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July 31, 2004

Standing in the Gap

We are in Indianapolis today, attending the 2004 USMC Parents Conference. Approximately 150 parents, mostly from the midwest, have gathered to share ideas and support. Here are a few photos from last night's reception:

The Marine Corps Moms from Oregon; Connie, Deb, and Janise, plus Linda from Montana.
Deb with another 1/7 Marine Mom - both our sons will redeploy next month as their battalion returns to Iraq. I met Jackie last year when 1/7 came back from Iraq in October. And I'm sure I'll see her again when they come back next March.
The reception was an enjoyable way to meet new friends and share support. The cake was good too! Last night's agenda included a silent auction and a short program.
Max Beerup introduces Marine Dad and entertainer, Bob Bennett. Max has been a source of help to Marine parents for years. I relied on his information to help me plan my trip to my son's graduation from boot camp. It was very nice to meet him in person.
Bob Bennett performed a selection of songs that made us laugh and cry. He knows very well the mix of emotions that comes with having a child at war. Bob gave copies of his CD "My Heart Across The Ocean" to each person in attendance, and provided a download link to other families who would like a copy.
"So I pray my prayers as best as I can
And hold on tight to the notion
that all of life is in God's hands
And my heart is across the ocean

Today's agenda includes workshops on a wide range of subjects including Boot Camp 101, connecting online, scrapbooking, comfort quilts, and support groups.

Posted by Deb at 05:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

11th MEU update

The Marines have landed and they're conducting Security and Stability Operations in the An Najaf province. The move was not without a few technical difficulties but they've figured out how to update us on their current status:

Greetings from Iraq ... finally! We're currently experiencing some challenges with updating this webpage, and until we figure the problem out, Public Affairs personnel at Headquarters Marine Corps are uploading the new information for us. We are grateful for their help!

The majority of MEU personnel arrived in Iraq early last week. Since then, we've been busy conducting a turnover with the Army at each of our three forward operating bases. The soldiers we are replacing come from the 1st Infantry Division, or what they call the "Big Red One," based out of Germany. We are currently conducting a turnover with them, or what they call a "left seat, right seat ride." The process has us initially watching the Army conduct business here, and then halfway through the turnover, we take charge and they watch us. The process has been great, and things are running smoothly.

Besides setting up work spaces and getting acquainted with our new area of operations, Marines also have been moving into the air conditioned buildings and tents where they will live for their time here. Thank goodness man created air conditioning, because temperatures run pretty high where we are. Sometimes the weather Marines forecast a day's weather as being cooler than the last, but when you're talking about a difference between 115 and 120 degrees, it's hard to tell!

Posted by Deb at 09:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet the Moms

Photo by Mike Crowell

As we fly to Indianapolis today for the Marine Corps Parents Convention, we'd like to introduce ourselves to you. Read our rationale for building this site and our individual biographies here. That page defines us as Marine Corps Moms. Beyond that, we are close friends in real life. Each of us are single parents. We are all Marine Corps Moms. We all enjoy life to the utmost. While we have much in common, we are also as individual as our hair color. Here's a glimpse into our unique personalities as defined by a cheesy personality test:

Janise, on the left, describes herself as a full-blooded bull who is charged by - instead of charging at - red. Doesn't she look good in that red sweater? Here is her personality profile:

You are a WECF--Wacky Emotional Constructive Follower. This makes you a candle burning at both ends. You work until you drop, and you play until you can stand to work again. You have so much enthusiasm that you can find it hard to control on your own, and you appreciate the guidance that channels your energy and lets you be your best. In a relationship, you require lots of attention and support. You often over-contribute and end up feeling depleted and cheated. You may benefit from more time alone than you grant yourself. Your driving force is the emotional support of others--especially affection. You can run on empty for miles if you have positive energy behind you. Without it--as it occasionally must run dry--you are depressive, listless, and difficult to motivate. You need a lot of affection. Get it any way you can, but never at the cost of your self-respect or well-being.

Janise has a big heart with endless capacity for love and has put much energy during the past year into reaching out to the families of fallen Marines. And she periodically recharges with an evening of salsa dancing - she's hard to keep up with.

Connie, wearing the white sweater is the grounding force for our little group. She's blonde . . . but don't underestimate her. She is a strong intelligent woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to reach out and take what life offers. Here's Connie's profile:

You are an SECL--Sober Emotional Constructive Leader. This makes you a politician. You cut deals, you change minds, you make things happen. You would prefer to be liked than respected, but generally people react to you with both. You are very sensitive to criticism, since your entire business is making people happy.

At times your commitment to the happiness of other people can cut into the happiness of you and your loved ones. This is very demanding on those close to you, who may feel neglected. Slowly, you will learn to set your own agenda--including time to yourself.

You are gregarious, friendly, charming and charismatic. You like animals, sports, and beautiful cars. You wear understated gold jewelry and have secret bad habits, like chewing your fingers and fidgeting.

You are very difficult to dislike.

That's Connie - right down to the beautiful car and charismatic personality.

Deb, on the right (that's me!), is a redhead with an attitude to match. Here's my profile:

You are an SRDL--Sober Rational Destructive Leader. This makes you a mob boss. You are the ultimate alpha person and even your friends give you your space. You can't stand whiners, weaklings, schlemiels or schlemozzles. You don't make many jokes, but when you do, others laugh out loud. They must. People often turn to you for advice, and wisely. You are calm in a crisis, cautious in a tempest, and attuned to even the finest details. Yours is the profile of a smart head for business and a dangerous enemy. You have a natural knack for fashion and occupy a suit like a matinee idol. Your charisma is striking and without artifice. You are generous, thoughtful, and appreciate life's finer things. Please don't kick my ass.

It's an amazingly accurate profile, except for the suit - substitute blue jeans and strappy sandals, please. And I'll only kick your ass if you have it coming.

Posted by Deb at 02:18 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

Blogging from the Convention

Not the Democratic Convention where all the other bloggers are . . . the three of us are headed off to the Marine Corps Parents Convention in Indianapolis this weekend. We leave early tomorrow morning and will be back Sunday evening. If the hotel's promise of internet access holds true, we'll be posting from the convention.

This summer a gathering like no other will take place in America's heartland. A first ever national, two-day conference for the proud families of our United States Marines. Imagine the wonderful experience of bringing together Marine parents and families from all over the country and Canada. How exciting to have hundreds of USMC parents from small towns to big cities, from East coast to West coast, all sharing the common bonds: Love for a Marine and the pride of their unwavering commitment to serve their country.

We'll have our t-shirts and sweatshirts (coming soon to this website) and a few other items to sell - all proceeds will go to support our Marines. And, we hope to meet a few more proud Marine Corps Moms and Dads.

Posted by Deb at 12:53 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Turn off the TV and get the job done

From an editorial by Owen West, published on Slate:

. . . What did these Marines think about the political situation in Iraq? Why were the insurgents killing their own people? I should have known better. The Marines don't waste time debating motivations. There are no policy wonks here. They understand that though most Iraqis want democracy, until this majority is willing to fight for it, they'll never be free. History is rife with small bands of murderers controlling entire populations. In 1917, thousands of Bolsheviks controlled millions of people. The Viet Cong assassination program destroyed South Vietnam's intelligentsia and put a country on its knees. A few miles away, bands of murderers control Fallujah while the Iraqi brigade formed to secure the city camps outside its walls.

These Marines have a simple philosophy: Evil is everywhere. Every country has its own private slice of hell. The only way to deal with it is for the warrior class to turn off its big screen TV, drop its PlayStation, and trade its basketball for a sword.

Iraq is one of those societies that is ruled by its warriors. Like the Somali, Serb, and Afghan before him, the unseen enemy in Iraq is now being feted for his martial prowess. But Americans should not confuse the fact that we don't let our own warriors run roughshod over its citizenry with their ability.

Stateside, we seem to have embraced the role of victim. Everyone knew the Jessica Lynch feeding frenzy was insane—she said so herself—but with American blood in the water, the populace kept feeding and feeding. Producers gobbled up ratings, generals gobbled up stars, writers gobbled up book advances. Today, Chesty Puller would not throw out the first pitch on Opening Day. Who's Chesty Puller? Let's get a POW to throw out the first pitch. Oh, and would he mind wearing the orange jumpsuit?

At Camp Fallujah, the theme is not victimization but domination. And that's exactly what the Marines of First Recon Battalion are doing. They have conducted raids under the most brutal circumstances, an historic high-altitude combat parachute jump, and countless patrols. They have killed hundreds of combatants. And yet they are one of the only units in Fallujah to have avoided casualties because of roadside explosives. How do they do it? "By staying aggressive," says Gunnery Sgt. Dan Griego. "When we slow down and look for a fight, we're safer. Other convoys speed up and go pedal-to-the-metal. They look like victims, and they get hit. Sometimes we want to fight and can't get one."

"You can avoid IEDs [improvised explosive devices] at night," says Master Sgt. Karl Froisy. "Problem is, if you want contact, you need to get it during daytime. And we tend to look for contact."

The Marine Corps once used a recruiting slogan that read: "Nobody likes to fight, but someone has to know how." It was soon dropped. Marines like to fight.

This is not a celebration of violence. This is not a recruiting advertisement. This is not an endorsement of a political view. This is simply the result of dropping flesh and bone into an atmosphere filled with bits of steel. When you put equally determined riflemen in a pit, they will fight until one of them yields. These Marines promise to keep fighting until there's no one left to kill. Or they're told to go home.

Posted by Deb at 09:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More on Moore

Michael Moore, a master of artful editing, was a guest on Bill O'Reilly's show earlier this week, insisting that the show run without being edited. On the show, he repeatedly asked O'Reilly "So would you sacrifice your child to secure Fallujah? I want to hear you say that." It was a ridiculous challenge and O'Reilly reacted as most parents would - offering himself in place of his child, replying "I would sacrifice myself".

This was sent to the NRO Corner by a parent of a soldier who fought in Fallujah today:

My son is a Ranger who just returned from Iraq where he spent months kicking in doors in targeted raids against terrorists in the worst parts of Iraq. He joined the Army at the end of 2002 when it was clear that the invasion would probably happen. As a former paratrooper myself, I am proud of my only son beyond words.

When a parent loses a child engaged in some activity such as mountain climbing or skydiving, they always seem to say something like, 'Well, he died doing what he wanted to do." We accept that. After all, who are we to judge? Well, my son wanted to be a soldier. He wanted to follow a family tradition. He wanted to serve his country. He wanted to do his share. He wanted to be a warrior. He is doing what he wants to do.

Since my son has actually seen significant combat in Fallujah and ar Ramadi, I have had to contemplate the unthinkable: what if he is killed? It is a horrible thought but one that cannot be avoided. This brings me to Moore's stupid question: 'Would you sacrifice your child for Fallujah?' The answer of course is, 'Hell no!' My first thought is to quote Patton, 'The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.' This is, of course, the main point, isn't it?

"Beyond that, I would point out that it was my son's decision to join the Army, the infantry, the paratroopers and the Rangers. He did it on his own because he wanted to. If he - God forbid - is killed doing what he wants, I will say, 'Well, he died doing what he wanted to do.' Why would anyone be less willing to accept that answer from me than from the grieving parents of a child who was killed in the pursuit of mere recreation?

"I guess the relevant point here is that my son is a proud, honorable soldier. He chose that path and am proud of him. He is fighting for what he believes in. Obviously Moore has absolutely no understanding of this type of deep moral commitment. He should not speak for me or my son. He certainly should not exploit the deaths of these heroes for his own gain. And to your point: yes, I loathe him."

Posted by Deb at 08:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Sole Supporters

Gotta love James Taranto and his troupe at the WST Opinion Journal's Best of the Web. Here's a slice-of-life from the Democratic National Convention:

The Agony of the Feet

The next day, the pantomime Gongsters are gone from Copley Square. In their place are shoes--thousands and thousands of shoes. Multitudes of boots are arranged carefully on the lawn, with a sign explaining, "These 907 pairs of boots represent the U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war." Then there's a sloppy pile of shoes with another sign: "These 1,000 pairs of shoes represent a small fraction of the estimated 16,000 Iraqis killed in the war."

There are no million shoes for Saddam Hussein's Iraqi, Iranian and Kuwaiti victims; only his American victims seem to matter, and only those Iraqis killed in connection with a U.S. military intervention. Come to think of it, there also are no 3,000 pairs of shoes for those who died at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--even though the group sponsoring this display styles itself Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

We approach a middle-aged man of ample girth, who seems to be in charge. "How many shoes do you have for Saddam Hussein's victims?" we ask.

He stands silent, facing us. He seems to be staring us down, but we have no way of knowing for sure, as he's wearing sunglasses, even though the day is overcast. Finally, after perhaps 15 seconds, he breaks the silence:

"Shame on you," he says.

He explains that his group has simply chosen--arbitrarily, if we understand him correctly--to highlight the U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed in the liberation. He offers an analogy: "There are books that are written about one thing, there are books that are written about other things."

We persist: Saddam's victims don't count unless they're American?

"Somebody else is dealing with that."

We point to the shoes representing the fallen soldiers: "Yeah, these guys are dealing with that."

Whereupon he says: "It saddens me deeply to see the anger in your face." And we suppose he has a point. We are ticked off at just that moment. There's something especially despicable about those who exploit the memories of American soldiers to further the false claim that they died for an unjust cause.

Posted by Deb at 10:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Enduring Bravely: A Corporal's Definition of Support

Last year when my son was deployed, I stopped by the local recruiter's office to pick up some information. As always, the recruiters in the office asked about my son. I mentioned that he was looking forward to returning home at the end of the month and the Gunny replied that the men in the office were all wishing that they were over there. They have one of the hardest jobs in the Corps - recruiting duty is often dawn to late night (when my son joined, I kept his recruiter in the office until well after midnight with questions). And still, they yearn to do what every Marine has been trained to do. This editorial was written by a USMC Corporal currently stationed at MCRD-San Diego. It captures these feelings perfectly.:

The definition of support is to carry, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition. Webster’s also says support is ‘to endure bravely or quietly.’

I carry a pencil and a note pad. So how can I say I support the Marines on the front lines fi ghting in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan?

As I have already stated, I don’t carry weapons. I don’t even carry food or water. How does my sitting here typing these words at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego help my comrades in arms in forward deployed areas?

These questions have danced around in my head from time to time and I’m sure those Marines in non-combat arms specialties have entertained similar thoughts.

To answer these questions, the first thing we must do is define the reason the Marine Corp exists. We all know we are America’s 911 force and we must always be ready to protect and defend our great nation. But what is our job? If you ask a rifleman, he would probably tell you his job is to stack the skulls of our enemies.

Some of you are thinking “yeah that’s his job.” But I say it’s our job too. We might not be pulling the trigger at the present moment. However, our efforts to feed, shelter, communicate, transport and even motivate the Marines who are pulling the trigger are vital in the Corps’ ability to win battles.

For example, I could write a story about a young man who turned his life around in recruit training. That young man takes that newspaper to his hometown and shows his friends. His friends become interested in serving as a Marine and seeks out a recruiter. That story I wrote while I was back in the rear now becomes a force multiplier with a ripple effect felt throughout the Corps.

However, I’m not special. I believe all of us in supporting roles can find our purpose in the Corps’ mission, which is winning battles. It is just a matter of finding your motivation and seizing it. So keep working hard. Let’s not let those at the tip of the spear down. After all, we have all been trained since boot camp that we are all riflemen first. And when the roles are reversed, we too will be ready to do what our Corps and country demands of us all.

Posted by Deb at 03:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Michael Niewodowski on Michael Moore

Who is Michael Niewodowski? He was a chef at the Windows on the World restaurant at the World Trade Center until Sept. 11, 2001. He watched from across the Hudson River as the towers fell, knowing that if the attack had happened a few minutes later that he would have been one more victim. Here is his reaction to Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11".

"From Here to Eternity." "Tora, Tora, Tora." "In Harm's Way." These are three films made about Pearl Harbor. There have been more than 20 films made about Pearl Harbor, and over 200 films made about World War II. These films inspire patriotism, courage, and nationalism. They tell us about the honor and bravery of the soldiers and the nation that supported them. Two and a half years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the world watched American forces fight on D-Day. Two and a half years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the world is watching Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Moore's film is the first major motion picture about Sept. 11, 2001. This bears repeating. When future generations look back on the Sept. 11 massacre, their first impression, through the medium of film, will be a work in which the president and the government are blamed for the attacks, and the soldiers who are protecting this country are defamed. Instead of a film version of Lisa Beamer's book, "Let's Roll," or Richard Picciotto's "Last Man Down," we are presented with this fallacy. How could this happen?

It would be a colossal insult to insinuate that Franklin D. Roosevelt or the U.S. government were in any way responsible for the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine the indignation of the men and women who lived during that period?

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is indicative of a nation that has become too apathetic, ignorant or deceived to face the enemy at the gate. America, where is your fury?

On Sept. 11, 2001, I stood across the Hudson River, watching the Twin Towers burn, knowing that if the plane had struck at 9:46 a.m. instead of 8:46 a.m., I would be dead. As a survivor and witness to the attack on the World Trade Center, I am more than insulted by this film. I am outraged. This film is based on conjecture, hearsay and propaganda. At a time when this country desperately needs to rally in support of our brave soldiers and our strong leaders, Moore is content to spread discord and divisiveness. The base of his argument is that the Bush administration had strong ties with the bin Laden family. However, sound facts are conspicuously absent from this "documentary."

The 9/11 commission did not indict President Bush. According to the report, the president's actions before, during and after the attacks are fully justified, including the military action in Iraq. The commission did not find a direct link between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A similar commission in the 1940s would not have found a direct link between Hitler's Germany and the attack on Pearl Harbor. In both instances, the threat was imminent; the president and the military acted decisively.

Could we have been more prepared for a terrorist attack on Sept. 10, 2001? Certainly. Could we have been more prepared for an attack on Dec. 6, 1941? Most definitely. In the weeks and months following Pearl Harbor, there were reports and criticisms that the government and military should have been more prepared. The difference is that the people of the nation did not waste a lot of time pointing fingers at each other. Rather, they unified and engaged the enemy head-on. I guess that is why we call them "The Greatest Generation." How will future generations refer to us?

So, how do we explain Moore's film to future generations? I wonder. More than that, I wonder how I would explain this film to Nancy D., Jerome N. or Heather H. I am sure you don't know their names, but their faces haunt me day and night. How would I explain to them that a film was made accusing the president and vilifying the soldiers, the same president and soldiers who are attempting to avenge their murders and protect other citizens. Moore has not only insulted the nation, he has insulted the victims of the terrorist attacks.

During his acceptance speech at the Oscars, Moore said, "Shame on you, Mr. Bush." Well, I say, "Shame on you, Michael Moore." Shame on everyone who supports this travesty of a film. Shame on a society that allows this sham of a film. You have weakened the nation.

Posted by Deb at 02:44 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

VP Cheney visits Camp Pendleton

Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to Marines at Camp Pendleton this morning. Here is the text of his speech:

Good morning. (Applause.) Well, thank you very much. Boy, this weather is fantastic out here in Pendleton, isn't it? It's a very pleasant day for us, and I have the opportunity to spend some time with all of you. We've been looking forward to spending some time this morning -- at ease. Please, everybody, you can sit down. And we're proud to be with all of you, with the men and women of Camp Pendleton.

I want to thank General Williams, Colonel Hampton, and Colonel Goodman, and everyone who prepared the way for our visit here this morning. It's a privilege to stand before so many who have served our country so well. And I'm honored to bring the personal regards of our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I also want to thank Congressman Issa, along with your local elected officials, who are here today.

Camp Pendleton is the busiest military base in America -- with more than 60,000 military and civilian personnel reporting for work every day. The base receives tremendous support from San Diego and Orange County -- from government officials, from business people, and from volunteers. And I want to thank the people of this community for their generosity, their patriotism, and above all for what you do to strengthen the Corps.

Above all else, the sailors and Marines of Camp Pendleton depend on the support of their families. Camp Pendleton is home to one of the closest, most active networks of military families anywhere in the world. You're the ones who send the letters and the packages, who look out for friends and neighbors in need, and give prayerful support to the men and women who serve. Military life is a family commitment, and this nation does not take you for granted. America is proud of our military families. (Applause.)

It's been a little over three years now since President Bush chose Camp Pendleton for one of his first military stops as Commander-in-Chief. That day he talked about the new recruits and the old Leathernecks, and the Marine tradition of being ready when the nation calls. On that morning in the spring of 2001, President Bush said these words, and I quote: "Because you are Marines, you are often asked to perform the most difficult and dangerous missions. Because you are Marines, you not only accept this challenge, you embrace it -- not for glory, not for self, but for God, country, Corps, and your fellow Marines."

A few months after the President spoke here, the United States came under attack. I was at the White House on the morning of September 11th, 2001, and throughout that day received reports on the situation in New York, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon. There were conversations with the President and our military commanders, decisions to be made about civilian flights, military air cover over major cities, and disaster response. In many ways, the attacks of that day brought out the best in people under difficult and extremely uncertain circumstances. America witnessed the calm determination of our firefighters, police, and medical personnel, who saved thousands of lives, and the heroes of United '93, who fought back at the cost of their own lives to defeat the terrorists and their plan to kill even more Americans in our Nation's Capital. At Camp Pendleton, and at our military bases around the world, we saw our Armed Forces rise to heightened readiness with great speed and efficiency.

That day changed everything for our country. In the space of a few hours, we lost 3,000 of our fellow citizens; we saw the violence and the grief that terrorism can inflict. We saw a foe whose hatred of us is limitless. This is and enemy, as the 9/11 Commission reported last week, whose purpose "is to rid the world of religious and political pluralism." They want to impose their way of life on the rest of us, and in pursuit of this goal, they are prepared to slaughter anyone who stands in their way. This is not a foe we can reason with, or negotiate with, or appease. This is -- to put it simply -- an enemy that we must vanquish. And we will vanquish this enemy. (Applause.)

To win this war, America is applying a doctrine that is clear to all: Every person, group, or regime that harbors or supports terror is equally guilty of terrorist crimes, and will be held to account. In Afghanistan, the Taliban found out what we meant. Within weeks of 9/11, American forces were on the ground in Afghanistan, teaming up with Afghan freedom fighters to destroy the terror camps and take down the Taliban regime. With swift, precise action, we and our allies captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters, ended Taliban rule, and liberated 25 million people in Afghanistan. Today, that country has a peaceful government; democracy is rising; the terror camps are closed; and the American people are safer for it.

Having -- (applause) -- having seen the devastation caused by 19 men armed with knives, box cutters, and boarding passes, we awakened to a possibility even more lethal -- that terrorists could acquire the capability to make weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological agents, or even nuclear weapons -- or gain such weapons themselves from an outlaw regime. If terrorists get their hands on that deadly technology, there can be no doubt they will inflict catastrophic damage on America and our allies. President Bush is determined to remove threats before they arrive, instead of simply waiting for another attack on our country. So America acted to end the regime of Saddam Hussein. And as with so many great missions throughout our history, our cause depended on the skill and the honor of the United States Marines. (Applause.)

In preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the First Marine Expeditionary Force moved its flag forward from Camp Pendleton to Kuwait. And on the President's orders, the First Marine Division led the way over the Kuwaiti border and nearly 500 miles into Iraq, through Baghdad and all the way to Saddam's hometown of Tikrit. (Applause.) You drove through the resistance in your path, liberated a captive people, and helped force Saddam's regime from power less than a month after the war began.

In that historic 500-mile drive across Iraq, the First Marine Division was propelled by critical contributions from the First Force Service Support Group, also based at Camp Pendleton. (Applause.) Every unit in that group participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and together you amassed a superb record. In all, the First Force Service Support Group produced and delivered over 2 million gallons of water; repaired over 4,000 essential pieces of combat equipment; constructed a system to deliver almost 8 million gallons of fuel 62 miles into Iraq; distributed more than 5.4 million meals to soldiers and Marines; delivered almost 30,000 tons of ammunition; and treated more than 1,600 patients in Force Service Support Group Medical Facilities. And that was just in the first deployment to Iraq. The Force Service Support Group is back now, doing even more to help the First Marine Division make Iraq more secure.

Above the battlefield in Iraq, Miramar's Third Marine Aircraft Wing carried out missions lending critical assistance to the liberation efforts on the ground. Helicopter squadrons helped escort convoys, provided close air support to fighting forces, evacuated wounded soldiers and Marines, and moved large quantities of supplies, and, when necessary, transported troops preparing for combat.

From various locations in Iraq and Kuwait, the Headquarters Group of the First Marine Expeditionary Force has made countless contributions to the mission. For almost two years, personnel have carried out reconnaissance, collected and analyzed intelligence, managed communications, and coordinated operations with our allies, especially the Royal Marines from Great Britain.

The record of the last several years -- the swift action, the flexibility and skill of our units, the superb performance of duty in the toughest of circumstances -- constitutes another great chapter in the history of the Marine Corps, of the U.S. military, and of our nation. (Applause.)

We see the spirit of the Corps in men like Lance Corporal Joseph Perez, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds in a fight outside Baghdad, yet still directed his platoon's fire to destroy the enemy and seize their position. His actions earned him the Navy Cross. While recovering from his wounds, Corporal Perez expressed but one wish: "To get back to my unit and back to training."

We see the spirit of the Corps in men like Major Calvert Worth, Jr., who led a command group that seized a palace in Baghdad, and whose rapid actions destroyed an approaching counterattacking force. After receiving the Bronze Star, Major Worth said this: "Marines, regardless of the task, always accomplish the mission." (Applause.)

As one sergeant major recently observed, "This generation of Marines is as good as any generation we've ever had in the Corps." He is absolutely correct, and here at this historic military base, I want to congratulate the Marines for yet another job well done. (Applause.)

Throughout the First Marine Expeditionary Force, we also find brave, dedicated members of the Marine Reserves. These men and women put their lives on hold, and leave their families behind, to accept assignments in Iraq, here at Pendleton, and elsewhere in the world. We're grateful to the Marine Reservists, and to all of their families. (Applause.)

There is still important and difficult work ahead in Iraq. Freedom still has enemies in that country. Yet thanks to the accomplishments of every unit in the First Marine Expeditionary Force -- and other members of our military -- Iraq has undergone a historic transformation. Sixteen months ago, Iraq was under the control of a dictator. Today, Saddam Hussein is in jail. (Applause.) Sixteen months ago, 25 million Iraqi people lived in repression, fearful of torture or death. Now they are free, and protected by an Iraqi bill of rights, and preparing to elect their own leaders. Sixteen months ago, Iraq was a gathering threat to the United States and the civilized world. Now it is a rising democracy, an ally in the war on terror, and the American people are safer for it. (Applause.)

Many of you here today will soon begin a rotation in Iraq. Marine units are still vital to securing Iraqi democracy, supporting the government as the country moves toward free elections, and helping the liberated people of Iraq to live in peace and safety. You are being deployed to a country whose new president declared, in his inaugural address a few weeks ago, the "profound gratitude" of the Iraqi people toward the American-led coalition that freed them from a dictator. And your mission in Iraq is critical to the future security of the United States. To fully and finally overcome the threat of terror, we are encouraging hope and democracy in the Middle East as an alternative to the hatred and the despair that lead to violence. As Americans, we believe that everyone has the right to live in freedom. And we know that when men and women are given the rights and opportunities of a free society, they will turn their energy toward the pursuits of peace.

I want every one of you to know that in the work ahead, President Bush is going to back you up 100 percent. Our job is to provide you with the best possible equipment to do your mission; to make sure you receive the pay increases you deserve; and to support military families at home. We will keep that commitment to you. (Applause.)

Because our nation has been strong and resolute in the cause of freedom, the countries you have helped liberate will never go back to the camp of tyranny and terror. And America will never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. (Applause.)

This nation has made a decision: We will engage the enemy -- facing him with our military in Iraq and Afghanistan today, so we do not have to face him with armies of firefighters, police, and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)

Every person in the United States Armed Forces can take great pride in the work you do for America. And the people of this country are so very fortunate to have men and women like you serving in freedom's cause. Your fellow citizens know that your work is hard. The days are hot, and the burdens are many. And you have said farewell to brave friends who did not come home. These men and women, last seen doing their duty, brought great credit to the uniform and to the flag -- and our nation will honor their names forever. (Applause.)

In these last three years, many great challenges have come to our country. Much has been asked of us, and, as with the other great challenges in our nation's history, the greatest burdens have fallen on the men and women of our military. And yet this time of testing is also a time of promise. The United States is a good and a decent country -- a nation that is making the world a better place by defending the innocent, confronting the violent, and bringing freedom to the oppressed. We understand the threats before us; and we have the resources, the strength, and the moral courage to overcome them all. Our President has made clear to all the terrorist enemies that they will fail -- because the direction of history is toward justice and human freedom. The terrorists will fail -- because the resolve of America and our allies will not be shaken. And the terrorists will fail -- because men and women like you stand in their way. (Applause.)

I thank each and every one of you for your great service to America. It's an honor to be here. You are worthy of the title you hold, the uniform you wear, and the code you live by. Your Commander-in-Chief is proud of you. On his behalf, and on behalf of the people of the United States, I thank you all. Semper Fi. (Applause.)

Posted by Deb at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More from Ben Stein

Ben Stein is a funny guy. He also has his priorities straight. Here's a snippet from a CBS Sunday Morning commentary earlier this month where he explains the difference between Hollywood stars and real stars:

The real stars, the ones who keep this country free on Independence Day and every day, are the ones who lead a patrol down an alley in Falluja with some maniac terrorist aiming an AK-47 at their heads. The real stars are the ones who leave their families behind at a dusty Army base and go off and risk––and lose––their lives to do their duty by their country and free men and women everywhere.

They're the ones who go off into Godforsaken valleys in Afghanistan hunting for Al Qaeda, never knowing if they'll ever come back, and often not coming back. Think Pat Tillman and you've pretty much got it.

There are other real stars in this country like the men and women in Walter Reed Army Hospital getting fitted with prosthetic limbs because a bomb took off their leg below the knee in Mosul, Iraq. Their wives and girlfriends and parents and kids cheering them on are real stars, too. So are the doctors and techs who make the limbs.

This country could last forever without the billionaire movie and TV stars in the magazines. We could not last a month without the men and women who fight for us. It's high time we got our priorities straight. Those guys and gals in Bagram and Ramadi and Fallujah and everywhere else, alive or dead or wounded, are the real stars, the ones who light up the night of tyranny with the light of freedom. We would not have a July 4th worth having without them. God bless them today and every day.


Posted by Deb at 11:42 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Tails of a DogHostage

Brian, an Army legal specialist in central Iraq writes:

We're here to "win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people."

That's the mantra we hear from time to time. It's a way to get us to think twice about shooting first and consulting the Geneva Convention later. So, winning hearts and minds... If you'd asked me before I made the trip North, I would have had a snappy comeback, like, "Is that before we shoot them?" But along the way, the only Iraqis we saw were friendly. Not only were they friendly, but most gave us a thumbs-up. Some just waved. A few even clapped. One woman even offered to let us ride her camel. (No, that's not a figure of speech.) Well, these people's hearts & minds are won. Can we go home now? I know, I know... the bad guys seem to hide from us. Terrorists are largely cowards.

Sadly, there are a minority who want to basically pick up where Saddam left off. One group, who was suppressed under the tyranny of Saddam is now free to do what it pleases. Unfortunately, in what seems quite ungrateful from my perspective, a member of the group was quoted in Time Magazine as saying something to the effect of, "We will fight until the U.S. is out of Iraq."

Posted by Deb at 11:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fardinen a mitzveh*

An online friend who has been marvelously supportive of my son and me, sent me the following announcement that was included in her NYC synogogue bulletin. It's a great project and I'm cleaning off my DVD shelf and will send a box of current titles to Landstuhl.

Rabbi Irving Elson is the Jewish Chaplain for the US Marines and has been on the front lines in Iraq. Rabbi Elson has asked United Synagogue to pass on the following information:

The military hospital in Landshtull, Germany has requested DVDs and personal DVD players for our Marines who are recovering from battle wounds. You can send them to:
Chaplain Irving Elson, Rabbi, c/o Commanding Officer,

Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron CHAPLAIN,

P.O. Box 452013,

San Diego, CA 92145-2013.

Rabbi Elson's office will rebox them and put them on a MEDEVAC flight to Germany to be hand delivered to the Marines.

My friend's son is still a preschooler, mine has grown into a fine young man. She is Jewish, I am Christian. She lives in New York City, I live in rural Oregon. Nevertheless, we both speak the language of motherhood. She understood my feelings completely and helped me find the words to express my emotions after watching my son graduate from boot camp:

You need to learn a Yiddish phrase, Deb. What you are now, quite rightfully, doing is schepping nachas.

That's what you do when your handsome, talented, brave, kind and all-around terrific son makes you absolutely burst with pride.

That's right. And despite a few wisecracks about "schlepping nachos" from other online friends, I remain schepping nachas almost two years later.

*A Yiddish phrase that means to earn a blessing or a merit (by doing a good deed)

Posted by Deb at 01:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

Humor in Uniform

By the time they've been in a year, most Marines, soldiers, sailers and other troops have perfected the art of cynical and sarcastic humor. This is born of necessity - military life is inherently stressful, especially when living and working in a war zone. Jason from Iraq Now has put together a list of on-the-ground observations that will make you smile. Here are a few of my favorites; visit his site for the complete list.

"Things are looking up for us here. In fact, Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of Infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any Iraqis they kill. We've got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it." LTC (JS) on OIF coalition-building

"That guy just won't take 'yes' for an answer." MAJ (EUCOM)

"Let's just call Lessons Learned what they really are: institutionalized
scab picking."

"When all else fails, simply revel in the absurdity of it all." LCDR

"I finally figured out that when a Turkish officer tells you, 'It's no problem,' he means, for him." Maj (EUCOM)

"If we wait until the last minute to do it, it'll only take a minute."

"The only reason that anything ever gets done is because there are pockets of competence in every command. The key is to find them...and then exploit the hell out of 'em." CDR (CENTCOM)

"Between us girls, would it help to clarify the issue if you knew that Hungary is land-locked?" CDR to MAJ (EUCOM) on why a deployment from Hungary is likely to proceed by air vice sea

"I'll be right back. I have to go pound my nuts flat..." Lt Col (EUCOM) after being assigned a difficult tasker

"I guess this is the wrong power cord for the computer, huh?" LtCol (EUCOM) after the smoke cleared from plugging his 110V computer into a 220V outlet

"When you get right up to the line that you're not supposed to cross, the only person in front of you will be me!" CDR (CENTCOM) on his view of the value of being politically correct in today's military

"There's nothing wrong with crossing that line a little bit, it's jumping over it buck naked that will probably get you in trouble..." Lt Col (EUCOM) responding to the above

Read the rest here.

Posted by Deb at 04:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Right Reading

Hugh Hewitt has written a must-read book If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It. As I've said before, this is not a political blog. But this book is worth reading and may help focus issues for those who still wonder about which lever to pull next November.

The public response has been great - Hewitt is currently at 35 on the NYT bestseller list and at 86 on the Amazon sales rakings. He spent last evening signing books at a Borders store - began at 7:30 and finally wrapped it up after 1:30. Despite cramped signing fingers, he posted his description of this memorable encounter.

There were some very inspiring stories, including many of parents, loved ones, and friends of military serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or recently returned from there. One couple, Rod and Cindy, brought along a picture of their three sons, two of whom are Marines currently deployed around Fallujah and the third of whom is a sailor on the U.S.S. Stenis. The three young men left college and enlisted after 9/11. It is very humbling to sign books for such great young Americans --and there are thousands of them-- and I think they and their families represent the core of this country. I was honored to meet every single person in the line, and especially honored to meet the servicemen and women and their family members who came by.

Check out his book:

Posted by Deb at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good News from Afghanistan

Arthur Chrenkoff has again pulled together an excellent compendium of the daily progress in Afghanistan. Here's a snippet.

If there is one place where good news is harder to come by than Iraq, it's Afghanistan. For that we should partly blame our poor understanding of Afghan realities, and consequently, unrealistic expectations. An isolated, poor, largely rural country with harsh landscapes and limited natural resources, Afghanistan has been for the past quarter of a century cursed with constant violence and oppression. Good news from Afghanistan will not in any foreseeable future mean mushrooming shopping malls and health care clinics in every village. For the people who have suffered so much for so long, relative peace and absence of theocracy are a good start.

But, as is the case with reporting from Iraq, we shouldn't let the media off the hook so easily, either. For all the fashionable talk about Iraq distracting the Bush Administration from the war on terror, it's largely been the media who have ignored Afghanistan except for the occasional story about another skirmish with the Taliban remnants or the explosion in opium cultivation.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Deb at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2004

3/7 update

Chaplain Slater, currently deployed with 3rd Battalion 7th Marines, has a late July update:

Well, there really isn't much new to say this time. The good news is that there's really no bad news to report. The last ten days haven't been without excitement, mind you, but thank the Lord there have been no serious injuries on our side. We detained a lot of bad guys and destroyed more enemy weapons caches and continue to make slow and steady improvement in our area of operations. We were visited yesterday by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It was nice, he showed an interest in our mission out here. It was good to hear him say “Congratulations and thanks for the great job you're doing”. It even made us feel proud when he passed on the thanks and praise he's heard from folks back home. But what got a hearty oohrah out of the crowd was telling us that our planned seven-month rotation cycle was right on schedule. Barring any drastic changes in the battlefield, we should be coming home on time.

As we continue normal operations, an increasing part of our focus is inventorying gear and supplies, and preparing turnover information for our replacement battalion to use to be successful. It's a lot of work, and yet it's one chore no one minds doing. As to the quality of life, well it just keeps getting better and better, the military takes care of every need. And over 200 marines just enjoyed receiving their next anthrax shot. Some of these guys face bullets and bombs better than needles. It's really pretty funny.

Long ago a wise king named Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:8; “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” How true. Anybody can start strong, but only the patient have the wisdom and perseverance to finish strong. All of us over here are committed to doing just that, and we know that all of you at home will do the same.

I know a couple of Marine Corps moms (and wives and girlfriends), not to mention dads, grandparents, other family members, and friends that are anxiously counting down the days until 3/7 returns to 29 Palms. Keep that patience, men of 3/7, we want every last one of you home safely!

Posted by Deb at 07:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Bottom Lines

During Operation Iraqi Freedom last year, many of us kept our televisions tuned 24/7 to FOX and CNN. One late night viewer caught this snippet:

At about 2:15 this morning, not being able to sleep, I tuned in to MSNBC where they were covering a real time fire fight at the bridgehead in Al Kut by Bob Arnot the embedded reporter. He was with a small unit of the 4th Marines. Unbelievable!!!

In the aftermath of the battle somebody repeated a comment made by General Kelly I might not have this absolutely verbatim, when asked if he or his Marines were concerned about the upcoming battle for Baghdad he made this remark: "We're Marines, we took Iwo Jima, Baghdad ain't shit." Hope this quote gets more coverage and gets the place in history it deserves!

So far, that quote has been immortalized on a bumper sticker.

It's a start.

The anecdotes continue:

This morning on Fox news they showed a reporter embedded with the Army Division close to Baghdad. He said that the troops were happy that they were nearing Baghdad and possibly the end of fighting. He said they were singing the Simon and Gafrunkle song "Homeward Bound" indicating they thought they would soon be home.

Fox news then switched to Rick Leventhal their reporter embedded with the 1st MArine Division also just outside Baghdad. Rick was laughing saying "I don't think you'll find Marines singing any Simon and Garfunkle songs."

He turned to a young Marine and asked what song he thought they'd sing to represent what they thought. Without pause the Marine said "Kill 'em All" by Metallica, and walked away.

Interesting contrast.


Posted by Deb at 12:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Update from Major Danyluk

Last Friday, I posted an e-mail from USMC Major Steve Danyluk who is deployed in the An Najaf province of Iraq. In it, he paid tribute to an Iraqi National Guard LtCol who chose to serve his country as a soldier, despite opportunities to make more money as a translater or contractor. Major Danyluk expressed his appreciation for the care packages his Marines had received and suggested that care packages also be sent to this Iraqi LtCol and other Iraqi National Guard who, like our troops, puts service to country ahead of personal self-interest.

Here are his suggestions:

What to send? Basics: toiletries, non-perishable food-stuffs, office supplies, even items like make-up for their wives etc. We also sponsor a nearby school so things for kids are always appreciated. And if you or your company has an old lap-top they want to get rid of I am sure "Robbi" could really put that to use too.

I won't post Major Danyluk's mailing address on this page but if you'd like to share the love, e-mail me to find out how: deb at marinecorpsmoms dot com

Major Danyluk ends his update by noting:

Even though a lot of people don't agree with "why" we are here, the support I am seeing of the troops who were "sent" here has been first-rate across the board. At a minimum it means we will have fewer psychologically scarred veterans walking our streets when they get home and the support is truly appreciated.

Posted by Deb at 10:14 AM

Marine Message to Michael Moore

Posted by Deb at 10:11 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004


Here's a wonderful essay by Sgt. Missick, a currently deployed soldier:

One of the aspects to this deployment and time in theater that I have enjoyed, has been the friends I have made from units, both active duty and reserve, from around the country. The deployment process is arduous for any reservist, the culture shock of immediately removing yourself from civilian life and all the comforts that entails, and becoming a soldier preparing for operations in theater can best be described as dramatic.

The first time this form of “culture shock” surfaces for members of the national guard and reserves, it is a shared experience with those who will be entering active duty. Basic Training is more than a period of physical conditioning, it is a rite of passage into a new life structured by discipline and guided by values. The 9 weeks of basic training is continued as soldiers enter AIT, Advanced Individual Training, and receive class room and hands on training in their MOS, or Military Operational Specialty. After these months of joint training and rigorous preparation to become a member of America’s fighting forces, the experiences of Reserve/Guard soldiers and Active Duty soldiers becomes starkly different. Reservists return to their civilian careers and colleges, and active duty soldiers continue in their military careers, living their lives day in and day out as soldiers.

In theater however, we all must meet the expectations of being soldier’s on active duty, and as the nature of this war has placed 40% of the force in theater in the hands of America’s guard and reserve forces, the expectations of our performance are high.

Throughout this process however, the soldiers we come in contact with every day, and work side by side with, provide us with newfound friends and potentially life-long acquaintances. I have been fortunate enough to make such friends, particularly Sgt. Johnson and Specialist Doherty, as well as people stationed in places extremely diverse, from Germany to South Dakota and from all parts of the country. It’s amazing how much we as American’s have in common here, despite such massive geographical differences. Although we may have different tastes in music, have grown up in the mega-apolis of Southern California or the smallest of Mid-West towns, we are forged together by a love of country and commitment to the US Army. In regards to my MOS, we are not daily placing life or limb on the line, but we exist together in a an atmosphere that is tense, and share stories of dreams we hope to accomplish when we are once again back home. For most of us, there is always a person back home our heart wants to pursue, an education we want to fulfill, or a vacation we want to take. These conversations help fill the void that these dreams have left, and talking about them often helps us live them out vicariously. It is this commonality that we all share, that despite our differences we have dreams we want to pursue, that creates an air of magic in the midst of so much commotion. Perhaps it is these conditions that help us all recognize the basic humanity of each other, that allow us to see that below the surface differences, we have a great number of things in common.

In a way, I wish everyone back in the states had the opportunity to experience this aspect of what service to country entails. The sense of belonging to a singular purpose creates a spirit of unity even as we all become frustrated with one another from time to time. There is always the adage to fall back on, that we are all in this together. As I have mentioned here countless times, I hope that the coming years in our country help to sterilize the venom in our political discourse, and help us understand that we share the greatest human gift God has bestowed to men and women born in the 20th and 21st century, that is the gift of American citizenship and the proud title of American. If my role in this war has taught me nothing else, it has clearly shown me that the greatest social advance we can make in our country is to recognize that we are all one people and that wondrous accomplishments await us when we work together for a single magnificent goal, whether that goal be defeating terrorism, (which seems as insurmountable today as defeating communism seemed 40 years ago) rebuilding our education system, or any other aspect of America’s social structure that is in dire need of repair and real solutions.

My son has expressed those same sentiments. His brother Marines are closer to him than some family members - fighting together can forge unbreakable bonds of friendship.

Posted by Deb at 01:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Photo by Marco Garcia

I liked this picture of a USMC AAV rolling onto the beach at Bellows Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Posted by Deb at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

Operation Cool Ties

Weather Report:
Hot today
Hotter tomorrow

You can help make our troops more comfortable. While the combat engineers and Seabees are bringing air conditioning to some of the hootches, our Marines , sailors, and soldiers are often outside in the heat of the day - waiting in line for meals, time at the internet center, fire watch, etc. Here is what we are sending them:

Check out Cassandra's post at I Love Jet Noise - she's signing on to help with this project - an offer much appreciated.

If you have extra fabric, a bit of time, and can sew a straight seam, there are troops who would benefit from your effort.

If you can't sew but know someone who does, please spread the word. Click here for a link to the directions.

If you know of a group who might like to take this on as an outreach project, please give them this information. I will mail instructions for the ties to anyone who would like to help.

If you can't sew, don't know anyone who does, but have a bit of cash (it won't take much) to help, get in touch with me or Cassandra. We can make this happen.

Posted by Deb at 04:50 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004


USMC Cpl John Todd, of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, died southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of hostile action on June 29, 2004. Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle, 21, of Baltimore, and Sgt. Alan Sherman, 36, of Brick, N.J. - were also killed. Marine Sgt. Matthew Crawford, a Delaware County resident, and Cpl. Matheusz Erszkowicz, of New Jersey, were wounded in the explosion.

As Cpl Todd's grieving family prepared for his funeral, his house was burglarized. This is wrong on so many levels. To burglarize any home during a funeral is a craven act. But to target a fallen hero? I wouldn't want to be that thief when one of Cpl Todd's brother Marines finds him.

Donovan from Castle Argghhh!!! notes:

"There is a special place in hell for this bastard.

And *if* he's caught, Marines and former Marines (to include those who *might* be in jail) will not think highly of this twit when they find out what he did.

And, when the time comes for him to meet his maker... well, there's a wide spot on the road to Hell called "Fiddler's Green" where mounted soldiers quaff a brew on their way... and somehow never leave.

He'll have to walk by"

I'm sure the ghosts of soldiers and Marines past are sharing a glass with Cpl Todd, Lance Cpl Adle, and Sgt Sherman now. And the rest of us can drink to the memory of 3 more brave Marines who left us far too soon. Cheers, fellas . . . .

Posted by Deb at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)

"A life-altering experience"

Here's an excerpt from 2/7 Sgt. Major D.L. Plaster's latest message:

I just thought I would give you an update on the progress here in Iraq. Your men and women continue to do great things here and I know you are very proud of them. We have continued to improve the quality of life for the people in our area through our security efforts and civil affairs. We have provided jobs and training. We have provided much needed drinking water and medical supplies to the poorer villages and have made great strides in public opinion. It is amazing to watch the 19-year-old PFC transition from warrior to humanitarian and back again to meet the constantly changing environment in which he operates. This is a life-altering experience for us all.

Posted by Deb at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Don't Dumb Down the Military

Nathaniel Fick joined the USMC after graduating - with honors - from Dartmouth College. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, he led infantry platoons into combat in Afghanistan and commanded a special operations reconnaissance platoon in the Iraq war. He earned the Navy Commendation Medal and two Combat Action ribbons and was honorably discharged last November after five years of service.

Here's what he has to say about the draft in a NYT Op-Ed:

I went to war as a believer in the citizen-soldier. My college study of the classics idealized Greeks who put down their plows for swords, returning to their fields at the end of the war. As a Marine officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, I learned that the victors on today's battlefields are long-term, professional soldiers. Thus the increasing calls for reinstating the draft - and the bills now before Congress that would do so - are well intentioned but misguided. Imposing a draft on the military I served in would harm it grievously for years.

I led platoons of volunteers. In Afghanistan, my marines slept each night in holes they hacked from the rocky ground. They carried hundred-pound packs in addition to their fears of minefields and ambushes, their homesickness, loneliness and exhaustion. The most junior did it for $964.80 per month. They didn't complain, and I never wrestled with discipline problems. Each and every marine wanted to be there. If anyone hadn't, he would have been a drain on the platoon and a liability in combat.

In Iraq, I commanded a reconnaissance platoon, the Marines' special operations force. Many of my enlisted marines were college-educated; some had been to graduate school. All had volunteered once for the Marines, again for the infantry, and a third time for recon. They were proud to serve as part of an elite unit. Like most demanding professionals, they were their own harshest critics, intolerant of their peers whose performance fell short.

The dumb grunt is an anachronism. He has been replaced by the strategic corporal. Immense firepower and improved technology have pushed decision-making with national consequences down to individual enlisted men. Modern warfare requires that even the most junior infantryman master a wide array of technical and tactical skills.

Honing these skills to reflex, a prerequisite for survival in combat, takes time - a year of formal training and another year of on-the-job experience were generally needed to transform my young marines into competent warriors. The Marine Corps demands four-year active enlistments because it takes that long to train troops and ensure those training dollars are put to use in the field. One- or two-year terms, the longest that would be likely under conscription, would simply not allow for this comprehensive training.

Some supporters of the draft argue that America's wars are being fought primarily by minorities from poor families who enlisted in the economic equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. They insist that the sacrifices of citizenship be shared by all Americans. The sentiment is correct, but the outrage is misplaced. There is no cannon-fodder underclass in the military. In fact, front-line combat troops are a near-perfect reflection of American male society.

There's more. Read the rest here.

Posted by Deb at 04:44 PM | Comments (2)

Get over yourself, Mr. Moore

Following Linda Rondstadt's removal, escorted by security guards from the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Michael Moore wrote a letter of protest to the Aladdin President:

Bill Timmins
Aladdin Casino and Hotel
Las Vegas, NV

July 20, 2004

Dear Mr. Timmins:

I understand from the news reports I've read that, after Linda Ronstadt, one of America's greatest singers, dedicated a song to me from your stage on Saturday night, you instructed your security guards to remove her from the Aladdin, which they did.

What country do you live in? Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States.

This is correct, although the "America's greatest singers" claim is debatable. However, it's one of the few correct statements in this screed.

And in the United States, we have something called "The First Amendment." This constitutional right gives everyone here the right to say whatever they want to say.

Mr. Moore needs to brush up on his knowledge of constitutional rights. The First Amendment of the Constitution does not provide an open mike. Instead, it limits the actions of our government. It says that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …” This means that our federal government cannot deprive a person of their liberty, their property or their life because that person expresses an opinion that criticizes a government official or policy. It doesn't say that if you are being paid to perform for an audience of 4,500 customers who bought a ticket to hear you sing, that you have the right to use someone else's stage to express your personal political beliefs. Mr. Timmons was well within his rights to fire her.

All Americans hold this right as sacred. Many of our young people put on a uniform and risk their lives to defend it. My film is all about asking the questions that should have been asked before those brave soldiers were sent into harms way.

Wrong. While our troops have shed their blood to protect freedom of speech in this country, I don't think that Moore's movie or Rondstadt's ramble is what our founding fathers had in mind. And, it's ironic that the troops that Moore piously invokes are the same troops that he placed on the altar of sacrifice last April. In his own words: "I'm sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end."

As the mother of one of those children, I understand full well that my son is not returning to Iraq next month so that God and the Iraqis will forgive us. He is fighting for freedom and democracy so that way of life that we enjoy will endure. It's a good thing for Moore that our troops - or their moms - don't get to pick and choose who they defend.

For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film, is simply stupid and Un-American. Frankly, I have never heard of such a thing happening.

Mr. Timmins had every right to escort Ms. Rondstadt from the premises. It was a privately owned place of business, not a public arena. If half of his audience was booing, it wasn't a stupid move, but a smart business decision. And Mr. Moore should not be surprised. After all, he was himself booed off the Academy Award stage just over a year ago.

I read that you wouldn't even let her go back up to her room at your hotel! Are you crazy? For crying out loud, it was a song DEDICATION! To "Desperado!" Every American loves that song! Sure, some people didn't like the dedication, and that's their right. But neither they nor you have the right to remove her from your building when all she did was exercise her AMERICAN right to speak her mind.

See previous notes on the meaning of private businesses and paying customers. And when she chooses to speak, she also chooses to take whatever consequences come along with her words. My son learned that lesson at age two. I guess it's never too late - just ask the Dixie Chicks. Or Sean Penn. Or Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and on and on.

Of all the things that go on in Las Vegas, this is what creates the need for serious action? What about the other half of the crowd at the Aladdin who, according to the Las Vegas Sun, cheered her when she made her remarks? Did you throw them out, too?

Hello? Private business. Paid performer. Paying customer. Heigh-ho.

I think you owe Ms. Ronstadt an apology. And I have an idea how you can make it up to her -- and to the millions of Americans you have offended. Invite her back and I'll join her in singing "America the Beautiful" on your stage. Then I will show "Fahrenheit 9/11" free of charge to all your guests and anyone else in Las Vegas who wants to see it.

Right. Mr Timmins owes her nothing. Not an apology and certainly not another appearance on his stage. And if Moore thinks that offering to sing with Rondstadt is an irresistable offer, he needs a serious reality check. Preferably one involving a double-wide full length mirror.

Mr. Timmins, as the song "Desperado" says -- "Come to your senses!" How can you refuse this offer? I await your reply.

Michael Moore
Director, "Fahrenheit 9/11"

I have an idea how Mr. Timmins could refuse this offer. However, it would involve quoting Dick Cheney and I don't use that kind of language. At least not on this blog.

Posted by Deb at 01:25 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 19, 2004

Win Ben Stein's Respect

Col. Boyd sent along a reminder that before Hollywood celebrity Ben Stein retired from writing his Monday Night at Mortons column last year, he regularly regaled us with tales of bumping into A-list stars at Morton's Restaurant in Hollywood. Unlike many of the famous folks he chronicled, however, Stein was an unabashed supporter of our troops and their Commander in Chief. No qualifiers. No buts. Just support. Here are a couple of snippets from his 2003 columns.

Stein not only enjoys rap but composed this one:

May 2, 2003:
'Cuz this war wuz won
With American blood and bone
and British guts
American tears and
British heartache
So, damn Chirac's and
Schroder's sorry butts
Damn all those people
who stand on corners and complain
They ought to be on their knees to the men and women in pain
Men and women who change the world
On three hundred dollars a week
In war so fearless, in peace so meek

His answer to an oft-asked question: "In all of the time you have been in Hollywood, who are the most impressive stars you have met?":

June 7, 2003:
Norman Lear, who flew 50 missions over Axis-occupied Italy, Germany and Yugoslavia, never brags about it and has total modesty about it. Norman and 12 million like him from America stopped the Nazis from putting me in a camp and gassing me. Star.

• My father-in-law, Col. Dale Denman Jr. of Prescott, Arkansas, who fought across Europe as a 22-year-old lieutenant and won a Silver Star for courage under fire. He had prayed the night before his first combat that he would not be a coward, and then as a middle-aged man he fought again in Vietnam and won a second Silver Star for combat in a rice paddy. Star.

• My wife's Uncle Bob Denman, who defeated a North Korean unit on a frozen hillside armed only with a carbine--and then declined a medal because he said his men deserved it more than he did. Star.

• Ed McMahon of The Tonight Show, who flew 85 combat missions in Korea and never brags about it. Star.

• The men and women of the Philippine Sea, who rid Afghanistan of the Taliban. Stars.

Here, he compares his everyday reality with an appearance at the welcome home dinner-dance for the USS Mobile Bay:

July 16, 2003:
I toil in the world of finance, where I deal with men who blithely loot widows and orphans out of their livelihoods and go to parties and grin for the cameras of the society pages. At the dinner dance for the Mobile Bay, not one person even brought up money one single time. No one bragged about his coups in property. The men and women just bantered about their foibles and habits.

There was no bragging about Iraq, no questioning of the commander in chief, no ego at all. It occurs to me that this is the navy way, the army way, the marine and air force way: team playing to protect a nation that is often only barely aware they exist.

But they do, and without them, none of the rest of us would exist for long.

And how could the men and women of the Mobile Bay be any less than the navy ideal? The ship is led by a captain and his wife whose devotion to something bigger than themselves makes those of us with our swimming pools and our self-obsession look pretty pathetic.

The ship is crewed by men and women who won't be defeated, and this makes us, their beneficiaries, extremely blessed Americans.

In his final column, Stein paid one last tribute to the men and women who protect and defend:

December 20, 2003:
I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?

Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world. . . .

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.

Stein finished this last column with the realization that "I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human." Some people never come to that realization. Stein discovered it late in life. Contrast that with the age of our troops that are bringing freedom to the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other troubled areas of the world. Many of our troops are in their 20s. They do not enjoy a "lavish life". Nonetheless, they are committed to finishing their mission and making the world a better place. That says a lot for our Armed Forces.

One of my favorite Stein-lines goes back to the first linked column; his Saddamn-insane rap:

There'll always be complainers and always be whiners
And malcontents and and losers and truth two-timers
There's a place for them in their sorry dreams
Cleanin' out the latrines of the U.S. Marines.


Posted by Deb at 10:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 18, 2004

Was OIF a legitimate war?

There's been much debate in countries around the world, especially the U.S. and Great Britain. It's a healthy debate; that's what free people living in democracies do. But, what do the newly freed Iraqis think? Omar provides us with translated viewpoints from the BBC Arabic discussion forum:

"The report of Lord Butler reflects the respect for the laws in a country that has no written constitution. From my point ov view I think that the report is incomplete because it didn’t mention a (thank you) to Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush for doing this honorable job which is toppling the pervert dictator and crushing the iron security grip for the worst tyrant in the world. The soldiers who died in Iraq gave their lives as tributes for freedom. Thanks to all the soldiers who risked and lost their lives for the sake of others’ freedom." Mohammed Abdul Jabbar-Baghdad.

"The world is busy discussing the points that should’ve forbidden the war. Iraqis were dying and no one bothered himself to ask about the "legal position" when Saddam was murdering Iraqis in thousands. This issue has many aspects: first of all it’s a proof for the democracy of the west that doesn’t allow to rush into wars without reasonable excuses, unlike the Arab regimes that goes into a war just because the leader wants to be the "hero of the Arab Nation". Another point is that we, in Iraq believe that Saddam and his co-butchers were the real WMDs. Iraqis are benefitting from the mistakes of the British intelligence, so we thank them for this mistake!"
Haider Muhyeddine-Najaf.

"I think that Bush and Blair are the heroes of democracy, humanity and the war on terror and state terror. It’s possible that some intelligence reports were exaggerated but the result at the end is in the interest of the Iraqi people. Those two men deserve all appreciation and respect. I can say that there was some exaggeration in the criticism also because Saddam did use chemical weapons against us and against Iran."
Zana sefeen-Iraq.

"Who said there are no WMDs in Iraq? The most dangerous WMD exists and the American troops captured it. It’s the weapon that exterminated five million Iraqis and hundreds of thousands from our neighbors impoverished, detained and tortured. Saddam Hussain is the WMD in Iraq. Isn’t a weapon with such capabilities worth to go for a war to (disarm it)? Saving twenty million people from that weapon, isn’t that worth the effort?"
Hasan Al-Shammari-Baghdad.

"America and the UK have offered the human race the greatest favor ever by toppling the ghoul of Iraq. All the debates and the investigations in these two countries are motivated by political ambitions and jealousy rather than the protection of the country and constitution. Bush and Blair deserve a Noble Prize for peace"
Abdulrahman Al-Alwani-Syria.

"Tony Blair made a decision for which we thank him. He’s the man who rid us of the worst dictator in history. Yes, he did a mistake when he didn’t find chemical weapons but Saddam Hussain is more dangerous from those weapons for the Iraqis and Saddam had the money, the scientists and the programs and if he had remained in power he would’ve continued producing WMDs. A world without Saddam in power is safer"
Abu Mohammed Al-Shammary-Danmark.

" The clear statement in Lord Butler’s report that emphasizes that there’s no evidence for any bad intentions for Mr. Blair in taking the decision to participate in the war, this statement confirms that his (Blair’s) conscience and humanity motivated him to rid the region and the 3rd world of the ugliest dictator in the 20th century. Blair’s approval of the report results and admitting that there were some mistakes uncover the courage of this young leader who reminds us of his former colleagues; Jim Callahan, Dennis Haily and Michael Foot who helped the oppressed people wherever existed. Bearing the responsibility on behalf of others despite the mistakes they made is a sign of nobility which is an important character for a good leader. There’s no comparison between a leader who buries his people alive and a leader who offers the finest men in his nation in tribute for freedom and to defend human rights. This report reminds us of the 80s days when we were defending the hero; Nelson Mandela. while he was in prison, we were in college, collecting signatures for support. It’s the same principles Tony Blair depended on when he decided to help Iraqis get their freedom and their pride back from a butcher who’s today shaking and waiting for his destiny in a cage. We wished the report to include some words to thank Blair and his party for their role in saving human rights in Iraq."
Harith Al-Aadhami-Baghdad.

"They shouldn’t have started this war on Iraq for any reason. Life in Iraq in President Saddam’s days were much better than life under occupation and Iraqis say so. That’s why this lie about alleged Iraqi WMDs is the biggest crime against Arabs, Muslims and Iraqis"
Abu Al-Majd-Syria.

"The least I can say about this investigation commission is that it’s a play produced to save Tony Blair once again and it’s very strange to see that Blair when stood in front of the parliament approved of everything in the report. And why would he not when it’s the report that saved him from falling?
Strange also that he still insists that his decision was right. He just keeps being a follower for Bush. The most strange thing is how could this government take the people’s minds so lightly. Blair is only good at holding microphones for speeches"

Jamal Mousa-Rafah/Palestine.

" If the British and American Intelligence have made a mistake and this mistake lead to the decision of the war on Saddam and liberation of Iraq from the hands of what was probably the worst tyranny ever, then what a wonderful mistake! The truth is, Blair was brave in his decision and defied all difficulties in this decision. How can anyone imagine that this was wrong? They gave us back our lost freedom and dignity"
Fakhelddine Sharif-Iraq.

Although this list was selected and translated by Omar, it's interesting to note that they only voices of criticism came from Syria and Palestine. The voices of Iraqis are consistent with other reports. Our Marines who have returned from Iraq tell us of how Iraqis come up to thank them for liberating them from Saddam's rule. Freedom is a wonderful thing. Omar notes, "You cannot tell a man that saving him and his family from torture, humiliation and death was a mistake and it should’ve not been done because it’s illegal. This is almost an insult to Iraqis to hear someone saying that this war was illegal. It means that our suffering for decades meant nothing and that formalities and the stupid rules of the UN (that rarely function) are more important than the lives of 25 million people. "

Posted by Deb at 05:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hello Warlord Families!

Jarhead Dad sends along this update from 2/2 Marines.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Hello once again Warlord families!

As if we have not said it enough please know that we miss you and as each day passes we look forward even more to being reunited with you after having accomplished our mission here! It has been more than a month since I contacted you last and, as has been Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for us, we have moved yet again. We left behind our former area of operations near Fallujah and returned to our original location here in Mahmudiyah and set up shop again relieving an outstanding Army unit that had been here in Iraq for 15 months. Nevertheless, we have been reassigned here as the First Marine Division spreads its combat power to assist the fledgling Iraqi Government in asserting its new sovereignty. As an overall summary I must say once again what an honor it remains to be privileged to lead your husbands in this campaign to bring democracy and hope to Iraq. They continue to set the standard for the Division and Regiment with their courage, flexibility and determination to get the job done regardless of the circumstances or challenges facing them. They have truly shown the people of Iraq that they have no better friend or nor worse enemy than a Warlord from Task Force 2/2.

As of the 19th of May, we had established a new base camp near Fallujah and began to assert our presence in the operational area we had been given. Our immediate task was to disrupt the enemy’s ability to shoot indirect fire with mortars and rockets into the large base camp to which we were assigned as well as protect a major supply route and re-assert coalition presence in a previously unaddressed area. This was no small task and as a result of the efforts of the battalion, that kind of fire was virtually eliminated because of the creative and tenacious way that the Marines and Sailors of the battalion took the fight to the enemy. By varying their methods and tactics, the Warlords kept the enemy guessing and caused him to spend most of his time looking over his shoulder wondering when he was going to have a bad day. Let me tell you … many of them did and they never knew what hit them and in many cases where it came from. That fact was largely due to the superb application of combat power that was orchestrated by the small unit leaders in the task force. Sometimes it was airpower, sometimes it was snipers, sometimes mortars, sometimes heavy machine guns. Quite frankly, the enemy learned very quickly that he was outmatched by the Team, Squad, Platoon and Company leadership in this Task Force.

This fight has not been without cost and we have now lost three of our own and had nearly one hundred Warlords wounded as these cowards attempt to hide behind their roadside bombs and hit and run tactics. They have come to find however, that the Warlords are like their predecessors. You cannot beat them with cowardice, in fact, you cannot defeat them at all. This is not bluster, this is the observation of a commander who has had the privilege of endorsing countless combat awards during the last forty days recognizing some inspiring acts of courage and compassion. For example: one Marine drove his HMMWV directly into the enemy’s fire to draw fire from a pinned down team and then sprinted twice across 200 yards of fire swept terrain to re-supply his gunner with ammunition. Two others ignored their own safety to rescue and Iraqi family caught in a kill zone created by terrorist crossfire coming from a Mosque. A Corpsmen constantly exposed himself to enemy fire and continued to provide aid to wounded Marines as rounds impacted around his position and literally cut a tree down just over his head.

At the same time, when critical support functions needed to be accomplished, those Marines, often unsung heroes also pressed the attack with their unique skills. One story I very much enjoy telling is when a HMMWV that had been hit by a roadside bomb came limping in to the battalion area with casualties aboard, the doctors and Corpsmen immediately began triage of the patients. Simultaneously however, the Warlord Motor “T” section and its mechanics conducted triage for the vehicle.

What was inspiring is that each of these sections went at their job with exactly the same sense of urgency and pride. The result was three Marines whose injuries were quickly stabilized in a manner that would make any hospital trauma team jealous and a vehicle that was combat “deadlined” back in the fight in less than 30 minutes by a team of mechanics that would have made Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR pit crew envious. That is teamwork and professionalism! I could literally write volumes about the performance of your Marines and Sailors in every unit and in every circumstance. I see it every day and I am never long without observing yet another action that reminds me why I have remained a Marine for nearly twenty years … because of them.

I would like to make a special effort to recognize the Engineer Platoon and the Human Exploitation Team that were attached to 2/2 prior to coming to Iraq. Each has established an unprecedented record of success here in supporting our operations in Iraq. The Engineer platoon was the driving force behind and the primary architects of a weapons cache search plan that netted more caches in a 40 day period than had been found by the entire Division since arriving in country. Literally tons of rockets, mortars explosives, and other lethal materials were found thus eliminating the terrorist’s ability to mix more lethal concoctions to attack the people of Iraq and the forces here to help them. The HET team also proved itself on numerous occasions by providing the kind of focused intelligence support required to ensure the battalion’s success on countless raids that netted no less than eight high value terrorist targets and numerous other anti-coalition fighters. Once again, I am indebted to them beyond my ability to repay and I only ask that they pass on their experiences so future generations of Marines can benefit from their actions here in this war-torn land.

The combat performance of your Warlords has been equaled only by their compassion for the people of Iraq. During operations at our previous location our initial contact with the local tribal Sheiks were met with coolness and an admonition that they would never work with us and would continue to fight us. Your Warlords met this challenge with their normal tenacity, compassion, and willingness to show the people the content of their character and within a month, they were being invited to dinner, being offerd tea even while on patrol, and were referred to as a new branch to the Zobai tribe. Amazing? Absolutely!

Also during this time period, the Marines of 2/2 led one of the first patrols back into Fallujah to open dialogue with the local leaders after a standoff of nearly two months showing yet agasin their flexibility and readiness to accomplish any mission. Soon after that mission we received word that we would be moving again and as a result, re-embarked the entire battalion yet again making our way back to Al Mahmudiyah and its 120 degree heat. We had just gotten our new camp livable and were starting to settle in near Fallujah when the word came. In true Warlord fashion, the Marines, Sailors and their leaders buckled down for the new task and turned over a “pristine and very livable camp” to our higher headquarters from what had been a gravel parking lot less than 40 days before. Once again, they do it all, and do it all with style!

Snail mail remains regular for the most part given our constant hobo status, and your cards, letters and packages continue to brighten our days. It is accurate to say that the most welcome truckloads are those that carry the big orange bags that say “US Mail” prominently on their sides! Pictures of wives, children and sweethearts adorn the billeting areas and the artwork of our talented youngsters seems to be quite at home inside a dusty tent or tacked to the roof of the inside of a HMMWV. When coupled with the continued magnificent performance of our Key Volunteers and all of the informal support groups that have sprouted everywhere, we want you to know that we have never felt more supported. You remain the rock of strength on which we depend and the light that we look forward to coming home to. In many ways I think that is one of the reasons we have succeeded so well in dealing with the people here … we just try to give them the same respect and understanding that your example provides us! You are a combat multiplier for us here in more ways than you could possibly know.

Throughout another of the busiest months in the storied history of the Warlords, your Marines and Sailors continued to acquit themselves with honor, courage and compassion and I can only hope that you are as proud of them as I am. Whether in Time magazine, on the scoreboard of the New York Mets Shea Stadium or in the small villages of this new democracy, your Marines and Sailors have again made their mark in the hearts of those who have been privileged to come in contact with them. Please remember them and the families of our lost brothers in your prayers each night and pray for their strength, for their fierceness in battle and for their compassion. Those prayers have buoyed us until now and will continue to do so as each day unfolds. Please keep the faith that we are talking care of each other and that we are doing what Marines do … we are winning!

In closing, I will say yet again how humbled I am by the constant reminders I see that show clearly the greatness of the men of this Task Force. They continue to exceed all of my expectations and provide an example of what is best in our great country to the people of Iraq. They are a rare breed of men and one that will likely be forever changed by their experiences here in Iraq. Those experiences will have run the full spectrum of emotion and depth, but will be a constant companion in the years ahead when they look back on their service to Corps and Country. Whenever those times are recalled, they, and I, will know that they made a difference, and that their sacrifices were made for one of the noblest goals that can be imagined … they set a people free, and they gave them hope.

I will continue to do my best to lead your fine husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and cousins with the same tenacity and sense of purpose that has established their reputation among those whom they help and those whom they fight. As I said before, I am honored to know each of you to have been given the rare privilege of leading your husbands under difficult conditions. Please know that we miss you and love you all.

God Bless each of you, God Bless America, and Semper Fi from your Marines and Sailors in Iraq!


Giles Kyser
“Warlord Six”

Posted by Deb at 03:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Things are getting better

Yeah, he's Army but I like the way he writes. Here's a report from Mosul:

Every time we drive around Mosul I notice small improvement or step forwards for these people. Little things. Like today I noticed that a lot of the Iraqi police were now wearing black kevlar helmets. That's new. I remember when we first got to Iraq almost a year ago, a lot of the Iraqi police didn't even have uniforms, just a baseball hat and an AK47. Now they wear slacks, work shirts, bulletproof vests with the words POLICE written in yellow Arabic, they carry brand new AK47's and Glock 9mm pistols and they drive around in new white police cars and trucks. I'm noticing Internet caf?'s one by one popping up on every street. New stores opening up. Billboards. Satellite dishes on rooftops, that were non-existent awhile ago. Things are slowly improving for these people out here.

Posted by Deb at 02:14 AM

July 17, 2004

F 9/11: Moore's bully pulpit

Greyhawk alerts us to a heinous abuse by Michael Moore in his lastest film, Farenheit 9/11.

From John McCaslin's July 12th Inside the Beltway column in the Washington Times
The family of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone was shocked to learn that video footage of the major's Arlington National Cemetery burial was included by Michael Moore in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." Maj. Stone was killed in March 2003 by a grenade that officials said was thrown into his tent by Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is on trial for murder.


The movie, described by critics as political propaganda during an election year, shows video footage of the funeral and Maj. Stone's fiancee, Tammie Eslinger, kissing her hand and placing it on his coffin.

The family does not know how Mr. Moore obtained the video, and Miss Gallagher said they did not give permission and are considering legal recourse.

She described her nephew as a "totally conservative Republican" and said he would have found the film to be "putrid."

And this follow-up from July 16:

Outrage from across the country after Inside the Beltway wrote this week about the family of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone being shocked to learn video footage of the major's Arlington National Cemetery burial was included by Michael Moore in his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11." The mother of the major labeled Mr. Moore a "maggot that eats off the dead."

To contact Mr McCaslin to encourage him to continue to pursue this story he can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

Greyhawk also mentions that the Mountain States Legal Foundation is interested in looking into this. Read his entry for full details.

I am appalled at the blatant disregard and disrespect shown by Moore to the Stone family. However, I am not surprised. He has consistently manipulated images and twisted facts to portray a very misleading picture. Here, via John Cole at Balloon Juice, is what a liberal critic has to say:

Halfway through Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 there is a shot of a lone state trooper keeping vigil over thousands of miles of Oregonian coast. The trooper looks wholly inadequate to the task, a sense compounded by a deadpan tour of his empty station. Because of public-safety cutbacks, Moore tells us, Oregon has been left dangerously unprotected. Homeland Security, he says, is a sham.

It's a funny scene, and I'm sympathetic to the argument. But I also know that Oregon has almost no police because its residents, in a referendum held last year, refused to raise their own taxes—a selfish decision that had nothing to do with the federal government. For that matter, Oregon is surrounded by California and Washington. What "border" was Moore talking about? The ocean? That's the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, not the state police. And what exactly was Moore's concern? That al Qaeda was going to storm the beaches in Zodiac rafts? This from a man whose last movie was a harangue against fearmongering?

The scene was vintage Moore. The facts don't add up but the shot looks good, so let's roll tape and hope no one notices. Moore wants his viewers angry, not educated, and he represents what he claims to loathe, which is the triumph of imagery over substance.

Yep. Imagery over substance. And when he doesn't get what he wants, he manipulates and distorts. Last year, he claimed the resounding boos in response to his Academy Awards diatribe were a few disgruntled stagehands and begged the backstage media not to report it. When that didn't succeed, he claimed the booers were booing the original booers. More likely, the boor on the stage. Spin, spin, spin. This year, he continues to claimed Tom Daschle gave him a hug, although Daschle denies it. Here, Pete Townshend explains what happened when he refused to let Moore use of one of his songs in F9/11:

Michael Moore has been making some claims – mentioning me by name - which I believe distort the truth.

He says – among other things – that I refused to allow him to use my song WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN in his latest film, because I support the war, and that at the last minute I recanted, but he turned me down. I have never hidden the fact that at the beginning of the war in Iraq I was a supporter. But now, like millions of others, I am less sure we did the right thing.

When first approached I knew nothing about the content of his film FAHRENHEIT 911. My publisher informed me they had already refused the use of my song in principle because MIRAMAX the producers offered well below what the song normally commands for use in a movie. They asked me if I wanted to ask for more money, I told them no.

Nevertheless, as a result of my refusal to consider the use, Harvey Weinstein – a good friend of mine, and my manager Bill Curbishley – interceded personally, explained in more detail to Bill what the movie was about, and offered to raise the bid very substantially indeed. This brought the issue directly to me for the first time. Bill emailed me and told me how keen Harvey and Michael Moore were to use my song.

At this point I emailed Bill (and he may have passed the essence of what I said to Harvey Weinstein) that I had not really been convinced by BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, and had been worried about its accuracy; it felt to me like a bullying film. Out of courtesy to Harvey I suggested that if he and Moore were determined to have me reconsider, I should at least get a chance to see a copy of the new film. I knew that with Cannes on the horizon, time was running short for them, and this might not be possible. I never received a copy of the film to view. At no time did I ask Moore or Miramax to reconsider anything. Once I had an idea what the film was about I was 90% certain my song was not right for them.

I believe that in the same email to my publisher and manager that contained this request to see the film I pointed out that WGFA is not an unconditionally anti-war song, or a song for or against revolution. It actually questions the heart of democracy: we vote heartily for leaders who we subsequently always seem to find wanting. (WGFA is a song sung by a fictional character from my 1971 script called LIFEHOUSE. The character is someone who is frightened by the slick way in which truth can be twisted by clever politicians and revolutionaries alike). I suggested in the email that they might use something by Neil Young, who I knew had written several songs of a more precise political nature, and is as accessible as I am. Moore himself takes credit for this idea, and I have no idea whether my suggestion reached him, but it was the right thing to do.

I have nothing against Michael Moore personally, and I know Roger Daltrey is a friend and fan of his, but I greatly resent being bullied and slurred by him in interviews just because he didn’t get what he wanted from me. It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and wilful man at the centre of his new documentary. I wish him all the best with the movie, which I know is popular, and which I still haven’t seen. But he’ll have to work very, very hard to convince me that a man with a camera is going to change the world more effectively than a man with a guitar.


By itself, any one of these actions would be disgusting. Taken as a whole, they portray Moore as a manipulative bully. Why didn't he ask the Stone family for permission to use video of their private grief? He must have realized that it was over the top. So, he used it anyway. Bah. For all those who expressed indignation about the fleeting glimpse of WTC victims in one of President Bush's early campaign ads and who have recommended Moore's film (I'm pretty sure there's a positive correlation), I'm waiting to hear the same condemnation to this. And, I'm waiting to hear Moore's explanation. I'm sure he's fabricating one now.

Posted by Deb at 12:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Patriots and patriotism

This editorial was written by Teresa Neumann, a good friend here in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Several months ago, I ran into Teresa at a peace rally in Corvallis. There are protesters who gather in front of the Benton County courthouse and on a particular Saturday, they had arranged for busloads of supporters to join them. I was there, sign in hand, and heard a familiar voice. A very loud voice. Teresa has a warrior's heart and fully understands what it means to support our troops. And, she is not afraid to confront lies with truth. Here's what she recently sent to a local paper:

The literal definition of the word 'patriotism,' according to Webster's Dictionary, is: "Devoted love, support, and defense of one's country." Webster defines 'support' as: "to endure, especially with patience or submission.to uphold by aid.to advocate.to support, so as to preserve intact." That said, some who claim to be patriotic clearly do not fit this discription, despite their demand to be accepted as such.

Genuine pacifists, whose beliefs prevent them from active military service, I can respect. Many of them serve and defend our country in a non-combatant military capacity, supporting our government in the tough choices that must be made when our homeland is under attack. Most anti-war activists do not earn my respect, however, because all too often, they are simply promoting their own political and personal agendas. Try as they might, their overall aversion to the military in general -- a trademark of the anti-war movement since the 60's -- has been difficult for them to mask during this current war. Even worse, are those so-called "activists" who parrot the anti-American rhetoric and ideologies of our enemies. Not only are they decidely un-patriotic, they are -- by default -- dangerously close to treason.

What then is a patriot? A patriot hates war, but when called to serve, sucks it up and does what must be done. Patriots value teamwork, gladly sacrificing any personal agendas for the greater good. They do not publicly whine or belly-ache, nor would they dream of openly maligning those in leadership. A patriot is pragmatic, knowing nothing will be 100% perfect all the time, and they are proud of their country -- not ashamed of it. Be assured, you will never find a real patriot burning the American flag. True patriots love their country so much, they are willing to lay down their lives for their fellow citizens.

David Brooks, writing in a New York Times column on June 26, gives us an example of what a patriot is NOT, by quoting Michael Moore's rendition of the criminals who killed many of our troops in Iraq: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not `insurgents' or `terrorists' or `The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow - and they will win."

Brooks also reports that in Cambridge, England, Moore told a crowd: "You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe." And in Liverpool, he added, "We, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants."

Trotting around the globe with his baseball cap and smarmy smile, rest assured, Michael Moore has done nothing to protect -- or defend -- America; indeed, he puts us at greater risk.

In the final analysis, Mark Twain says it best: "In the beginning of a change, the Patriot is a scarce man, Brave, Hated, and Scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a Patriot."

Thanks, Teresa. Well spoken. I can't imagine anyone I'd rather stand beside at a protest rally.

Posted by Deb at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

True Heroes, part 2

Rebuilding a country demands sacrifice. Some sacrifices are more personal than others. Cpl. Veronika R. Tuskowski sends this report from the Al Anbar province of Iraq.

Sally's children were taken away from her more than six months ago. Her husband beat her. Her brother threatened her life while holding a gun to her head. Her own father contracted her death with a $5,000 reward.

Sally, an Iraqi translator working with Coalition Forces, lost everything by working to help Americans rebuild Iraq. Still, she feels her service with Americans is the right thing for her country

"I lost everything I have, but I have gained so much," Sally said. "If I had to do it over again I would. I help the Americans, help my people."

Sally masks her real identity. She agreed to be interviewed on the condition her location and identity remained hidden. She is still a wanted woman with a price on her head.

Sally enjoyed a life of privilege under Saddam. But she wasn't free. Her father arranged her marriage, at age 13, to one of his friends. Her husband was 40 years old. Her first child was born a year later.

When the war began last year, her family fled to Turkey. Sally stayed behind.

"I love my home," she explained. "I told them I would never leave and they left without me."

Early one morning when the war started, she heard yelling outside her home. Americans in a humvee were talking to one of her neighbors.

"They were speaking English and trying to talk to a man," she said. "They were going to arrest him. So I went outside to help him and talked to the Americans for the man. The Americans were very appreciative and asked me for a job. I told them they know where I live if they ever need my help."

She thought being a translator would be a great way to help out her country. She took an English test and was accepted to become a translator.

When her neighbors discovered that she was working for the Coalition, they threw rocks at her daughter and beat her son, breaking both his arms. Her family returned from turkey and threatened to kill her. Her husband betrayed her and then beat her with a rock. When she arranged his release from jail, he beat her again and locked her in a bathroom.

She escaped only because of her oldest son.

"My older son, who is 13, opened the bathroom door and said, 'Mom you need to run away,'" she recalled. "You cannot stay here. They will kill you. Mom, they will kill you!"

Sally said she did not want to leave her children behind.

"He pushed me out the door and I ran," she said. "I don't know where, but I ran."

She left with nothing but the clothes she was wearing, a picture of her kids and a stuffed tiger her son slept with at night. It was the last time she saw her children.

She returned to work with Coalition Forces.

"I love my job, I am helping out my people," she explained. "I am doing something for my country. This is the first time in my life I choose what I want in my life. My father would never let me choose. Now I am fighting for what I believe in."

It's an amazing story of courage and perseverence. Read the rest.

Posted by Deb at 07:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

True Heroes

The Washington Post printed an e-mail from USMC Major Steve Danyluk in Al Hillah (Babylon) today, paying tribute to the Iraqi soldiers who place themselves and their families in peril simply by showing up to work for their country each day:

I'm serving outside the Iraqi town of Hilla, in the central South, with a small detachment of U.S. Marines. A couple of days ago we drove up to Baghdad on the main supply route, "MSR Tampa" -- basically a six-lane highway. Since April it's been closed to civilian traffic because a half-dozen bridges were blown up along the route. Driving on it you feel as if you're a cast member in a remake of "Mad Max" -- "Where are all the people?"

On the way we came across a semi-trailer that about 50 Iraqis were in the process of looting. As they saw us approach they scattered. I told the sergeant driving me that by the time we drove by later in the day the semi would be nothing more than a shell. I'd seen this often.

Four hours later we drove by and the site was secured by the Iraqi National Guard; no looters were in sight. Apparently the guard was even involved in a firefight protecting the property. Maybe the Iraqis are getting fed up with the lawlessness and the anarchy and are beginning to take matters into their own hands. Still, it will take time. Some units in the guard are good, some not so good. Standardization is a problem across the board, but the biggest obstacle to overcome will be that of the traumatized mind-set of the Iraqi people.

The relationships that our troops are building will help heal that trauma:

I've become friends with a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi National Guard here. Real bright guy, speaks good English, lived in Europe for five years. He makes $250 a month, doesn't own a car, rides a bus for two hours to get to work and lives in constant fear that his family will be targeted because he is in the guard. "Why do you do it," I asked him, knowing he could make five times that amount as a translator or a contractor here on the base. His response was that doing nothing is not an option. If you ask me, guys like him are the true heroes over here. "Is there hope for this place?" I asked. "No, there is no hope," he responded sardonically. Again, "Why do you do it," and again the answer: You can't just do nothing.

Our Marines are getting so much support from back home and so many "care packages" that I've decided to start asking people to send those packages instead to my Iraqi friend, packages that he can then hand out and distribute to his troops and their families. We have so much, and they have so little.

Mother Theresa said, "I can do no great things, only small things with great love" . If you want to help show the love, e-mail Major Danyluk at lukerval - at - hotmail.com.

Posted by Deb at 03:53 PM

2/7 Marines update

Battalion Commander of 2/7, LtCol Phil Skuta reports from the Al Anbar province:

The Marines and Sailors of 2/7 continue to perform magnificently as they help the Iraqi people re-build their lives, villages, cities, and livelihoods. The battalion is just past the scheduled halfway point of the deployment. I couldn’t be prouder of our men and women. Their efforts and dedication to mission, each other, and most importantly all the loved ones back home is inspiring. It is a privilege of a lifetime to lead and watch this battalion perform. The battalion has taken to heart a quote spoken by T.E., “Lawrence of Arabia,” Lawrence, who said, “... Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them… It may take them longer and it may not be as good as you think, but if it is theirs, it will be better.” These simple, sensible words sum up how we will be able to achieve success in our mission and return home to you, our loved ones.

In an effort to have the Iraqis play a leading role, the battalion has established a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) at Camp Hit, one of the first of its kind to be operational in the area. Through the JCC the combined efforts of the Marines, Iraqi Police, and Civil Defense Corps are brought together to help maintain security. You would be proud to see the anticipation in the eyes of these brave Iraqis as they work side by side with the Marines and Sailors of the battalion, patrolling the streets, and manning roadside checkpoints. We will know we have succeeded in our mission and our time away from all of you was for the benefit of the Iraqi people when they say to us, “Thanks, but I think we’ll handle this situation and let you know what happened.” Due to the tireless efforts of your Marines and Sailors, we are closer each day to achieving this goal.

Our local jobs program building playground equipment and furniture for schools has been a tremendous success. To date, we have provided three schools with new equipment and have turned the project over to the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, who will continue distribution. When school reopens many students will find new desks and chairs thanks to the efforts of your Marines and sailors.

Many of the families in this area are very poor and food is not always easy to come by. The battalion has begun to purchase sheep from local farmers, which are then distributed to needy families in the area. We have conducted these deliveries with our friends in the Iraqi Police who help identify those most in need. The glee in a child’s face is fleeting when you give candy, because it never lasts. But providing a family with enough to feed them for a week is what builds the bonds of trust and confidence in the minds of our Iraqi friends.

I would like to extend my heart-felt congratulations to all the families who have experienced a birth since I last wrote. I ask all of you to keep these young families in your prayers. I also ask everyone not to forget those brave young men who have suffered injuries and those heroes we have lost bringing the opportunity of freedom to the Iraqi people. Please say an extra prayer for them and their loved ones.

Thank you for continuing to share the courage.

Sincerely yours,
LtCol P.C. Skuta

Posted by Deb at 01:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

Rolling Thunder

An M-1A1 Abrams tank crew settles in for the evening during a patrol. Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division is attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment to provide security on a supply route.

When our Marines provide security through night patrols, it's a risky business. The presence of rolling steel has made it safer for 2/2 Marines in Mahmudiyah. A detachment from 1st Tank Battalion's Company B has joined the infantry Marines.

?If we can save a Marine's life by leveling a building so he doesn't have to go into it, we?ve done our job,? said 1st Lt. Matthew A. Stiger, a 25-year-old tank platoon commander from Colorado Springs, Colo. ?The Army had a lot of success with tanks here, so we're using them hoping to experience the same results.?

?It?s great having them out here,? said Lance Cpl. Jaime A Hurtado, a 21-year-old Company G rifleman from Queens, N.Y. ?Instead of waiting to go through all the channels to call for a fire mission, we?ve got the tanks right there with us,? he said. ?The bad guys know they're about to get [messed] up when they see the tanks rolling in. We?re really glad they?re here to help us.?

Posted by Deb at 09:36 AM


This e-mail from a Marine comes via Athena at Terrorism Unveiled, a new addition to my blogroll. It is a fascinating aerial view of war. The money quote, for me, comes near the end. It reads, "Never overlook that it all boiled down to the Marine rifleman… the man who held the ground, killed the enemy, fed the children, and feared death at every turn. No piece of gear will ever replace him."

The author, Major Jamie Cox - a Marine Corps Cobra pilot - writes, "This personal account of the war in Iraq was written to convey to my family and friends just what I went through during the war. Therefore, it is not an official history of what my unit accomplished or participated in, but rather a “Rated PG-13” and unclassified version of what I experienced. My concern is that this journal is forwarded in e-mails to others outside of my circle… and I want to ensure that when this falls into a stranger’s hands, that what I’ve written is taken in context with the how and why I composed this piece. These observations and opinions are mine alone. They don’t represent my command, or the United States Marine Corps.":

A Personal Account of an AH-1W Pilot During the War with Iraq

INTRODUCTION As I reflect back on the past month that I spent in Iraq fighting the war, I’m amazed at what we accomplished. On a personal level, I’m astonished I’m alive. On the micro level, I’m truly overwhelmed at what my squadron achieved. We flew nearly 3,000 combat hours with 27 helicopters and we did not lose a single Marine to an accident or to the Iraqis. On the macro level, I’m astounded at the intensity with which the Marine Corps fought the entire war. ….The Marines’ tenacity won the war. Through pure luck, I was fortunate enough to be part of this team.

I kept a small journal during the course of the war. It’s not all that organized. Sometimes I didn’t write for days on end because of the tempo of operations. Other times, I didn’t write for days because of the severe boredom (mostly after the hostilities stopped). Some of the events that I wrote about rated one or two words in the journal… enough to jog my memory. Other events were captured in a paragraph, because I wanted to graphically encapsulate a moment that I had witnessed or taken part in. My methodology of making entries into the journal was haphazard at best. I never logged entries by date. Events were simply entered with a bullet at the front, followed by my thoughts. Some entries were late and out of order. So if actions appear to be out of order, it’s not intentional. My goal here is to capture my exact mindset so that I can relate them to you. Besides, once the war started, every day was a blur.

This series of recollections is based solely on my perspective. My point of view was that of a Marine, a squadron operations officer… and a flight leader and pilot flying AH-1W Super Cobras. Depending on your physical location, your experience level, and your ability to process incoming information, will determine how closely your perception mirrors reality. In aviation, we call it “situational awareness”. It’s human nature to expect differing perceptions by different people viewing the same event. For example, my co-pilot/gunner throughout the entire war was “Kujo”. Although he only sat 3 feet in front of me in the cockpit, Kujo’s recollection of a particular event may not exactly match mine, because at a given moment, we may have not had the same level of situational awareness. I know that General Franks, the theater commander, had a different point of view than me… just like I had a different perspective than what the Lance Corporal driving an M-1 Abrams tank into Baghdad had.

I apologize for the length of this document in advance. It’s going to be rather long because I’m going to do my best to portray to you not only situations, but my thoughts and emotions, too. I’ve pared this down a couple of times through some revisions… so hopefully I’ve kept this relatively pertinent to the highlights of my experience.

This is my best recollection of what happened.

Two days prior to the war officially beginning, a good portion of my squadron’s aircraft and aircrew departed the ship to move to an austere dirt airfield in Kuwait. This facilitated our ability to get to our assigned targets quickly, as opposed to trying to launch off the ship, which would add to the distance to the target. Typically, shipboard launch cycles are more complicated than those launched from ashore. I was lucky enough to be designated the division lead for a flight of four Cobras that were tasked to destroy Iraqi border posts that could send a warning to other Iraqi military units of our pending invasion. The mission was to be executed at night.

The day that we flew off the boat, my CO had asked the ship’s Catholic chaplain if he would offer each of us general absolution prior to our departure. Just prior to the flight briefing, the priest entered the ready room. After saying a short prayer, he absolved us of our sins, and I was able to take communion for the first time in many years. Mind you, I’m not your model Catholic. I can tell you that I was clutching the crucifix that I had received from the chaplain that morning… and had a lump in my throat. Remember the old cliché that “there are no atheists in foxholes”? It’s true.

For the former-athlete in each of us, do you recall the feeling you had before the big game? We called that light-headed, queasy-stomach, feeling “butterflies”. As I flew off the boat that day, war hadn’t even been declared. We were still in the last minute diplomacy stage. Nonetheless, I was more nervous than I have ever been before. I felt like I was launching into Hell. It’s humorous to me now, in hindsight, that if I only knew then what I know now, I would have saved my butterflies for a few other missions I flew in the war. I mean, for God’s sake, all I was doing this day was repositioning my aircraft from the ship to a dirt airfield to prepare for the war. But I knew at that moment that I was heading toward a fight… and that was a bit unsettling. During these times, you think about your family. I thought about my wife, my kids, my parents, and my brother and two sisters. You beg God for strength.

At the clandestine airfield that we parked our aircraft, we were sleeping in tents, eating Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs), and going through our final mission details by studying target photos. We rehearsed each phase of the mission. I can recall sitting on my cot, watching Kujo, who had his eyes closed, mimicking the hand and finger movements that he would have to do, in order to fire the missiles at our assigned targets. Identified as aviators at this airfield camp simply by the fact that we’re wearing flight suits, we’re not identifiable as officers because we’ve removed all our patches from our flight suits. About half way through the day, the Gunnery Sergeant who ran the camp came into our tent and informed us that as members of the camp, we’d be put to work. For two hours, the Gunny had us working like an awkward construction crew… building tent frames with two by fours, and then stretching the canvas over the frame. Looking back, it made for a nice break in the mind-numbing mission planning. And the Gunny was a pretty memorable character.

Living in the sand for the first time, we realized that even the lightest of winds caused quite a bit of the sand to turn into dust in the air. With ten knots of wind or more, visibility could quickly be reduced to next-to-nothing. Something that would definitely affect us later.

Back home in the States… and even on the ship… we all are accustomed to getting the latest news and developments at a moment’s notice. FoxNews, CNN and all the other cable networks bring it to you live, twenty-four hours a day. But at this austere airfield, like most places we go to fight, there’s no news service. We had received snippets of information that the war had started with some Tomahawk missile strikes through military radio and e-mail traffic. Reality hit quickly when I was walking from the command post tent back to my living tent. Hearing a loud whining/screaming noise in the sky, my eyes turned up to see who was flying over the camp. I was expecting to see one of the jet boys zipping overhead, showing off. But as the noise got louder, I saw a missile flash over the camp. It’s on its way from Iraq toward Kuwait City. That’s when the air raid sirens began to growl. That whole damned day, we were busy running into the cement pipe bunkers they had put in place to protect us, wearing our chemical suits and gas masks. The first time was tense. By the fifth time, the amusement factor was low. I remember hearing the air raid siren once, and then hearing a loud BOOM. Looking up, we saw that a Patriot missile battery had intercepted an Iraqi SCUD missile right over our tents. Because we were scared to death of the chemical threat, the gas masks immediately went back on… and we ran for the bunkers… again.

Back when I was growing up, I loved to read books about the World War Two era. One of the phrases that stuck in my mind from reading those books, that the GIs used when things weren’t going just right, was SNAFU (Situation Normal, All F*@ked Up). My God did that apply the first day of the war. Now remember, we were planning on executing our first mission at night. That’s key for a couple of different reasons. First, you can take advantage of the cover of darkness: the Iraqis wouldn’t be able to see us. Second, the squadron’s schedule is set by the launch time of the aircraft. Maintenance crews need to have advance notice to prepare the aircraft for flight. Pilots have to get the required amount of rest, and then prepare for the mission. On this day, no less than five times, the word changed on what time they wanted us to launch. It ranged from, “GO RIGHT NOW!” to “Go 8 hours from now”. It was a mental rollercoaster. My stomach was going from knots to somersaults all day long.

Around dinnertime, the word to launch finally comes, and of course, it’s GO RIGHT NOW! My flight of four is supposed to be the lead flight out of the airfield, but our timing is all screwed up. The winds have picked back up, and visibility is less than a mile. In the confusion, another flight of Cobras departs the airfield ahead of us. Oops. Lots of talking on the radios to sort it out. For those of you who haven’t looked through a pair of NVGs (Night Vision Goggles), they are built for use in darkness. If there is too much light, then they don’t work correctly. The worst time to fly on the goggles is right after sunset. And of course, that’s when we had launched. The sand in the air is something that we hadn’t dealt with too much in training. In accordance with our peacetime training rules, if visibility is poor, you don’t fly. Common sense – safety. But in war… when American lives are at stake, sometimes you have to push the edge of the envelope and deal with conditions that you’re not normally accustom. With the reduced visibility and lack of moon that night, I can say that that was the darkest night I’ve ever flown in my life. Now mind you, I’ve been a Marine for almost 15 years. I’ve been flying Cobras since 1990. I’ve got a fair amount of experience. But this was dark. Seat-cushion-clenched-in-your-butt dark. Not only did the sand hang in the air to minimize horizontal visibility, but also the desert that we were flying over was completely smooth and lacked any detail. You couldn’t tell, from two hundred feet above ground level (AGL), how high you were. No depth perception. You couldn’t see obstacles until you were right on top of them. That’s a bit nerve-wracking.

Our flight of four flew north and reached the release point. The four-ship split up into two 2 aircraft elements (a flight of two is called a section… two sections makes a division). My section went to the right. My CO’s section went to the left. We proceed to our firing points. Upon arrival, Kujo is working the FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) sensor to find our assigned targets. Unfortunately, the target area photos didn’t quite display all the surrounding terrain features that were in the FLIR’s field of view. What seemed like hours for Kujo to pick out the right targets, actually only took about a minute or two. As I’m sitting in this hover, waiting for Kujo to find the targets, I look down to my right side. On my NVGs, I can see a Kuwaiti family outside their house, looking up into the sky, and watching the “fireworks” show. Kujo locates the targets… three missiles away. Border post destroyed. Thank God that’s over with.

After the initial border post strikes, my section proceeds to a FARP (Forward Arming and Refueling Point) that had been set up only hours prior near the Iraq/Kuwait border. None of us had been there before. The FARP was located on an asphalt road… but there were power lines and sand all over the place. Just to land for gas took me four attempts. I kept having to wave off because of the lack of visibility. Not being able to land because of visibility had never happened to me before. I’m fighting panic and despair. We’re just about out of gas. Finally with Kujo’s help, we make it safe on deck. After refueling, we shut down and assumed a strip alert. In this alert status, we’d get a launch order when the Marines on the ground needed CAS (Close Air Support). In the mean time, my CO’s section gets gas at the FARP, and proceeds back out for a CAS mission. Thirty minutes later, he returns, and says that visibility where they wanted him to go was horrid. Now about my CO… a tough man. One of the best “sticks” in the squadron. And if he’s telling me that it’s bad, then you know it’s bad. I get a launch order. Great.

On my second flight of the war, the fear factor is pretty high. Not because of the Iraqis… it’s the lack of visibility. We can’t see in front of us. I can only see a road underneath us, so Kujo navigates us down the roads, making turns at intersections… and we pick our way back up to the front. Once there, the Grunts are starting to push across the border. They’re taking sporadic mortar fire. Because of the reduced visibility, we couldn’t find the enemy for them. Low on gas. Time to head home. As we travel back toward our original sand-and-tent base, I can no longer keep tabs on where the ground is. There are tall radio towers and power lines everywhere that we can’t see. I jerk back on the stick once, when I saw that a radio tower that was less than fifty feet from our aircraft. I’m starting to get vertigo. Kujo bails me out. Flying right down the highways and roads, we pick our way back to our base. Aeronautical navigation charts were worthless that night. We needed a Rand McNally roadmap.

After landing, I remember my knees knocking. I thought it was just me… until I saw the rest of the pilots who had flown that night. To a man, each was ghost white with near-death stories to tell. We dragged ourselves back to our tents to get some rest. But from that point on, we were woken up every thirty to forty-five minutes because the Iraqis had launched another damned SCUD missile that was heading in our direction. We didn’t sleep a wink. Every time you just approached falling back asleep, the air raid siren would growl. You’d throw on your gas mask, and then trudge (not willingly) back to the bunkers. Some guys decided to forego the bunkers, and just slept on their cot wearing their gas mask. I tried that… felt like I was suffocating. Some guys just slept in the bunker.

Just after first light, we launched back to the ship to get our aircraft back for routine maintenance. I was working on zero sleep in the past 24 hours. As I made my approach to the ship, I was cleared for the landing spot just abeam the bridge. I looked up to the Flag Bridge once I was on deck and saw some of the MAG (Marine Air Group) staff looking down at us… giving us thumbs up, and big smiles. I was emotionally spent. The plane captain had to help me out of the aircraft. My legs felt like they were going to give out on me. Down into the ready room, our MAG commander, “Boomer”, was standing at the front of the room. I’ve known this man for five years now. He’s a good man. A family man. Almost fatherly to the officers. As I set my gear down in one of the chairs, Boomer walked up to me. As the tears welled up in my eyes, he put his hand on my cheek and told me how proud he was of all of us. All I could manage to say with a huge lump in my throat and tears about to stream down my face was, “Skipper, it was so goddamned dark out there.” I thought that if the rest of the war were like that, I wouldn’t survive. That was my first mission.

My next flight in the war was in the vicinity of Basrah. We launched off the ship and proceeded to the FARP for gas about an hour prior to sunset. We pushed up north to work with the British. In the dwindling daylight, I came to realize that although the Brits and I are both speaking English, we aren’t speaking the same version of the language. I just can’t figure out what they want me to do… and where they want me to go. Just after sunset, I had flipped down my NVGs, which have two independent battery packs for power. Battery set one dies immediately. No problem, switching to number two. Dies. Great. I can't see anything. My dash two that night, "Murph" and "Kramer", make a desperate call on the radio to avoid traffic. In the haze and darkness, another section of Cobras had some how intermingled with my section. One of the Cobras passed right in between my aircraft and Murph's. Near mid-air collision. Great. Spent the whole night searching for work. Frustrating. The oil fields in Rumaliyah that the Iraqis set on fire light up the sky. You couldn’t even look in that direction with your NVGs because the intensity of the light degraded the abilities of the NVGs to the point where they were basically useless. Sent to search for Iraqi troop movements to the north of a river. Can see some Iraqis on the FLIR, but cannot tell if they are soldiers or not. Can’t engage them. Felt like we were missing out on the action. We recovered back aboard the ship after first light, having not fired a single round.

The weather turned bad. Sandstorms throughout the entire region clobbered the skies. Even at sea, visibility was reduced down to less than a hundred yards or so. It continued for three days. During that time, frustration grew amongst the aviators. A portion of our squadron had made it ashore before the weather had completely closed in, and was able to do some limited flying. But for us, we were relegated to watching CNN and FoxNews on the television. Watching your brother Marines in combat, and being unable to go out and provide support for them, was one of the most exasperating things I’ve ever had to deal with. Finally, the weather cleared. We get another chance to help out with the effort.

We launch off the ship and head up to a FARP about one hundred miles deep into Iraq. From there, we launch up north to the city of An Nasariyah. While we were on the ship during the bad weather, we had seen on TV the intense action going on in that city. This was my first real flight during the daylight hours. Approaching the city, I felt completely naked. At night, the darkness hides you from the Iraqis, but in the daytime, you’re there for everyone to see. Really makes you feel vulnerable. We make our way around the west side of the city, avoiding the built up areas. On the north side, a Marine unit has just crossed the river, and is waiting to continue up the road. Approaching their location, we get directed to engage an enemy mortar position that is located on the river’s bank. We roll in with rockets and guns. Holding back over friendlies (where it is relatively safe), Kujo spots enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and regular artillery just to the Marine unit’s west. After receiving clearance from the FAC (Forward Air Controller), we engage. Back over friendlies again. Looking down, we notice that there are two Marine LAVs (Light Armored Vehicles) that had been hit prior to our arrival. We had heard on the news that some of our Marines had died in that ambush. Sobering. Out of gas. We race back to the FARP for reloads and more gas. Back to the fight. The Marines have resumed their movement up the road to the north. Now we’re escorting their convoy along the roads. Military gear and trucks all along the roads. We engage a truck with ammunition in the back. Secondary explosions. Cool. A few kilometers to the north, we spot some Iraqi soldiers in a ditch waiting to ambush our vehicles when they get close. Huddled in the trench, they began to move, undetected by the Marine convoy, toward the road with their weapons. Up to this point, we had destroyed a lot of military equipment, and smashed military buildings. This was the first time we’d be specifically rolling in against another human. This attack definitely had a different feel to it. I put the aircraft into a dive and strafed the trench with the cannon. We continued escorting and shooting as the Marines marched to the north. We race back to the FARP for more gas and reloads.

That night, we returned to where the Grunts were located when we had left them to go get gas. It’s dark now. The Marine vehicles are parked in a coiled formation… so that each individual vehicle can fire in a specific direction to protect the rest of the vehicles in the coil. Each tank and LAV is assigned a particular sector of fire. As we approached, we could see that they were in a pretty decent firefight. As we moved to get over their position, fire is going out in every direction from the coil. TOW missiles, 25mm chain gun, M-1 tank main gun, and heavy machine gun fire. We were so low over them that the firing of the machine guns made your teeth rattle. Every couple of minutes, a FAC would give me a rollout heading, and I’d either ripple a pod of rockets, or blast away with the cannon. Everything was danger close.

When you’re a brand-new Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, you begin your career by going to The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico. During your six-month tenure at TBS, one thing they demonstrate to you is called the “Mad Moment”. In this demonstration, they essentially show you what it looks like with machine guns shooting, artillery shooting, tanks shooting, and aircraft shooting, all at the same time. The demonstration lasts about 5 minutes. Up north in Nasariyah that night, the mad moment lasted for hours. Except now there were bullets flying in all directions.

The tactics that the Iraqis used this night were a sign of the times to come. Using the cover of darkness and small guerilla-type teams, they’d attempt to sneak up within RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) range of the Marines. Often, they’d drive vehicles with their headlights off at a high rate of speed right into the Marines’ position, with the hopes of killing as many Americans as possible. This particular night, I saw the Iraqis drive a Greyhound-style bus at full speed with its lights off right at the Marines. An M-1 tank main gun round slammed into the bus just as it reached the Marines’ perimeter.

A Brit GR-1 Tornado jet checks in with the FAC, and is going to work in conjunction with my flight to protect the coil. Much like my first encounter with the Brits, the FAC was having a difficult time describing to the jet crew exactly where the Iraqi targets were. After talking the pilot onto the target by using a large fire as a checkpoint, the Tornado begins his target run. As the jet passes over the city of Nasariyah, all hell breaks loose. Large caliber AAA and SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) begin to race through the sky in every direction. 100-millimeter AAA rounds looked as though they were in slow motion as they arced up into the sky and exploded. Low trajectory shots angled through the darkness around us. This was the first time we’d been shot at. It was absolutely terrifying… and nearly made me freeze on the controls. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my whole life… it was petrifying. Out of gas. Avoid the city. Make our way back to the FARP. Launch one more time to the coil. It’s no better than earlier that evening. After shooting again, we proceed back to the FARP. We shutdown the aircraft and sleep for 2 hours. It was freezing cold. No cots or tents; no sleeping bags. We slept on the ground next to the aircraft. Long transit back out to the ship at first light.

Tasked with supporting the British forces around Basrah again, my section launches off the ship in the mid-afternoon and proceeds to the British headquarters, which is outside the city. Arriving at their location, we shut down our aircraft in order to conduct a face-to-face briefing with them. After having some difficulty communicating with them earlier in the war, I want to ensure that we’re on the same sheet of music. Talking to their U.S. air liaison team on the ground, “Howdy”, who’s my wingman, and I are tasked to screen north of the city to check out suspected sites where the Iraqis are waiting to ambush British ground forces. We depart the Brit headquarters and fly to the north side of the city, where we begin conducting armed reconnaissance. As soon as we began our search, Kujo locates military equipment bunkers where the Iraqis had stockpiled ammunitions and weapons for their troops. The bunkers are everywhere. To describe the bunkers, they are basically about the size of a two-car garage. There is no roof. And the walls are large dirt berms that a bulldozer has made. They are good to protect against ground fire, but essentially worthless against aircraft. As we size up the weapons cache, Kujo spots an AAA piece with large stashes of ammunition at the ready near it. Kujo engages with a TOW missile. Rolling off target, I spot Iraqi tanks in bunkers. They’re T-62 tanks, which are exports from the Former Soviet Union. One by one, we begin to pick off the tanks with our TOWs and Hellfires. Finally running out of missiles, we race back to the FARP for reloads. As we arrive at the FARP, I spot a Marine truck convoy departing the airstrip. Our ordnance team had gotten word to leave the FARP and proceed up to the north to the next base. Without the ordnancemen, we won’t get any reloads. Trying to flag them down from the air, I finally decide that the only way to get them to stop is to land on the road in front of them. Once I landed the aircraft, Kujo jumped out and ran over to tell the convoy commander that we need them to go back to the airfield. Thankfully, they complied. We race back up to the north. Approaching the site where we had last attacked, we discover more Iraqi tanks. One by one, the tanks explode. Iraqi soldiers were diving into bunkers and shooting back. Setting up from the west, Howdy and I roll in to attack the bunkers with flechette and high explosive rockets. Done with that area, we resume our search. Just to the north of the tanks, we locate some military trucks with military supplies and ammunition in the back. We destroy 5 of them. Confident that we’ve hit everything that was a threat, we head back to the Brits’ location to shut down and get some food. It’s funny… the Brits were having trouble getting air support because they weren’t in extremis like a lot of the other coalition forces… so we were the only air support for them that whole day. When we asked for some food, we were expecting a full British MRE, which we had heard great things about. Instead, all they gave us was one packet of a heated meal. Nevertheless, it was pretty good.

Launching out again that evening in support of the Brits, they had tasked us to attack a suspected covert meeting site that the Fedeyeen forces had been using. Following that, we were to attack the Ba’ath Party headquarters in Basrah. Lastly, we would fly up and conduct visual reconnaissance for some of the Brit infantry units. Upon launching, we realized that the Iraqis had started some oil fires in the outskirts of Basrah. What they would do is dig a large trench with a bulldozer, and then fill the trench with oil. To obscure visibility for aircraft, they’d light the trenches on fire, which would put up a thick black smoke into the air. That night, the smoke was hanging in the air from 350 feet to about 1,000 feet. Working our way around the southern side of Basrah, so that we can find the Fedeyeen meeting site, we begin to take a heavy amount of small arms fire. We could see the muzzle flashes on the ground as the Iraqis were trying to shoot us. The volume of fire is enough that we have to turn around and move back to the western side of the city. From there, we move to the firing position we had selected to engage the Ba’ath Party headquarters. Finding the three buildings on the FLIR, Kujo begins to pump Hellfire missiles into the buildings. “Mookster”, who is Howdy’s copilot, begins to shoot TOW missiles at maximum range into the buildings. It was quite a sight watching all these missiles going down range. After hitting the buildings, we proceed up north to meet up with the infantry unit. They had taken fire recently from a village to the north of their position. We couldn’t find anything. We took gas, and then proceeded 60 miles to our new home ashore in Jalibah.

The next mission cycle I flew in was to support the Marines as they moved up the highways between An Nasariyah and Al Kut. We launched in the early afternoon to head up north. Upon reaching the front lines, the FAC that we were to support had his unit stopped along a road while they reconnoitered a small village up ahead. On arrival, we were tasked to check out the village. Not fully aware of the threat, we pushed north along the highway to check out the village. As we moved around the western side of the small town, large black puffs started appearing around our aircraft. After a pregnant pause, loud booms were heard. Someone in the village was firing large caliber AAA at us. Screaming to break left into the radio, our flight turned hard and moved back to friendlies. Kujo, ever the wizard, lased the AAA battery and got a location. Passing that location to the FAC, Marine artillery put salvo after salvo of high explosives on the enemy site, which was most impressive. Would hate to be on the receiving end of that. We return to a FARP for gas, and then back up to the fight. That evening, the Marines had once again gone into the defense for the night. Iraqis were still using unconventional tactics… guerilla type movements. They’d attack our boys in small groups and set up roadblocks using telephone poles along the roads.

Pushing toward Al Kut and Baghdad, the next mission cycle was supporting the Marines as they blocked the Republican Guard from retreating from Al Kut to Baghdad. Meeting up with the Grunts near a river, we began to conduct reconnaissance forward of the friendly lines. To their north, we located an Iraqi artillery position. At the same time, the FAC wanted us to return to their position to engage some Iraqis that had camouflaged themselves near a large ditch embankment. Racing back to the Marines, we engaged the Iraqis with rockets and guns. Hit the trench line and a truck. Back up at the artillery site, Kujo begins to shoot the missiles at the artillery tubes. We destroyed 5 guns and 2 trucks. One of the trucks was carrying fuel and when hit by Kujo’s missile, disappeared in a high order explosion.

One evening, we were launched to a FARP to stand strip alert. We were prepared to support any Marine units through the night. No launch order was received. At approximately four in the morning, we were preparing to launch back down to our base at Jalibah when a launch order was given for us to support Fifth Marines as they began their push up the highway toward Baghdad. Tired, but excited at the prospect of seeing some action after a long night of waiting, we raced toward the contact point. As we approached their position in the predawn light, we could see bombs from our jets going off in the distance. Arriving at Fifth Marines’ location, we contacted the FAC. Our assignment was to screen forward of their nightly position, in anticipation of the massive movement toward the capital. Looking forward of our friendly lines, we spotted an Iraqi unit that had dug in around a mosque. All around the yard surrounding the religious facility, the Iraqis had put their military trucks, command and control vans, and weapons in the tree line surrounding the mosque, thinking that we wouldn’t be able to engage them for fear of hitting the church. Kujo and I opened up with Hellfire missiles. “Wally” and “Tinkle”, my wingmen, engaged the targets as well. Looking down at Fifth Marines, all the Marines were out for their morning coffee… and watching the show. I spotted a fuel truck in the tree line. Hit it with a rocket from 3 kilometers. Massive explosion. And not a scratch of damage to the mosque.

The night portion of one mission was supporting one of my old friends, “Sideshow”, who is a Cobra pilot assigned to a Marine Grunt unit as their FAC. Salman Pak is a small town located about 30 miles or so from Baghdad, along the banks of the Tigris River. That night, I was flying overhead cover for Sideshow's unit. His armored vehicles were moving toward Salman Pak, which had a large contingent of Iraqi army troops. The night prior, a West Coast Cobra had crashed in this area. It had apparently hit a set of large power lines. Around Baghdad, the power lines were about 350 feet high. The wires and the stanchions are tan in color... so they are next to impossible to see during the day... and you almost never see them at night. About 11:00 p.m., we were orbiting just to the west of Salman Pak, looking into the city with our infrared sensors and our night vision goggles. After several reconnaissance sweeps, we detected an Iraqi military compound in the center of the town, and it contained a surface to air missile battery and other military hardware that the Iraqis were using to defend the town.

I maneuvered the flight to the west, and I rolled my aircraft in to the target so that we could shoot the missile battery with one of our missiles. As Kujo was lining up the shot, I noticed two flashes from my right side. Looking over, I saw two heat-seeking missiles racing up toward our aircraft. Rolling the aircraft into a violent nose-down maneuver and expending decoy flares, we screamed for the ground to break the lock that the missiles had on our aircraft. We had started out at 800 feet or so above the ground, and I pulled the nose up around 100 feet. After bottoming out of the dive, we had descended all the way down to 50 feet, and had successfully broke lock with the missiles. As we recovered back up to a higher altitude, we realized that high power tension lines surrounded us. Two miracles occurred that night. First, we managed to not get hit by the missiles; and second, we somehow managed not to hit these large power lines, which were like spaghetti all over the ground in that area. I remember screaming into the radio at my wingman, "MISSILES, RIGHT TWO O'CLOCK, BREAK!" My copilot was busy screaming "WIRES, WIRES, WIRES!" The whole event happened in slow motion. Seemed like an eternity. But in reality, the whole engagement was over in about 4 seconds or so. Those heat-seeking missiles travel at about Mach 2.5 (about 1,700 MPH). Not a lot of time to react... and not enough time to be scared. I saw Sideshow up in Tikrit toward the end of the war. He told me those missiles had missed me by about 50 feet. We laugh about it now...kind of.

On another day mission, we’re working the highway that connects Al Kut to Baghdad. To the north of that highway, a Marine unit is screening into the countryside. Iraqi tanks are located in that vicinity. Talking to the FAC, he cannot observe the Iraqis from his position, so he delegates the clearance to fire to me. Checking in on station at the same time is a section of Air Force A-10s with the callsign Eager 31 and 32. Giving them my coordinates, I directed the A-10s to my position. Simultaneously, I cleared Wally, who was my wingman, to start engaging the Iraqi tanks. With the A-10s overhead, I began to talk their eyes onto the various tank targets. Clearing them to use their 30-millimeter cannon, they roll in from above and begin to strafe the tanks. Their cannon is so loud that I can hear it from 2 miles away in my aircraft. It was quite an awesome sight. That day, we destroyed eight T-72 tanks.

As the battle for Baghdad was in full swing, one early morning, we were just about complete with our strip alert and on the verge of taking off and heading back down to Jalibah to get some sleep. We receive a launch order to proceed to Baghdad. Evidently, there was a large fight building in the downtown area of the city. Arriving at the suburbs of the city at first light, we begin to hold in an area that we felt was relatively safe. Down on the ground, urban Iraqis were outside of their houses watching us flying around. It made you nervous – you couldn’t tell who was friendly, and who wanted to harm you. Something as simple as watching men looking up at you while talking on a cell phone made you wonder just who they were talking to on the other end of the phone. Traveling as a light division (3 AH-1Ws), we continue to hold and try to sort out what is going on in the city before we stick our noses in. Howdy is one of my wingmen. He takes a small caliber round into his engine door. The fight in the city was too hot. Without the specific approval of the commanding general, we can’t go in to provide fire support. Frustration mounts because the FAC wants us to come into the city to conduct reconnaissance; but the volume of fire coming up out of the city is too high. Out of gas, we start our trek back to Jalibah.

As the fight for Baghdad concluded, the Iraqi forces that still wanted to resist moved up north to Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. Needing to relocate to be closer to the fight, a portion of the MAG moved up to an abandoned airstrip outside of Salman Pak.

My first day flying out of Salman Pak, we were directed to escort a Marine ground unit that was working its way north out of Baghdad. Once I contact the FAC, I realize that it’s my friend Sideshow, again. Running out of maps, Sideshow asks me to reconnoiter a route for his vehicles to travel safely. He’s attempting to get over to one of the major highways without getting decisively engaged with the Iraqis. Talking to the lead vehicle in his large column, we begin to give steering commands to the drivers: turn right… take your next left by the two-story building. Out in front of Sideshow’s unit, we located Iraqi artillery waiting for the Marine unit to come within range. Setting up with Wally, we begin to engage the artillery battery. After destroying it, Sideshow’s unit proceeds. Running out of gas, we race for Salman Pak, and we meet up with one of our UH-1N Hueys, flown by “Friar”. He joins my section. We proceed back up to Sideshow’s location and continue escorting his column into the night. Upon our return to Salman Pak for the night, our mechanics discovered bullet holes in one of my rocket pods. Good thing they didn’t penetrate and set off the ordnance hanging on my aircraft.

Launching out the next day as a hunter – killer team (2 AH-1Ws and 1 UH-1N), we’re directed to a landing zone located in the city of Baghdad. Proceeding to their location, we fly overhead and see that the Marines are located in a soccer stadium in the city. We land at their location. Hundreds of Iraqis are standing out in the streets watching us land. Feel extremely vulnerable… again. Climbing out of the aircraft, I tell Kujo, who is staying in the Cobra, that if he starts taking fire, to take off and get the aircraft to safety. Conducting a face-to-face brief with the FAC, our understanding is that they want to use the Huey as a command and control platform, but they won’t need them for another couple of hours. Friar, the Huey pilot, volunteers to stay at the landing zone. I don’t want to keep the Cobras there because they tend to be temperamental when it comes to starting them back up. The Cobras launch and we head up to the north near Samara to get gas and locate the new FARP.

Near sunset, we head back down to Baghdad to join Friar in the landing zone in Baghdad. Landing at night, I leave Kujo in the aircraft with the same instructions: if you start taking fire, get the aircraft out of here. Heading into the command post, we’re debating with the FAC on what the proper use of our aircraft is in this situation. As we’re walking out of the command post, one of the duty officers calls out that there will be a large explosion in the next few minutes because the Marines are going to demolish a building with explosives.

Walking back out into the night to the aircraft, as I’m climbing into the rear seat, a huge explosion goes off just outside of the soccer stadium complex. I haven’t plugged in to the intercom yet, and I can feel Kujo starting to roll the throttles from idle up to the open position. He’s starting to pull in power for takeoff and I haven’t even gotten all the way in the aircraft yet. Getting on the intercom, I begin to scream that the explosion was friendly fire. It was the demolitions going off that the duty officer had yelled about. Kujo, up to that point had no clue as to what was going on… and was ready to get the hell out of there! Settling him down, he relaxes to the point where we managed to not go blasting into the night with me hanging half out of the aircraft! I chuckle about it now…Kujo doesn’t!

We flew more ground escort that evening. Long trains of vehicles pouring out of Baghdad, as the Marines moved up north of the city to pursue the retreating Iraqis.

Launching out of Salman Pak as a hunter – killer team, we proceed toward Tikrit, where the last Iraqi resistance is still standing. One of the Iraqi airfields outside that city was being used as a FARP. Approaching the FARP and contacting them on the radio, we’re informed that they are taking artillery fire from the Iraqis. With plenty of gas remaining, my flight begins to conduct reconnaissance to the southeast of the FARP, in hopes of finding the Iraqis who were firing on the Marines at the FARP. Flying over a date tree grove, we find what we’re looking for: Iraqi artillery and surface-to-surface rockets. As the sun is setting, we await permission from the command and control system to engage. As the sun sets, we are given approval to attack. Rolling in from the north, we begin to engage the Iraqi artillery. Rockets and 20-millimeter cannon fire hit the tree lines. Setting up for subsequent attacks from the west, my CO’s section joins the fight. After multiple passes with our cannons, rockets and missiles, the Iraqi artillery and rockets are destroyed and burning.

After receiving gas and more weapons at the FARP, we launch out to the west, where Howdy is beginning to engage an Iraqi bunker complex. The whole complex was about 500 acres worth of large warehouse buildings and berms containing Iraqi ammunition that was being used to re-supply what remained of Iraq’s armed forces. Requesting as much jets with bombs as he can get, Howdy begins to direct the laser guided bombs onto the various targets. My hunter – killer team orients to the north side of the complex and begins to shoot missiles into the multitude of bunkers. The explosions ripping out of the complex go six thousand feet into the air. The night sky is so bright that you can see without NVGs. Sympathetic explosions rip from bunker to bunker. The explosions are so intense that mushroom clouds erupt from the inferno. As Howdy runs out of gas, he hands off the forward air control duties to me. Using our laser, I begin to direct the jets into the target area. Designating targets for laser guided bombs and missiles, I pick up where Howdy left off. The explosions are increasing in intensity. I recall seeing several movies where the explosions and special effects were awe-inspiring… but I never thought that it looked realistic. This night, the explosions from the bunker complex far exceeded anything I had ever seen in a movie theater.

Out of gas, we race back to the Tikrit FARP for gas and more ammunition. Back up at the complex, I begin directing as the forward air controller again. As I was hovering to control the jets, Kujo is pumping more missiles into the unhit bunkers. Wally, in the Cobra next to me, is engaging bunkers with his missiles. Friar, in the Huey, is orbiting behind us to provide security. After lasing for approximately 25 laser guided bombs and missiles, Friar calls out that we’re taking fire. In the light provided by the huge explosions, an Iraqi artillery unit had zeroed in on our position, and we began to take fire. Moving away from the artillery explosions, another Iraqi unit began to fire missiles at us. The enlisted crew chiefs in Friar’s Huey return fire. Our flight pushes clear of the area and back to the FARP.

After a short rest at the FARP, we launch to assess the damage to the bunker complex. Circling to the south, we locate another Iraqi storage facility about ten miles to the south of the original. At this location, Iraqi military trucks are pulling into the warehouses and bunkers to load ammunition to take to their units. Getting permission to engage the target, we first begin by directing a jet to drop a laser-guided bomb on a warehouse that munitions were being loaded. The bomb obliterated the building. Requesting as many bomb-laden aircraft as possible, we begin to destroy the storage point, building by building, using only our laser designator. The Iraqis had stored enough munitions in this whole area to supply them in their fight against us for years. Explosions rocked the whole sky. Geysers of fire are still erupting from the bunkers to the north. The whole world appears to be on fire.

After depleting our missiles, rockets, gun ammunition and gas, we head back to the Tikrit FARP… then fly back down to our temporary base at Salman Pak. Although I would fly more security missions in the days and weeks to come, that was my last real fight of the war.

In e-mail from friends and family, I’ve been asked many times about fear. I do not recall, throughout my life, being confronted with a situation that combined real physical and emotional fear. I know that there were many times in my life that I was afraid of something… early last year, I almost lost my Dad and I felt completely helpless and childlike because I couldn’t make my Dad’s health instantly better… and in aviation, I’ve been in scenarios that have made me physically uncomfortable. But upon reflection, I think this was my first introduction to total fear. Let me tell you, real fear is paralyzing. Real fear has a taste and smell to it… and it’s bitter. I chalk up my survival in those situations to training. During those particularly trying times, fear consumes ninety-nine percent of your being. It’s that teeny-tiny one percent of your brain and body that defaults back to your training that keeps you from succumbing to the panic… and allows you to take the appropriate actions to survive. Every single one of the pilots in my squadron will admit to a time in this war when they were afraid. It’s the ability to control that emotion that counts toward staying alive.

In my occupational field, one thing that we discuss is “compartmentalization”, which is the act of putting away all your extraneous thoughts and emotions while you fly. That allows you to focus more on the task at hand. Before many flights, I went through an emotional rollercoaster. I had a lot of apprehension just prior to each flight. It wasn’t for questioning whether we were doing the right thing… because I knew that we were. I always took pause because I was afraid of my children growing up without their father. I was scared of my wife living a life without me in it. I wasn’t necessarily concerned with my physical safety in combat, but rather the consequences if I were hurt of killed. I remember a particular flight, when I was launching from Jalibah: On this particular day, we had received indications that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons on one of the U.S. Army units near Baghdad. I recall a very sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I walked to the aircraft. The thought of chemical weapons being used to cause massive casualties was mind numbing. That was one thing that I truly feared. I felt like I had a thousand pound weight on my shoulders as I walked to the aircraft. Thankfully, the report turned out to be false. But fear is the absolute motivator: fear of dying and fear of letting down your fellow Marine.

From my perspective of being an attack helicopter pilot, the war was not something that just took up part of the day… it was a 24/7 mindset. Unlike a jet squadron, whose pilots are only flying for a couple of hours each day, and get to return back to their creature comforts in Kuwait or on the aircraft carrier, a light/attack helicopter squadron is always on the move with the infantry. In order for us to keep up with their movement to the north, we were constantly repositioning our squadron to provide the best fire support available to them. Although jets played a key role in the outcome of the war by bombing strategic and tactical targets before our ground forces arrived, it was the Cobra that the Grunts wanted for close air support. When Marines are in contact on the ground and the enemy is close, a jet just can’t hit the target without fear of hitting friendlies… even with all the precision guided munitions that were touted in the news during the war. Close air support is our bread and butter… and that was our motivation and purpose throughout the war – to provide close in fire support to the ground combat element… whether that be killing the enemy at arms length… or doing it up close and personal.

It’s amazing what affect combat has on your senses. Your vision becomes that of an eagle. Your hearing is nearly bionic. Your sense of feel is keen. You can listen to the two radios and the intercom all at the same time and never miss a single word. Even your sense of smell is aroused. Weeks into the war, when we were on the verge of exhaustion, every time I climbed into the cockpit, it was like a jolt of lightening hit me… and the adrenaline rush lasted until I was climbing back out. I think the longest period I flew continuously was for just over fourteen and a half hours straight. On average, I think I was logging about nine and a half hours each time I flew. The fatigue definitely accumulated over time.

I’ve seen the fragility of life. In this war, I’ve seen some of my brother Marines die. I’ve taken lives of men who were either trying to kill me, or one of my fellow Marines. I’ve witnessed, in a cold-blooded manner, just how quickly a life can end. One second you’re alive, and then next, you’re dead. There’s no fanfare. There’s no drama. It’s like a light switch… on… then off. It makes you strengthen your convictions with God, and those that you love.

One of the key goals of my squadron was to bring everyone home alive. And unlike any other Cobra/Huey squadron in theater, we accomplished just that.

I think from watching CNN at certain points in the war, most people think that Iraq is a vast desert. That’s primarily true for the southern third of the country, but not a correct assumption for the entire nation. The southern area that I flew in was a wide-open desert. No hills, mountains, or even real sand dunes to speak of. Flat as a pancake. About 20 miles north of Jalibah, as you near rivers, you began to see farm fields and livestock. Fields were intermingled with sandy areas. Reminded me of the outskirts of Yuma, Arizona, where my family and I lived for three years. Nearing Al Kut, the soil was much more rich, and water plentiful through irrigation ditches. The scenery reminded me of the Midwest… and in particular, the area in northwest Ohio where I grew up. North of Baghdad all the way up to Tikrit, the land was relatively flat, with some waterways cutting through. Near the rivers and streams were farms, and away from those areas was open desert. Between An Nasariyah and Al Kut, there is a large lake. Stuck out like a sore thumb because here you are in the middle of the open desert, and there’s a large body of water. There’s no towns or villages near it. One day as we were flying over the lake, I looked down and saw some beautiful flamingos flying. They were pink and black. In a world of dull colors with a tan desert and a hazy light blue sky, those birds are still extremely vivid to me.

Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a militant society that translated to a military presence nearly everywhere in the country. Almost all the small towns had a military barracks. Spread throughout all the vast deserts was bunkers of ammunition and fighting positions for the Iraqi armed forces. Small military airfields were sporadically located throughout the entire country. It was a martial state. It really caught my eye.

A good portion of my flying experiences in Iraq was at night. But most flights started out in the day, as I would transit up to the front lines in the daylight hours to be in position to fight at night. Likewise, at the end of a long night of fighting, we’d make our transit back to our base after first light. So most of my experiences with seeing the Iraqi people occurred either around dinnertime, or around the time that they were waking to start the day. The Iraqi people varied from locale to locale. In general though, when the fighting was nearby, they would ignore you flying over them. But once the fighting moved north of their location a day or so later, they’d be outside waving to you. Almost all houses and civilian cars had white flags on them to identify to coalition forces that they were not a threat.

The hardest of the Iraqi people were the Bedouins. Generally, the Bedouins tended to flocks of livestock, like goats and sheep. They all live in very large tents in the middle of the desert, often a hundred or more miles from even a paved road. They all had large stake-bed trucks, so that they could pickup and move from location to location as required. These gypsy-like people mostly lived in the southern barren desert regions in Iraq. Not overly friendly, most of the time they wouldn’t lift their eyes when you would fly over.

The next group of people in Iraq was the rural farmers and town folk. These were probably the friendliest people, at least from my perspective. As long as there wasn’t actual fighting going on near them, they were outside their houses waving every single time we’d fly over. Women, children and even the men would wave as we were on our way to rid them of Hussein’s regime. Some days, you felt like your arm was going to fall off from waving to all the children as you passed them.

The last group of people was the urbanites and Hussein loyalists. This group was mostly in Baghdad, and up in Tikrit, which was Hussein’s hometown. Never waving, they’d scurry into their houses or hide behind walls until you flew past. They made you nervous. Around those areas, you never knew where the next threat would come from. That’s probably a touch of paranoia on my part, but large crowds or congested areas where a lot of people lived, made us nervous. You’d avoid them because sooner or later, someone would be taking a shot at you.

That evokes a particular memory: we were shooting in support of one of the Marine units moving up the road toward Al Kut. As we were conducting armed reconnaissance just in front of friendlies, the FAC directed us to take a look at some vehicles just up the road from his position. Approaching the scene, a family had gotten out of their car and was waiting for the U.S. forces to push past them. Sitting in the middle of the family was the father, who was an Iraqi soldier in uniform, just waiting for his chance to surrender so that he could be with his family again full time. In my mind, that man had honor.

The impoverish conditions that most of the Iraqi people live is unfathomable to nearly all Americans. You have to see it to believe it. Most of us cannot comprehend living in a house whose walls are made out of mud, with a dirt floor, and a reed thatched roof. That’s just not in the rural areas, but in and around the major cities as well. Most children had no shoes on their feet. Many homes didn’t have roofs. My lasting impression was that the people of Iraq were stuck in the nineteenth century, except for the elite.

In Iraq, there are the “Haves” and the “Have Nots”. There is no middle class. As poor as the Have Nots were, which were the vast majority of the population, it was ludicrous to see how rich the Haves were. Whether they were Ba’ath Party officials, or members of Hussein’s family, the elite in Iraq lived like kings. I got to fly by a few of Hussein’s palaces in the country. They were huge. In my mind’s eye, they outsized mid-evil European castles. Large and ornate, their design was lavish to the point of absurd, considering how poor the rest of the country is. Most of the people didn’t have electricity… yet those privileged few got to live in houses and palaces that must have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build.

I started the war out living on the boat. I didn’t realize just how good life was on a ship until I went ashore! Our main base in Jalibah was an abandoned Iraqi air force base. It didn’t look like it had been used since before the Gulf War. There were no buildings… just the runways and the taxiways. The sand at Jalibah was like talcum powder. And the slightest breeze would stir the sand up into the air. It was a miserable place to live. Over the course of the war, the creature comforts at Jalibah improved. After a period of time, we had shower tents and hot meals available. We lived in tents with the sand as the floor. During the day, the temperature reached between ninety and one hundred fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, it was relatively cool at night.

When we moved up to Salman Pak, it was like moving to Heaven. Near farmlands, there wasn’t much dust or sand in the air. Temperatures were about 20 degrees cooler than Jalibah. Although we slept on the ground there, it was worth giving up a cot just to have tolerable temperatures.

It’s funny to hear the stories from the jet squadrons that were stationed at Al Jabar Air Base in Kuwait, which served both Marine Corps squadrons and Air Force squadrons. There, they had a full time cafeteria, which served ice cream, and had pastries delivered daily from a bakery out in town, air-conditioned tents and ice machines. That wasn’t exactly “roughing it”. Now mind you, I didn’t get to live like a crowned prince like the guys stationed at Al Jabar… but I also didn’t have to live like a pauper, which were the infantry guys who were slugging it out on a daily basis.

I’m truly humbled by what I witnessed and participated in. This has been an incredible experience for me. This one-month period alone has changed my perspective on life more than any other event could have possibly done. I had a unique opportunity to observe heroes in action, to witness the horrors of death, to help in freeing an enslaved people, and to see the power of the United States in action. Each flight, I got to experience fear, anxiety, anxiousness, and joy. I got to form friendships that will last a lifetime. I got to realize the importance of my family. I got to tell each member of my family how much I love them in e-mail or in a letter. I got to get reacquainted with my Catholic faith.

Make no mistake about it – the individual Marine rifleman won this war. Pundits, armchair quarterbacks, and talking heads on television will plug their special interests for years to come… all in the name of getting a larger slice of the defense budget for their pet project. Air power activists will gloat over precision-guided munitions and tactical jets. Naval aviation will wallow over their role. Armor advocates will flaunt the role of the tank. Even attack helicopter enthusiasts will covet the role that the AH-1W played in the war. All the particular genres of warfare will find a voice in an attempt to convince the public, and hence the Congress, which appropriates the budget, that their particular piece of gear was the reason we won the war. Never overlook that it all boiled down to the Marine rifleman… the man who held the ground, killed the enemy, fed the children, and feared death at every turn. No piece of gear will ever replace him.

For almost fifteen years, I have trained to perfect my trade. This was the ultimate test. The pilots and Marines that I was surrounded by displayed incredible heroism, uncommon courage, and profound compassion to their fellow man, whether that man is American or Iraqi. The Marines that surrounded me are men of steel – from the flight line mechanic, to the administrative clerk, from the nugget pilot, to the seasoned aviator… and especially the Marine rifleman – all heroes. We won with honor and dignity.

I close with a quote from a letter that Major General James Mattis, the Commanding General of First Marine Division, sent to his Marines just prior to the war kicking off. To borrow his words, “While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam’s oppression… ‘No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine.”

God bless America.


And God bless our Marines.

Posted by Deb at 09:17 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 14, 2004

Call to Arms

Chief Wiggles: We need your help!!!!

Last summer, when my little group of Marine Corps Moms needed a way to move 5,000 lbs. of school supplies from Kuwait to An Najaf, the Chief stood ready to help us. We found another solution but I'll never forget his willingness to help. Now, he needs a favor. Via Greyhawk:

We are having a problem . . . (snip - full text at Chief Wiggle's site)

You know what to do. Please do it.


I just talked with Brian Blish from Atlas Lines and he has advised me that the problem is resolved. Evidently, shipping containers which go to Kuwait via this particular freight line have been co-opted by local folks, and turned into homes. To protect their investment, the company requires a $10,000 deposit per container. Through a series of misfortunes (employees leaving the company, personal tragedies, the bank requiring a hold on deposited funds) payment was delayed. However, the bank has released funds today, a check has been cut and will go out tonight, and there is a chance that the company on the other end of this will accept the faxed copy of the check to expedite release. Let's hope so.

Thanks, Brian. And condolences on the loss of your father.

Posted by Deb at 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The 11th MEU has landed

Photo by Cpl. Dick Kotecki
Marines from the 11th MEU respond to a simulated sniper attack on a convoy during a Security and Stability Operations training exercise on July 10.

Here's the latest from the 11th MEU

We're currently in Kuwait, conducting training as usual. There are a lot of Marines and Sailors coming and going on a regular basis, going to different ranges practicing convoy operations, mounted and foot patrols, live fire exercises and more. If anything, training has picked up the pace since we left our respective ships.

Kuwait hasn't changed much since some of us left last year, still dusty and hot (around 120 degrees). Not really a place where anybody would really like to spend a vacation. Still, spirits are high while we all make our last-minute preparations to head north to Iraq.

We are currently in a place called Camp Virginia. In Kuwait the names of the bases are different, but the scenery is pretty much the same ... light tan from the dust which covers everything. There are a few amenities here, however. Pizza Inn has a small niche, as does Subway and various small stores. There's also a small exchange, a phone center and a place called the Internet Cafe where we can buy one hour of internet time for five dollars. Unfortunately, not every Marine has had the opportunity to enjoy the five star accommodations available here in sunny Kuwait due to the busy training schedule. However, some of us have been lucky enough to enjoy it twice and even a few have been here more than that.

Training soon will be winding down, and we will shift our focus of effort to our movement into Iraq. Most will move into country via vehicle convoy, while others will fly via cargo airplanes. Either way, it will be a busy time. As soon as we arrive at our new homes -- members of the MEU will be working out of a couple of different locations -- and get our camps set up, we will be sure to update this page and let you know where we are. While we won't be able to share a lot of details because of operational security concerns, there will be some interesting information we will be able to share.

Posted by Deb at 08:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Reality Check

An Army infantry gunner contemplates:

I had to pull radio watch in the War Room last night, and somebody left a copy of the April edition of People Magazine there. So on radio watch, I read how Survivors Rob and Amber are in Love, Kelly Osborne is in Rehab, Omaarosa has a suprising past, and how Reese Witherspoon and hubby Ryan Phillippe bought a house in Los Angeles for 4.9 million. And you know what, after reading that magazine, for a split second, I was glad I was here in Iraq, and not back in America

Posted by Deb at 03:14 AM | Comments (1)

Setting the record straight

Bonnie Murphy is a Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service employee who volunteered to go to Iraq in December. She recently decided to extend her tour in Iraq until January. Here is her opinion of how life is going in Iraq.

I’m appalled at the news as it’s reported from Iraq. Just as disturbing is the lack of knowledge a lot of people have about what’s really going on, why we’re here and what it’s really like. I’d like to set the record straight.

My job as an environmentalist is primarily the protection of the environment and the disposal of Department of Defense-generated hazardous wastes. I volunteered to go to Iraq, and last December I was selected to set up the first disposal operations in the forward deployed area. I have been stationed at Balad Air Base, Logistics Support Area Anaconda since Dec. 28. On several occasions, my work has taken me to Baghdad. I extended my initial tour from 120 days to 155 days, and June 7 I went back to Baghdad for six more months.

Ninety-five percent of the Iraqi people want us there, and it’s only a handful of insurgents with weapons who are attacking our bases, convoys and troops. The older generations say that although they may never see the freedoms we’re trying to bring to their country, they know their children will enjoy the rights that we take for granted in the United States.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with day laborers coming on LSA Anaconda. They are grateful for the work and pay they receive. Men have taken my hand with tear-filled eyes and thanked me because they can now provide for their families -- something they couldn’t do when Saddam was in power. I’ve met engineers, pilots and well-educated men who, for the first time since Saddam took office, are returning from self-imposed exile to their homeland and are able to find work on our many U.S. bases.

Before I left Balad, I was able to coordinate the donation of $3,500 of hospital disinfectant and dental amalgam to the local hospital from the DRMS inventory of excess property. Our Balad team of doctors and medics make regular, scheduled visits to the surrounding communities to provide medical care and assistance to the people and teach new technologies to Iraqi medical personnel. People are being taught field sanitation and handwashing techniques to prevent the spread of germs.

About 400,000 children have now received up-to-date immunizations. And 100 percent of the existing hospitals are now open and staffed, compared to 35 percent before the war.

On behalf of my organization, the Defense Logistics Agency, and its partner, Army Material Command, we’re sponsoring a local secondary school. We’ve received $65,500 of Saddam’s money to completely rebuild the school. Our school is only one of 11 schools being sponsored by different units on LSA Anaconda. School attendance is up 80 percent, and, for the first time, girls are allowed to attend classes.

Our facility engineers and U.S. Navy Seabees are rebuilding outdated sewer lines and constructing a new water-treatment plant that will serve the entire area. This is being done in every major city. More than 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first time.

We’re updating and constructing new power plants throughout the country. Now the entire populace receives twice the electric power it did before the war.

More than 400,000 people have telephone service for the first time.

The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be off loaded from ships faster. Farmers are being educated on better methods, and new technologies are being introduced. Local contractors working on our bases are, for the first time, able to receive lubricant oils and hydraulic and brake fluids for their equipment.

The newly formed Iraqi National Guard trains on LSA Anaconda. The teams work and learn side by side with our soldiers, and they are proud to be learning from us and eager to help in the battle against the handful of insurgents making life miserable in Iraq. Every day our troops are finding buried weapons and chemicals that must be disposed of. The dangerous chemicals pose a threat to the environment, health and safety of not only the Iraqi people but the world if they were to come into the wrong hands.

I’ve met some wonderful Soldiers serving in Iraq. As a nation, we should all be proud and supportive of the mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom. I believe in my job and my country, and I want my grandchildren to always be able to enjoy their freedoms.

That’s why I’m going back.

Posted by Deb at 03:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

Latest news from RCT-7

Col Tucker updates us again in this letter to families and friends of the RCT-7:

Dated 13 July 2004

It has been too long since my last letter. Thanks for being patient. Much has happened in the last month, most of it good.

I was sitting in my office on 28 June when word rolled in about 1000 that the transfer of sovereignty was moved forward two days and would occur at noon. That resulted in about two hours of hectic activity, but as 1200 approached everything I could do was done, and I sat quietly in my office waiting to see what the future would bring. I remember sitting back quietly in my chair at 1159, thinking how privileged and rare a moment it is to be present at, and contributed to, the rebirth of a nation.

And almost at that exact moment….as we collectively held our breath waiting for the nay-sayers and doom and gloom crowd to be proven right…the Iraqi people quietly assumed responsibility for themselves and their communities. There is much to be done here…more terrorists to kill, more schools to build, more training of Iraqi Security Forces to accomplish, more children to provide with water and food…but the nation is reborn. And the Iraqi people and ISF are working to give meaning and security to their history, their culture, and their communities. We are going to win this by exercising patience and tenacity in equal measure, and applying our intellect and common sense to the vastness of the complexity of our efforts. We will make progress inch by inch, but if you hold true to the cause that has brought us this far, we will win.

3d Battalion 4th Marines is home to 29 Palms. They are replaced by 1st Bn 8th Marines out of 2d Marine Division in Camp Lejeune. 1/8 has assimilated well, and is performing with competent professionalism.

Ok..picture time.
This first picture has a story as old as time itself. 4 men in their 40s holding a conference on the Syrian border when approached by a young, cocky 20-something with volleyball in hand and a gauntlet in his tone: "Hey Sir…want to play SOME volleyball.." Well…male ego of course kicks in, and so the 4 old guys trundle out to the volleyball court to meet the tanned, muscled, cocky 20-somethings that make up the rest of the "team" A conspiracy at work here..,young men going to show the old men what's up. First, of course, the "pity" offer: "hey Sir, we'll split up…two of you guys and two of us on a team so we can at least get a good game out of it." No deal…4 old against 4 young. First match. Best of 3. Old Guys 15, Young Guys 6 or something. But they had the wind in their face…so we switch sides. Game 2. Old Guys 15, young guys 12. But now they had the sun in their eyes. Switch sides. And the rules have changed. Now we're playing best of 5. Game 3….

Well…we only played 3 games. And the losers don't get their pictures on the website:

Four "old guys" who have still got it..
This is a picture I promised to get on here for about two months. These are the cooks assigned to Camp Korean Village. Their superb efforts under very challenging conditions account for about 80% of the morale at this far edge of the empire. Names
( not in order, but am sure mom and wives will recognize them): GySgt J. Harper, Sgt E. M. Limbak, Sgt C.E. Cason, Cpl M.A. Moore, LCpl A.J. Roske, Cpl A.J. Campbell.
TF 3/7 and members of the 504th Iraqi National Guard Battalion conducting pre-combat inspections before a joint patrol.
1st LAR Bn, on patrol near the Syrian Border.

We routinely receive letters and cards from organizations and schools in the U.S. We make a strong effort to answer most of them, especially the ones from kids. Usually the "answering takes the form of an announcement at the end of a shift for everyone to write a letter back and to bring it in the next day. We also have Iraqis who work with us as translators and contractors, and construction workers. One of the sections made the "write a letter" announcement at the end of a shift. The next day, three Iraqis, unbidden-but who had observed previous efforts and knew what we were doing---brought in their own letters and asked if they could include them in the package sent back to the kids. I am including two of the letters typed verbatim from the handwritten ones mailed:

"Dear friends and children,
Accept my greetings, and I would like to pass on the regards of the Iraqi people and their children. Our friend, I wish I could that the American soldiers will back their country soon to be among their families and children. I am interprator and working with them now they have a hard job. They try to rebuild Iraq, restore the natural life to Iraqis, provide hospitals with medicine, provide security and safety for all the people of Iraq as well as chasing terrorists and Saddams loyal. Dear friends, before the 9th of April 2003 we were living with our children in poverty and deprivation. We cannot live peacefully or look forward to the future, no one can achieve his dreams or study abroad but those of Saddams relatives. So we have in Iraq two big rivers but we have no pure water and some people still depend on well water. Now I think that Iraq looks better, most of Iraqis getting a good payment, they can provide for their families and buy candy for their children. People in villages begun to send their children to school, hospitals begun to provide people with good medicine and the Americans have achieved many many thing that may serve Iraqis. So how can we pay back America its favor to Iraq. Me and my 3 kids as well as my wife would like to thank all honest people in America and we wish them progress and prosperity so we also thank the American soldiers to liberate Iraq from Saddam and his loyalist. I wish that my children will be successful fruits in society and work to fulfill peace and passion among people all over the world.
Mustafa H. Ali
Baghdad, Iraq"

"Dear Americans,
Accept my best wishes. We lived with Saddam for a long time. We did not know anything about life except wars, executions and killing. Iraqis good people but Saddam made many criminals and terrorist and paid for them the riches of Iraq to kill the innocents mere they do not like Saddam and his party. When I was in primary school Bath Party taught me to hate America because it is the only enemy for freedom in the whole world but when I became adult I asked myself why many many people fleed to America a freedom enemy and a big satan as named by Saddam. But now we know everything about America. In Iraq now we see African American, Thai, Scottish, Polish, Asian and many others have American citizenship. Why because they found real freedom in America and want to build their future and achieve their dreams by having home, good family, and provide them with passion and security. In short, I have two daughters and wife and we all grateful the all Americans and all troops which participated in liberating Iraq.
Hashim Mohammed"

Easy to forget sometimes, in the midst of politics and media blitzes and the normal concourse of American political dialogue, easy to forget where we came from and what we stand for. If not now, when? If not us, who?

RCT-7 remembers the sacrifices of SSgt M.L. Best, 2d Bn 7th Marines killed in action 19 June 2004 vic Hit, Iraq and Cpl. D.L. Kerns, LCpl J.J. Vangyzen IV, LCpl M.S. Torres, 3d Bn, 7th Marines, killed in action 5 July 2004 vic Husaybah, Iraq.

Please remember their families and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Share your Courage.

C.A. Tucker
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
CO, RCT-7.

Posted by Deb at 11:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Remember Melissa?

Photo by Staff Sgt. Houston F. White Jr.
Melissa, the mascot of MWSS-374 was a gift from the 3rd MAW commanding general, Maj. Gen. James F. Amos. This picture was taken April 29, 2004

Blackfive has an update from General Amos:

Attached is a current picture of Mellissa the pup. She is in the arms of LtCol Dave "Lep" Leppelmeier, Squadron Commander of MWSS-374. As you remember we gave Dave the pup several months ago and she hardly ever leaves Lep's side. She is seen here posing in front of an Iraqi MIG-29 at the Air base where Dave's squadron's HQs is located. She's gotten considerably bigger since I left 5 weeks ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LtCol Leppelmeir with Melissa in May . . .
. . . and in June
Visit Blackfive's site for an update on Lucy, Melissa's mom.

Posted by Deb at 09:56 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

A columnist's reaction to The Green Side, Part II

Rae from A Likely Story reminded me that I hadn't yet posted the second part of this editorial by Ron North who provides his reaction to Major Dave Bellon's letters home. The first piece was posted here on June 22. Here's the link to the second installment and a snippet from Mr. North's excellent opinion piece:

The time in Iraq has offered a lesson for the troops. “The lesson that we have learned for this iteration is for us to focus first and foremost on our true strength and that is the character and decency of our Marines. Force of personality and personal example are more important to us right now leading up to the inevitable violence this summer than the right radio for the Iraqis. For what it is worth, I think that is the right approach. If we demonstrate the best aspects of the Marines who they see every day, we are giving the young Iraqi men something that can never be taken from them. They are seeing the best part of a free people. Hopefully the lights will go on.”

How can the American people read such statements with anything less than heartfelt pride and the deepest sense of gratitude? How can a cynical left continue to degrade our forces, and a belligerent media persist in their slanted coverage?

If I’ve learned one thing from my time as a writer, it’s what to expect from those who read my columns. I’ll save some of you the trouble, and go ahead and write a response for you. You can cut-and-paste it into your e-mail to me.

“Mike, you are typical of the right-wing fanatics who continue to support King George Bush and his imperial army. And this Marine is just another poor dupe, fooled into thinking that this war is about something other than oil.”

Yes, this educated attorney and Bronze Star recipient may be a dupe. After all, he’s right there where the action is. How could he possibly know as much about the situation as those of us who have the advantage of being thousands of miles away and getting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but from CNN and the Washington Post?

Major Bellon, I’m with you, and so are most of the people I know. You and your fellow Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen are the best hope we have for freedom and peace. We thank you, support you, and pray for God’s blessings and protection to be upon you. When you read the hypocritical blather written by those who claim to “support the troops” while undermining your efforts with their every word, ignore them. They are the dupes.

There's more.

Posted by Deb at 08:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

Update from 3/7

LtCol Lopez reports:

The Marines, Sailors and Soldiers of Task Force 3/7 are doing an incredible job establishing security and bringing a better life to the people of Al Qaim. We have seen a very violent and dangerous area develop into a relatively peaceful area where governance, Iraqi Security Forces and a blossoming new freedom have been born. The market areas of all our cities are flourishing like never before. There is new construction everywhere you look. The school year ended with the students taking their advancement exams without incident – children play in clean streets. Our area is starting to emerge as an example of success as we conduct the transfer of authority that will give self-governance to the Iraqi People.

This is still Iraq, so we will still face danger and uncertainty in the months to come, but we are well on our way to accomplishing our mission. The Iraqi Security Forces and local Government have become our allies in the fight against terrorism in our area. Living conditions for our Marines and Sailors have improved dramatically over the past months. Non-existent in our last deployment, air-conditioned living space is the norm – thanks to Master Gunnery Sergeant French’s ability to create electricity. Every Marine and Sailor now has a real bed to sleep in. Care packages and mail from home is still a highpoint of the week – we are averaging a delivery every other day now, thanks to our CSSD brethren. Our telephone and computer capability remain our lifeline back to loved ones in the states – thanks to Gunny McGraw’s technical expertise for keeping it running. Although we are still eating tray rations in the chow hall, believe it or not, we now have our own pizza, kabob, chicken shack on camp Al Qaim and the Gunny Veigh chicken shack at Camp Gannon. Master Gunnery Sergeant French says we’re going to make the Marines soft!

Despite rumors, all indicators are still pointing towards this being a 7-month deployment. The lead elements for 1st Bn 8th Marines have arrived to replace 3rd Bn, 4th Mar. This is a great sign that things are still on track.

We look forward to the arrival of the advance party of our replacements. I still remember how happy the Marines were to see the Bulgarian advance party last August. As always, I assure you - we will keep you informed. We are still planning our return for mid to late September. Our return will always remain mission dependent!

We have re-named Camp Husayba in honor of Capt Richard J. Gannon.

Posted by Deb at 08:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Update from CSSG-11

Here's the latest from Col. Dave Reist:

The Royal Tongan Marines have arrived (on 2 July). They are still adjusting to climate, culture, and sleep patterns but they are a hearty bunch who appear to be very "squared away." Quiet by nature, to date they contrast your average Marine. We as Marines are trained to be calm and confident, but on occasion Marines can be loud and heaven forbid, even a bit arrogant or cocky. I know that may come as a huge surprise to most of you. The issue of volleyball (or any other sport) has not come up yet. My guess is these Tongan's will quickly adapt, pick up on some of our culture, and in turn, we shall experience some of theirs. I would give anything to hear how they describe American's!!

One of the high points of my son's last deployment was the chance to meet and interact with Marines and soldiers from other countries, especially the British Marines.

Posted by Deb at 07:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New from the Green Side

Major Bellon has updated The Green Side. I was touched by his description of an in-country memorial service for fallen Marines.

One of our companies lost five killed and more wounded in a series of attacks. I am very fond of this particular company commander and his Marines. They are a special group in the community of elite people. This commander truly loves his Marines. He personally lost the gunner on his vehicle among the KIA. You are always close to your Marines, but inevitably you are closest to those on your crew or your radio operators or just those that you work closest with day in and day out. In a period of 7-8 days, this small group of men lost five of their own and several more seriously wounded. Words cannot describe the kind of hammer blow that goes through young men when their buddies are killed or evaced. It hits commanders the hardest and the better the commander the harder the blow. It hit this commander incredibly hard. There really is not much you can say to Marines at times like this. You just kind of be around them. I really am not 100% sure how, but this young captain allowed himself some short time to grieve and then was out in front of his men leading by example the very next day on both occasions. His guys are once again back on their mission and looking for ways to improve and take the fight back to the enemy. The dead Marines are never far from their minds, but they are able to get back to work by drawing closer and recommitting themselves to close whatever holes that made them vulnerable in the first place.

Earlier in the week, we were having a memorial service for another Marine that was lost in an ambush just outside of Baghdad. These services are always very moving as the Marines step out in front of the gathered masses and share their memories of the fallen. It always strikes me how heartfelt and well spoken the Marines are when they talk about their buddies. The stories are vivid and often funny and almost always heartbreaking.

There is always a picture of the Marine and out in front of the gathering is a single rifle stuck into the deck by its bayonet crowned with a helmet. The fallen Marine's dog tags hang from the rifle's handgrip and a pair of boots sit in front of the rifle. At the end of the service, each Marine in attendance marches in front of the rifle, clutches the dog tags and pays his last respect, one at a time.

The final man to speak at this service was our Regimental Commander. Again, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Of all the commanders that I have seen, I have never seen one that has cultivated more loyalty among his Marines.

He stepped out in front of the Marines and in a very poignant way reminded them that even though their friend and fellow Marine had died at a very young age, he died selflessly, among his brothers and with his honor in tact. The CO spoke of honor briefly and reminded the Marines that it is the one gift that a man gives himself and the one character attribute that makes each man a king. The fallen Marine's buddies should feel proud that the Marine that was lost was so fondly thought of and that even in his young life he was able to give himself the gift of honor. He ended his piece by referencing a recent article in a national publication. The author had gotten himself into a number of insurgent cells from southern Iraq to Baghdad to Fallujah. The author spoke about the terrorists' commitment and motivation to continue their cause. Surprisingly, it was not religion or ideology; it was hate for American and the West. Toward the end of his article, he asked one terrorist what he would do if the Americans were driven from Iraq and went back to America. The terrorist stated after some reflection that he and his men would follow us there....

And there you have it. We can fight this war over there or wait until it reaches our shores. It happened on September 11, 2001. It will happen again, if good men and women do nothing. When my son came home last year, he said that the biggest motivating force for himself and his friends was their certain knowledge that they were keeping our country safe so that we could enjoy the freedoms we take for granted. These young men made that sacrifice for us. It's not a small thing.

Posted by Deb at 07:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2004

2/4 Marines featured on FOX tonight

Carrie, mother of a future Marine and married to a currently deployed Marine notes that tonight's FOX broadcast of War Stories with Oliver North will feature 2/4 Marines from the 1 MEF:

During the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, columns of Army and Marine armor raced toward Baghdad. But after the fall of Saddam's regime, the nature of combat changed. Foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq and allied themselves with former regime Baathist loyalists to instigate an insurgency. Out here, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines refer to this phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom as "the second semester of war."

In this gripping episode of “War Stories with Oliver North,” we go door to door in “Operation Sheik It Up.” On these dangerous foot patrols in Ar Ramadi, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force or "1 Mef," tracks hidden weapons and terrorists. You’ll also hear from soldiers and Marines as to what they are doing to win the hearts and minds of a hostile population.

But as dangerous as all of these tasks are — and as challenging as they have become — the soldiers and Marines are up to the task of protecting Iraq’s fledgling democracy. This is their story, about those young Americans serving on the front lines, in the War on Terror.

Carrie comments:

A side note on 2/4. The Magnificent Bastards have had one helluva time in Ar Rammadi. April was a deadly month for them and I am sure that you'll recall the letter that Lt.Col Paul Kennedy and his XO wrote home to the wives and families.

Echo Co., 2/4 has sustained the heaviest losses, I believe, in the entire 1st Marine Division. When CNN decided to run pictures of ambushed Marines last month, 3 of them were from this unit.

It's on at 8:00 p.m., EDT. Set your VCRs.

Posted by Deb at 11:19 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 10, 2004

The story of Ahmed: A story of common courage

We have access to stories of heroic American troops. The Iraqis who work side-by-side with our Marines and soldiers have tales to tell as well.

Here is Ahmed's story:

For Ahmed, the decision to serve his country again began more than a year ago - 7,731 miles, and three weeks before the announcement on the USS Lincoln.

"April 9, 2003," Ahmed said. "I don't forget this day."

"I was on my way home to Baghdad after my brigadier boss had told me the war was over and to go home," Ahmed said, describing his last moments as a major in the old Iraqi Army air defense unit he had been with for nine years. "He said it was an order," he added.

"So I walked home from our station in Al Hillah, south of Baghdad, but I didn't change my clothes," Ahmed said, "And I came to a Marine checkpoint on a bridge in Baghdad. And I still had my uniform on and the Marine sergeant stopped me ..."

"'Where are you going?' he asked me," Ahmed said in his accented but surprisingly good English.

"And I tell him, 'I am a major in the Iraqi Army and I was ordered to go to my house'" Ahmed said, finishing the backdrop to a life-defining moment he had not seen coming; and on what was supposed to be just a long 50-plus mile walk home to his wife and five children.

The encounter would prove to be a pivotal one for the military veteran because for the next two anxious minutes, Ahmed went through what must be emotions impossible to describe to someone who has never known he was about to die. It was more the result of the 33-year-old's lifetime of experience with the ways of Saddam Hussein.

Ahmed, though, was actually two minutes away from a rebirth of sorts.

"He looked at me for a while and I thought he was going to kill me," Ahmed said. "But he didn't kill me," he added.

"Instead he came to the position of attention and saluted me as an officer," Ahmed said, "And said, 'Sir you can go.'"

"I took a few steps and began to cry," he said, "Because I think, 'Why do I fight these people for ten years?

"This moment changed me from the inside," Ahmed said. "What he did was kill me without pistol. He killed the old major in the Iraqi Army who fought America from 1993 to 2003.?

Ahmed was advised by a U.S. Army officer to apply at the recruiting center in Baghdad and was ushered into the army a short time later as an "officer candidate." After training, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the new army having made the cut for promotion from his former rank in the old army.

Ahmed's story, though, doesn't end there. The now 34-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Baghdad and career Iraqi Army officer has since endured great personal tests in his first year of service in the new Iraqi Army that have reaffirmed his commitment to serving his country.

In February 2004, Ahmed, a Soldier whose face belies his real age with the tell-tale signs of a man who has lived a hard life, was at the Baghdad Recruiting Center when a blast killed more than 47 earlier in the year. The psychological toll was great, but he came back.

Several weeks ago, he saw the aftermath of the latest blast at the center only minutes after the attack that left another 35 dead. The wounds were re-opened, but he came back.

And a little more than a month-and-a-half ago on May 15, he was kidnapped by members of the Shiite Muslim Cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army on a bridge in Baghdad when a vehicle filled with five armed men forced his truck to the side of the road before forcing him into the front seat of their car for transport to a hidden safe-house.

Ahmed was beaten and pistol-whipped before being knocked unconscious only to be interrogated later by the insurgent terrorists for his association with the new Iraqi Army and the Coalition.

Ultimately he was told not to work with the Coalition anymore and released by the militiamen, but not before they stripped him of his uniform, weapon, cell phone and the vehicle that had been issued to him by the Coalition.

"I said, 'Sir I lost my pistol, my mobile, my uniform and my vehicle,'" Ahmed said, describing the humiliating moment he faced upon returning to the OST headquarters later that day to report the catastrophe.

He had begged the militiamen to kill him thinking the loss of equipment was the end of his military career. But when the Coalition officer Ahmed worked with found out that everything he had been issued had been lost that morning, the officer's response surprised Ahmed.

"And when he saw me crying," Ahmed said, "He stood up and gave me another key to a vehicle. And gave me another pistol and another mobile phone."

"'Don't worry, we trust you,' he said," Ahmed said.

"I really love America for this," Ahmed said. "This is what I wish I could tell every Iraqi."

Ahmed, like so many others in the Iraqi Security Forces that show up for work everyday, knows that security and protection from the individuals bent on denying Iraq its chance at freedom is paramount to his country's future.

"I want to provide security to my country," Ahmed said.

"Saddam Hussein didn't just destroy the buildings and the streets," Ahmed said. "He destroyed something inside of all Iraqis. He destroyed the truth and something inside us.

"You know what Saddam Hussein did inside us from 1979 to 2003?" asks Ahmed. "He was president of Iraq for 25 years. In this period of time what did he teach Iraq? What did Saddam teach Iraq? Fight. Take your rifle. Take your pistol and fight. Fight, fight. Fight for what? Eight years with Iran - fight for nothing. And he told us to go to Kuwait and steal. And he laughed. He taught the people how to steal. He made people forget Islam and the Al Koran.

"So now inside of all Iraqis it is just to 'fight,'" Ahmed said. "And now we're fighting between us.

"I do my best, though," Ahmed said. "I do my best to protect my country and to give my country its security."

And he does one more thing that doesn't earn medals in any army on earth: he continues to show up for work.

And in the face of suicide bombings, targetings, and abductions and beatings, in Iraq, this is just the typical story common to all the 230,000-plus Iraqi Army Soldiers and police service officers choosing to serve their country.

It's not a story of the courageous actions of Soldiers storming enemy machinegun positions. And there are no medals awarded for the simple act. But it's a typical story of valor in this country.

And a standard that courage never met.

A perfect example of how a bit of compassion and mercy can change a man from the inside out. It's impossible to change a ship's course by trying to turn the bow. But, a small correction to the trimtab can turn the rudder. The rudder turns the ship into the desired direction. Here, a simple salute and show of military courtesy made a huge difference in the course of this man's life.

Posted by Deb at 10:18 AM | Comments (5)

July 09, 2004

Goodbye, Depot

Sgt. Ethan Rocke, editor of the Chevron at MCRD-San Diego, is leaving for his next duty station. Here's his goodbye to the place where so many heroic Marines started out. My son graduated from MCRD-SD in December 2002, then went on to Iraq. My two twin uncles preceded him in 1944, before going on to fight at Guam and Iwo Jima. This piece of ground, next to the San Diego airport, has many memories associated with it. Here are some of Sgt. Rocke's:

Over the past two years, I have served proudly aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, and during that time, this special place has ingrained itself deep inside me forever.

As I leave the Depot for my next duty station this week, I look back with fondness on the place Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey once called “The showplace of the Corps.” And as I look back, I imagine myself like the feather in the beginning of Forrest Gump. Gracefully floating from one story to the next as my romance with the Depot unfolds ...

As the chaotic alarm clock of a bugle call blasting over a loud speaker suddenly comes alive, so do the squad-bay lights, flooding the subconscious mind and leaving no room for the comfort of dreams. Reality comes crashing in with the intense snarl of a drill instructor barking orders.

For many, the dreams from which they’re wrenched, were inspired last night aft er they watched from a squad-bay window a cruise ship docking in the San Diego harbor as fireworks from Sea World exploded in the distance.

Outside, it’s still dark, but the lights from Lindbergh Field and downtown are always glowing in the night sky, and the clouds reflect a dim orangish gray. As the recruits form up on the apron, they can barely make out the Marine layer behind the silhouettes of palm trees in the pre-dawn sky. Those on the airport side near the mess hall can already smell their chow. If you go north from there, you can smell real-Marine chow. It smells a lot like recruit chow.

Outside the reach of those familiar mess hall aromas, are many other smells: Sometimes, it’s the smell of a crisp sea breeze fi lling up your lungs as you run
along the backside, where a chain-link fence separates you from the airport runway. A lot of the time, it’s the subtle smell of the cool, aged, stone walls inside one of the buildings by famed architect Bertram Goodhue. If you’re a “hat,” it’s the smell of Bulldog aftershave and Listerine. If you’re a hat at the beginning of a cycle, you wish it was aftershave and mouthwash, and you wish the term “recruit funk” had something to do with music. If you’re a member of the Museum Historical Society, it’s the smell of dozens of old uniforms, weapons,
paintings and other collectibles.

Of course, those museum folks know more of the sounds than the smells; I would think. After all, they hold one of the most prime pieces of real estate for the sounds. Every Thursday, there’s the low grumble of hundreds of bubbling family members all scrambling for the first look at their new Marine. Then comes the loud, motivated cadence echoing across Shepard Memorial Drill Field, followed by a whole lot of clapping and cheering. Sometimes, in the midst of all that, they can make out the excited, high-pitched bark of a young English bulldog named Molly as she lunges forward on her leash, trying to get loose to run in formation.

Some sounds can be heard from every corner. I wonder what the most familiar one is. Probably a bugle call — reveille, morning colors (pause for jetliners
blaring through the windows) retreat?

Marine Corps cadence echoing in the arcade? You hear that sometimes. Not quite as much as you hear a platoon of (Pause again for airplanes. It’s hard to hear myself think when they’re fl ying over, so I’m waiting for this one to pass) recruits yelling “Aye aye, sir!” and “Yes, sir!”

I know. Drill instructor’s calling (plane again) cadence. That’s got to be the most familiar sound. At least, I can’t think of (another plane) a more familiar sound right now.

Personally, my favorite sound is probably the national anthem followed by the Marines’ Hymn. Th is often means someone is graduating something. Recruiters
School maybe?

With every new batch of graduating recruiters, the Corps future is courted and conceived out “on the streets” all over America. When the drill instructors graduate, they just take a walk “across the street” to carry the Corps’ future
to term and watch it born over and over again on the grinder every Friday.

There’s that anthem and hymn again. If ceremonial music is not playing, you can almost count on some sort of hedge trimmer or weed whacker coming alive with a disturbing ruckus. But as parents snap pictures of their new Marines all over the Depot, cameras record only the exquisite landscaping and architecture in the background and never the annoying buzz of a lawn tool, which subsides in the evening time.

The day begins to fade, and night falls over the Depot. Seagulls scavenge for scraps of food behind the mess hall while recruits eat their evening chow. The
young men probably think forward to their hour of free time, looking straight past the hour or two they’ll spend in “the mini grinder.”

With a “snap!” a “pop!” and a canteen of water, the lights are suddenly out in the squad bay again. Recruits lay at the position of attention as Taps plays. A peaceful serenity settles over the Depot again, and my Forrest Gump feather settles on the open pages of a fire watch’s recruit knowledge. He doesn’t really notice at first. He’s too busy thinking about cruise ships and fireworks.

I’ll miss this place.

Posted by Deb at 09:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

Books for Soldiers

Via my good friend DrMomentum, here's a way to help make deployment a bit more interesting.

Books For Soldiers is a troop support site that ships books, DVDs and supplies to deployed troops, and troops in VA hospitals, through a large volunteer network.

If you have old, but usuable paperback books sitting around, collecting dust, why not send them to a solider for a big morale boost?

Many of our volunteers have received email and letters from the soldiers they have adopted.

Help us out, help the troops out, mail them your books.

I have more books than I have bookshelves for. I'll be going through the bulletin board listings (troops can request specific books) and sending off a shipment very soon. Each box will also contain a few cool ties.

Posted by Deb at 01:54 PM | Comments (2)

Good news roundup

Check out this comprehensive listing of good news coming out of Iraq.

Posted by Deb at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Take Out Menu

Although Marines are used to eating MREs for weeks at a time, holidays and special occasions can mean a welcome break. Here's a report from Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes, complete with pictures, of the Independence Day menu at Camp Mahmudiyah:

The thought of sweet, buttered corn on the cob for an Independence Day celebration was so real, Sgt. Erick C. Yates thought he was dreaming when he smelled it. There was no way he'd be chomping down on an ear in the middle of Iraq standing a post far from his base camp.

That was until he saw a humvee pull up. That's when he saw he wasn't imagining anything.

The rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment celebrated America's Independence Day with barbecued steak, corn and baked beans right next to his post. The battalion sent out a little slice of home to their Marines pulling duty on posts outside the base camp when their Independence Day meals were delivered to them in the field.

"We'd just got done with a hard day's work and all of the sudden this humvee pulls up with all this good chow inside," said Yates, a 30-year-old from Cleveland.

Yates and his Marines braved temperatures breaking 110 degrees that day. The possibility of such a good meal finding them was too much to hope for, Yates said.

"Hot steaks at the end of the day... It doesn't get any better than that," he added.

The Marines didn't get to celebrate the fourth with the traditional fireworks. The food sufficed for most of them.

"The only fireworks we're having here are the ones in the grills," said Gunnery Sgt. James D. Santiago, the battalion's mess chief. "Our goal today is to bring a little bit of the fourth to the Marines here," said Santiago, 38, from Bronx, N.Y. "Back on Lejeune most people have gone home and are grilling in their backyards today. The Marines here deserve the same thing for what they're doing."

Nine grills were burning throughout the day to provide the battalion with 800 steaks, 1,000 burgers and 500 hot dogs. A portion of that was set aside for the Marines in the field.

"Gunny Santiago always sends the best chow to the guys in the field. It's an incredible morale booster for the Marines out there," said Sgt. Julio C. Aguilar, a 28-year-old from Houghson, Calif.

Still, not all went as planned. In the excitement of supplying his Marines with hot chow, trays were forgotten. The Marines here are used to adapting and overcoming, though.

"All they had to see was that we had steaks for them to start inventing plates out of MRE sleeves, plastic bottles, anything that would hold food," Aguilar said

Marines like Pfc. Matthew M. Hinrichs, a 19-year-old with the unit from Fort Wayne, Ind., helped bring a taste of home to the Marines in the field. It was a nice change from the Marines' normal diet of Meals, Ready-to-eat.
When a humvee loaded with barbecued steaks, corn on the cob and baked beans arrived at his position on July 4th, Cpl. James M. Nash, 2/2 Marines, didn't let a good thing pass him by. The 23-year-old from Merill, Wisc. said he was just happy to eat something that didn't come out of a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.
No plate? No problem.

The humvees also came bearing fruit juice, plastic flatware, beef jerky, trail mix and blocks of ice. All were welcome deliveries to the Marines.

"It's great to see the looks on all their faces when we serve them all this good food," said Pfc. Adam C. Haynes, an 18-year-old rifleman from Stuaro, Va. "It's not a normal Fourth of July, but we're glad for whatever we can get."

Posted by Deb at 02:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rock Out

Last year, Kid Rock did a USO tour in Iraq, entertaining troops on a number of different bases. When he got to the Baghdad Airport, he wasn't scheduled to play but when the troops he was signing autographs for started cheering, he grabbed instruments that belonged to a military band and did an impromptu concert in 130 degree heat. He also gives $5,000 to the family of each military person killed over there. He's a hero to these guys.

From the New York Daily News:

The hip-hop and fashion mogul, his younger brother Joe (aka Rev. Run, who's filming a pilot of his own reality show for the ABC Family Channel), movie director Brett Ratner and his girlfriend, Serena Williams (recovering from her defeat in the Wimbledon final), were getting a little antsy on a rainy Monday, wondering what to do with themselves.

Then Kid Rock arrived.

So they all decided to drive into town and take in a movie.

They jumped into various vehicles and headed for the United Artists East Hampton theater on Main St.

Standing in front of the box office and perusing the titles, Simmons suggested that everybody catch the 7:15 showing of "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Kid Rock balked.

"I don't want to see that, it's all propaganda," the rock star said - sparking a prolonged political debate right there on the sidewalk.

"Russell, don't you understand, everything we got in this country, we got from fighting," Kid Rock argued, according to Simmons' account. "It's just a movie. ... I'd rather go to the bar across the street."

No wonder the troops love him.

Posted by Deb at 01:28 AM | Comments (3)

E-mail from Iraq

A Marine living near Fallujah sends this message:

The days continue to fly right by me out here. It just seems like yesterday I wrote my last update from Iraq. The time seems to be going too fast for some of my reports and projects but I can deal with that. In this environment, I would rather be busy than bored. A little update on this spray-on armor project I have been writing about lately. I won't get into the details, but the current plan is to do a pilot vice full production.

The pilot will give those interested in testing the technology a venue, while the MEF will still get more 3/8" steel doors produced back at Albany.

Everyone appears to be satisfied with the plan, but there are still a few more opportunities to screw it up if they try hard enough. The team that will be coming out for the pilot will be setting up at my camp mid July so I'll be able to send you back pictures of this stuff if you are curious.

My roommate, "Wild Bill" went out on another night convoy last night. He didn't get in until 3 AM, but it was good to be waken up since it meant that he made it back safely. It was an uneventful night so I am sure he was disappointed. Like me, he only has 2 1/2 months left, so I think he is realizing that he will be running out of chances to be a war hero/get killed. I am penciled in to leave around 10 September, but that date doesn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. If anything, the date will likely shift to the right. The date also depends on what is going on out here at the time. If the whackos are wreaking havoc who knows what that will mean.

I recently went to the camp internet cafe to check out my friend, Jon's website. After waiting for close to an hour, I finally got my 30 minutes of internet time. You can see the long line that I had to wait outside in. Fun time when the temperature is 108 degrees.

Marines wait in line for 30 minutes of internet access

You know, 108 sounds terrible but I would take that over 90 degrees in Albany. We don't have the same humidity issue here which to me is what makes everything uncomfortable. The heat here reminds me of how it feels when you open the oven to remove something and the escaping heat hits your face. We also have this stiff wind that constantly blows from west to east that reminds me of a blow-dryer set for hot. It is hard to imagine, but you
get used to it.

I have attached a new article for you to read. It's another editorial so it is one sided but since it happens to be my side too, then it must be correct. I'll let you be the judge for yourself though. Wow, I am actually at a loss for words this week. Nothing really exciting to write about.

Hopefully the next week will be more eventful. I'll keep my fingers crossed for flying monkeys attacking the camp perimeter, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders parachuting into our position, or my discovery of Saddam's hidden gold bullions under my rack. Otherwise, you are stuck with me writing about my boring life with my T/O weapon...my laptop. I wonder if I will rate a Purple Heart for Carpal Tunnel syndrome? Until next week...

Y'know, uneventful is good. Let's hope things stay calm. However, waiting in line in 108 - or hotter - temps in full battle gear isn't easy. See our informationon our cool ties project and help keep our troops a bit more comfortable.

Posted by Deb at 12:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Remembering Reagan

Flags are flying at full mast today but President Reagan, beloved Commander in Chief of many Marines, will not be forgotten.

Photo by Lance Cpl. E. Ashley

Members of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Marine Barracks Washington, perform during an evening Sunset Parade as the flag flies at half-staff over the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington Va.

Here's a memorial from USMC Cpl. Beth Zimmerman:

Reagan respected the men and women in uniform who served him during his Presidency. According to www.ronaldreagan.com, Reagan wrote in his autobiography about a trend he started to show his respect.

"As commander in chief, I discovered it was customary for our uniformed men and women to salute whenever they saw me," read his words. "When I'd walk down the steps of a helicopter, for example, there was always a Marine waiting there to salute me. I was told presidents weren't supposed to return salutes, so I didn't, but this made me feel a little uncomfortable.

"Normally, a person offering a salute waits until it is returned, then brings down his hand. Sometimes, I realized, the soldier, sailor, Marine or airman giving me a salute wasn't sure when to lower his hand. Initially, I nodded and smiled and said hello and thought maybe that would bring down the hand, but usually it didn't.

"Finally, one night when Nancy and I were attending a concert at the Marine Corps headquarters, I told the Commandant of Marines, 'I know it's customary for the President to receive these salutes, but I was once an officer and realize that you're not supposed to salute when you're in civilian clothes. I think there ought to be a regulation that the president could return a salute inasmuch as he is the commander in chief and civilian clothes are his uniform'.

According to Reagan, the general replied with, "Well if you did return a salute, I don't think anyone would say anything to you about it."

"The next time I got a salute, I saluted back," continues Reagan's text. "A big grin came over the Marine's face and down came his hand. From then on, I always returned salutes."

Posted by Deb at 01:26 PM | Comments (4)

Update from the 1st LAR

The Highlanders of the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion

LtCol Costantini writes to the families and friends of the 1st LAR:

Delta and most of H&S Company remain at our southern base, Weapons Company and a part of H&S are at our northern base and Alpha and another small part of H&S continue to work for RCT 1 in the eastern part of the Marine zone.

An Alpha Company vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device a few days ago and 1 Marine was wounded. He was able to contact his family and already has been released from the hospital.

Mail has not been delivered for about the last ten days. We have been minimizing convoy movements during the transfer of sovereignty period. Weapons Company got mail yesterday and Delta should get a mail delivery today and regular delivery should continue as before.

3d LAR from 29 Palms will be replacing us this fall. They are sending a team over next week to begin the turnover process. So far everything looks good for us to return by the time I briefed during our pre-deployment meetings. Most of us were able to enjoy a bar-b-que on the 4th. In the south we flew in the grills and everybody got stuffed on the hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken, corn on the cob, etc. Independence Day made me appreciate all the things we take for granted at home, especially after coming so close to the Transfer of Sovereignty to the Interim Iraqi Government. 16 months ago Saddam Hussein still enslaved the people of Iraq. They were liberated by our Coalition at the sacrifice of many American lives. We continue to sacrifice for them, so that they can celebrate an Independence Day of their own. Iraq is not perfect yet, but its best hope is for our continued patience and effort to help them help themselves. All the sacrifice by our men and their families is not just for the Iraqis, but it is for our own liberty and security. We need to destroy terrorists and the people and nations that support them now, if we are to continue to enjoy our own Independence Days in the future.

Please continue to support your Marine or Sailor. You are constantly on our minds.

Semper Fidelis
LtCol Costantini

Posted by Deb at 02:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bugle from the SeaElks

From SgtMaj Johnson of the HMM-166.

To the SeaElk family,

We are getting close to our destination, and doing our part for the War On Terrorism. We have continued to train hard to get prepared, and the Marines of this unit are doing a great job. Once we start to off-load from the ship to become land based, we will loose our ability to communicate via e-mail for a short duration, do not panic! Once we arrive at our new location, we will get up and running as soon as practical. Regular mail will be available at every location we are at, it just takes more time (snail mail) to get it sent back and forth, not the instant results like e-mail, but a feasible option. Our mailing address will not change while we are on land. I also encourage all the family and friends to send "Care Packages" if possible. Not something that will melt or get broken in the mail, (no glass containers) but something from home. The Marines are excited about getting into the fight and off the ship, (we are not Sailors). The Navy has done a great job in getting us to where we need to be, but now its our time to do what we do best. Being land based will have its challenges, but the Marines in this Squadron will rise to every occasion, and succeed at any mission assigned, that's what we do, and have done for the past 228 years. Keep the Marines in your prayers, and continue your support. We are making a difference in Iraq, and making the world a safer place.

Posted by Deb at 02:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Joe Candidate

Yeah, I keep saying this isn't a political blog. But this is irresistable.

Kerry to unveil VP choice - Announcement Tuesday barring last-minute hitch, insiders say

However, in an unusual wrinkle designed to protect the secrecy of the process, Kerry's choice is not scheduled to attend the announcement rally, the sources said.

Geez, and Cheney gets criticized for not being visible.

This source -- a Democratic official familiar with the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity -- said the plan called for Kerry to call his choice, as well as the other finalists who were not picked, sometime before Tuesday's 9 a.m. ET rally.


Throughout the process, aides have stressed that there would be a surprise or unique wrinkle to the announcement. It would be highly unusual for a presidential nominee to announce his choice to join the ticket without that choice at his side.

I think it would be way cool for all three finalists to show up. Kerry could give a ring and a rose to the VP pick and the other two could board a Greyhound for home with suitcases in hand.

Posted by Deb at 02:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Train, train, train

Here's the July 5 update from the 11th MEU:

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chago Zapata
The USS Comstock cruises in the background as Marines and sailors on board the USS Belleau Wood participate in a conditioning hike on the flight deck on July 5. MEU Marines and sailors hiked in body armor and a day pack and, at one point, donned their gas masks for about 20 minutes.

Once again it's time to update you on our deployment. Its been a pretty uneventful week. Even the 4th of July came and went without a lot of fanfare. The ship's Site TV did show patriotic movies throughout the day, but it was a day like any other. Today (Monday) the Command Element conducted a conditioning hike on the flight deck. We walked in circles in body armor with a small pack. At one point the Commanding Officer called out "gas, gas, gas" so we hiked in gas masks for about 20 minutes. It was quite hot and the scenery was a bit tedious, but we're stronger for it.

For the next few days we'll be packing our gear, getting ready to debark sometime soon. We're winding up to hit the ground running once we get off the ship -- we'll have several days of training before we head to Iraq. Training for us never ends.

For those of you with friends or loved ones on the USS Comstock, they're doing well and keeping busy. Their days are just as full of training and classes, preparing them for operations in Iraq, as the rest of the Marines on the other ships. With full gear, they shuffle through the USS Comstock's narrow passageways and air conditioning boundaries and train, train, train.

Posted by Deb at 01:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Good Advice

Mohammed, a dentist from Baghdad advises:

Don't believe everything you read:

How is life in Iraq? Depends on your point of view. A bunch of us were talking the other night; one friend, very angry, said: "Did you see what happened today in Antar Square? The Americans came, blocked the street and attacked the toy store. They were smashing kid's bicycles!" Another friend, listening carefully, asked: "Was there a big loading truck with them?" Yes, came the reply. The second friend then told his version: it turned out he'd been at the store buying a bike for his son. "I was in the middle of tough bargaining with the shopkeeper when two Humvees and a truck stopped out front. One of the Humvees waved all the cars to pass. Soldiers from the second Humvee said they wanted to buy some bicycles. It didn't take a long time, as they didn't bargain, and they bought a huge number of bicycles and filled the truck with them and left." Whom to believe? Here are two good friends and both were on the scene. As for me, it didn't take a lot of effort to figure out who was closer to the truth. Those bikes have probably been delivered to a local school.

It's not just Iraqis who are ready to believe the worst about American troops. I can't count the number of times an otherwise intelligent person quotes a news story that contradicts the ground wisdom. It's frustrating. I try to stay away from those discussions - my normal coping technique of red wine and dark chocolate is playing havoc with my diet. But, I keep thinking that someday, somehow, someone will be able to look past his or her biases and realize that the doom and gloom reported by the mainstream media is mostly sensationalism. Balance would be so refreshing.

Posted by Deb at 01:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

1/4 Marines update

LtCol John L. Mayer, CO of 1/4 Marines updates us:

Dear families and friends of the Marines and Sailors of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/4;

Happy Independence Day and greetings from the USS BELLEAU WOOD, DENVER, and COMSTOCK! As you celebrate this holiday with friends and family back home, your Marines and Sailors continue to prepare for their mission ahead with the steady, determined professionalism of warriors who know their duty. I am very proud of all of them as they are truly the guardians of our country’s freedom.

Of note, the Marines of Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) Bravo eagerly await any and all challenges that lie ahead. Two Marines in particular, Cpl Welch and Lcpl Graf, have done a tremendous job in training, preparing, and mentoring the platoon’s junior Marines. Cpl Welch serves as the platoon’s Marine Corps Martial Arts Program expert and devotes two hours of his day, everyday, to ensuring that the Marines are mentally and physically prepared to accomplish any mission. During this past month, Lcpl Graf has worked with the Navy’s machinists on a daily basis to ensure that the platoon’s weapons and vehicles are fully operational. His efforts have been instrumental to the platoon having a 100% readiness status. These outstanding Marines are typical of the quality of your Marines and Sailors across the BLT and their efforts are only a few of many that make this one of the most technically and tactically proficient BLTs in the Marine Corps today.

In addition to rigorous daily training, the Marines and Sailors of BLT 1/4 have been able to enjoy some of the ships weekly activities. Last week, the Sailors of the USS BELLEAU WOOD hosted a bingo night. Yes Bingo. Prizes included stereo equipment, televisions, gift certificates, and much more. The Marines had an opportunity to purchase bingo cards during the preceding days, and the game was aired on the ships closed circuit television system. This gave everyone on board an opportunity to participate, from every part of the ship. Winners simply phoned in to the broadcast booth to claim their prizes. The day following the bingo night was Sunday, which meant a day of rest and relaxations for all BLT Marines.

A few days later, the ships received mail for the first time since departing Hawaii. Did you ever wonder how we get mail delivered to us while we’re out to sea? It is quite an amazing process. All the mail that you send to your loved ones here on one of the three ships first makes its way to San Francisco. That’s where the Fleet Post Office, or FPO, is located. There, they track the progress of our deployment and promptly deliver mail to the next geographic location that the ships will be passing. These locations include Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, and Singapore. From there, the mail is brought aboard by one of the numerous helicopters that are deployed with us. The BLT’s outgoing mail is taken ashore in the same manner, delivery to San Francisco, then to its final destination. As you can see, there are many days that the ships don’t receive mail, but we all rest assured that it will be waiting for us at the next port.

Mail equals motivation for most of our troops. Last year, during one of his phone calls, my son told me there was a Marine in his company who had received only one letter in the 4 months since he arrived in Iraq. It was a Dear John letter from his girl. Shane asked if I could write to him and I mentioned it to a few of my friends. Within weeks, this Marine was receiving more mail - letters and packages - than anyone else in his platoon. It was an awesome response from people back home who care.

LtCol Mayer goes on:

I would like to recognize two of many outstanding Marines in the BLT. Lcpl James T. Jenkins, a squad leader in 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal aboard the USS BELLEAU WOOD on 23 June 2004, for displaying exemplary tactical proficiency and leadership beyond his rank while conducting SASO (Stability and Security Operations) in the Babil Province of Iraq during OIF I from 21 April 2003 to 2 August 2003. He also was named the Expeditionary Strike Group 3 (ESG 3) Marine and Sailor of the Quarter, which is a prestigious honor he earned competing against keen competition. The second Marine is Corporal Michael J. Harbour, who is Romeo Battery’s Meteorological Chief. He is our BLT NCO of the Quarter and set professional proficiency standards for his fellow non-commissioned officers to emulate.

The pictures on our website capture the spirit of us—-the Marines and Sailors of BLT 1/4--so admirably. Look closely into the eyes of your warriors and you will see the determination, the laughter, the hopes and fears, the camaraderie of shared hardship, and the pride of being the best America has to offer.

1/4 Marines PFC Peterson and Lt Schickling

Finally, I was deeply touched by the passing of a great President, American, and world citizen, Ronald Reagan. In President Bush’s eulogy to the former President, he wrote:
Along the way, certain convictions were formed and fixed in the man. Ronald Reagan believed that everything happened for a reason, and that we should strive to know and do the will of God. He believed that the gentleman always does the kindest thing. He believed that people were basically good, and had the right to be free. He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst things a person could be guilty of. He believed in the Golden Rule and in the power of prayer. He believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world.

President Bush was thinking of Ronald Reagan, but as I read these words I thought of your Marines and Sailors, and this hope of freedom they provide to the people of Iraq and the entire world. Families, please enjoy this Independence Day holiday for all of us deployed and be happy knowing that your loved one is part of a noble cause. As I tell your husbands and sons often, their deeds will echo in eternity and are what makes our Nation standout as “not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world.”

Once again, good health and God's blessing to all of you. As always, your love, support, and prayers are invaluable to us, and we appreciate every thing that you do.

And we appreciate our Marines, more than we can express.

Posted by Deb at 12:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 05, 2004

Patriotism, as defined by a former Marine

General David M. Shoup, who served as Commandant of the Marine Corps from Jan, 1 1960 - Dec 31, 1963 , gave this defining speech on patriotism on July 4, 1962.

It is said that patriotism is the love of country. I think it is the love of the things about your country that you don’t want to see lost—that you want to see perpetuated—and you’re willing to sacrifice to ensure it.

Patriotism is not something you put on each morning like a clean shirt. Patriotism is not something you can buy at the super market. Patriotism is not something you can get in return for a monthly paycheck to a man in uniform. It is devotion to an ideal—a principle; a burning desire that the things that people think are best for their country and its people are protected from erosion—protected from any and everything which would tend to lessen in the mind of the individual the image he has of how things should be in his ideal country.

Patriotism is an abstract thing. You can’t see it, you can’t feel it, you can’t hear it—albeit at times you can see the action and hear the things that people do, who are imbued with patriotism.

In the armed forces we have one fundamental mission—to provide for the security of this nation. Everything else is included in this goal. Devotion to country—patriotism, if you will—is essential to our success.

The men and women in the armed forces are not so different from other Americans. The uniforms they wear merely signify what their job is and in which service they carry out their important duties. But soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, they are bound by a common promise and a common responsibility.

Patriotism is something from our hearts—a faith—a dedication.

We cannot confine patriotism to a single day, year, or to whenever it is convenient, any more than we can confine a belief in God to the occasion when one is trapped in a foxhole under fire, or a Sunday morning in church. If patriotism is faith—and I believe it is—then it is a faith based on love, the love of the things that we believe are best for the people of our country, and thus for the nation itself. It is a deep faith in what we are for, not a hatred for things we are against. American patriots need not hate nor fear anyone. Fear and hate are corrosive and carry the seeds for the destruction of the deep patriotism so necessary to ensure the future of America.

I am firmly convinced that the cornerstone of our Democracy are Americans who have pride in their country—true patriots.

We are not born with this sense of patriotism. This thing called patriotism is not just handed to us. We must know our history, we must participate in our country’s current affairs of concern—vote for leaders—foster education for more of our people—and stand beside our country as her defenders.

Let us all do these things, and there will be no lack of patriots in this great country.

Posted by Deb at 12:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

An Oregon 4th of July

Last week, Greyhawk invited participation in a "blogospheric Independence Day celebration" as a way to share our pride in this land of liberty, share a glimpse of home with troops in faraway places with a different type of fireworks, and to share with the rest of the world a view of Americans celebrate 228 years of independence. Here's how we celebrated at Connie's house here in Oregon:

Connie, Marine Mom of Corporal Bill Riecke, and Shea, Bill's sister, discuss an owie on Shea's foot.
Anjee (Bill's girlfriend who is visiting for a few days) and Shea.
Do not play poker with this woman. She not only takes chips but checks and debit cards as well.
After the barbecued hamburgers and hotdogs, it's time for dessert. Since we are Marine Moms, we decided on red, white, and blueberry.
The kids couldn't wait for dark. They spent their allowances at local fireworks stands and set off fireworks all afternoon.
All men seem to be little boys at heart on Independence Day. Jamin and Rascone make an improvised explosive device that causes no damage but does make a very large BOOM.
After dark, the culdesac is lined with chairs as neighbors congregate to watch a neighborhood fireworks display. We weren't the only ones - the skies around the neighborhood were lit up for several hours with incendiary displays.
The Marine Moms behind this website: Connie, Deb, and Janise.

Posted by Deb at 11:29 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Independence Day Redux

When my son was in Iraq last year, he called me on July 3rd (it was the 4th in Iraq) to wish me a happy Independence Day. After months of MREs, the Navy cooks barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs, and served cold soft drinks. Standard picnic fare back here but a real treat for our troops. It was a tough day to be apart from him - we had spent the last 11 years of 4th of July weekends at the World Championship Timber Carnival in Albany, OR where he competed in the log rolling competitions and I volunteered from dawn to dusk, tallying scores and patiently answering the same questions over and over. It was a great way to spend a very American holiday.

Times change. The Timber Carnival has now morphed into an all-sports competition and my son is a United States Marine. When I asked him last year if he missed being at home, doing fireworks with his friends, he said that while it would be fun, he was satisfied to be in Iraq helping to keep our country safe so that the rest of us could enjoy a carefree holiday.

This year, he's here for the 4th. He called me from somewhere in Nevada yesterday - he and his wife were headed to a lake where some of his Marine brothers were camped. They didn't have a tent but they had each other and that was all that mattered. Shane thought they'd just sleep under the stars (his wife was less thrilled about that) since they are saving their money for a trip home later this month before he deploys in August. He's no less committed than he was last year. And this year, he has even more reason to defend and protect. Thank you to my son and all the other sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who have left the comfort of home to serve our country. It's not a small thing.

Posted by Deb at 10:18 AM

Frank Schaeffer on Farenheit 9/11

Frank Schaeffer is a Marine Corps Dad. He didn't expect his upper middle class family to produce a Marine, but it did and he has the same feelings of intense pride and fear that the rest of us do. Here's his reaction to Michael Moore's latest "documentary":

As a military parent whose son was recently deployed in the Middle East I object strongly to Michael Moore’s cynical exploitation of our men and women in uniform. When a political satire stoops to manipulating young soldiers and Marines and their grieving parents to score political points something is very wrong. And when a political film like “Fahrenheit 9/11” uses the military as fodder for satire aimed at someone else—Bush—then feigns respect for those same soldiers the filmmaker is mocking I want to tell the film maker he can’t have it both ways.

Moore reminds me of a wife beater who brings his wife flowers in the morning to assuage his guilt for the black eye he gave her the night before. First Moore disrespects the military then he says I really do love you. No matter how much he hates Bush getting rid of the current president is no excuse for insulting my son and all his military brothers and sisters. And Moore’s movie is an insult to our men and women.

First it is condescending as Moore pretends to sympathize with our military men and women. Then Moore turns downright mean when he portrays our men in uniform as mindless thugs. Either way we never hear about patriotism, let alone loyalty to other soldiers, let alone who is really in the military or why they are there, let alone about all the Marines and soldiers who are dead because they hesitated to shoot at enemies hiding behind civilians. We see the anomalies not the mainstream. We see exploited African-American youth and white crackers and a few conscientious objector types. What we don’t see is the real military majority—middle class white kids from small towns following in their father’s footsteps and minorities of all ethnic backgrounds who want to give something back to the country they honor.

Moore has every right to say whatever he wants about President Bush. (Just for the record I was and am a John McCain supporter.) And Moore has the right to edit old video tape to make the President look like a simpering fool even if it is grossly unfair. Politics is hardball. Moore makes some excellent points about our naive American relationship with the Saudis and also about our staggering lack of adequate response when we sent only 10,000 men to Afghanistan and missed our shot at bin Laden. He also comes close to telling the truth about the hysterical paranoia that leads to grandmothers being frisked in airports while nothing much is done about our real enemies. (Though if we had followed the logic of Moore’s movie—the Saudis are the real enemy in the movie—and attacked them after 9/11 I bet Moore still wouldn’t like Bush.)

It is a little hard to take Moore’s Bambi approach to the pre-American invasion Iraq seriously. Remarkably all we see is in his movie of Saddam’s Iraq is happy footage of happy children before the Americans bomb them. (Bambi as in the scenes in the forest with his mother before the evil hunters arrive!) There is no sign of mass graves or gassed Kurds. Iraq under Saddam looks like a commercial for an Islamic Disneyland.

Fairytales about happy pre-invasion Iraq aside, Moore crosses the line of decency when he uses ambush tabloid-style methods on young military men and reduces their lives to cleverly manipulated sound bites to serve his political attack. Someone needs to explain to Moore that presidents come and go and aren’t really all that important (it has been a long time since the best and brightest wanted to run and we’ve had a string of second-raters and survived just fine), but that our military IS important. We NEED our men and women more than they need us. There really are people who want to kill us.

Moore edits some footage of pumped up teenagers in uniform talking about the music they listen to when they are getting shot at and shooting back. He uses the macho swaggering statements of a few immature soldiers out of context, a context where they were trying to pump themselves up to face battle with brave and foolish words (or violent music). The fear and horror of battle make men do and say many things and until Moore walks in their shoes he should back off. Moore manipulates their words to portray an entire military campaign as driven by young men listening to heavy metal as they gleefully blow away women and children. It is a lie. I have just finished editing a collection of letters from hundreds of military men and women—“Voices From The Front” — due out this fall, and the letters, not to mention all the men and women I know personally, not to mention my son, tell another story. They grieve over civilian casualties. But then Moore was not trying to tell the truth. He was making propaganda. And that is fine too, but not on the backs of men and women who will die for Michael Moore and the rest of us tomorrow.

Moore would not know a nuance or a complexity let alone a paradox if it bit him. He simplistically portrays a military that only exist to protect the “capitalist system” he hates and that he is convinced doesn’t work because there are some streets in Flint Michigan where the houses aren’t very nice. (Will he be sharing the 20 million or so he’s earned so far this year with the “exploited” African-American recruits he interviewed? And when in his movie Moore challenges some congressmen to sign up their children for military service—a great idea by the way, listen up Ted Kennedy—did Moore just happen to forget to also ambush his rich pals in Hollywood? Have any of Harvey Weinstein’s kids signed up recently? Or does Moore only hate rich jerks that vote Republican? Will Moore’s kids ever show solidarity with the rest of us by enlisting?)

Moore portrays the military men and women as the stooges of rich white men and oil companies. The problem is that this is a lie. Many of our men and women serving are doing so for patriotic reasons and/or for reasons of loyalty to their fellow soldiers. Moore never mentions this. Many others come from upper middle class families, like my son. In the world according to Moore they don’t exist.

My son did not join the Marines to blow away children to rock music. Nor did he need college benefits. He joined to be part of something bigger than himself. He joined to serve his country. He joined because he wanted discipline in his life. He joined for adventure. And he is not alone.

Moore shows his profound ignorance about the real military because he does not acknowledge that there are thousands of men and women who may well have joined for a utilitarian reason—say college benefits—but who then underwent a profound spiritual rebirth in the military. Now they are motivated to serve because they want to watch the backs of their fellow soldiers. Moore doesn’t seem to know that there really are thousands of our people who the military has taught to live by a selfless code: the man or woman standing next to you is more important than you are.

In some scenes a camera crew follows a grieving mother of a killed soldier as she cries. Of course she was carefully chosen so as not to alienate Moore’s leftist base of support. She was not any old military mom. What would Moore’s core constituency have made of a mom who cried for her son and still wanted Bush to win? Moore is sympathetic to her but only after establishing her politically correct credentials. She is wearing a special cross that symbolizes diversity and tolerance. And she is in a multiracial marriage. This is fine with me by the way. I’m all for tolerance and multiracial marriages. In the military that Moore disdains there are plenty of mixed race couples, a lot more than in Hollywood. The military, unlike the Oscar voters, really is a color-blind meritocracy. In the end Moore abuses even his token military mom. Moore hates Bush so much he is willing to stoop to following this weeping mother around the perimeter of the White House in a bizarre tabloid-style moment of maudlin and insensitive exploitation.

In other scenes military men and women are portrayed as fools, killers or just dumb white guys, say the two Marine recruiters, following poor black young men and trying to fool them into joining Bush’s military. I know a lot of Marine recruiters and Moore must have worked very hard to edit these two into the idiots they come off as. The recruiters I know, and most likely these two Marines as well, are bright, dedicated and kind. But then, as someone who has made a lot of documentaries myself I know what can be done to get a point across when you want to. Moore could make the Pope look like Hugh Hefner. Michael Moore is a very good film maker. He’s just not a very good person.

In all cases the men and women of our military are stripped of dignity in Moore’s movie. They are portrayed as either mindless killers or manipulated victims, never heroes. The only military personnel given more than a ten second out-of-context sound bite are the soldiers and Marines Moore finds who are against the war in Iraq. They get to say things about how killing makes you lose parts of your soul. But the problem is that Michael Moore is not really interested even in them. He is interested in politics and is using these men as a stick with which to beat the president.

What is so dishonest in his movie is that Michael Moore wants to have it both ways. In one interview he says that America is a great country. But for the rest of the movie he tells us that we are a nation of easily led fools with a fascist/victim military. Moore wants to stir up the anti-war crowd on the one hand by showing soldiers killing babies to rock music, and exploit the sympathies of the American middle class for our men and women on the other hand by showing a crying mother whose son got killed.

(Note to John Kerry: If you really love our military denounce Moore’s portrayal of our men and women and tell America that you don’t want our votes if they have to be generated by sinking to Michael Moore’s level. Do that and I’ll vote for you, I’ll even work for you!)

It is unfair for a movie maker who will make tens of millions of dollars this year from attacking Bush to sandbag some 19 year old Marine, who is making $18, 000 a year. Moore has all the intellectual and technical weapons Hollywood could give him and a huge team backing him up. The 19 year old soldier has a high school diploma. Michael Moore is a bully.

Our military men and women deserve better. So do their parents. Moore has misrepresented us. For every mother who hates the President for her son’s death there are fifty others who want us to win in Iraq so their son’s deaths won’t have been in vain. Maybe they are deluded but Moore should at least have represented the bereaved parents fairly.

Here are some things I’d like to explain to Michael Moore:

These days the military is the last place you can’t opt out of your commitment when the going gets rough. Many young men and women who signed up did so out of a desire to serve our nation. Most of us military parents see that the military has made our children and our families’ better less selfish people. Our men and women have their bad days and their good days, but most of all they are loyal to each other; black or white, male or female. They get through each day motivated by taking care of the man or woman standing next to them.

Last word to Michael Moore: It’s not cool to spit on your military, even metaphorically, even if the French do like you for doing it. You can help bring down Bush without stooping to this.

My son did not join the Marines because he had no other options. He was another "middle-class white kid" who looked at his choices and decided that he had something to offer his country. I would have happily paid his tuition at any college of his choice. His choice was the United States Marine Corps. He wanted to be the best. He is.

I wonder what Michael Moore's reaction would be if his child chose to enter military service.

Posted by Deb at 07:28 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 04, 2004

4th of July through a Marine Corps Mom's eyes

Corporal Bill Riecke in Iraq with a local child

Today we have the freedom to celebrate the gift of liberty that was given to all Americans by Americans on the 4th of July, 1776. I celebrate that my son chose to serve his country and to rise to the challenge of becoming a US Marine. On October 8, 2001 when he left for bootcamp I was not in agreement with his decision. I knew, as a mom knows, that my son would change and that his strong values, commitment to his country and family, and his integrity would lead him to places and events that would no doubt put him in harms way.

I was right and I was scared.

Bill courageously served his country in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom last year. Now, as Corporal Riecke, he is a vehicle commander with 3/7, Weapons Co.and once again deployed in Iraq. He is very proud of his fellow Marines, our country, and the commitment we have to help all people around the world. Bill has stated many times "I would not change a thing, if being in Iraq fighting this war means my family is safe and free I will stay here." And although he is shot at and under attack daily he continues to stand strong that people should have the chance to live free and without fear.

Our Marines and soldiers have courageously given their all this past year. They have given up their freedom and put their lives on hold for the safety of us all and for the people of Iraq. I will celebrate with my family, minus one, this 4th of July, but this year I will celebrate our sons and daughters who unselfishly and bravely serve their country.

Posted by Deb at 10:17 PM | Comments (2)

A 4th of July message from Commanding General Paxton

As with all patriotic holidays, the Marines take celebration of this country's freedom and independence from foreign rule seriously. This message is from the Commanding General of the Recruit Depot in San Diego:

As we pause to celebrate the birth of our freedom and independence this Fourth of July weekend, we should all consider the significance of this date in our history. On this day, we commemorate our independence as a nation. We can reflect upon our humble beginnings, and marvel upon those brave Americans and their courageous deeds that helped ensure we could one day witness the United States being recognized as the greatest democracy ever known.

Like the Marines of today, our forefathers were well intentioned, dedicated and highly motivated. They were determined to settle this land known as the Americas and build a republic founded on the tenets of individuality, freedom, and equality. They established our government to look after the greater good of all people, while maintaining the basic, personal freedoms of life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness.

Reflecting on our past and future, I believe it?s important for each of us to consider our individual responsibilities and contributions to our great nation. More than a hundred years ago, a famous journalist named Elmer Davis said of our country, ?The republic was not established by cowards, and cowards will not preserve it. This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.?

There is no doubt in my mind that our nation will forever remain the home of the brave as long as Americans such as yourselves staff our ranks. America has always depended on the courage and character of her people in the military, and our military has never let our country down. The sacrifices and hardships you and your families bear clearly illustrate our individual and collective resolve to ensure that the ideals of freedom and democracy will burn brightly for all to see, today and tomorrow.

So, as you head off to barbecues, or the beach, or simply relax with your friends and loved ones, remember the significance of this day in our history. As Americans, we have much to be thankful for.

I ask also that you pause and remember our fellow brothers and sisters serving around the world, many in harms way, who cannot be with us today. Be proud of them, be proud of yourselves, and be proud of the tremendous job we all do in the service of our country.

Have a safe weekend; you deserve it. Semper Fidelis!

J.M. Paxton Jr.
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps

Posted by Deb at 08:42 AM

July 03, 2004

New addition to a field first aid kit

The Marine Moms in Houston are an amazing group. They have sent off hundreds of care packages and letters to Marines in the middle east. Given the scope of their effort, a few glitches are to be expected. Here's an e-mail sent by one of those moms:

To top off my son�s email he was able to call yesterday!!! I've just been in absolutely the BEST mood. Not only did he call, but we were able to talk for a long time and it was so wonderful. He shared so many stories and had my laughing so hard. He wanted me to thank all his "Moms" and to let ya'll know that he and his fire team received their care packages and they were a wonderful morale booster. He said all of them had the Channel 11 footballs in their care package and they were out in the open area throwing the footballs around and other Marines were asking, "Hey where did ya'll get the footballs?" My son said at first they would all respond, "The Houston Marine Moms!". He said after awhile they were all laughing and they would just say "Our Moms".

He said they call the footballs their WMD's. I asked why and he said that when the lights go out at night they all throw them really hard at each other and just have the best time. He was laughing so hard sharing these stories with me. He had me rolling.

He told me how wonderful the care packages were and wanted me to tell everyone thank you. He said that one guy we�ll call �Marine X� did get a girl care package and everyone was giving him a hard time. My son said, "Marine X got some really nice smelling lotion and everyone really likes it, so everytime he goes to sleep they steal it from him." I told my son I was really sorry about the mistake, and if he wanted I would send Marine X another package. He told me not to worry about Marine X because everytime I send something to him Marine X thinks it's for him too. He said when my husband and I sent the last care package Marine X came over to his cot picked up the box, started fishing through it, and said, "What'd we get this time?" )

My son said they had the most fun with Marine X�s package. He said he wasn't sure who we were sending the pack to, but the panties were size 20, and he said one of the guys got on top of the humvee and jumped off with the panties over his head and yelled, "Look at me, I'm an Airborne Ranger!!!!". He said one of the guys attached the panties to an antenna and it blew in the wind like a windsock. He said it entertained them for quite awhile.

Then of course, they had the tampons. When he brought this up my imagination was just running wild, but I let him continue. My son said they had to go on a mission and Marine X wanted the chapstick and lotion for the trip. He grabbed a bunch of the items out of his care package and got in the humvee. As luck would have it he grabbed the tampons, and My son said everyone was teasing him about "not forgetting his feminine hygiene products". My son said things were going well, and then the convoy was ambushed. He said a Marine in the convoy was shot. He said the wound was pretty clean, but it was deep. He said they were administering first aid but couldn't get the bleeding to slow down, and someone said, "Hey use Marine X�s tampons". My son said they put the tampon in the wound. At this point my son profoundly told me, "Mom did you know that tampons expand?" ) "Well, yeah!". They successfully slowed the bleeding and got the guy medical attention. When they went to check on him later the surgeon told them, "You guys saved his life". If you hadn't stopped that bleeding he would have bled to death. My son said, "Mom, the tampons sent by the Marine Moms by mistake saved a Marines life." At this point I asked him, "Well what did you do with the rest of the tampons?" He said, "Oh, we divided them up and we all have them in our flak jackets, and I kept two for our first aid kit".

I am absolutely amazed by the ingenuity of our Marines, and can't believe that something that started out as a mistake ended up saving someone's life. My sister said she doesn't believe in mistakes. She said that God had a plan all along. She believes that female care package was sent to Marine X to save our Marine. Either way ladies our efforts have boosted the morale of many Marines, provided much needed items for our troops, AND saved the lives of a Marine! God bless each of you for your efforts and hard work, and God bless our Marines!

To read more about the Houston area Marine Moms, check out this story.

Posted by Deb at 09:20 AM | Comments (5)

Parris Island Doc

In this week's New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Pamela Grim discusses her experiences at Naval Hospital, Beaufort, Parris Island, South Carolina. She's a doctor but she's also part of the team that makes new Marines. It's an excellent read.

I realized my first morning here that the culture of the "Island" and the "grunts" is worlds away from my own. My first recruit-patient ? an 18-year-old with pilonoidal abscess ? shouted "Yes, Ma'am!" or "No, Ma'am!" whenever I asked him a question. When I was his age, I was out in the streets protesting against a war. Somehow, almost unnoticed, that war has become a long time ago. What did I know about war? About as much as these kids do, I guess.

Parents send recruits off and both are apprehensive. The parents deliver their children into the hands of the Marines and the recruits often pray during the weeks of boot camp for deliverance. It's a transformation. When my son came back from boot camp, he said that if all high school freshman were required to attend Marine Corps boot camp, the dropout rate would be almost nil.

Dr Grim goes on:

Marine basic training attempts to take a kid and turn him into a responsible, disciplined adult ? in 70 training days. And it works; you can actually see the transformation from the doorway. On day 1, the recruit is lounging on the gurney as if it were a settee; on day 64, he is a taut and toned junior jarhead sitting bolt upright, a cupped hand on each knee. From the very first day, I marveled. How was this possible?

Drill Instructors aren't immune from stress.

The DI is the catalyst that transforms recruits into Marines, and his job may have its own psychological sequelae. Recently, I saw a DI whose chief complaint was "I want to kill the recruits."

"We all want to kill the recruits," I said solicitously.

"No," he said, giving every word equally ponderous weight, "I. Want. To. Kill. The. Recruits." He buried his head in his hands. "Just send me back to Iraq. I didn't have any trouble with Iraq."

In order to earn the right to wear an Eagle, Globe and Anchor, there is a final hurdle. The Crucible tests the mettle of Marine recruits who have completed seventy-eight days of boot camp. Over a timespan of 54 hours, they march 40 miles while carrying 40-pound packs and wearing ammo pouches cartridge belts, and canteens. They overcome a series of obstacles through cooperation and collaboration. They endure increasingly demanding conditions while experiencing sleep deprivation and hunger. In the process, they are transformed into the few, the proud, the Marines. Recruits who are injured during this final test often suck it up and keep going - failure is not an option.

Oddly enough, we don't get too many injuries at this stage; most of the kids are smarter about dodging blows. What we do see are kids who are end-stage sick, with double pneumonia, grapefruit-size abscesses, appendicitis. These guys will do anything now to see this thing through. By this time, a recruit has become invested ? invested in making it with his fellow recruits, invested in proving the Third Hat wrong, invested in just getting the whole damn thing over with. One kid came in with fulminating Guillain?Barré ¡nd dropped out only when he became apneic.

The final stage of the Crucible, a nine-mile hike, is dedicated to the men of Easy Company who in 1944 fought their way to the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and planted an American flag.

"Wear the Corps' emblem with pride and honor not only on your uniform but in your heart," these new Marines are told. "Remember once a Marine, always a Marine." Semper fi!

It's a great article and well worth reading.

Posted by Deb at 09:08 AM | Comments (1)

July 02, 2004

Update from the 3/11 Marines

LtCol Connally reports from Iraq:

Well I’m sure you all have heard the news of a newly sovereign Iraq. It is wonderful news and a sign of progress in our mission. I will take all of those signs I can get and there are many. Most of the towns in our battalion area of operation, which India Battery focuses on are showing many of these wonderful signs. These signs include; Policemen and Iraqi National Guards who are proud to wear their uniforms and zealous in their duties who complement a city council that genuinely works to improve their communities. Of course we still contend with some along our convoy travels who would impede this process toward a free and self-determined Iraq, but we have been successful in dealing with them. Make no mistake, this declaration of sovereignty is extremely positive. It will be met with some resistance and violence, which is why our forces will remain until the Iraqi Government can stand alone.

I realize it has been a month since I last wrote to you all, but it has moved along swiftly. We had a great Father’s Day Barbecue here on the 19th. Sergeant Major Miller put it all in motion and Gunny Grow made sure we had well marinated steaks and all of the usual barbecue fair. The Logistics Section not only supported the effort with usual aplomb but completed the work on Red Leg Field two weeks early as well. It is a replica of Boston’s Fenway Park, in the desert, complete with a Big Green Monster in left field, and recessed dugouts- it is a sight to behold. We even retired a jersey in centerfield for PFC Chance Phelps. We played softball all day, threw horseshoes, played volleyball, and no Marine picnic would be complete without an all-comers boxing smoker…don’t try that at your family gatherings. Everyone ate more than they needed and had a good time. No one seemed to mind the heat.

We have roofs on about half of our tents now and that makes a huge difference for the batteries. Work continues but like most things around here it is slow, but the Marines have maintained a positive attitude by keeping in mind that this is a combat zone. The Morale Center is a big hit and has been remarkably reliable for phone and Internet connectivity. .

Down in Mudaiysis India Battery continues to prosper. We continue to pursue a phone and Internet package for them, and they have opened a Hajji Mart. They bring in local merchants a couple of times a week to sell small stuff that the Marines can’t get. It is well controlled and makes life a little more normal. Ar Ar is still the most austere but those Marines are making all of us proud. We got them a special meal of steaks, potatoes, and vegetables, after three months of MREs. You would have thought it was a holiday- they deserved that and much more.

Operationally, your Marines and Sailors are setting new standards of performance in all of our respective missions. This remains a dangerous place and we had one Marine wounded and two injured during operations. All will recover and we thank God for his continued blessings. Everyday I am awed at the courage and resolve of your Marines and Sailors; they are truly the best our Nation has to offer.

As we approach our Nation’s Independence Day, I reflect on the sacrifices so many have made for our Country and the principles for which it represents. This fight is part of a larger Global War on Terrorism that will last for some years. It is a war of independence to free us from the fear and tyranny of terrorists whose goals are the destruction of our United States and to extinguish freedom. We did not start it but we must finish it. I thank you our courageous families for all of your support to your Marines and Sailors, and to our Battalion. Your sacrifices are no less significant than those made by our Founding Fathers in their fight against tyranny. I am proud of you and I am proud of these men. Have a happy Independence Day and may God Bless you. Keep us in your prayers; I know St. Barbara is with us.

Semper Fidelis,
T. J. Connally
LtCol of Marines

Posted by Deb at 07:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Calm before the storm

Cpl. Matthew S. Richards, aboard the USS Denver, shares his thoughts about arriving in the sandbox:

While I waited for a flight back to the USS Belleau Wood, I watched Marines, most with heads cleanly shaved, flood the mess hall here. They slowly trampled the slick floors and breathed the warm air, waiting for their turn to eat the ship's food.

I watched them with a quiet, calm anticipation. I, like all of them, was waiting to enter unstable Iraq.

The Marines were cramped together, sweating, sitting in classes or working out. Like me, most I talked to were ready to get off the ship and into Iraq.

This struck me as interesting as I waited for my flight. Here we were, headed for this uncertain land and all too ready to escape the figurative calm before the storm. I laughed at the analogy since we had just passed through a typhoon. One that, without a doubt, had made many Marines sick in every corner of the rocking ship.

The Marines, but definitely not the seas, were calm. Even in spite of the fact that so many of these young faces were destined to be in the ?sand box? for many months to come.

And many were young, fresh-faced Marines barely needing to shave, still plagued with the high school curse of acne. But the many veterans of the first Operation Iraqi Freedom surrounded them, barking wisdom down their throats.

For the most part, these young men seemed calm, but not at all indifferent toward this deployment.

I was calm, even though I didn?t participate the first time and don?t really know what to expect. Even though I had no control over not being sent to the war and instead remained behind at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, I still feel guilty for not going. Maybe that made me ponder this.

At the time, I wondered how it would feel to cruise into the unknown. A colleague and good friend of mine described the float-- much like the one we?re on now-- aboard the USS Boxer as it headed to Kuwait before OIF kicked off. He felt as if he was lifting his arms high above his head at the crest of a roller coaster, letting go of his fears and inhibitions and riding the course of history.

I think I would have felt that then, but I don?t now. I wondered why? I?m sure it was the same for me as for all the other Marines around me who didn?t deploy.

Could it be all the briefs I?ve received on what to expect? Or am I desensitized by the nonstop media coverage of Iraq that?s been ongoing for over a year now?

Whatever the reason, I?m surprisingly calm and so are those around me. At least that?s the mood I?ve absorbed while walking the bowels of this ship. Or maybe the Marines, young or old, just hide it well.

Without air conditioning, the living quarters packed with Marines reminded me of a gym locker. General Quarters is a drill where the Marines are to remain out of the sailors? way while they respond to a ship emergency, and when the drill was called, we all succumbed to the ovens that are our beds.

Afterward, we all crept topside. I wanted to see the typhoon that had passed us. I walked outside expecting thick clouds, stiff winds and substantial rain, but as I opened the hatch to the outside air, I was stunned. A midday, bright orange sun crept around the puffy clouds, contrasting with the deep blue, mammoth waves rocking the boat.

Marines outside were laughing, joking, picking on and ridiculing each other, something characteristic of Marines no matter where they are or what the conditions. There was even a sailor out there strumming his guitar and singing.

This is not the attitude of men I had expected to see heading to a country in turmoil. Should I complain to stand beside such men who remain calm at times when knowledge of world events is greatly hampered by CNN?

Maybe remaining calm, much like panicking, is infectious.

But here I am. I?m not going to say I?m not feeling apprehensive. However, I feel confident, more than I think I would have been the first time, even with all these young faces around me.

Posted by Deb at 06:33 AM | Comments (4)

July 01, 2004

"We are ready when America is least ready, and we answer the call"

USMC Captain Neal Murphy Jr reacts to retired USMC General Anthony Zinni's recent visit to Quantico:

Last week, retired Gen. Anthony C. Zinni arrived aboard Camp Lejeune, peddled his new book, criticized our civilian leadership in the Pentagon, pointed out problems and challenges and then he left us.

For over two years, I?ve had the opportunity to hear Gen. Zinni speak on three occasions regarding the war in Iraq. Every occasion, I left unimpressed. His record stands for itself; he served with honor. His points make sense, but something just doesn?t sit well.

Perhaps it summons a sarcastic quote from Francis Grose while giving advice to officers of the British army in 1782. ?When ordered for duty, always grumble and question the roster. This will procure you the character of one that will not be imposed on.?

As Marines, we are taught to comment on and make corrections on issues we can control and do something about. In the case of criticizing the war in Iraq, that is not our duty. We fight the fight, we follow instructions and we do our duty. Marines have a responsibility to develop and think about better ways to fight wars, but Marines should not publicly influence or second-guess our policy makers on why we are engaged in a war.

That is but one of the reasons that make Marines the premier force to be reckoned with. We are ready when America is least ready, and we answer the call.

General Zinni may be right in his criticism and he has the luxury to examine and point fingers, but it is important to realize that we don?t and shouldn?t.

Making statements like: ?The occupation has been a disaster,? or ?Heads should roll,? he makes good headlines and shows love of his plan when he was the Central Command chief, but does little service to our Marines and cheapens our efforts.

Marines should resist the temptation to allow themselves to experience mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, and indecisiveness that will erode our will to fight. Even worse, we grumble and complain as Francis Grose sarcastically advised, and we won?t get called to right wrongs and fight for freedom.

Like it or not, we are decisively engaged with an enemy that will kill us when and wherever they can. While Marines mull over what Gen. Zinni said, we can remember that he pointed out problems that have little to do with what we should be concerned about and generally failed to make a strong case on what to do next.

Dwelling in the past and pointing out perceived failures of the administration and ultimately the President should never be good conversation around Marines.

In future professional military education engagements, we Marines should ask our guests who speak on controversial issues to look to the future and make recommendations on how to do business better, not change history. We need to ?Dig with the shovel we got,? ?Dance with the girl we brought to the ball,? and ?Finish our jobs.?

Like a professional football team in the playoffs, Marines don?t have the time or luxury to think about what our franchise owner could have done better in negotiating a better schedule for the first few games of the season. Our team is built; we?ve trained, we?ve bled and we?re very much in the game. We need to continue to keep our heads in the game, improvise, adapt and overcome like we have for the past 228 years to get the job done and leave policy and criticism to our elected officials. They?ll get their job done and we must do ours.

Thanks, Captain Murphy. I've followed Gen. Zinni's remarks since before the war and, while I applaud healthy debate, the constant negativity and carping is wearing. Some of his dire predictions have not come true (he was certain that Saddam would drag Israel into the war) and we've handed over the country to the people of Iraq ahead of schedule. I have great respect for Gen. Zinni's service to our country but sometimes, I wish he'd sit down and take a well-earned rest.

Posted by Deb at 09:17 PM | Comments (1)

Update from Spirit of America

USMC photo by Cpl Paula M. Fitzgerald
USMC LtCol John Lutkenhouse with the Director of Economic Development for Al Anbar province. Sewing machine donated by Spirit of America in background.

Spirit of America founder Jim Hake describes progress in Iraq made possible through Spirit of America efforts:

One of the TV stations equipped by Spirit of America used its new gear to produce a news story about the ribbon-cutting opening ceremony of a women's sewing center. We donated the 50 sewing machines that made the opening of the center possible. We expect to get video of the newscast and will post it on the Web when we do. Even though I don't speak Arabic this will be the best "must see TV" I'll have watched all year. The opening of the center and Iraqi TV coverage of such progress are very, very good things. Both of these involve courageous Iraqis working hard to advance the country at great personal risk. The support these brave men and women get from the Marines, Spirit of America and you, the American people, is invaluable. Our goal is to multiply successes like this one.

He also provided an e-mail from USMC Major Dunham:

-----Original Message----- From: Dunham Maj Oliver H

Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 6:12 AM
To: Jim Hake
Cc: Lutkenhouse LtCol John F; Chandler Maj Thomas E

Subject: sewing center

Dear Jim,

The local TV station we have been supporting with your donated media gear did a news spot on the new sewing center that opened in Ramadi. The station did a 14 minute segment set to music, with interviews of different people interspersed throughout the segment. The center has actually been expanded into what the Iraqis are calling a "Women's Center" (the sign reads in English below the Arabic, "The Organization of Creative Women in New Iraq"). The Iraqis will be planning use profits generated from the sewing to fund women's education (English, computer skills, etc). This is huge and is exactly the direction we are trying to drive things as it runs counter to the agenda of the extremists who are fighting to keep this part of the world mired in the dark ages. During the segment, they panned to new furniture (purchased by us), school-type desks and new computers (I believe provided by CPA), and of course, the sewing machines set up on tables, each one being its own sewing station. They are saying that 900 families will be supported by the center though I think that may be a little bit of an overstatement as locals here are sometimes apt to do.

That said, the Iraqis had a true ribbon cutting ceremony. There was a darling little girl who was holding one end of the ribbon while a man cut the ribbon. One of the Iraqis interviewed (I believe he is the director of the center) thanked the Governor for the assistance that made the center possible. Because we are approaching the transfer to sovereignty there was no Coalition involvement in the opening of the center. Thus, though the Coalition was not mentioned; we still see this as a win. Any time the interim government gets credit for something that benefits local people, it increases support for the interim government. Support for the interim government means greater stability, which is what we need to get Iraq through the transition period.

There is still a fight here, but we are making progress.

Thanks again for the help.

The sewing machine project deserved your support. Can you help?

Posted by Deb at 09:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Meet Beth

Beth is a Navy Corpsman, she's 27, she's married with a son, and she's leaving for California on July 17, en route to Iraq. And, she has a new blog, A Labrats Journey, where she'll share her adventures with the rest of us. I look forward to reading her ongoing story.

Posted by Deb at 09:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Steel Beach

It wasn't on a beach - indeed, fifty-knot winds foiled plans to have an outdoor event and the barbecue party was moved inside to the mess deck of the USS Belleau Wood. Along with a meal of barbeque ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, baked beans and corn on the cob, Marines and sailors were able to participate in karaoke.

Photo by Cpl. Daniel J. Fosco

Pfc. Victor Cuevas, warehouse clerk, 1/4 Marines, 11th MEU, spins records during the Navy's "Steel Beach" barbeque party here, June 28.

Posted by Deb at 09:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack