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Archive for July, 2011

The answer to that question depends on where you are.  In my community, it also depends on where your soldier was stationed.  I happen to know people who were in and around  Mosul, so this article  in Military.com really made me sit up and take notice.   A recent article published  in the New England Journal of Medicine about cases of Constrictive Bronchiolitis was sobering.  The physicians at Vanderbilt who decided to do this study  did so because:

Epidemiologic studies in the United States, England, and Australia have documented an increased incidence of respiratory disorders in soldiers who served in the Middle East, as compared with soldiers who were deployed elsewhere.2-5 A 2009 study of 46,000 military personnel showed an association between the development of respiratory symptoms and service in Iraq, as well as an association with service inland versus at sea.

The group that was followed in this study had been exposed to fumes from a sulfur mine fire outside Mosul.  This isn’t even related to those who are coming home with pulmonary problems from the infamous burn pits that I discussed in my last piece on Military Lungs.  There are more and more questions being asked, including by Congress, Veterans Groups and other writers.

I keep wondering what else will come up.  And I’m worried, because my husband is going downrange; we have good friends who are in Afghanistan, in Kuwait – and exposed to the blowing dust that contains who knows what; exposed to the burn pits that are still being used in Afghanistan; exposed to the building materials used by the “lowest bid” contractor to construct their living quarters.

When they come home with compromised lung capacity, they are hoping to come home to Clean Air, to being able to breath without worrying about what they might be breathing in.  The air outside may not have that stench, may not have the smell of soot and burnt plastic; but is it safe?  It’s depressing to realize that this question may only be answered with “it depends”.  It depends where you are living!  Downwind from a power plant – it depends.  Downwind from a large manufacturer – it depends.

It depends on you and I taking a stand; it depends on us telling Congress we won’t allow the Clean Air Act to be stripped of it’s provisions; it depends on us telling Congress that the EPA is there to protect  all of us from those who decide their short term profits supersede the need to be able to take a deep SAFE breath.  Join Mom’s Clean AirForce, add your voice to ours!

Photograph by octal available on Flickr

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when screaming is the only thing you can do  This has been a year of frustration -the Army has really tried to make me say UNCLE. Between the craziness of trying to figure out where we were going, the halt called to movement a week before he was due to leave and then the sheer insanity of not getting orders until the Friday before the Sunday he was supposed to leave,  I wasn’t sure which way was up.

Shall we talk about this training TDY?  probably not a good idea – but I wonder why the efforts made to contact the “support” person for the unit have resulted in a deafening silence.   One phone call from Rear Det to make sure they had the right phone number and email.  Then one mass email – and one envelope with a “newsletter” composed of pictures of past training classes, and copy/paste information from ACS and the Red Cross.  No response to emails volunteering to help; no response to any requests.  I don’t want to hear a word about how FRSAs need help; I don’t want to hear a word about the lack of communication and the lack of participation in FRGs.  Really.  Not. A. Word.

Now, with less than a week until they are done with this training… still no word whether or not they are getting leave, a pass, or flying out right away.  Never mind that we could have booked an affordable flight a few weeks ago, or even last week.  Never mind that actually saying goodbye, in person, is necessary.  Never mind that the already justifiable stress and tension in the families isn’t healthy for either the family or the soldier.  Never mind.

For all the talk about “we support the families”; for all the “families are important”; for all the “we recruit the soldier, retain the family”…  THIS is the reality of this deployment.  No briefings about what to expect, no information, no support.  nothing. I’m lucky, I’ve done 4 other deployments, so I know what to expect.  I’m hoping at least most of the other team members are in the same boat. But, really – is this necessary?  Is this how we are being “taken care of” or even just kept informed?

I think the grade I’m going to give this particular deployment and prep?  FAIL.

KESF

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 One of the biggest differences I noticed when we moved to the DC area – no stars.  When we lived in Minnesota, on the joys in the evenings was to go on the deck and look up.  That stunning dark blue velvet sky, with thousands of stars; or the glories of the Northern Lights pulsing in the sky, reflecting on the snow; the fireworks of the meteor showers we watched very early one bonechilling morning.

Here, even out in the suburbs – nary a star.  We really noticed it when we were out in West Virginia for a concert, that night we actually saw the stars again.  Strange how you don’t realize you are missing something, until you see it again.

Today I heard a report about a study at the University of Colorado.  Not only does light pollution affect our sleep cycles, and that of the natural world around us (birds flying into windows, etc.) but now there is proof that it is also affecting the air around us.

 “Every night, chemicals from vehicle exhaust and other human created sources are broken down and prevented from becoming smog, ozone, or other irritants by a form of nitrogen oxide called the nitrate radical. Sunlight destroys the naturally occurring nitrate radical, so this process occurs only in hours of darkness.” Read More 

In DARKNESS.  Since it never really gets dark over many of our cities, this process can’t occur; and it gets worse. If this process is interrupted, ozone is formed – the ozone that is contributing to global warming!

Another direct consequence of all this light pollution – is the air pollution from all of the power plants that supply all that power; all those coal fired plants that are sending all those noxious chemicals into the atmosphere.

We all want safe cities, we all want to be able to walk in safety down our streets.  But a change in design could keep much of the “uplighting” pollution from affecting that nitrate radical.  Timers could turn off the lights that aren’t needed after a certain hour.  Do we really need all those neon store signs at 2 am unless it is an all night grocery or pharmacy?  I agree, we need to have enough lights for safety.  But the light outside my bedroom window that is on all night, full blast, lighting the small playground to daylight levels – for what??  A small light to discourage anyone from “camping out”, or to keep someone safe from falling off the slide in a drunken stupor would suffice… but this light is enough to read by in my bedroom, necessitating the blinds and thick curtains.

There must be a compromise, between safety and conservation.  I am sure that a more effective lighting system could be put into place, and pay for itself with less energy costs.

Join us at Moms Clean Air Force.   Together our voices are loud, and getting louder with each new voice, with each new mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, aunt and uncle who raises their voice and demands clean air for the children in their lives!

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She got married recently. And if you are looking for a pageantry filled military wedding – look no further. The bride wore an amazing wedding gown to walk up a very long historic aisle to her handsome soldier/pilot husband, who looked resplendent in his full dress uniform. This is one uniform that outshines the Marine Dress Uniform.

A few days later, he was headed back to work, piloting rescue helicopters and she went back to their home, went grocery shopping and started planning a big trip.  That trip took the couple to Canada, where they enjoyed canoeing, attended a big Canada  Day celebration, met lots of fun folks and ended up at the Calgary Stampede.  She packed carefully, and even recycled some of the clothes she already had, including her fave jeans and those really comfy heels for when she had to be on her feet for a long time.

The trip ended in the US, where they went to a huge party, he played some sports, they did some art and fun stuff; then they went to a military support activity and packed some care packages.

Sounds like a fun trip, huh?  Well, I think HRH the Duchess of Cambridge had some fun, but she was also working hard.  Working hard as a representative of the Queen; working hard as a representative of her new family; working hard as a new wife.

She met thousands of people, from Governor General and elected officials, to homeless teens; from Green Gable re-enactors to cancer patients; from survivors of fires, to members of the tribes of the First Peoples, from stars of stage, screen and TV, to children on Skid Row. The last appearance was at a Joining Forces, Service Nation/Mission Serve event.  As her husband said:

This is the last event on our tour of North America, but to my mind, it is one of the seriouslyt most important. This is because it is about men and women who – of their own freewill – choose to put their life on the line for their Country. They are the front line of a remarkable relationship between the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, which has safe-guarded our freedoms for a century.

But Mission Serve is about something more than just men and women in uniform. It is about our other halves. The half that makes the loved one’s duty and sacrifices possible and worthwhile. It is about you: families, partners and friends.

When HRH talked to some members of Blue Star Families, she mentioned wanting to help the military spouses in  her own country. Clarence House/St. James’  has made it clear that she and the Duke are going to maintain a lower profile while he studies for flight captaincy and she mulls over which of the thousands of charities she will become a patron of.  I can only hope that she will choose a group that works with military families.  We may not hear as much on this side of the Atlantic, but our military family over there are struggling with the same issues we have; deployment after deployment; reintegration problems; PTS and TBI; dealing with the military bureaucracy.  While she cannot influence the government, she and Prince William can take the work they saw during their LA trip and extend that.  The Prince William and Prince Harry Foundation are already working with military families and Prince Harry has made helping wounded warriors a priority for him.  As the Duke said:

I am delighted, therefore, that our Foundation – and in that I include my low-flying Apache very average brother – is a partner in today’s event. We have much to learn from you.

It was wonderful to see the attention being paid to our issues by the mainstream press, even though some of them were more interested in the Duchess’ dress.  I could hope they continue to spend some time on them, without the dazzle of royalty.  We’ll see!

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Good Fences make Good Neighbours. That’s a wonderful rule – and I’d love to say that the wind respects that rule. Unfortunately it doesn’t. Everything the wind picks up in one state wafts over other states, heck even other countries!   No matter how hard you try, no matter where you move to, you are subjected to the junk, the crud, the particulates and soot coming from somewhere else.  So, how about we clean up the biggest area we can?  How about we make that power plant or other polluter two states over, and one state down, clean up their emissions?  Great Idea!

Today the EPA issued a new rule under what is called the “Good Neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act.

From the EPA press release:

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will protect communities that are home to 240 million Americans from smog and soot pollution, preventing up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million sick days a year beginning in 2014 – achieving up to $280 billion in annual health benefits. Twenty seven states in the eastern half of the country will work with power plants to cut air pollution under the rule, which leverages widely available, proven and cost-effective control technologies. Ensuring flexibility, EPA will work with states to help develop the most appropriate path forward to deliver significant reductions in harmful emissions while minimizing costs for utilities and consumers.

This is the rule that the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decision in 2008 demanded, to replace the2005  Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR).

Here’s a map from the EPA, showing the states controlled and those not covered by the Rule.

In a separate but related regulatory action, EPA also issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPR) to require six states – Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin – to make summertime NOX reductions under the CSAPR ozone-season control program. Five of those states are already covered in the final rule for interstate fine particle pollution (PM2.5). With the inclusion of these states, a total of 26 states would be required to reduce ozone-season NOX emissions to assist in attaining the 1997 8-Hour Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Finalizing this supplemental proposal would bring the total number of covered states under the CSAPR to 28. EPA issued a proposal instead of a final action for these states in order to provide additional opportunity for public comment on their linkages to downwind nonattainment and maintenance areas. EPA is proposing to finalize this proposal by late fall 2011.  (emphasis added)

Public comment – that is YOU! So go call, write, go to the EPA website and give YOUR comments – give your opinion.  Join us at Moms Clean Air Force.   Together our voices are loud, and getting louder with each new voice, with each new mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, aunt and uncle who raises their voice and demands clean air for the children in their lives!

KESF

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President Obama is holding a twitter town hall meeting – an interesting way to get those of us who use social media more involved and asking questions.  Here’s an article about it, the moderator is the co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.   I’ve got a few questions, many of them are military family related, of course. But then I’ve got some about other matters that concern me, that concern all of us. Like the budget. Like the Clean Air Act. Like what we can do to help the EPA get the message out to everyone – that clean air, clean water are the right of all citizens.

We at #MCAF will be asking him questions about the Clean Air Act, the EPA. Won’t you join us? use the hashtag #MCAF – we’d like to get the word out about this group of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are concerned about the air we breathe.

See you online!

KESF

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It’s the Fourth of July weekend – a steamy hot weekend here in DC. I’m trying to get into a holiday mood, and since Chief is here for a pass, and we have buffalo ribs in the fridge for a barbeque, you wouldn’t think it would be that hard, would you?

Except this is the last pass (we think) before he rotates out. Except that thanks to someone who really didn’t think about it it, he has to fly back tomorrow afternoon, no fireworks attending, no Fourth of July picnics – just a hug goodbye at the airport.
I wrote a piece for a new group I’m writing for that is a civilian site (although I’m glad to see some comments from vets and Blue Star moms and dads). I was trying to explain the empty chair syndrome, the “family” day that often isn’t. Hope I get some folks thinking!

To you my few and faithful readers, I wish you a happy Fourth of July celebration, replete with too much food (red white and blue tortilla chips anyone?) a dazzling fireworks display – like the one in the picture here – it’s one of Chief’s from last year – and good friends to celebrate with.  Take a couple minutes to remember the ones celebrating in Kabul, Kandahar and FOBS everywhere (hey, Patrick!, hey Mike) , on Balad, in Baghdad and Camp Slayer, in Kuwait (Yo, Steve S!) or in the Dakotas fighting the water or in Arizona/New Mexico fighting fires; and the ones fighting their own battles at Walter Reed or San Antonio (Hey Ollie).  And especially remember the ones sitting home wishing they were together (Hey, Kat, Britt)

KESF

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