Graham Hanson is one very proud dad.
His son, Navy Diver 1st Class John T. Hanson and Navy Diver 2nd Class Robert S. Klingaman, were awarded Bronze Star Medals on June 25 in Jacksonville.
But Hanson, an airline pilot from Tampa, doesn't know why his son, a 2003 Alonzo High School graduate, was awarded the medal, the military's 10th-highest honor. He doesn't know where the action took place and he doesn't know when.
That's because his son was on a secret mission at the time.
All Hanson knows is what the Navy has officially released.
The medals were awarded "for meritorious service in connection with a highly sensitive special operation critical to the national defense of the United States while the Sailors were attached to Naval Special Warfare Group 3," according to the Navy.
Hanson isn't the only one in the dark about the mission.
"All I know he got the Bronze Star for work he did as a diver," he says, "I am very proud of him. When admiral gave him the medal, he said, 'We don't know what you did but we are all very proud of you.'"
Hanson says his son entered the Navy in 2005, two years after graduating and after serving on several ships, became a diver and had several overseas deployments in that role.
Now married with three young children, John Hanson, 28, "has done really well for himself in the Navy," says his dad.
Hanson, 50, says that he looks forward to the year 2083.
That's because under Defense Department rules, the younger Hanson is not permitted to talk about his mission for 70 years.
"I look forward to having a good discussion with him when I am 120," says Hanson.
Given the furloughs of civilian workers at MacDill that kicked in on July 8, which will see about 3,500 employees receiving an 11 unpaid days off through Sept. 30, costing a total of about $8 million in total wages, I figured I'd pass along this list of 15 humorous furlough phone messages I found on a friend's Facebook page:
1. I'm currently out of the office on furlough. If you don't understand what this means, please go to your bank, take out 20 percent of your last paycheck and burn it.
2. I'm currently out of the office on furlough. I will be sitting at home sipping on Jose Cuervo, because it's at least 20 percent cheaper than the good tequila.
3. I am currently out of the office on furlough. I am not allowed to do any work that would be related to my job. You may find me at a Home Depot parking lot. Strong back, work cheap, cash payment.
4. I am currently out of the office on furlough. I have incredibly easy access to a phone and email, but I assure you, I cannot and will not use it for work purposes.
5. I am currently on furlough, and now care 20 percent less that I am not available to respond.
6. I am sorry, I am currently out of the office on furlough, which has reduced all DoD resources by 20 percent. For further information, plea....
7. I'm on furlough, which means I am not getting paid. Bite me.
8. I am currently out of the office on furlough. You cannot contact me, that is illegal.
9. I am currently out of office on furlough. 20 percent of all incoming messages will automatically be deleted.
10. I am currently out of office on furlough. Enjoy your reduction in government-provided services.
11. I am currently out of office on furlough. If you need to contact me I'll be picketing at my congressman and senator's office. After that I will be on a corner with a DoD coffee cup, panhandling.
12. I am currently out of office on furlough. Since I am not being paid, please contact someone who is.
13. I am currently on furlough and prohibited by law from checking my e-mail, so you will not get a response to this message. As opposed to when I am not on furlough, and am just ignoring you.
14. Hello, I am currently out of the office on furlough. I would ask you to contact my boss or his/her boss for assistance, but they are out on furlough, too.
15. I am currently out of office on furlough. It is forced time off without pay. Please contact Congress for assistance.
Bay Pines award
The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System has been recognized as a "Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality" in the Healthcare Equality Index 2013, an annual survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, according to the VA. The HRC is the educational arm of the country's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization.
The healthcare system earned top marks for its commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBT patients and their families, who can face significant challenges in securing adequate healthcare, according to a Bay Pines media release.
"The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System is committed to serving all the men and women who served our nation with honor and distinction," said Suzanne M. Klinker, Director, Bay Pines.
Some good news from Afghanistan. The Department of Defense reported no new deaths last week.
But one soldier was killed after my deadline last week.
Pvt. Errol D.A. Milliard, 18, of Birmingham, Ala., died July 4 in Farah province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with a rocket-propelled grenade while on dismounted patrol. He was assigned to the 2nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
There have now been 2,234 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation's longest war.