone who dares to disagree with them is taunted and jeered. We hear much about bullying. This is classic bullying at its best.

As I grow older, I believe that it is not a matter of a man or a woman being attracted to another man or woman. An individual’s personal preference and belief is just that, their personal preference. That is not saying that I do not have an opinion as to what I believe. I am saying that another person’s business is none of mine.

When in public, I do not care to have a pair of homosexuals hanging all over each other … any more than I want to see heterosexuals “going at it” in public. That is not to say that I am offended by innocuous displays of affection for one’s friend or partner. No one should feel that they cannot express their feelings. Like everything in life — there is a time and place. What goes on behind closed doors is no one’s business.

My message to the pro-gay, ram-our-lifestyle-down-everyone’s-throat cult is, shut up and leave everyone to their own opinion. I will respect your lifestyle and your opinion … just as soon as you respect mine.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Colorado shooting suspect, if guilty, faces only one fate ... or at least that is what should happen.

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Most everyone has, by now, heard about the tragic shootings in a Colorado movie theatre on Friday morning.

There is no doubt that this was a very tragic event. I am sure that all of us share in the sadness, sorrow and shock at the events that transpired.

This is perhaps jumping the gun, but I am already filled with apprehension as to the stories and angles that will be sought, as well as the conclusions to be drawn by members of the media and the public as the investigation into this horrible act unfolds.

Our first concern is, as it should be, for the victims and their families. News hounds are already searching for anyone who might have known someone who went to school with the cousin of one of the victims.

And then, there is — the shooting suspect.

From our perspective on this case less than 24 hours after the shootings, we have a young man in his early 20’s who, allegedly entered the theatre after first tossing either smoke or gas, then began shooting at patrons.

Police apparently apprehended the suspect outside the theatre, still in possession of one, or more weapons.

I know that everyone, myself included, would love to know the answer to one question, "Why?" We may, or may not, ever truly know the answer to that question.

Police will investigate to learn more. Psychologists will undoubtedly get a crack at the suspect. CNN probably has Dr. Gupta already preparing his dissertation into the suspect's state of mind at the time as well as his sanity. The remaining members of the media will follow every move made by the suspect. They will probably also track down his family, if they have not already done that.

None of this is new. One has only to look at other high-profile cases over the years. Lee Harvey Oswald comes to mind. It was the media's obsession with the man who killed President John F. Kennedy that put Dallas Times-Herald photographer Robert Jackson in the parking garage at Dallas Police Headquarters to document that moment when Jack Ruby killed Kennedy's assassin.

So it shall also be with the Colorado shooting suspect. His life will be put under a microscope. His family will be hounded. Everyone will want to know why he did "it." What is sad, is that even if the suspect bares his soul, certain factions of the media will not believe him and will continue to search for their own version of the truth.

When all is said and done, will any of it matter? Sure, knowing why might answer some questions. Will knowing why a young man opened fire on a theatre full of innocent people bring back those he murdered? Will it ease the pain of the wounded or lessen the pain of family members?

Does anyone care to place a bet on the phrase, "insanity plea" being thrown about as a defense attorney or public defender weighs in on this tragedy?

Whether, or not, the suspect is sane should have no bearing at all on this case. Why he chose to massacre innocent people should not matter in this case.

This will turn out to be a prime case of how screwed up our justice system is in America. Granted, everyone is innocent until proven guilty ... beyond a reasonable doubt.

What about times where someone commits a crime, or crimes, so heinous that there is but one alternative, to remove that person from our society? What about when those crimes are committed in a situation where there is absolutely no doubt as to who perpetrated the act?

There are some acts where "why" does play an important factor. There are some acts that are so heinous that "why" should be of no consequence.

If it is determined that the young man in custody for the early morning shootings in the Colorado movie theatre, is without a doubt, the man who pulled the trigger, time, after time, after time, shooting down men, women and children, in cold blood, then there is only one fate that can be handed down.

This young man should then be executed. If he is, in fact, guilty, his trial should be held quickly. Evidence should be presented. If it is determined that he did perpetrate the crime, he should be sentenced to death, the sentence to be carried out immediately.

End of story.

Friday, July 13, 2012

After recent damaging storms - Thank You to ... most everyone

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

This column is a little belated. I got sidetracked by last week’s 2012 Dayton Air Show so my apologies to those deserving folks who are my subject this week.

As we enjoy our recent respite from last week’s heat wave, our memories of the wind storms of June 29 and July 1 are beginning to recede, but all we have to do is look around us as we travel through the city and evidence of the storm’s fury is still everywhere.

The storms took a heavy toll in both the city and county. A number of folks suffered property damage and there were also injuries related to the Friday storm.

It is difficult to find anyone who was not without electricity at some point during the storms.

If you have not done so already, the next time that you see one of our city workers, in particular those who work for Piqua Power Distribution, take a minute to shake their hand and thank them for a job well-done.

The fact that Piqua has its own power plant gave us a leg up on everyone. In spite of unprecedented electric supply failures due to the storm, our distribution people had a majority of the city back up and running in just three hours.

Those same hard-working individuals, after making emergency repairs, began the long and difficult task of getting power restored to all customers and replacing destroyed poles, transformers and equipment. They operated on little sleep or even time away from work, until everything was repaired or replaced and the citizens of our community could get back to business as usual.

Our streets and parks departments people also did, and are continuing to do, an outstanding job of removing and cleaning up the hundreds upon hundreds of trees and branches that were down everywhere we looked. Railroad tracks, roadways, sidewalks and bike paths were all blocked by trees and our city crews worked diligently to clean up after Mother Nature.

The fire department, taking the storm, and subsequent flood of calls for service in stride, responded to everything from a man who was injured when the truck he was sitting in was struck by a large tree, to calls of power lines and transformers on fire.

The police department was also busy checking out dangerous situations such as reports of downed power lines. Minutes after the storm subsided, Chief Bruce Jamison and City Manager Gary Huff were out working alongside their fellow city workers, blocking off streets where downed trees and power lines posed a risk to motorists and placing orange traffic cones to alert motorists and pedestrians to possible danger.

Perhaps some of the least noticed but most overwhelmed workers the nights of those storms were the men and women in the Miami County 9-1-1 call center. The number of calls received during the storms was nearly astronomical, yet they sorted through the calls to “triage” and determine which of the hundreds of calls were emergency status and which could be handled later.

It should be noted that most every one of the city and county workers who were on the job that weekend, working overtime and on little sleep, did so in spite of the fact that they, too, had families and property that needed attention as they also coped with issues from the storms.

That weekend was not a whole lot of fun for anyone. Many people suffered property damage.
Fortunately, injuries from the event were minor. Most everyone was inconvenienced to some extent.

Looking back, one of the things that strikes me most is the teamwork that came into play. Every department within the city and county came together to keep all of us safe, to protect us from danger following the event, to begin the job of repairing and cleaning, almost before the storm clouds moved away.

A huge and heart-felt thank you to everyone, public employees and civilians alike, who pitched in as one team to get us through our spell of rough weather. And, an equal thank you to the families of all of these hard-working men and women. You know that your spouse/dad/mom’s job keeps them away from home at some of the most trying times but you manage to keep things going at home anyway.

Well done!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Firefighter's response to bridge fire was remarkable ... just another day at work in their eyes

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

A tragedy of sorts occurred in Piqua this past week. The bike path bridge over the Great Miami River burned — again.

In the grand scheme of things, the fire was sad, disheartening and will again cost money out of taxpayer’s pockets to repair, but I would not call it a tragedy. The tragedy in this case was the attitude and remarks made by a few pathetic citizens regarding the fire department’s response to the fire.

Within hours of the fire, some Facebook folks were making derogatory remarks, claiming that the fire department took 20 minutes to respond to the blaze. Some questioned the amount of time that it took to actually begin to put water on the fire.

I was appalled that people actually have the nerve to question a group of dedicated professionals who, many times, are all that stand between citizens and their very life … or death. They unquestionably accept the risk to their own safety, in order to preserve life and property, yet we have local citizens with the nerve to not only question firefighter’s actions, but to embellish and possibly even lie to make themselves look “big” or “important.”

The bottom line is that our fire department was dispatched to a fire on the bridge and responded in a timely manner. There was no delay. What would they be doing to delay a response anyway? Do some folks think that firefighters are waiting on a re-run of “Emergency” to end before leaving the station?

People also need to realize that to even reach this fire, firefighters had to go more than half-way across the 530 foot span. They also had to get hoses and equipment to that location. There were also two long flights of steps to be climbed … before reaching the start of the bridge.

As firefighters reached the location of the blaze, the fact that the fire was burning under the floorboards and whipped by a stiff wind made the bridge a very dangerous place to be. Flames would pop-up at random places. At any time, a firefighter could have been cut off from a safe retreat.

Those were just some of the factors that had to be weighed while water lines were stretched, and added-to, then charged to keep flames at bey, then shut-down and additional sections of line added, then re-charged. All of this was accomplished with the thermometer sitting around 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

Working a fire scene such as that one, does take time. To a bystander, I am sure that time seems to crawl. To the firefighter on the scene using every ounce of strength and energy to haul sections of line over the length of a football field, time seems to fly. They do know that seconds count.

Perhaps it should also be mentioned that when this fire call came in, the Piqua Fire Department already had two medic units out on runs. That means that five personnel were out on other runs, protecting and saving the lives of other Piqua citizens.

Firefighters responded with everything they had, given the manpower constraints they must constantly struggle with. In spite of all of that, I do not recall hearing one gripe as these professionals worked to bring the very stubborn and persistent fire under control on one of the hottest days of the summer.

I can say all of the above with great certainty. I was on the bridge with the firefighters last Tuesday. I mention that because the rude and vocal minority who claim that they were also watching the event unfold, did so from blocks away, if they actually saw anything, as they claim.

Citizens of Piqua are blessed to have firefighters and police officers who are highly trained professionals. I can also say that to a man, or woman, they are also fine individuals. They have families, just as we do. How do you think that your children would feel if someone made disparaging and unfounded remarks about you?

These men and women put it all on the line for us. How about showing them the respect they deserve?

Friday, June 15, 2012

American History — and it is right in our own back yard

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer
This past week, the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours was held at the John Johnston Farm & Indian Agency.

Andy Hite and his wonderful staff were gracious hosts. Along with the expected mingling, sharing of business ideas and catching up with friends, was the opportunity for everyone in attendance to board the General Harrison and take an evening ride on the restored section of the canal.

Anyone who knows Andy is aware that history lessons lurk around every corner. On a personal note, that is one of the things that I enjoy about visiting the Johnston Farm. I rarely leave the site without gaining at least one new bit of knowledge about the history of our neck of the woods. Our evening on the General Harrison was no different.

A number of things come to my mind after our boat ride. First, is a fact that Andy pointed out to his audience. That fact is, the average figure for dollars spent, per person, per day, for a family visiting one of our historic sites is $80. Think about it. If a family of four spends the day at the Johnston Farm, $320.00 has come to our community. And that is just the average. Those are dollars spent in our restaurants, motels and retailers.

That fact alone makes it common sense for all of us to support our local historic sites.

Another thing that comes to mind is, I wonder how many of you really know and understand the significance of the historic places that are right on our own doorstep? I know that some will say that they don’t care. I truly feel sorry for them.

Anyone who knows me, knows that aviation is a passion of mine. While it is true that Wilber and Orville Wright made their first flight in North Carolina. Most of the research was done in Dayton and their flying machine was refined and perfected at Huffman Prairie, now a part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Think about that. Wilber and Orville were not fictional characters now-consigned to our history books. The brothers were real people who literally made history, right here in our area. You can walk on that same ground. It is just a short drive.

The same goes for our John Johnston Farm. The grounds were the site of Pickawillany, an English trading post that earned a significant place in the history of the territory, and the history of our country. We have all read about the War of 1812 and the Hundred Year War between England and France. People and places right in our backyard played important roles in those events, and consequently, the shaping of the United States of America.

This fall will mark the 150th anniversary of the forming of the 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. They were soldiers, most from right here in the Piqua area, who marched off to fight in some of the most definitive battles of the Civil War.

Those soldiers mustered and trained on Col. John Johnston’s property. In other words, on the grounds of the current John Johnston Farm & Indian Agency. I went out to the farm about a week ago and spent some time, just looking over the land, much of it now growing soy beans or alfalfa for hay. I cannot look at that ground without visualizing the young men who, though probably scared to death, yet filled with a spirit of excitement for the unknown adventure ahead of them, learned the intricacies of becoming a soldier.

One has only to turn around to look at the Johnston farm house, then still the home of Johnston family members, and realize those young recruits saw that exact same home as they trained and drilled, and lived in tents, in the Johnston’s front yard.

Even if you do not realize it, it may have been one of your family members training for battle on those grounds. It may be that one of your ancestors first came to the Piqua area by way of a trip to Pickawillany or Fort Greenville.

People are staying closer to home these days as long-distance vacations are even more costly. I can’t think of a better time to visit some of those places that played important and historic roles in the building our our nation — right here in our own back yard.

It will be a fun experience for the entire family. Just remember to be very careful — you may just learn something along the way.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Calls to 9-1-1 from whiners and liars can keep officers from real calls

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

"I'm gonna tell. I'm gonna tell on you!"

How many of us heard that phrase during our childhood? Those same threats are still being made today. My guess is that the same whiners are making them.

The proliferation of cell phones have turned whiners into ... dangerous frequent whiners. Many of them are just liars who have an ax to grind.

I am talking about the enormous, (in my opinion), number of calls received by Miami County 9-1-1 that range from much ado about nothing to flat-out exaggerations and lies.

Law enforcement officials receive a number of calls during any given week to check out a reported "child endangering." Granted, officials cannot afford to take any call lightly. Each one is investigated.
What so often happens is that it is just a parent dealing with a family situation. Most of the time, they are just disciplining their child. Usually, it involves a parent, who believes as I do, that teaching a child right from wrong must occasionally involve a spanking, or similar punishment. Nowadays, if this happens within site of some bleeding-heart do-gooder, they call the police and a good parent finds themselves explaining their actions.

Another frequent report to police is of animals not receiving proper care. Usually, these calls report inadequate shelter or no food and/or water available to the pet. Again, no one wants to see an animal mis-treated. But, the cell phone whiners society just loves to stir the pot so they call to make a report. Sometimes, officers find a situation which warrants action. All too often, officers find that the report was somewhere between exaggerated and false.

People make accusations of vicious dogs. More often than not, the truth is, again in my opinion, that the caller is, in fact, just scared of dogs, period. Oh, and it seems to me that every caller who is making a complaint about a vicious or loose dog is observing a Pit Bull. It does not seem to matter that the true description of the dog running loose in the neighborhood is actually a ten pound bundle of fur with a wagging tail who is just enjoying his momentary freedom. The cell phone whiner reports ... a Pit Bull.

The same thing goes for many calls regarding "reckless drivers." How many of these calls are simply cases of a driver cutting someone off in a lapse of attention or judgement so the driver who was cut off thinks, "I'll show you." They then call 9-1-1 to report someone "Weaving all over the road, cutting off drivers ..."

I know for a fact, that most calls for assistance to the 9-1-1 center are real. I am not suggesting that anyone hesitate calling to report a real crime or emergency situation.

What I am saying, at the same time, is to stop and think before making a reactionary call to report something that just makes you mad.

Just because you don't like that someone is disciplining their child does not mean that they do not have the right to do so and it certainly does not give you the right to interfere.

If you see a child playing somewhere that doesn't seem right, how about doing things the old-fashioned way? Stop peering through your window shades, get off your lazy butt and go outside to see what is going on. Who knows, you might even meet your neighbor in person. What a novel concept.

I would like to see officers begin citing individuals who make complaints about non-existent problems or are just doing their best to exact revenge on someone who made them mad.

I would like to see that, but officers are already too busy running down calls for people who really need help. They don't have time to deal with even more frivolous things.

The bottom line is that if you need assistance or have a real crime to report, please call 9-1-1. If you do not have a legitimate reason for calling an emergency call center, what you are doing is potentially keeping emergency personnel away from someone whose life might depend on a quick response.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day: A time to remember and give thanks.

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

As we approach the commencement of another class of seniors from area schools it got me thinking, as so often happens, as these young adults prepare to take their next steps in life.

Like every class before them, some will choose to serve our country by entering the military.

I have been re-reading "Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War," a book written by William Manchester and published in 1980. Before becoming a very successful author, Manchester was a United States Marine during World War II.

In the book, Manchester talks about his personal experiences during the war and chronicles many of the events that took place during war. He also chronicles his 1978-79 journey to visit many of the Pacific islands where some of the deadliest battles ever fought took place and his effort to come to terms with his own demons, the same ones faced by most who have ever fought a war.

Like most military service men and women, Manchester was basically a pacifist. Very few men can enter a situation where they are there to kill others while watching friends die in the worst imaginable ways, and knowing they they could suffer the same fate at any moment ... yet, they continue to do the job anyway, and not be affected.

Manchester questions from his 1979 perspective, how thousands of young Marines could bring themselves, during the bloody battle for Tarawa, to wade though waist to chest-deep water for hundreds of yards, in their attempt to make it to shore while hundreds, if not thousands, of Japanese machine guns and rifles hammered away at the defenseless Marines. The carnage was indescribable, yet those young American Marines never faltered.

Our Marines did take Tarawa but at a cost of more than 3,100 dead and wounded.

Manchester's question, and now mine, is what kind of person does it take to perform in such a manner and could, or would, today's generation of kids do that same thing, if called upon? We obviously hope that such a thing will never again be necessary, but if it would, what would happen?

In his book, Manchester concluded that the youth of the seventies had evolved into a generation who would not obey orders to knowingly and willingly enter a situation where thousands might be cut down in minutes.

I ask, how would America's parents react? Would Americans stand for another conflict such as the Second World War? Would they allow our leaders to put our youth into a similar situation? We were, indeed, a different country then. And yes, I believe a better country.

Still, no matter how things used to be, today's youth are still "going to bat" for our country. Every day, our country's military men and women knowingly put themselves in harm's way.

The number of men and women and the manner in which they face the enemy has evolved, I guess we could say in a "good" way. Americans are no longer required to "take a beach" by sending thousand of exposed troops into the muzzles of the enemy. But they are still out there putting their lives on the line for the rest of us.

One might look at it that our Japanese and German foes of the 1940's at least had the courage to wear a uniform and fight in an honorable fashion, or at least as honorable as war can be. The foes that face our troops today are most decidedly cowards who hide behind women and children and prefer techniques of ambush and suicide bombers.

The common denominator is that our own children fighting current conflicts all possess the same sense of duty and honor shared by our fathers and grandfathers. Thank God for all of them.

As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend, please remember our remaining World War II veterans,  our "Greatest Generation," who fought in a truly worldwide conflict. Let us also remember all of our other veterans of all wars and conflicts.

Most importantly, remember those thousands of Americans who fell in battle protecting our families, our country and our way of life.