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Tag Archive | "Afghanistan"

Peace begins at home


by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

 

 

In December of 2001, the Jews of Afghanistan celebrated their first Hanukah free of the Taliban in almost a decade. It was a small celebration, for there were only two Jews left in the entire country; and each one celebrated alone.

At separate ends of a rundown synagogue in Kabul, Ishak Levin and Zebulon Simantov lit their candles and said their prayers. Both had survived Soviet occupation, Taliban atrocities, and the American-led invasion. Both prayed for the same things to the same God, and yet they could not share the same space.

Neither of the men could accurately remember what started their feud, but it had deepened and endured. Levin said, “For thousands of years our forefathers have celebrated these nights, and now Jews all over the world are celebrating.” And then speaking of his antagonist he said, “But with him, it’s not possible.”

A decade later Levin was dead, leaving Simantov alone. He is the only known Jew left in the country, living in a single room, alienated from his neighbors, estranged from his wife and daughters, cursing former friends, and demanding money or whiskey from reporters who come to interview him. He is a bitter, old man.

Zebulon Simantov may be alone in his dilapidated Kabul synagogue, but he is not alone in his animosities, even as the celebrations of Hanukah and Christmas are upon us. Untold thousands are at war with those around them, be it the army across the border, or their neighbors across the street. These holidays of shalom and peace aren’t enough to break this hold of ill will.

Yet, it will not always be this way. I believe the day will come when such hostilities will be put to rest, when the world will be at peace. Now, “you might say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” for this is the assurance of the Jewish prophets, the very hope of Advent, and the promise of all perennial faith traditions: There will be “peace on earth and goodwill toward all.”

Yet, I cannot simply wait for that promised peace to magically arrive. No, I have to practice peace, not allowing this world’s massive levels of toxicity to embitter or isolate me from others. I have to become “an instrument of peace,” as Francis of Assisi prayed, learning to overcome evil with good, beginning, at the place I call home.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

 

Posted in Keeping the FaithComments (0)

Hometown Hero


N-HH-Taber

L.Cpl. Mark Taber Jr

L.Cpl. Mark Taber Jr., of Cedar Springs, is currently deployed with the 3/7 Weapons Company in Afghanistan.

A resident of Cedar Springs since the age of two, Mark is a homeschool graduate, and completed the law enforcement program at the Kent County Technical Center. He also enjoyed his time at Cedar Springs Public Schools while enrolled there. But it was hard to beat the experience of helping the Algoma Christian Knights basketball team to an undefeated season while enrolled there. When possible, Mark enjoys volleyball at Sparta Baptist Church and plays on the Algoma Baptist Church softball team, as well as playing guitar on ABC’s “Jam Nights.”

But as a U.S. Marine, his life is currently consumed with the defense of his country. After going through Boot Camp in San Diego, California, he went on to graduate from the School of Infantry in San Diego and Camp Pendleton, California. He then took Arabic language classes (Pashto) at San Diego State University for use on duty in Afghanistan.

Mark is qualified as a 240 Gunner, and the vehicle mounted full auto 40 MM grenade launcher, and is currently positioned as the .50 Cal. Gunner in the turret of a MATV (the HUMV’s big brother).

Mark has been given the privilege of being his platoon’s prayer leader both in California and Afghanistan.

Mark is the son of Linda Taber and Mark Taber Sr.

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A Year of Focused Commitment


_V-LevinBy Sen. Carl Levin

When I announced last March that I would not seek reelection in 2014, I said that I wanted to spend my time working on a number of serious challenges that Michigan and the nation face, rather than on reelection. As we begin the new year, I want to update you on the tests we faced in 2013 and where I believe we can move forward in the year ahead.

Among the tasks I mentioned in my announcement was my responsibility as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to monitor and advance the end of our combat commitment to Afghanistan and to help the services, our troops and their families recover from the strains of more than a decade at war.

In two trips to Afghanistan over the last year, I have seen rapid and positive changes that are transforming security and daily life for the people of Afghanistan. Challenges remain, but our troops and our nation should feel a sense of accomplishment about what we have done there for our national security and for the people of Afghanistan.

In Syria, where severe repression has sparked a revolt against the dictator Bashar Assad, the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces against civilians shocked the world. With a strong U.S. push, international pressure pushed Assad into an unprecedented agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons capability. That agreement is an advance for the security of the region and the world.

Pressure on another outlier country—Iran—has for the first time in decades provided at least some hope of progress. Late in the year, the United States and our allies reached an interim agreement that freezes Iran’s nuclear program and could set the stage for a final agreement that ends the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Like most Americans, I am skeptical of Iran’s leaders, but I believe this interim step should be given a chance to succeed.

As our involvement in Afghanistan recedes, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to give greater attention to tired military families and help the services rebuild military readiness that has been strained by war. But that opportunity will slip away if we do not address the continuing threat of budget sequestration.

Sequestration is the across-the-board, automatic spending cuts that slashed major funding from important domestic and national security programs in 2013. These cuts have closed Head Start classrooms; ended research programs to fight life-threatening diseases; and forced our military to ground fighter jets and cancel important training exercises. The budget agreement we reached at the end of 2013 reduces sequestration’s impact somewhat for the next two years and offers a bit of hope for an end to the cycle of crisis that has plagued Congress. But it does not touch sequestration for the following six years.

In the longer term, there is only one solution to the sequestration problem: We should replace these meat-ax cuts with a balanced deficit reduction plan. Any such plan must include additional revenue. I have introduced two bills that would close unjustified tax loopholes identified by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair. These loopholes are the source of massive tax avoidance by highly profitable multinational corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of middle-income families. I will continue searching for common ground with colleagues of both parties to work for a balanced replacement for sequestration.

We’ve made significant progress in recent years in building on Michigan’s manufacturing and technological excellence to enhance our state’s competitiveness and improve opportunities for Michigan workers. The growing strength of our auto industry as it emerges from its restructuring is just one result of these efforts. Michigan is an increasingly important hub for development of green-energy technologies in vehicles and other fields. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a groundbreaking nuclear research facility being established at Michigan State University, reached important milestones. I’ll keep working in the year ahead to strengthen our foundation of economic competitiveness.

The last year was a difficult one for our state’s largest city, Detroit. I and other members of the Michigan delegation have worked to do all we could to make sure that the city has access to all available federal resources to assist in its recovery, and I’ll continue to look for ways to help.

There is no question this year will be a challenging one. My final year in the Senate will be one of focused commitment to the job I was sent here to do.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.

 

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Chinook pilot and crew heads to Afghanistan


CW3 Timothy Alan Miller’s family celebrated an early Christmas last week before his deployment to Afghanistan.
Miller was the Chinook helicopter pilot that flew in to Sjinner Field to celebrate Veteran’s Day here in Cedar Springs. He can be seen in the photo below frolicking with his sons, while wearing the Red Flannels his family received as a gift. The second photo shows him and his son before his departure.
Miller’s unit’s six Chinook helicopters left early last week for Texas to receive training before heading to Afghanistan.
Thanks to Wayne and June Price for passing along the photos.


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Operation Christmas


Cedar View teacher Mrs. Poll’s son, First Sergeant Mike Poll, is serving in the 236th transportation unit in Afghanistan.  He helps lead over 160 troops.  Many of these soldiers will not be home for Christmas.
Mrs. Underwood, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Poll’s classes decided to help these soldiers during the holidays and send some holiday cheer. They called this project Operation Christmas. First Sergeant Mike Poll mentioned the soldiers would appreciate goodies of any kind.
Ten boxes of cookies, gum, crackers, jerky, stickers, and other goodies were sent to these soldiers. The ten boxes totaled over 90 pounds.
Mrs. Underwood, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Poll’s classes also incorporated writing skills as each class wrote letters and Christmas cards to the soldiers.

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Main Street


Roger on Main StreetDeficit reduction
“A nickel bag, please.” You won’t hear this at your corner drugstore anytime soon, but it would help the budget deficit. Prohibition of booze was repealed because almost everybody was drinking it anyway, and there was an excise tax on alcohol. We could make use of a similar tax on legally sold “recreational drugs.” Marijuana is almost legal already. If it’s sold in state stores and taxed, we’d have the money to treat those who abuse. Better yet, we’d end the crime created by the demand.
Afghanistan forever?
When is it time to withdraw, once and for all? The Obama administration is having an internal debate on that issue right now, trying to decide. A new poll by the Pew Research Center found that most Americans believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the main expense driving the federal budget deficit. That is only partly true, but all of us should remember the cost includes human lives.
Afghanistan is already one of our longest wars. We want the Afghans to establish a democracy that functions. It would be a huge change and it may not work out. Egypt is another example of recent government change, but the Egyptians did it without America’s intervention. Maybe, or maybe not, Egypt will end up with a government that’s good for its people. Since it doesn’t seem to matter whether the U.S. gets involved or not, maybe we should let all countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq, play it out their own way.
Perfect choice
A girl visited a computer matchmaking service. “I’m looking for a suitable spouse. Can you help me?”
“What exactly are you looking for?”
“Well, let me see. Needs to be good-looking, polite, humorous, sporty, knowledgeable, and good at singing and dancing. Willing to be with me all day at home during my leisure time. Able to tell interesting stories but stays silent when I want to rest.”
The matchmaker entered the information into the computer and, in a matter of moments, handed the results to the woman.
The directive: “Buy a television.”
Bad luck
It was Palm Sunday. The family’s 6-year-old son had to stay home because of strep throat. When the rest of them returned from church carrying palm branches, the boy asked what they were for.
His mother explained, “People held them over Jesus’ head as he walked by.”
“Wouldn’t you know it,” the boy fumed. “The one Sunday I don’t go to church, and Jesus shows up!”
Bad business
A wealthy investor walks into a bank and says to the bank manager, “I’d like to speak with Mr. Reginald Jones, who I understand is a tried and trusted employee of yours.”
The manager says, “Yes, he certainly was trusted. And he will be tried as soon as we catch him.”

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