Friday, February 29, 2008

Flag Retirement Plaza--From John Kovach

This is from Marine Vet John Kovach, who started a movement in Pittsburgh to counteract the disrespect shown to our flag and our military--thank you, Berkeley.

"Old Glory", even the name should make us all aware of the reverence we should hold for our flag. A symbol that millions of American men and women have defended and died for. A flag recognized all over the world, even by America's enemies. A flag that protects each of us as citizens of a nation that have the greatest freedoms in the world. But yet a flag that has been disrespected and desecrated by those very people who look for her protection in time of strife and let her blanket them and protect them.

For many years I have observed flag retirement ceremonies being conducted in areas where basically a hole or container was used to do the incinerating. I am sure many private places have retirement areas also but felt that there should be an area for the public to be able to reserve and conduct ceremonies for the dignified retirement of United States Flags. In November-December of 2005 I spoke with and met Allegheny County, Pa. Council Member Vince Gastgeb and proposed and idea to him to construct an area in one of our local parks for private citizens, scouting, veteran and civic organizations to be able to use to conduct these ceremonies, to show our flag that we as Americans do respect her, do care about showing her total respect. Council Member Gastgeb was 100% receptive to this idea and took my basic design to the necessary individuals within the county government where it received unanimous approval for its construction.

We then met with Allegheny County, Pa. Director of Parks Andy Baechle and went to look at some potential areas within Allegheny County's "South County Park". It was almost as if fate intervened as the first first site we stopped at hit us all as the ideal spot for this plaza. it is nestled within a serene setting, birds chirping, wooded landscape, all facilities close at hand. Additionally it was within 100 yards of the park Boy Scout building.

An essay contest was held so that all high school students in Allegheny might have a chance to select a name for the site and write an essay as to what our flag mean to them and why they chose this name. The winning essay was written by North Catholic High School Student Natalie Sippel and the site is now known as:

"By The Dawn's Early Light"
United States Flag Retirement Plaza

Construction began shortly after wards and the dedication ceremony was held on June 14, 2006. However the site was not completed in its entirety but we felt it was completed enough to dedicate.

This site was always designed to be a work in progress as we would like to make some improvements to enhance its beauty and give even more reference to it so that people may come to just sit and reflect. To view some of the improvement we would like to make, you can go to This web page was graciously set up by Donn Dade of The Americans Veterans Network.

I have tried to apply for grants for these project but was turned down by one and told by others that it did not fit into their eligibility criteria. It is sad that our flag takes a second place to all else and that she does not fit into any American funding project criteria. It is hoped that people of an individual will see these and wish to donate to insure their completion. The Mosaic wall mural is our top priority and currently students from Allegheny County Community College are doing designs and will then submit them for selection.

I have always followed a philosophy: "The type of American we show our children how to be will be the type of American they in fact grow up to become."

We must show children how to respect our flag and hope in turn they will show their children so that in time she will not be forgotten, degraded or desecrated by any American.

June 14th has been reserved by Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for the annual county United States Flag Retirement Ceremony. The ceremony will be conducted on June 14, 2008 at the site.

If any individual would like to contribute to helping complete these improvements, plans are underway to allow for provisions to do so. Please contact me and I can put you in touch with the appropriate county official. My name and email are
John L. Kovach Jr.,

Please help us respect our flag and maybe this will be the first of other sites designed for people to use, a site that is truly for "We the people..."

Thank you, John Kovach, a great American.

Salute to Military Families...From the CUP OF COMFORT People

Salute to Military Families:
An Opportunity to Share Your Story

It has been said that military life is “not for the faint of heart.” But neither is it without its benefits and blessings. The popular Cup of Comfort book series now seeks powerful and positive stories about how military life affects the personal lives of service men and women, how family affects soldiers on the job, and how military life affects families. The stories in A Cup of Comfort for Military Families will cover a wide range of topics and reveal a variety of perspectives, experiences, and emotions specific to military personnel and/or their loved ones. All branches; all ranks; active and veterans.

Submission deadline: April 1, 2008
Stories must be true, original, uplifting, and 1000-2000 words.
Writers' guidelines:
$500 grand prize / $100 each, all other stories published in book; plus copy of book.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Now that our soldiers are also bloggers, and their contributions to the blogosphere have become legend, I'd like to invite those same soldiers and bloggers to submit poems. Contact me (or leave a comment) and you can be a Guest Poet Warrior on my blog! I'm waiting to hear from you and give your poems a voice,

This applies to loved ones of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard--PFC Jamie A. Goldstein's mother submitted the poem that started it all.

While I'm waiting for your poetry, here's a propitiatory offering of mine:

The Known Soldier

You are invisible
As true courage so often is
But we know your faces.

You are the son
Who puts on boots when the dawn
Opens its eyes,
You think of your mother
And those school mornings when
She told you to tie those laces—
It was snowing then,
It’s a steamy swamp today,
Bivouaced in a country not your own,
You write another letter home.

You are the daughter
Who straps on gear the way
You once tossed on a school backpack,
Your dad watched you walk into school
With parental words, “Do your best.”
“You can do whatever the boys can do.”
He never imagined, and hides his heart
Without success every time you call home,
That one day you’d shoulder freedom
Along with the men.

You are the husband and the wife
Who pairs a wedding ring with dog tags,
Sends words and prayers on missed anniversaries,
Thinks, in briefings and when poised
To enter that mosque, apartment, or hospital,
Of a colonel on your doorstep
Bearing a folded flag and starched face
To your beloved, whose own face
Spurs you on to survival, to honor
Even as you prepare to give your life for duty.

You are the grandson or granddaughter,
Who wishes for those stories of how Grandpa held
For forty-seven days (Grandma says it was forty)
Without sleep and with the grace of God,
All the soldiers in his unit, gone now,
Watch over you, as Grandpa does, proud
That the spark of passion for his country
Lives on in his blood and the breath you’re holding,
Saving like Grandma during the Depression
Until you can hear their voices again.

You are the sister and the brother
Once play-fighting in the backyard,
No Mom and Dad to call a truce this time,
And isn’t that your sister’s favorite sweater
Or your brother’s cherished Rolling Stones albums
You never dared borrow, sent in a care package
Glued by love and packed with faith—
Only in distance across oceans and deserts,
As close as if you still shared a bedroom,
Can you feel the preciousness of this bond.

You are the former student
Of a professor who knows well that the words,
The gentle prod to excellence, are only possible
Because you fight, and sacrifice, and build
Classrooms so that frightened girls, tearing away
Oppression and hate, can learn for the first time—
In-between faculty meetings and lesson plans
Your teacher reads the paper, scanning
With grammar-correcting eyes for your name,
Knowing that in the exam of life, you’ve earned an A.

You are the Known Soldier,
The people you leave behind are monuments
To a life lived fully, unrestrainedly, even with rifle drills,
Daily reports, chain of command—within the orders,
Duties and small moments of soldiering, you find
Your own freedom, shared by example with the frightened,
The poor, the defiant, the tortured, the oppressed.
The people you leave behind are our testament
To an existence too often hidden by your own heroism,
But love can never be truly invisible.

We are your faces, we are your voices
Proclaiming as loudly as your deeds
That you are the Known Soldier,
Loved by all, forgotten by none.