Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You - Veterans Day

Today we remember, honor and thank all our loved ones and friends who have served in the military.  Thank you for defending our rights and the rights of other nations. May God bless each and every one of you.

We at National Write Your Congressman want to extend a special thank you to some of our own Veterans.  Pictured below are Representatives of NWYC, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers.  Thank you for being our heroes.....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Part Three- Air Evacuation and The Nurse

There have been many "firsts" since the first graduation of Air Evacuation Nurses in 1943.

2nd Lt. Geraldine Dishroon received the first pair of flight nurse's wings and the honor graduate of the first class on Feb. 18, 1943.

The 802nd MAES was the first air evac squadron to serve in any theater of war - in North Africa.  The 801st followed suit in the Pacific.

Lt. Catherine Grogan was the first chief nurse of an air evac squadron to serve in a theater of war.

Lt. Ruth M. Gradiner, from the 805th MAES, was the first flight nurse killed in combat in Alaska.

Nancy Leftenant-Colon, was the first black nurse to be commissioned into the Regular Army Nurse Corps.

April 1945, the 806th MAES set a world record by evacuating 17,287 patients for that month.  This set a record for monthly evacuations in any theater of operations by any squadron.

May 18, 1944 the first major catastrophe of the 803rd MAES occurred while in flight.  Plane #372 received a radio message asking for the hospital ship to enter Myitkyina, Burma which the Allies captured the previous night.  Capt. Collins, flight surgeon, two nurses, Chief Nurse Audrey Rogers, 2nd Lt. E Baer and Sgt. Miller were the medical team on board.  They landed with enemy action still in play.  As they loaded the wounded, the Japaneese were strafing the runway and Capt. Collins and Sgt. Miller were struck by shell fragments and the patient on the litter was killed.  Lt. Rogers sustained shrapnel wounds to the right knee and thigh.  Lt. Baer, who was pushed out of the line of fire was unharmed.  The plane was riddled with bullets.  They treated each other's wounds, continued to load the injured, and flew the patients to Ledo.  They recuperated and returned to duty.  They all received the Purple Heart.

The first and only glider air evac in the ETO was made March 22, 1945 by 2nd Lt. Suella Bernard, flight nurse and Maj. Albert D. Haug, flight surgeon, members of the 816th MAES from Germany to an evac hospital in France with flying time of 30 minutes.

Lt. Dorothy P. Shikoski was awarded the Air Medal of Bravery for pulling crew members of her downed aircraft to safety and continuing to pull medical supplies into her raft all while being injured from the crash.

Reba Z. Whittle was the first flight nurse to be imprisoned by the Germans and the first repatriated.

Lt. Janette Pitcherella, 803rd MAES was near Calcutta when the plane she was in started going down.  She was the first nurse to bail out of a plane.  When she reached the ground she discovered she was missing a finger.  "I must have caught it on the door on the way out."

Lt. Thelma Le Fave of the 820th SWP was one of the first nurses into Tadji, and later was missing in action in the Philippines.

The first flight nurse to board a C-47 bound for France to evacuate wounded American soldiers was 1st Lt. Grace E. Dunnam.  On June 11, 1944, she made the first authorized evac trip to Omaha Beach and brought back 18 litter of patients.

Lt. Ellen Church was mentioned in a wire service story from General Eisenhower's headquarters.  It read, "Another woman, who did heroic work yesterday in the drive toward Bizerte was Lt. Ellen Church, a nurse in the Air Evac Unit of the AAF."

Lt. Ellen Church was also the first nurse employed as an airline stewardess in the US.

Women have continued to serve as flight nurses during war time.  They bravely stepped up for WWII and continued through Korea, Vietnam and today.

On a personal note, being from the Vietnam era, I have a particular admiration and heart of thanksgiving for the following story by a flight nurse named Patricia Clark Stanfill.  She was on the first air evacuation plane to land in Hanoi and retrieve American prisoners of war in Vietnam.  It was a mission of anticipation and anxiety.   Friends and I stayed up until 2:30 AM glued to the TV, and watched the arrival of the first POW's to touch American soil.

"On a misty morning in February 1973, a U.S. cargo plane veered toward the only Hanoi airport runway that wasn't bombed out.  Rows of North Vietnamese soldiers stood stiffly at attention in the grass along the runway and thinking, they have guns laying in the grass.

We had been told that if something happened, they weren't going to come get us.  There was no question in my mind this was not a peaceful thing."

Many of the POW's had been captured five and six years earlier, some longer.  As one boarded the plane he grabbed Nurse Stanfill and kissed her.

"I don't think any of them really believed we were leaving until we were airborne.  They had been told, yes we are coming; no, we are not.  It was very difficult to believe it was finally over.  I can still remember that as soon as we got up and the landing gear came in, everybody just stood up and cheered."

Miss Stanfill recalls the anguish of Vietnam, she also remembers the last assignment, flying POWs out, in a very positive way.  "Knowing that it was over and that this was the last of it, and we weren't going to have to bring pieces home any longer.  It was a good way of ending the tour and in a way helped me a lot, being part of it, that happy era at the end."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Part Two - Air Evacuation and The Nurse

By the end of 1940, Miss Mary Beard, Director of the Red Cross Nursing Service, acknowledged that Shimmoler had the idea of something that was needed.  However, there was a general lack of enthusiasm among most medical officers.  As late as July 1940, the Chief of the Medical Division felt that in time of war, nurses would not be used on airplane ambulances.  He felt it was too dangerous for a woman and that they could not handle the physical and mental demands.

Without the personal interest of General David N. Grant, an air surgeon, the concept of the flight nurse as a part of the medical team might not have ever been realized during this time because of the military's indifference and the danger during war time.  But, on Nov. 30, 1942, an urgent appeal was made for graduate nurses for appointment to the Army Air Forces Evacuation Services.  The nursing program at Bowman Field, KY was at this time under the direction and leadership of Capt. Grace Mundell.

On Feb. 18, 1943 the first formal graduation of nurses of the 349th Air Evac Group was held at the base chapel at Bowman Field.  The 30 members of this group had completed a program on instruction that was only in the experimental stage.  The 4 week course included class work in air evac nursing, air evac tactics, survival, aeromedical physiology, mental hygiene in relation to flying, training in plane loading procedures, military indoctrination and a one day bivouac.

Gen. David N. Grant officiated over the first class graduation.  At the end of his address, realizing no one had thought of an insignia for the flight nurse, he unpinned his own miniature flight surgeon's wings and pinned them on the honor graduate, 2nd Lt. Geraldine Dishroon, remarking that the insignia of the flight nurse would be similar to that of the flight surgeon, with the addition of a small "N" superimposed on it.  Having created this insignia on the fly without authority, there was much difficulty having it manufactured as no insignia manufacturer would make the wings without the War Department's approval.

The School of Air Evacuation was the first of its kind and its influence was world wide.  During 1943 nurses from the Royal Canadian Air Forces attended the school.  The Brazilian Government, in cooperation with the Brazilian Red Cross, sent a representative to study the school so that one could be instituted in Brazil.

The training of the flight nurse was designed to equip her for her duties in connection with the evacuation of the sick and wounded and prepare her for duty with ground medical installations.  In order to become a flight nurse, graduate nurses were required to apply for a commission in the Army Nurse Corps.  After a minimum of 6 months in the Army Service Forces unit hospital, she could apply for admission to the school.  She had to be 62-72 inches in height, weight from 105-135 pounds, her age between 21-36.  Physical fitness was important, in view of the fact most of the work was done at altitudes of 5,000 to 10,000 feet.  Work at that altitude is very tiring.  The work of the flight nurse was not without danger.  The aircraft used, usually C-46, C-47 or C-54 types, acted in a dual capacity.  They carried cargo and troops to the battle fronts, after the planes were unloaded they were rapidly converted into ambulance planes for the return trip.  Because of the dual use of the planes, they were not marked with the Geneva Red Cross, and on the return trip they were fair game for the enemy.  Thus all nurses, who entered this field were volunteers.

In July 1943, 2nd Lt. Ruth M. Gardiner died in an aircraft crash en route to evacuating patients in Alaska. She was the first USAAF flight nurse killed in a combat theater.  She was with the 805th MAES.  Gardiner General Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, is dedicated to the memory of Second Lieutenant Ruth M. Gardiner as the first Air Evac nurse killed in the line of duty.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Part One - Air Evacuation and The Nurse

The original idea of air evacuation of the sick and wounded by military air transport is rooted in the period when the Wright Brothers developed the airplane.  The first known report of aircraft to be used in the transportation of patients was made by Capt. George H.R. Gosman and Lt. A.L. Rhoades, US Army, to the Surgeon General of the Army in 1910.  These officers had constructed an ambulance plane to be used in the transport of patients at Fort Barracas, Florida.  They were the first to point out the great possibilities of the airplane for evacuation of sick and wounded.  In Feb. 1918, Maj. Nelson E. Driver and Capt. William C. Ocker converted a "Jenny" airplane that was turned into an airplane ambulance by changing the rear cockpit so that a special type litter with a patient could be accommodated.  They are credited with the first transportation of patients in an airplane in the U.S. and aiding in demonstrating the practicability of transporting patients by air.

In 1921, the Army made a request for Curtis Eagle airplanes which could accommodate four litters and six sitting patients.  Unfortunately for the progress of aerial evacuation, this advanced airplane ambulance crashed while flying in a sever electrical storm.  This untimely crash played an important part in delaying the development of aerial transportation of patients in the U.S.

There were many changes and improvements to airplanes to enable them to carry more patients and medical personal.  Then in 1940, Headquarters AAF proposed the organization of an ambulance battalion to consist of an AT Group together with medical personnel.  The Medical Air Ambulance Squadron was authorized in Nov. 19, 1941, calling a group composed of one headquarters squadron and three airplane medical squadrons which, "would lighten and speed the task of transporting casualties due to the extreme mobility and would be able to render service at a time and place where other means of transportation are at a minimum."

Within three months, the country was at war, and it became a matter of military necessity to evacuate patients by air, even though it was not an accepted practice.  The first mass movement of patients occurred in Jan. 1942, during the construction of the Alcan Route to Alaska.  C-47 type aircraft were utilized in evacuating these patients over long distance to medical installations.  The medical personnel involved were largely untrained and on a voluntary basis.

In May 1942, the Buna-Gona Campaign marked the beginning of a counter-attack against the Japanese in New Guinea.  Many days of travel would be required to evacuate patients by surface means;  but by air, it was a flight of approximately 1 hour over the Owen-Stanley Range.  A total of 1,300 sick and wounded Allied trips were flown over this route during the first 10 days.

In June 1942, the 804th MAES (Medical Air Evacuation Squadron) arrived in New Guinea to aid in the air evac operations.  In late August 1942, Marine Air Transport and the AAF Troop Carrier Transport units began to evacuate patients from Guadalcanal.  12,000 casualties had been evacuated by air by the end of 1942.

The first flights had not medical staff, then flights were staffed with one surgeon and one male nurse.  The flight nurse emerged as the counterpart of the flight surgeon.  Laurette M. Schimmoler, who as early as 1932 envisioned the Aerial Nurse Corps of America is credited with the idea.  She suggested an organization composed of physically qualified and technically trained registered nurses, who would be available for duty in "air ambulances" as well as other aerial assignments.  Miss Schimmoler exchanged many letters with Gen. "Hap" Arnold, then Chief of the Air Corps.  In her letters she sought recognition of her organization.  General Arnold advised her to coordinate her project with the Red Cross.  She replied that she had contacted the Red Cross in previous years, and the personnel in that office were not air minded and could not see the need for nurses to be so educated.  The Red Cross stayed to that way of thinking until 1940.  By then, the activities of the Aerial Nurse Corps, had been publicized and many inquiries were being directed to the Army Nurse Corp and the Red Cross.   From the Red Cross the inquiries were answered with an attitude of opposition to the organization and a lack of imaginative foresight concerning the possibility of the future use of the airplane in the evacuation of the wounded.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

As we once again approach Sept. 11,  Americans turn their memories and hearts back to one of the worst days ever perpetrated in our beloved Country.

I cannot do a better job on this story than History.com has covering one of our darkest days in American history, Sept. 1, 2001.  These are their words...

At 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767--United Airlines Flight 175--appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center, and sliced into the south tower at about the 60th floor. The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.

The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America's support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the U.S. in the months before September 11 and acted as the "muscle" in the operation. The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming the ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles.

As millions watched in horror the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to a structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building. All told, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.

Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists struck the nerve center of the U.S. military, the horror in New York took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. The structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 mph and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel. At 10:30 a.m., the other Trade Center tower collapsed. Close to 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 other people were treated for injuries, many severe.

Meanwhile, a fourth California-bound plane--United Flight 93--was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone that "I know we're all going to die. There's three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey." Another passenger--Todd Beamer--was heard saying "Are you guys ready? Let's roll" over an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were "Everyone's running to first class. I've got to go. Bye."

The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45 people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard.

At 7 p.m., President George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country because of security concerns, returned to the White House. At 9 p.m., he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." In a reference to the eventual U.S. military response he declared: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden's terrorist network based there, began on October 7, 2001. Bin Laden was killed during a raid of his compound in Pakistan by U.S. forces on May 2, 2011.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


What is Patriotism to you?  Is it putting a flag in your yard on holidays to show your allegiance to your country?  Is it your willingness to serve at all costs in the armed services to protect your country and defend others' human rights to live in freedom?  Is it loving your country by loving your countrymen and loving the rest of the world by loving your country first?  Is it blindly following the leaders of your country, or the freedom of practicing your 1st amendment right to speak your mind and object if you believe your government is hurting your country?

Many a great mind have spoken on the subject of Patriotism.  These are just a few of the many quotes made by patriots whether you agree with them or not.  They did practice their right to speak on the subject.

"Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance.  It is also owed to justice and to humanity.  Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong." - Bryce James

"The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree." -Campbell Thomas

"A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation's flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the Government, the principles, the truths, the history which belongs to the Nation which belongs to the Nation that sets it forth." -Henry Ward Beecher

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." -Abbey Edward

"Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country."  -Calvin Coolidge

"A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle."  -George William Curtis

"True Patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else."  -Clarence Darrow

"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned.  When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him.  For then it costs nothing to be a patriot."  -Mark Twain

"A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works."  -Bill Vaughn

"We stand for freedom.  That is our conviction for ourselves;  that is our only commitment to others."  -John F. Kennedy

"He is a poor patriot whose patriotism does not enable him to understand how all men everywhere feel about their altars and their hearthstones, their flag and their fatherland."  -Harry Emerson Fosdick

"Are you a politician who says to himself, 'I will use my country for my own benefit?'  Or are you a devoted patriot, who whispers in the ear of his inner self, 'I love to serve my country as a faithful servant?"  - Kahil Gibran

"A politician will do anything to keep his job, even become a patriot."  William Randolph Hearst

"Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may."  -Mark Twain

"What we need are critical lovers of America.  Patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it."  -Hubert H. Humphrey

Wikipedia describes Patriotism as, "Patriotism is, generally speaking, cultural attachment to one's homeland or devotion to one's country, although interpretations of the term vary with contest, geography and political ideology.  It is a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism."  

How would you describe it?

Monday, August 4, 2014

70 Years Since Anne Franks Last Diary Entry

This month is the 70th anniversary of the last diary entry of Anne Frank.  For me, she has been the number one reflection of all that is good and evil in this world.  Anne herself being the good and pure of heart in the world, and the Nazis' and all others who, through their hatred, wish to destroy anyone who is not just like them being the pure evil in the world.

In her last entry Anne wrote, "I'm afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side.  I'm afraid they'll mock me, think I'm ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously.  I'm used to being taken seriously, but only the 'lighthearted' Anne is used to it and can put up with it. The 'deeper' Anne is too weak."  Three days later on Aug. 4, 1944 she and all eight who were hiding with her were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Below is the blog I wrote about her on Aug. 8, 2012.  Nothing much has changed in the world.  Two years later the fighting continues in Syria and has spread through out the Middle East.

Aug. 8, 2012

Watching the news on the Syrian Civil War, or Syrian Uprising as they prefer to refer to it, makes me think back to news of World War II and what Hitler did to the Jews and any other class of people he felt were inferior.  All world leaders, religions, and the everyday people on the streets said never would such heinous acts be allowed to be perpetrated on man again.  Then I look at the news and what do I see?  A government slaughtering its own people, men women and children, to the tune of over 10,000 killed, 1.5 million displaced internally, and with several thousand fleeing into neighboring countries.

I would like to pay homage by putting a brief story about Anne Frank on our blog.  We do not have the stories of the innocents being murdered in Syria yet, but one day those stories will come out.   Will we help or once again look back and say, never again?  Is history just going to repeat itself?

-Acting on a tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captured 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man, and were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the "secret annex" working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.

Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.

On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne's older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi "work camp." Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank's business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist, the eighth occupant of the hiding place, joined the group.

For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne's spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.

Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne's diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. In 1947, Anne's diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch as Diary of a Young Girl. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 50 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Medicare Turns 49

On July 30th of this month Medicare will turn 49 years old.  Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Medicare was the answer to health care insurance for elderly Americans.  Americans 65 or older were provided hospital and medical insurance as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935.  19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect a year later in 1966.  President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare's first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card.  President Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at that time by Congress.

At its creation, Medicare consisted of two parts.  Medicare Part A hospital insurance coverage, which was financed by payroll deductions and charged no premium to those who had contributed, and Medicare Part B an optional medical insurance program for which enrollees paid a monthly premium.

Medicare's first beneficiaries paid a $40 annual deductible for Part A.  The monthly premium for Part B, in which Truman did enroll, was $3.  As of June of 2013 the cost is $1,184 for the annual Part A deductible and a premium of roughly $105 a month for Part B, plus a $147 annual deductible.

Today, nearly 50 million Americans, 15 percent of the nation's population, depends on Medicare for their health insurance coverage.  With increasing life expectancy and more "Baby Boomers" turning 65 every day, the number of people on Medicare is expected to double before 2030.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Beatles and The Cultural Shift

There was a cultural revolution in the 1960s.  It was probably the biggest and fastest change in the way the youth in America dressed, wore their hair, music they listened to, and rebellious attitude towards "The Establishment," meaning the older generation and the government.  The Beatles were just the beginning of the shift.

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow landed at New York's Kennedy Airport, and "Beatlemania" arrived.  It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll group that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with "I want to Hold Your Hand."  The "Fab Four," dressed in mod suits along with their trademark bowl haircuts, were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the group stepped off the plane.

Two days later, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show which was aired in black and white.  The audience was packed with screaming teenage girls and made it hard for the estimated 73 million television viewers to hear their performance.  Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month.  The group made its first public concert appearance on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, DC with 20,000 fans in attendance.  The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the music hall because of chaotic fan hysteria.  On February 22, they returned to England.

The Beatles' first American tour left a major imprint on the nation's cultural memory.  From the big band music of the early 1950s through Doo Wop in the middle of the decade into the Rockability of the late 50s, teenagers of the mid 60s were poised to break away from the more rigid landscape.  The Beatles, with their new sound and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift.

Their singles and albums sold millions, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs.  By the time they released their first feature film, "A Hard Day's Night," Beatlemania was epidemic the world over.  In August 1964, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold out arenas across the country.

The Beatles gave up touring to concentrate on their innovative studio recordings, such as 1967s Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, a psychedelic concept album that is regarded as a masterpiece of popular music. The Beatles' music remained relevant throughout the great cultural shifts of the 1960s, and critics of all ages acknowledge the songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney team.

In 1970, the Beatles left a legacy of 18 albums and 30 Top 10 U.S. singles to pursue solo careers.

As a side note... This author saw the Beatles on September 22, 1964 at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. We could barely hear because of all the non-stop screaming. I am not sure we will ever see anything like "Beatlemania" again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Draft and Vietnam

In January of 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

In total 100,000 draft aged Americans went abroad in the late 1960's and early 70's to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.  Ninety percent went to Canada.  Others hide out in the US and Europe.  In addition to those who were "draft-dodgers," a relatively small number of about 1,000 were deserters.  Others were labeled "Conscientious Objectors."

A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws, while government officials estimate another 360,000 were never formally accused.  If they returned home they would have faced prison sentences or forced military service.

President Carter's decision generated a great amount of controversy.  He was heavily criticized by veterans' groups and others for allowing "unpatriotic lawbreakers" to get off scot-free.  The pardon and companion relief plan came under fire from amnesty groups for not addressing deserters, soldiers who were dishonorably discharged or civilian anti-war demonstrators who had been prosecuted for their resistance.

Although today, when reaching the age of 18 all males must register with the Selective Service, many people born after 1975 are not familiar with the draft and what it meant to young men and their lives.  From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and war, only men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary service.  All men between the ages of 18 and 26 had to sign up with the Selective Service, also known as, the"United States Draft Board".

A lottery drawing, the first since 1942, was held on December 1, 1969 at the Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  This event determined the order of call for the induction year of 1970. All registrants born between January 1, 1944 and December 31, 1950 were in the drawing.  This lottery differed from the 1942 lottery as the oldest were not called up first.  It was determined by the order that the dates were pulled.

With radio, film and TV coverage, the capsules were drawn from a jar.  The first capsule drawn was the date of September 14, so all men born on that date in any year between 1944 and 1950 were assigned lottery number 1.  The drawing continued until all days of the year had been batched to lottery numbers.  If you were number 1 you were going.  Number 365 would probably never see service.  The lowest numbers were drafted first.

If the draft were held today, it would be dramatically different from the one held during the Vietnam War.  A series of reforms during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way the draft operated to make it more fair.  If a draft were held today there would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service.

Before Congress made the changes to the draft in 1971, a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree.  Under the current draft law, a college student can have his induction postponed only until the end of the current semester.  A senior can be postponed until the end of the academic year.  Today a man would spend only one year in the first priority for draft, either the calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended.  Each year after that he would be placed in a succeedingly lower priority group, and his liability for the draft would lessen accordingly.

Women are still not required to register with the Selective Service, but this could change with the new policy of allowing women to serve in combat arms specialties.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Beginnings And Wrapping Up Old Ones

The New Year is the time for new beginnings and wrapping up old ones.

The New Year was 1789, and the first election for President of the United States was held from Monday, December 15, 1788 to Saturday, January 10, 1789.  It was the only election to take place partially in a year that was not a multiple of four.

On January 7, 1789 the first President of The United States was elected.  At the time there were no real political parties.  Candidates were either Federalists, meaning they supported the ratification of the Constitution, or Anti-Federalists, meaning they opposed ratification.  In reality both sides were united in supporting George Washington as president.  The only real issue to be decided was who would be chosen as vice president.  Under the system then in place, each elector cast two votes.  If a person received a vote from a majority of the electors, that person became president and the runner up became vice president.  All 69 electors cast one vote each for Washington.  Their other votes were divided among the other eleven candidates.  The candidates were:  George Washington, Independent; John Adams, Federalist; John Jay, Federalist; Robert H. Harrison, Federalist; John Rutledge, Federalist; John Hancock, Federalist; George Clinton, Anti-Federalist; Samuel Huntington, Federalist; John Milton, Federalist; James Armstrong, Federalist; Benjamin Lincoln, Federalist; and Edward Telfair, Anti-Federalist.  John Adams received the most votes of the eleven candidates and became George Washington's vice president.

In 1804 the Twelfth Amendment was ratified requiring each elector to cast distinct votes for president and vice president.

With the thought of new beginnings and wrapping up old ones, here are a couple of quotes to start the New Year.

"Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."  Carl Bard

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover." Mark Twain