Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Justice In Georgia?

In April of 2010, Raquel Nelson, a mother of 3, was crossing a highway in Marietta, Georgia, with her three kids after getting off a public bus. The nearest legal crosswalk was three tenths of a mile down the street and her home was almost directly across from the bus stop. Rather than walk over half a mile with her children just to get home Nelson and her kids, along with other passengers from the bus, chose to jaywalk. They got to the median and waited for traffic to clear. Tragically, her four year old son ran ahead on the second half of the crossing and was struck by a car, along with his mother and sister, who had run after him. Little A.J. was killed.

The driver of the vehicle fled the scene, then later returned and admitted he had been drinking and taking pain killers prior to the accident. He was also partially blind in one eye and had a history of two previous hit-and-runs. He was originally charged with hit and run and first degree vehicular homicide. These charges were reduced to hit and run and he received a five year sentence. He served six months in prison and has been released to do the rest of his sentence on probation. Huh?

Raquel Nelson was recently convicted of jaywalking and 2nd degree vehicular homicide for the death of her son. She faces up to three years in prison on these convictions, more than three times the amount of time served by the drinking driver. There’s something terribly, terribly wrong here.

This woman made a decision, albeit a bad one in retrospect, to get her children home without subjecting them to a 45 minute walk just to get back to a place directly across the street. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time she had done it. There were other adults and children in the group with her – she didn’t break the jaywalking law alone. The driver of the car had been drinking and had a history of hit and run and he served 6 months for killing a child.

This woman lost her son in an accident that she herself was partly responsible for. There’s no punishment a court can dole out that will come close to what she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Unless you’re insane, to know you’re responsible for the death of your child would be far more difficult to live with than jail. Not to mention the fact that if she’s placed in prison she’ll be taken away from her other children, who already lost their brother.

So the drinking driver with the history of hit and run kills a child crossing the street and serves six months and the mother of that child, who was trying hard just to get her children home as quickly as possible, faces up to three years? (Her sentencing hearing is today, July 26th.) I truly hope the judge understands the travesty here and does not give Ms. Nelson jail time. To put this woman in jail would be a truly poor ending to an already tragic situation. As for the jurors who convicted her – maybe they should have been on the jury in Orlando a couple of weeks back.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lawnmowers and Tornados....

Since there is not a lot of critical thought necessary to walk behind a lawnmower I find my time cutting the grass is a good chance to let my mind wander where it will. Yes, I can hear some of you thinking “Oh geez - that could be dangerous…” and at times I would agree. But today I was thinking that a lawnmower is very similar to a tornado.

The blade rotates and a high rate of speed wiping out pretty much everything in its path and scattering the debris. It takes out grass, weeds, sticks, and whatever else you didn't see until it was too late. One need only look to the rear to see its very obvious path of destruction. (I flew into Oklahoma City a week after the ’99 tornado. Just as depicted at the end of the movie “Twister” - the path of a tornado is very visible from the air.)

In addition, just as a tornado often destroys much of a neighborhood but leaves one or two houses standing and virtually untouched, a lawnmower will cut your entire yard but leave random blades of grass unscathed. They stand there, mocking you, letting you know that with all your technology and power you wiped out their neighbors but missed them. If grass had hands these lone, rogue blades would no doubt be giving you the one finger salute of triumph.

Some people leave them. I roll over them again and cut them off at the knees.

“Crazy?” you ask. Possibly, but I think not. I believe my logic is sound. Besides, these random thoughts keep cutting the grass from being completely boring. And that’s always a good thing. And the next time you cut your yard and see those random, untouched blades of grass when you're finished, you'll think about my words....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Gift Well Deserved

Hi all. I haven’t posted too many things lately. I’ve been focused more on my own personal situation and the changes in my life and just haven’t had a lot of energy to write except when a specific thing interested me. Maybe it’s good that I don’t try to make my living as a full time writer…

Today, though, I want to write about a topic near and dear to my heart. Many of you already know about the “Wings For Our Troops Foundation, In Loving Memory of CPL Chad S. Wade”. It’s the foundation started by my sister-in-law, Tami, and her husband, Tebo, in memory of her son and hero, Chad, who was killed in Afghanistan on December 1, 2010. Their dream is to make it possible for every service member deploying or returning from a war zone to get a visit home to spend time with their families. They got to visit with Chad before he left but they found out many service members can’t afford it. Tami and Tebo intend to change that.

“Wings For Our Troops” (WFOT) has finally gotten off the ground, so to speak. The foundation itself is established, the website, “www.wingsforourtroops.com” is up and running and we are already receiving donations. They’re currently working on the 501 (C)(3) tax status, which is dragging a little. There have been two fund raisers to date; one in Arkansas and the other in Asheville, North Carolina. The one in Arkansas was hosted by the Wounded Warrior Project. The one in North Carolina was hosted by Tami’s sweet, loving sister, Paige. Incredibly, Paige is already working on another one. She is tireless and helping to raise large amounts of money.

Some of you have donated as well and for that we thank you so very much. We are trying to get the word out about this worthy cause and we appreciate any and all of you who share any of our links with others. I say “we” because I am working with them to do whatever I can to get this project to succeed.

I want to mention one thing in particular that touched me yesterday. Though Tami has experienced a loss and pain that only a few of us ever experience, she has a wonderful heart and attitude that others notice and admire. In honor of her son, his Marine buddies and all those who showed her love and concern when Chad died, Tami works to “pay it forward” on a daily basis. Yesterday, the people in her neighborhood decided to give back to her and honor her son at the same time. They installed a flagpole and flag at the entrance to their subdivision. Their local Home Depot not only donated the pole and two flags but installed the pole and lighting free of charge. There will now be an American flag flying at the entrance to their neighborhood twenty-four hours a day in honor of Chad. As if this wasn’t enough – the people in the neighborhood got together and had a memorial stone made up that was placed at the base of the flag. And no one deserves this any more than Tami and Tebo. They will make a difference in the lives of our military service members. And I am very proud to be a part of it.

Again, thank you for your donations, your support and for helping to spread the word. As I have said before – regardless of your personal feelings about the wars (or war in general), the men and women who voluntarily put their lives on the line in service to our country deserve the best of whatever we can do for them to help make their lives easier. Our nation depends on these brave men and women. The least we can do is pay it forward.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dragonfly...

I watched the movie “Dragonfly” last night. I’m not sure why I watched it because I knew the end of the movie was going to hurt me. But I watched it anyway. It’s strange how, after some time has gone by, you begin to feel good about situations as in “Dragonfly”, when the man finds his lost daughter after his wife dies, even as you cry while watching it.

I miss my son. I miss him every day. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of him and wish he was still here. I don’t dwell on it and I don’t let it control my life. But I miss him. And movies like “Dragonfly” remind me of that. I still have to watch - I can’t let my emotions control my life. But sometimes it just hurts, all over again.

Life tests some of us more than others. As a friend said to me recently… “I don’t understand why some people have it so difficult while others seem to live an enchanted life.” I don’t know the answer to that. I only know that I’ve been given a lot of things to deal with in life and haven’t had much choice in what those things were. But my faith in God and my knowledge that He will never give me more than I can handle have brought me through.

I am OK. I may not be deliriously happy - but I’m not unhappy. I’ve suffered another setback in life but I’ll survive. I have been forced, at times, to live by my motto: “You never know how strong you can be until being strong is the only choice you have.” But I’ve always found the strength.

It may sound as if I’m bragging on myself but I can assure you I’m not. I’d much rather have that enchanted life. There are so many things I wish had happened differently in my life or that I could have known the outcome of beforehand. But we don’t have that luxury. We’re forced to play the hand we’re dealt. I’m still playing. My pile of chips is a bit low right now but I’m still in the game. And I plan to build that pile up again, slowly, and keep playing until the end. And I thank those in my life who show me the patience and encouragement I need when necessary, and who kick me in the butt when I need it. Thanks for not letting me feel sorry for myself too often or for too long.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Justice For Caylee....?

Today, here in Florida, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murder in the 1st degree, aggravated child abuse and manslaughter involving a child. She was found guilty of 4 counts of providing a false statement to police, a crime that is punishable by up to 1 year in prison for each count. She will be sentenced on Thursday and, since she’s been in jail for three years already, could be set free on that day.

I must say I’m disappointed. I believe in my gut that Casey Anthony killed little Caylee, although I’m not convinced she did it intentionally. My theory is that Casey realized she could give her daughter chloroform to put her to sleep and then go out in the evenings without paying for a babysitter. One night either she overdid it, or Caylee had a severe reaction to the chloroform and she died. And, as in her “accidentally drowned” story, Caysey panicked and knew she was in trouble. So rather than come forward and face the music, she hid the child’s body in the trunk of her car until the smell got too bad, then moved her. I don’t know whether Cayley was originally placed in those woods or was moved there later. What I couldn’t figure out was the duct tape but I have recently developed a theory about that as well. I think poor little Caylee’s mouth was open in rigor mortis and someone, either Casey or another person who knew the truth, taped it shut.

I don’t think Casey killed Caylee intentionally. However, I believe Casey is an evil person who not only covered the truth but went on with her life as if nothing happened, then pulled her family members into the bizarre and troubling story in an attempt to keep herself out of prison. Oddly enough, I believe there may be some truth to Casey’s story about being abused by her father. I have no proof of that, other than what she has said and one incident in the closing arguments when one prosecutor, Linda Burkick, said something about George not being a monster and Casey said “Yes, he is.” I can’t imagine why she would make that verbal disagreement at that late stage of the trial unless there’s something there. And again, I’m going with my gut. The last time I went with my gut was when I told people Anthony Weiner was guilty of all the allegations made against him, before they were even all made public, and was told I was wrong and judgmental. Just a few days later Mr. Weiner admitted to everything and I was vindicated.

As for the trial and the jury’s decision – the prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and the defense attorney raised enough doubt, however bizarre and over the top his methods were. He pointed out the failure of the prosecution to prove cause of death, lack of DNA or fingerprint evidence, and other shortcomings in the proceedings. And for that I must applaud him even if I could never be him. In our justice system he did what he was supposed to do – presumed his client innocent and got her an acquittal on at least the most serious charges. There is no doubt Casey lied to police on multiple occasions. If the jury had acquitted her of those charges as well the verdicts would have been obviously tainted.

I wanted Casey to be found guilty of at least one charge that would put her away for a long time. Any parent who can go out and party and be unconcerned about their child being missing (or dead, as in this case) has some serious problems and needs help. And every bit of circumstantial evidence points to Casey being guilty. Unfortunately, an overzealous prosecution team failed in their jobs. I’m reminded of a case in California years ago when another overzealous prosecution team failed to prove their case. Maybe, if we’re lucky, Casey will one day take someone prisoner at gunpoint during a botched robbery. One can hope…

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It’s been 235 years since the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain. Back then the founders were attempting to create something new in the world - a successful, long lasting, free Republic. And although our leaders have changed over the years and political philosophies have come and gone with them, in the long run we are still a successful, free Republic. It seems our founders had a pretty good idea what they were doing.

Independence Day brings a special memory for me. Initially it was a painful memory but these days it makes me smile. In the summer of 1996 I was living in Puerto Rico and my son was living in Oklahoma with his mom. He’d come down to visit 2 or 3 times a year but since his mom and I weren’t getting along at the time I never went to Oklahoma to see him. (At least, not at that time.) The Federal government has a policy in place that provides for employees stationed overseas (Puerto Rico is considered an overseas assignment) to go home on a paid vacation after being there for two years. Basically, you get five days of “Home Leave” (as it’s called) per year but you have to be there a minimum of two years before you can take it. Since I had been there for three, I took 10 days of paid vacation and came back to the States. I spent the first week in Miami and the second at my dad’s home in Ohio.

The best part about it was that any family member who moved to that overseas assignment with me was also eligible for the paid vacation as well. Since Christopher and his mom had moved there with me, even though she and I were divorced Christopher was allowed to come on the vacation with me, courtesy of Uncle Sam (and all of you, thank you very much.) The government flew him from Oklahoma City to Ohio and back and even gave us per diem money for food and hotels. I know most of you are thinking “What a sweet deal…” but… OK. No buts. It was a very sweet deal. But I spent four years in Puerto Rico and only took the vacation once so I didn’t feel too badly about it.

Anyway, Christopher got to Ohio on or about the 1st of July. We took a couple of days to travel around visiting family members and then returned to the Akron area for a big family picnic on Independence Day. July 4th, 1996, just happened to be the release date for the movie “Independence Day” and Christopher had been wanting to see it, as had I. He had just turned 12 in June and one of his surprise birthday presents turned out to be a matinee showing of “Independence Day” on Independence Day. What could be more appropriate? The movie was classic and Will Smith’s performance was excellent. And Christopher was happy. We had a great time and it was a win/win situation all the way around.

We went from the movie to the picnic then Christopher’s cousin Philip came with us to the hotel so they could visit some more and play in the pool. Then we watched movies until they both fell asleep. It was quite a day.

The first couple of years after Christopher’s accident Independence Day was difficult for me. But as the years went by and I learned to live with it, the memories of that weekend went from painful to happy. I’m even able to watch the movie again and laugh when thinking of Christopher’s reaction to certain parts. The good time we had comes flooding back and puts a smile on my face.

As we all celebrate Independence Day in our own way let’s remember why we celebrate it – the birth of this glorious nation. America is not perfect. There are things we could do better. But there are many things we do best. And, in my opinion, there is no better country than the U.S.A. and no better place on Earth to live. I’m sure there will be people who disagree with me but you know what? That’s your right as an American. And I support your right to be wrong….!