• Archive: November 2011

A Bronze Star For WWII Veteran Staff Sgt. Ross

Nov 16

I am always so proud and honored to be invited to events celebrating our country’s veterans, and today was no different.

World War II ended well over sixty years ago, but today, 87-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Arthur E. Ross was awarded a Bronze Star for “exceptionally meritorious service” in Europe.  Standing before family, friends, and members of the community, in a ceremony hosted by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Ross received his medal from JPAC commander Army Major General Stephen Tom.

Staff Sgt. Ross, who became a lawyer after serving as an infantryman in WWII, has been known throughout the Hawaii community since moving here in the early 1970s.  He was the supervisor of the Appellate Division at the City Prosecutor’s office before resuming private practice in 1988, specializing in criminal defense. Ross retired from law in 2009, after a fight with cancer that has since gone into remission, but left him requiring an oxygen tank at his side at all times.

According to Maj. Gen. Tom, who knew Ross as a friend and fellow lawyer over 30 years ago, he never knew of Ross’ heroic service until their other friend, retired Col. Tom Farrell contacted him a few months ago.  Ross had been only 20 years old when he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge, the largest and bloodiest battle for America in WWII, which earned him the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) and a Purple Heart. Throughout his military career as a Rifleman in the 328th Infantry, Ross fought in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czechoslovakia, and Germany, which included the Ardennes, Central Europe, and Rhineland campaigns.  Upon learning that Ross had never received the Bronze Star, which he was eligible for due to receiving the CIB in WWII, Farrell did some research and confirmed Ross’ eligibility, which led to today’s ceremony.

With his wife and daughter sitting proudly at his side, Staff Sgt. Ross listened to his friend Maj. Gen. Tom tell the newly learned stories of his service, before standing proudly to be awarded his medal.  He then took to the podium, and it was a treat to hear the former lawyer speak.  It particularly struck me when he spoke of how his current ailments have left him with depression, but that to be finally receiving this award was a “proud and meaningful moment” in his life, even quipping that it made him want to live a few years longer. I had just been discussing with my husband how all remaining WWII veterans are almost all well into their 80s, and to hear this elderly man who has lived such a full life speak so openly about the struggles of aging, it made me tear up and miss my own grandfathers, who passed away before I ever thought to ask them about their experiences during the war. Ross went on to say that his only regret about the delay in being awarded the Bronze Star is that his parents did not live to see it happen.

After concluding his speech, Staff Sgt. Ross was joined by Maj. Gen. Tom, and they sang the Army song as the band played.

Once the ceremony was over, Staff Sgt. Ross returned to his seat.  A huge line formed, wrapping around the tent, as family, friends, his former law colleagues (including several judges), and even Honolulu’s mayor gathered to congratulate the veteran hero on his special day.

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The First Lady for “Joining Forces” and “Hiring Our Heroes”

Nov 15

As I walked through the Hickam Officers’ Club with my cameras slung around my shoulders, I read the signs on some of the booths I passed by: Bank of Hawaii, Farmer’s Insurance, GameStop.  These businesses were among over fifty employers at the “Hiring Our Heroes” job fair, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to the website, this program was launched in March 2011, is “a year-long nationwide effort to help veterans and their spouses find meaningful employment.”

Although I tend to first identify myself as a photographer, I will always be proud of my time as an Army spouse, as it has exposed me to the previously unfamiliar world that is life in the military. I was born and raised in Hawaii, and met my husband after he was stationed here at Fort Shafter. Unlike many military spouses who may marry into the service very young, I was fortunate enough to have already finished my four-year college degree and be running my own business here in Hawaii before becoming an Army wife. However, as I watch my husband prepare to finish his second enlistment and be out of the military by next summer, I can understand how scary the transition to civilian life can be, especially in this economy.

First Lady Michelle Obama, the daughter of an Army veteran, has come out as a strong supporter of veterans and their spouses in post-military life.  She arrived at the podium with a smile, waving to the cheering crowd of active-duty military from all branches, veterans, and their families.  Escorting her was Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Commander Captain Jeffrey James and Kevin Schmiegel, the Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  After a brief introduction by Captain James, Schmeigel opened for Mrs. Obama, saying “Let me be clear, this is not charity. This is about connecting talented men and women who have served our nation with job opportunities that exist in the private sector.”

He then introduced Mrs. Obama to the crowd, and she greeted her audience with an enthusiastic “Aloha!”  I was struck by how personable she was, and enjoyed listening to her speak and interact with the crowd as I snapped my photos.  Besides giving her support to “Hiring Our Heroes”, she also promoted her own program, co-sponsored with Dr. Jill Biden, called “Joining Forces”, which addresses education, wellness, and employment issues for military families.  As part of this initiative, she says that American businesses have pledged to hire over 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014.

“As my husband said, no one who has fought for our country abroad should have to fight for a job when they return home.”

My own husband says that as the wars wind down and the military reduces in size, a large group of veterans will suddenly find themselves jobless in a weak economy.  He, like many, did not have time to complete college while serving, and in a society that seems to prefer a piece of paper over raw experience, that is one more uncertainty on his shoulders as he prepares for life as a civilian.  We are both thankful for Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden calling attention to the influx of unemployed veterans that this nation may be soon facing.

Mrs. Obama  finished her speech, and then declared she was going to shake some hands. As she made her way around the crowd (flanked by terribly intimidating Secret Service men!), she not only shook hands, but reached out to give high fives to children, and even held a baby who began to play with one of her earrings.  For a moment I wished that I was along the barricade in line to meet the First Lady of the United States as a military spouse, but I was here to do a job, and I am always grateful to not only have a job, but one I love so much.

I would like to thank the Defense Media Activity and Pacific Command for sponsoring me in getting the opportunity to cover this event.

Please enjoy my photos!

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Birds of AMR – Part I

Nov 13

While I was out walking Koda around AMR (Aliamanu Military Reservation), I noticed that there was a ton of variety in the types of birds flying around the trees and in the drainage ditch that runs through the neighborhood. So, I went back to my house to grab my camera and long lens, and here’s what I spotted in one afternoon (Please note…not all of these are the greatest photos, I don’t have a big enough zoom, so there was a lot of cropping. Plus some were difficult):

Ruddy Turnstone –  (`akekeke)

Yellow Canary

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Survived 11/11/11 and lived to tell about it!

Nov 11

Today was an absolutely insanely busy day. Between getting up at 4:30am (after 4 hours of sleep) to get into town on time for my APEC-related work, rushing up Tantalus to watch the F22s fly over Punchbowl for the Veteran’s Day Ceremony, and then adventuring into the cordoned-off zone of Waikiki for more APEC stuff,

Happy Veteran’s Day! (And 11/11/11)

Nov 10

In honor of Veteran’s Day this year, I am posting the photos of four family veterans (in order): My Grandpa Jack Webb, Grandpa George Ing, Great-Uncle Fred Nagata, and my own veteran, my husband Edward White. Both my grandpas, as well as my great-uncle, are all interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific