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?