Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Drumbline? More Like Dumbline

By Nick DeLuca

There’s nothing worse than wastefully watching a movie that makes me cringe. Forget about the fact that I just blew $10 of my hard-earned money at the theatre or charged $5 to my parents’ Comcast On Demand account. That doesn’t upset me as much as sitting through a movie with a hand over my face and having to peek in between my fingers to catch a glimpse of what’s happening on the screen. I don’t do this because the movie is scary. I do it because it’s embarrassing. 

In 2002, 20th Century Fox released the most moronic movie I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through. Drumline, “starring” Nick Cannon and Orlando Jones is the ridiculous story of an authority-challenging college freshman from the inner city that butts heads with the upperclassmen and conductor in order to prove he’s the best snare drummer in the marching band. Cannon’s character, Devon, has a cocky attitude and an arrogant swagger that leads one of his upperclassmen to look for a reason to derail Devon’s full scholarship and spot in the marching band. This upperclassmen and the conductor, played by Jones, realize that Devon can’t read sheet music. Shocker.

The plot is tired, the depictions of the band and its tryouts are unrealistic, and Nick Cannon is someone that I simply want to punch in the face. His ghetto-fabulous demeanor is annoying, the band auditions are like watching a military boot camp with giant bass drums unflatteringly strapped to their chests, and the idea that stadium is filled with people who’d rather see the marching band play for 20 minutes during half time instead of the football team is ludicrous.

“Dang, the crowd is louder than when the football team was on the field.”
“Cause down here it’s about the marching bands, dawg.”

No, no, no. First of all, I can’t stand this ebonic, broken-English jive talk, especially from a punk like Nick Cannon, and even if it is in a fictional movie. Second of all, in the Southeastern United States, football season is like an extended Christmas. Football reigns supreme. And while yes, the marching band is a pivotal part of the halftime show, people don’t flock to the stadium to watch Nick Cannon as the little drummer boy with a shit-eating grin on his face. 

Orlando Jones isn’t half bad, but if I wanted to see the guy from the “Make 7Up Yours” ad campaigns, I’d scour the internet for “commercials that made me chuckle when I was in middle school.”

This worthless excuse for a movie tries to be too dramatic for the subpar cast and a plot that can’t keep up. I’m not surprised to see that the Internet Movie Database gives Drumline 5.3 stars out of 10. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, Resident Evil: Afterlife is initially your typical, mindless action flick, which is fine in itself, but the thing that really gets my goat is how horribly close this film (and the Resident Evil film series, in general) follows the formulaic “good guys-bad guys” system, and the method they use to do it. Resident Evil: Afterlife is a 97-minute long show, starring Milla Jovovich as Alice, Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield, Ali Larter as Claire Redfield and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker. And if it’s your thing, the film also features a 3D version, though I didn’t touch that feature.

Probably the best place to start is the director: Paul Anderson. If the name rings a bell it might be because of films like Soldier, Event Horizon, Alien vs. Predator or the original Mortal Kombat. Then, if you’re like me, the first two names will warm your cockles and bring back fond memories, whereas the latter two films will bring back cringes and wild outrage. The directing style for Resident Evil: Afterlife follows fairly closely to the original Resident Evil or Alien vs. Predator: Anderson will force characters into would-be heroes fighting for their and everyone’s humanity. This forced role-play is unfortunate since it screws with the survival-horror concept the film tries to draw from.

The film begins well enough, a rainy day in Tokyo ends with a Japanese businessman getting mauled by a zombie. There’s a small recap for those in the audience who haven’t bothered to waste their time by seeing the previous two films. And then the action starts in earnest when a bunch of Milla Jovovich clones attack an underground complex. Those wearing high-heels in the attack die off first, which I find acceptable, but the ridiculousness of a bunch of clones running around is pretty hard to shake. The Jovovich clones all have psychic powers and swords and things, which just add to the ridiculousness. But then you’ll eventually hit a scene where a platoon of armed guards is taken out by the single Jovovich. In itself not a bad thing, but having her run around slow-mo, jumping around pillars is a pretty cheap thrill. It should look familiar to people because it was used back in 1999, when The Matrix came out. Eventually all the Jovovich clones get blown up by some sort of black-hole device, with the real one and Shawn Roberts (as the evil scientist) escaping, but not before he stabs Jovovich with an anti-virus thereby taking away her superpowers. With a tear in her eye, Jovovich thanks him for returning her her humanity, right before they crash.

Inexplicably, it goes on to show Jovovich flying up to Alaska, displaying beautiful views of the ocean and snow-capped peaks. It’s with heavy-handed sarcasm when I say that I love seeing these beautiful features. Especially in a post-apocalyptic world, where a virus has transformed humanity into flesh eating monsters, and survival is paramount. Beautiful vistas are exactly what I thought I signed up for when I started to watch this film. Afterlife is forced to sweep up after the last movie, which was just as – if not more so – atrocious, by picking up one of the vague, useless characters and flying them both back to a desolated Los Angeles.

Eventually, these two find more survivors and an apparent salvation that, naturally, becomes a trap. Most of the survivors die; our heroes defeat the bad guy and save humanity. End of story. There isn’t much more to say about Afterlife. There is perhaps one or two decent shoot outs before the end, although I should say that I am incredibly grateful that Jovovich doesn’t fist fight the big bad monster to death (a la Resident Evil: Apocalypse) in the end. Likewise, you’re treated to the glorious return of the useless character K-Mart (played by a mute Spencer Locke).

I’d call this crime of a film a fitting end to an atrocious series that has butchered the honorable Resident Evil mantle, but this isn’t the last film. Apparently a fifth film is in the works.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nothing But Trouble

Nothing But Trouble is easily the worst movie I have ever seen. This is a terrible shame, too, because if you consider the cast of characters you would think it would be a blockbuster hit. Celebrities such as Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, John Candy, and Dan Akroyd all help in creating this God-awful film.

Considered to be an American horror comedy, Nothing But Trouble is certainly a horrible American comedy. Directed, produced, and co-written by Dan Akroyd, the plot follows film protagonist, Chris Thorne (Chevy Chase), as he escorts Diane Lightson, played by Demi Moore, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. At this point of the film there is really no character development of either character other than the fact that they met at a soiree the night before. However, having much faith in Chevy Chase’s unique ability to elicit mass amounts of laughter, I continue to watch.

Upon driving to Atlantic City, Thorne decides to turn off the New Jersey Turnpike, and ends up in the town of Valkenvania. Shortly thereafter, he blows through a stop sign, and tries to outrun the police officer trying to stop him for the offense. Played by John Candy, police officer, Dennis Valkenheiser, finally apprehends the two after a series of man-made booby traps delays the car from advancing. Valkenheiser, a creepy, dutiful police officer, proceeds to arrest Thorne and Lightson for the violation, and brings them to appear in front of Judge Reeve Alvin Valkenheiser, played by Dan Akroyd.

At this point of the movie it is clear that the script is striving to create humor, but is failing miserably. As I watch, I am utterly disgusted and appalled at how horrible the acting is as well as how boring the movie is; I haven’t laughed once. 

Akroyd’s character is over a hundred years old, and is extremely odd and annoying. The film crew makes him look old and decrepit by covering him in an excessive amount of make-up such that he is hideously unbearable to look at. He proceeds to confiscate both Thorne and Lightson’s identification cards, and holds them without bail in his courthouse, which also dubs as a weird funhouse. 

Thorne and Lightson decide to make an escape, and run into several obstacles along the way. At one point of the film Thorne and Lightson split up, and Lightson finds herself in the presence of two trolls named Bobo and Lil’ Debbull. At this point I am ready to tear my eyeballs out of my head as my patience wears thin.
I continue to watch for another fifteen minutes until I finally decide to turn it off just around the point Digital Underground starts rapping in the courthouse. I don’t even understand why this is happening nor do I care. I turn the television off, and refuse to finish this terrible, horrific movie. 

I wish I could inform you how this movie ends, but, trust me, it is more important that I warn you to never watch this film--ever! A horrible plot, horrific attempts at humor, and pointless subplots make this movie absolutely unbearable. 

After its release in 1991 it was nominated for several Razzie Awards--awards that recognize box office bombs--including Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Demi Moore), Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. It earned approximately $8 million at the box office, and, deservedly so, has been met with much negativity.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Room

      I love bad movies. Santa’s Slay, Postal and Killer Klowns from Outer Space are a few examples of my idea of a good time at the movies. I could watch porn strictly for the acting. If something, anything, is terrible about a movie, I’m a happy guy. On a crisp, October night in 2009, however, my views on bad films were changed forever by the magnum opus of the bad movie “genre”. This was a movie called The Room.
Yes, the poster says it all.
      For those of you unfamiliar with this cult sensation, The Room is a 2003 drama which chronicles a love triangle among a man named Johnny, his fiancée, Lisa, and the man’s best friend, Mark. The film’s melodrama seems to aspire to the caliber of a low-budget soap opera, but hammy acting, awkward dialogue and bizarre dead-ends in the plot leave the viewer confused, stunned and a bit disgusted. A fatal illness in a minor character receives half a minute’s observation, only to be forgotten entirely, along with a dear family friend’s drug problem which had come to a violent climax on the roof of an apartment building. First-time watchers trying to keep up with what I will generously refer to as the plot need only focus on the wayward marriage and the forbidden tryst; all diversions were meant to be auxiliary, but ultimately serve no purpose.

      The mastermind behind this disaster piece is a man named Tommy Wiseau, who served as star, creator, writer, director, producer, sole fiduciary and casting director (among other things). His film maintains a constant surrealistic quality, as the viewers try to determine whether this film truly is the train wreck it appears to be, or if this is deliberate stupidity crafted by a connoisseur of the less-than-fine arts. Being an excellent promoter, if nothing else, Wiseau has refused to answer this persistent question. Showing the prescience of Ibsen or Brecht, he has allowed his piece to gain prominence with the resulting controversy he refused to resolve.

      While many idiotic movies without major studio funding and A-list casting are left to rot in fetid tombs, The Room has gained a minor celebrity amongst younger viewers who crave the occasional gag reel. Independent movie houses, like the Boston area’s own Coolidge Corner Theater, still show screenings of the movie. These screenings are in the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition, in which audience participation is every bit as important as the movie on the screen. Audience members dress as their favorite characters, toss plastic spoons at the screen (in reference to the unexplained framed pictures of cutlery seen in the background) and yell insulting comments or lines from the film, in tandem with the characters speaking them. Wiseau is available for cameo appearances at these screenings, providing ambiguous answers to questions from the audience and performing some of his cherished lines in person.

      The Room has been called one of the worst movies of all time by Entertainment Weekly and The Independent. The same EW article called it “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Feeding the debate over the film’s intent is how meticulously crafted the disastrous qualities seem to be -- while watching, one feels that the defects so perfectly blended together cannot be an accident. I must insist that you decide for yourself. To those who will not see this movie, I’m sure my fellow fans will agree, when I quote Wiseau; “You’re tearing me apart!”

Why, yes, his heart is broken!

Bad Blood

I have always believed that there was no such thing as a bad movie. Even films that were low on the watchability scale still had some redeeming quality, be it the acting, special effects or even the music. Every film deserved a fighting chance, for all the effort that the cast and crew put into the production. Having made a short and terribly bad film myself, I know how even your best efforts can turn to utter crap, but that still doesn’t make the film unwatchable. I held this belief to my heart and have made it through some truly horrible films, even the recent body of work by Nicholas Cage. All this changed the day that I saw Uwe Boll’s Bloodrayne.

Based on a series of popular video games, Bloodrayne tells the story of a young woman who is half vampire, half human. Cursed with the unfortunate name Rayne, she goes on a revenge spree against her vampire father. Sounds good so far if you are into this particular genre, yet this film should be used in film schools as an example of what not to do when you make movies. From the wooden cast and an underdone script to the abysmal direction of Uwe Boll, Bloodrayne is the culmination of truly bad filmmaking. Boll is a man who is infamous for his horrible films, which in this case, feature jarring jump cuts, horrible costumes for the cast including an ill-fitting outfit for Loken which makes her look like a brown log. The capper to this crapfest is a truly appalling final montage that recaps the entire crappy film that you just wasted an hour and half of your life on.
What am I doing in this movie?
The lead character, played by an awkward Kristanna Loken from T3, is a dhampir, half vampire, half human who is on the lookout for revenge against her vampire father, played by Sir Ben Kingsley. At this point in his career Sir Ben should change his name to Sir Just Looking for a Paycheck Kingsley, since so many of his latest film roles are in truly terrible movies. His performance in this film isn’t Oscar-worthy, it’s cringe-worthy. Even Michael Madsen and Michelle Rodriguez, who play Rayne’s allies, look like they wish they were anywhere else but delivering such trite dialogue.  Once scene between Rayne and Rodriguez as Katarin goes a little something like this:
Katarin: Your form is weak, lacking passion. 
Rayne: It was part of my plan. I am tiring you out. 
Katarin: Your plan is lacking passion as well. 
Bring me a doggy bag, I feel sick. This doesn’t even count the offensive cameo by rock star Meat Loaf who plays a pimp covered in real naked Romanian prostitutes. The scene is so fetid that you can smell the desperation and unwashed bodies without any Smell-O-Vision.

This cinematic abomination comes from a script written by Guinevere Turner, author of a great screenplay for the film American Psycho. It is a mystery why Turner opted to write some of the worst dialogue outside a George Lucas script and why the studio decided to waste millions of dollars. Even 20th Century Fox knew this film was a waste of resources when they decided to give it a straight to DVD release even after spending over a million in marketing the theatrical release. Ultimately, this film is nothing more than a cinematic mistake, one that is not worth repeating. Save your earned money and rent something with more quality and avoid Bloodrayne at all costs.

A Cheap and Delicious Sushi Lunch

     Sushi is a delicious and healthy meal that many people in Boston enjoy, as there are countless sushi restaurants throughout the city; however, a lot of these restaurants are expensive. If you’re looking for a cheap place to get a few sushi rolls for less than ten dollars—look no further! Ivy Sushi located on Brighton Avenue in Allston has an unheard of lunch deal where customers can order two maki sushi rolls and miso soup for $8.50.

     Ivy Sushi serves quality and delicious sushi rolls. Customers can choose from a wide variety of maki such as the California, Philadelphia, or vegetarian rolls. The deal excludes fancier rolls like tempura; however, the lunch deal is still a wise option for sushi lovers because it is so cheap. In addition to the two rolls, Ivy seals the deal with a cup delicious of miso soup. The amount of food served in this lunch deal is a perfect portion—it will leave your tummy happy, yet not too full.

     Customers can eat in the cozy belowground restaurant on Harvard Ave, or call fifteen minutes before arriving and get the lunch to go. The restaurant only has a few tables, but is never too crowded. The servers at Ivy are friendly and make sure all your needs are met, for example, they often offer to separate checks for your party. The Ivy lunch deal is a convenient and wallet-friendly solution for the sushi lovers of Boston.

     Don’t spend too much for your next sushi meal and go to Ivy Sushi located at 185 Harvard Avenue in Allston, between Glenville Ave & Commonwealth Ave. Or, call ahead for your quick, delicious, and most importantly, cheap, sushi meal at (617) 202-3808.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Can See Why the Cat is Fat

Where to start? With a rare Wednesday night off I stopped by work for a late lunch with my brother. Needing to find a good restaurant for dinner I asked my friend Sinead, who was bartending, if she’d been anywhere good recently. She was honest, “No, not really,” but recommended the Fat Cat in Quincy. She said to try and get there early and definitely try the buffalo nachos. We arrived too late for a seat at the bar, but the oversized bourbon and cognac bottles immediately grabbed my attention. After getting a table and digging into the nachos, or dogging as the missus puts it, I was hooked.

When we arrived at the Fat Cat, located at 24 Chestnut St. in Quincy, the bar, about 25 seats, was packed. With hunger being a serious motivator, we chose the short wait for a table over the who-knows-how-long wait for the bar. While waiting for a table I was thrilled to find out they carried Magners, which most non-Irish bars don’t carry. I am sure that most customers find the taste their looking for with over 35 beers to choose from. Their beer prices were more than reasonable ($3.50 domestic, $4 foreign), which carried over to the liquor, too. Their eight vodka/liqueur mixed martinis are only $8 a piece, and I received a more generous portion of Maker’s Mark on the rocks than I would pour myself.

With hunger only increasing we ordered buffalo nachos as quickly as possible from Joel, our server. As we scanned the entrees, two items immediately stuck out: the rest of the menu never had a chance. We have a thing for scallops so I didn’t need to read the description on the Scallops Au Gratin (seared scallops in a creamy cheese sauce, sweet potato mashed, sautéed green beans). Also, you don’t find a full rack of baby back ribs on too many Greater Boston area menus, so we couldn’t pass it up.

The nachos arrived, entrée orders were placed, and the dogging began. I am a man of many different buffalo creations, but this was the real deal. Served on an extra hot plate, I failed to experience a cold nacho. The sour cream, salsa, bacon bits, and crumbled bleu cheese were evenly distributed throughout and the tender pulled chicken was truly scrumptious. Usually half way into a plate of nachos you get tired of them, or they get cold and soggy. This, to our pleasant surprise and downfall, was not the case with Fat Cat nachos, no sir. We had to drag ourselves away, covering the plate with dirty napkins to cease the feast.

I didn’t want to get my entrée-portion excitement up too much because, after all, nachos are nachos. But when the nacho mess was removed and replaced with the scallop and rib dishes I knew one thing: I would not be a member of the clean plate club tonight. For $17 and $18, respectively, the scallop and rib plates were serious entrees. Nachos or not, it was a lot of food for one person. We had a $21 scallop dish from dbar last week and it couldn’t compete with the Fat Cat’s. Their scallops in a creamy cheese sauce and heaping side of sweet potato mashed really hit the spot. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone perfect but we couldn’t even make it halfway through the rack. Nor was a dent put into the coleslaw or BBQ-smothered fries; they, along with the scallops and mashed, are all hanging in the fridge until further notice.

About five to ten minutes into our entrees the proverbial wall was getting closer and closer. Bridget voiced her displeasure with her choice to wear a belt, but also said she’d have no qualms with coming back next week. I couldn’t have agreed more. My favorite beer carried by a restaurant with great food, too? This was a first for me. We decided to stay for another drink after dinner, perhaps out of necessity: neither of us could move. With the belt stretching I ordered a $12 Patron margarita for desert, and they were right on point, as Sinead suggested. When I mentioned only a dash of Rose’s Lime Juice Joel gave me a funny look. If a place doesn’t even carry Rose’s Lime then chances are the margaritas are pretty good as I almost choked on the real lime pulp they used.

Two things I learned that night: The Fat Cat may be a new favorite, but I don’t workout nearly enough to go more than once a week. Two, based on the quality and price, I am rather surprised the fat cats still fit on their perches.

The Fat Cat carries appetizers and nachos from $7-$10 as well as a wide selection of wings. The menu is predominately comfort food and all entrees are under $20, with an a la carte section as well. Their beer, wine, and cocktail lists are expansive and inexpensive too. For more information check their website,, or give them a call at 617-471-4363.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best Burritos In Town

A great and cheap place to satisfy your burrito fix is Anna's Taqueria. Anna's has six locations around Somerville, Cambridge and Brookline and offers authentic Mexican food at inexpensive prices. From the moment that you walk in, the scent of roasting vegetables and succulent meat hits your nose and you know that you are in for a real treat. The staff is warm and knowledgeable, making your handcrafted burrito, quesadilla or plate with a dexterity that boggles the mind and tempts the tummy. Once you pay and make your way to the seating area, decorated with wood tones to make you feel right at home, all your attention is on the well made and delicious meal.

Anna's Porter Square location

Anna's offers all kinds of fillings, from spicy beef and hot peppers as well as milder ones such as roasted chicken and lengua, a juicy, marinated beef tongue that is to die for. Anna's also offers Mexican sodas and horchata, an almond drink native to Mexico that goes fantastically with their specialty, a Super Boiled Chicken Burrito. They also offer a scrumptious breakfast burrito made of eggs, bacon and vegetables. Toppings include fresh guacamole, salsa, sour cream and to make it hot, jalapenos and a green hot sauce that gives a great kick.

All this plus warm tortilla chips and a drink will run you just $10. Plates and extra s are only a few dollars more and the portion size is generous. Perfect for any meal of the day, Anna's Taqueria is your destination for excellent and inexpensive Mexican food.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Real Good Burritos

If you had the choice between a juicy, half-pound, fresh-ground sirloin burger and a Big Mac, I would really hope you’d choose the first. I think of burritos in these same terms. Why would you ever choose Chipotle or Q’doba when you could have Anna’s or Felipe’s? These preferred establishments have a certain quality of authenticity that a chain like Chipotle can’t even stand up to. Generally, a huge sirloin burger is a bit more expensive than a greasy patty from McDonalds, but when it comes to burritos in Boston, authenticity does not have to be costly. 

If you walk into a Felipe’s or Anna’s, which are both quite similar, you will be overwhelmed by Mexican legitimacy in everything from the tiled tables to the people working behind the counter. Of all the times I’ve been to either of these places, I’ve never seen someone working who was anything other than Hispanic. A quality of realness is added to the dining experience as you listen to their Spanish conversation, blended in with the Spanish music that pours out of overhead speakers. All of the menu items are authentic, offering everything from carnitas (traditional Mexican roast pork) to homemade horchata (traditional Mexican milk and almond drink). 

When you walk up to order, you basically just tell the guy what you want. You can customize anything that you order by telling the preparer what you would like on or in your dish. If you’re daring and have a decent Spanish vocabulary, they will be amused if you order in Spanish (especially if you’re white). Both restaurants are cafeteria style, so there are no waiters and waitresses. The menus include burritos, quesadillas, tacos, and various Mexican plates and sides. My usual order at Felipe’s is a chicken burrito. I have it made with cheese, chicken, rice, beans, salsa, lettuce, and sour cream. It ends up costing me less than $6 and it is definitely filling. If I were to order a burrito at Q’doba or Chipotle, it would be at least a dollar more and a lot less delicious. 

Felipe’s is a “cash only” establishment, so make sure you hit the ATM before you go. Anna’s has recently begun to accept credit and debit cards, so it’s no problem there. Felipe’s is located in The Garage in Harvard Square, and Anna’s six locations include Charles MGH and MIT. The rest are listed on their website ( If you’re hungry and low on cash, sink your teeth into an authentic Mexican burrito from either of these excellent spots.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's Make Whoopie

By Nick DeLuca

If you walk down Main Street in Topsfield, MA past the boutiques, craft stores, and sub shops, you might be lucky enough to catch a heavenly aroma that puts you in a trance. You’ll come-to in front of a building with a black and white striped awning featuring a single three-layer cake over a red-velvet door in an alleyway off the town’s busiest street. The porcelain wedding cakes on display in the single window next to the door look deliciously inviting. If you make your way inside, curious about the tantalizing smell that brought you here, you’ll notice the pictures of pastries, cookies, and candies scattered in frames along the wall. Sitting on a platter in the center of the room is the origin of the scent, an assortment of freshly baked whoopie pies.

The Topsfield Bakeshop

The Topsfield Bakeshop (formerly Demirjian Commercial Bakers) has served the North Shore and surrounding communities for over 13 years, but recently opened its new storefront in the summer of 2010. Specializing in wedding cakes, head pastry chef and owner Mary Bandereck has given the town of Topsfield something other to celebrate than weddings: her mouth-watering whoopie pies. The whoopies come in six different flavors: original chocolate, chocolate chip, pumpkin, red-velvet, oatmeal, and gingerbread. Bandereck mixes her own specialized butter-cream frosting and thickly sandwiches it between two pieces of light, fluffy, and delicious cake-like pies. 

What separates her pies from the rest is not only taste and texture, but size and price. These whoopie pies are equal in diameter to that of a bagel and contain roughly 2 inches of butter-cream frosting. The real cherry on top, so to speak, is that these sweet indulgences cost a mere $3 for one, or two for $5.

“There are few things you can get as cheap and delicious as those whoopie pies,” said Jim Gilford, owner of neighboring store Gil’s Grocery. “Because she offers a great product at a great price, her business is has become very successful. Luckily for me, her customers have wandered into my store as well.”

If you’re looking for a rich afternoon snack, or a post-dinner dessert, or simply want to satisfy your sweet tooth at any time of day but you’re trying to save your pennies during the economic recession, then check out the Topsfield Bakeshop’s eclectic variety of whoopie pies.

The Topsfield Bakeshop also offers their celebrated whoopie pies during the Topsfield Fair at a rustic booth aptly named The Whoo(pie) Wagon. Strategically positioned right at the fair’s entrance, The Whoo(pie) Wagon affords customers the same succulent deal of $3 for one, or two for $5. 

The Whoo(pie) Wagon at the Topsfield Fair

Should you become overwhelmed by the desire to concoct your own whoopie pie recipe, or want to learn the basics of baking and cooking, or just need an excuse to get out of the house, then sign up for classes at the Topsfield Bakeshop. Bandereck offers her wisdom as an instructor for classes ranging from Cooking and Baking 101, to Cake Decorating, to Middle Eastern Cuisine. With the help of Bandereck’s 25-plus years of food and pastry experience, you’ll learn to use a spatula as a paintbrush and sustenance as a canvas. Prices vary based on the class and number of students attending.

Mary Bandereck is also a freelance food stylist. Most of her work has been featured in books specializing in baking and confections, and styling for menus, television advertising and print work. A list of her work can be found on the Styling page of her website, Prices for cakes, candies, and specialty cookie favors vary depending on the specificity of the request. The Topsfield Bakeshop is located at 44 Main Street in Topsfield, MA and can be reached by phone at (978) 887-0795 or via email at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

UMB 2011 Veterans' Welcome Back Dinner

Top of Form
UMB 2011 Veterans' Welcome Back Dinner
By Felicia Whatley

University of Massachusetts Boston celebrates their veterans' service for an exclusive --by invitation only-- annual dinner at the Ryan Lounge 6:30 -9:30pm on Thursday November 10, 2011.

”It is a UMB tradition around Veterans Day started sometime after 9/11 intended to welcome back and acknowledge new and old veterans on campus. UMass Boston has been veteran friendly since the beginning of its establishment. In the first few years they were a major component of the student body, and they still are,” said Professor of American Studies, Paul Atwood, who is also the new Director of the Joiner Center. The William Joiner Center of War and Social Consequences is a center that promotes study of issues of war and conflict.

The event is sponsored by the Joiner Center, Veterans Upward Bound, Veterans’ Affairs, Student Veterans Center, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance.

“It is time for the annual dinner to welcome back all student veterans to the UMass Boston campus! This is a wonderful opportunity sponsored entirely by a variety of Veterans groups on campus, to include but not limited to: the Student Veterans Center, Veterans Upward Bound, and William Joiner Center,” stated Katie Govoni UMass Boston’s Veteran’s Center Coordinator.

The dinner is catered by Spinellis. So far this year 90 people have confirmed they will attend. Last year the event hosted 120 guests. Currently, there are over 600 veterans on campus.

“Yes, I'm looking forward to the dinner. It's going to be a bit different, as this will be the first year that Kevin Bowen isn't running it, because he retired over the summer. The campus Administration is paying for the entire thing. Last year it was enjoyable. This year I hope it is as good, if not better. Although, I fear it is going to be fewer people than last year, which I find sad,” said student Navy Veteran and Senior Caroline Necheles.

Veterans’ Upward Bound Director Barry Brodsky is also helping host the event. He said by popular demand the same menu as last year will be back, because people really liked it. “This will be a night for veterans to sit down, eat a nice meal, and hang out with one another,” said Brodsky. Upward Bound is a pre-collegiate program funded by the Federal Department of Education. Currently about 200 student veterans came through the program.

"The event is free to attend and just requires a response to an e-invitation that will be sent out. You may also go to the Joiner Center and put your name and a guests name on the guest list," stated Govoni.

This year the guest speaker will be Chancellor Keith Motley. Veterans Affairs Representative Gus St. Silva will say a few words and the Theodore Parker Award of Outstanding Service to Veterans will be presented to Marybeth O’Sullivan. She is the Outreach Coordinator for Upward Bound and is also a former Navy nurse who retired at the rank of Commander. The Theodore Parker Award was named after an Upward Bound student who tried to brake up a fight in Dorchester’s Field’s Corner and was stabbed to death in the ‘80s.

The event is known for commemorating Gold Star mothers and fathers who lost their sons and daughters to war, UMB veterans of various branches, select UMB staff and faculty-- including Carol de Souza, who helps students with disabilities and Linda McDonough from the office of Human Resources.

“There will be raffle prizes given away to some student veterans in attendance. I will post a list of available prizes once I have received them; last year students won everything from restaurant gift certificates and Bruins tickets!” stated Govoni.

Various local businesses and campus departments have donated gift certificates and coupons from Parking and Transportation, Athletics Department, and the Women’s Center for the Welcome Back Veterans’ Dinner.

To RSVP email
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Waivers and GI Bill Helps Educate MA Veterans

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Waivers and GI Bill Helps Educate MA Veterans
By Felicia Whatley

The Massachusetts National Guard Tuition and Student Fee Waivers and Post 9/11 GI Bill helps Massachusetts veterans get a free education from Massachusetts state schools.

“The National Guard Waivers helped me get my certification as a Wilderness Guide from Greenfield Community College,” said Army National Guard soldier Specialist Matthew Katz, who deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in 2007 with the Massachusetts and Rhode Island 65th Public Affairs.

“It also helped me create a non-profit for Veterans The Home of the Brave Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting our veterans long after they come home. The transitional period for a returning veteran can be a very difficult one. Many suffer mental and physical wounds that most cannot see. This program is an opportunity to take advantage of positive coping mechanisms and have our country show their appreciation at the same time.” said Specialist Katz.

The Massachusetts National Guard Tuition and Student Fee waivers for enlisted Guard members have helped men and women attend state schools for free. Mitt Romney’s passing of the legislation in 2006 has made a positive impact to educate for our Soldiers and Air Force members. The Post 9/11 GI Bill enacted in 2009 has also helped servicemembers of all branches attend college by giving them money for living expenses while they are in college.

“The National Guard Waivers and GI Bills have helped a lot of veterans. I believe it gives a number of things to the veteran population. It gives them a place to go when they are lost after exiting the military and don't have any idea what to do next. It gives them a place where there are other veterans, so they have people who understand who they are and what they are going through without having the psychological aspect of a medical issues to hinder them from reconnecting to the civilian world,” said retired Operations Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer of the Navy Caroline Necheles who used to detect, identify, track and report surface, sub-surface, and air contact missiles.

Necheles specialized in Air Intercept Control of fighter pilots during air-to-air combat, and she is now a Senior at UMass Boston.

The eligibility requirements for the waivers include an undergraduate or graduate degree program offered by an eligible institution. He or she must be an active member of the Massachusetts Army or Air National Guard who is in good standing and meets the following criteria is accepted for admission to, or is enrolled, full- or part-time in a Massachusetts public institution of higher education.

Also to be eligible for the waivers guardsman must have been issued a Certificate of Eligibility by the Military Division of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts applicable for any portion of the academic year, has not exceeded the 130 semester credit hours maximum, or the equivalent quarter hours or clock hours, when combined with Certificates of Eligibility issued prior to September 1, 2006 and maintains satisfactory academic progress as defined by the institution, as per Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

Specialist Katz is now in the 181 Infantry Headquarters unit said, “I got paid Post 9/11 GI Bill. It paid for all my outdoors equipment and gave me the ability to help other veterans.”

Massachusetts Army National Guard Recruiter of Dorchester Staff Sergeant Latoya Wiggins weighed in the benefits for National Guard soldiers who want to attend any of the 28 state schools in Massachusetts.

“Some come to us because they can’t pay for school or they are in debt from starting school and aren’t able to finish it on their own. We pay 100 percent of the tuition and student fees and if they are a full-time student they can get the Montgomery GI Bill to pay them $330 a month, while going to school,” said Staff Sergeant Wiggins.

"The Post 9/11 GI Bill has helped me because I don't have to have a job while I'm going to school. I can put all my concentration into my schoolwork. I can afford to actually go to school, since I didn't take the option of my grandparents paying for collage after high school," said Necheles.

She is a double major Political Science and English with minors of Creative Writing and Communications. She was very involved with the veterans on campus and during her scholastic career she was the UMB Veterans’ Center Coordinator for a year.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“To get the Post 9/11 GI Bill you have to be a combat veteran and the percentage the soldier gets depends on how much time they have served overseas,” said Staff Sergeant Wiggins.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect August 1, 2009. Approved training under the Post-9/11 GI Bill includes graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational/technical training, on-the-job training, flight training, correspondence training, licensing and national testing programs, and tutorial assistance. All training programs must be approved for GI Bill benefits.

Veterans who have deployed since September 11, 2001 and have been overseas for more than 36 months will receive 100% of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. There are also new incentives, irregardless of the fact that the Guard is over-strengthed by 1,000 people. They are still recruiting.

“We will also pay up to $50,000 for student loans for a 6 year commitment in the Guard. There is also a health care professional loan that will pay back $120,000,” said Staff Sergeant Wiggins.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay eligible individuals’ full tuition and fees directly to the school for all public school in-state-students, usually maxed at $7,000 for tuition and student fees. A monthly housing allowance is given at the rate of an E-5 with dependents is based on the cost of housing of the location of the school.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill also offers an annual stipend for books and supplies at most $1,000 a year paid proportionately on enrollment.

“I would recommend joining the Guard to pay for school, especially for those who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise,” said Specialist Katz.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Wounded Warrior Project

Few things can compare to the feelings of joy and satisfaction experienced when giving back to those who put their lives on the line in the name of freedom. For the last few years I have been involved with the Wounded Warriors Project. The goal of the organization, as highlighted on their website, is to “raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured soldiers, to help injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured veterans.” Everyone has the ability to help in achieving these goals.

One weekend every winter, the Wounded Warriors Project comes to the ski slopes of New England. They team up with AbilityPlus, an organization dedicated to teaching physically and mentally handicapped individuals how to enjoy winter sports they thought they were impossible. I have been volunteering with Waterville Valley’s Adaptive Snowsports Program for the past few seasons and the weekend of Wounded Warriors is undoubtedly my favorite. Veterans whose ages and disabilities vary drastically join each other from all over the country to learn to ski or snowboard together. My specialty is with amputees and the task of teaching these severely Wounded Warriors to be independent skiers is exceptionally challenging, but when our mutual goal is accomplished it is a tremendous feeling.

Last year my student was twenty year-old United States Marine, Connor Hundt. Only months prior he had lost both legs and half of his right arm. Connor was still getting used to his prosthetics so we were both aware that we had a long weekend ahead of us. The equipment that was best suited for Connor was a sit-down bi-ski. He would be strapped in a bucket seat that had two skis attached to it, and would use outriggers to steer and control the bi-ski. He was basically buckled into a plastic chair with skis screwed onto it. This set-up is exceptionally difficult to master, but like all sports balance is the first aspect you need to master. Connor was using muscles he had never used before, and therefore fatigue was an issue on Day 1. We stuck to the bunny hill and worked on balance, turning, and most importantly stopping. By the afternoon Connor was both physically and mentally exhausted: we called it quits so he wouldn’t be too tired the following morning.

We refreshed Connor’s skills on the bunny slope on the morning of Day 2, and then proceeded to the chair lift. Able-bodied skiers constantly mess up getting on the chair lift, and with the unique equipment that disabled skiers and riders use the chair can prove to be a very challenging task. Connor’s upper body strength proved pivotal and we were successful on our first attempt. Fortunately, learning to ski is the same for all people. Whether a student is using traditional equipment or cutting-edge sit-down gear individually designed for wounded soldiers like Connor, there is going to be a lot of falling down, bumps and bruises, and sheer frustration. Connor was a tough individual though, and refused to give up. On a cold January day this Marine did not let the elements get to him and he did not even want to go in for lunch. He was fully dedicated to accomplishing his goal of learning to ski. By the end of the second day, Connor was getting on and off the lift by himself, and skiing down the hill completely unassisted by his instructors. All that we did was ski behind him to make sure no one got in his way. The feeling of watching Connor ski independently was one I will never forget. I was skeptical after the first day but Connor did not give up.

The Adaptive Snowsports Programs accepts everyone that wants to volunteer. Just about every mountain in New England has a program, including Loon, Cannon, Attitash, Stowe, Sugarbush, Wachussett, and Sugarloaf. The Wounded Warriors Weekend is only one of many great events that Waterville’s Adaptive Program is involved in. I have had warriors return to ski on their own because they discovered something they love. They are no longer bound by their disabilities when they are on the slopes. I feel very fortunate to be able to show my appreciation to veterans in this small way. To learn more about the Wounded Warriors Project or AbilityPlus, follow the links below.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meet Jack Missler: 78-year-old, United States Air-Force Veteran

In 1952, Jack Missler, 19, of Dedham, MA, enlisted with the United States Air Force as a Firefighter participating in Crash and Rescue missions. At the time, the United States was at war with Korea. The Korean war, a civil war between North and South Korea, was a result of the physical division of Korea by an agreement of the Allies at the conclusion of World War II. The situation escalated when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25th, 1950. It was at this very juncture the United States got involved to aid South Korea.

Stationed at Truax Airfield, just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, Jack’s job was to rescue the lives of pilots severely wounded in training accidents. As a member of the 176th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Jack recalls one of the many times he saved a pilot:
“When we came to the scene of the accident, there was smoke everywhere. The goddamned pilot was buried inside the plane--couldn’t get him out. We had to take a ladder and attach it to the door. I remember climbing up, making eye contact with the pilot, and motioning to him that he was going to be okay. We pulled that son-of-a-bitch out just before it caught on fire. Later, at the base, the pilot came into our bunk with a bottle of whiskey. He had tears in his eyes; looked at the Crash and Rescue crew and said, ‘you guys are the best.’ We all had a drink; shared a tear and a smile. I’ll never forget that.”

Jack, a graduate of Dedham High School, went into the USAF at a measly 176 pounds. When he exited three years later, he was a massive 225 pound machine. He says it was the intensity of boot camp training which caused the transformation:

“Oh boy! I remember going into camp at Sampson Air-force Base in New York. We spent 12 grueling weeks there in the winter--and boy--was it freezing. Every morning, they would rip us out of bed and make us run our asses off. We’d be out there--together as a unit--running mile after mile in the cold, freezing rain and snow. They’d beat us down only to build us back up. The instructors would have us on the ground doing push-ups, sit-ups, and anything physically grueling you could think of. But, let me tell you, it paid off. We all had each other’s backs; we loved each other; we learned respect and discipline.”

The United States Air Force was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18th, 1947 and is regarded as one of the most sophisticated air-forces in the world. Its core values are: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. Jack reflects on these values:

“If you didn’t have integrity, you didn’t belong there. That was figured in the first week, or so. The guys in my unit--they all had integrity and respect for themselves, and for each other. As for ‘service before self,’--well--that was the name of the game. You never knew when you were going to get a call to rescue a fallen pilot--never! It was scary to have to arrive at the scene of a massive plane accident, but you had to be positive and ready and willing to help. The combination of all of these qualities is what surely lead to ‘excellence in all we do.’”

Jack was stationed in Wisconsin from 1952-1955 during the Korean War, and everyday was a crapshoot as to whether or not his services would be needed overseas.

“It was a scary time--for sure--but we were ready. We were always ready. In fact, we knew how ready we were for wartime action when a plane of ours came in, and landed on fire. The son-of-a-bitch was loaded with ammunition and 50 caliber bullets were firing in every which direction from the fuselage. Christ, we all hit the deck! Luckily, the ammunition stopped firing and we were able to extinguish the fire and get the pilot out to safety before a catastrophe happened. Boy, was that a true test of our determination.”

The United States Air Force had a very important role in Korea because it was the first war in which the USA’s jet aircraft entered into battle. The different types of fighter aircraft deployed were the North American F-51D Mustang, the Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star, the Republican F-84E ThunderJet, and the North American F-86A/E/F Sabre.

Jack Missler’s squadron never got called to Korea, but he says it was very close:

“We weren’t called; we stayed in Wisconsin and conducted hundreds of training seminars. We actually trained a squadron--our neighboring troop in Truax--the 30th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, and they got called to active duty in Korea; we were that close to being called, that close! Well, anyways, they went over there to help with crash and rescues. My good friend, Winston Smith, was part of the crew. A skirmish broke out, one of the fighter jets--the North American F-86 Sabre--was shot down and crashed. Winston and two of his crew members died trying to rescue the pilot, who also died, when the plane went up in flames. One of the worst days I had in the Air Force.”

Tears bead up underneath Jack’s eyes as he recalls this experience. When asked about what being a veteran means to him, Jack takes a minute:

“It’s about wanting to help, to fight for, and to protect this country. It’s about national pride, an unending devotion to the red, white, and blue.”

When asked about his stint in the United States Air Force, Jack finishes by saying, “It was a wonderful experience. I am glad that I made the choice to enter the air-force. It was definitely a life changing experience; one to which I am indebted. We met so many great men; we shared tears, laughter, and smiles. I would do it all over again if I had the chance; I absolutely loved it.”

Shayne Cabino: A Fallen Hero

With Veterans Day approaching, it’s important to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices our troops have made, and are still making. To be a veteran is to be a warrior: courageous, brave, dignified, and unwaveringly strong. This nation’s core of veterans has seen catastrophic tragedies through the perils of both World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War, and most recently, Iraq. Our veterans have shown an inimitable resolve in their mission to protect our country; some have lived through their fight, while countless others have died. Either way, their heroism is bred in perpetuity and there can never be enough homage paid.

All too often, veterans are stereotyped as old, retired geriatrics, and are rarely considered as young adults. I happen to know several people that have done tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan that are all under the age of 30. One in particular--a high school friend of mine--was a 19 year old veteran that never got the chance to make it out of Iraq alive.

Lance Corporal Shayne Cabino, of Canton, MA, was 19 years old when he was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. A member of the Marine Corps, Shayne was part of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment of the Marine Expeditionary Force based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Base spokesman, Lieutenant Barry Edwards, spoke of the Battalion’s mission objectives on the fateful day of October 6th, 2005: ''They were training and working alongside the Iraqi security forces to deny insurgents access to and from developing strongholds around the city.”

Shayne, a mortarman, was responsible for operating the 81mm mortar when he was killed by a makeshift bomb near the city of Karmah. Also killed in the attack were Corporal Nicholas O. Cherava, 21, of Ontonagon, Michigan; Lance Corporal Patrick B. Kenney, 20, of Pittsburgh; and Private Jason L. Frye, 19, of Landisburg, Pennsylvania.

Shayne graduated from Canton High School at the age of 18, and always said it was his mission to “make the world a better place.” Upon graduating from high school, he set this goal in motion when he decided to enlist in the Marines where he underwent basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Sharing a high school class together, I found Shayne to be a gregarious, larger-than-life personality. He had a charisma about him that was truly unparalleled. With an infectious smile, he would walk into a room, make a few wisecracks, and always have the people around him laughing. Shayne had the ability to drive you crazy, but you always knew there was a jocularity behind it that was driving it. Shayne didn’t have a bad bone in his body; he was authentic and sincere, charming and energetic. He was one hell of a guy, and his presence is sorely missed.

Captain Joel Schmidt, Commanding Officer of Shayne's Unit, remembers him:
“Shayne will always be remembered as the ‘skinny’ Marine who had equal or more fight and determination than any of the marines in Company G. Shayne could always be found at the front carrying more than his share of the load. Shayne used his drive to encourage all those who knew him to keep going, even when we thought we could go no further. We will forever be indebted to Shayne for bringing out the best in all of us. Shayne’s choice of service, his courage under fire, his irrepressible spirit, and drive to excel will always be at the heart of our memories of him.”

Shayne Cabino is a reminder of just exactly what it means to be a veteran: a hero, warrior, and a selfless role model. Also, his story is a reminder of how tragic, and inescapably real, war is. On Veterans Day, it is very important to remember--and truly understand--the struggle each soldier has endured for our country. Take a moment of silence, reflect, and say a prayer for all of our troops--both past and present, young and old, male and female--that risk their lives on a daily basis.

Donations can be made to:
Shayne M. Cabino Memorial Fund
18 Washington Street, Box 106
Canton, MA 02021

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Soldiers from Massachusetts

Veterans Day is a time of remembrance for those who have served our country. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Veterans Day on November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the national holiday, he stated: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." President Wilson’s words still ring true as America prepares to celebrate the annual holiday this Friday. It is important to not only remember those who have died, but also those who have served and continue to serve this nation. Whether it is a former classmate, friend, family member, or neighbor—everyone knows someone who has sacrificed his or her time and energy for the safety of America. What better way to honor a soldier than to ask about their experience of serving this country?
Current Chicopee, MA resident and Marine Corps Sergeant, Ryan McMillan, believes Veterans Day is “a time to honor my brothers and sisters in arms that I have worked side-by-side with in garrison, and while deployed,” and McMillan continues, “these men and women have given an unaccountable amount of time to support and defend this country.” McMillan knows this from experience: despite being a proud Marine, he says, “I have lost a lot of time with my family and friends. Countless holidays spent overseas, or in the field, or even just in another state.” McMillan has sacrificed time with his friends and family for the safety of all Americans. This Veterans Day he plans on visiting both his grandfather’s graves to honor the sacrifices they made in their lifetime. Surely, they would be proud to see a grandson who carries on the legacy of serving the United States.
McMillan has been interested in serving the United States ever since he was a young boy. He first got the impression to join the military from his father’s military career. McMillan says he was at first intrigued by his fathers uniform and gear, but as he got older, “The terrorist attacks on September of 2011 solidified my desire to join in order to fulfill what I feel is a debt of every man in this country.” McMillan joined the Marine Corps on July 11th, 2005. McMillan was later deployed to Al Taqqadum, Iraq from January 2007 to February 2008. He served as one of two mechanics for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group as a Motor Transport Organizational Mechanic. McMillan believes he has gained a world of experience and many positive attributes that he otherwise wouldn’t have if he had not been a part of the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps Sergeant Ryan McMillan of Chicopee, MA
Sergeant McMillan is currently stationed in Westover Air Force Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA, where he remains committed to his service until 2013. He plans on reenlisting in the Marine Corps because he says, “there are enemies out there that want to do harm to the people of this nation, and that threat needs to be eliminated.” Our country is lucky to have brave soldiers like McMillan so willing to fight for the freedoms we all enjoy.
Danielle Hansman of Holyoke, MA
Danielle Hansman of Holyoke, Massachusetts joined the United States Navy in May of 2001 because she envisioned an opportunity to one day afford college and to also travel the world. Four months after enlisting, the September 11th terrorist attacks rocked the nation, and the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions followed.
Hansman was stationed in San Diego, CA aboard the USS Decatur and was deployed to the Persian Gulf twice. Hansman held various positions in the Navy, first as a Gunnersmate and as an armorer. She served as a small arms instructor while on shore duty and by the time she left the Navy she was a first class petty officer. Hansman says she has “gained confidence and a fearlessness that I never had before, I left the military with the mentality that no matter how hard things are, I have to push through it. There were times when I would give up when it got too hard, but I don't anymore.”
Hansman does not have any special plans for Veterans Day, but rather remains busy with schoolwork, which is a celebration in itself. Hansman joined the military to pursue her educational goals. She worked full time since she was a senior in high school to help out her family, which ultimately made her ineligible for substantial financial aid. Hansman says today, “Access to educational opportunities was worth six years of my life and could have cost more.” Today, she attends the prestigious Mount Holyoke College where she studies Psychology and Biology.
Katie Reardon of Westfield, MA joined the United States Coast Guard in 2009, which is the only branch of military under the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard does have opportunities for deployment; however, Reardon states: “I have had opportunities to deploy overseas, but unlike other branches of the military, in the Coast Guard you have to have certain qualifications and recommendations to deploy. It's a competitive application process.” She remains in the United States and conducts anti-terrorism patrols, law enforcement, and search and rescue missions in New York harbors. The service conducted at home in the States is just as important to recognize in this day of terrorist threats. Reardon works hard to make sure the United States is safe, just as she would if she were deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Reardon says, “ I believe in the job I have been trained for, and I am grateful I've been given the opportunity to participate in a bigger cause than myself. I've dedicated two years and a few months to date and I’m looking forward to the new experiences and challenges I'll face in the next 2 years.” Reardon’s contract with the United States Coast Guard will end in August of 2013. As for her plans after her contract ends, she says, “I will continue to serve in the Reserves and continue working on my bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, full time.”
Veterans Day is a time of remembrance for those who have served our country. There is no better way to honor a soldier than to simply ask them about their service, what they have given up for America, or what they have gained from their position in the armed forces. It is the men and women that are detailed here that keep our country safe and out of harms way. Honor the soldiers you know this Veterans Day by sitting down with them and getting to know them, whether it’s that friend, relative, or neighbor—they’ll have something interesting to say.