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ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 7, 2021 at 12:10 am

From January to early March, 2020, President Donald Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear from COVID-19.

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Donald Trump

Barnstorming the country in a series of hate-filled political rallies, Trump told his supporters:

  • “We have it totally under control.”
  • “This is [the Democrats’] new hoax.”
  • “It will go away. Just stay calm.”

On February 27, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

On March 26, Birx reassured Americans in a press conference that “there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion [that ventilators or ICU hospital beds might be in limited supply].”

A day earlier, The New York Times had run the headline: “Amid Desperate Need for Ventilators, Calls Grow for Federal Intervention.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, took a different tack. The coronavirus could become cyclical; a vaccine was still many months away; and therapeutic treatments—which Trump had pushed as a “game changer”—were still unproven.

Deborah Birx in April 2020 face detail, from- White House Coronavirus Update Briefing (49742678236) (cropped).jpg

Deborah Birx

Trump insisted that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This created ruthless competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. But it ensured that Trump remained the final voice of authority. 

Birx did not publicly urge the Federal Government—i.e., Trump—to create a streamlined approach to providing these necessities. Nor did she protest Trump’s refusal to do so. 

On March 27, The New York Times reported: “Dr. Birx’s comments casting doubt on talk of ventilator and hospital-bed shortages, and praising Mr. Trump’s attention to detail in lavish terms, have raised questions about her independence as the number of coronavirus infections in the United States has soared past 100,000….

“Conservative commentators have praised her as a truth-teller, pushing back on coronavirus hysteria. Critics of Mr. Trump accused her of squandering the credibility she had developed as a health official in Democratic and Republican administrations.” 

In April, she asserted that COVID-19 infections had peaked and the virus was fading quickly. In fact, infections quickly surged. 

Birx helped create a reopening plan—presented by Trump on April 16, 2020—with voluntary standards for states to end coronavirus lockdowns.

On April 23, Trump, in a public press conference, recommended the use of ultraviolet light and disinfectant as possible cures for COVID-19.

Birx remained silent. 

The Internet—and medical experts—did not.

Trump’s critics—including many medical experts—believed that, by her silence, Birx forfeited her opportunity to confront the cascade of lies and crackpot theories Trump was promoting.

One of these was California’s Democratic Representative Ted Lieu: “The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers. And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”

Political commentator Joe Scarborough said: “…And it’s been one scam idea after another, that people then promoted on other networks, scam doctors promoting these scam solutions, claiming that everybody who had taken this malaria drug had been cured in certain hospitals. This is just the sort of thing that catches up to Donald Trump.”

In July 2020, a working group convened by Birx ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and send all COVID-19 patient information to a database at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The continuing flood of alarming Coronavirus information was undermining Trump’s “everything-is-OK” assurances. Some public health officials warned that bypassing the CDC would allow Trump to politicize the findings and withhold them from the public.

In November, Birx stated in an internal report: “There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces.”

But she did not say this in public.

Trump had politicized the wearing of masks, dividing the country into his supporters, who didn’t wear masks, and “Never Trumpers” who did. He also called for the “liberation” of states that had ordered lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

Birx never publicly criticized Trump for creating this divisiveness. 

During Thanksgiving, Birx hosted three generations of her family from two households—after she had urged Americans to restrict such gatherings to “your immediate household.”

After her term ended on January 20, 2021, Birx said that she had often considered quitting her position due to the administration’s hyper-partisanship, especially during the 2020 Presidential election.

Perhaps the most damning verdict on Deborah Birx came from Birx herself.

On March 29, 2021, speaking with Sanjay Gupta, MD, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, she said: “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from the original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” 

By mid-March, 2021, nearly 550,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 6, 2021 at 12:07 am

Born on March 19, 1905 and trained as an architect, Albert Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931. He met Adolf Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

Hitler was thoroughly impressed.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings for the Third Reich, meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1937, Hitler appointed Speer as General Building Inspector for Berlin. This made him responsible for the Central Department for Resettlement that evicted Jewish tenants from their homes in Berlin. The vast majority of these men, women and children ended up in extermination camps.

Adolf Hitler

Speer had nothing to do with their imprisonment; that was strictly the province of SS-Reichsuhrer Heinirich Himmler. Nevertheless, he knew the end results of his evictions. 

On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II.

In 1943, Hitler appointed Speer Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

As Hitler’s architect, Speer had stayed aloof from the political intrigues of such power-driven men as Himmler, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

But as Minister of Armaments, Speer thrust himself into the currents of intrigue surrounding the Fuhrer. It was this role that earned him 20 years in Spandau Prison for war crimes.

Albert Speer

 Albert Speer

With millions of able-bodied German men drafted for his endless wars, Hitler turned to slave laborers to keep his arms factories going.

“Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation,” charged chief United States prosecutor Robert H. Jackson during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Speer’s attorney, Hans Flächsner, presented Speer as an artist thrust into political life who had always remained apolitical. 

Both at Nuremberg and for the rest of his life, Speer claimed that he was unaware of Nazi extermination plans. But in a letter dated December 23, 1971, Speer wrote: “There is no doubt—I was present as Himmler announced on October 6, 1943, that all Jews would be killed.”

If Speer’s extensive involvement in the Holocaust had been known at the time of his trial he would have been sentenced to death. Twelve of his fellow defendants were so sentenced—and died by hanging. 

Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, principally for the use of slave labor and forced labor. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, and was released from Spandau Prison on October 1, 1966. 

He spent the rest of his life portraying himself as “the good Nazi” who, as an apolitical technocrat, deeply regretted having failed to discover the monstrous crimes of the Third Reich. Out of this came his bestselling autobiography, Inside the Third Reich, published in 1969. 

He died of a heart attack on September 1, 1981—42 years to the day his Fuhrer had plunged the world into war.

British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper considered Speer an administrative genius whose basic instincts were peaceful and constructive. Nevertheless, he assailed Speer for failing to recognize the immorality of the Hitler regime—and called him “the real criminal of Nazi Germany.” 

Specifically:

“For ten years he sat at the very centre of political power; his keen intelligence diagnosed the nature and observed the mutations of Nazi government and policy; he saw and despised the personalities around him; he heard their outrageous orders and understood their fantastic ambitions; but he did nothing.

“Supposing politics to be irrelevant, he turned aside and built roads and bridges and factories, while the logical consequences of government by madmen emerged. Ultimately, when their emergence involved the ruin of all his work, Speer accepted the consequences and acted. Then it was too late; Germany had been destroyed.” 

Germans are not, however, the only ones to clinch a deal with the Devil.

Eighty-seven years after Albert Speer began his rise to power—and infamy—Deborah Birx, an American physician and diplomat, reached her own height of power—and infamy. 

Born on April 4, 1956, Deborah Birx served from 1980 to 1994 as an active duty reserve officer in the United States Army. From 1994 to 2008, Birx was on active duty regular Army, achieving the rank of Colonel.

From 1980 to 1989, Birx worked as a physician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 1981, she completed a one-year internship and did a two-year residency in internal medicine. From 1983 to 1986, she completed two fellowships in clinical immunology in the areas of allergies and diagnostics.

From 1985 to 1989, Birx was the assistant chief of the Walter Reed Allergy/Immunology Service. Birx started her career as a clinician in immunology, eventually specializing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. 

She served as the United States global AIDS coordinator for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump (2014-2020). She also served as the country’s special representative for global health diplomacy between 2015 and 2021.

On February 27, 2020, she was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, quickly spread around the world. 

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, they can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On February 29, 2020, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

DONALD TRUMP: “TROOPS FOR SALE–TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2020 at 12:05 am

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private—and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country. 

Now President Donald Trump is carrying the employment of mercenaries to an entirely different level.

A January 11 headline in Rolling Stone sums it up thus: “Trump Brags About Serving Up American Troops to Saudi Arabia for Nothing More Than Cash.” 

On January 10, Trump, interviewed by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, bragged about his positive relationship with Saudi Arabia—and how the Saudi royal family is paying to use American troops:

“Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]. We have a very good relationship with Saudi Arabia. I said, ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you, but you’ve got to pay us.’

“They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.

“We are going to help them, but these rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million… I said, ‘You gotta help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting you from North Korea. You’ve gotta pay.’”

Republicans have been silent on Trump’s plan to turn American soldiers into foreign-paid mercenaries. But at least one former Republican has dared to speak out.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Michigan) recently tweeted: “He sells troops.”

In October, 2019, on “Meet the Press,” Amash accused Trump of breaking his campaign promise to bring troops home.

“There are people who support the president, who believe things he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s not bringing home the troops. He’s just moving them to other parts of the Middle East.” 

But there are dangers to relying on mercenaries. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents code-named “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

More ancient sources have also warned against the use of mercenaries. One of these was Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

MERCENARIES: “PATRIOTISM” FOR PROFIT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2018 at 12:07 am

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 17 years—with no end in sight. 

Between 2001 and 2017, America spent an estimated $714 billion on this conflict.

Now Blackwater founder Erik Prince claims he can attain a victory that has eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

His proposed solution: His private army of mercenaries—and $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies. 

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it would safeguard Paul Bremer, the proconsul running the American occupation in Iraq. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

As a result of its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

Now, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince is pressing Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich themselves.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he has claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are those who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

MOVING A BUREAUCRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 23, 2015 at 10:33 am

On Friday, September 23, 2005, my phone rang at 5 a.m. The caller was James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist.  He had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

Now he informed me that my request for military honors for my late father was being processed.

But he warned me that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.

Later that morning I got a call from the National Personnel Records Center.

A woman named Connie asked me to type up and submit, via fax, a twice-signed statement declaring that, under penalty of perjury, the information I had provided about my father’s military service was true and correct.

Upon receipt of this, she would fax to the funeral home a copy of my father’s service number and Separation Document.

Shortly after faxing this off, I got a call from Ursula, another employee of the National Personnel Records Center.

She said that the above-mentioned items had been faxed to the Richard Pierce Funeral Service Chapel in Napa. All that I now had to do was arrange for the Chapel to make the arrangements with the military.

I called the Chapel around noon and was told that the documents had arrived, but that all of the home’s funeral directors were comforting grieving families.  I said I would call back later.

When I did, at about 1:45 p.m., I was told that the home’s director had been informed. Messages had been left with several military institutions, requesting an honor guard.

The question was: Would they call back in time?

So I called several numbers at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, finally reaching a chaplain at the Chaplain’s office.

Related image

Travis Air Force Base

He promised to do what he could for me.  He warned me that it might not be possible to assemble an honor guard on such short notice.

The reason: This was hurricane season, and many soldiers had been deployed to the Gulf Coast area to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

His parting words were an expression of sorrow for my loss, and “God bless you.”

Next, I spoke with Jacob Bergholtz, a senior airman at Travis Air Force Base.  He promised to make some calls on my behalf.

He also gave me the number to the Army Honor Guard and I put in a call.

Finally, in late afternoon, I got a call from Tina Patterson, with the Army at Fort Lewis in Washington State, and she assured me that “it’s a go.”

The military has a proud tradition of honoring its dead. Those who have died in combat are held in a special reverence. But even those who have died in peacetime still command respect for having served their country.

It was that tradition that, above all else, I had counted on to make this possible.

I was so caught off-guard by the unexpected good news that at the end I thanked “Miss Lewis” for all her help, then corrected myself and thanked her again.

At about 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, September 25, 2005, the front door to the funeral home opened and in walked three men wearing green military uniforms.

One was a bugler, who held the rank of sergeant.  The second was a sergeant, who would take part in the actual flag-folding.  And the third was a sergeant-major, who wuld preside over the ceremony.  A fourth sergeant was scheduled to arrive, and he soon did.

At 2 p.m., the memorial service began.

When the tributes ended to my father ended, the funeral director introduced the honor guard.  The buglar remained in the back of the chapel, as the other three strode to the front.

The bugler launched into “Taps” and gave it a melancholy feel, letting each note linger.

When the last notes died away, the sergeant-major ordered the two other sergeants to unfold the tri-cornered American flag that had been placed on a stand at the front of the chapel even before the ceremony had started.

Related image

A flag-folding ceremony

They did so, and then slowly re-folded it, in a process that took longer than I had imagined.

The flag folding ceremony now over, the sergeant-major accepted the flag, walked to my sister, Erica, leaned forward slightly, and presented it to her “on behalf of a grateful Nation and the Army” in recognition of the service of her father, Technical Sergeant Gerald A. White, for services to his country.

Erica accepted the flag, and I–sitting on her right side–saw her show emotion as she did so.

At 2:45 p.m., the four sergeants then strode out of the chapel, and the memorial service was over.

MOVING A BUREAUCRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Self-Help on September 22, 2015 at 11:53 am

It’s widely assumed that bureaucracies are so cumbersome they simply cannot be managed–by their own members or by anyone else.

But this isn’t always true.

The key ingredients to obtaining what you need from a bureaucracy–whether a public or private one–are:

  • Patience;
  • Perseverence;
  • Professionalism; and
  • A wilingness to go to the top of the organization’s hierarchy.

On September 21, 2005, I learned that my father, Gerald White, had died at 83, less than a month short of his 84th birthday.

He had been an artist, photographer and art director, including work for Playboy in the 1950s and the Mondavi Winery in the 1980s and 90s.

During World War 11 he had been posted in the Pacific Theater, serving in Burma, China and India.  He had held the rank of technical sergeant and worked as an official U.S. Army photographer.

On Wednesday, September 21, my sister, Erica, called me to say that Jerry had died of natural causes in a nursing home at 1:57 a.m.

She was driving up on Saturday to pack up his belongings and to preside over a memorial service for him in Napa. I told her that, as a veteran (1942-1945) he was entitled to a military funeral, or at least an honor guard.

Related image

World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I expected Erica to object–she tended to do that reflexively when I made a suggestion.  To my surprise, she didn’t, and she and I set out separately to explore the process of obtaining proof of his military service in time to qualify him for an honor guard.

But here we faced two problems:

  1. Neither of us had his Army serial number; and
  2. Neither of us had a copy of his Document of Separation, which all those leaving military service receive.  This lists all their ranks, postings and honors received.

Complicating matters still further: He had died on a Wednesday–and the memorial service was to be held that coming Sunday. That gave us only two days–Thursday and Friday–to try to arrange such honors.

Erica soon found the process a waste of time.  Calling the Veterans Administration (VA) she was told that there wouldn’t be time enough to get the paperwork approved.

I reached a different conclusion–after repeatedly getting only recorded messages when calling the VA. Even the office of my Congressman failed to get any closer to success than I had.

I decided that it might still be doable–but not through conventional channels. The next day, I would fall back on what has always been classic Standard Operating Procedure for me.

Tomorrow I wouldn’t waste any more time on going through regular channels.  Instead, I would create my own, starting at the very top–the White House.

The White House

I called the White House at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, September 22. I was quickly put through to the Military Office, which referred me to the office of the Army Chief of Staff.

This, in turn, referred me to the Human Resources Casualty Assistance Department. But this got me nowhere–I was urged to call the VA office in Napa and ask them to deal directly with the funeral home.

This would ensure that the required documents reached the mortuary within the next 12 days!

Reflexively, I found myself quoting a favorite line of my father’s: “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”  The woman on the other end of the line wasn’t thrilled, but that was the least of my concerns.

Next, I called the U.S.National Personnel Records Center, where records are held for all current and former members of the armed services.

National Personnel Records Center

An official there was so empathetic that I took heart.  Only later did I blast myself for having failed to ask for her name or extension, so I could reach her again.  As the day wore on, I assumed this would prove a lost cause.

In the evening–Washington, D.C., time, that is–I again called the White House Military Office. A Marine gunnery sergeant said that someone was trying to process a records request, but he didn’t say specifically that it was my case being worked on.

He gave me the name of James McCoy, a White House liaison specialist, and I tried to reach him before 5 p.m. closing time at the White House.

Unfortunately, my call wasn’t returned, and, once again, I assumed the effort was almost certain to end in failure.

On Friday, September 23, my phone rang at 5 a.m. with word from the White House Military Office that my request was being processed.

The caller was McCoy, who had gotten my message last night but had refrained from calling me until he had something to report.

But there was a possible catch: I was warned that the records needed to secure an honor guard might not be available at the U.S. Military Records Center in St. Louis.

A 1973 fire had destroyed many of these records, and if my father’s was among them, it would take too long to “rebuild” a new one for him to get an honor guard within three days.

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