Friday, August 19, 2005

Best and Brightest! "He Died Well"

IRAQ: Family of 12 grieves in a costly month for U.S. war efforts by Mark Bergin

Alcides Bloem stepped to the podium at First Evangelical Presbyterian Church in this Seattle suburb on Aug. 15 and choked through words his family hoped never to hear. "I'm going to miss him," Mr. Bloem, 20, said of his twin brother Nick, one of 14 Marines killed in a roadside bomb attack just south of Haditha, Iraq. Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem died instantly Aug. 3, the day after his 20th birthday.

In what has proved a costly month in the continuing struggle to root out Iraqi terrorists, the Bloems are among many families to have paid the ultimate price. August is on pace to rank in the top five months for U.S. deaths since the war began in March 2003. Rather than offer comfort or strength, such numbers only quicken the anguish.

Nevertheless, as friends and family stood to eulogize this fallen Marine, a theme of hope emanated through tears. "He died well," said Eric Irwin, the Bloems' longtime pastor before their move from the Northwest to Belgrade, Mont., three years ago. "He died as a sacrifice. He died with courage. He died with integrity."

Nick Bloem's eight sisters, twin brother and parents Al and Debbie filled the front row of a near-full auditorium built to hold a thousand people. A brass band opened the memorial service with hymns. Famed gospel singer BeBe Winans closed with a song written in tribute to his recently deceased brother. In planning the funeral, friends of the Bloems had merely hoped to attain sheet music for Mr. Winans' song, "Safe from Harm." The artist was moved to come perform it himself. The audience wept.

In anti-war bastions across the country, Nick Bloem's death fueled entirely different sentiments. With the number of U.S. troops lost in Iraq closing in on 2,000, bitter denunciations of U.S. foreign policy steadily increase. Spurred by the deaths of 10 Ohio Marines in the same attack that killed Mr. Bloem, the Northeast Ohio Antiwar Coalition is demanding the immediate return of deployed troops and has stepped up efforts to block military recruitment.

The work of similar organizations combined with negative press likely contributed to the Army recently falling 11 percent short of its fiscal year recruiting goals. The National Guard and Army Reserve have also lagged behind. But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines have all met or surpassed their targeted numbers.

No amount of anti-recruiting rhetoric could have kept Mr. Bloem from fulfilling his lifelong dream. Upon graduation from high school in 2003, he immediately enlisted as a Marine, harboring visions of moving up the ranks to become a commissioned officer or even Corps Commandant.

Like many of his fellow troops, Mr. Bloem defied media stereotypes of backwoods bumpkins with few choices in life but military service (see next page). Friends described him as bright, passionate, and fearless - the only one to leap from 50-foot cliffs on a family camping trip to central Washington. Having fallen in love last December, Mr. Bloem eagerly awaited the conclusion of his seven-month term in Iraq-just a few weeks away when he died.

In the shade of a gazebo at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash., a handful of Marines carefully folded the American flag that had draped over Mr. Bloem's coffin and presented it to the family. From a green hill nearby, the cracks of a 21-gun salute echoed off surrounding fir trees. The mournful notes of "Taps" followed.

In the midst of great suffering, Al Bloem has found comfort in the meaning of his son's death. "There is a price that must be paid to do the things that need to be done to ensure peace in our time," he told WORLD. "You think about things like Gettysburg, Lexington, and the list goes on in history, Nick's a part of that now." For a father confident in his son's faith, Nick Bloem is part of much more as well: "Throughout this pain that we're going through, one thing has been foremost in our minds: The sun rises in Christ."

Click here to view the source. Marine Corp Family HonorS Fallen Son


Monday, August 15, 2005

Wow a Heat wave in Alaska?

Friday, August 12, 2005

A strong weather system brought record temperatures to the Interior on Wednesday and will keep things hot for several days.

Ted Fathauer, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks, said the heat wave is due to a "fabulously strong high-pressure dome" aided by a cloudless sky. The high-pressure ridge responsible for the warm weather is of record proportions, according to the weather service, and it is expected to remain in place into the middle of next week.

Fathauer said the temperatures are unusual for this time of year.

"This is for real," Fathauer said. "It's not a meteorological practical joke."

The record high of 83 recorded Wednesday at Fairbanks International Airport was tied for highest temperature of the year with a day in June. Fathauer expected Thursday or today to be the warmest day of the year, until a smoky haze descended upon the area, keeping Thursday afternoon temperatures just under 80 degrees.

A dense smoke advisory was issued when the smoke from fires to the southwest drifted into the area.

Eielson Air Force Base recorded a temperature of 88 on Wednesday, breaking the 1990 record of 83. Several remote automatic stations reported temperatures into the 90s, with the highest reading of 92 at McKinley River southwest of Fairbanks.

Fathauer said garden plants should enjoy the temperatures, provided they are kept watered. He said mosquitoes are also enjoying the weather and should be propagating accordingly. But the warmth is too much for some.

"I talked with some visitors from a cruise ship and they said it was too hot," Fathauer said. "I told them I feel their pain.''

Tanana Valley State Fair attendees seemed to be taking the heat in stride, general manager Lloyd Huskey said. He said there have not been any reported heat-related illness. Last year, three people had to be transported to the hospital from the fair for heatstroke. He said this year, many people are bringing in plenty of water and most of the concessions are also selling bottled water.

"It's warm but people seem to have taken very good notice," he said.

Superintendents and barn managers at the fairgrounds are taking a variety of measures to keep livestock comfortable during the heat wave.

At the Poultry Pavilion, the new "Cluck Hut" Quonset, poultry superintendent Cheryle Pfeffer had three different size wading pools set out for the ducks and geese. Inside, helpers were keeping the sawdust and gravel wetted down and ice was added to the water containers in each pen.

When it gets really warm, the poultry are misted with mister fans and their pens dampened.

"Next year, if it's hot, we're going to put iced water bottles in the pens," Pfeffer said.

At the Delta Barn, coordinator Kathy Bue said a large interior duct fan helps, but isn't cooling the barn adequately, despite the addition of a number of window fans strung overhead. The barn houses poultry, pigs, goats and calves.

"It's really tough on the animals," Bue said. "We're keeping them inside and not exercising them. We are misting them with water and making sure they have adequate water all day long."

Julie Hendrickson, who has a ram housed in the Delta Barn, cools him off by soaking him down to the skin at an outside hose.

She said her husband, a sheet-metal worker, has been looking over the barn and will volunteer to help install some wall fans at each end of the barn if someone will donate them.

There has been some horse stall switching the past few days as temperatures remain high.

"Some kids have been scratching if their animal is stressed from the heat," said Martha Kopplin, a superintendent for the 4-H Fair Horse Show.

After riding in the competitive events, riders take their steeds to the wash rack and hose them down. Others, Kopplin said, are exercising their horses during the late evening to keep them from standing too long in their stalls.

At the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Alaska State Cup taking place at the Fairbanks Youth Soccer Association fields this week, players aren't letting the heat affect their game.

"After the games, we're mostly in our rooms with the air conditioner on," said Jaymiee Jackson with the Anchorage Arsenal under-14 team. She and teammates Karly Meyer, Madeline Blake and Aurora Henriquez said a June trip to a Florida soccer tournament hardened them against the heat--that and the three bottles of water they are required to drink before and during games.

But the spectators didn't have the luxury of the shade tents the teams use on the sidelines. Karen Richards was watching her son 13-year-old son, Luke, with the AYSC Reds from Anchorage and said the kids seemed to be handling the heat better than most of the crowd.

"He's as wound up as ever," she said. "But I'm not sure how long I'm going to last."

Click here to see the source Heat wave