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Center Hosts Fourth Annual Shotguns & Cigars Fundraiser At Addieville

On Friday, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity hosted one of our signature events— our fourth annual Shotguns & Cigars fundraiser was a huge success. The day features outdoor fun, camaraderie, cigars, bourbon and wine, and a juicy steak all at Addieville East Farm. Teams of four enjoyed practicing our shotgun skills with sporting clays. We, once again, proved that our Second Amendment rights can be used responsibly.

Here are some images from this incredible day. Please e-mail Info@RIFreedom.org to inquire about joining us next year.

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Like Plaque, Education Bureaucracies Are Cumulative

It was to be expected that even inadequate, sound-good education reforms from Rhode Island’s General Assembly would come at a cost, as reported by the Providence Journal’s Linda Borg:

The Senate Finance Committee last month asked Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green what she would need to take on the new responsibilities included in this package of legislation, which, among other things, calls for instituting high-quality civics instruction, expanding world languages statewide, improving instruction for students with dyslexia and giving principals more authority.

“To fully support the requirements of these legislative priorities and to transform the department to focus more on supporting educators, students, and the community, RIDE needs additional expertise and capacity across a wide range of areas, such as implementing high-quality curriculum and supporting school leaders,” said Rhode Island Department of Education spokesman Pete Janhunen. “The request contains a list of proposed positions that align with the priorities of both the commissioner and the General Assembly.”

The ask is for $1.9 million, mostly to hire new personnel.  One question remains unasked, however.  If this is a “shift” in the nature of the department, are there no roles that no longer need to be filled?

This is another $1.9 million for the state’s education bureaucracy, so it can edge in on the territory of local decision makers.  Actually, it’s fig-leaf spending and reorganizing in order to avoid addressing the actual problem:  Our public schools have insufficient accountability and are structured for the benefit of the adults who work in them, rather than the children who attend them.

Until Rhode Islanders have had enough and are willing to force elected officials to address that problem, every proposed solution will amount to merely more or less wasted money and time.

One aspect of the abortion debate with which one really must contend is the deception of those who advocate for abortion as a right, starting with the idea that legislation to preserve women's ability to kill their unborn children in the womb is about "reproductive health care."  Reproductive of what?

Three Options for Next Week, for Preventing the Decriminalization of Fetal Homicide in Rhode Island


Below are three possible strategies that could be pursued during the Senate floor debate next week, one procedural and two in the form of amendments; that would remove the decriminalization of fetal homicide from the Senate abortion bill with no impact (for better or for worse) on the sections concerning the legality of abortion.

Introducing one of these amendments (or making the motion to divide) is the right thing to do. Voting for one of the amendments, or supporting the motion and then voting against the section decriminalizing fetal homicide, is the right thing to do, obviously in line with pro-life principles, and an absolute must for any politician who would try to explain how his or her support for sending the bill to the floor or for “codifying” Roe vs. Wade is not pro-abortion radicalism.

  1. A Senator could simply make a motion on the floor to divide the question, and have section 4 of the bill voted on separately from the others.
     
  2. A Senator could introduce an amendment to strike the sections of the quick child law related to the legality of abortion that would be superseded by the rest of the bill, while leaving the definition of fetal homicide during an assault on the mother in place. It would look something like this:
     

    11-23-5. Willful killing of unborn quick child.

    (a) The willful killing of an unborn quick child by any injury to the mother of the child, which would be murder if it resulted in the death of the mother; the administration to any woman pregnant with a quick child of any medication, drug, or substance or the use of any instrument or device or other means, with intent to destroy the child, unless it is necessary to preserve the life of the mother; in the event of the death of the child; shall be deemed manslaughter.

    (b) In any prosecution under this section, it shall not be necessary for the prosecution to prove that any necessity existed.

    (c) For the purposes of this section, “quick child” means an unborn child whose heart is beating, who is experiencing electronically-measurable brain waves, who is discernibly moving, and who is so far developed and matured as to be capable of surviving the trauma of birth with the aid of usual medical care and facilities available in this state.
     

  3. A Senator could introduce an amendment leaving the repeal of sections (a) and (b) of the current law in place, but inserting a new section (a) that reads something like:
     

    11-23-5. Willful killing of unborn quick child.

    (a) An act that injures a pregnant woman which would be murder if it results in her death and causes the death of an unborn quick child shall be deemed manslaughter.

    (c)(b) For the purposes of this section, “quick child” means an unborn child whose heart is beating, who is experiencing electronically-measurable brain waves, who is discernibly moving, and who is so far developed and matured as to be capable of surviving the trauma of birth with the aid of usual medical care and facilities available in this state.

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Relentless Perpetuation of the “Equal Pay” Myth via Legislation

Helpful headlines notwithstanding, the Rhode Island Senate once again passed legislation to address the mythical “wage gap”:

A plan to close the gender wage gap in Rhode Island by adding new, sharper teeth to the state’s fair pay law and banning employers from asking job candidates their salary history sailed through the state Senate again Thursday.

“Rhode Island first passed an equal pay law in the 1950s, and I am sure it was revolutionary at the time, but we have not gone back and updated it unlike many other states,” said Sen. Gayle Goldin, lead sponsor of the pay equity legislation. “Passing this bill is not going to resolve the wage gap on its own, rather, this bill in combination with so many things we have worked on… is the way we will address the gender wage gap.”

And so it goes.  As long as progressives want to foster division and grievance, this legislation will keep appearing.  Maybe some year the gears of political necessity will get it over the finish line.  As that process plays on from year to year, opponents will tire of saying the same thing over and over again.  That’s the advantage of the left-wing approach to public “debate”:  When you refuse to acknowledge the other side’s arguments and just keep repeating the talking points, the other side moves to other topics, and the public just becomes used to the deception.

By way of a preventative measure, here’s my op-ed on the topic, from the Providence Journal last year around this time, which I published in more casual, expansive form in this space the month before:

Plainly put, this gives the government power to investigate just about any business and dictate changes to its pay policies, because the only pay differentials that wouldn’t have legal risks would be those between people of the same race, religion, sex, orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and nationality.  That is, for any two employees who aren’t more or less demographically identical, the lower-paid one could initiate a complaint with the state with the same treatment as complaints that the employer withheld pay, and the burden is on the employer to explain it and to prove that no other business practice could erase it.

Think about how much of an encroachment on private activity and interactions that is, as well as the presumption that government is some sort of neutral judge that can accurately assess every business decision.

If this legislation ever passes, I expect it will have some degree of the same effect as the ill-advised paid leave legislation which progressives did manage to pass last yearl.

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Drag Queen Story Hour Features Cultural Marxist… No, Really

A drag performer in full costume calling himself “Naomi Chomsky” read a story to small children at the Fall River Public Library. Outside, Christian protesters prayed for the mental well-being of the children subjected to his performance. These “Drag Queen Story Hour” performances are spreading throughout Rhode Island, despite the concerns of many citizens. Why are they happening?

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How the Issues Blend in the General Assembly

Maybe I’m being a little too cynical, but a serendipitous press release from the Rhode Island Senate at least provides an opportunity to contemplate how things operate at the State House.

As readers probably have heard by now, the Democrat leadership of the Senate engaged in an unprecedented last minute political stunt by pulling an abortion bill that decriminalizes fetal homicide from the Judiciary Committee and sends it to the Health and Human Services Committee, which everybody expects to pass it.  The reason for this unusual move was that Senate Republicans looked like they were going to leverage their rights as a minority under the chamber’s rules to add two votes to the “nay” side and stop the radical, unnecessary, and deceptive legislation.

The odd thing about it is that Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (D, Warwick) and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D, Providence, North Providence) could have done the same thing.  Instead, the Senate president managed to ensure that the bill passes committee without admitting that he voted for it.

Now the press release posted on the Web the same day as the committee maneuver:

The Senate today passed legislation (2019-S-803Aaa) sponsored by President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) that takes a new approach to economic development on large tracts of state land. Spurred by delays and impediments imposed upon the Hope Point Tower proposal for the I-195 Redevelopment District, the bill intends to create a more streamlined process for approvals on these state-owned parcels moving forward.

“We have a rare opportunity for development at the former I-195 land and some other areas across the state,” said Senator Ruggerio. “In the I-195 District, a developer is hoping to invest more than a quarter of a billion dollars to create an iconic structure that redefines the skyline. We should have welcomed this investment with open arms. Instead, we did everything we could to chase the developer away. Thankfully, he’s still here. This process has sent a terrible message to anyone looking to invest in Rhode Island.”

This is a big-money deal of particular interest to labor unions, for which Ruggerio worked until he retired after becoming Senate president.  The only reason I hesitate to link this with the abortion bill is that the vote wasn’t really that close: 28 to 8.  On the other hand, eight “nay” votes is pretty substantial in our one-sided legislature.  Had 10 votes flipped, the bill would have failed.  When the bill was in Senate Judiciary, four flipped votes would have stopped it.

So, the lesson:  When considering the up-and-down votes on any particular bill, you can’t assume legislators are judging the merits alone.  The lives of unborn children, in this case, can perhaps be sacrificed for the sake of a crony development deal.  Or perhaps some other backroom deal has been struck so that the House will stop the legislation in exchange for a return favor from the Senate.

One aspect of the abortion debate with which one really must contend is the deception of those who advocate for abortion as a right, starting with the idea that legislation to preserve women's ability to kill their unborn children in the womb is about "reproductive health care."  Reproductive of what?

Archambault’s Flip-Flop on Fetal Homicide


It seems that Senator Steven Archambault, who had been the swing vote on the RI Senate Judiciary committee on the abortion bill, agreed to support decriminalization of fetal homicide in return for nothing of substance.

The revised abortion bill that was introduced yesterday removes the killing of a preborn child during an attack on the mother from the definition of manslaughter, while explicitly adding “the termination of a pregnancy” to the definition of a serious bodily injury under Rhode Island’s felony assault law. But if you listen to Dan Yorke’s interview with RI Attorney General Peter Neronha from earlier this year, starting at about 6:50, you will hear AG Neronha say that harm to a preborn child that occurs during an assault on the mother already meets the definition of serious bodily injury, under the legal theory — acceptable to abortion supporters — that a child is an organ or member of his or her mother. (“Organ or member” is Attorney General Neronha’s description, not mine).

Based on his statements from the Dan Yorke interview and the language in the current abortion bill, the Attorney General should be asked if he believes the new section defining serious bodily injury changes anything about its definition, because it certainly seems that the amended bill makes no meaningful change to the law except for making a point of stripping preborn children of their right to life. With the transfer last night of the abortion bill from the Senate’s Judiciary Committee to the Health and Human Services committee, there are two additional days to seek this expert opinion.

As for Senator Archambault: it looks like he’s the kind of “moderate” Democrat who becomes a progressive, whenever it counts.

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Analogizing Over Constitutional Rights

Elsewhere in the Boston Globe, Ed Fitzpatrick takes up the topic of requiring a license to purchase ammunition.  This part is especially telling about the gun-control lobby’s point of view:

The study noted a gun without ammunition is no more dangerous than any other blunt object. But “unlike the public health view on drug policy, which recognizes the importance of limiting access to both the agent of harm (the narcotic) and the instrument of delivery (for example, syringe), gun policy has focused primarily on limiting access to the instrument of delivery, firearms,” it noted.

The study said guns and ammunition are more likely to be used in violent crimes when they’re in the hands of felons (such as Charlie Vick) and others prohibited from owning weapons

Frankly, I take this to be evidence of an intention to infringe, when it comes to gun regulation.  Drugs are not explicitly protected on the Constitution, guns are.  To equate the two plows right through the Bill of Rights and steals the base of asserting that both drugs and weapons are inherently harmful.

As for the likelihood of crimes, that’s pretty much a tautology.  It would be a pretty useless regulation that didn’t forbid ownership of an item to people who were more likely to abuse that right.  Even so, the fact that people who tend toward crime will be more likely to use an item for illicit purposes doesn’t justify making it a crime for other people to buy it without a license.

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The Many Ways to Shuffle Around Money and Influence

Dan McGowan’s recent Boston Globe article about Democrat Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s curious fundraising relationship with a local nonprofit is a excellent representation of the way things increasingly work in politics:

Because there is no state law prohibiting politicians from raising money for nonprofits, the operation appears to be legal. But it has created a “back door way” for companies to “ingratiate themselves with public officials,” said John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, a good-government advocacy group. …

Elorza, who was first elected in 2014 and won another four-year term last year, has raised more than $500,000 for the tourism fund, using a portion of the money to travel to places including China and New Orleans.

That’s not all.  In keeping with the practices of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, the nonprofit is also part of a larger job network for Elorza’s political allies.  When he makes calls to solicit money for the nonprofit, Elorza goes to Campaign Finance Officers, “the consulting firm that has overseen his political fund-raising operation for five years.”  Those dots connect much more closely:

When Elorza took office, he installed three of his supporters as the sole members of the fund’s board of directors.

One of those three is Meg Clurman, who is a partner at the aforementioned Campaign Finance Officers.  One of the organization’s employees is Andrew Moore, who is also Elorza’s campaign finance director and has been paid by the Providence Tourism Fund in the past.

An important lesson from this revelation is that the very idea of campaign finance reform is wrongheaded.  Once a politician hits a certain level of money and power, the opportunities to find workarounds are too extensive.  Giving him travel money, helping to keep his allies employed, and even providing him money to spend on feel-good things through a nonprofit are all tangible benefits that donors are providing to the mayor.

Thus, laws that target more straightforward transactions disproportionately trip up only those who are trying to build momentum in order to make provide accountability through competition at the ballot box, which is where corruption ultimately has to be called to account.

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Upcoming Budget: More Privileges for Insiders or Real Help for RI Families?

With the General Assembly session nearing the end, we fully expect the new state budget to contain no meaningful remedies to the many problems that plague our state, such as high taxes across the board, high energy and healthcare costs, and onerous regulatory burdens on job-producers. In our Public Union Excesses report, we identified that there are $888 million per year in excessive collectively-bargained costs, responsible for driving up local property taxes by up to 25%.

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Public-Sector Labor Legislation and the Law of Unintended Consequences

While we must be wary of giving credit-rating agencies the power to dictate the legislation of our elected representatives, Rhode Islanders should contemplate the significance of this development, which Katherine Gregg reports in the Providence Journal:

A warning from one of the nation’s largest credit-rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service, has revived the debate over the union-backed continuing-contract legislation that Gov. Gina Raimondo signed last month over the objections of city and town leaders.

The new continuing-contract law indefinitely locks in wages and benefits in expired public-employee contracts. The teacher union lobbyists who took the lead in pushing the bill said it was aimed at preventing cities and towns from unilaterally slashing pay or making employees pay more for their health insurance during deadlocked negotiations.

“The law has the potential to provide collective bargaining units with advantages in negotiations,’’ Moody’s public-finance division wrote in a special report out Thursday that echoed one of the biggest concerns raised by Rhode Island mayors and town administrators.

Moody’s worries that the law may be “a significant impediment to local governments’ ability to negotiate labor contracts,” and as a local elected official participating in negotiations, I can confirm that to be the case.  It isn’t just a matter of unions’ refusing to make concessions that help government agencies balance their budgets.

The legislation — and even just the fact of its passage, along with the firefighter overtime bill — is already shutting off areas of discussion.  A municipality and union trying to balance current expenses with employees’ long-term interests can’t trust that the state won’t change the rules out from under them.  Even in a situation when the current members of a particular union have long demonstrated a desire to work cooperatively with management, decision-makers can’t consider only that relationship, but must worry about the unknowns of what future union members might do and how union-friendly legislators might change the rules on their behalf.

As with so much in Rhode Island government, the legislature and governor have demonstrated that they don’t take the broad, long-term effects of their actions into consideration.  One imagines that if they were ever to acknowledge the law of unintended consequences, they’d move swiftly to pass legislation repealing it.

By capitulating to progressive-union pressure, and despite disingenuous claims that no broad-based taxes were imposed, Ocean Staters will once again bear increased burdens to pay for new taxes and regulations, more spending, and more union giveaways. Lawmakers chose to appease, rather than resist, the progressives’ job-killing, big-spending agenda.

Minimum Wage Cuts Close to Home for Far-Left Congresswoman

Is it too much to hope that a direct negative effect of progressive laws that hits very close to home for one particular progressive superstar would change some minds?

… the very [minimum wage] policies Ocasio-Cortez is set to draw attention to ultimately led to one of her former employers shuttering its own operations.

Charles Milite, co-founder of the Coffee Shop, where Ocasio-Cortez previously worked, said that the increased minimum wage to $15 per hour for businesses with more than 11 employees led him and his partners to reevaluate their business and shut it down.

“I know it doesn’t sound like much—$2 an hour,” Milite told Crains New York Business in April. “But when you multiply it by 40 hours, by 130 people, it becomes a big number. It was going to increase our monthly payroll $46,000.”

Ocasio-Cortez mourned the loss of the Coffee Shop and stopped in before it closed its doors. “The restaurant I used to work at is closing its doors,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted last August. “I swung by today to say hi one last time, and kid around with friends like old times.” The freshman congresswoman, however, never acknowledged the policies that led to its demise.

At the level of Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps her investment in a particular ideology is just too big a bus to turn around on the ideological street, but could those who are not so far along perhaps give the matter some thought?

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Picking the Monopoly Among Government Schools

Linda Borg reports in the Providence Journal that the Chariho regional school district has been permitted to continue in its suit against the State of Rhode Island for allowing additional career and technical centers in the region, allegedly in breach of their agreement:

… Chariho filed suit in Superior Court alleging that the education department had breached its contract by approving similar vocational programs at Westerly and Narragansett High Schools. Chariho also sought a permanent injunction to prohibit the state from authorizing other career and tech centers in the region.

Chariho has long complained that Wagner’s efforts to expand school choice have hurt preexisting vocational programs. Wagner, in an effort to promote Gov. Gina Raimondo’s support for career and technical education, has encouraged traditional high schools to open their own career and tech programs.

The outcome of the lawsuit is probably going to hinge on whether a program opened at an existing high school counts as a “center.”  Chariho cares, as Superintendent Barri Ricci makes clear in the article, because the district must pay another district if students within its boundaries choose to cross those boundaries for a particular program.  Though more difficult to track,  the district also loses revenue to the extent students from other districts decide to stay within their own boundaries for similar programs.

Contract provisions aside, the case illustrates a broader point about government services.  Chariho is claiming a contractual right to a monopoly on career and technical training within the public school system in that area.  If families want to pay extra to send children to private academies, the district has little say.  It is only because we’ve set up this system of schools for which we insist students’ families can’t be expected to pay that this is an issue.

Most within-government school choice — notably charter schools — takes the form of the public sector competing with the private sector.  Taxpayers are simply forced to pay for the education services for which families would otherwise have had to pay, giving government schools a massive advantage in attracting customers.

When the competition is between government schools, however, choices become subject to the political process.  The state government gets to decide what choices families have and what government agencies get the monopoly advantages.

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Progressives Protest Catholic Church in Providence

As faithful Catholics left the 6:00 pm Mass on Sunday night at the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Providence, they met a crowd of over a hundred angry Progressive protestors. The demonstrators were there to protest against the religious tenets of the the Catholic Church. The protest came following a viral tweet from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin early Saturday morning reminding Catholics not to support the LGBTQ “Pride Month,” and warning families that the sexual displays present at “Pride” marches are especially harmful to children.

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Dealing with RI’s Endangered Place

Something seems odd about declaring the Providence Superman Building as “endangered,” making one wonder whether the designation is the result of lobbying by interested parties:

Rhode Island’s tallest — and vacant — landmark, the former Industrial Trust Building in downtown Providence, otherwise known as the Superman Building, is on this year’s list of the nation’s most endangered historic places.

For more than 30 years the National Trust for Historic Preservation has produced a list of the 11 most endangered places in the country to call attention to what it considers “one-of-a-kind treasurers.”

The 91-year-old art deco Superman tower, which earned its nickname for its resemblance to the Daily Planet building from Superman comics, joins Nashville’s Music Row and the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, among others, as this year’s threatened places.

On the topic, Matt Allen expresses the extremity of the opposing point of view:  “This is not an ‘iconic’ building. It’s an eyesore and a terrible investment. Tear it down.”  My views are somewhere in the middle, still bogged down in questions I haven’t answered completely.

How do we measure the value of some publicly accessible (or at least publicly visible) thing, like a building or geological feature that has contributed to an area’s character?  Who gets to determine what can, can’t, should, and shouldn’t be done?

The simplest answer that conforms with my philosophy is that people who want to preserve it should find a way to buy it with private money, and then to maintain it at least to a baseline standard for health and safety.   One complication arises in my belief that local areas can answer the relevant questions differently, so if the people of Providence want to use some measure of public resources to preserve the building, then to the extent the city is acting independently from the rest of the state, I’m not going to tell them they can’t.

This only raises the next question: On the state level, do we want to be the kind of place that preserves its landmarks?

My answer on this one is “no.”  Our state isn’t so thoroughly thriving that we can afford nostalgia.  Just like protectionism with dying industries, if we manipulate the market value of a building like this, we don’t allow the best use of that property.

Let the skyline change.  Let the city’s character change.  That’s the sign of human adjustment, and we should embrace it.  Anybody who disagrees should use their own money and sweat to find some use for the antiquated hulk.

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Stefan Cox: In Favor of Electronic Data Privacy Act

House Bill 5893 is the Electronic Data Privacy Act and is crucial for the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass into law. If passed, the bill, sponsored by Minority Leader Blake Filippi, would prohibit any government entity from accessing electronic devices without search warrants. If the state does not pass this bill, it will have violated spirit of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees our right as citizens from unlawful searches.

This is a technology filled era, and our Fourth Amendment protections should not be exempt when it comes to computers, phones, tablets and any other technological devices which have personal information within them.

If Rhode Island does not pass this common sense legislation, we will not only have a failed economy, we will be one step closer to failing and uphold the principles of the United States Constitution.

Absolutely no one should be searched, or have property seized without probable cause. The Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights is arguably our most important. We all want privacy, and we all hope that any law enforcement treats us as we feel we should be treated.

The Fourth Amendment, I would argue, is a even more fundamental than the First or Second Amendment, because if we lose our right to be protected from unlawful searches, we will lose our privacy. Then it is only a matter of time before we lose our rights to speech and firearms.

This bill to protect electronic privacy is crucial to our children’s and their children’s future. We have watches that can make phone calls now; imagine the technology they will possess. Personal property is personal property even when it is in digital form.

If we are going to search, seize, arrest, and convict someone, we must always go through proper due process. If we lose the Fourth Amendment, therefore, we might as well abandon the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, too.

This bill must be passed and be signed.

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Rhode Islanders Killed Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq

 
Sgt. Gregory A. Belanger
Sgt. Charles T. Caldwell
Staff Sgt. Joseph Camara
Spc. Michael Andrade
CW5 Sharon T. Swartworth
Capt. Matthew J. August
Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Mancini
Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson
Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Serio
Lance Cpl. John J. Van Gyzen IV
Sgt. Christopher S. Potts
Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette
2nd Lt. Matthew S. Coutu
Sgt. Dennis J. Flanagan
Cpl. Brian R. St. Germain
Staff Sgt. Dale J. Kelly
Sgt. Moises Jazmin
Lance Cpl. Eric P. Valdepenas
Sgt. Michael R. Weidemann
Spc. Agent Nathan J. Schuldheiss
Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington
Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV
Pfc. Kyle J. Coutu
Staff Sgt. Thomas H. Oakley
Sgt. Michael F. Paranzino
Spc. Dennis C. Poulin
Spc. Dennis P. Weichel Jr.
Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe
Staff Sgt. Timothy R. McGill
Master Sgt. David L. Poirier
1st Sgt. Peter Andrew McKenna Jr.

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