Local News

Naval NCO charged with Green Beret’s murder

06 01 Logan MelgarA Navy SEAL has pleaded not guilty after being charged with murder in the strangulation death of a Fort Bragg Green Beret staff sergeant while both were deployed in West Africa a year-and-a-half ago. Special Warfare Operator Chief Tony E. DeDolph was arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing and felony murder plus conspiracy, assault, obstruction of justice and burglary, according to court records. DeDolph and three other service members — a fellow SEAL and two Marine Raiders, including Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez — were initially charged in the June 4, 2017, death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Bamako, Mali, where the men were on a counterterrorism deployment. Madera-Rodriguez was arraigned on charges late last year. The other co-defendants, Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell and Navy SEAL Adam C. Matthews, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in 2019. DeDolph’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, told Military Times Jan. 10 that the government had denied his client’s requests for expert witnesses, which included a criminologist, DNA analyst and forensic pathologist. But the judge in the trial granted the requests. “This case is nothing short of sad for everyone involved,” Stackhouse said. He called Melgar’s death a “tragic accident” that has since “snowballed into an injustice” because of the way it has been handled.

Federal Emergency Management Agency grants local government financial assistance

The state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have announced that more than $1.6 million has been approved to reimburse expenses for damages to the Cumberland County landfill, which was 06 02 Burrow Pitdamaged during Hurricane Florence. Reimbursements include costs for dredging and reconstructing the landfill’s borrow pit after hurricane-related flood damage. A borrow pit is a large hole that has been dug for a particular purpose. FEMA has approved more than $5 million in Hurricane Florence-related expenses for Cumberland County. FEMA’s public assistance program provides grants for state and local governments to reimburse the cost of debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent repair work. FEMA reimburses applicants at least 75% of eligible costs, and the state covers the remaining 25%.

Vets service office recognized

Cumberland County Veterans Services has been ranked No. 1 in the state for distribution of veterans’ affairs expenditures for fiscal year 2018. Cumberland County ranked first in the state with VA expenditures of $897,700,000. VA expenditures include compensation and pension, construction and education and vocational rehabilitation employment.

In a letter to Cumberland County Veterans Services, North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Regional Manager Robert Johnson said, “The news of Cumberland County Veterans Services achieving this prestigious position does not come as any surprise.”

06 03 DMVA Newsletter HeaderNEWSThe Cumberland County Veterans Services Department helps veterans and their dependents obtain benefits to which they are entitled by submitting claims benefits to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The office is located at 301 E. Russell St., Fayetteville. Call 910-677-2970 or go to co.cumberland.nc.us for more information.

VA staff vacancies mount

Despite new incentives to help the Veterans Administration fill vacant staff positions, the number of vacancies rose to nearly 50,000 over the last year, according to the latest federal data. A key Democratic senator wants to know why the employment shortfall isn’t being fixed.

06 04 VA SealIn a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member, Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he has “serious concerns” that officials have not found a way to deal with the department’s “persistent workforce shortage” despite assistance from Congress. “I remain consistently frustrated that VA medical facilities, particularly those in rural areas, are dramatically understaffed,” Tester wrote.

Tester said lawmakers have offered new hiring incentives such as loan repayment and relocation incentives but have been disappointed with the results. VA press secretary Christina Mandreucc said in a statement that many vacancies are attributed to “normal retirements and job changes” and not widespread problems with department hiring practices.

Citizen interest in serving local government is lacking

The city of Fayetteville needs more than 30 citizens to fill vacancies on various advisory boards and commissions. Here are the vacancies the city says need to be filled:
Airport Commission – two openings
Audit Committee – two openings
Fair Housing Board – three openings; one is required to be a real estate representative
Fayetteville Advisory Committee on Transit – four openings; one is required to be a FAST Driver, one is required to be an ADA representative, one is required to be a resident who lives in the FAST service area and one must be a business representative
06 05 citizen participationRedevelopment Commission – two openings
Historic Resources Commission – five openings; one must be a building designer
Linear Park – two openings
Personnel Review Board – three openings
Public Arts Commission – three openings; two are required to be arts council appointees
Planning Commission – two openings
Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission – one opening
Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission – one opening
Applications are being accepted until midnight Jan. 31. All qualified applications will be presented to the city council’s appointments committee in February. The city is accepting applications on its website at www.fayettevillenc.gov.

A decade in review

11 01 Official portrait of Barack ObamaI thought it would be easy to write a review for 2019, and then I realized that we are at the end of another decade. So, this is a review of last year and the previous decade. It was a decade of great achievement and dizzying ups and downs.

At the end of 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 10,428. The unemployment rate was 9.9%. In the United States, the average family median income was $50,599. The five most famous letters in the alphabet were the vowels a, e, i, o and u. The No. 1 cause of death was the heart attack. The number of murders in the U.S. from guns was 11,493, or 36%. The number of suicides from guns was 18,735, or 59.8%. In 2009, there were 784,507 abortions reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Obama’s net worth was estimated between $1 million and $5 million. Businessman Donald Trump’s net worth was $1.6 billion.

In 2010, Obama was the president. Apple rolled out the first iPad. During this decade, American troops killed Osama bin Laden. “Curiosity Rover” landed on Mars. Once the lion of the auto industry, Detroit ultimately filed for bankruptcy. Obama shut down the full federal government with budget sequestration. The Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, went into effect. Same-sex marriages became legal across the country. Trump was elected the 45th president. Since day 10 of his presidency, Trump and his campaign have faced one investigation after another and impeachment.

Over the decade, microphones, cameras and opinion polls often trumped science, facts, evidence and common sense. Political drama seemed to rule the decade. It split the country, families and friends. The internet, television, radio and print used our information and devices to target us for ideological and political gain. Media messiahs played on our fears, and we turned to “news” commentators to decipher, dilute 11 02 Donald Trump official portraitand help digest talking points and fuel the 24-hour news cycle.

Technologically, we boomed. For the first time, we saw self-driving cars, 4G, tablets, augmented reality, multi-use space rockets, solar-panel roofs, human-like robots, genetic engineering, the hoverboard, Instagram, smartwatches, drones, biomechanics, biomedicine, the bionic eye, fake news, the cloud, and a book salesman disrupted just about everything with a little business called Amazon.

As of October 2019, Fayetteville is the fourth largest city in North Carolina with an estimated population of 209,468. Fort Bragg drove Fayetteville’s economy to the tune of about $4.5 billion and is the area’s largest employer. Other producers of jobs in the area included the education and health care systems, Walmart and Goodyear Tire. Fort Bragg is also home to America’s bravest men and women that the world has ever met.

Fayetteville continued to showcase spectacular art, music and culture. The Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Gilbert Theater and the Arts Council entertained us with talent from all ages. The Dogwood Festival, The Zombie Walk and A Dickens Holiday brought tens of thousands downtown for fantastic and fun family entertainment. The Crown Coliseum hosted great events from WWE to great concerts like America, Chicago and Mannheim Steamroller to great conventions like ComicCon. 

11 03 Apple Watch Series 4 44mm Aluminum Cellular goldwhiteFayetteville is the machine of evolution. In April, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers moved into the new $37.8 million ballpark, but for some reason, the city leaders could not figure out how or where to park cars. More bars and restaurants opened and closed and proved it is easier to drink a cold beer than it is to change the fact that people along the Cape Fear River cannot drink their well water due to GenX. More of I-295 opened, connecting I-95 to Cliffdale Road. Fort Bragg families declared a housing crisis that prompted visits by the Sectary of the Army and first lady Melania Trump.

At the end of this writing in 2019, for the most part, we as a nation and community are better off than we were in 2009. The Dow Jones average is approaching 30,000. (Editor's Note: At the close of 2019, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 28,538.44.) The average U.S. family median income is $66,465. The unemployment rate at the end of 2019 is 3.6%. The five most famous letters in the alphabet are the nouns l, g, b, t and q. Heart attacks are still the No. 1 cause of death.

In 2017, when the last full report is available, the number of gun-related homicides was 12,830, or  35%. There were 22,274 gun-related suicides, or  61%. The reported number of abortions was 427,111. Abortion has declined to the lowest since the year after Row versus Wade in 1973. Pregnancies have decreased. Maybe it was not because of demonstrations, prochoice, prolife, stricter laws, tough talk, lectures or marching in the streets. The drop may be because women have more accessibility to various forms of contraception since the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to cover the contraceptive cost. 

11 04 N1108P60005C

In 2019, Obama’s net worth is $70 million, and Donald Trump’s net worth is $3.1 billion.

According to Representative Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”. If true, you may want to consider asking your accountant about filing extensions on your taxes for the next 11 years.
Seriously, although the No. 1 cause of death is the heart attack, that may change as the internet of things continues to mesh with our digital world. As electronic devices continue to get cheaper, smaller and more prevalent, all of the devices are collecting our information. Artificial intelligence is tracking and processing our actions and reactions without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Sadly, many of us are the last generation to know what privacy really means as we all travel through the roaring 20s and into the new digital revolution.

If movies are a metaphor for our society, then we should try to be a little more like Mr. Rogers and less like the Joker to make our life, home, town and country the best it has ever been. We should live every day like it is the last while planning on living forever.

May grace, love and blessings be with you for decades to come.


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