Preparations for First Lady Michelle Obama at West Point

WEST POINT – First Lady Michelle Obama will speak to more than 1,000 graduating cadets and their families in about three hours here at West Point.

The post is currently in preparation mode. Cadets are milling about in their dress white uniforms and taking photos with their families. Inside the Cadet Mess Hall where Obama will speak, younger cadets were setting the tables and laying a red rose atop the dinner plate of each cadet’s mother.

The First Lady will sit at a round table, adorned with dozens of red roses, at the middle of the mess hall. The guests will eat filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes and triple chocolate cheesecake.

And there’s a little touch of New York, too. All the guests will drink wine from Bully Hill Winery, located in the Finger Lakes region of the state.

Obama is expected to speak about her “Joining Forces” initiative, which seeks to recognize the challenges and contributions of military families. Along with youth nutrition, helping military families has been a top focus for the First Lady as she tours the United States.

Check back with Recordonline.com later tonight for more on Obama’s visit and her remarks to the cadets.

-Adam Bosch

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West Point cadet blogs

cadetblog

We reported today the above story about West Point cadets blogging their summer missions and internships and why it’s a good marketing tool.

I’m sure some of you would like to check out the blogs. (The one about spelunking in a Honduras cave was very entertaining.) So here’s the link.

Check them out at: http://www.armystrongstories.com/soldier-blogs/

-AB

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One cadet’s hilarious video on return to West Point

I stumbled upon this one when I got back to work this morning. Cadet Charles Nadd, whom I believe goes by “Chuck,” made this video on his return to West Point.

Bravo on the production and humor value…

The Run Back from Charles Nadd on Vimeo.

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Cadet Katie Miller on national news and more

Today we wrote a story about Katie Miller in the Times Herald-Record, who has come out of the closet and decided to quit West Point.

We’d have had the first real interview with Katie, except she had quiet plans to appear last night on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC via web cam from her room in the barracks. Here’s the segment in which she appeared:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(For those of you who cannot see the video here, you can find it by clicking this MSNBC link.)

There are a few other things not mentioned in our story or Rachel Maddow’s piece that you all might find interesting:

1) Cadets at West Point have largely been very supportive of Katie’s resignation, she said. Even her Facebook page is cluttered by people wishing her “good luck” and “congratulations.” Even her senior officers, she said, have been very supportive about her decision.

2) Katie told the Times Herald-Record that she does not have a girlfriend – for those who were curious – and she never violated the rules about relationships on post because she wanted to be a good soldier.

3) If “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed, Katie said she would gladly come back to the Army to defend her country.

4) After she’s done at West Point, Katie said she’ll probably pitch in at “Out Serve,” a web forum where gay service members can connect, and Knights Out, the advocacy group made of gay West Point alumni.

-AB

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Cadets beat streets for PTSD

West Point cadets are running the New York City Marathon on Saturday to raise money for the Trauma and Wellness Center at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.

The center treats service members for post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injuries.

The cadets are joining the hospital’s “Warrior Team,” comprised of service members from Army and Marine Corps bases in New York and New Jersey. The team hopes to raise at least $42,500, but had collected less than $20,000 at the start of this week.

To donate, visit www.active.com/donate/stvincents09/warriors09.

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Will a ‘surge’ work in Afghanistan?


While President Obama told lawmakers he would not substantially reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan, he has not yet subscribed to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for an additional 40,000 troops. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and a West Point graduate, asked for the surge in a status report to the president last month. There are currently about 68,000 troops authorized to serve in Afghanistan.

The president met with lawmakers on Tuesday to debate strategies in Afghanistan. According to The New York Times, “The president plans to meet with his national security team on
Wednesday to talk about Pakistan and on Friday to talk about
Afghanistan. Aides plan to schedule one more meeting before he decides
on General McChrystal’s proposal.”

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the Times said, “Mr. Obama sought to put to
rest suspicions of friction with General McChrystal. ‘I’m the one who
hired him,’ Mr. Obama said, according to participants. ‘I put him there
to give me a frank assessment.’”

Do you think the United States should send more troops to Afghanistan? Vote online here.

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Petraeus fighting prostate cancer


Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of American military forces in the Middle East,
has
undergone radiation treatment to fight prostate cancer, according to The New York Times.

Petraeus, 56, is a Hudson Valley native. He grew up in Cornwall-on-Hudson, graduated from Cornwall High School in 1970 and from West Point in 1974. He’ll return to the area Thursday for a street dedication ceremony in his honor and to celebrate his West Point class reunion.

According to the Times, Petraeus was diagnosed in February and underwent two months of treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. A spokesman for Petraeus said the treatment had minimal impact on the general’s work schedule and appeared to be successful.

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Photo of dying Marine stirs debate about war reporting

The Associated Press published a photo this week of a
Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection
to make public an image it believes “conveys the grimness of war and the
sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.”

“AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no
exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of
the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is,” said
Santiago Lyon, the director of photography for AP.

The wounded Marine is Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, 21, of New Portland, Maine. He was struck
by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14 in Helmand
province of southern Afghanistan. The image shows fellow Marines helping Bernard after he was hit. He was evacuated to a field hospital where he died
on the operating table.

The AP released the photos for publication on Thursday. The news network
reported that it met with Bernard’s family and waited until after the
Marine’s burial on Aug. 24 to distribute its story and pictures, accompanied by photgrapher Julie Jacobson’s journal and an article explaining why the photo was used. 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates this week called the AP’s decision “appalling.” In a letter to AP’s president and chief executive officer, Thomas Curley, Gates wrote: “Out of respect for his family’s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of
terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly.
In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated
that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point
to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed – as
was the case with Walter Reed.”

“I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal
Bernard’s death has caused his family. Why your organization would
purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will
lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and
common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken
child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling.
The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but
judgment and common decency.”

Gates’ letter was sent Thursday. A Pentagon spokesman said Gates followed up with a phone call “begging” Curley not to use it. After the photo was published Friday, the Pentagon released its communications with the AP to the public.

John Daniszewski, AP senior
managing edito
r, said he respected Gates’ view but that sometimes the
government and press have different perspectives.

“We thought that the image told a story of sacrifice;
it told a story of bravery,” Daniszewski said. “We felt that the
picture told a story that people needed to see and be aware of.”

How do you feel? Join the conversation here or participate in our reader poll.

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Suicide prevention goes live and online


The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking suicide-prevention live and online, piloting a one-to-one “chat service” for veterans
who’d prefer to seek help over the Internet.

Called “Veterans Chat,” the new service enables veterans, their
families and friends to anonymously chat online with
a trained VA counselor. If a “chatter” is determined to be in a crisis,
the counselor can take immediate steps to transfer the person to the VA
Suicide Prevention hot line, where further counseling,referral
services and crisis intervention measures are provided.

“This online feature is intended to reach out to all veterans who may
or may not be enrolled in the VA health-care system and provide them
with online access to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” said Dr. Gerald
Cross
, VA’s acting under secretary for health. “It is meant to provide
veterans with an anonymous way to access VA’s suicide prevention
service.

Find military resources in the Hudson Valley here.

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Afghanistan: Dig deeper or dig out?


Around the war cooler this week, everyone is talking about Afghanistan. As military leaders piece together their latest status reports, the rest of the world is debating America’s future role in Afghanistan.

Should the United States dig in deeper, with more troops and time, or dig out, retooling its exit strategy? Take the Record’s online poll.

Here ‘s a sampling of what public officials, pundits, journalists and Joe Public are saying about Afghanistan:

* Washington Post columnist George F. Will says “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan.”

* Political analyst William Kristol counters with “No Will, No Way.”

* The U.S. Army’s blog asks, “Is Afghanstan a war worth fighting?”

* The UK Telegraph compares U.S. force to “a bull charging a matador (the Taliban.)”

* The Afghan News Net is posting a poll: Do you think the U.S. troops’ surge will have a positive effect in Afghanistan?

* The New York Times discusses Gen. Stanely McChrystal’s new status report. McChrystal, a member of West Point’s class of 1976, took over command of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June.

* Wall Street Journal columnists Michael O’Hanlon and Bruce Riedel talk about “What’s Right with Afghanistan.”

* What’s the White House saying? Not much, since this, in March: The President’s New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and this, in May: Remarks after the trilateral meeting with President Karzai of Afghanitsan and President Zardari of Pakistan.

What have you been reading? Add your links here:

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    Adam Bosch

    I've been a life-long resident of the Hudson Valley, and a staff reporter at the Times Herald-Record since early 2007. I cover the environment and military affairs at the newspaper, and these blogs are a good way to expand our conversation about ... Read Full
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