Monday, October 31, 2005

Disproportionate Honor? Parks in the Rotunda...

This afternoon I was reading through the online headlines of a variety of newspapers and news outlets and discovered something that made my eyebrow strike a rather curious angle:

"Rosa Park Lies in State in Capitol Rotunda"

First let me preface that there is no denying that Rosa Parks was a courageous spark-plug visionary for the last 50 years, who's actions, accolades and legend will continue to thrive in America forever. That said, I have to wonder if providing her a showcase like the Rotunda is the appropriate place for her - is it a disproportionate honor?

The sample I'd use at this point is the tale of two, brave men named Gordon and Shughart. Those of you in military circles, as well as those who have a penchant for film might recognize these two names. While they weren't icons of Civil Rights for our country, they are and continue to be icons in the Armed Forces all over the world as heroic, selfless patriots who not only stood up to face hardship and evil, but eventually laid down their lives to save help save fallen comrades at arms.

Gary Gordon and Rusty Shughart were in the elite Sniper Ranger corps assigned to Mogadishu, Somalia, and their company's story is documented in books and film - "Blackhawk Down". After circling above a downed US Blackhawk helicopter, Gordon and Shughart requested three times to be put inserted to help protect the downed crew from an untold number of angry, armed and dangerous townspeople who had already killed a number of downed troops close to their location. Their third request was accepted and though their commanding officer made it clear that no support would be available anytime soon, they accepted the responsibility and were inserted to protect the downed crew. The following is a small synopsis of their sacrifice from SniperCentral.Com:

"On October 3, 1993 members of the elite US Army rangers and SOCOM's Delta Force executed a mission to attempt the capture of Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid. The opposition was much larger and better organized then originally thought and the mission began to take a turn for the worse. In the ensuing battle two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters were shot down. As the second Blackhawk, containing Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant, was hit and crashed, Master Sergeant Gary I. Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall D. Shughart, were in a nearby Blackhawk monitoring radio traffic. Gordon and Shughart were a sniper team for Delta Force and were assigned to over watch the operation, engaging targets from the Blackhawk.

As they monitored the downing of the 2nd Blackhawk it was evident that ground forces would not be available anytime soon to secure the crash site and protect the crew of four, whom all survived the crash.

Gordon, the sniper team leader, requested they be inserted at the 2nd crash site. His request was denied twice before finally being approved on the third request. The initial insertion attempt failed and they had to insert about 100 meters away from the crash site. They were only armed with their sniper rifles and pistols.

Upon reaching the downed Blackhawk, which was under intense fire, Gordon and Shughart pulled the crew from the wreckage and proceeded to setup a defensive parameter. The sniper team began to engage, the attacking Somalis from the opposite side of the wreckage. Shughart was the first one to be mortally wounded at about the same time he ran out of ammo. At the same time, Gordon returned to Durant and calmly asked if there were more weapons (he was out of ammo) and then retrieved some from the down Blackhawk, and began to reengage the attackers. Again, out of ammo, he was only able to retrieve one weapon and five rounds, which he gave to Durant and said "Good Luck". He then drew his pistol and held off the attackers as long as possible, eventually being mortally wounded."

Gordon and Shughart both received the Medal of Honor posthumously for their efforts, have had ships named after them, and even a town, has the moniker honoring these two men who gave all they had to save others. However they, and thousands of other soldiers giving their lives not only to save their compatriots and serve our country, have never had the honor of lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

It has been a place where we showcase those America's top leaders - and so the question arises once again: is it a disproportionate honor?

After seeing the photographcs from today's service, there is one that sticks in my mind. President Bush is standing with the first lady to his right, and to his left, is the young, great-nephew of Ms. Parks, who is looking toward the President as he offers something we'll surely read about in some future headline. This is one of the many things that have made me understand the nature of this tribute to Ms. Parks, but where is it that we draw the line?

Today's event was extraordinarily positive for the Bush presidency, without question. Offering in one of the most noteworthy civil rights icons the audience normally afforded to those who have lead the country mightily. But where does it end?

Oprah made a very valiant speech, extolling the fact that she "wouldn't be where she is today, without Rosa Parks' sample." I have often credited my cartooning ability and style to Berke Breathed. His cartoons have been seen by millions, for years, and he continues to make an impression on young minds with his award-winning stylish series of children's books that will spark the minds for years to come. I doubt seriously,however, that I will ever see Berke, in the Rotunda, with a picture of himself and an altered version of Opus standing with his head lowered in honorarium.

So what do YOU think? Are the political, legendary, and "human" benefits of providing America's highest showcase to Ms. Parks something that will inspire generations, or initiate the watering-down of something incredibly special?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bleeding Red and Blue...

Those of you that think that the middle days of October hold no viable interest in sports are out of your mind.

I have just witnessed what is easily one of the best games of all-time between the hosting Houston Astros & and the win-thirsty St. Louis Cardinals.

To recap in a very small nutshell, both teams fight back and forth through 7 innings, Cardinals leading 2-1.

Bottom of the 7th arrives and features a giant Astros score on a three-run homer, apparently crushing the remaining spirit and chances of the Cardinals to venture back to the soon to be destroyed Busch Stadium in St. Louis for game 6.

The top of the 8th inning goes by much too quickly, with the Cards making neary a peep with their bats. They, along with the assistance of Ace reliver Jason Isinghausen, are able to contain the Astros into the top of the ninth inning. Astros' Ace closer Lidge and his devestating cutter come to the mound in the bottom half of the inning.

With all hopes waining, scrappy David Eckstein gets an even scrappier base hit in between two heart-thumping outs. Jim Edmonds comes to the plate and coaxes a walk from the fireballer Lidge.

Up strides one of the most prolific players in baseball today, Albert Pujols, who has had a very silent series until now.

Tension rises in the stadium as the crowd begins to roar. The microphones of the Major League Baseball announcers begin to squeal as the crowd's cheering reaches it's apex. The pitch to a steely-eyed Pujols...

A long drive, deep to left field, flying horizontally into the joint of the stadium's roof and supporting wall.

A GARGANTUAN 3-Run Home Run, Albert Pujols -- what is probably the longest long-ball I have ever seen in my life.

Cards take the lead, 5-3 in the top of the ninth, and are able to drop the load on the Astros in the bottom of the inning forcing a game six in the friendly confines of St. Louis' Busch Stadium.

Again, for those who call professional baseball "boring" I have a fantastic Tivo entry that you have just been given a prescription for.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Raiders of the Mayan Adventures -- Almost Three Months In...

Not quite 90 days ago I started a new exercise regimine, with the help of a virtual trainer named "Maya" who is the star of a software program called "YourSelf Fitness."

I am very pleased to annonce that with the help of Maya, and some dedication on my part, I am now 23 pounds lighter, and fitting into old clothes and buying smaller new ones, An additional benefit and with all of the goings-on at work, the exercise 5 nites a week has really been a great stress-reliever.

For those that are curious about the program itself, check out the website here and give it a shot. You won't be disappointed.

More details as my program continues and we enter into the holidays.

The Red Days of October...

When will the RedBirds see a pennant? Will it be this month? This year? Will the next 2 weeks be the showcase for the Cardinals Red Day? Your guess is as good as mine, but what I have noticed as the years have gone by is that my insatiable desire to watch good baseball grows as the season goes by, and that trend continues into this season.

While my beloved Cardinal-ass-kickin' Red Sox have been eliminated this year (no doubt because the pummeling of last years' World Series apparently rubbed off), the excitement, the terror and the knuckle-riding days of October continue at a feverish pace and there's no end to the fervor in sight.

"Mike: What does your ridiculous wide-eyed love affair with baseball have to do with the newsletter?" some might ask. The answer is simple.

Everyone has passion for something that they participate in. Whether it be your interest in your wife or girlfriend, for your son or daughter's sporting team, for the arrival of Friday's at the end of each work week - the spectrum is long and never ending. What I'd like to ask each of you to do is to take just two ounces of that passion, and put it toward two things here at EPC.

The first is that you put passion to your job, whatever it may be. From driving a very bold forklift truck, to leading us into business-battle in the upper Exec echelons, show us just a taste of that passion in everything that you do to help customers directly. It is one of Dan's prime directives and should be on the top of everyone's list at EPC as well.

The second ounce's donation is, in my opinion, even more important. Take that second helping of passion and put it toward making sure that you offer your best effort to your fellow employees. While some of you may think that you've been stepped on too many times with/by someone that you work with, one thing always holds true:

You may think that because someone has done you wrong that they don't deserve your attention or hard work. But imagine the surprise and the overall irony and eventual self-satisfaction you'll receive, if what your "most hated enemy" gets - is YOUR BEST EFFORT.

You win, you've offered your best possible effort, and it can never be said that you didn't give your all toward completing a task that, while initially will help "the one that's done you wrong", it will eventually help to solidify a customer relationship with EPC.

I've always held to the fact that you should always be willing to work with anyone, anywhere. You don't have to like the people that you work with, but you do have goals to complete, and skills to offer. So offer them up and keep the standard high.