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Friday, November 8, 2013


On this Friday before Veterans' Day, the timing was propitious for a visit to Arlington Memorial Cemetery.  To make a long story short, it all began when the North "stole" the home site of Southern General Robert E. Lee, whose wife's (she was the step granddaughter of George Washington, or something like that)  family owned the land.  Arlington is the second largest of the 130 national cemeteries (Calverton on Long Island is #1),  with 400,000 interred.  As theoretically (there are various restrictions) any "clean" veteran and his family can be buried here, Arlington has added a special set of priorities for consideration.  However, construction is soon to be completed for 50,000 columbariums, where restraints will be eased.

The popular sites are:
  • Kennedy Family Grave:  John (with perpetual flame), Robert and Ted, with an acknowledgement of Joe's presence.  Jacqueline and their two children (John Jr. and Patrick, who only lived for two days) are also here.
  • The story of actor Audie Murphy is remarkable.  With only a 5th grade education, he quit school to pick cotton, then later lied about his age and snuck into the Army for World War II, all of 5' 5.5" and 112 pounds, but won more medals than almost anyone else, including the Medal of Honor.  He had a 21 year acting career and died at the age of 45 in a plane crash, after which he was buried at Arlington.  His gravestone at Arlington has collected $29,000 over the years, even though there is a sign that discourages this.  He was known to have been generous with his money:

  • Tomb of the Unknowns (latest correct name), which is guarded by Marines (the ideal guard is 6 feet tall with a 30 inch waist, although there are now females in the mix--and they serve for two years).  The Changing of the Guard Ceremony is well-attended:

The Fall colors were resplendent (the top photo is from the Kennedy Family site):

The U. S. Army manages Arlington.  We drove by the Iwo Jima Memorial, where in 1945 Marines raised the flag on Mount Suribachi:

Then off to Annapolis, less than an hour (33 miles) away by bus, the capital of Maryland and home of the Naval Academy:

Getting into the academy was painful...worse than at an airport.  At the entrance was this bronzed animal:

The Navy mascot is a goat, Billy.  However, this certainly looks like a ram, which is a sheep.  Goats have sharp pointy horns.  I asked the tour guide, and she insisted the above was a goat.  Now I'm confused.  

The Naval Academy was built on an Army post in 1845 and occupies only 340 acres (West Point and the Air Force Academy have more than 5 times that area).  Their football coach is Ken Niumatalolo of Hawaii.  Each year Annapolis (yes, it's also the city) welcomes 1200-1300 (22% of women) freshmen, called Plebes, an abbreviation of the Roman plebian.  As there are around 4500 midshipmen (students with lowest navy rank for an officer), that gives you an idea as to how many drop out.  They get nominated by congressional members and the White House, although the children of Medal of Honor awardees automatically are considered.  Almost everything is free, plus, they get a salary of around $1000/month, which goes to uniforms, books, etc., but they only see a small portion for spending...the difference is banked.  They graduate with a technological B.S., and become ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. 

The campus actually recognized the existence of the Hawaii football team, twice:

This sign is at the base of a famous statue of Tecumseh.  It's a long story, but what started as a recovered wooden figurehead from a sunken ship, has over time become bronze and is painted before football games.  Navy plays Hawaii tomorrow.

It's not officially official yet, but I yesterday reported that the strongest ocean storm ever in recorded history slammed into the Philippines:

Typhoon Haiyan has dropped in intensity "only" to 125 MPH, but all reports point to 195 MPH at landfall.  For certain 100 were killed in one city, but the casualties will mount and the devastation will be horrific.  Haiyan now heads for Vietnam and will make contact on Sunday just south of Danang (China Beach).