On Sunday, 13 pints of Miller Lite stood vigil at an empty, but reserved, table at The Celtic House Irish Pub & Restaurant on Columbia Pike.
The beers represented the 13 U.S. servicemen and women who died in suicide bombings at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that also killed 170 Afghan civilians. Terrorist group ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attacks conducted during the evacuation.
A woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, had purchased the beers after seeing posts on Facebook of similar scenes at other bars and thinking to herself, “This is good. This is something to do.”
Similar scenes played out in Courthouse at Ireland’s Four Courts and across the country, as individuals and bars have poured out beers and placed them at reserved tables to pay tribute to the fallen troops.
For the Celtic House patron, the little tribute and the now-complete withdrawal effort, were personal.
“Just by way of background, my husband died from suicide last year,” she told ARLnow. “He had several tours in Afghanistan. This is the kind of thing, that if he were still here — well, first of all, he would’ve been super upset — but this is something he would’ve done. It was a way to honor those who were lost and honor him, in a way.”
The woman said the last few weeks have been hard on her, and she had to stop watching the news coming from Afghanistan. Going to the bar, which she said is her local watering hole, was also a way of distracting herself from the news of Hurricane Ida that devastated her hometown of New Orleans (the remnants of which are now bound for the D.C. area).
The reaction to her beer purchase was positive, she said.
“I didn’t have my phone yesterday,” she said. “I got the guys to take a picture, and send it to me. I did post it on Facebook, and got positive reactions there, and I sent the pictures to a bunch of my husband’s friends.”
The Celtic House didn’t charge her for half of the beers, she said — but she would’ve still done it if they had. The bar posted the picture on Twitter on Sunday.
Remembering those servicemen and women who lost their lives this week in Afghanistan, an extremely nice gesture by one of our regulars today. pic.twitter.com/UF8npV8qAs
— The Celtic House (@CelticOnThePike) August 30, 2021
A similar tribute could be seen at Ireland’s Four Courts. On Saturday, a group of Marines who were regulars four years ago and have since moved back to the area, ordered 13 beers, General Manager Dave Cahill said.
They were placed on a table reserved all weekend with a napkin note that read “reserved for our fallen heroes.”
Cahill connected the tribute to the “Missing Man Table” tradition of setting a table for fallen or missing soldiers with a number of symbolic pieces. People with loved ones buried in Arlington National Cemetery regularly come to the pub and place a mug on the table in memory of the deceased friend or family member, he said.
“We have a lot of Marines who come in here,” he said. “A lot of Marines would be deployed here for a number of years, and people who are visiting Arlington Cemetery come in as well.”
— Irelands Four Courts (@irelands4courts) August 29, 2021
The Celtic House patron said hers was a “trite little gesture,” but she encouraged people to reach out to the veterans in their lives, support organizations and get involved in other ways.
“The idea should be that, all the people who were with them — and not even the people wounded — they’re all going to suffer unimaginable trauma from seeing their friends blown to pieces, and trying to rescue them. One hundred seventy civilians were also killed,” she said. “Just get involved. See what you can do.”
A retired colonel who helped Iraqi interpreters flee Baghdad will be speaking in Arlington a few days after the government said it will evacuate Afghans who helped the U.S.
While on his second of three tours in Iraq, Col. Steve Miska (U.S. Army, Ret.) aided dozens of interpreters trying to flee Baghdad before state militias could kill them for treason. Now retired after a 25-year career, he has written a book about the “underground railroad” he helped to establish, which led interpreters to safety from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan before ending in the U.S.
In retirement, Miska has been vocal about the need to protect interpreters, and now his cause is in the news. This week, the Biden administration announced it will expedite visas for Afghans who, having worked with the U.S. military, could face revenge attacks by the Taliban.
Miska will discuss his book, “Baghdad Underground Railroad: Saving American Allies in Iraq,” and how it relates to current events this Sunday at Clarendon United Methodist Church. The event at 606 N. Irving Street will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. It is free but registration online is required.
National news outlets have recently featured the retired colonel, who calls the current plight of interpreters “one of the most significant human rights issues of the Global War on Terrorism.”
“The mostly young men and women who embraced American idealism risked their lives to support U.S. service members in countries where understanding the language, the people, and the contours of the culture are often a matter of life and death,” his event page reads. “Yet, according to recent estimates, more than 100,000 interpreters and at-risk family members remain in Iraq and 70,000 remain in Afghanistan, each in grave danger.”
He told the Washington Post that leaving interpreters behind would betray both the interpreters and American soldiers.
“We need to evacuate now,” he told CNN in May. “The Taliban have been hunting our interpreters in Afghanistan for 20 years. It’s only intensifying with the withdraw. As we near the end, it’s only going to get worse.”
Proceeds from the book will support the United States Veteran Artists Alliance, a nonprofit that helps veteran writers and artists.
Miska’s visit is something of a reunion, as CUMC’s Pastor Tracy McNeil Wines used to serve at a church he attended.
Don’t be surprised if you see helicopters and some small planes flying around the D.C. area this morning — it’s all part of a military training exercise.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) says the air defense exercise will be conducted between 11 a.m. and noon. It will involve Coast Guard helicopters and general aviation aircraft — often smaller prop planes.
“Portions of the exercise may… be visible from the ground,” NORAD said in a social media post.
We will conduct an air defense exercise over the Washington DC area btw 11am to noon EDT.
US Coast Guard MH-65D helicopters and general aviation aircraft will be participating. Portions of the exercise may take place at approx. 2,500 ft and be visible from the ground. pic.twitter.com/TofXWHj4OF
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) April 20, 2021
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
The Penrose Square Starbucks was officially dedicated as the company’s 77th “Military Family Store” yesterday (April 14).
The coffee chain’s Military Family Stores are located across the country and are placed near military bases; in this case the store is only about a mile from Joint Base Myer-Henderson and the Pentagon. The Starbucks at 2413 Columbia Pike is currently the only such store in Arlington, though there’s another one in Fairfax County near Fort Belvoir.
Starbucks Military Family Stores emphasize helping military families with connections and support by holding events and programs. They also play a larger role in the company’s commitment of hiring 5,000 veterans and military spouses annually.
A Starbucks representative tells ARLnow that three of the employees at the Penrose Square store are veterans or military spouses.
As part of the dedication, Starbucks, in partnership with Operation Gratitude, hosted a service project outside the cafe to assemble 500 care packages for military families in Arlington and at other local bases. The care package included handwritten letters of support, handmade paracord bracelets, snacks, candy, and personal care items.
“Military service members and their families across Arlington County can look at this store right here in their own community and know that they are better understood and appreciated,” said Paul Cucinotta, Chief Operating Officer of Operation Gratitude, in the press release.
Arlington police officers and firefighters were among those volunteering to assemble the care packages.
“The Arlington County Police Department has previously been the recipient of Operation Gratitude and are honored to now have the opportunity to pay it forward through service that supports veterans and military families,” ACPD spokesperson Ashley Savage told ARLnow. “By filling these care packages, we hope to show our appreciation for the men and women who bravely served our country and the sacrifices of military families.”
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) April 15, 2021
Photo courtesy of Starbucks
(Updated at 4 p.m.) President Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery this afternoon.
A week after the First Lady visited a nonprofit in Clarendon that supports military families, Biden is visiting Section 60 of the nation’s most hallowed ground, where servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
The visit immediately followed a speech at the White House in which Biden said all remaining U.S. forces will be withdrawing from Afghanistan, starting Saturday, May 1. The withdraw is expected to be complete by Sept. 11.
Some roads near the cemetery, including the Memorial Bridge, were temporarily closed due to the presidential motorcade. The president arrived at the cemetery around 3 p.m. and departed about 20 minutes later.
During the brief visit, Biden walked past a row of headstones carrying an unopened umbrella, the grass wet amid a light rain. He saluted a wreath and said of the many headstones, “it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?”
He expressed amazement at the sacrifice of those “prepared to give their lives for their country,” generation after generation, and said in response to a reporter’s question that it was not a hard decision to end America’s longest war.
“For me it was absolutely clear,” the president said.
First Lady Jill Biden is in Clarendon this afternoon, visiting a call center for military members and their families.
The First Lady is visiting the offices of Military OneSource, described as “a Department of Defense resource providing 24/7 support to service members, their families, and survivors.” The visit follows an earlier event at the White House in which Biden spoke of her Joining Forces initiative to support military and veteran families, as well as caregivers and survivors.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is among the local officials expected to be in attendance as Biden tours the call center and speaks with employees. Also greeting the First Lady are Charlene Austin and Hollyanne Milley, the wives of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively.
Locals should expect a security presence in the area.
For the second year in a row, the pandemic is preventing the annual Easter sunrise service at Arlington National Cemetery from being an in-person event.
This year’s service, hosted by Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, will be live-streamed on Facebook starting at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, Apr. 4.
The event will be a Protestant service celebrated by Chaplain (Col.) Michael T. Shellman, Command Chaplain for the Joint Force Headquarters and Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Andrew R. Harewood, Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the Army Reserve.
“The Easter Sunrise Service supports military families and service members by providing spiritual enrichment and supports the joint base command’s mission to provide for the free exercise of religion in the military,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Kennaugh, Deputy Chaplain at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in a statement.
To comply with COVID-19 guidelines and keep the number of people at the service as low as possible, a brass quartet and four vocalists from the U.S. Army Band will be on-site along with a sign language interpreter.
In case of inclement weather, the service will be live-streamed from the joint base’s Memorial Chapel, also in Arlington.
A Facebook account is not required to view the event.
Photo by Tim1965
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) A new exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery honors the contributions of servicewomen of color to the United States.
The exhibit, called “The Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America’s Servicewomen,” opened over the weekend at the Military Women’s Memorial, located at the end of Memorial Avenue near the cemetery’s main entrance.
Arlington resident Rita Paul, who joined the military as a single mother and spent nine years in the U.S. Army, welcomed the news of the exhibit.
“Right now, it is hard to see what is going on in our country surrounding people of color, specifically women,” Paul said. “As a servicewoman, there has always been a sense of honor and pride, and I think now, more than ever, if we can highlight the importance of positive representation, it will help make a difference.”
After retiring from the military, she started working for Comcast, which is sponsoring the exhibit.
“Women veterans of color have and will continue to play an integral role in our nation’s military and service institutions,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President of Military & Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, in a statement. “We’re proud to elevate their voices and stories of service to our nation’s defense.”
Visitors to The Color of Freedom will also have access to an educational program for students, a speaker forum and a digital exhibit.
“This exhibit is a perfect example of the extraordinary, yet untold story of the thousands of women of color who for decades upon decades have made remarkable contributions to our military and to America,” said Phyllis Wilson, President at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation.
The Military Women’s Memorial recently announced the National Registration campaign to preserve the stories of the three million women who have served in the military.
Those planning a visit can reserve timed tickets for free.
Photo via Military Women’s Memorial/Facebook
A veteran-owned optometry and dental practice on Columbia Pike has won a $15,000 grant from the PenFed Foundation.
Eye Smile Optometry & Dental Care near the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive, next to the Harris Teeter, is owned by U.S. Air Force veteran Dr. Keith James (optometrist) and his wife Dr. Yvonelle Moreau (dentist).
The small, family-owned was awarded the grant because of its commitment “to serving its neighboring community, educating those that are under-represented and underserved, and leading as examples to future under-represented entrepreneurs,” according the PenFed Foundation website.
The foundation is a non-profit aimed at helping military members become financially stable. Its Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program is specifically earmarked for Black veteran and active duty military entrepreneurs. Two other businesses also received $15,000: one in Maryland and another in Jacksonville, Florida.
James tells ARLnow that the couple is grateful for the grant and plans to use the money for business awareness, marketing, and increased staffing. They currently have three employees, plus the two doctors.
It wasn’t always destiny for the couple’s practice to land in Arlington. James and Moreau met in New York, when they were both in school. Then, James joined the Air Force and was stationed at Joint Base Andrews for three years.
While living in Alexandria, the pair realized the region could be a great place for a family practice.
“We just thought it was a fantastic community. We really want to focus on being a family practice,” says James. “We felt like it was just the perfect setting for us to flourish.”
Yes, they acknowledge, it is certainly unique that a dentist and optometrist share a practice.
“It’s definitely atypical,” James says with a chuckle. “But with both of us practicing health care, it’s definitely a good opportunity. It’s synergistic. We’re both practicing on the head which impacts overall health.”
The practice was initially slated to open in March 2020, James says, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
“We were planning this practice for two years,” James says. “So, that was extremely nerve-racking.”
It finally opened last May, right around the time when Virginia allowed dental practices to re-open.
Over the last ten months the business has continued to grow. Overall, combined, James says they’ve treated nearly 1,500 patients.
“We try not to focus on slower days and get too excited about bigger days,” he says. “It’s definitely steady.”
The practice’s goals continue to be to provide personalized service and access to care in a section of Arlington where options can sometimes be limited.
“We saw a little space there for vision and dental that could be really central to that neighborhood and those families,” says James. “Being a part of that and increasing access to care is important to us.”
Photo courtesy of Eye Smile Optometry & Dental Care
Arts Group Pushing for New Venue — “As part of its recently adopted strategic plan, [Embracing Arlington Arts] plans to use the coming three years to build community support for a performing-arts venue that would include a black-box theater and ancillary classroom and office space. Efforts would also be made to identify a site and start raising funds.” [InsideNova]
APS Changing Student Camera Policy — “In response to challenges teachers are experiencing engaging students with cameras off, we have adapted our policy regarding the use of cameras during instruction time, based on input we have received from teachers, staff, parents, the Distance Learning Task Force, and advisory committee members. We are asking teachers to encourage students to turn on their cameras during synchronous instruction and while directly engaging with peers and staff.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Spotlight on Arlington Man’s Heroism — “A must read about Arlington’s Paris Davis, the former publisher of VA’s Metro Herald. His heroism in 1965, while commanding a Special Forces team in Vietnam, seems worthy of the Medal of Honor. But those who served with him say the Pentagon kept losing the paperwork.” [New York Times, Twitter]
Local Nonprofit’s Work Highlighted — “Mohammad Ahmed, 30, gave up working as an Uber driver in March for fear of infecting his wife, 3-year-old son and two elderly parents who live with him. When he couldn’t pay the rent or electric bill for their two-bedroom apartment in Arlington, a local charity funded mainly by taxpayer dollars stepped in.” [Washington Post]
Metro Reducing Rail Service — “Metro this week began reducing Metrorail service during peak commuting hours because of low usage while saying it will boost Metrobus service as new commuting trends emerge during the coronavirus pandemic. The transit agency referred to the changes as a way to ‘normalize’ rail service.” [Washington Post]
Local Economy Expected to Grow — “Greater Washington’s economy will rebound in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccinations become more common and the weather warms up, according to a new regional economic forecast released Friday. That means 3.5% growth in the gross regional product in 2021, a sharp rebound from the 2.9% drop in 2020. But the region will only see a full recovery in 2022, with 4.1% projected growth in the local economy.” [Washington Business Journal]
Many Office Workers Will Stay Remote — “Working in D.C. will continue to look different for the greater part of this year due to the coronavirus, a new study shows. Employers expect less than a third of their employees to physically be in the office in the first quarter of this year, but by the fall, they expect 75% of their staff to be back, according to a study.” [NBC 4, Washingtonian]
Flickr pool photo by GM and MB
Dorsey’s Bankruptcy Case Dismissed — “Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey, whose ethical and financial difficulties have tangled him in a web of false statements over the past year, fraudulently misrepresented his assets while filing for bankruptcy, a federal court ruled Friday… It was ‘an act of overt misrepresentation,’ [bankruptcy trustee] Thomas P. Gorman told the court at a hearing on Thursday, and ‘misconduct . . . so over the line’ that punishment was warranted.” [Washington Post]
Holiday Shopping Safety Tips — “ACPD wants you to have a happy and safe holiday season. While many are choosing to shop online this year, those shopping in-store are encouraged to be mindful of these safety tips.” [Twitter]
Event for Military Families Today — “An annual Winter Wonderland for Military Families hosted by a former NFL player and his wife will look very different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Derrick Dockery and his wife Emma will hold a drive-thru version of the event that provides toys and holiday cheer to military kids and families on Dec. 7 at a parking lot in Arlington, Virginia through their nonprofit, Yellow Ribbons United.” [Radio.com]
Santa Visit Still on This Weekend — “Santa Claus has paid a visit to the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department every year for over a century and he’s not going let the coronavirus pandemic force him to break that streak. In the interest of public safety, the jolly old elf will be meeting children outside this year in the parking lot of Cherrydale Baptist Church, which is located at 3910 Lorcom Lane.” [Patch]
More on CaBi Station at DCA — “Arlington County, Virginia, has installed a Capital Bikeshare station at Reagan National Airport, making it the first major metropolitan airport in the U.S. with a dock-based shared bike program. It is the 99th Capital Bikeshare dock installed in Arlington County.” [WTOP]
Gunston Coordinator Honored — “Shantha Smith, an education coordinator at Gunston Middle School, has been named a recipient of the 2020 Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education by the state government. Awards were presented Dec. 3 in Richmond, and were named after a pioneering African-American educator.” [InsideNova]