Showing posts with label soldiers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soldiers. Show all posts

Friday, June 18, 2010

Active-duty Soldier Charged For Overweight Duffel Bag

WILLIS, Texas—A military family from Montgomery County is upset with American Airlines after a soldier was charged an overweight fee for his duffel bag.

Army Spc. Gary Sharpen was home on a two-week leave from his unit in Iraq. Melodie Sharpen said her husband was welcomed home by his family and even strangers.

“People were honking and waving,” Melodie Sharpen said. “One lady even stopped her car and said, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

The time flew by and before she knew it, Melodie Sharpen was dropping her husband back off at Bush Intercontinental Airport to fly back to the desert.

“He was wearing his army fatigues,” Melodie Sharpen said. “He had his backpack, which is Army regulated and he had his luggage.”

Gary Sharpen showed up with one 64-pound duffel bag, which is normally 14 pounds overweight. He wasn’t worried because he knew that American Airlines waived fees for active-duty military personnel.

The airline's policy says “military personnel on orders are allowed one bag in the free allowance up to 100 pounds.”

Sharpen's mother, Laura Lee, said not only was her son charged $50 in overweight fees, but the ticket agent was rude to him.

“I couldn’t imagine anyone treating one of our soldiers like that, telling them “so what” that they’re going back to Iraq,” Lee said.

Airline officials said they waive the fee only if a passenger shows military travel orders, and Gary Sharpen didn’t. His family argued that he wasn’t asked.

Melodie Sharpen said her husband had nothing he could take out of the bag to get it 14 pounds lighter.

“Did they want him to take out the pictures of our family? The toothbrushes that he was bringing over? The extra toothpaste he was bringing over? Deodorant,” she said.

American Airlines officials have agreed to refund Sharpen’s money if they see his travel orders.

However, his family said it’s not about the money, but about common courtesy for an American soldier.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Arlington National Cemetary

I have visited Arlington National Cemetary. Once as a child and stood in line with my family waiting to see the grave of President Kennedy. Years later I was there as an adult and the same silence and stillness was there. Rows and rows of headstones each name a reminder of the 330,000 men and women that unselfishly gave their lives for all of us. You can't help but admire the beauty, the somberness. If each name were alive today we would receive a different account of what each experience during war time or peace. My guess it is the most respected cemetary and most cared for in America. As it should be. So HOW does this happen??? And more importantly WHY? Don't we care anymore? Is there no such thing as respect?
The Army ousted top supervisors of Arlington National Cemetery in the wake of a blistering report that found some graves had been mismarked and that raised questions about the Virginia burial ground's management, officials announced Thursday.

Army Secretary John McHugh said the Army inspector general's report raised questions about 211 gravesites and found unmarked graves, burial sites with the wrong headstones and improper handling of cremated remains.

"That all ends today," McHugh said.
The inspector general, Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, found one case involving personnel killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In that instance, two grave markers had been switched. Other cases involved areas of the cemetery used to inter personnel from earlier conflicts.

There are 330,000 bodies buried at Arlington, including Presidents Kennedy and Taft. As many as 30 funerals are held there each day, some for veterans of past wars and others for military personnel killed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The extent of the problems at one of the nation's most venerated memorials was not entirely clear. In some cases, grave markers had been knocked over and not properly replaced, the report said. Other reported cases involved poor record-keeping. Whitcomb said there was no indication of mistakes at the point of burial.

But in one incident described in the report, a cremation urn with the remains of an Air Force master sergeant, who served in Vietnam and died in 2007, was buried above the casket of an Army staff sergeant.

The report also found that some cremation urns were mistakenly disinterred and moved to an area of the cemetery where excess dirt was held. One such set of remains had to be reburied as "unknown" because the urn was unmarked, the report said.

Explaining how gravesites could be disturbed, Whitcomb said cremated remains often had been removed to accommodate the burial of another family member at the same site, a permitted practice. But in some cases, the urns appeared to be improperly handled by cemetery workers or officials.

The problems at Arlington were raised in a series of reports by the online magazine Salon and in other publications. Those reports, as well as relatives' complaints and employees' concerns, prompted the inspector general's investigation, which began in August.

Respect for the country's war dead is a top military priority.

"Of all the things in the world, we view this as a zero-defect operation," Whitcomb said.

On Thursday, McHugh appointed Kathryn Condon, a senior Army civilian official, as executive director of the Army National Cemeteries program, a new position.

McHugh also announced the formation of the Army National Cemeteries Advisory Commission to advise on the oversight of the burial ground. Two former U.S. senators — Bob Dole, a World War II veteran, and Max Cleland, a Vietnam War veteran — will help form the commission, McHugh said. "The intent of the steps I have ordered today are designed to make sure things are done absolutely correctly from this day forward," McHugh said.

Cemetery Supt. John Metzler had announced last month that he intended to retire July 2. His exit, officials said, was the result of pressure from Army officials.

McHugh made public a brutal letter of reprimand filed against Metzler this week. In it, McHugh held Metzler responsible for the cemetery's problems and for systemic shortcomings that continued for years.

Metzler's deputy, Thurman Higgenbotham, also was stripped of responsibility. Investigations of his actions are continuing, officials said.

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said members of his organization were "concerned and outraged" by the inspector general's findings.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that something like this would happen at America's most sacred burial ground," Rieckhoff said. "We expect swift action from the Pentagon and the administration."

The White House weighed in too.

"We have no more solemn commitment than to respect the service and the memory of those that died in service to preserving our freedom as a country," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Remember Our Troops During Christmas

Congressman Glenn Nye (VA-02) is launching an effort to make sure our troops are not forgotten this holiday season. OnMonday, Nye invited residents of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore to take part in his Holiday Cards for Troops program.

For the next two weeks, Nye will collect holiday cards for injured military personnel who are stationed away from home this holiday season while recovering from their wounds. Nye will then deliver cards to troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.

"The holidays are always a difficult time for our men and women in uniform to be away from their families, but it can be even harder for troops who are away from loved-ones while recovering from an injury," said Congressman Glenn Nye (VA-02), who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "As we send care packages and cards to troops overseas this holiday season, we must also remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are
separated from their families while recovering from injuries here in the United States."

Constituents are asked make or purchase a holiday card, write a message of thanks to a service member, and then send or bring the card - unaddressed and with an unsealed envelope - to Congressman Nye's Virginia Beach or Accomac District Offices no later than December 11, 2009. Nye's office will address and seal the envelopes and Nye will deliver them on behalf of the people of the 2nd Congressional District.

Cards may be delivered to:

Office of Congressman Glenn Nye Office of Congressman
Glenn Nye
4772 Euclid Road, Suite E 23386 Front Street
Virginia Beach, VA 23462 Accomac, VA 23301
(757) 326-6201 (757)

To learn more, visit Congressman Nye's website