EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 13, 2013

Editorial: Some cheers, some jeers for recent newsmakers

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — CHEERS for the best surprise a mother could receive.

Teaching assistant Tracey Hall was preparing to tell students at North Andover’s Kittredge Elementary School about a support the troops campaign the school was about to begin. As Hall explained to students assembled last week in the school’s auditorium about the importance of care packages to troops overseas, she got a “care package” of her own.

Hall’s son, Corey Hall, walked through the doors of the auditorium. Hall had not seen her son for more than a year.

“Oh my God,” Hall cried as she fell to the floor. As The Eagle-Tribune’s Sara Brown reported, Hall gave him a big hug, then turned to the students and said, “This is my baby.”

Her “baby” is a member of the Army Special Forces who spent a year in Afghanistan and will be returning to the war-torn nation in December. Hall is currently stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Hall knew he had a two-week leave coming and began to plan the surprise for his mother.

“It took us about a month to plan it,” Tracey’s husband Gary Hall said. “We planned it with principal Richard Cushing and only a few teachers knew it was happening.”

Tracey Hall said having a son in the military can be emotionally draining.

“It can be tough missing him so much, but you just have to push through it,” she told Brown.

Hall copes with her son’s absence by sending care packages to troops overseas. She also arranged a service project for the elementary school, in which students send candy and thoughtful notes of encouragement to the troops. Kittredge plans on doing a similar project this year.

“They’re always soldiers over there even if it’s not my son,” she told the students.

We extend our thanks to Corey Hall for his service and wish him the best. Kudos also to Tracey Hall for her dedication to all those serving overseas. Their efforts are appreciated.

JEERS to the FBI for losing two powerful weapons to a petty thief.

Car break-ins are a growing problem in a number of communities as thieves look for an easy score of portable electronics or even small change. In Andover, there have been more than 80 car breaks in different parts of town since March of this year, a huge increase over previous years.

One night last week, a thief got far more than a laptop or cell phone. An unmarked vehicle at the home of an FBI agent on Lowell Street was broken into and two rifles were stolen. One was a Colt M16-A1 assault rifle and the other was a HS Precision Pro-Series 2000 sniper rifle. Magazines with an unknown quantity of ammunition were also taken.

The FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the weapons. They were turned in last Friday and a 16-year-old boy turned himself in for the theft. The juvenile is facing several charges.

It is less clear what consequences will befall the agent whose weapons were stolen or the agency for policies that made the theft easy.

An FBI spokesman stated that an internal investigation will be conducted. Statements from the agency also noted that “all federal law enforcement agents are authorized to carry weapons based on federal statutes” and that “the FBI’s policy allows active SWAT members to store firearms overnight in vehicles to facilitate readiness and operational needs.”

Of great concern to the public is how well the weapons were secured in the vehicle. Andover Police Commander Charles Heseltine there were no obvious signs of a break in the FBI agent’s SUV. “I can’t say if it was locked or unlocked,” Heseltine told reporter Bill Kirk. “The car is being looked at by the FBI forensic team.”

Given the frequency of car thefts and burglaries, the FBI ought to reconsider its policy of permitting the storage of weapons overnight in vehicles.