Thanks, Veterans!

Thanks, Veterans!, originally uploaded by wind_dancer.

This is my annual Veterans Day post, with but a slight modification, as my son-in-law has returned safely from Iraq.

In 1967, the Summer of Love was over. Viet Nam protests were barely beginning, and I found myself in unusual circumstances in an unusual time, and so I joined the USWACs.

The Army was segregated in those days — not by race, but by sex. All WAC training was held at Ft. McClellan, AL and so the Army flew me out to begin my training. It was in Alabama, in 1967 that I first observed racial segregation. I saw “whites-only” bathrooms and water faucets. They were NOT just a “left-over” relic from an earlier and sad time. They were a commentary on how far we still had to come, and have come. Racial segregation, at least not overt, was minimal in California. It was still rampant in Alabama when I was there.

In 1968 I was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ at the Combat Surveillance School/Training Center Headquarters. (Spook School) I was on my way home to California when an automobile accident almost took my life, and did take my leg.

I ended up at the Veteran’s Hospital in West LA, associated with UCLA medical center. The medical care there was the best available. What wasn’t the best, was how they treated women veterans. We were a rarity, and the VA was not set up to deal with us.

There were no changing rooms for physical therapy for women vets, and I was the only one in the program. They had me use a broom closet. I was in therapy with a few WWII vets, but mostly with Viet Nam vets, youngsters like me, who had been blown up in the war – had lost one or both legs, one or both arms, or some combination of amputations. It was a difficult time, but that was 40 years ago.

Today, my son-in-law just returned from Iraq, serving along side many women. He came home whole, physically, thank goodness. The WAC no longer exists. Women train and work with men. Such a different Army than the one I joined.

Today, we honor our veterans, from all wars, across time and oceans and death. Today, I’d like to pay tribute to all veterans, but especially to my son-in-law, Michael Cannon, recently back from Iraq, and my step-father, Bruce Mises, a veteran, who died one year ago Sunday at the age of 93.

Bruce was an incredible man. He was a Jew. He escaped Auschwitz (actually from a train as they were transferring him) and was smuggled out through Hungary to the United States. He lost his entire family to the Nazis. When he got to the United States, he joined the Army and they sent him to Africa to be an interpreter. He did not like to talk about his experiences during WWII. They were not pleasant. He just did what he had to do, and then gave back to his “adopted” country.

It is veterans like the two of them, and all the others I have had the pleasure of knowing, through service, and Veteran’s Hospitals, and Clinics that I salute today. I am one of you, and as long as I live, I will not forget. Welcome home, soldiers. You are safe, now.

Pacific Valley School Wins Golden Bell Award

A tiny one-school district with 25 students proves that passion for education and compassion for all living things is an award winning combination.

Set in Big Sur, where the spectacular Pacific coastline meets majestic redwoods, Pacific Valley School wins top honors from the California School Boards Association for its “Ambassadors for the Arts and Environment Program.” For its innovative student-led entry in the Association’s annual Golden Bell Awards Program, the District receives the first annual California School Boards Association “Going Green!” scholarship.

“Ambassadors for the Arts and Environment” is recognized for its dedication to building student-led, environmentally friendly curricula and community outreach. The program was submitted in the Sustainable, Renewable, Energy and Resource Efficient Programs category of the Golden Bell Awards, a long-standing statewide recognition program that identifies and celebrates excellent public education programs across all areas of instruction and leadership.


Designed to accelerate student learning about eco-friendly concepts through peer-based instruction, “Ambassadors for the Arts and Environment” encourages students in the Pacific Valley School to explore environmental concepts through art and cross-curricular community service outreach projects. Students in the program reach out to the numerous underserved communities in the surrounding area to help build environmental awareness among the region’s youth.

The goal of “Ambassadors for the Arts and Environment” is “…to expand and transfer awareness of the potential value of environmental stewardship, identify ways to harness these phenomena through the arts and multiple curricula… and underscore the lessons with a community service component to spread the wealth of these powerful learning experiences to students in the surrounding rural and underserved districts.”

Recipient of the 2005 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, the program includes a variety of lessons. Two examples are outlined below.

Full Circle
Teams of students are trained in and pass on to others special art techniques and key environmental stewardship-related concepts, such as creating beautiful handmade paper recycled from classroom waste paper, painted in watercolor and embedded with seeds to address the concept of a completely-sustainable resources loop. Through this concept, the recycled art can be planted in the ground, allowing the seeds to grow back into trees from which paper originates.

Power Up
With support from a PG&E “Bright Ideas” grant, the school’s Gifted and Talented Program receives hands-on, project-based learning by tapping renewable, non-depletive energy from the sun. They build model solar-powered cars and even hold a “Solar Car-O-Rama” with model car shows and drag races.

“One Who Teaches Learns”
The “Ambassadors” invite neighboring districts and deliver student-led programs and activities to all students, including those with special needs. Their winning application describes how a child with severe autism appeared unable to participate in the project, retreated to a corner, crying, but was ultimately engaged and, with a paintbrush in hand and smile on his face, designed brilliant colors on a piece of freshly recycled handmade paper. The students pride themselves on developing ways to express and communicate their discoveries to others through the arts and their own personal peer teaching styles.

Congratulations, Pacific Valley School, teachers, and students. You are indeed the Gem of the South Coast!

Coming Up …

Friday, the 13th, the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council Meeting from 10 am until 2 pm at the Big Sur Lodge. This is the main portion of the agenda:


1. Big Sur USFS Management Unit Legislation Representative Farr
2. Coast Highway Management Plan and Sup. Dave Potter
Byway Organization Update
3. Update on Big Sur Fire Safe Grant and CWPP Frank Pinney


Also remember Sunday is the Big Sur Half-Marathon. Cal-Trans has issued a press release stating in part:


MONTEREY COUNTY – Two southbound off-ramps will close due to the 7th Annual Big Sur Half Marathon to be run along Highway 1 on Sunday, Nov. 15 starting at 7am.

The southbound off-ramps at Del Monte and Casa Verde will be closed in Monterey on Highway 1 from 4:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. Motorists are encouraged to use the following on-ramps as alternates: southbound Fremont, southbound Soledad and northbound Aguajito. No delays are anticipated.

Editor’s Comment: This race starts in historic downtown Monterey, proceeds through Cannery Row, then along the ocean’s edge in Pacific Grove. Impact on Highway is minimal, and impact on Big Sur is non-existent.