Veterans group supports ban on assault weapons

I am a member of a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, the Florida Veterans for Common Sense. We include both military veterans and “friends” who support our various positions. Many of us served in combat in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.

We strongly support the Constitution and believe that peace and domestic tranquility should be the goals of all political action.

One of our positions is that weapons of war (also known as assault weapons) should be banned for civilian ownership and use. The damage these weapons have caused is far more important, from a societal standpoint, than the desire by some individuals to own such weapons.

We believe the majority of Florida’s citizens agree and would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban them in 2020. We urge Governor-elect Ron DeSantis to take a stand and lead the way.

David Siegwald, Sarasota

Study ties algal blooms to neurological disorders 

Regarding the recent article “Health risks of algal blooms still unclear,” I call your attention to “Toxic Puzzle.” "Toxic Puzzle" is a study and documentary that makes note of the clusters of neurodegenerative disorders, specifically ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, found in persons living where cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) bloom.

The study was conducted worldwide. Cyanobacteria contains the toxin B-methylamino-L-alanine, simply known as BMAA. Autopsies of victims of ALS, including dolphins who lived in the area of algal bloom outbreaks, discovered BMAA plaque in their brains.

"Toxic Puzzle" did include and discuss one outbreak in Florida, the recent algal bloom in Stuart caused by runoff from Lake Okeechobee, Blue Cypress Lake, the Caloosahatchee River and the Indian River Lagoon.

The worldwide study concluded that it was not coincidental that where there were algal blooms there were clusters of neurodegenerative disorders in area residents.

The question remains: What will be the long-term effects of our recent algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico? The runoff of nutrients from fertilizers, septic tanks, municipal and industrial waste has to be curtailed.

David Woodhouse, Bradenton

'Music Man' points the way  to a more caring community

Seeing a good show can be a nice experience. But a performance that, in the midst of dance and song and laughter, also has a lesson in civil behavior — that is a great experience.

"Music Man," a romantic musical now playing at the Asolo, is that: It slowly transforms a town of self-absorbed residents into a place where people actually care for each other.

We can be tapping along with Noah Racey's dancing or transported by Britney Coleman's beautiful voice, or the children in the show can be stealing our heart, but we are slowly learning that people can become more charitable, more accepting.

These days, with the strife and divisiveness in our beloved country, we can strive to become better people and open our hearts.

See that jacket in your closet you haven't worn for a while? Why not take it to a shelter and give it away? Someone will love it.

Are you going to the market to load up for the family coming to visit? Why not buy a couple more cans and donate them to a soup kitchen?

Have a couple of free hours in front of the TV? Why not, instead, visit the lonely person living down the street?

Theater can be a wonderful way to spend an evening. It can also show us that we, too, can become more generous, more caring. Let's learn from Music Man's lesson. Let's make our own "River City" right here in our beautiful Sarasota.

Gigi Huberman, Sarasota

Salvation Army's wartime aid inspired a lifelong bell ringer

Since this is the "Season of Sharing" I wanted to share an inspiring story of why my late husband, Harry Schmertmann, was a lifelong Salvation Army bell ringer every Christmas.

When Harry was four years old in 1939, he and his German immigrant mother (a U.S. citizen) went to visit family in Germany. Soon after they arrived, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Harry's mother had not yet booked return passage to the United States.

The Salvation Army arranged passage for them out of Germany. They left Hamburg via train to Copenhagen, Denmark, where they boarded an American cargo/passenger ship, the S.S. Scanyork.

The Scanyork had to be escorted by a Nazi warship through perilous waters, dodging German mines for 20 miles in the sound between Denmark and Sweden, but it safely returned to New York in September 1939.

Harry and his mother were forever grateful to the Salvation Army for helping them gain safe passage back to the U.S. during a treacherous time in history. He honored this childhood memory the rest of his life.

Gloria Schmertmann, Venice