“Remembering the Diplomats on Memorial Day,” a piece I wrote last year. This is dedicated to the Foreign Service officers we lost in the past year – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and Anne Smedinghoff. This year, please remember the diplomats and all civilians who serve their country on the front lines of freedom.
Every year on Memorial Day, American flags are flown to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died or were wounded in the line of duty. Their service is noble, and I appreciate that our country publicly acknowledges their sacrifices.
Scant attention, however, is paid to the civilians who serve courageously in the line of fire. Diplomats and other civilians who work for the U.S. government are often placed in dangerous and unstable locales around the world. They have participated in every war and conflict since the Revolutionary War alongside their military colleagues. In some cases, the civilians stayed behind after the troops withdrew, as happened last year in Iraq. They were also stationed in places without the benefit of U.S. military support when unrest occurred, as happened in Libya, Syria, and in other countries that experienced upheaval during the Arab Spring.
Hundreds of American diplomats have died in the line of duty. Their deaths were caused by natural disasters, diseases, killings, assassinations, and trying to save others’ lives. Two memorial plaques in the entrance hall of the State Department list the names of the 231 diplomats who have died in the line of duty since William Palfrey was lost at sea in 1780. More recently, Brian Adkins was killed in his home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2007, and David Foy was killed in 2006 by a car bomb in Karachi, Pakistan. This figure does not include the 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days during the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis when students and militants overran the then-U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The International News offers a sobering analysis of the history of violence against American diplomats, reporting that 111 have been killed or assassinated since 1780. According to the State Department, more ambassadors than U.S. generals or admirals have been killed since World War II. The U.S. Diplomacy Project tells the tales of diplomats who were put in harm’s way while serving overseas.
While 231 may not sound like a large number, consider that at any given time there are only about 11,000 American diplomats versus the more than 2.5 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces. A rough comparison of casualties during the Iraq War in 2008 revealed that personnel working for the State Department in Iraq during 2003-08 had a casualty rate of about 50% that of their military counterparts. As the events of September 11, 2001, showed, you don’t have be involved in active combat to be a casualty of war and terrorism.
Civilians who serve our country overseas work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. Government agencies or as contractors. Many support the U.S. military and diplomatic corps in hostile and dangerous conditions. They are unsung heroes who are rarely featured on the evening news or in movies. They labor in obscurity to protect the freedoms that Americans enjoy.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Public Law 90-363) set aside Memorial Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated each year on the last day of May. The law, however, does not specify who or what it commemorates. That’s up to you to decide. In the minds of many Americans, Memorial Day is a day to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, but this was not always so. The holiday known in the late 1800’s as Decoration Day recognized the veterans of the Union Army who fought in the American Civil War. After World War I, the generally accepted meaning of the day was to honor all Americans, military or civilian, who died in any war. This changed following World War II. It’s time to return to the days when we acknowledged the efforts of all who serve their country bravely in and out of uniform.
This Memorial Day, amid the barbeques, car races, fireworks, and gatherings, remember the diplomats and other civilians who faithfully serve their country in harm’s way.
Happy Memorial Day. God bless America, and God bless those who serve our country.
Click here to read my 2007 post on Memorial Day.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State. The photos belong to the author.
Luxembourg and Germany to Co-Host 2006 World Cup
Zurich, Switzerland (RFN) – The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced today that Luxembourg will join Germany in co-hosting the 2006 World Cup, the world’s premier football event. Following the announcement, a jubilant crowd of 35 Luxembourgers gathered near Luxembourg City Stadium shouting “Vive Luxembourg!” FIFA’s unexpected decision followed recent efforts by the European Union to assuage strained relations between the two EU member states. FIFA’s move also mitigates mounting concerns that Germany will have difficulty single-handedly hosting the world’s largest single-sport competition.
“The joining of Luxembourg and Germany today to co-host this event shows the power of nations working together to promote world peace,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “We hope that the only conflict will take place on the football field. Our referees will keep their yellow cards handy.”
Tensions between the two countries rose recently following a controversial speech given by Dresden Alderman Georg Schtimmpf. In it, he claimed that the name “Luxembourg” originated from the German language, contrary to the view of Luxembourger scholars who consider the name to be French. Despite Luxembourger demands for an apology, the German Parliament declined to take action. Alderman Schtimmpf has gone into hiding and was unavailable for comment. So far this year several Germans and Luxembourgers have been injured following mishaps with German and Luxembourger beer and wine bottles.
FIFA has not yet announced whether the Luxembourg national football team will receive automatic entry into the World Cup. Luxembourg has not announced whether it will field a team.
Disgruntled Voters Launch Utopian Party
Boston (RFN) – Delegates from around the United States representing frustrated voters rallied today near Boston Harbor and announced the founding the Utopian Party, a new party for disillusioned American voters. 50 Utopian Party delegates representing each U.S. state spent two days behind closed doors negotiating their new party’s platform. The party announced its intention to nominate Congressman Bernard I. Sanders (I-Vermont) to head the new party. It will formally ask the Congressman to assume party leadership at its upcoming convention. Confidental sources assert that Billionaire Ross Perot, Commentator Pat Buchanan, and former Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont are also potential candidates to lead the new party. Interim spokesperson Ariana Huffington declined comment on news that she would serve as interim Utopian Party leader.
Invoking images of the Boston Tea Party, delegates expressed frustrations over the two major political parties, citing several instances where the parties failed to deliver results. In her initial press briefing, Spokesperson Huffington stated, “The two major parties have failed us. The Utopian Party will be different. We will promise everything to everyone so that when something happens, we can honestly say that we did what we said we would do. We are tired of promises without results, and you are too. The Utopian Party’s promises will fit the results.”
The Utopian Party will reconvene in Los Angeles next month and begin seeking candidates for the 2006 U.S. election.
Hyundai Air Earns Record Profits on Manufactured Air
Seoul, Korea (RFN) – Yesterday investors sent the price of Hyundai Air (KOSPI:HAIR) soaring in late trading on news that it recorded record profits during the first quarter of 2006. Hyundai Air, a subsidiary of the Hyundai Group, earned a record U.S. $1.6 billion on sales of $6.3 million drivenly largely by a 153% increase in sales of manufactured air.
Hyundai Air’s special air manufacturing process, patented in 2004, has won it substantial business worldwide, earning the company a 3% global market share. Nature still retains 97% of the market, a figure that Hyundai Air hopes to match in the next few years. According to Spokeperson Kim Bum Suk, “We’re well on our way to successfully adding value to a commodity product. Customers prefer value-added products over commodities. At Hyundai, we want our customers to rely on us for everything. We want them to buy their Hyundai car, cell phone, computer, and television at the Hyundai Department Store and take them home to their Hyundai apartment. Hyundai Air is a natural fit for the Hyundai lifestyle.”
Hyundai Air was founded in 2003 by its corporate parent to complement a wide range of products that meet every need. In addition to manufactured air, the Hyundai Group offers consumers a vast array of goods and services available at virtually any retail outlet. Riding upward momentum of Hyundai Air, the Hyundai Group established a new airline, Hyundai Airline, that will begin worldwide operations in late 2006. Investors looking for corporate synergies are hopeful that the exhaust from Hyundai Airline jets will help drive demand for manufactured air and that Hyundai Air will in turn keep the airline afloat.
Pitt and Jolie Caught Breathing on Tape
Hollywood (RFN) – The April edition of Paparazzi Magazine (PM) reveals that Hollywood megacouple and actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie disrupted their film dialogue to breath together during several scenes in the hit movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” The film, starring Pitt and Jolie as a husband and wife who double as secret agents hired to kill one another, earned over $186 million at the box office and sparked the match-made-in-Hollywood romance that led to the megacouple’s marital merger.
PM Reporter Cecil Broadside uncovered the breathing during several movie viewings while preparing to cover their covert wedding ceremony. “I couldn’t believe. It was right there, and no one caught it. You heard it here first,” Broadside wrote in the article entitled “Brad Pitt: From Chicken Suit to Stardom.”
Actress Jennifer Aniston was not available for comment and declined to discuss her break up with Pitt. She is currently on the talk-show circuit promoting her upcoming movie “The Break-Up” co-starring Vince Vaughn. No word yet on a possible intimate pairing of Aniston and Vaughn.
ACLU Seeks an End to April Fool’s Day
Los Angeles (RFN) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), citing possible civil rights violations on April Fool’s Day, plan lawsuits to end practical jokes. The ACLU asks those who are potential victims of April Fool’s Day pranks to contact the April Fool’s hotline at their earliest convenience. The ACLU will prepare cases for eligible claims in an effort to combat this offensive practice. If you believe you have wrongly duped by an April Fool’s Day joke or prank and seek redress, contact the ACLU at 968-3665 (YOU-FOOL).
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