Archive for May, 2010

May 31, 2010

What Does Memorial Day Mean to You?


Posted: 1:39 PM May 31, 2010
Reporter: Rebecca Ward
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On the somber day that began as Decoration Day, following the American Civil War, Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what the day means to so many.

“Memorial Day is a way of paying back to those who gave their lives for this county to be free,” said William Barron.

“For so many families, it’s the loss of someone in the service overseas, and I think about all of those people and all that they are sacrificing for us,” Paulette Buchanan said.

“To honor my husband, who died 36 years ago,” said Jacqueline Massey. “He was a veteran.”

For many, it is not only a time to remember fallen solders, but a time to remember all loved ones who have died.

“For me, personally, remember my family members,” said Buchanan.

To quote former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, “in the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”

“In order for us to be free over here, they are over there giving their life so we may continue to live in freedom,” said Barron.

“Memorial Day is a very special day in this country because we wouldn’t be here had it not been for all those who were willing to serve our county, ” said Massey.

Not only is the meaning behind Memorial Day so important for so many, but why after hundreds of years it is so important to hold on to?

“The fallen solders and the solders who are serving now, because the price of freedom is not free,” Barron said.

May 31, 2010

OUR OPINION: Memorial Day a day of thanks and remembrance


SAN ANGELO, Texas — Admittedly this perception is based on the Internet and anecdotal evidence, but it seems that Memorial Day is regaining some of its significance as something other than the three-day getaway weekend that marks the informal start of summer.

More places seem to be having parades and ceremonies. Perhaps it’s because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made us more acutely aware of the debt we owe our military men and women.

On Memorial Day we honor those who have died in that service. President Barack Obama will do so at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois; Vice President Joe Biden will do so at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

There are numerous explanations as to the origins of Memorial Day, but it seems to have sprung spontaneously in separate locations following the trauma of the Civil War. On May 5, 1868, Gen. John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Potomac, formalized the custom of a day set aside to decorate the graves of the fallen. Indeed, for years it was called Decoration Day. The first observance was that May 30.

After World War II, the term Memorial Day came more and more into general use. Congress made it official in 1967. Congress then declared that, starting in 1971, the holiday would be observed on the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend. Many believe that change robbed Memorial Day of some of its solemnity. Since 1987, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a wounded World War II vet, has annually — and unsuccessfully — tried to return Memorial Day to May 30.

To return something of Memorial Day’s purpose, President Bill Clinton in 2000 signed a proclamation calling for a National Moment of Remembrance, a moment of silence at 3 p.m. today. Maybe it’s working. In any case, a small pause to say thank-you is little enough to ask.

Enjoy your Memorial Day, and remember whom it honors.

May 31, 2010

The Breaking News Blog: Memorial Day 2010 events


Sunday, May 30, 2010


MEMORIAL DAY OBSERVANCE, a tribute to Gaithersburg residents who died while serving in the armed forces. Event includes speaker Maj. Dave Buffaloe, a strategic planner for the Army Transformation Office, followed by music and a wreath-laying ceremony. Items will be collected for the Adopt-a-Unit drive to send overseas. 2 p.m., Christman Park, 304 W. Deer Park Rd., Gaithersburg. Free, registration for the ceremony requested. 301-258-6350, or

MEMORIAL DAY PROGRAM, hosted by the Harry White Wilmer American Legion Post 82. 1 p.m. at the Post, 6330 Crain Highway, La Plata. 301-934-8221.

NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT, Jack Everly leads a musical salute and a special tribute on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War; co-hosts Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna introduce Gen. Colin L. Powell, Brad Paisley, Lionel Richie, Kelli O’Hara, Dennis Haysbert, Yolanda Adams, Katherine Jenkins, Blythe Danner and A.J. Cook, with additional music by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, U.S. Army Chorale, U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters and the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants; take a blanket or folding chair. Gates open, 5 p.m.; concert, 8 p.m., U.S. Capitol, West Lawn, East Capitol and First streets. Free. 202-619-7222.

U.S. NAVY MEMORIAL PROGRAMS, staff members lead a “Stories of Service” training workshop where visitors may learn to create a digital story about a favorite veteran or write a memoir. 9 a.m.-noon. “Spirit of ’45” workshop to prepare for the Aug. 14 “Spirit of ’45” nationwide celebration, guest speakers actor Hugh O’Brian and Ann Bennett Mix, American WWII Orphans Network. 1-4 p.m., U.S. Navy Memorial & Naval Heritage Center, Burke Theater, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. 202-737-2300,


33RD ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY JAZZ FESTIVAL, Jazz Ambassadors Dixieland Band, Joe Baione Trio, Al Williams, Larry Brown Quintet and Kaleidoscope Orchestra. Food available or bring a picnic basket, lawn chairs and blankets. Pets not allowed. 1-7 p.m., Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site, 4301 W. Braddock Rd., Alexandria. Free. 703-746-4848.

66TH ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONY AND PARADE, a 9:30 a.m. ceremony will take place at the Grand Stand on Maryland Avenue. The 10:30 a.m. parade will feature drill teams, marching bands, community groups, military units and more, beginning at Martins Lane and North Washington Street and continuing through Maryland Avenue and Rockville Town Center; part of the three-day “Hometown Holidays” celebration. 9:30 a.m., Rockville Town Square, between Rockville Pike, East Middle Lane, North Washington Street and Beall Avenue. Free. 240-314-8620 or

ALEXANDRIA MEMORIAL PROGRAM, a wreath-laying ceremony and a tribute to the 67 Alexandrians who died or went missing in action during the Vietnam War. 11 a.m., Capt. Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in front of Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria. Free. 703-325-4631.

FALLS CHURCH MEMORIAL DAY FALLEN VETERANS CEREMONY, Specialist Stephan L. Mace, a soldier killed in Iraq on Oct. 3, 2009. will be honored. Mace’s family will speak about their son and receive a “Plaque of Honor.” 11 a.m., Falls Church Community Center, 223 Little Falls St. Free. 703-248-5027.

“HONORING OUR FALLEN WARRIORS,” wreath-laying and guest speakers. 9 a.m., National World War II Memorial, 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. 202-619-7222.

JCC MEMORIAL DAY PROGRAM, a program to honor American veterans who served in all wars, will include a brief history of Memorial Day and the story of a British general who is credited with helping to establish what is now know as the Israeli Defense Forces. 2-3 p.m., Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Adler Monument, just outside the JCC, 6125 Montrose Rd., Rockville. Free. 301-881-8810.

MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONY, national anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and speakers Ret. Lt. Col. Lisa Cramer and Post Commander Michael Conner, sponsored by the American Legion Alexandria, Va. Post 24. 11 a.m., Alexandria National Cemetery, 1450 Wilkes St. Free. 703-967-2684.

MEMORIAL DAY OBSERVANCE, music by the U.S. Navy Band 10:30 a.m.; Armed Forces Full Honor wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and observance program, 11 a.m., Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Amphitheater, Memorial Bridge and Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington. Free; free parking in Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center parking lot (8 a.m.-1 p.m.). 703-607-8000 or

NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY PARADE, a flag-waving event featuring patriotic marches and floats, sponsored by the World War II Veterans Committee. Starts at 2 p.m. at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue and continues to 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Free. 202-619-7222.

U.S. NAVY MEMORIAL PROGRAMS, wreath-laying ceremony. 10 a.m.; concert by the U.S. Navy Band. Noon; Naval District of Washington wreath-laying with guest speaker Rear Adm. Patty Wolfe. 1 p.m., U.S. Navy Memorial Heritage Center, Burke Theater, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. 202-737-2300,

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL OBSERVANCE, the ceremony includes Presentation of the Colors, remarks by a special guest and the laying of wreaths by various patriotic organizations. 1 p.m., Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Constitution Avenue and Henry Bacon Drive NW. Free. 202-619-7222.

WREATH-LAYING CEREMONY, military honors, speakers and a Rose Petal Ceremony, 4 p.m., Women in Military Service For America Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Bridge and Jefferson Davis Highway Arlington. Free. 800-222-2294, 703-892-2606 or

May 30, 2010

The lao way


By N M Khan

May 30, 2010

One way to judge a country’s arrival as ‘’the next big destination’’ is by its high end hotels — and one’s inability to get a room during peak season. For a tiny country like Laos, its cultural capital Luang Prabang, which you can walk the length and breadth of in a day, has five.

The latest is the Amantaka by Aman resorts, whose chain of resorts have come to define luxury living. Maison Souvannaphoum is the 1970s 24-room residence of the former prince; a massage in a quiet spot in its luxurious garden, complete with real sounds of the tropics can turn the staunchest republican into a royalist. Villa Maly is a charming boutique hotel whose showers with their various settings deserve an article all their own. The Three Nagas, whose restaurant is perhaps what makes the hotel a popular choice, is a modern structure smack in the middle of town, with a vintage Mercedes Benz as its calling card. A ten-minute rickshaw-cum-jalopy ride into the mountains gets you to La Residence Phu Vao, from whose infinity pool you can avail of stunning views of the sleepy town below.

Truth be told, Laos is one big stunning view from wherever one stands, sits or sleeps, yet in this part of the world, it doesn’t get the coverage its siblings in the Mekong, Vietnam and Cambodia do — and that too is a recent phenomena. Pakistanis can’t get enough of Thailand yet what was once known as Indochine has more to offer in rich heritage, art and culture and food. Pages and pages can be written on the delicacies and not-so-delicacies in food (if it moves, it’s considered meat) in each country but because there are no malls, no air-conditioned plush cinemas, no modern public transport system and no one welcoming you in permanent bowing positions, a country like Laos will get overlooked.

But it must not be. Laotians are the warmest, most hospitable people in Southeast Asia. Even when they are ripping you off — a common trait and cause for complaint in the region — it is done with such finesse, such genuineness (none of the aggression you’ll find in Vietnam or arrogance and outrage you might witness in Siam Reap) you’re only too happy to hand over your dollars at the market. And the manner in which they take your money and then use it to bless the rest of the products is so endearing that you don’t feel gypped when you discover three minutes later that you paid $4 for a $2 t-shirt; it’s still much cheaper than what you’d find at Crossroads and of comparable quality. Cheap here doesn’t necessarily translate to one-time wear.

For a town whose major tourist sites — 58 temples and palaces — are within walking distance, four days in Luang Prabang appears like a lot of time because, let’s be honest here, you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen ‘em all. Yet it is the serenity and solemnity, the narrow lanes, the wooden houses, the colonial structures and the laid-back attitude of travellers and residents that’ll keep you back. As is the feeling that you are shut off from the world: perhaps it’s the mountains that act as palisades that lend it this air but never does one feel trapped or bogged down by tourist traps.

Since being declared a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site in 1995, when the organisation cited it as “one of the best preserved cities in Southeast Asia”, both the administration, developers and foreign investors have remain committed to preventing an assault of eye-sore development. So far, so good and it would be a real pity if, as it becomes more popular as a tourist destination, its backwater nature is converted into stuff that concrete jungles are made of. This has happened in Vietnam and Cambodia where, thanks to the billions being pumped in by foreign developers, the quaintness which once marked their capitals has given way to all that is ugly about modern cities. While Hanoi and Phnom Penh still retain some charm, how long can they hold out?

While it may take this much longer for Laos to catch up to the relative economic success of Vietnam or tourist ratings that Cambodia attracts, catch up it will; foreign plans to invest in 3G sector are remarkable given that that level of investment in telecom doesn’t exist in Vietnam or Cambodia. There is a danger then that Luang Prabang could lose much of that stop-time quality as developers vie for prime properties along the Mekong River, thereby threatening the existence of water rafting or elephant rides in the river, or worse, making these activities the exclusive realm of luxury resorts.

But this will take a few years, especially because the Communist regime in Laos has been slow to wake up to its country’s potential as a tourist destination. That Luang Prabang only got an airport a decade ago is testament to this. This perhaps best illustrates how the moment its doors were opened, high-end hoteliers jumped in, well aware of the country’s potential to draw in the well-heeled. The capital, by comparison, has virtually nothing to offer in high-end anything and can be missed altogether if pressed for time.

The consensus amongst travel writers is that mass tourism is coming — but that it won’t have arrived by the time you get round to planning your trip. By my humble estimates, you have a few years. Luang Prabang was not just a royal city but a monastic one and the latter remains, exemplified not just by the sheer number of temples (58) but by the local monks who are its nerve centre. Neither would have vanished by the time you arrive; the monks’ morning rituals of seeking alms from locals will, at most, become more crowded with tourists behaving badly, disregarding the norm in attempts to get a good shot. Thankfully, the Lao way is to grin and bear it — and rip you off some more.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 30th, 2010.

May 29, 2010

Standing up for Lao art in Minnesota



By Bryan Thao Worra

May 29, 2010

A Lao writer pointed an interesting fact to me last week: After 8 months and 7 free plays at the Playwrights Center with over 50 actors, 12 special guests, free food and drinks, 24 hours of driving from Mankato and 45 documented hours of writing scripts, only two Lao people came to see her plays. And I was one of them.

It’s not often we call out our community. Chalk it up to the conversational traditions of Southeast Asia, mixed in with 30 years of Minnesota Nice and folks who hate rocking the boat. The result is we rarely see a lens turned on ourselves that’s frank about our hopes and disappointments. Maybe we need to change that.


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I’ve been in Southeast Asian refugee resettlement for over a decade and an artist my whole life. I’ll be the first to tell you, being in the arts doesn’t entitle you to anything, even if you picked up an MFA, a fellowship or some other acclaim. Today is today.

Just the same, when I see a community of over 60,000 Southeast Asian refugees in Minnesota, near 25,000 of them Lao, and only two of our own show up over 8 months, that has to raise some flags for me.

With this particular writer, I’ve seen her work grow for over seven years, and she performs internationally and across the country. Here in Minnesota? She can’t even get recognized as an ’emerging artist’ by the powers that be.

The Tom Waits song suggests at least, “Hey, I’m big in Japan.” That’s a small comfort for her, but it fails to address a challenge we can and must be honest about.

When I walk into work or go to other community events, I constantly hear elders and others moaning we’re losing our culture. I gave up on calling them out: “But what have you done to help the culture keep those traditions you say you love so much alive?”

Talking to our local Lao musicians and dancers, I’m always saddened when I hear how much money they make performing. It’s heartbreaking, even more so considering they’re trying to pass on a tradition that stretches back over 600 years, celebrating our community and our search for truth and kindness.

Instead, folks want to pirate an mp3 about bitches and hos.

For Lao writers, the scene’s just as discouraging. One came up to me, happy she was getting paid $13 for a column. I wanted to be happy with her, but that won’t even buy a nice lunch around here. There’s discount strippers in this city who make more than that in just 3 minutes.

Nice priorities.

Most of us have been in the US 30 years now. But we’ve seen less than a book a year come out by Laotian Americans. Back in Laos they print an average of 88 books a year even when the per capita income is little over $2,000 a year. That may not seem like much, but considering we have 200,000 Lao in America, a nation where our median income is over $50,000, and we barely have 30 books in our entire community to show for it, we need to call ourselves on that.

I’m not saying my friend’s plays this year were this generation’s “Death of a Salesman” or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” She’s young and probably a long way from grabbing a Tony soon. But when our community decides it would rather play “Call of Duty” on the XBox, watch a rerun of “Friends” or shell out cash for a “Sex In The City” sequel, that’s just tragic.

A culture is held together by many things. Food, language, history, but also our arts. I suspect a hundred years from now, our children will not care that much about what a bowl of pho sold for. But they’ll look back at this vibrant age, seeking the stories of where they come from, what we dreamed and believed and they will discover most of us left them a gift of utter silence.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Bryan Thao Worra's picture

Bryan Thao Worra

A Laotian American writer, Bryan Thao Worra works actively to support Laotian, Hmong and Southeast Asian American artists and writers across the US


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