Friday, December 22, 2006

Real Inspiration from a Real American Hero

The part of this story that inspires me the most, that draws the words Real American Hero to mind are these words from the man, himself: "I don't support this war [...] But as long as there's something that needs to be done, I want to be the one doing it." Now that is what service to one's country is all about--putting one's personal politics and pet peeves to the side and just doing what must be done.
The Army told Fernando Gonzalez he was through, too badly injured to continue serving after the artery in his left leg was severed in a shootout early in the Iraq war in 2003.

President Bush personally decorated the Rubidoux man, then 18, with the Purple Heart for life-threatening combat wounds, congratulating him for a job well done. Uncle Sam declared Spc. Gonzalez unfit for duty and authorized $1,100- a-month in disability pay plus free mental and physical health care for life. Annual cost-of-living raises, too.

Gonzalez's response: Thanks but no thanks.

The cavalry scout spent much of the past year fighting the Army's decision and prodding military and civilian doctors, psychologists and rehabilitation specialists to return him to active duty. He completed a battery of tests to prove his injured left leg, rebuilt with a vein from his other leg, possessed the strength, endurance and range of motion to let him resume duty. Four times he traveled to Fort Lewis, Wash., where the military handles medical-related matters, to plead his case.

In a highly unusual move, the Army relented last week.

Gonzalez, now 22, returns to service today, beginning a journey that will take him from Riverside County to Germany and, most likely, back to Iraq.

"As long as my brothers-in-arms are fighting this war, I just can't watch it on TV," Gonzalez said. "I want to see it finished. I don't support this war. I think it's a political mess not worth the life of one American. But as long as there's something that needs to be done, I want to be the one doing it."

His injuries, inflicted by an AK-47 round on March 24, 2003, just four days after the war began, required five major operations and left both legs with deep purple gashes. The Army declared him 90 percent disabled. For months his left foot was paralyzed. Even now, pain courses through that limb.

Despite that, Gonzalez said he felt guilty receiving disability payments.

"It didn't feel right," he said. "Not when I could be doing more."

'I'm Awed'

Army officials say cases like that of Gonzalez, who was medically retired from the service and successfully fought to come back on active duty, are extremely rare. Most soldiers, even those who want to return after being seriously wounded, eventually accept their fate and move on, said Catherine Caruso, a spokeswoman for the Army Southern California Recruiting Battalion. The unit oversees enlistments for most of the western United States.

Caruso said forced retirement usually is final. She said she's never heard of anyone successfully reversing that type of ruling.

"I'm awed," she said. "Here's someone who could have taken it easy after giving up so much to protect our freedoms, and yet he chooses to go back."

Staff Sgt. Robert Sammon, an Army recruiter who helped Gonzalez with his physical tests and paperwork during his months bucking the military bureaucracy, called him "the kind of person you never forget."

"It was an uphill battle for him to get back into the service, but I'm not surprised," Sammon said. "You could see it in his eyes."
What Motivates This Kind of Heroism?
Glenn Teague, a Vietnam veteran who flew more than 400 combat missions with the air cavalry, became a confidant and believes he understands what motivates Gonzalez.

"He feels he owes it to the younger soldiers," said Teague, 56, who served as a crew chief on a Huey gunship from 1969 to 1971 and earned 22 air medals. "He doesn't want them to come back wounded like he did."

[more at Press Enterprise.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sights & Sounds of Cheery Merriment

The time for suicidal snowmen has passed, it's true. Now, we're all supposed to start getting into "good cheer" for the holiday season (at least, the Christian holiday season taking over all life forms in the United States for the next three weeks), here are some visual aids. You like visual aids, don't you? :-) As you can tell from my choice of images here, I'm not really in the spirit of it all just yet.

But the Funniest Images List is helping. Besides this fun little airplane image, there's the 2-parter: #21 (Jedi Squirrels) and its sequel, The Evil Empire Strikes Back (#19). Don't they make a nice pair? Granted not as nice a "pair" as the True Origin of the Firefox logo (#7) but close :) I definitely like the slogan on #36 but I know none of you guys out there will even read the WORDS being blinded by the white light.

When it comes to the sign in #38 this *has* to be a joke, or at least fauxtography, no? *ack* They've updated the list while I'm composing this blog entry. That image is gone now - bummer! It was a sign for a Family Planning Clinic at a hospital that said "Family Planning advice: Use Rear Entrance" - ah well, gone but not forgotten! (update: finally found it here - had to go through a bunchaton of LOL images to get there though...the sacrifices I make for you, my life for you!)

I see, they explain the disappearance here:
...every few minutes the server does some analysis ... and comes up with a list of the best things.
Okay, well, whilst clicking away on the voting page to get new pairs of images, I did enjoy stumbling upon this heretofore unseen image from industry: If Condoms Had Sponsors, so the theme isn't entirely lost, eh?

Speaking of industry, the industrious young lasses in school uniforms on Dykes Drive are pretty good keepers, too.

The comics site ain't half bad either (see sample at right and click through for more). You have to be a math geek to really appreciate many of them, though. I love the calculus and linear algebra jokes. Call me crazy.

Then there's the differences between men and women. (Warning, that last one might actually blind you--me, I saw the boat first. Women, huh?)

Not to mention the inequities of the world. Some people vent on the innocent, some gloat over minor victories, and then there's the "cop at attitude" approach--or is that a cop with an attitude? Down in Broward County, Florida, they could use a little attiude, I guess.

When it all gets to be too much, the artiste just lets himself get involved in his work *smirk* I really do need to start cartooning. It's just such a great mechanism for creative release, isn't it?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fly Like an Eagle

This is a very nicely-done incorporation of GoogleMaps into a Flash interface. You use the arrow keys to flap the eagle's wings, bank, climb, dive and you can turn the cloud cover on or off (I like it better with the clouds, more realistic). He's powering it from the GoogleMaps db but hasn't quite worked out all of the bugs. Most of the cities and countries work just fine. Play around, see the world, fly like an eagle.