The shameful VA scandal

Many of our veterans have paid an enormous price in fighting for our freedoms. Those brave men and women who survive their tour of duty often have to deal with physical and emotional trauma that will last a lifetime. The number of dead is often mentioned when discussing war casualties, however, the number of injured with those physical and emotional problems paints a larger picture of the high cost of war. You would figure that the least we could do for those, who make such a huge sacrifice for our country, is to give them the best possible medical care available. That is why the revelations of many problems with the VA hospitals is so shameful and a serious black eye to our country. Our veterans do not deserve to be treated like that.

Several veterans have been forced to be on a waiting list for months before they receive any type of treatment. It does not take to rocket scientist to realize that this is way to long, especially considering the magnitude of some of the veterans problems. Sadly, a few of our service people have committed suicide because they could not get the proper care in time. Others have developed serious complications from their injuries and a few have died, all because they were forced to wait for months before they could get the proper treatment. Maybe this scandal might just be a blessing in disguise to expose government run facilities across the country and the amount of bureaucracy and non-accountability that plagues many of these places.

Imagine if these scandals happened at a major hospital or health care provider? Heads would roll and many pink slips would be handed out; but being this is a government run program, everything gets swept under the rug in an effort to protect the workers and help them achieve their bonuses. That is just not right and fair!! Our hard earned tax money goes to help fund these places and to pay the staff and as a tax payer, I demand some accountability from the people who run these places. A full fledged investigation into this scandal is a MUST!! Any politician, Republican or Democrat should demand it!!

There are those out there want more VA facilities to be built across the country so the waiting list problem will go away, at least that is what they think will happen. That is totally ridiculous in my view. Sure, lets just throw more tax money at an inefficient government program. I highly doubt that would solve anything. It would just create more government bureaucracies and red tape for our veterans. A better idea is to figure out a plan to get veterans access to the many private hospitals across our country. A private hospital or provider is far more efficient than some government run center.

Our veterans who need attention deserve far more than having to wait months and deal with all that government red tape. This scandal is just another of a long list of inefficient government agencies who cannot do the job anywhere close to what a private agency can do. I shutter to think that this might be a coming example of what Obamacare might look like. And sadly, I might be right. It is time to properly help our service men and women the right way. It is the very least any politician can do to help our real heroes.

Remembering our true heroes

The word hero gets used rather loosely in our society today. We tend to think that some athlete who makes a game winner shot or play is a hero. Those individuals are put on a pedestal and receive endless hours of recognition in the media. Other examples or these so-called heroes are famous movie stars and singers. People tend to worship the ground that these people walk on and claim they are their heroes. I don’t see anything wrong with admiring people for their work, but when you start labeling someone a hero for achieving a feat for just playing a game, then the word gets stretched too far. In my view, a true hero is someone who gives up his or her life to benefit society and other people. As we celebrate Memorial Day on Monday in this country, let’s remember who the real heroes are and be thankful for their bravery and ultimate sacrifice.  

Throughout the course of history, thousands of men and women have lost their lives in conflicts that we have been involved in around the globe. Most recently, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In many of these wars, the soldiers who lost their lives were not forced to join the military. The military in our country is strictly volunteer. Nobody forces anyone to join. The people who sign up do so out of a sense of pride and patriotism for this country. They fully know the risks and dangers that go with joining. At any moment, they may be called for deployment overseas in a harsh war zone. Many of these soldiers are young men and women in their late teens to late 20’s. Some are married with young children. It always breaks my heart when I hear about some young soldier who loses his or her life in action. I have been hearing a lot of these stories in the past 10 years with our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly every week, a story breaks out about another soldier’s life lost. So many are very young with their whole lives ahead of them. In an instant, it is all snuffed out and they leave behind grieving friends and family members. These brave soldiers who lose their lives in action deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. The fact that they died while trying to defend our country makes them MY TRUE HEROES!!

If it wasn’t for these brave soldiers who risk their lives to protect our freedoms, our country would be totally different. We would probably be under some type of dictatorship and be forced to live under a strict set of rules regarding the way we live. There are many people in this world who absolutely hate American and would love nothing better to take over our country and turn it into some radical country where nobody has any rights. Women are treated like second class citizens, men are forced to join the military and the government dictates everything that we do or say. Imagine living in country like that? I am just grateful that we have still have people in this country who are willing to risk their lives to protect our freedoms so we can enjoy the type of lifestyles that many of us live.

Many of us this long weekend will be enjoying the unofficial kickoff to the summer season with barbeques, picnics, fun at the lake or ocean and family gatherings. I know I certainly will!! Sadly, a majority of us will never think about what this weekend is really about. I challenge everyone to take a few minutes and have a moment of silence to think about those brave people who gave their lives for our liberties and freedoms. Their selfless acts are the reason why this country is still the greatest in the world to live in. They are my true heroes.  

The real war on women

Every once in a while, I turn on the news and hear somebody talk about this so-called “war on women” here in the United States. Democrats and many liberal politicians love to ram home the idea that women are not being treated well and with equality. If you are against abortion, then you are thought of as someone who is against women’s rights. Or you might be against having to pay more for your health insurance because some elected official wants birth control pills to be mandated in health insurance coverage. Once again, you are deemed to be against the women’s rights. Political figures do this just to pick up much-needed votes in their runs for office. They like to tug away at half the voting population with emotional issues in order to elected. “If you vote for my opponent, he or she will set back women 100 years” is a phrase that I often hear in campaign speeches. But the truth about all of this talk is that women are treated far better in this country than nearly every country in the world.

If you are a female, how would you like to live in the Sudan or some Islamic country right now? Imagine having to live under Sharia law? You basically have very little or no rights at all. You are thought of as a second class citizen and often treated that way. The recent capture of those 300 school girls has really brought Sharia law into light. Those girls were not supposed to be going to school. No! They were supposed to be at home doing chores. That is just a small example of what Sharia law can bring about. Another example is the very strict dress code. Women must cover up most of their skin when out in public or face prosecution. They are rules for whom they can hang out with in public as well. And forget about any type of religious freedom or tolerance. If you are a Christian, like many of those school girls are, you must convert to Islam or face death. The few injustices that women might face in this country pale in comparison to how women in those countries are treated.

I find it amazing the amount of apathy by liberal groups in this country over that type of treatment. Many of those same people who spend countless hours and time fighting for women’s rights in this country are very quiet when the topic of Sharia Law is brought up. Where is the outrage? Perhaps these groups do not want to offend Muslims so they keep quiet. The truth is. everyone should be totally outraged over what is going on in some of those countries. It doesn’t matter what political side you are on. Basic human rights are being denied. Nobody deserves to be treated like those poor women.

We are very fortunate to be living in a country where women do have many rights and are generally treated fairly. Imagine if this country ever got to the point where Sharia Law became the law of the land? Don’t laugh, it could happen some day. I think people just assume the people we elect are going to keep our freedoms but that could change. I already see a decline in freedom of speech and religion in this country. If we are not careful, more freedoms will be taken away that affect us all, not just women. In my view, the real war on women is being conducted by those radical Islamic groups, not by the Republican party!

The prayer in public meetings debate

There has been a lot of discussion and debate during the past week of a Supreme Court’s decision to allow prayer before a council meeting in Greece, New York. A couple of women in the town had sued in an effort to prevent prayers from taking place before meetings. It has been a long tradition for many city councils across this country to conduct prayers before meetings. All of a sudden, this right of doing so is under attack by some who feel the need to eliminate any mention of the word God or any practice of religion from our society. Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the town, but this issue is far from being settled for good.

This country was founded and formed on Christian values. Christianity is, by a large majority, the most practiced religion in this country and has been for many years. There are many people of the Christian faith who depend upon prayer for guiding them in crucial decisions and discussions on public policy. It is totally unthinkable to that in this great country, that right to express your religious freedom is suddenly an issue. A few years ago, these groups and people tried to take away prayer in schools, now they are after any type of public prayer. There is no doubt in my mind that they will not be happy until all acts of faith in any public setting are totally eliminated and against the law. Watch out people, the anti-faith police are on the move and wanting to take away one of the most basic freedoms there is in this country!

How exactly are those people who are suing the city being hurt? While it is a great thing in this country to be able to express your faith (or it used to be!), it is also great thing that you have a right NOT to participate in a religious act of faith. Nobody is going to put a gun to your head and force you to prayer with them. You have the right to not participate and even walk out if you chose. This is not some rogue nation where you are forced to perform prayer of you will be thrown in jail or even killed. Nobody is trying to force their type of religion on you unless you chose to let them.

The right to praying in any setting should be respected in this country from everyone, even those who are not people of faith. Praying before meetings has been a long standing tradition in this nation and this tradition should not be tampered with just because a few select people have a problem with it. If a person is affected so deeply by hearing a prayer in a public place that they spend all sorts of time and energy to have it stopped, then they seem to have a much deeper agenda than stopping prayers before a public meeting. They are out to attack our religious freedoms and that is just not right! They need to be stopped and kudos to the Supreme Court for their ruling the Greece, New York case.

Words of wisdom from my mother

This Sunday will be a special day for mothers all across this country as we celebrate Mother’s Day. For many of us, our mothers might be the most influential person in our lives. Where would we be without them? Chances are that for every outstanding citizen in our society, there is an outstanding mother who helped raise that person. I personally credit my own mother for so many positive things about myself. Early on in my life, she taught me the importance of having good manners and being respectful to others. If I got out of line, she would discipline me and send me off to my room for a time out. I certainly needed a lot of timeouts when I was a young child!! Besides teaching me those things, my mom was very good at giving me some words of wisdom and those words of advice have never been forgotten. One bit of advice still lingers with me many years later.

Sometime during my late teenage years, I was having a bad day and started complaining about my life to mom. You know, the small little things that teenagers like to complain about. I cannot remember specifically what I was complaining about, but my mom eventually heard enough and started lecturing me about being thankful. Yes being thankful! “Mark, you have so many things to be thankful for in your life, you have a great family who loves you, many good friends who are very supportive, a nice house to live in, etc”. She listed off about 20 things about myself that I should be thankful for. My attitude after that lecture turned 180 degrees. I thought to myself, yes, I do have plenty to be thankful for. Why am I complaining and moaning about such petty things?

About 4 years ago, I faced a serious 4 month crisis in my life that fully tested me emotionally, physically and spiritually. All along the way, my mom’s words of encouragement and support helped me out through some of the darkest days ever in my life. I felt extremely down about my situation, but my mom’s positive words really helped me to face and conquer this crisis. She constantly harped on me to remain positive and to be thankful for each small step of recovery. Today I look back and can never thank my mom enough for her support during those tough times in 2010.

It is almost like we are born to feel negative about ourselves and our personal situations. We tend to dwell on those petty little issues that come up. Maybe things did not go well at work today for you and you are feeling depressed and stressed out. Well, just be thankful that you have a job!! Perhaps you are not happy about a certain personal medical condition that was just discovered by your doctor. In many cases, people get all bent out of shape over a diagnosis that is really not all that serious. Just be thankful that you do not have some serious medical condition that puts you in the hospital for months.

About a month ago, I was rather disappointed in myself after playing basketball. Nothing seemed to go well according to my standards. I was a little down on myself, then it dawned on me. Just 4 years ago, I was dreaming about just stepping on the court to play again. I should be very thankful for just getting a chance to play ball again. I always think about my mom’s positive messages for just about everything. I try to dwell on what is RIGHT in my life and it has really made me a happier person. But most of all, I am very grateful and thankful to have her as my mother. Someday, my mom will pass away but her words about thankfulness and staying positive will never be forgotten by me.

The unforgettable 2014 NBA and NHL playoffs

A few years ago. someone asked me why I enjoy watching sports on television so much. It took me all of about 2 seconds to give her the answer. There are very few things on television that match the drama, excitement and entertainment of a huge playoff game. Sure there are good mystery shows on, but you can usually predict what will happen. Not so with sports; the past few weeks only reinforce why I love to watch sports. The last few weeks of NBA and NHL playoff action have been off the charts with high drama and excitement. I cannot recall a better playoff season with several close, nail-biting games in both leagues.

The NBA’s first round playoff matchups are normally about as exciting and predictable as watching grass grow. Every once in a while, you will see a random upset, but for the most part, the better teams usually do not have much difficulty in wrapping up the series. That is not the case this year. The number one seeds in both conferences, Indiana and San Antonio, have been stretched to a 7th game in their best of seven game series. Indiana was on the verge of being eliminated the other night before they staged a nice rally to force a game 7. I cannot recall both number one seeds ever being stretched to a game 7. Many of the other playoff games have been close, hard-fought battles with several going into overtime. Last night’s Portland, Houston game had a finish that will be talked about for years. Today is a historic day for the NBA as three game 7 deciding games will take place. That has never ever happened in one day. Tomorrow, 2 more game 7’s will take place. I know the NBA brass must be licking their chops at main headquarters. Having that many game 7’s in the opening round is unbelievable!

The NHL playoffs have not been lacking in their share of thrilling moments and finishes as well. Our hometown team here in St. Paul, the Minnesota Wild just got playing a spectacular and thrilling 7 game series against Colorado. The final game, which was won by the Wild in overtime, was one of the best hockey games that I have ever seen. Other games and series have produced memorable moments as well with several overtime games. Who can forget the L.A. Kings dramatic comeback in their series against San Jose? The NHL always has great drama in their playoffs and that is why this casual fan enjoys their playoffs almost as much as the NBA’s.

Besides all the spine tingling games, one of things that I have enjoyed seeing, especially in the NBA playoffs is the amount of parity that seems to be developing in both leagues. The gap between the lower seeded and higher seeded teams is a lot less this year than in previous years thus so many series stretched to the limit. I think parity is a great thing both leagues. The unpredictability of a series makes it so much more enjoyable to watch. I don’t see any of the remaining playoff teams to be locks to make it to the finals and that is a good thing. Personally, I would rather see different teams make it to the finals rather than seeing the same old teams always playing for the championship. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Toronto Raptors make it to the NBA finals?

Despite all this talk about parity and having new teams play for the championship, I expect and predict that we will see a repeat of last year’s championship series in both leagues, with the Miami Heat winning the NBA for the 3rd year in a row and Chicago Blackhawks repeating as the NHL champions. But in the meantime, grab some popcorn and a cold beverage because there are certain to be many more breath-taking moments to come in these unforgettable playoffs. I don’t know if I can take any more excitement!!