It is the day after the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. As I noted on my tours yesterday, only John Hancock actually signed it on July 4. The resolution was adopted on July 2 - most of the delegates signed it on August 2. Any of these dates could be our actual Independence day.....but as always, I digress.
We'll go bouncing around a bit today. I do not have an over-arching theme this week...and the same dead horses that we've been beating for the last few cycles seem to be growing tiresome, if no less important.
How about something we don't always associate with veterans? That would be voting. We all vote, and I'm sure you see the same poll workers at your precinct year after year. I've done this myself off and on over the last decade or so, but I'm not on the list for this election. It's expected that it will be a big turnout this year - my city has issued multiple calls for poll workers, which in this city is a paid position. There is also a call for volunteers, and it's hoped that veterans might fulfill that role.
American democracy runs on elections, and elections run on volunteers. Every year, local county election boards across America must recruit more than a million citizen volunteers to administer polling sites.
The COVID-19 pandemic sharply cut the number of volunteers from the traditional 60-and-older cohort. Today, we have a critical national shortage of election workers, creating barriers that could prevent some American citizens from exercising their right to vote.
The shortage of volunteer poll workers has already negatively impacted our election system. Over the past few years, American communities have seen a drastic reduction in the number of polling locations and longer lines and wait times. In 2020, the situation was so dire that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers activated his state's National Guard to assist as poll workers in 40 counties during the state's primary elections. New Jersey did the same that year and sent 120 soldiers in civilian clothes to assist -- a first in state history. In early 2022, several voting locations in Texas were unable to open due to a lack of volunteers. There are similar stories from New York to Los Angeles and in just about every state in the nation.
Despite that, because of the systems and norms and, most importantly, the incredible efforts of the cadre of American citizen volunteers, 2020 was the most secure election in our history.
Military veterans and their family members are ideal candidates to help solve this critical challenge to our democracy. While in uniform, we came from all corners of the nation -- from every class and creed -- and put aside our differences, joining together to serve our democracy. A recent 2021 study by The Mission Continues, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and National Conference on Citizenship found that veterans are "more likely than non-military civilians to volunteer in their communities" and also more likely to vote.
If you happen to know any veterans in your part of the world - do encourage them to check out their local city clerk's office. The need is real, and all help is generally welcome.
Moning on, let's head out west to Hawaii. Generally thought of as an idyllic paradise, the reality is often quite different. It was reported here some time ago, but it bears a follow-up. The United States Navy poisoned the water supply around Pearl Harbor. Of course there was a cover-up, and then an investigation. It's not gotten much national traction, but the Navy has finally admitted that "mistakes were made"
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A Navy investigation released Thursday revealed that shoddy management and human error caused fuel to leak into Pearl Harbor's tap water last year, poisoning thousands of people and forcing military families to evacuate their homes for hotels.
The investigation is the first detailed account of how jet fuel from the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, a massive World War II-era military-run tank farm in the hills above Pearl Harbor, leaked into a well that supplied water to housing and offices in and around the sprawling base. Some 6,000 people suffered nausea, headaches, rashes and other symptoms.
After months of resistance, the military in April agreed to an order from the state of Hawaii to drain the tanks and close the Red Hill facility. A separate report the Defense Department provided to the state Department of Health on Thursday said December 2024 was the earliest it could defuel the tanks safely.
The investigation report listed a cascading series of mistakes from May 6, 2021, when operator error caused a pipe to rupture and 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of fuel to spill when fuel was being transferred between tanks. Most of this fuel spilled into a fire suppression line and sat there for six months, causing the line to sag. A cart rammed into this sagging line on Nov. 20, releasing 20,000 gallons (75,700 liters) of fuel.
The area where the cart hit the line isn't supposed to have fuel, and so the officials who responded to the spill didn't have the right equipment to capture the liquid.
“The team incorrectly assumes that all of the fuel has been sopped up," Adm. Sam Paparo, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told reporters at a news conference. About 5,000 gallons (19,000 liters) wasn't recovered.
"Meanwhile, over the course of eight days, that fuel enters into this French drain that is under the concrete and seeps slowly and quietly into the Red Hill well. And that fuel into the Red Hill well is then pumped into the Navy system,” Paparo said.
Red Hill officials thought that only 1,618 gallons (6,125 liters) had leaked in the May spill and that they recovered all but 38 gallons (144 liters). They noticed that one of the tanks was short 20,000 gallons (75,700 liters) but believed it had flowed through the pipes and didn't realize it had flown into the fire suppression line. They didn't report the discrepancy to senior leadership.
After the November spill when people started getting sick, the military moved about 4,000 mostly military families into hotels for months while they waited for their water to be safe again.
Finally today, we'll head into the weird category. California's drought is no joke - in some places, I've seen it called "aridification". Take a look at the Aral Sea in Russia, and you might have an idea of what California is in for. Nevertheless - some weirdness is happening at Lake Meade. How about a WWII ship that has emerged from the depths as the water level continues to drop?
A sunken boat dating back to World War II is the latest object to emerge from a shrinking reservoir that straddles Nevada and Arizona. The Higgins landing craft that has long been 185 feet below the surface is now nearly halfway out of the water at Lake Mead.
The boat lies less than a mile from Lake Mead Marina and Hemingway Harbor. It was used to survey the Colorado River decades ago, sold to the marina and then sunk, according to dive tours company Las Vegas Scuba.
Higgins Industries in New Orleans built several thousand landing craft between 1942 and 1945, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Around 1,500 "Higgins boats" were deployed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.
The boat is just the latest in a series of objects unearthed by declining water levels in Lake Mead, the largest human-made reservoir in the U.S., held back by the Hoover Dam. In May, two sets of human remains were found in the span of a week.
Experts say climate change and drought have led to the lake dropping to its lowest level since it was full about 20 years ago.
FYI - A Higgins Boat is exactly what you think it is. My great-uncle Fio drove one of these at Okinawa, and possibly at Normandy the year previously.