Friday, April 24, 2015
Pete Wheeler, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service passed away Tuesday, April 21 at the age of 93. Commissioner Wheeler was an iconic veteran leader in Georgia who served in his capacity for 66 years. Let me repeat, 66 years!
There are people in your life that made a difference and sometimes you don’t even know whom that person is or what he did for you. If you are a veteran or ever had a veteran in your family, Commissioner Wheeler is one of those persons. I don’t expect a lot of you to have even heard of Commissioner Wheeler in spite of his longevity in public service. That’s because he was not a publicity seeker or a glory-hound. He went about his work, serving veterans and that was his focus. That was his world. And that is why he was so highly respected and yes, revered.
That is also the reason he survived in State Government for 66 years! Commissioner level positions serve at the pleasure of the Governor and Commissioners have to be appointed or re-appointed when the Governor’s term begins. It is customary for a Governor to appoint “their own” commissioner to head each department. Commissioner Wheeler served under 12 Governors! That in itself is a testament to his level of commitment to veterans and his non-partisan, political genius. When asked who his favorite Governor was, he always responded, “The one that was in office at the time.”
He was one of the most unassuming, frugal, and “old fashioned” southern gentleman you would ever meet. Here was a man at the top of the food chain in State Government, yet for twelve years when I worked in downtown Atlanta, I ran into him every day on the MARTA transit system commuting to work just like any other worker. No matter the weather. On very cold days, he would be wearing his over-coat and a Russian-styled Ushanka hat. He always offered his seat to a lady even if she didn’t need it as much as he did.
Perhaps you know Commissioner Wheeler from your involvement with veteran service organizations. Perhaps you attended one of the annual GDVS Supermarkets of Veterans Benefits. Maybe one of his county GDVS offices has helped you file a claim with the Veterans Administration. Possibly a GDVS Claims Counselor represented you before the Board of Veterans Appeals. Someone from his office may have assisted you with veterans training and education matters. Maybe a relative was a resident of the Georgia War Home, or buried in the Georgia Veterans Cemetery in Milledgeville or Glennville. That was Pete Wheeler in the periphery of your life.
On the national level, perhaps you have visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. Commissioner Wheeler was appointed chairman of the Advisory Board by President Bill Clinton in 1994, and at it’s dedication in 2004, I remember how proud I was to see him on CNN sitting with then-President George Bush (yes, even I can be non-partisan at times.)
Commissioner Wheeler was a World War II veteran of the United States Army and then joined the Georgia National Guard in 1950 and retired in 1978 as Brigadier General. He was a graduate of the University of Georgia and admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1949.
On a personal note, it’s unlikely, but if anyone should ever write the biography of George and Marilyn Langford, Commissioner Wheeler would be mentioned throughout most chapters. You see, Commissioner Wheeler recognized something in George and set about to train him in the veterans business when George was a greenhorn Vietnam veteran. That was Commissioner Wheeler’s forte. His employees were almost all handpicked, dedicated to the service of veterans, and fiercely loyal to their boss, as he was to them.
There will never be another Pete Wheeler, at least not in my lifetime.
Friday, April 17, 2015
As soon as I submit my column for the upcoming edition, I immediately ask myself, “What ya gonna write about next week?” It’s a process that involves many random thoughts that are eventually cast aside in favor of my most pressing irritant of the week. However, this week, I have decided to share some of those thoughts that darted through my head.
I haven’t heard of a single sighting of Hillary using the bathroom at a roadside rest area or some danky gas station. She just completed a thousand mile trip traveling from New York to Iowa. Therefore, I concluded that Hillary’s Scooby van must have a toilet in it. That is a big campaign blunder. If the goal is to humanize Hillary, what better way than to have a lady speaking into a microphone, “Yes, I heard her tinkling just like we do.”
Speaking of sightings, I have yet to hear of even a glimpse of our new County Commissioner, Jarod Lovett, visiting in High Falls. Actually, he took office in January so the “new” title is wearing off. Mr. Commissioner, you are missing out on the most beautiful part of the county. We call it “magical” because things disappear…into big ole potholes that our County Commissioner is responsible for fixing.
The High Falls Dollar General was robbed by two shotgun toting, mask wearing idiots last week. (By the way, they were not local to High Falls). Evidently their entrance was well rehearsed but they didn’t put much thought into their get-away. I was surprised that this robbery did not result in a shoot-out between patrons and the robbers. It’s commonplace to see males swaggering into Dollar General with a weapon on their hip. I asked an employee if armed customers were un-nerving. She said, “Sort-of.” Then I asked, “How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?” She said, “Just gut instinct, I guess.” I think it’s abhorrent that these hard-working, poorly paid employees have to feel unease and fear when they are only trying to eke out a living. Thank you Governor Deal, Georgia Legislature, and the NRA for the Guns Everywhere Law.
The high cost of entertainment is really bugging me. In today’s economy, there are fewer and fewer affordable entertainment opportunities. For George and I, going to a movie is like budgeting for a vacation in the ole days. Two tickets, popcorn, drinks, and that’s about $40. Throw in a dinner after the movie. That adds up to nearly a Benjamin. If you start saving now, you may be able to take your family to the opening of the new Star Wars movie on Christmas Day.
In the meantime, I have found a way to drastically lower your entertainment budget. Attend the Monroe County Commissioner’s Meeting! This newspaper makes the meetings sound so fun and entertaining, we should all go there for our “date nights.” It’s absolutely FREE! I must warn you, though, it is rated PG-language.
What in the world is going on in the City of Forsyth? I don’t have a dog in this fight but it boggles my mind that you elected a Mayor and City Council. You pay them to be your government. They in turn, asked the Georgia General Assembly to relieve them of all their power and duties in favor of one person, a city manager, to make all the decisions. I am obviously not privy to any insider info regarding this action, but as an outsider, it seems very bizarre. Be happy you have a city and if your elected officials don’t want to perform, replace them with some who do. Here in High Falls, we would settle for a Monroe County zip code.
Now that I’ve managed to tick off so many people, I will leave you with this one final thought. April showers, bring May flowers. Or it used to before climate change.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Now we know the answer to the most important and burning question haunting this country for several years! No, silly, it’s not whether there is actual global warming. It’s whether Hillary will run for President!
The fact she officially announced was not surprising. Her method in doing so was unprecedented. Past presidential candidates came out roaring like lions and announcements were big stage dramas designed to capture the most media attention. Hillary’s announcement was via social media designed to deliberately low-key her announcement, or at least appear that way. Nothing Hillary ever does can be low-key. That’s why I feel sorry for her. She’s obviously an incurable glutton for punishment.
She is the most vilified, investigated public figure/politician in history. Everything about her is scrutinized. From the way she wears her hair, to what pantsuit she wears, her cankles and other bodily features, and most of all, down to a complete dissection of every word she utters. Is there any wonder she appears guarded, stoic, and distrustful of the media? Sadly, she “ain’t seen notin yet!”
This is just the beginning and I’m already suffering fatigue from all the hashing and re-hashing of “Hillary-Gates.” America would be a nation of drunks if we took a drink every time we heard the words “Benghazi” in the same sentence as Hillary Clinton, especially if you watch Fox News.
I don’t pretend to know how the 2016 presidential election will turn out. Since Barack Obama was elected, I don’t trust my skill as a political prognosticator. Even though I was a big supporter, I was certain America would not elect a black man President. Turns out, I knew Georgia better than I knew the rest of the country. Now I have nagging doubts that America will elect a woman President. I have never bought into the theory that a woman will vote for a woman just for women’s sake, but Hillary isn’t just any woman. She is the only candidate that offers hope for our country.
Think about it. It’s inevitable that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee unless she is caught making out with the Pope. We have no way of knowing who the Republican nominee will be, but we know it will be someone bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and someone ideologically acceptable to the right-wing Tea Party.
Hillary is the only hope for the poor. All assistance for the less fortunate will be abolished. She is the only hope for the middle-class. The national tax debt will destroy the middle-class due to more tax cuts to the rich and business. Health insurance will become extinct for all but the rich. She is the only hope for the health of our planet. Don’t think for one moment that the Koch Brothers will allow lessening of our dependency on petroleum products. Already three red states have a policy against state employees discussing climate change, global warming, or sustainability. She is the only hope for the education of our children in this country. Unlike her Republican right-wing opponents, she will not destroy public education, as we know it, for the voucher system or religiously, segregated charter schools. As for the elderly, don’t be so sure Medicare won’t be privatized.
I could list a hundred more reasons we need to elect Hillary Clinton as President in 2016, but the number one crucial reason is this: It is projected that the next President will have the opportunity to appoint as many as four Supreme Court Justices. Do you want all the progress we have made in the last century over-turned? Do you want laws made and upheld that promote hate and bigotry? Do you want laws that only protect the wealthiest of the wealthy and the biggest of the big businesses? Do you want a country of extremes instead of one that is more tolerant?
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, then don’t be afraid to voice your support for Hillary. If Hillary is tough enough to withstand what she’s going to face then so are you!
Friday, April 3, 2015
Thank you Indiana Legislature and Governor Mike Pence! Indiana beat Georgia to the punch and saved our state from a death blow by passing the highly controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This is the same legislation that I’ve been telling you that was introduced in the Georgia legislature.
As soon as Indiana Governor Pence signed it into law last week, a firestorm erupted from some of the biggest employers in Indiana. These included huge Fortune 500 companies; you know, the big money people. It didn’t take long to bring the Governor to his knees and “fix” it with new language to make it acceptable to the business community.
This new language now guarantees protection to anyone in the LGBT community. This was the last thing these lawmakers intended to do. Gays should feel compelled to move to Indiana now because it is a safe-haven. I have not stopped laughing yet.
I know, you know, and they know that this Bill was designed to discriminate against gay people. In doing so, it would open up a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences like providing a defense for child abuse or domestic violence. A telltale sign was that no one would, or could explain why this law was not discriminatory and why we even needed it. Governor Pence was on Face the Nation and he was so pathetic, I even started feeling sorry for him. (Not really). The Republican script used by all was “I don’t know why people think it’s discriminatory. It’s the same Bill signed by Bill Clinton in 1993.” It is NOT and we should not let them snooker us. The Bill signed by President Clinton was a Federal Statute having only to do with the Federal Government restricting religious freedom. It had nothing to do with individuals or businesses. Nice try guys!
Back here at home in Georgia, the Legislature could have passed this Bill weeks ago. We’ll never know, but my theory is they saved this Bill as the grand finale of the 2015 session. The passage of this Bill just before the bell of adjournment would have been the defining law of the legislature and Senator Josh McKoon, (R-Columbus) would have been a right-wing hero.
However, thanks to what happened in Indiana over the weekend and the humiliation Governor Pence experienced, there is no way Governor Deal would walk that road. So, Georgia dodged a bullet. For now, but something tells me it’s not over. This Bill stays alive until next year. It has already passed the Senate and is in the House Committee. It stays just where it was when the session adjourned. It could possibly be the first Bill up for a vote in the 2016 session.
So what did we learn from all this? I hope we learned that if you’re going to preach it, you need to practice it…..love. If you’re caught up in the anti-gay hatred, GET OVER IT! You are going to be on the wrong side of history, just as so many people were about slavery. And just so you’re prepared, any time now one of your children, grand-children, or someone else you love will come out of the closet. Will you open the door with love or slam it shut out of hatred?