For much of this summer, combat-injured Marine veteran and double-amputee Toran Gaal has been on a cross-country cycling trip to Arlington.
On June 1, Gaal set off from San Diego on his “Ride Across America,” an almost 4,000 mile trek which he will complete entirely on a hand-cycle.
Gaal embarked on the journey to raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund, the charity that helped him recover after he was severely injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2011. Following the explosion, Gaal was comatose for two months and lost both legs and part of his hip.
“[The Semper Fi Fund] is doing so much good for every branch,” said Gaal. “I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation.”
Gaal will have been on the road for 65 days by the time he’s expected to arrive in Arlington this Sunday, Aug. 2. He will have stopped in close to 50 other towns and cities along the way. At the end of his ride, he will place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Brian Riley, fellow combat-injured Marine veteran, is accompanying Gaal on the road in a support vehicle.
Photo via www.hisshoesmove.com
Janitors to Rally with Candidates in Ballston — About 150 part-time janitors will rally in Ballston this afternoon for a new union contract. The rally is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. in front of the National Science Foundation at 4201 Wilson Blvd. Democratic County Board candidates Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey are expected to attend the rally to lend their support, according to a press release from the 32BJ SEIU union.
Arlington Man Killed in D.C. Pedestrian Crash — An Arlington man, 31-year-old George Mina, has died several days after being struck by a car on Wisconsin Avenue NW in D.C. Mina, a pediatric phlebotomist, was struck by the driver of a Jaguar while crossing Wisconsin at Veazy Street NW on June 10. A rally for pedestrian safety was held in the area last night, with advocates calling for D.C. to implement pedestrian safety measures currently in use in Arlington. [NBC Washington]
No Opponent for Commonwealth’s Attorney — A potential independent candidate for Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney came up just a couple of verified petition signatures short of the 140 he needed to qualify for the ballot. Criminal defense attorney Frank Webb said he will drop his bid to get on the ballot. Incumbent Democrat Theo Stamos is now running unopposed. [InsideNova]
WW2 Vets Boogie at DCA — Video posted on YouTube shows a group of World War II veterans, in a Reagan National Airport terminal last month awaiting their honor flight back to Kentucky, dancing to a live rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
The Hope for our Veterans benefit starts 7 a.m. at the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. There, a group of veterans will do 22 pushups to signify the fact that, statistically, 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
The poker run portion of the charity event starts at 10 a.m. at the Iwo Jima memorial. During the poker run, teams drive or ride to five locations across Northern Virginia to draw one poker card.
The five locations are:
- Crystal City Sports Pub in Crystal City
- Walkers Grille in Springfield
- Heritage Brewing Co in Manassas
- Gypsy Soul in Falls Church
- Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill in Courthouse
Poker cards may also be purchased for $20 each for those who don’t want to visit all the stops. All of the event’s proceeds go toward benefitting charities Operation Renewed Hope Foundation and Renovating Hope.
At 6 p.m., teams will convene on the Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill to present their poker hands. The best poker hand wins a 10-day trip to the Ala Moana Hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii.
The concert portion of the event also begins at 10 a.m. at the Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill, and is hosted by former Yahoo! and TV Guide Channel personality Nikki Boyer. Artists such as McKayla Reece, Tommy Fields and Mars Rodeo will play until 1:30 a.m.
The concert is free before 2 p.m., after which tickets cost $25.
Arlington House Rededicated — Arlington House, the family home of Robert E. Lee and an iconic symbol of Arlington County, has been rededicated by the National Park Service following a six year restoration effort. The ceremony was held on Saturday, on the 152nd anniversary of Lee’s decision to lead the rebellion in the Civil War. [Sun Gazette]
County’s Bond Ratings Reaffirmed — Arlington County has had its top Aaa/AAA debt ratings reaffirmed by rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. The ratings will allow Arlington to borrow money at a lower interest rate. “The Aaa rating reflects the county’s strong long-term credit characteristics including a sizeable and affluent tax base, stable and carefully-managed financial operations with sound reserves, and moderate debt position with manageable future borrowing needs,” Moody’s wrote of Arlington. [Arlington County]
Garvey: Streetcars Fail Cost/Benefit Analysis — In an op-ed in the Washington Post, County Board member Libby Garvey says streetcars on Columbia Pike “are not a good investment for anyone.” Streetcars would not solve transportation challenges on the Pike, and would instead “siphon resources away from other important needs,” Garvey wrote. [Washington Post]
Arlington to Help Train Vets in IT — Arlington County has accepted a $150,000 state grant that will help train military veterans for high-demand Information Technology (IT) jobs. The grant will go to a joint Arlington/Alexandria job training program, which is expected to serve more than 50 veterans over an 18-month period. [Arlington County]
Veterans Day Ceremony in Clarendon — Local VFW and American Legion posts jointly organized a Veterans Day ceremony at the Clarendon War Memorial on Sunday. At the annual remembrance ceremony a wreath was laid for Lance Cpl. Niall Coti-Sears, who was killed in Afghanistan this year. [MyFoxDC]
Reeves Farmhouse May Be Sold — The Arlington County Board is expected to decide whether to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse, at auction, for residential use. The county had been looking for ways to save the farmhouse for public use, but rejected a proposal to use it as a learning center, apparently due to the proposal not adequately providing for the high cost of needed repairs and renovations to the house. [WAMU]
Historic Status for Green Valley Pharmacy? –– Next month Arlington County Board members are scheduled to consider a proposal to designate the Green Valley Pharmacy a historic landmark business. The pharmacy opened in 1952 at 2415 Shirlington Road, in the neighborhood now known as Nauck. The county’s Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board supports the historic designation proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Shirlington Tree Lighting Two Weeks Away — Shirlington Village will hold its annual Christmas tree lighting event on Tuesday, Nov. 27. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
All Arlington County courts, libraries, public schools, and administrative offices will be closed on Monday, Nov. 12.
The county’s three indoor swimming pools will be open under holiday hours. Metro and ART will be operating under a holiday schedule. Trash and leaf collection will proceed as normal.
Veterans Day became a U.S. holiday in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I. The ceasefire that ended the war’s major hostilities took effect at 11:00 a.m. on 11/11/18.
The Veterans Day National Ceremony will take place at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.
Local veterans organizations will also be holding a Veterans Day ceremony on Sunday. From 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., there will be a remembrance ceremony at the Clarendon War Memorial at the intersection of Wilson, Clarendon and Washington Boulevards.
“Each year veterans from Arlington County’s Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion gather at the Clarendon War Memorial to remember local service members lost in past conflicts,” organizers said. The event will also remember an Arlington service member killed in action this year.
“There will be a special wreath presented in honor of Lance Corporal Niall Coti-Sears,” organizers said. “Lance Corporal Coti-Sears was killed in action in June of this year and is the first Arlingtonian to be lost in the Afghanistan war. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.”
Flickr pool photo by ameschen
A Navy veteran is attempting to bring brewing back to the area. He wants to launch the first indigenous distribution craft brewery in Arlington since the Arlington Brewing Company stopped producing beer in 1916.
Paul Hurley is working to make CasaNova Brewing & Sound, LLC a reality, along with business partner Mike DiBella, who has worked with other start-ups such as Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church. Initially, the plan is to brew four signature beers — an IPA, a black IPA, a hefeweizen and a chocolate stout.
“Every endeavor we make will be our sincerest effort to represent the NoVa community through quality, innovation and art,” Hurley said. “CasaNoVa will source the freshest ingredients from local farmers and suppliers while supporting local businesses whenever possible.”
The “art” he mentioned refers to the desire to feature performances by local musicians at CasaNoVa. This aspect of the business incorporates the partners’ long time dream of opening a music venue in the area.
“The brewery is going to focus on exotic ingredients and the young professional demographic,” DiBella said. “We want Arlington to be known for great beer, great music, and a unique atmosphere that celebrates Arlington’s diversity and ties together the community.”
Hurley says he was drawn to the idea of brewing after a series of events stemming from the loss of his right leg. Hurley explained that he had spent time overseas while in the Navy. One day when he was driving down a road in Bahrain with a friend, Hurley says they were chased and run off the road, resulting in an accident that flipped the vehicle. Hurley ended up losing both his leg and his friend.
Following more than two years of recovery, Hurley decided it was time to leave the Navy. He struggled to find a place of employment offering the same level of camaraderie he experienced in the Navy. That is, until he visited family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin two years ago, during a gathering at a smaller brewery started by two brothers. The experience prompted Hurley to begin home brewing and researching a business plan for his own craft brewery.
For now, Hurley and DiBella are focused on raising the $160,000 necessary for launching their business. Although perhaps a bit ambitious, their goal is to be operational by the summer of 2013. They hope to soon secure the space they’re investigating for the brewery location near the Ballston mall.
The partners plan to hold their first fundraising event in about a month, where they will offer tastings of two of the flagship beers. Volunteers and investors interested in helping with the brewery are encouraged to follow CasaNoVa’s Facebook page, or to email [email protected] for more information.
The charity Segs4Vets arranged to give the vehicles to the wounded warriors, many of whom are amputees. Some of the Segways are specially outfitted to accommodate individual disabilities, such as having a built-in seat for when the user becomes too tired to stand.
Jerry Kerr started the organization in September 2005. He had broken his neck in 1998 and was paralyzed from the neck down. Although he has some movement now, he was told he would never be able to walk again. That prompted him to devote time to investigating what technologies were available to allow him to become more mobile.
“When I became permanently disabled, when I realized that my world had changed forever, I started to learn about what we had, how I was going to get around, how I could interact in society again,” said Kerr.
Kerr has particular interest in technology that aids people without drawing attention to their disabilities. When the Segway came out, he found it fit the bill.
Once Kerr discovered how much his life had improved through the use of a Segway, he got the idea to give one to an injured person returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, and the program has blossomed since then.
The Arlington County Police Department helps out Segs4Vets by providing training to the recipients, many of them coming from Walter Reed Medical Center. This allows the users to learn about the vehicles and get on them right away instead of having to wait for the once-a-year training sessions held in Washington D.C., San Antonio and San Diego.
“It originally started because they needed a place to store the Segways, and ACPD was interested in storing some of them,” said ACPD Retired Captain David Herbstreit. “Out of that, we saw an opportunity to go ahead and step into it a little deeper.”
Herbstreit is one of the founding members of the partnership between ACPD and Segs4Vets. Now, there are nearly two dozen participants in the ACPD. Lt. Mark Belanger is one of them. He’s been assisting for about nine months and has trained 18 Segway recipients, along with their spouses and other family members.
“It’s important that there’s a local group they can turn to,” said Belanger. “It’s nice to get someplace close, they don’t have to wait a year.”
Retired Staff Sgt. Robert Canine is one of the many who traveled from across the country to be at the ceremony. He received his Segway in the fall of 2010, and now volunteers with Segs4Vets.
Canine lost both legs below the knee from an injury he sustained in May 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. He explained that an armor-penetrating explosive device hit the vehicle he was in, and he feels lucky to be alive.
Canine went through physical therapy at Walter Reed Medical Center for a year and half. He couldn’t walk well on his new prosthetics, but received his Segway within months of returning home. Canine says it’s been a huge boost to his mobility and allowed him to get around outside.
“I could keep up with my son on his bike, I could walk the dog,” said Canine. “It just felt good to be able to do something.”
Around 11:30 a.m. the President arrived at the fire station via motorcade and took the stage to announce his new $1 billion initiative, which he highlighted during the State of the Union address last month. The program particularly targets veterans who have served since 9/11 — a group whose unemployment rate is currently hovering around 13 percent.
“Our veterans are some of the most highly trained, highly educated, highly skilled workers that we’ve got,” said the President. “These are Americans that every business should be competing to attract.”
Under the initiative, 20,000 veterans will be put to work over the next five years on a Veterans Job Corps conservation program, which will “restore our great outdoors by providing visitor programs, restoring habitat, protecting cultural resources, eradicating invasive species, and operating facilities,” according to the White House. The corps will also “repair and rehabilitate trails, roads, levees, recreation facilities and other assets.”
In addition to the Veterans Job Corps, the president announced that he will seek $5 billion in funding to boost local police and firefighter hiring. Preference for those jobs would be given to post-9/11 veterans.
“Let’s get more cops on the beat. Let’s gets more rangers in the parks. Let’s get more firefighters on call,” Obama said today. “And, in the process, we’re going to put more veterans back to work. It’s good for our communities, it’s good for our economy, and it’s good for our country.”
The president explained that in addition to contributing to the overall good of communities, there will be specific financial benefits for taking part in the initiative.
“Today, we’re announcing that communities who make it a priority to recruit veterans will be among the first in line when it comes to getting help from the federal government,” the president said.
It’s 11-11-11 — Today’s Veterans Day holiday falls on a uniquely symmetrical date: 11-11-11. In addition to ties to doomsday myths, the 11-11-11 date has produced some actual trends, including increased sales of lottery tickets and a crush of wedding ceremonies.
Bikeshare Expands in Courthouse, Clarendon — A new Capital Bikeshare station was installed near the Courthouse Metro at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Uhle Street yesterday. Another station is expected to be installed at Wilson Boulevard and N. Edgewood Street in Clarendon by the end of the day today. [Bike Arlington]
Bondi Announces County Board Candidacy — Democrat Melissa Bondi has formally announced her candidacy to replace state Senator-elect Barbara Favola on the Arlington County Board. In a press release yesterday, Bondi touted her civic leadership experience and said she would bring a “fresh approach” to the Board. “I am prepared to lead important community conversations about what will make Arlington a stronger, more competitive and desirable place to live in the next 30 years,” she said.
Flickr pool photo by Schlickw
Arlington National Cemetery will hold its annual National Veterans Day Ceremony starting promptly at 11:00 tomorrow morning. The event begins with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, then continues inside the adjacent Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors and remarks from dignitaries. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are expected to attend and participate in the ceremony.
Elsewhere in Arlington County, most government offices will be closed for the holiday. County administrative offices, public libraries, courts, schools and nature centers are among the facilities scheduled to be closed. Parking meters will not be enforced.
The Clarendon watering hole is holding a fundraiser for IAVA tomorrow from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m., complete with food and drink specials and a mechanical bull. There’s no cover for the event, but bull rides are $10. Proceeds will benefit IAVA.
See the event’s Facebook page for more information.
Photo via Facebook
The Veterans Administration is holding its annual “Welcome Home Celebration” for hundreds of returning combat veterans in Crystal City next weekend.
The event, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway), will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. It will serve to educate returning veterans, active duty service personnel and their family members about the VA’s benefits and health care service, through on-site enrollment services, health screenings and benefits counseling.
There will also be a job fair for Iraq and Afghanistan vets, as well as family-friendly entertainment, music and a free lunch.
At a ceremony on the grounds of the Iwo Jima memorial this morning, some 50 wounded warriors will receive brand new Segway personal transport vehicles, the reward for “graduating” from a training program sponsored by the military charity Segs4Vets.
Although two such graduation ceremonies have taken place here every year for the past couple of years, this is the first in which the Arlington Police Department is playing an integral part.
ACPD, which has 12 officers trained to operate the department’s six Segways, helped train today’s recipients, and helped assemble and transport the 51 Segways that are being given away. County motorcycle officers are also helping to escort the group between the ceremony and meals at Army Navy Country Club today.
It’s a partnership that Segs4Vets and the police department hope to extend.
“Here was a way to reach out to the community,” said Capt. David Herbstreet, one of the overseers of the department’s Segway program. “How can you say no? This is an awesome cause and we’re humbled and honored to do it.”
The officers involved in the training all volunteered for the program.
“It’s a wonderful relationship that we’re really excited about,” said Mike Kelly, who serves on Segs4Vet’s advisory board.
Segs4Vets has given away 525 Segways to severely injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide since 2005. The organization says the device gives wounded vets an additional degree of freedom and mobility while not drawing attention to their disability.
Arlington Joins Region-Wide HOV Enforcement Effort Today — Today Arlington police will be joining Virginia State Police and other local law enforcement agencies in an effort to crack down on HOV violators. During the morning and evening rush hours, police will step up HOV patrols on I-66, I-395 and other local highways. More from WaPo’s Dr. Gridlock.
Injured Vets Stop at Iwo Jima Memorial on Cross-County Bike Ride — A group of 18 bicyclists, many of them wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stopped in Arlington last night on their way from San Francisco to Virginia Beach. The vets stopped at the Marine Corps Memorial to see the retiring of the colors ceremony. More from the Associated Press.
Moran’s Cash Advantage Over Murray Nearly 20:1 — Talk about an incumbent advantage. In the latest disclosure period, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) reported nearly twenty times as much cash on hand as his Republican challenger, Patrick Murray. Murray has $29,890 to Moran’s $581,829. The Sun Gazette reports that Murray’s congressional campaign also has $35,000 in unpaid debt.
Annual Twilight 5K Returns to Crystal City Saturday — Now in its third year, the Crystal City Twilighter 5K will once again wind its way through the streets of Crystal City as the sun sets Saturday night. The race will get underway around 8:00 p.m. on Crystal Drive between 20th Street and 23rd Street. The Twilighter features medals for the top three finishers in 16 age groups, cash prizes for the top five finishers, and a killer after party. Online registration for the race ends Friday.