Archive for June, 2010

The last full measure of devotion

Honor Staff Sgt. James Patrick Hunter

A motorcycle escort made up mostly of veterans paid their respects to Army Staff Sgt. James Hunter during a prayer ceremony at the funeral home Saturday.

One thousand fifty-two. That’s how many American military men and women have died (as of last Friday) in or around Afghanistan as a result of the fighting that followed the U.S.-led invasion of that country in 2001, according to the Associated Press. Outside the Afghan region, another 78 have died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
But those are numbers, and it’s hard to feel anything about numbers.
One thousand deaths is a statistic; one death is a tragedy. Especially when it’s that of someone who was taken in the early summer of his life — a young man with a name, family, fiancee, friends and dreams. A man like Army Staff Sgt. James Patrick Hunter, 25, son of Tom Hunter of Winchester and Patricia Phillips of South Amherst, Ohio. He was to be married to a fellow soldier, Candice Clark.
After two tours in Iraq, Hunter, a combat veteran and military journalist, was one month into his service in Afghanistan when he was killed by an IED. It was a brutal act of terrorism. But then it was brutal acts of terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001 that led the United States and its allies to go after the perpetrators in the mountains of Afghanistan and end the grisly reign of the Taliban, who harbored Al Qaeda. And it was those same senseless acts that led James Hunter to join the Army rather than go to college after he graduated from high school in 2003.
Someone had to protect the rest of us from future attacks. Someone had to do something about monsters like Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban who were making life hell for their own people, threatening other countries and destabilizing a strategically important region. Maybe James Hunter thought that someone was him.

A young Marine, Pvt. Jordan Crowe, salutes his fallen comrade.

Like most of those who waited to welcome him to town Saturday afternoon, I didn’t know Hunter and never had a chance to ask him why he served. But I’m grateful that he did. So were the scores of residents who lined the sidewalks, holding American flags, or holding their hands over their hearts as his motorcade passed. Many were young soldiers or old veterans who saluted him. Others were people who had lost loved ones in wars and therefore knew the pain his family and friends felt — and knew the cost of security.
According to the Associated Press, June has been the deadliest month for coalition forces since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, with 91 NATO troops killed, 54 of them Americans.
There are some who say the cost is too high and that we should bring our troops home. Indeed the cost is steep. And in Iraq, where our military has largely accomplished its mission, it makes sense to begin withdrawal. But in Afghanistan, the fight isn’t over. The Taliban is gaining strength, and its terrorist allies are biding their time, waiting to again use that country as a base of operations.
Is the war winnable? I don’t know. Maybe no one does. But I’m reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said when our country was experiencing one of its darkest hours, and no one knew when the dawn would come.
As he delivered his eulogy on Nov. 19, 1863, the president said it is for us, the living, to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work those brave men had advanced — and that those who had given “the last full measure of devotion must not have died in vain.”
Lincoln envisioned a “new birth of freedom” to shine as a beacon to the whole world.
I believe America is still that beacon, and I think James Hunter believed it too.
We must not forget his sacrifice — or the sacrifices of the more than 1,000 others who have died in this war. But we also must not forget why they fought, and must dedicate ourselves as a nation to that cause.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Comment on this column or others at world/

Winchester to welcome soldier's body home

Staff Sgt. James Hunter died June 18 in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. James Hunter’s long journey from Afghanistan, where he died last week, to his final resting place in the Lexington Cemetery will wind through Winchester on Saturday.
Hunter, a soldier from Fort Campbell and the son of Winchester resident William “Tom” Hunter, was killed June 18 by an insurgent bomb blast while he was on foot patrol. The Lexington native grew up in northern Ohio, where his body was returned last week.
His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Winchester First United Methodist Church, where his father is a member, and his burial will follow in Lexington. Rolan Taylor Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner, a friend of Tom Hunter’s, said today the young soldier’s body is expected to arrive in Winchester sometime after 1 p.m. Saturday. The route from Interstate 64 will begin at the 96 interchange, proceed down Maple Street to Washington, then along Main Street to the funeral home.
Burtner said he hopes there will be a large crowd of flag-waving residents along the procession route, especially on Main.
“I encourage the public to line the route and to bring flags, if they have them, in honor and respect for Staff Sgt. Hunter,” Burtner said.
The mayor said there would be a brief ceremony at the funeral home with the Rev. James Williams, pastor of First United Methodist, offering a prayer for Hunter.
On Tuesday, following the full military funeral at the church, the Lexington Police Department’s motorcycle patrol will escort Hunter’s remains from the church on Main Street to Lexington Avenue and along U.S. 60 into Lexington to the cemetery. That will be another opportunity, Burtner said, for the townspeople and Clark County residents to pay their respect to the fallen warrior.

Contact Randy Patrick at

Afflicting the comfortable in Corbin

Editor Samantha Swindler

Small daily and weekly newspapers are  often not as aggressive as their big-city counterparts when it comes to holding accountable those in power but the best ones are, and under Editor Samantha Swindler’s leadership, the Times-Tribune of Corbin has been one of the best.
Swindler, who is leaving Corbin for the Oregon coast, gave the city commission a good spanking before saying good-bye.
At a crowded meeting, the commission cut the position of Main Street manager to part-time while donating $50,000 to the industrial development program, which Swindler said, has little to show for the money it has received, while the Main Street program has done quite a bit to enhance economic development.
“I wasn’t particularly surprised with how Corbin city commissioners voted Monday night because, like all major decisions, it was made long before the public meeting,” she began her column, “The Beauty of Community; the Ugliness of Politics.”
That got my attention because, as a longtime community journalist, I know that’s how many local governments operate — even though it’s illegal and wrong.
She then went on to tell that the commissioners couldn’t be heard because they refused to speak into their mics, and wouldn’t let people in the audience speak — although when there’s hardly anyone there, they routinely open the meeting to discussion.
She urged the people of Corbin to continue to attend the meetings and ask questions, because that “is how politics is supposed  to work,” she said.
“Public servants are supposed to represent the will of the people, not take it as a personal affront when the public actually shows up to a public meeting.”
Thanks to Samantha for reminding us not only how politics, but also community journalism, “is supposed to work.”

Read what former Courier-Journal political reporter Al Cross wrote about Swindler’s parting shot on the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues’ The Rural Blog.

GRC student journalists demonstrate excellence

The staff of George Rogers Clark High School's student newspaper.

The Smoke Signals’ staff’s theme song is “We’re All in This Together,” from the “High School Musical” soundtrack. But it could be Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”
That’s because the George Rogers Clark High School student newspaper is the 2009-2010 Award of Excellence winner in its division of the Kentucky High School Journalism Association’s state contest.
The staff won first place for general excellence in the 4A schools division.
As managing editor of Winchester’s daily, the Sun, it gives me pleasure to know that there are up-and-coming young journalists here in my own hometown whose work has been recognized for excellence.
Congratulations to Executive Editor Mercedes Trent and her staff, faculty adviser and journalism instructor Shanda Crosby (who was my editor on the staff of The Eastern Progress at EKU so many years ago),  and the 17-member school newspaper staff who made it possible for  GRC to win this award.
Those receiving individual recognition in the state contest were Madison Roe, second place for news writing; Courtney Leggett, third place for feature writing; Austin Lanter, second place for review; Mercedes Trent, third place for review; Lanter, third place for sports writing; Roe, first place for column; Robert Hatton, second place for column; and Brad Stephens, third place for column; Christian Calvert, first and second place for cartoon; Rachel Everman, third place for single page layout; Leggett, first and third place for two-page layout; and Calvert, third place for illustrations/graphics.
A big thumbs up to the GRC journalism program and the staff of Smoke Signals!

Why not name school for the other Clark?

Gen. George Rogers Clark was a hero of the American Revolution, so it’s probably fitting that a school somewhere be named for him.
And in fact, there are nine schools across the country that bear his name, four of them in Indiana, where he lived many years of his life and had his greatest military successes, notably, the capturing of Kaskaskia and Vincennes from the British.

Gov. James Clark of Winchester, an ambitious reformer, created Kentucky's public school system.

But there isn’t any reliable evidence that he ever set foot in Clark County, Kentucky, which is named for him, and where the only public high school is George Rogers Clark — or as generations have called it, “GRC.”
Many have assumed that the new high school on Boonesboro Road, which will replace GRC, will also be called George Rogers Clark High, but that may not be a valid assumption.
We have not heard school officials propose that it  be called anything else, but on the Clark County Public Schools website, it’s simply referred to as the New High School, or the CCPS High School or the new Clark County High School.
Yet many who are enamored of the old school’s name are worried that it will change. Just this Wednesday, we published a letter about it from Janice Cox of Fulton, Ky., who attended GRC when it opened in 1963 following the merger of the city and county schools. She had heard a rumor that it might be called Daniel Boone High School.
Boone would come closer to being a local dignitary, because his settlement, Fort Boonesborough, was just across the river. But Boone was practically illiterate, so his might not be the best name to associate with a center of learning.
And George Rogers Clark, who was homeschooled, was a drunk who couldn’t keep a job, so he might not be the best role model for teenagers.
But there is another historical figure from Winchester who would be an excellent choice to have a school named for him, and that is Gov. James Clark, the father of Kentucky’s public schools.
A resident of Clark County whose mansion overlooks the site of the vanished Winchester High School, James Clark was a remarkable leader in all three branches of government. He was a congressman, circuit and appellate court judge and state senator, as well as governor.
An ambitious reformer, his accomplishments included creating the state’s system of common schools, establishing a state board of education and state superintendent, appointing school commissioners in every county, and strengthening oversight of state government, banking and contracts.
In naming the merged high school for the county’s namesake in 1963, I think Clark Countians chose the wrong Clark to honor. This is our chance to rectify that mistake.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun.

Our girls rule: Cards going to state

George Rogers Clark senior Morgan Woosley hugged teammate Megan Bealert after the Lady Cardinals defeated Harrison County to win the 10th Region title Wednesday at Jack Shirley Field in Cynthiana. Clark advances to next week’s state tournament. Keith Taylor/

George Rogers Clark’s softball players have shown they are winners.

For the third time in five years, Jackie McCloud’s Lady Cardinals are going to the state tournament after having captured the 10th Region title June 2 in Cynthiana.

“They just don’t quit,” McCloud said of his players after they tamed the Tomcats to take the region.

“It just shows that our hard work and dedication paid off,” said Morgan Woosley, one of the seniors.

Hard work and dedication are what it will take when the girls take on Ashland’s Paul Blazer High in the opening round of the state tourney on Friday.

Good luck, girls, and thanks for making us proud of you once again.

School officials failed Fannie Bush

One of Clark County’s schools will be featured in a magazine that is sold at nearly every supermarket checkout in the nation, and it’s a recognition that is well-deserved.

But it isn’t the kind anyone wants.

Fannie Bush Elementary School, which was recently named one of the worst school buildings in the state by the Department of Education, has now been selected by People as one of the six worst in the nation.

Collapsed sewer lines, inadequate restroom facilities, traffic problems and having to use a gymnasium for a cafeteria are among the many problems the aging school faces.

This month, reporters from the magazine interviewed Principal Angie Taylor and some of her teachers, as well as parents, about their efforts to provide children a good education under such trying conditions. No one faults those efforts. They are making progress, even with all the challenges they face. But there is plenty of fault for state and local school officials who allowed this problem to fester.

At one time, rehabilitating or replacing Fannie Bush’s building was the district’s top school facilities priority. But a few years ago, the state officials rejected that plan, and the local school board, responding to the recommendation of an appointed committee and under pressure from the state to close rural schools, came up with the current school facilities construction plan.  This plan involves building a new high school first, moving Conkwright and Clark Middle students into the old George Rogers Clark building and finally, closing run-down school buildings like Fannie Bush, Central and Pilot View and converting the middle school buildings into elementary schools to accommodate those students.

I’m convinced that Clark County does need a new high school building for many reasons. But replacing George Rogers Clark is far from our most pressing need at this time, and the facilities plan pushes those schools with the most critical problems to the back of the line — delaying action on Fannie Bush, Central and Pilot View for at least four or five years.

Almost everybody seems to understand this except for some school board members and state officials who ignored strong public dissatisfaction with this plan to move forward with it.

What more will it take to convince both the local school board and the state Department of Education that they were wrong and that the plan needs a mid-course correction?

Helen Thomas retires after remark about Jews

Helen Thomas

The New York Times is reporting that former White House correspondent and columnist Helen Thomas, who spent part of her childhood in Winchester and still has family here, is retiring after making a comment that Jews should “get the hell out” of Palestine.

I enjoyed meeting Thomas a few years ago when she spoke at Centre College and I introduced myself to her as the managing editor of her “hometown paper.” She has had an illustrious journalistic career, and no one can take that from her. But in recent years, as a columnist, she had become so strident and so obsessed with foreign policy in the Middle East and especially the war in Iraq, that I dropped her King Features column from the Sun and replaced her with Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post Writers Group (whom we have since also dropped).

As a journalist who admired her for her tough questioning of presidents at White House press conferences, I’m disappointed to see her career end like this.

Wendell Berry opposes coal-fired power plant

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry, perhaps Kentucky’s most famous living poet and essayist, says the planned coal-fired generator at East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s J.K. Smith plant in Clark County would result in the dumping of coal ash in wetlands and tributaries, which would further poison the already badly polluted Kentucky River. Read Mr. Berry’s column, “Don’t Let Them Poison Our Water,” on The Winchester Sun’s Web site at

June 2010
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