Residents and out-of-town visitors alike took part in Memorial Day observances around Arlington this past weekend.
Warm and sunny weather helped drive large crowds for stalwart annual events like the Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally and the wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Thousands of bikers participated in Rolling Thunder, which first rumbled into Arlington Friday afternoon and culminated here with a large rally in the Pentagon parking lot Sunday morning. The motorcyclists, who ride in remembrance of American service members killed, missing or taken prisoner during war, later rode across the Memorial Bridge into the District for a speakers program and concert.
On Monday President Barack Obama — who had just returned from visiting troops in Afghanistan — traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The wreath-laying was followed by the annual Memorial Day service at the cemetery’s amphitheater, during which the president thanked troops and veterans for their service to the country.
In Clarendon Monday afternoon, Arlington’s VFW Post 3150 and American Legion Post 139 together dedicated a new plaque at the Clarendon War Memorial. The plaque commemorates the Arlington County residents who have given their lives during the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Chief Petty Officer Joel E. Baldwin, USN, Iraq (December 21, 2004)
- Captain Michael P. Cassidy, USA, Iraq (June 17, 2010)
- Lance-Corporal Niall W. Coti-Sears, USMC, Afghanistan (June 23, 2012)
- Specialist Adam M. Kuiligowski, USA, Afghanistan (April 6, 2004)
- Second Lieutenant Sean P. O’Connor, USA, Iraq (October 19, 2008)
- Lieutenant Colonel James J. Walton, USA, Afghanistan (June 21, 2008)
Do you have other photos of Memorial Day observances around Arlington? Add them to our Flickr page or upload them in the comments.
About 50 members of the Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment delivered nearly 700 pounds of donated food to the Arlington Food Assistance Center this morning.
In case the donation wasn’t impressive enough, the soldiers delivered the food on foot, marching 4 miles from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to AFAC’s building in Shirlington with rucksacks on their backs.
The 3rd Infantry Regiment is also known as the Old Guard. The donation was made by the Old Guard’s 4th Battalion, which consists of ceremonial companies, a military police company, and the guards of the Tomb of the Unknowns, among others.
The food will be distributed “ to the 1,800 families that seek food from us each week,” according to AFAC communications manager Clare McIntyre.
Photos courtesy Clare McIntyre/AFAC
The newly renovated ice rink at Pentagon Row will celebrate a special holiday event for military families on Friday (November 22).
Tomorrow is Military Tribute Night from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the rink. All members of the military and their families will skate free with a military ID.
The rink’s grand re-opening celebration will still take place from 5:00-8:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. There will be snow at the ice rink every night from December 7 through January 1, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
More information about regular hours and pricing can be found online.
The congressman, who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the military surge in Afghanistan, strongly supports a “surgical strike” against Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities. The Syrian government, which is battling rebel forces, is accused of killing nearly 1,500 civilians in a chemical attack outside Damascus.
President Obama has called on Congress to authorize a military strike, but public support is still thin and congressional authorization is in doubt. Moran blamed former President Bush and the Iraq war for the lack of American public support and the recent vote by the British Parliament against military intervention in Syria.
“I was adamantly opposed to the invasion of Iraq because I knew that the information being presented was specious… we were cherry picking information to reach a conclusion that the administration had already come to,” Moran told ARLnow.com Tuesday afternoon. “What’s happening today, the vote by the British Parliament and the reluctance of the American people to respond to what [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad is doing in Syria is a direct legacy of the Iraq war… the fact that the world was deliberately misled by the Bush administration to go into a war of choice.”
On Syria, however, Moran is convinced.
“The evidence is irrefutable, that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against innocent people,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind about the verifiability of that information.”
While supportive of the president and his call for military action, Moran said he would have preferred the president use his authority as Commander-in-Chief to strike Syria without congressional approval.
“I feel strongly that President Obama was right to draw a red line against weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “I’d like to see the president to follow through on his original instincts to execute a surgical strike against the capability of Assad’s military to ever use chemical weapons again.”
“Of course he should have” authorized airstrikes, Moran continued. “It’s what Reagan did and what Clinton did. I think that if the vote were held today, it would lose. That’s why the president was wrong to leave the credibility of the United States and the viability of his presidency in the hands of the most dysfunctional Congress in modern history.”
Is NSA leaker Edward Snowden a heroic defender of liberty or a reckless turncoat?
Fein — who served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration and called for the impeachment of President Obama in 2011 — is an outspoken supporter of Snowden and his disclosure of massive government surveillance programs. He also serves as the attorney for Snowden’s father.
Fein compared Snowden to Paul Revere at the Monday night event. That angered one woman in the audience, whose husband is on active duty in the military.
“[Snowden] has put military members like my husband, who is deployed overseas, in danger,” she said during the question-and-answer portion of the event. “If you ask people in the military intelligence community whether they consider him a whistleblower or a traitor, I can tell you overwhelmingly, they consider him a traitor.”
Fein was unapologetic.
“Your husband shouldn’t be there at all, he’s there because of a violation of the Constitution,” he said. “I think the greater crime was flouting the Constitution and sending people to send unconstitutional wars not for our liberty but for people who have no loyalty to the United States whatsoever and never will.”
Charles Hokanson, chairman of the Arlington County Republican Committee, took exception to Fein’s response, writing on Facebook at the time: “He just offended a military spouse so badly with his cavalier attitude to the safety of our soldiers abroad fighting in places he doesn’t think we belong that she just left the room.”
“I asked him to write her a letter of apology,” he continued. “I hope he does!”
A letter from Fein was later posted on the event’s Facebook page, sparking an intra-party debate over whether the letter was sufficiently apologetic or necessary in the first place. The discussion included more than 120 posts as of last night, but had been removed as of this morning.
Video via Bruce Majors
A grand jury returned the indictment this afternoon, a month after prosecutors dropped a sexual battery charge against Krusinski, who’s accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman in Crystal City.
Prosecutors said changing the venue, from General District Court to Circuit Court, and changing the charge, from sexual battery to assault and battery, were largely procedural moves unrelated to the facts of the case. Krusinski’s arrest in May helped to spark a national conversation about sexual assault in the military.
A trial date is expected to be set on Thursday in Arlington Circuit Court.
Moran, Wolf Visit Gitmo — Last Friday, Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) visited the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, where suspected foreign terrorists are held and interrogated. Moran, who has said that keeping the facility open “is not worth the damage it continues to inflict on our international standing,” said after the trip that he hopes to work out a compromise with Wolf, who supports keeping the facility open. [Sun Gazette]
Shirlington Oktoberfest Date Set — This year’s Shirlington Oktoberfest, the largest of its kind in N. Va., will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5. Over 50 breweries will be represented. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Concern Over License Plate Readers — Automated License Plate Readers, or LPRs, are mounted on Arlington County Police cruisers, allowing cops to see instantly if a car driving by is stolen or if its owner is wanted. The police department also stores the data collected by the LPRs for six months, to aid in investigations. The American Civil Liberties Union, however, is concerned about the data storage, saying police departments are “storing everybody’s time, place, and location.” [Voice of America]
Meat Returns to Galaxy Hut — Nine months after switching to an all-vegetarian menu, Galaxy Hut in Clarendon is again offering bacon, pulled pork, beef chili and other meat dishes. While veggie dishes will still be offered, owner Lary Hoffman blames lack of sales for his decision to ditch the vegetarian-only menu. [Washington Post]
No More Playboy at the Pentagon — Army and Air Force Exchange stores, which operate at the Pentagon and Fort Myer, among other military installations, have stopped carrying a third of its magazine collection. Among the magazines no longer available, due to declining interest, are Playboy, Penthouse and American Curves. [Sun Gazette]
NewsChannel 8 to Be National Model — Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying WJLA, plans to use NewsChannel 8, the station’s 24-hour local cable news channel, as a model for markets across the country. Sinclair will create a “hybrid” channel that airs local news produced by local stations and national news produced by WJLA. [Baltimore Sun]
Mobility Lab Wins Award — Arlington County’s “start-up think-tank,” Mobility Lab, has won a top award from the Association for Commuter Transportation. Mobility Lab “researches and creates solutions for transportation options that are cool, healthy, fun, and efficient.” [Arlington County]
The Navy Annex, once an expansive Department of Defense office complex, has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
The military started tearing down the offices, first built in 1941, last fall. The demolition will make way for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery and, eventually, a realignment of Columbia Pike.
(Arlington County is still in negotiations with the military regarding the exact land swap plan necessary to accomplish both objectives.)
Demolition of the last of the 7 wings of the Navy Annex started on June 19 and appears to be mostly complete. No structure on the site is still standing; rather, piles of rubble and lower portions of the building are awaiting additional demolition and will be hauled away over the next month, we’re told. Additional debris removal is taking place across Columbia Pike, at the Navy Annex’s former parking lot.
Grass and meadows are expected to be planted on the 42-acre site in September, according to Rep. Jim Moran’s office. Before and after photos from the demolition can be found above.
Claim: County Erroneously Booted Car — A D.C. resident named Rebecca Jones says she parked her car at her fiance’s private residence in Arlington and was surprised to come back from a trip and find it booted. The county claimed she owed nearly $4,000 in unpaid taxes but, Jones says, later admitted that the enforcement computer system targeted her car only based on name association with a different Rebecca Jones. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Native Makes ‘Most Beautiful’ List — Arlington native Carolyn Walser, 28, has made The Hill newspaper’s annual 50 Most Beautiful People list. Walser, a Democrat, is a scheduler for Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was a staffer for the former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). [The Hill]
Military Appreciation Night at Chick-fil-A — On Saturday, from 3:30 to 7:00 p.m., the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2200 Crystal Drive in Crystal City will hold a Military Appreciation Night. Active and former military personnel and their immediate family members are eligible for free food and drink with valid identification. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
The sexual battery charge against Lt. Col Jeffrey Krusinski — the former chief of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch — has been dropped, but Arlington County prosecutors intend to charge him with regular assault instead.
Police arrested Krusinski in May after an incident that we’re told began near Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant on 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, and then carried over to a nearby parking lot. He is accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman he didn’t know.
At the time, Krusinski was chief of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assault, but he was removed from that position shortly after his arrest. According to the Air Force Times, a female two-star general now leads the branch.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said dropping the sexual assault charge is a procedural move. Prosecutors are seeking a grand jury indictment for the new assault charge on August 19.
The change means the case can now head to Circuit Court instead of General District Court. It prevents a potential extra step in the prosecution, since convictions in the lower court can be appealed to the Circuit Court.
Just as with sexual battery, a charge of assault and battery is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and carries similar maximum penalties — a fine and up to one year in jail. The main difference is that prosecutors do not have to make the case for lewd behavior or intent.
Krusinski’s attorney, Barry Coburn, released the following statement today:
One of the most critical tasks prosecutors perform is the exercise of prosecutorial discretion: deciding how a case should be charged. Here, the prosecutors in Arlington County have exercised their discretion with care and judgment. While we respectfully disagree with the decision to charge Lt. Col. Krusinski with any offense, and look forward to defending our client at trial, we very much appreciate the care and diligence with which these prosecutors reached the conclusion that a sex offense could not legitimately be charged in this case.
Charging decisions such as this one must be based on the facts and the law of each individual case, not on politics or the desire to have a “teachable moment” concerning issues such as sexual abuse in the military. It is noteworthy that the reason this case became highly publicized was the combination of Col. Krusinski’s job responsibilities in the Air Force and the fact that he initially was arrested for misdemeanor sexual battery. His name and photograph were in virtually every newspaper in the country for these reasons. Now a decision has been reached by careful, responsible prosecutors that that was not the correct charge. This sequence of events hopefully will, in the future, give all of us, particularly persons of great responsibility, pause before we make premature judgments about pending criminal cases before trial, particularly cases involving individuals who have devoted their entire professional lives to military service.
A new columbarium has opened at Arlington National Cemetery, just in time for Memorial Day.
Columbarium Court No. 9, as it’s called, has more than 20,000 niches for U.S. military veterans and their families. Each niche in the two-acre columbarium has space for 3-4 urns. The project cost $15.6 million and began in January 2012.
A dedication ceremony was held for the columbarium earlier this month. The ceremony included the burial of the unclaimed remains of six war veterans from the Civil War, the Vietnam War and World Wars I and II.
Columbarium Court No. 9 is 2.5 times bigger than the cemetery’s next-largest columbarium. Rockville-based contractor Forrester Construction, which built the new facility, described its construction in a press release.
This project, awarded to Forrester by the US Army Corps of Engineers, required near perfect quality and pristine finishes ensuring longevity and suitability in the greenscape of Arlington National Cemetery. It involved significant grading, landscaping, environmental management and installation of decorative and commemorative stonework, including flagstone walkways.
Columbarium Court No. 9 is nearly the length of two football fields at 116-feet wide, 11-feet tall and 540-feet long. The foundation of the structure is auger cast piles ranging in depth from 15 to 25 feet. More than 6,000 cubic yards of poured-in-place concrete clad with limestone and granite was used to build the structure. The project features interior and exterior landscaping with a central water fountain, new irrigation and underground electrical systems and storm water management.
The project was completed three months ahead of schedule and, according to Forrester, under budget.
The columbarium will help extend Arlington National Cemetery’s effective life as a final resting place for the country’s war dead. While the cemetery will always remain open to the public, it will eventually run out of space for new burials.
“Without the Columbarium Court No. 9 expansion, Arlington National Cemetery would have run out of niche space in 2016,” said Kathryn A. Condon, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries. “By adding more than 20,000 niche spaces for our veterans and their families, Columbarium Court No. 9 is extending the life of the cemetery for years to come.”
Some local residents are fighting another effort to add new burial spaces at the cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery’s Millennium Project will include a new columbarium and additional in-ground burial spaces — for up to 30,000 military veterans and their families — but will also result in the loss of about 800 older trees.
Photos courtesy Forrester Construction and U.S. Army
Britain’s Prince Harry paid his respects to fallen U.S. servicemembers at Arlington National Cemetery this morning.
The prince, who served as a British Army helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, took a solemn tour of Section 60, the final resting place of many American military personnel who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in a full honors ceremony, before a large crowd of tourists and journalists.
Harry, who’s third in line to the British throne, also left a wreath in Section 60, with a handwritten note that read: “To my comrades-in-arms of the United States of America, who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom.” It was signed “Captain Harry Wales.”
The visit to the cemetery will be followed by a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit wounded veterans. Harry will then continue his week-long visit to the United States, with stops in Colorado, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Additional photos from Prince Harry’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery can be found here.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, the Air Force sexual assault prevention chief who’s accused of sexual battery in Crystal City, will face trial in July.
With his attorney by his side, a stone-faced Krusinski was arraigned in Arlington General District Court this afternoon. Defense attorney Sheryl Shane argued for a later trial date, citing the need to track down and talk to witnesses, but the judge denied the request, instead setting a trial date of Thursday, July 18.
When Krusinski exited the courthouse after today’s hearing, he was mobbed by reporters and photographers from local and national news outlets. Despite a barrage of questions from microphone-toting TV reporters, he said nothing as he got into the back seat of a dark-colored BMW, which quickly drove off.
Krusinski was removed from his post as head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program on Monday after ARLnow.com first reported that he had been arrested, accused of drunkenly grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman he didn’t know in a Crystal City parking lot.
The case became national headline news, leading to statements from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Obama, and contributing to a renewed debate about how to deal with the widespread problem of sexual assault in the military.
The charge of sexual battery that Krusinski faces carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine. Prosecutor Cari Steele, an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, declined to say whether she will seek the maximum sentence in the case.
Arraignment for Air Force Officer — Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the airman who was removed from his post as head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program after being accused of sexual battery in Crystal City, is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in an Arlington County courtroom. While the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney office is prosecuting the case, the Air Force has the option of bringing its own case against Krusinski. [Associated Press]
CivFed Opposes Tree Removal at Cemetery — The Arlington County Civic Federation voted Tuesday to oppose a plan to remove 800 trees at Arlington National Cemetery in order to make way for about 30,000 in-ground burial spots and niche spaces. The resolution asks Arlington’s congressional delegation to sponsor legislation to stop the plan and asks the County Board to officially support the legislation. [Sun Gazette]
Four Students Earn Nat’l Merit Scholarships — Four Arlington students have been awarded National Merit Scholarships. The students receiving the $2,500 scholarships are: Ariel Bobbett and Elizabeth Roy of Washington-Lee High School, Nicole Orttung of Yorktown High School, and Robert C. Wharton of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [Arlington Public Schools]
Day One of School Board Caucus — The first day of the Arlington County Democratic Committee endorsement caucus for School Board will take place tonight from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Drew Model Elementary School (3500 23rd Street S.). The second day of party voting will take place on Saturday. Incumbent James Lander is facing off against challenger Barbara Kanninen for the Democratic endorsement. [Arlington Democrats]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann