By Jackie Rooney jacksonville.com
Eyes are burning, and folks are sneezing, but a high pollen count is the least of our worries. Sunday will be Extraterrestrial Abduction Day, so make an aluminum foil hat and cast a wary eye skyward. Whether you believe in UFOs, admit it, the thought of intelligent life on another planet is as intriguing as the thought that there could be intelligent life on Earth.
Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus speculated about life elsewhere in the universe in a letter to his pal Herodotus, father of history: "There are infinite worlds both like and unlike this world of ours ... We must believe that in all other worlds, there are living creatures and plants and other things we see in this world."
But do they have the iPad 2? As an anonymous pundit said, "The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be." Consider that today ET would have to tweet home.
No one knows who came up with ET Abduction Day. I'm thinking whacko actor Charlie Sheen. However, an Internet source suggests it was created by the aliens themselves, who "select lucky humans from around the globe for a personal tour of their spaceships, along with the unique opportunity to take part in various exciting testing procedures."
Some tourists could see it as a cheap ticket to another planet. After all, with gas prices skyrocketing, who can afford Disney World? Former Canadian defense minister Paul Hellyer, who claimed to have seen a UFO, said, "I would like to see what [alien] technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation ... that could be a way to save our planet." That and windmills, but there have been no reports of windmill-powered UFOs.
In 2007, France's National Center for Space Studies posted 100,000 pages of UFO witness testimony, photos and audio tapes at www.cnes.fr. Of course it's in French, which I no longer "bien parler." Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan reported bipartisan UFO sightings. Astronauts Edwin Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins said they observed a UFO during the Apollo II mission. "We have no proof," Armstrong said. "But if we extrapolate, based on the best information we have available to us, we have to come to the conclusion that ... other life probably exists out there and perhaps in many places."
- I haven't seen any extraterrestrials at the Beaches, but on March 11, there was a celebrity sighting at oceanfront home of Kathie and Neil McGuinness. The Atlantic Beach couple hosted a party for the Jacksonville Semper Fidelis Society, with guests of honor character actor and U.S. Marines Staff Sgt. R. Lee Ermey and 12th Sgt. Major Harold "Gene" Overstreet; 12th sergeant major is the highest post an enlisted Marine can hold.
Ermey earned the honorary rank of gunnery sergeant after serving in the Marine Corps for 11 years that included 14 months in Vietnam and two tours of duty in Okinawa, but he gained national fame and a Golden Globe nomination for his role as "Gunnery Sergeant" in the 1987 film "Full Metal Jacket." People also recognize him as host of History Channel programs "Mail Call" and "Lock N Load." His latest role as "jack hammer, numb nuts, namby pamby"-spouting Marine drill sergeant-turned-psychiatrist in a Geico commercial has propelled him to fame once again.
"We [Marines] laugh, because he has the character just right," said Sharon Leahy, a retired Marine, famous in her own right as the first female president of the Semper Fi Society. She follows in the footsteps of Lt. Col. Bob Adelhelm, who founded the non-profit organization 12 years ago for retired and active duty U.S. Marine and Navy corpsmen, chaplains and doctors who served with the Fleet Marines.
The organization of 108 members, who have served from World War II to today, helps Marines transition from active duty back to civilian life and find jobs. The group also sponsors leadership awards and scholarships for NROTC and NJROTC youngsters and gives Gung Ho awards to local active and reserve military commands.
Ermey lives in California, and Overstreet is from Texas, but they come to Daytona Beach every year to take part in the Warrior Walk. On this trip, they were happy to add the Semper Fi party to their agenda. In honor of their visit, they were given Semper Fi life membership certificates. Leahy was presented with an oar engraved with a plaque recognizing Semper Fi's work in the community and for the Marines.
"People sleep well every night because of [Marines] protecting them on the other side of the world," Ermey said. "What a great opportunity to be here with a bunch of outstanding individuals. Semper Fi!"
- March 6 marked the fifth anniversary of the Beaches Museum & History Center. Festivities began on March 4 with a reception for artist Ellen Jones and a juried exhibit of two-dimensional art by 25 artists. Beaches musician Mike Shackelford entertained, and 125 guests enjoyed wine and hors d'oeuvres.
On March 6, the Beaches Area Historical Society hosted a private party honoring original donors to the museum. The non-profit BAHS serves as a guardian of archives of Beaches history from Mayport to Ponte Vedra Beach, providing exhibits and educational programs for all ages. Major donors at the event were BAHS founder Jean McCormick, Maxwell and Edna Dickinson, Joe and Renate Hixon, Wade McCormick, Bob and Suzanne Taylor, Alice Gartland, Jack and Lori Schmidt, Georgia Wahl, Sam Van Leer, Dorothy Johnson and Jerome Fletcher.
Executive Director Maarten van de Guchte said, "I walked on the beach this weekend and thought of all who had walked there ahead of me - a Timucuan Indian chief, Henry Flagler, former Senator Duncan Fletcher - and I felt good to be a part of it. History really is about people, living people. Somebody has to collect and record it."
For a close-up view of Beaches history, a JTA trolley will depart from the museum at 1 p.m. Saturday for a three-hour tour that follows the original Florida East Coast Railway route from Pablo Station to Mayport with historic stops along the way. Neil McGuinness, author of "The Beaches: A History and Tour," will guide the "Magical History Trolley Tour." Tickets are $50; seating is limited to 30. Call 241-5657 for reservations. At 11 a.m. Saturday, a Starving Artists Sale of art priced for $200 or less will be at the museum.
- In spite of a recent double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, Kendra Loria was "In the Pink" at Culhane's Irish Pub on March 8 for the kickoff of the second annual Knickers Fore Knockers golf tournament March 13 at Queen's Harbour Yacht and Country Club. The tourney benefited In the Pink, a non-profit shop for women living with cancer, at 522 Third St. N., Jacksonville Beach. "A friend invited me to go to In the Pink, and it was phenomenal," Loria said. "I found I could go to one place to get everything I needed. The people at In the Pink are cancer survivors; they're trained to help, and they understand."
About 200,000 men and women have breast cancer diagnosed annually and 40,000 die from the disease, said tournament founder/Chairwoman Sally Bell, a breast cancer survivor. Jeri Millard opened the shop in July 2009 to provide a one-stop shop that carries everything cancer patients like Loria and Bell need, such as wigs, prosthetics, bras, mastectomy products, skin care products and emotional support.
"As a two-time survivor of breast and cervical cancer, I didn't understand why people had to drive all over town looking for things," Millard said. "We accept all major insurances, and provide free products for people on Medicaid or who have no insurance." Major event sponsors were Culhane's, Bott-Anderson, Wekiva Springs Hospital, Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery, Bee Tree Homes, Aerostar Environment, American Breast Care and SEDA Construction.
- The words of Abraham Lincoln inspired U.S. Rep. John Mica's keynote speech at the 14th annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner hosted by The Republican Club of Ponte Vedra Beach on March 7. The affair at the Sawgrass Golf Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort, attracted 200 Republicans, including St. Johns County officials: Property Appraiser Sharon Outland; Clerk of Courts Cheryl Strickland; commissioners Jay Morris, Cyndi Stevenson and Ron Sanchez; county Republican Executive Committee Chairman Harlan Mason; Republican Party of Florida Vice Chairman Lenny Curry and Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clark. Club President Robert Champion emceed the event and introduced the preliminary speakers - retired U.S. Air Force Col. Michael McCalister, who gave a patriotic prelude to the evening; Kim Kendall, candidate for State House District 19, and former State House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.
Mica stepped down from the podium to the main floor to talk in an informal manner with the 200 Republicans at the dinner. Before moving on to serious topics, he began with a joke: "It was so cold in Washington this winter you actually saw some members of Congress with their hands in their own pockets." He praised new members of Congress as "a great group of freshmen, who have even taken on Republicans." The chairman of the House Transportation Committee didn't focus on transportation issues; he addressed national economic woes, pointing out that "the tables have turned [in Congress], and left a lot of carnage behind. ... This is no longer a matter of political one-upmanship; this is a threat to national security." He added, "I love to repeat the words of Lincoln, 'dependency begets servitude.'"
- The Peace Corps turned 50 on March 1. The First Coast Returned Peace Corps Volunteers celebrated with the opening of a memorabilia display at University of North Florida's Carpenter Library and an exhibit called "We All Need Peace" at UNF's Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. They also had a gala party at the University Center on March 5. The Carpenter exhibit runs through Monday, April 11, and the Lufrano show ends Monday, May 2.
President John F. Kennedy decreed in 1961: "The Peace Corps shall be responsible for the training and service abroad of men and women of the United States in new programs of assistance to nations and areas of the world." Since then, about 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 countries. Today, there are 8,655 volunteers in 77 countries.
About 120 people attended the birthday party chaired by Bernadette Miron of Sawgrass Country Club. Returned Peace Corps volunteers included Bernadette's husband David Miron, Frank and Malinda Cotter of Sawgrass and Ponte Vedrans Alicia Linquist, Jerry Erickson and Carrie Fihe. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers President Michael Fackler presented Malinda Cotter with an award for being the earliest serving Peace Corps volunteer; she served as a nurse in St. Lucia in 1961. Linquist received an award for being the latest volunteer to return from service.
- In case you happen to have a close encounter with an extraterrestrial, they have alternately been described as little green men, or pale, skinny humanoids with lizard-like skin and big eyes. In truth, no one really knows what they look like or how big they are. They could be smaller than a grain of sand. A January 2010 Associated Press article reported that some people suspect there are alien microorganisms hiding on Earth. Arizona State University physicist Paul Davies said there are various life forms, many as small as tiny microbes that could be "right under our noses - or even in our noses." Yikes! All this time I thought it was pollen.