November 12, 2009

Stolen Valor

After a wonderful week of celebrating the Marine Corps 234th birthday and honoring our Veterans news of another individual stealing the valor of our military loved ones has made headlines again.

From CNN:

Civilian pleads not guilty to wearing Navy medals

By Alan Duke, CNN


Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- A California man faces a federal trial in January because of what he allegedly wore to his 20th high school reunion earlier this year -- a U.S. Marine uniform decorated with some of the nation's highest military medals.

Steve Burton, 39, never served in any branch of the U.S. military, but he was seen and photographed several times wearing a Marine uniform and various medals, including the Navy Cross, the highest medal awarded exclusively by the U.S. Navy, federal investigators said.

The Palm Springs, California, bank officer entered a not guilty plea Thursday to a charge of "unauthorized wearing of military medals or decorations." The federal misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in federal prison upon conviction.

When Burton made his initial appearance in federal court in Riverside, California, a magistrate set his bond at $10,000, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Akrotirianakis. He posted the bond and was released. A trial was set for January 10, 2010, Akrotirianakis said.

"He has been charged, but these are only allegations," Burton's lawyer, Michael DeFrank, said Wednesday.

The Marine dress blue uniform with lieutenant colonel insignia on the epaulets and a chest full of colorful ribbons may have impressed some old classmates, but one person at the reunion was suspicious, according to an FBI agent's affidavit.

Lt. Cmdr. Colleen Salonga, a U.S. Navy supply officer, recognized the Navy Cross and knew how rarely that honor is awarded, the sworn statement said. She posed with Burton for a photo, which she sent to the FBI in June, it said.

The FBI agent said Internet research showed that Burton had blogged in August 2009 about being a Marine and receiving many commendations and awards. His postings also discussed engaging in combat and serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, the documents said. He said he'd served in Falluja, a city in Iraq's largely Sunni Arab Anbar province where Marines and militants battled for years.

Burton posted a picture of himself online standing on a beach at Coronado Island, California, wearing a Marine dress uniform, the affidavit said. In the picture, he is wearing the rank of gunnery sergeant and is displaying medals including the Navy Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Navy and Marine Corps medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among others.

An American flag flew on a pole on the front lawn of Burton's Palm Springs home Wednesday.

Burton, who was off work because it was Veterans Day, would not come to the door, and a man who came to the door referred CNN to Burton's lawyer, DeFrank. The man said he was Burton's partner for 18 years and retired from the U.S. Air Force.

A next-door neighbor described Burton as "quiet and nice." She said she saw agents carry away several boxes from the home two weeks ago.

A search warrant was executed at Burton's home, said Akrotirianakis, who did not divulge what was found there.

Akrotirianakis also would not say where authorities believe Burton obtained the medals. However, an Internet search showed several medals -- or possibly replicas -- for sale online, despite a law banning their advertisement or sale. Even if a medal is a replica, wearing it still violates federal law, Akrotirianakis said.

The Navy Cross is the second-highest award a sailor or Marine can be awarded for valor, behind only the Medal of Honor. It is comparable to the Army's Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross. It is awarded for "extreme gallantry and risk of life, beyond the call of duty, performed in combat with an enemy force," according to the prosecutors' statement.

The Bronze Star is awarded for "heroic and meritorious achievement or service," while the Purple Heart is awarded "for being wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States."


As a mother who has watched her son come home from a war zone, seen the changes being in that situation has made on her son and watched her son deal with the memories, it makes me furious that an individual would lie about serving in the military and take the valor and honor our real Veterans deserve. Unfortunately, I doubt Steve Burton will be the last individual to steal the valor of deserving Veterans. Burton has been charged with a misdemeanor count of wearing unauthorized military medals or decorations. The punishment is a maximum of one year in a federal prison. The punishment does not fit the crime. Our Veterans deserve so much more.

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October 08, 2007

Real American Heroes v. the actors who play them in movies and TV

Sean McCormick, a sophomore English major at the University of Wisconsin wrote this outstanding editorial regarding Hollywood's portrayal of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During and after World War II, Hollywood was more than willing to make films that helped the war effort and gave audiences a look at our brave soldiers and the battles they won.

Take "Sands of Iwo Jima," a 1949 film starring John Wayne. It shows the Battle of Iwo Jima where we see Marines fighting against the Japanese, as well as the iconic raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi. The film portrays the heroism of American soldiers during one of the war's most important battles.

In today's world, however, it seems that Hollywood is more intent on making films that distort the truth and slander our brave men and women. Given the downright hostile nature Hollywood has toward the war in Iraq, it is not entirely unsurprising that their films reflect that same attitude. Look at Brian de Palma's "Redacted," for example. It is a "docudrama" that is based upon the "Mahmudiyah killings" that occurred in Iraq in March 2006. In this incident, five U.S. soldiers murdered three Iraqi civilians, gang-raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and killed her as well. Now, any reasonable person will realize that incidents such as these are not the status quo in Iraq and they do not go unpunished (three of the men have been sentenced to life in prison, the other two have not been sentenced as of yet). But according to de Palma, the event is "the reality of what is happening in Iraq."

Another film, "Harsh Times," takes a look at the life of fictional soldier Jim Davis, who returns to Los Angeles after tours of duty in the Middle East. In the opening of the film, we see soldiers in a desert area attacking Arab terrorists; one of the soldiers goes as far as killing a terrorist who makes it clear that he wishes to surrender (once again, this is supposed to be the norm). For the rest of the film, we watch Jim do drugs, kill people and cause general mayhem and destruction with his friends. He is clearly a psychotic individual and even goes so far as to refer himself as "a soldier of the Apocalypse." His unstable condition and predilection toward violence and death are due to his experiences in combat, which is naturally the military's fault, and is naturally true for many soldiers returning from combat, as Hollywood would have you believe.

Actor Tim Robbins, appearing on "Real Time with Bill Maher" this past August, said, "(The U.S. military) have killed over 400,000 of (Iraq's) citizens." This is a preposterous claim, and only someone who is already predisposed to thinking the worst of our troops could make it. The anti-war Iraq Body Count Web site's maximum count of civilian deaths due to the war is 80,333. That should say something about Robbins' attitude toward our military.

Hollywood seems to be aware of only the atrocities that have occurred in the war, which are few and far between. Much more numerous are the acts of heroism that our troops have committed. I think of soldiers such as Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who was manning a vehicle checkpoint near Husaybah when a terrorist jumped from a vehicle and threw a hand grenade. Dunham threw himself over the grenade, sacrificing his own life in order to save the lives of the Marines who would have been killed by the blast. I also think of Lt. Brian R. Chontosh, who was leading his platoon south of Baghdad when insurgents ambushed them. Facing mortars, automatic-weapons fire, and RPGs, he had the driver advance into the enemy's trench while he jumped from the vehicle and fired at the insurgents. According to the citation of the Navy Cross awarded to him later on, "he twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack . . . when his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others."

Why are Hollywood studios not making films out of these heroic efforts? Because the studios are directly opposed to the war and the U.S. military. It is easier to make a film that portrays soldiers as being psychotic killers and rapists, which fits Hollywood's stereotype of an American soldier, than pay homage to the selfless efforts of real soldiers in the real world. I realize that a film itself is fiction, but is it too much to ask that Hollywood's silver screen storytelling reflect reality instead of the arrogant and slanderous attitudes of its glitterati? So far, the answer is a resounding no.

Amen. It's ironic that the writers, producers, directors, and actors who make millions from the blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes the lives of our troops consistently portray them in the worst light possible. And, there is a resounding silence from most of Hollywood when requests are made for contributions to support the men and women of our armed forces.

There are so many accounts of outstanding bravery and heroism, and they happen every single day. Those stories need to be told as well.

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March 12, 2007

We are just Marines and that Is what we do

Lt. Col. David W. Szelowski USMCR (ret.) wrote this piece about differences between Marines and other troops.

I wonder how many times during Operation Iraqi Freedom that the phrase "Damned Marines" was uttered? Even in the best of times, Army and Air Force officers have been heard muttering some epithet about Marines, invoking either heaven or hell. Interestingly enough, we Marines find it all rather reassuring and, at times, amusing.

Most of the time, Marines do not go out of our way to be obnoxious; we are just doing what Marines have done for over 200 years. A good example is the fact that Marines always raise the American flag over mountains or cities they have conquered. From Mt. Suribachi to the City of Hue, to Kuwait City to Baghdad, U.S. Marines have raised the Stars and Stripes -- in the latter examples, much to the chagrin of higher headquarters. You don't get these kinds of problems with the army.

So what is it about the U.S. Marines that they stick U.S. flags on everything and do more with less, a less that is either old or an army hand-me-down? We call it Esprit de Corps, but it goes deeper than that. We learn and maintain myths of the past, which also means living up to those historical examples. Marine Corps boot camp is the longest of the services; it is where we mold young men and women into the mythical image called a Marine. You can be in the Army, you can join the Air Force, but you become a Marine. All of the other uniformed services have songs; the U.S. Marines have a hymn. The basic pattern of Marine Corps uniforms comes from the late nineteenth century; our emblem, the "Eagle, Globe and Anchor" has remained largely unchanged since 1868. The buttons on our dress blues, whites and greens date back to the founding of our Corps. The Marine Corps is the only service that requires its officers to carry a sword, whose pattern dates back to 1805.

I think that the path of being a Marine was established long ago. On the 10th of November 1775, the Marine Corps was first established...in a tavern. To this day, no matter where in the world, Marines celebrate the founding of our beloved Corps, much to the confusion of the other services.

A few years ago, a congresswoman from Colorado felt that the Marine Corps was radical and extreme. She contended that the Marine Corps was not politically correct, nor did we seem to be part of the Department of Defense's transition to a "kinder and gentler" military. She was correct, and the Marine Corps took it as a compliment.

But the proof is in the doing, and during Iraqi Freedom the Marines demonstrated what Marines could do. I watched with some amusement as a reporter asked a young lance corporal about being in Iraq and under rifle fire. "Love it, sir!" was his response. The reporter was taken aback and asked, "No, really." The Marine then tried to explain that this is what he was trained to do, he looked forward to doing it and was now happy to be doing it. No doubt in boot camp he was told that he was "a minister of death praying for war." Contrast that with the poor U.S. Army Apache pilots who said that if they had to take life, they would do so reluctantly. You are either a warrior or you are not.

Marines are mission oriented. Live or die, the most important thing to a Marine is accomplishing the mission. Whether taking the bridge, river or town, accomplishing the mission is the Holy Grail of being a Marine. How the mission is accomplished is not so important, as it is expected of all Marines to accomplish the mission with the tools available. This is probably why we heard that Marines in one engagement were fighting with knives and bayonets. This was hardly high tech, but it was effective. These Marines now have bragging rights, for they have proven that they talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk. I doubt there is a single Marine who is not envious.

Marines are practical, as well. I enjoyed hearing two reporters interviewing each other, one embedded with the army, the other with the Marines. The reporter with the army noted that the sandstorm had blown down many of the soldiers' cots. The other reporter countered that the Marines did not have this problem because they slept on the ground. The Marine learns to live with what he can carry on his back. He expects to be moved around on the battlefield via his two black Cadillacs (boots). If he is lucky and gets a ride on an amtrack, so much the better -- but it is not expected! . At the end of a mission, the priority for cleaning is weapon, then equipment, and finally, body. When the other services talk about "quality of life," they are referring to housing, clubs and food. Marines are talking about better weapons, equipment and training, winning the battle and coming home alive is considered "quality of life."

All of this translates into combat power. In comparison to the U.S. Army's 3 rd Infantry Division, the Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force were lightly equipped. Yet, they battled through the heart of Iraq, fought to the center of Baghdad and then moved off to Tikrit, taking that city as well. The press was so enamored with the Marines that in the final days of the war they even credited the Marines with deeds actually accomplished by the army. Little wonder we heard "Damned Marines!" so often.

So we need to give the Marines some slack when they do something politically incorrect, such as raising the flag or appearing insensitive when killing the enemy. In the field, they look sloppy compared to the army, but are aggressive in the attack and generally unhappy in the defense. Marines take pride in their work, even if that work is war. We are just Marines and that is what we do.

I remember a survey a few years ago about the attractiveness of men enlisted in different branches of our armed forces. Marines won, hands down, in a "who would you most like to date" scenario. And, after much time spent in recruiters offices and on military bases, I have to say that I've never seen a Marine who wasn't good looking. Maybe it's the haircut, perhaps the uniform. More likely, it's the pride in bearing that gives each and every Devil Dog, whether enlisted or officer, that undefinable extra that makes people (especially female people) take a second look. And, the civilian men they are with, utter, "Damned Marines!"

Posted by Deb at 05:00 PM | Comments (55) | TrackBack

January 27, 2007

Sock it 2 U

Unbelievable:

What follows is a copy of a letter that I received from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, home of Socks That Rock, the revered and esteemed handpainted sock yarn of so much acclaim. I got it because I am a member (last year and this year) of the Sock Club, where you send them some money and they send you several fixes kits, with yarn and a pattern to make fantastic socks all through the year.

What has happened, and I confirmed all of this in a phone call with Tina, is unbelievable. Blue Moon needs a bank to accept their credit card orders. (Be warned that when I run the world, banks will be in charge of far less...but I digress.) When Blue Moon started accepting orders for the Sock Club recently, the bank flinched.
They contacted the Blue Moon and questioned the possibility of this being an actual business thing. Blue Moon explained to them the concept of a sock club, and the bank held a meeting.

Now, I was not a fly on the wall at that meeting, but oh, how I wish I had been. Over the course of said meeting, the bank decided, with the business information of Blue Moon in front of them and the concept (and CASH) of a "Sock Club" laid out, that.....and here is the incredible thing... (Perhaps you should take a deep breath or sit down or put down your cup of tea.)

They decided that it was not possible that this many people could be this interested in sock yarn (I know...I know) and that therefore, considering the complete impossibility of this being a legitimate business concept (can't you hear them? "This many people just can't want sock yarn!") that Blue Moon must be running a SCAM, and (holy moths I can scarcely type it) Shut. It. Down.

They rescinded Blue Moon's ability to take credit card money (that's right, a bank turned down money...) and (breath deeply) REFUNDED to customers all of the money that they had received for the Sock Club.

Good thing they were knitting socks instead of Afghans. That would probably have landed each and every club member at Gitmo.

Visit the site to read Blue Moon's letter - and I applaud them for their self-control in choosing NOT to make the bank president's e-mail address public. I don't think I would have been as restrained.

Posted by Deb at 10:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 20, 2007

Consider all that

James Lileks on the chasm between theory and substance:

Last week a letter in the paper ran off the usual list of oppressions and deletions of basic liberties, including "the coffins we are not allowed to see." It reminded me of a conversation I had in Arizona with a Marine, whose family was also staying at my in-laws' house. (Their daughter played with Gnat, and was one of the Ghosts of Christmas in the play.) He had just returned from accompanying the body of a Marine back to his home town for a memorial. Lance Cpl. Nick Palmer, 19, was killed by a sniper in Fallujah. The vehicle had stopped to defuse an IED, which had been placed to fix the Humvee in place. Flypaper. Lance Cpl. Palmer was manning a gun on the back of the Humvee when he was hit. The shot came from an industrial building a good distance away; whoever killed him had particular skill. It could have been one of those ordinary Iraqis so enraged by the occupation they quit their jobs as an insurance actuary or auto mechanic and went to sniper school, perhaps. Or maybe it was a Ba'athist "Minuteman." Or an imported Iranian merc. You have to admit it's possible.

The networks may not have shown footage of the coffin as it arrived, but it certainly had the opportunity to show the funeral and the ceremony that preceded it. The Marine, who was Lance Cpl. Palmer's commanding officer, described the event; they arrived at night. Both sides of the street were filled with townspeople, gathered to greet the soldier. Every light in every window was on; every pole had a flag.

The church pews had no empty seats. "Amazing Grace" was played and the Purple Heart presented.

Everyone was allowed to see the coffin, and reflect on what it stood for.

The local TV station's website has a video interview with the parents, which manages to work in Vietnam in the first six seconds. If the TV station filmed the homecoming, it doesn't appear to be on the site. I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't have shown the homecoming, unless they regarded the interview with the grieving parents as the full measure they were required to give.

The Commanding Officer who appears on the phone call is the Marine who told me the story. It's a very short part of the television story, but it was an intensely private moment and we need see no more. You might not get a sense of the CO's emotions from the voice on the other end. Trust me: it's a wound, and it's deep. He didn't just make a phone cal;; he left his family at Christmas time to accompany the body and speak at the service - then drove a rental through a storm to get to the airport to rejoin his family for the few days he had left stateside.

So the next time someone talks about the coffins we're not allowed to see, consider all that.

It's a cheap political point for the letter-writer. It's intensely personal for the Marines who served with LCpl Palmer and they'll never forget him. As noted above, LtCol Sinclair spoke at the funeral of the Marine who he took to Iraq - and escorted back to his home town:

I wonder what the writer of that letter has done for his country, other than criticize it. Here's what LCpl Palmer did:
"Nick died as he lived, doing his duty," Sinclair said. "We, his Marine family, were so blessed to have him for a little while."
Palmer enlisted in the Marines despite the likelihood that he would be sent to Iraq and the concerns of his parents, Rachele and Brad Palmer, but he was adamant about serving his country.

"Even at a time of conflict, at a time when the media raises its doubts and politicians take stances and others hold up signs in protest, Nick ... raised his hand and joined the Marine Corps," said friend Perry Carlile.


Condolences to his grieving family. You raised a hero.


Posted by Deb at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2007

"The last best hope for success"

Will the troop surge work? I think it will. Looking at it from a logistical point of view, there are currently about 13,000 troops in Baghdad, a crime-ridden war zone. Baghdad has an area of about 254 square miles and approximately 5,800,000 residents. Compare that to New York City with 303 square miles and 8,104,000 residents. NYC also has a police force of 37,000 for a city that is not at war with anyone. Sending in 17,000 more troops to Baghdad and dividing them between the 9 boroughs will provide - finally - enough manpower to clean out some of the deeply rooted insurgency and provide security for the civilian residents who want the same things that you and I do - to live, work, play, and worship in peace and security.

And, I have good reason to think that it will work. In August 2004, my son who served with 1/7 Marines left for his second deployment to Iraq - this time to the Syrian border town of Husaybah. The town was a hellhole - deeply rooted insurgency and the 200 Marines of Baker Company held it for 7 months. They saw action every time they went out, but with limited troop strength, they were unable to make much headway. Even so, they gradually gained the trust and cooperation of the townspeople.

When 1/7 returned home, they left the city in the hands of an entire battalion. Additional Army forces were brought in and in November 2005, Operation Steel Curtain cleaned the town. For 17 days, US and Iraqi troops worked side by side, house by house, systematically cleaning out the cities of Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi. they selaed the border to prevent al Queda reinforcements from filtering across. And, it worked.

1/7 Baker Company returned to Husaybah in February 2006. My son reported that it was a different place. Kids played on the streets. Women could walk to the market without fear. And, our Marines continued to work hand in hand with Iraqi soldiers to maintain security and tranquility. It wasn't a perfect place to live. But it was a major turnaround.

Unfortunately, examples like that one are routinely ignored by politicians and media bent on grim predictions of failure. Cassandra has multiple examples of this over at Villainous Company today:

After the President's historic speech Wednesday night, the media rushed to demonstrate they would pay any price and bear any burden to assure the defeat of his proposal. Those who expected some attempt at balance or open mindedness were sadly mistaken. CBS's Dick Meyer spent six or seven paragraphs ramming home the point: the President is completely alone. Newsweek's Howard Fineman couldn't quite manage to control his contempt, "George W. Bush spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup." Sheryl Stolberg seized the opportunity to remind readers the President was sElected, not elected before making a series of misleading statements.

Selective memory. It's easy when you have nothing more to lose than an election. President Bush reminded us of that yesterday when he spoke to soldiers at Fort Benning:

On September the 11th, our nation saw firsthand the destructive vision of a new kind of enemy, and once again the men and women of Fort Benning answered the call to protect our country from that enemy. You know, I knew that right after the attacks, the American psyche being what it is, people would tend to forget the grave threat posed by these people. I knew that. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that would happen so that life would go on. But the fortunate thing for this country is that those who wear the uniform have never forgotten the threat. You understand the stakes.

High stakes indeed. But I've heard overwhelming support for the troop surge from both the troops and their families - those who have a huge personal interest. Here's a letter to Nancy Pelosi from USMCR Captain Michael Hendrickson who is preparing for upcoming deployment, and has more at stake in this fight than any of us here at home:

Dear Madame Speaker,

On September 11, 2001 I was deployed in Australia with the 15th MEU. Five months later I left Afghanistan and returned to the states. During that time I was overwhelmed by and immensely proud of our country’s willingness to put aside partisan differences and prosecute the global war against terrorism. Today, I am preparing for a second combat deployment, this time to Iraq, and I am dismayed and saddened by the actions of my countrymen.

I am deeply concerned about the President's new plan for Iraq. I am concerned that it has no hope of success. My concerns are not founded in the abilities of our nation's military or the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. I am concerned that your party and the American citizens that follow your leadership will fail once again to put partisanship aside and fully support victory in Iraq. I am afraid that the blood of my brother and sister marines will be on your hands because of your unwillingness to do everything in your power to ensure that we are victorious in Iraq.

The plan outlined by the President last night was the last best hope for success. As was the initial foray into Iraq, it carries with it enormous risk and like all audacious plans in war, relies on more than a little luck. Unfortunately, the "incalculable" effect of our national will has not been and will not be brought to bear against our enemies in Iraq because your party has sought to undermine the military effort and the national will ever since we crossed the line of departure into Iraq five years ago. It is painfully obvious that the political defeat of President Bush is synonymous with America's defeat in Iraq.

Mrs. Pelosi, I respectfully request that you stand in the House, with your comrades in the Senate, and give the President and my marines the support we need to make a legitimate stab at final victory in Iraq. The President has provided you with a time table and a benchmark to measure success. If there is no significant progress by November of this year and we have not achieved the metrics outlined last night, relentless criticism is warranted and should reach a crescendo unmatched in the Iraq debate.

Until then, I still believe, as almost all of my comrades in arms do, that we can and will be victorious in Iraq. Please do not undermine our efforts. Please support our mission. Help us to be victorious.

Semper Fidelis.
Respectfully Submitted,
Michael J. Hendrickson
Captain 0302/USMCR

Unfortunately, the viewpoints of those who have the most to lose are of little interest to those who have staked their political careers on losing in Iraq. Captain Hendrickson deserves the unconditional support of Pelosi, Kennedy, and all other nay-sayers in Congress who are betting on failure, and drawing up non-binding resolutions of troop non-support.

Success happened in Fallujah. It happened in Husaybah. It can happen in Baghdad too. And I'm betting on success in Baghdad rather than settling for failure.

Posted by Deb at 05:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2006

Semper Fi, Marine

Jarhead Dad sent along this moving observation of how a fallen hero was brought home to Louisville Kentucky for the final time. It was written by Johnny Brooks, who I believe is an Army Colonel.

I had the priviledge tonight of observing how the USMC brings home their dead. The thought hit me that I have no idea, nor have I ever seen how our Soldiers are treated. I just hope we are at least as respectful.

Tonight as we arrived at the Louisville airport, the aircraft captain announced that there was a USMC Sgt on board the aircraft who was on escort duty. The captain asked all onboard to remain seated til the Sgt had left the aircraft. As we pulled into our gate I observed a lot of people moving around in the shadows. I naturally assumed it was the detail preparing to receive the body. What actually happened was quite impressive and quite a testament to the Corps and to the city of Louisville.

The receiving detail stood up consisting of a color guard with US flag, USMC flag and the 8 casket bearers, the OIC, several other NCOs and 3 Marines in utility uniform. I must admit I was taken back by the presence of the 3 Marines in utilities as all other Marines were in Dress Blues. I later was able to figure out the purpose. Additionally, there was an honor guard from the US Marine Corps Legion (I believe they are called that, something the Army cannot replicate) and a piper. 3 Delta pilots joined the Marines in the formation. I assumed they were former servicemen or current reservists.

Following the off load of all the baggage, the cargo hold remained open.

Finally the 3 Marines in utility uniform were sent into the hold to prepare the casket, flag and to position the casket. This was a somewhat special moment as only Marine hands touched that casket and it was planned that way.

Have no idea if it was treated the same in Atlanta, but I can tell you only Marine hands touched that casket. As the casket was lowered halfway down the trolley and stopped, the casket bearers took their positions. Then the Marine Corps Legion followed behind them in two ranks, one on each side.

They all presented arms as the casket came out of the aircraft. Then there was stillness.

As if scripted, from across the airport came a long line of cars with blinking lights and the hearse. Once they were in position, the family was escorted to the casket. It was probably around 30 members led by what I assumed was a very young widow and her young son. For about 10 minutes the family mingled around the casket while the Marines and Legioneers stood at attention. Finally, the family was led back to the hearse.

Then the casket was lowered the remainder of the way and the casket bearers moved through a cordon of the USMC Legion folks to the hearse, while the bagpiper piped "Amazing Grace."

There were about 70 of us who had just left the aircraft, still in the terminal watching this entire ceremony for about 40 minutes. I will say, not a dry eye in the place and many, many snivels. The Corps really treated their own with respect.

I have no idea who the dead Marine was. I assume he was a Sgt, as his escort was a Sgt. I don't know who his family was, nor if they had any influence. I just know the USMC treated him with total respect and the city of Lousville did also.

As the young Sgt escorting the body left the aircraft and walked by me, I said, "Semper Fi, Marine." As I have been many times before, I was struck that in 231 years our Army has been unable to produce something similar.

Somehow, Hooah just doesn't seem right at a time like this.

I trust we do just as well. If not, shame on us. These kids deserve all the respect our Army and country can provide. The Corps and the city of Louisville did themselves proud tonight . . . . . in my misty eyes.

The Marine Corps is the smallest Armed Force and the camaraderie among Marines is legendary. This young Marine, nameless to us, is known and held fiercely in the memories of those with whom he served. They will never forget him, will think of him often, for the rest of their lives. My son can name every 1/7 Marine who has been killed while fighting in Iraq. It's his extended family. I've met Marines who are tattooed with the names of their fallen brothers. It's a tangible symbol of that close bond - a lifetime link that is almost impossible for outsiders to understand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On November 19, 2005, LCpl Tyler Troyer fell from a sniper's bullet in Karma, Iraq. The first anniversary of his death is Sunday - please think of him and his family on this anniversary. He was a very special young man, the best this country had to offer. He is missed dearly, not only by his blood family, but by the Marines of 2/2 who said goodbye to him and stayed to finish the fight. Semper Fidelis.

Posted by Deb at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 12, 2006

Semper Fidelis - LCpl Brent Zoucha

Major Brian Bresnahan, former Marine who served in Iraq and knew LCpl Brent Zoucha, contrasts the life and death of one of America's finest with one of the world's worst in a moving tribute posted to his blog, High Plains Patriot (reprinted below). It's worth noting that LCpl Zoucha was meritoriously promoted to his current rank in April for his performance during combat. He is a hero and will long be remembered for what he has contributed to this world.

By the time this gets published, the body of an American hero, Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha, United States Marine Corps, is on its way back to, if not already arrived at, the small town of Clarks, Nebraska. Brent's body is being escorted by another American hero, his brother, fellow Marine and friend, Corporal Dyrek Zoucha.

Brent left for boot camp June 12, 2005 and was killed in Iraq June 9, 2006.

Dyrek, already a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq, served alongside Brent in 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. In fact, Dyrek had requested and been granted a four month extension in the Marine Corps so he could serve with his brother when he learned Brent was headed to his battalion.

Now he's bringing his little brother home.

The emotions of Brent's death stand in stark contrast to the emotions I felt when I learned of Abu Musab al Zarqawi's death the day prior.

After my time in Iraq I view death differently than before. It is a much more emotional issue. Not that any particularly tragic or traumatic event caused a decrease to my threshold for which emotion about death is triggered. But rather, I believe it's born out of a much higher reverence and respect for life than before. One can easily gain an all new understanding of both the fragility and value of life after some time in Iraq.

So, I never thought I would ever rejoice in the actual death of anyone, until I heard of Abu Musab al Zarqawi's. I thought my emotions concerning death were always going to be of the kind I felt when I learned of Brent's passing. But, I found myself relieved and jubilant about Zarqawi's demise.

His death brought relief to the anger I had felt when trying to work with Iraqis who would no longer visit with me or would send someone in their stead to inform me they couldn't be seen with American's because they'd been taken away, threatened, and shown videos of people being "slaughtered." I don't remember the Arabic word used, but in our conversations, the word "beheaded" was always interpreted as "slaughtered."

Zarqawi's death closes the chapter on frustration many of us felt, knowing we had him trapped in Fallujah in the spring of 2004, when the assault to retake the city was called off for seemingly unknown reasons. This frustration had only grown when we learned that it was Zarqawi himself who had claimed personal responsibility for beheading Nick Berg shortly thereafter.

His death brings relief and elation. Not in the way we rejoice for those who pass away after fighting a long, painful bout with cancer and go to be with their Savior, but simple happiness because he'd been killed and that he reaped what he'd sown. I am happy for the families who lost loved ones at his hands. I am happy for those Iraqi friends who no longer have to fear the rabid bite of that evil being. I am joyful that piece of human debris no longer stalks this earth.

However, Brent's death brings both sorrow and pride.

I take solace in knowing he died doing what he chose to do, what he wanted to do, serving and protecting his fellow Americans, being a Marine. Although we mourn his loss and struggle to cope with his passing, we also understand and honor the meaning and impact his sacrifice has for all of us.

His life will be honored and remembered by those who knew him, loved him, and had the privilege to serve with him. He will always be remembered for what he did, not just because he died. His sacrifice and selflessness will be honored and remembered with each breath of freedom we enjoy.

Abu Musab al Zarqawi on the other hand, will only be remembered for the atrocities he committed, for his evil, for his complete disregard for human life, and the wake of destruction he left through the sea of Christian and Islamic humanity. We will only resurrect his memory from the trash heap of history's most disgusting and diabolical figures when we need to remind ourselves of just how evil men can be and the destruction they can produce when left unchecked.

Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha will be remembered for sacrificing all that he was and all that life had to offer a young man; voluntarily doing so for the freedom and safety of others. His memory and sacrifice will strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that hold Marines together and contribute to the mystique and ethos of "The Few, The Proud."

Some said that Zarqawi's death makes no difference. I agree, because his time here on earth was wasted on purely evil pursuits. Thus, in the end, he didn't make a difference. But during his short life, Lance Corporal Brent Zoucha did. He embodied Ronald Reagan's observation that "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. Marines don't have that problem." Brent's life and death made a difference.

Semper Fidelis, Lance Corporal Zoucha. God speed.


Posted by Deb at 09:27 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 03, 2006

Rumsfeld on America: "a nation born of ideas and raised on improbability"

From a commencement speech given by Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld, at the Air Force Academy on May 31:

Today, our country faces threats unlike any we have known. Violent extremists are trying to terrorize and intimidate free people into submitting to their will. Their war is more than a contest between opposing sides or societies. These extremists are waging a war against society itself. They have in mind only two outcomes - to control us or destroy us.

Let me say just a word or two about this moment in history and your role in it.

Just before Christmas in 2001, I traveled to Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. I visited with a group of special operations forces that were operating in truly remarkable ways. In preparation for performing a mission the month before, they had asked for the usual supplies, but one item stood out. They asked for horse feed.

From the moment they landed in Afghanistan, our forces began adapting to the circumstances on the ground, as they had to. And they ended up riding horses that had been conditioned to run through machine gun fire. They used pack-mules to transport equipment across some of the roughest terrain in the world, riding in darkness, and along narrow trails with sheer drops.

Some of those forces operating in Afghanistan were combat controllers from the U.S. Air Force. And those Airmen likely thought they would have sooner found themselves riding jet aircraft rather than horses, but they joined the American tradition of daring and ingenuity that has defined Airmen for generations.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, aircrews from what was then the Army Air Forces replied with a stunning bombing raid on Tokyo that was led, as was mentioned by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. Like the three individuals who were just introduced, I've been around so long that I actually knew Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, and I am sure that when he began flying, he never imagined he would be taking a land-based aircraft off the deck of an aircraft carrier. But he and his Raiders, the three men here today, were determined to accomplish their mission -- no matter what the odds.

And I remember as a boy the electrifying emotion in our country when we learned what that small band of airmen had done what they had done. They inspired our country. They gave the American people the strength to persevere on behalf of human freedom.

That is the force you join today. A force where the improbable can become the norm. Where individuals are dedicated to securing our liberties, no matter the circumstances -- no matter the odds.

Much of their success stems from the fact that we are a nation of optimists -- a country that forged freedom out of a frontier -- a country where our only limits are self-imposed.

Of necessity, new ideas are replacing outdated notions. And when that happens, there's resistance, always.

I remember during my first tour as Secretary of Defense in the mid-1970's, controversy engulfed the B-1 program. I actually approved the B-1 bomber back in the mid-1970's, and then it was cancelled by the next administration, but it was revived by the administration after that.

And interestingly, during the first months of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, that platform -- the B-1B -- that I had approved in 1976, and was designed for Cold War nuclear strikes -- dropped 40% of the weapons and 70% of the precision munitions that helped to defeat the Taliban and the al Qaeda in Afghanistan 25 years later.

The process of transforming a big institution is an enormous challenge. But revolutions have always been challenged and resisted. It's a fact that many folks fought when people tried to end the horse cavalry. And I should add, here at the Air Force Academy, there were doubters who objected to the concept of a separate air service -- the service that today we call the United States Air Force.

Your challenge will be to go beyond simply a change of a process here or of a piece of equipment there. Our country did not survive and become great through timid responses or aversion to risk. Ours is a nation born of ideas and raised on improbability. Your charge will be to challenge inherited assumptions, and cherished habits, and seek out better approaches. I urge you to make that the bedrock of your career.

That is the spirit that made heroes of the Doolittle Raiders, that same talent for innovation that those Americans on horseback used in Afghanistan, and I might add, that same determination that lives in the lives of many of your fellow Airmen today, including a leader who was at my side during two wars at a pivotal time in our history, the now-retired Air Force General Richard Myers, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As each of you carry on their tradition -- when barriers seem too difficult to surmount -- remember that Americans have a long history of overcoming adversity. Ours is a nation that somehow:


  • Molded Founding Fathers out of farmers and shopkeepers; and
  • Pierced an Iron Curtain and helped bring down an evil empire.

I remember in my senior year in college, that was a long time ago, that was 1954, 52 years ago - our country faced many challenges. It was a time when the hardships of the Great Depression of the 1930's were still clear in our minds, when the experiences of World War II and the Korean War were still fresh. It was the dawn of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and of the nuclear era.

A former Governor of my home state of Illinois - had been the defeated Democratic candidate for president against General Eisenhower. He spoke to my senior class, and he spoke about the difficult world we would inherit. His remarks could have been grim, they could have been pessimistic about our circumstance, but they were not. They were filled with hope. They were filled with promise.

Among the things he said to us:

"You live in a time of historic change and of infinite difficulty. But do not let the difficulties distract you. Face the problems of your time, you must. Deal with them, you must ... [Dare] to live your lives fully, boldly. Dare to study and to learn, to cultivate the mind and the spirit."

Most would prefer to live when times are calm -- when we might all peacefully go about our lives. But it is in the difficult times -- when the tasks taken on, and the challenges overcome, have the greatest significance.

Each of you have stepped forward to meet a dangerous threat. You have volunteered to stand on the front lines of freedom's defense. Your decision will help decide the fate of millions of human beings across the globe. And as Adlai Stevenson said to my senior class:

"[You] dare not... withhold your attention. For if you... do not participate to the fullest...of [your] ability, America will stumble, and if America stumbles the world [could] fall[s]."

That is an enormous responsibility. And each of you have seized it. And yours is a truly noble calling.

In this "long war," American forces have accomplished what few have before -- indeed, what few have ever even tried before. Our country has sent its finest young men and women in defense of the ideal that people, when faced with paths leading to either tyranny or freedom, will forever choose freedom.

Today, you volunteer to help lead them. You raise your right hands to say, "Send me to serve others." So to each of you, I thank you for what you do. I thank you for all that you are. Go out and make history.

Posted by Deb at 09:34 AM

May 29, 2006

Owen West: "The Troops Have Moved On"

Owen West, former Marine Reserve Major who served during OIF and is cofounder of Vets for Freedom, wrote this must-read editorial in today's New York Times - it's a balanced critique of both sides of the debate on Iraq and how neither the press nor the politicians are serving the public as they should. In the meantime, our troops are soldiering on, working toward success in the face of eroding public support. It shouldn't be that way. It doesn't have to be. But it will take change from the top to make a difference.

Here's a snippet, but do read the whole thing.

Somehow Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a large war by America's historical standards, has blossomed into a crisis of expectations that threatens our ability to react to future threats with a fist instead of five fingers. Instead of rallying we are squabbling, even as the slow fuse burns.

One party is overly sanguine, unwilling to acknowledge its errors. The other is overly maudlin, unable to forgive the same. The Bush administration seeks to insulate the public from the reality of war, placing its burden on the few. The press has tried to fill that gap by exposing the raw brutality of the insurgency; but it has often done so without context, leaving a clear implication that we can never win.

In the past, the American public could turn to its sons for martial perspective. Soldiers have historically been perhaps the country's truest reflection, a socio-economic cross-section borne from common ideals. The problem is, this war is not being fought by World War II's citizen-soldiers. Nor is it fought by Vietnam's draftees. Its wages are paid by a small cadre of volunteers that composes about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population - America's warrior class.

Posted by Deb at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006

Coffee Shop Chronicles II

I love coffee shops, especially the small independent shops with comfortable chairs, excellent coffee, and (a necessity) wireless internet. One of my favorite places is Red Horse Coffee Shop in Corvallis, owned and operated by a former Marine who takes care of his community the same way he once protected his country. It's a nice place to spend an afternoon and I can work online and still be around people. With my son deployed, the house is all too quiet.

Not all coffee shops are like that. Choices, especially late at night are slim. Recently, I wandered into another Corvallis establishment, just off the Oregon State campus and always busy. This night was livelier than most and the folks packed into one of the rooms seemed to be on the outer edge of alternative lifestyle. Hearing shouts of rage coming from the far corner, I asked the barista what was going on. Open mike night. Listening closer, I heard angry voices denouncing President Bush, the war, and the imperialist regime that kept the man down. And womyn. This was definitely a gender-neutral crowd.

As I took my coffee - organic dark roast with cream from free-range cows raised on pesticide free hay - I mentioned that it probably wasn't a good night to wear my Marine Mom sweatshirt with American, USMC, and blue star pins. She smiled and said "Not a problem - they're also non-violent". I've encountered a few other coffee shop denizens with similar attitudes and she's right - they do cave when they're nose to nose with a Marine Mom.

So, I took a picture and sent it to my son with a note explaining that this was who he was protecting and defending. And, I included a DVD - Season 1 of The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. If that doesn't convince him to stay in the Corps, I don't know what will.

Posted by Deb at 01:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

A Soldier's Perspective - The sky is not falling

Carrie sent along this Washington Times letter to the editor by a soldier, LtCol Scott. Morrison from Warrenton, VA, who recently returned from deployment:

Yesterday I returned home from a one-year tour in Iraq, where I served as a military advisor to Iraqi forces.

Although nearly a quarter of my 40 years have been spent living outside the United States during my military career, returning home to the land of the free and the home of the brave remains an emotional experience.

Words fail to convey the sincere appreciation felt for the immense support received from the American public. On our journey home, the aircraft stopped over at several locations. In one country an American citizen saw us and pressed a $100 bill into the senior non- commissioned officer's hand and asked him to buy us something for our thirst later on. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire the entire town came out to welcome us upon our arrival at the local airport as though we were rock stars.

From the near-constant flow of Girl Scout cookies to letters and packages, the showering of attention is truly a humbling experience that I and many others are eternally grateful for. Describing how pleasant on the eyes everything here at home looks is difficult to convey. The green of trees and grass seem to draw my constant stare, as does the simple order, cleanliness, and functionality of the surroundings. It simply overwhelms the senses when compared to the landscape of Iraq and the hardship of the people there. I consider myself and my family extremely fortunate to be Americans, and I am highly appreciative for the bountiful lives we lead and my distinct privilege to serve our great nation and her people.

As an indication of how much I have missed my life here in the United States, I gladly look forward to my 90-minute one way commute into the Nation's capitol. I won't be riding to the train station with armored windows rolled up, sweating profusely in body armor and helmet, carrying two weapons while incessantly scanning the shoulder of the road for trash or disturbed earth indicating a possible improvised explosive device. I will travel among you relatively unnoticeable, with the exception of the strange look of occasional satisfaction for the simple pleasure of being there beside you with no worries to mention when compared to being in Iraq.

My euphoria of returning home to my family remains somewhat dulled in the recesses of my mind as I recognize many of my brothers continue our work in Iraq. I was reminded of the continued sacrifice in my final hours in Iraq as I waited to fly out. I bumped into a few OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilots we had worked with us a few months earlier.

These two warrant officers typify the service and sacrifice of members of the armed forces. I mentioned to them our appreciation from the ground guy's perspective, for their constant presence and in particular their unique aviator ethos. In the city they flew day and night moving to "the sound of the guns" in seconds when trouble raised its head. Unfortunately, one of their aircraft went down and two of those great Americans lost their lives, and three children lost their fathers. In my mind the cliched word 'hero' fails to do justice to these larger-than-life men. Others like them continue to 'get after it' from the mountains of Afghanistan to the cities of Iraq on our behalf.

With regard to the war in Iraq, the work is hard and progress labored. The magnitude of the task at hand is of such complexity that it cannot be exaggerated. Rest assured, though, contrary to the situation portrayed on the news, the sky is not falling every other day in Iraq. While home for two weeks in February, I was startled by the seemingly emergent 'civil war' as portrayed in the media, yet returned to find little had changed in the area I operated in. As I frequently told my Iraqi counterpart, the television is the world's most powerful weapon because of its ability to shape people's perceptions and influence their minds. Resist the Orwellian temptation to internalize all the shouting piped into your homes about Iraq from TV and for that matter all of the other pressing scandalous crisis-like issues beamed to you on a nightly basis.

I recognize it may appear difficult in our daily lives to remain persistently cognizant of the threats that exist to our nation and our way of life. Rest assured there are folks out there coming for our lunch money. I wish our common interest in preserving the longevity of this great nation, our prosperity and our way of life, could transcend the rancorous debate and circus-like folly swirling on a host of other issues across the country. Together our people will never be vanquished, divided we lie susceptible to those hungry for our demise.

Sheep and wolves. Thank God for sheepdogs like LtCol Morrison.

Posted by Deb at 06:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

The Five Most Dangerous Things in the US Marine Corps

A Private saying "I learned this in Boot Camp..."

A Sergeant saying "Trust me sir..."

A Lieutenant saying "Based on my experience..."

A Captain saying "I was just thinking..."

A Master Gunny chuckling "Watch this shit..."

Posted by Deb at 10:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

Jane Fonda hands her baggage to Cindy Sheehan

This morning on Good Morning America, Jane Fonda mentioned that she'd like to tour the country to protest U.S. involvement in Iraq, but has concluded that it's a bad idea.

"I wanted to do a tour like I did during the Vietnam War, a tour of the country, but then Cindy Sheehan filled in the gap, and she is better at this than I am. I carry too much baggage."

Baggage doesn't even begin describe the damage done by a clueless twit who toured North Vietnam as a guest of their government while our troops fought against them. That would be like Sean Penn visiting Saddam Hussein (oh wait).

Fonda posed for pictures on a tank used to shoot down American aircraft. She met American POWs who had been provided scripts assuring her that they were well fed and treated - and bought it hook, line, and sinker.

She gave radio broadcasts which castigated American troops as war criminals even as she praised the North Vietnamese military. When American POWs returned to the United States, she called them criminals not heroes. Why she wasn't arrested and tried for treason is a mystery to me.

And now, she'd protest against the liberation of millions of Iraqi and Afghanistan citizens from tyrannic rule. Except that she's resumed her film career and has a book to sell - personal profit trumps political passion after all. However, ceding her torch to Cindy Sheehan shows that she is, at least consistent. Cindy, the grieving mother of a fallen soldier, has posed for pictures with Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez (who has built his political career on suppression of free speech, fiery rhetoric, and human rights violations) and demands that Israel withdraw from Palestine. If Sheehan is picked to carry on the legacy of Fonda, she'll do that well.

To the folks who will send outraged e-mails, here's a thought. Cindy does have moral authority to speak on the war. Her son is a hero who gave his life for a free Iraq. But she does not have absolute moral authority. There are other gold star parents who have their own story. I know this - I've sat in their living rooms and cried with them, laughed with them, and most of all remembered their sons.

Read some of those stories here and consider signing the petition which has 50,000 signatures but is looking for more. Families United For Our Troops And Their Mission has this to say:

Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission is a grassroots coalition of more than 150 ally organizations and over 2,500 members, including hundreds of families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our mission is to honor our fallen heroes and ensure that the American people know about our troops' accomplishments in the War on Terror. We encourage you to learn more about us at our website: www.FamiliesUnitedMission.com

As you may know, April 9th is Iraqi Liberation Day - the three-year anniversary of the end of Saddam Hussein's torturous regime and the day that launched the people of Iraq down the challenging road toward freedom, democracy, and self-sufficiency. We are keenly aware that the national media is drawn towards covering milestones and we respectfully request that you not ignore this historic date.

Although many of our families have made the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror, we remain steadfast in our commitment to defeating terrorists throughout the world and completing the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot forget that America was attacked on September 11, 2001 - an unprovoked attack by Al Qaeda - and we remain vigilant knowing that our own security is at risk until the terrorists are defeated.

While many of us await the return of loved ones abroad, we are reminded that our military is comprised of compassionate, volunteer warriors dedicated to finishing the job. As democracy takes root, we have witnessed more Middle Eastern men and women vote in free and fair elections in the last twelve months, than in the last 6,000 years. Our troops understand this tenuous democracy abroad is paramount to our security at home.

Freedom is not just an American right, it's not just an Iraqi hope . . . it's a human longing. Along with rights, however, come responsibilities and when a protester poses on a North Vietnam tank or with a South American dictator, they should not be surprised when other folks speak up and out.

Posted by Deb at 09:08 AM

April 15, 2006

"We prefer the Marines"

From Strategy Page:
As good as the U.S. Army Special forces are at training foreign troops, many of these foreign armed forces now prefer U.S. Marines. This began when some U.S. officers, responsible for assisting in the training of military forces in Third World countries, began declining, when offered Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel. Publicly, the reasons offered are usually couched in terms that suggest the SOF people are needed elsewhere, which is certainly true, given ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. But privately some of the advisory personnel cite the fact that SOF personnel usually bring with them all sorts of specialized equipment that the host country will never be able to afford. Moreover, the capabilities for which SOF trainers provide training for are often much too sophisticated for local, and usually poorly educated, troops to absorb. An additional objection is that the nature of the way in which SOF operates is just too "undisciplined" for Third World forces. Apparently when asked, experienced advisors will ask for American Marines rather than Special Forces. The Marines have been helping out with the foreign troops training since the war on terror began, and the more basic and down-to-earth approach of the Marines has been more attractive to many nations.

The SOF are still very good at organizing and training irregulars. But when it comes to turning a bunch of civilians into disciplined troops, the Marines have an edge.
Doing more with less. That's the USMC in a nutshell.

Posted by Deb at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

"We truly are the last best hope of the world"

Major Kevin Kelly, F-16 pilot with the New Jersey Air National Guard, is currently deloyed in Iraq. He describes his experience there as "incredible", sharing it through this editorial published in today's Philadelphia Enquirer:

I have seen many incredible sights living and flying in Iraq the last two months. Two things, the bravery of our soldiers and the importance of completing our mission and building a free Iraq, prompt me to write today.

Let me first tell you about my visit to the hospital on the base at Balad, where all serious casualties, both American and Iraqi, are treated. An increasing number of the casualties are new Iraqi soldiers and policemen, as well as civilians. Viewing the wounded was very difficult and left me a bit shaken.

We took some Tastykakes (thanks, Mom) for the injured soldiers. I wanted to thank the troops on the ground that have been bearing the brunt of our efforts in Iraq.

We talked with several of the American soldiers, and, thank God, none of them were critically injured. One of the Army privates had been shot through the hand by a sniper while he was drinking a Coke. The bullet went right through the can and then through his hand. We joked about how angry the sniper must have been when he saw the Coke explode. The private then thanked me, because, he said, "When you guys show up overhead, we all breathe a little bit easier because we know the bad guys are scared."

Here's a guy who takes a bullet that misses his head by inches, and he's sitting there thanking me? It put things into perspective and, quite frankly, made me feel a little unworthy. The kids who are serving over here are the best America has to offer. Their bravery is evident in their capacity to perform professionally even when scared half to death. They make me proud.

We then went to the ward that cared for the Iraqi citizens. To describe it as "horrible" would not be adequate. The ward was filled with police and civilian casualties from a car-bomb attack that left almost every patient missing at least one limb, and many missing several. Despite the heavy sedation and pain medication, most were conscious, screaming and groaning in agony.

Now, if you ever have any doubt that you live in a thoroughly good, decent and moral country, just recall what I'm about to tell you: In the next ward, doctors and nurses were working just as diligently on the very animals who commit these despicable attacks. I scratch my head when so many back home are unable to make the moral distinction between the ideology that gave birth to the greatest country on Earth and the ideology of our enemy in Iraq. I am sometimes fearful that this moral blindness may one day lead to the downfall of our republic. I only hope I'm wrong.

Let me mention one other thing. When we lose one of our brave Americans, before their bodies are carefully loaded on a C-130 aircraft for transport home, an e-mail goes out for volunteers to serve as the honor guard. Along with the members of his unit, volunteers have the privilege of assisting with the conveyance of the flag-draped casket. It typically happens late at night, on the flight line, with the C-130's rear platform lowered and the engines off. Unless you respond immediately to the e-mail, many others beat you to the chance.

As the supervisor of flying the other night, I was able to witness the ceremony. The silence was deafening, the precision was astounding, and the reverence and veneration were complete. I was moved beyond words. I wept openly. Our soldiers are sacrificing to build a strong democratic Iraq and to help ensure the security of all Americans.

Contrary to what you may hear in the media, there is no "civil war"! I fly over every inch of this country both day and night. Is there serious political tension? Yes. Is there sporadic sectarian violence? Yes. Are there those who are willing to blow themselves and innocent Iraqis up in order to prevent a democratic Iraq from becoming a reality? Yes. Should that be the determining factor as to whether we throw up our hands and give up? Hell, no!

Since when has America been intimidated by bullies? We have a responsibility to the people of Iraq and our own greatness as Americans to finish this righteous cause. This is to say nothing of the myriad other reasons why it was a spectacularly good thing to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his rapist heirs.

The vast majority of Iraqi people are incredibly grateful to the United States for saving them from a bloody and brutal dictatorship. There are, granted, those who do not share this same gratitude, namely the former regime and those who benefited from it, as well as foreign militant Islamists who see Iraq as the battleground for their extremism. That's who we're fighting, not the majority of the people of Iraq.

The democratically elected government of Iraq is our ally, and we are helping the Iraqis with their fledgling democracy, just as we helped Japan and Germany after the Second World War. What we have done in Iraq and what we are doing here now are among the noblest things we have ever done as a country.

We truly are the last best hope of the world. We dare not quash that hope in Iraq, and, in the process, destroy our valiant, struggling friends - and their desire for peace and happiness.

Posted by Deb at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006

Making a difference

Ben Stein's latest letter to our men and women in uniform is wonderful - I'm printing it and sending it to my son. Stein is one of those rarities among Hollywood celebrities. He appreciates his freedoms, bought and paid for with the blood of our military, and has expressed that appreciation over and over again. Here are excerpts, but do read the entire letter.

Dear Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, National Guard, Reservists, in Iraq, in the Middle East theater, in Afghanistan, in the area near Afghanistan, in any base anywhere in the world, and your families:

Let me tell you about why you guys own about 90 percent of the cojones in the whole world right now and should be damned happy with yourselves and damned proud of who you are.

Stein goes on to describe the details of our daily existance, living in a country where we have freedoms that can only be dreamed of in so many countries around this world. Your woes might include a family squabble or problems on the job. Others might be in the middle of a messy divorce or washing dishes by hand until the dishwasher is fixed. Me, I'm hoping to lose a few extra pounds before a trip at the end of the month. My car won't start and so I'm driving my son's truck right now (if you're reading this, Shane, I'm taking very good care of it). It's raining here in Oregon and I'm staying home today instead of taking my dog to the park. I've misplaced my cell phone and lost all my numbers. I'm out of chocolate. Little things.

In other parts of the world, people are starving and dying because of oppressive regimes. They would love to be burdened with nothing more than jeans that are a bit too snug and a rainy Sunday afternoon that disrupts leisure plans. Their worries include being blown up by suicide bombers as they worship or having their house commandeered by insurgents intent on using it as a staging ground.

But in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they have done in various parts of the world for more than 230 years, our Marines and soldiers, sailors, and airmen (and women) are making a difference. A real difference. And in so doing, they are defeating evil and bringing hope to a nation.

Stein goes on about the meaning of the work performed by our troops:

Meaning is doing for others. Meaning is risking your life for others. Meaning is putting your bodies and families' peace of mind on the line to defeat some of the most evil, sick killers the world has ever known. Meaning is leaving the comfort of home to fight to make sure that there still will be a home for your family and for your nation and for free men and women everywhere.

Look, soldiers and Marines and sailors and airmen and Coast Guardsmen, there are eight billion people in this world. The whole fate of this world turns on what you people, 1.4 million, more or less, do every day. The fate of mankind depends on what about 2/100 of one percent of the people in this world do every day -- and you are those people. And joining you is every policeman, fireman, and EMT in the country, also holding back the tide of chaos
.

So why do they do it? It isn't for the money. Compare the base salary of a Lance Corporal (about $18,000/yr) with $327,000. That's the lowest salary paid in 2006 for major league ballplayers - a sport where the median income is around $1 million. In contrast, top salary for an enlisted Marine with 20 years of service is about $60,000.

Take a 24 year old Marine and compare him to a 24 year old ball player. At the end of their lives, they'll both have some great stories. But our troops make a difference in a way that actors, rock stars, sports figures, and other folks who are regularly featured in headlines and TV specials will never accomplish. And sometimes, they give their lives in the effort.

Sgt Michael "Shrek" Carlson wrote in a high school essay; "When I am on my deathbed, what am I going to look back on? Will it be thirty years of fighting crime and protecting the country of all enemies, foreign and domestic? I want my life to account for something... I only have so much time. I want to be good at life; I want to be known as the best of the best at my job. I want people to need me, to count on me... I want to fight for something, be part of something that is greater than myself. I want to be a soldier..."

Sgt. Carlson was killed in while serving in Iraq. His life was short but counted for everything. He put his life on the line for our freedoms as have so many others of our best and brightest young men and women. He made a difference. And our troops continue to make a difference every single day.

Recently, my son led a search on a house - something he does every day of the week. After the search was concluded, he sat and drank tea with the the head of the household - a father of nine who has been unemployed for over a year. He could have hired himself out to the insurgency but he chose not to go that route. Like others in this border city, he wants nothing more than to be done with terror - to live and work without fear. My son's squad pooled the money they were carrying (about $20 USD) and that will help this family temporarily - $20 goes a lot further in Iraq than here. But, there is follow-up and follow-through. The civil affairs unit in the city will find work for the father. He'll be able to provide for his family. It's nationbuilding, one family, one house, one city at a time. It brings meaning to the lives of our troops who joined to make a difference and to the lives they touch. It's a legacy that will last.

Stein concludes:

Do you know how important you are? Do you know how indispensable you are? Do you know how humbly grateful any of us who has a head on his shoulders is to you?

Our troops have never asked for thanks. Or gratitude. Or anything, other than our support as they carry out a complex and dangerous mission. The outcome is a safer and freer world for the rest of us. Ben Stein understands that.

Posted by Deb at 03:09 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 08, 2006

What We've Gained In Three Years In Iraq

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, wrote this editorial to mark the three year anniversary of OIF.

Some have described the situation in Iraq as a tightening noose, noting that "time is not on our side" and that "morale is down." Others have described a "very dangerous" turn of events and are "extremely concerned."

Who are they that have expressed these concerns? In fact, these are the exact words of terrorists discussing Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates -- who are describing their own situation and must be watching with fear the progress that Iraq has made over the past three years.

The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.


Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.

Consider that in three years Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government last December. In each of these elections, the number of voters participating has increased significantly -- from 8.5 million in the January 2005 election to nearly 12 million in the December election -- in defiance of terrorists' threats and attacks.

One of the most important developments over the past year has been the increasing participation of Iraq's Sunni community in the political process. In the volatile Anbar province, where Sunnis are an overwhelming majority, voter turnout grew from 2 percent in January to 86 percent in December. Sunni sheiks and religious leaders who previously had been sympathetic to the insurgency are today meeting with coalition representatives, encouraging Iraqis to join the security forces and waging what violent extremists such as Abu al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda followers recognize as a "large-scale war" against them.

The terrorists are determined to stoke sectarian tension and are attempting to spark a civil war. But despite the many acts of violence and provocation, the vast majority of Iraqis have shown that they want their country to remain whole and free of ethnic conflict. We saw this last month after the attack on the Shiite shrine in Samarra, when leaders of Iraq's various political parties and religious groups condemned the violence and called for calm.

Another significant transformation has been in the size, capability and responsibility of Iraqi security forces. And this is vitally important, because it is Iraqis, after all, who must build and secure their own nation.

Today, some 100 Iraqi army battalions of several hundred troops each are in the fight, and 49 control their own battle space. About 75 percent of all military operations in the country include Iraqi security forces, and nearly half of those are independently Iraqi-planned, Iraqi-conducted and Iraqi-led. Iraqi security forces have a greater ability than coalition troops to detect a foreign terrorist's accent, identify local suspects and use force without increasing a feeling of occupation. It was these Iraqi forces -- not U.S. or coalition troops -- that enforced curfews and contained the violence after the attack on the Golden Dome Shrine in Samarra. To be sure, violence of various stripes continues to slow Iraq's progress. But the coalition is doing everything possible to see this effort succeed and is making adjustments as appropriate.

The rationale for a free and democratic Iraq is as compelling today as it was three years ago. A free and stable Iraq will not attack its neighbors, will not conspire with terrorists, will not pay rewards to the families of suicide bombers and will not seek to kill Americans.

Though there are those who will never be convinced that the cause in Iraq is worth the costs, anyone looking realistically at the world today -- at the terrorist threat we face -- can come to only one conclusion: Now is the time for resolve, not retreat.

Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries.

What we need to understand is that the vast majority of the Iraqi people want the coalition to succeed. They want better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country.

That is well worth remembering on this anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Posted by Deb at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2006

History and heroism in unexpected places

Last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed the Army War College to a historical look at heroism of ordinary Americans. Here's a major snippet from his speech:
Some of the passengers on that airplane, Flight 93, did not think of themselves as heroes or history makers when they boarded that plane on a Tuesday morning en route to San Francisco, and undoubtedly never heard of a place called Shanksville or a man named Mohammed Attah, and they never expected to be saying into their telephones, air phones, that:

"The plane's been hijacked."
"I'm calling to say goodbye."
or the final comment,
"Let's roll."

On that day, the terrorists brought their fight to our shores and to our people. And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania -- over that quiet field -- Americans, our fellow citizens, began to fight back.

I suspect Americans will always remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when 3,000 lost their lives. Think of the questions that were asked and I suppose in some cases they're still being asked today.

Who were these people who were attacking us?
What do they want?
How can they be stopped?

I'd like to comment on those questions today.


The enemy we face may be the most brutal in our history. They currently lack only the means -- not the desire -- to kill and murder millions of innocent people with weapons vastly more powerful than boarding passes and box cutters.

Before September 11, 2001, there was somewhat of a misunderstanding in America about terrorists and in some circles I suppose there still is today. Even today, some folks view terrorists as criminals, not as combatants -- some even consider them victims. Some seem to think that the years before September 11th were decades of peace, but that is not so.

Though we think of September 11th as the first day in the Global War on Terror, it wasn't the first day for the enemy. Extremists had declared war on free people decades ago. In 20 years terrorists attacked and killed Americans more than 20 times including the bombing at:

The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983;
The Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983;
Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerby, Scotland, in 1988;
The New York World Trade Center the first time in 1993;
A military compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1995;
Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996;
U.S. Embassies in Kenya, Tanzania in 1998; and then
The war ship USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

During those decades the West was ambivalent about how to counter extremist ideology and that type of aggression. As a result, terrorists became increasingly bolder. We should have learned the timeless truth -- that weakness is provocative.

Consider how they boasted of their murder of innocent people in the Khobar compound in Saudi Arabia. In their words,

"I went into an American's office and called him. When he turned to me I shot him in the head and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We found a Swedish infidel and brother Nim cut off his head and put it at the gate so it could be seen by all entering and exiting."

On September 11th, they accomplished their most daring attack on our shores, and in the years since no part of the world has really been spared from their attacks:

In Russia terrorists held school children hostage, some as young as 20 months old; killed 186.
In Israel they hid a grenade under a baby.
In Iraq, according to the Mayor of Kalifar, they placed explosives inside the corpses of children in order to kill grieving parents coming to recover their bodies.
In Pakistan the Islamic extremists beheaded a Wall Street Journal reporter. They killed him because he was Jewish and because he was American. They bound his hands, they set up their video recorder, they sawed off his head on camera. His widow was pregnant with a son he would never see.

Those attacks, like September 11th -- were not random acts of violence. They were for a purpose and the purpose was to terrorize. If you think about it, people tend to think that the purpose of terrorism is to kill people. It really isn't. It's to terrorize, to alter behavior. In pursuit of a world where clerics issue binding edicts, where children are indoctrinated into violence and hate.

After the September 11th attacks the United States fashioned a very large global Coalition who worked together to protect our people and protect their people. This Coalition is probably the largest in the history of the world, with some 80 or 90 countries working together to make it more difficult for terrorists to do everything they need to do to be successful. More difficult to train, to recruit, to raise money, to establish sanctuaries, to acquire weapons, to cross borders, communicate.

But the strategy must do a great deal more to reduce the lure of the extremist ideology, like standing with those moderate Muslims advocating peaceful change, freedom and tolerance.

Progress is being made. Afghanistan has gone from a country where the government protected terrorists and imprisoned women, to one that imprisons terrorists and protects women. Iraq has gone from Saddam's mass graves to mass participation in democratic elections. A recent survey showed that a large and growing number of Muslims believe that free systems can work in their country.

The extremists see these changes and they're desperate to prevent that progress. One suspects that the terrorists preferred the battles before September 11th, when they were often the only ones on the offensive.

Today there are some who want America to go back on the defensive -- to the strategy that failed before September 11th. They say that a retreat from Iraq would provide an American escape from the violence. However, we know that any reprieve would short lived. To the terrorists, the West would remain the great Satan. The war that the terrorists began would continue. And free people would continue to be their target.

From time to time one hears the claim that terrorists' acts are reactions to particular American policy. That's not so. Their violence preceded by many years operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. And their violence will not stop until their ideology is confronted by the values millions on every continent take for granted. The ideas that liberated moderate Muslims are risking their lives every day to defend -- including free systems, individual rights.

We must recognize this and steel ourselves for the long struggle ahead.

Today's debate is probably the most significant division is between those who realize that we are in fact a nation at war, and those who do not realize that fact.

Of course, those in the Department of Defense are under no illusions. We serve in a building that came under attack. A building whose bricks were charred, whose employees had to escape by crawling through smoke, when that fuel-laden jet was flown into the offices and took some 189 people's lives.

We do not of course know what the thoughts were of those people on that airplane that crashed into Shanksville, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, or the last thoughts of the innocent men and women that were killed. Some I'm sure worried about their families. Before that last plunge to earth over Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at least one passenger on Flight 93 prayed the 23rd Psalm over the phone with a stranger -- an operator he had found while trying to reach his wife. Together they took comfort in the passage that speaks of "still waters" and "green pastures."

Those passengers rest peacefully today and our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines -- which many of you will command -- are doing everything possible to keep other Americans from again having to experience the heartbreak and terror of September 11th.

It's up to all of us -- military and civilian -- to commit ourselves to be patient in supporting history's great and necessary task -- aware that the enemy will not simply go away.

And aware that when future generations learn of places where freedom was defended, they will be told about a meeting hall in colonial Philadelphia, the battlefield of Gettysburg, the beaches at Normandy, and a quiet town, not far from here, called Shanksville.

So I thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your courage and your dedication, the sacrifices you and your families have made to serve our country. I hope that you know our people thank you.
Read the rest, including his answers to some excellent questions, here.

Posted by Deb at 01:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2006

Letter to the President from a Gold Star Dad

Here's a letter to President Bush sent by Bud Clay who was notified in early December that his son, SSGT Daniel Clay was killed while serving with 2/7 Marines in Fallujah. Although he did not make it home to his loving family as they had hoped, he went all the way home and is now deployed in Heaven, guarding the streets for eternity. And someday, he'll be reunited with them - I can't imagine what a party that will be.

And, his father, Bud Clay understands the meaning of honor, reaching out of his grief to send this message to his son's Commander in Chief.

December 7, 2005
President George Bush,
The White House,
Washington, DC.


DEAR PRESIDENT BUSH:

My name is Bud Clay. My son, SSgt Daniel Clay--USMC was killed last week, 12/01/05, in Iraq. He was one of the ten Marines killed by the IED in Fallujah.

Dan was a Christian--he knew Jesus as Lord and Savior--so we know where he is. In his final letter (one left with me for the family--to be read in case of his death) he says "if you are reading this, it means my race is over." He's home now--his and our real home.

I am writing to you--to tell you how proud and thankful we (his parents and family) are of you and what you are trying to do to protect us all. This was Dan's second tour in Iraq--he knew and said that his being there was to protect us.

I want to encourage you. I hear in your speeches about "staying the course". I also know that many are against you in this "war on Terror" and that you must get weary in the fight to do what is right. We and many others are praying for you to see this through--as Lincoln said, "that these might not have died in vain".

You have a heavy load--we are praying for you.

God bless you,
BUD CLAY


Marines are instructed to write a letter to their familes in case of their death while deployed. Mr. Clay included his son's last letter home with his message to President Bush.

MOM, DAD, KRISTIE, JODIE, KIMBERLY, ROBERT, KATY, RICHARD, AND MY LISA:

Boy do I love each and every one of you. This letter being read means that I have been deemed worthy of being with Christ. With MaMa Jo, MaMa Clay, Jennifer .... all those we have been without for our time during the race. This is not a bad thing. It is what we hope for. The secret it out. He lives and His promises are real! It is not faith that supports this .... but fact and I now am a part of the promise. Here is notice! Wake up! All that we hope for is Real. Not a hope. But Real.

But here is something tangible. What we have done in Iraq is worth any sacrifice. Why? Because it was our duty. That sounds simple. But all of us have a duty. Duty is defined as a God given task. Without duty life is worthless. It holds no type of fulfillment. The simple fact that our bodies are built for work has to lead us to the conclusion that God (who made us) put us together to do His work. His work is different for each of us.

Mom, yours was to be the glue of our family, to be a pillar for those women (all women around you), Dad, yours was to train and build us (like a Platoon Sgt) to better serve Him. Kristie, Kim, Katy you are the five team leaders who support your Squad ldrs, Jodie, Robert and Richard. Lisa you too. You are my XO and you did a hell of a job. You all have your duties. Be thankful that God in His wisdom gives us work. Mine was to ensure that you did not have to experience what it takes to protect what we have as a family. This I am so thankful for. I know what honor is. It is not a word to be thrown around. It has been an Honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to. This is as close to Christ-like I can be. That emulation is where all honor lies. I thank you for making it worthwhile.

As a Marine this is not the last Chapter. I have the privilege of being one who has finished the race. I have been in the company of heroes. I now am counted among them. Never falter! Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.

Now here are my final wishes. Do not cry! To do so is to not realize what we have placed all our hope and faith in. We should not fear. We should not be sad. Be thankful. Be so thankful. All we hoped for is true. Celebrate! My race is over, my time in war zone is over. My trials are done. A short time separates all of us from His reality. So laugh. Enjoy the moments and your duty. God is wonderful.

I love each and every one of you.

Spread the word .... Christ lives and He is Real.

Semper Fidelis


Ssgt Clay's final wish: Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.

I would love to see this father, who understands the true meaning of honor and who continues to support his son, given the same media attention given to Cindy Sheehan.

Thanks to Mary Helen who sent this along.

Posted by Deb at 01:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

Fair Winds and Following Seas to an American Hero

One definition of a hero is recognizing the right thing to do, and then doing it, no matter what the personal risk or cost. Hugh Thompson earned that title when he faced evil and stepped in to make a difference. John Donovan from Castle Argghhh! hosts a memorial this weekend for CW2 Turner, who died Thursday of cancer in a VA hospital.

On March 16, 1968, American soldiers in My Lai killed more than 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Many were children and senior citizens. And, the body count would have been higher if it weren't for the courage of Thompson and his crew who landed their helicopter in between American troops and the Vietnamese citizens who took shelter in a bunker.

From a CNN interview:

"We just noticed a vast number of dead bodies: old women, old men, babies, infants that were dead or wounded," said Thompson, who was 24 at the time.

Thompson and his crew, 19-year-old gunner Larry Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta, 18, flew closer to the ground and what they saw there confirmed their fears. They watched a fellow American shoot a Vietnamese woman at point-blank range.

Thompson landed his helicopter, determined to stop the killing. Then he and his crew did something that could have cost them their own lives or military careers: They turned their guns on fellow Americans and ordered them to stop shooting.

"This was taking advantage of very helpless, defenseless people, and it's not good," said Thompson. "It's not the American way - wasn't my way, that's for sure."

Once the shooting stopped, Thompson did things his way. He had seen villagers run from American troops and take cover in a bunker, and was determined to save them.

But some soldiers were not through killing. When Thompson told the troops he was going to help those in the bunker, one soldier offered to get them out - with a hand grenade.

"I told them to just hold their troops because I [thought] I could do better than that," said Thompson. "Thank God that everybody played it real cool then and they just held their ground."

The frightened villagers at first were reluctant to come out, but they recognized Thompson as the soldier who had stopped the carnage.

As they emptied the bunker, Thompson realized it had hidden more villagers than he had thought and he began to realize the magnitude of the situation.

He had the wounded airlifted to a hospital, but the damage already had been done. American soldiers had already killed 504 Vietnamese by the time he intervened.

Though Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta could not undo the My Lai Massacre, they likely prevented the killing from spreading to nearby villages.


And, it was over 30 years before Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta were recognized for their heroism. In 1997, they each received the Soldier's Medal, an award for battlefield bravery that doesn't involve enemy conflict. Colburn and Thompson received their medals personally. Andreotta was killed in combat shortly after My Lai.

"What My Lai really means or what it stands for is choices that you make in your life and the outcomes, and if it signifies anything, it's that," Colburn said.

Photo by Trent Angers, Lafayette, La
From the Acadian Press website, here are Hugh Thompson and Larry Colburn with two of the women they saved during the My Lai massacre on March 16, 1968. From left to right are Colburn, Pham Thi Nhung, Pham Thi Nhanh, Ms. Nhanh's daughter, and Thompson. The reunion took place at My Lai, Vietnam.

"My Lai was a very bad situation - one that I hope and pray never happens again, but there's some good that came out of it," Thompson said in a CNN interview. "If we can have any of our younger generation, our college students or whatever, high school, stop and think sometime in their life, 'This ain't right. I'm not gonna do it' and put their foot down and go with what's in their heart, it'll be worth it in the long run."


And that lesson carries on. In an interview recently, Joint Chiefs Chair, USMC General Peter Pace reiterated his expectation for American troops:

"It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening but you're told about it is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago. There's a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it. So they did exactly what they should have done."


My Lai is certainly a black mark on our military history. Thanks to heroes like Hugh Thompson, and leaders like General Pace, it will, hopefully, never be repeated. Choices and outcomes. Thompson made a courageous choice and it made a difference. In the end, that is all any of us can aspire to do.

Posted by Deb at 01:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 06, 2006

Support the Troops by Supporting Their Mission

Recently a letter was sent from Iraq, written by a soldier currently deployed in Baghdad, to members of Congress who are publicly critical of the war effort. Read all of it here; but here are snippets worth reading by those who seek to gain partisan advantage by sniping at the mission of our deployed troops and their supporters.
As you persist with your thoughts that this war cannot be won, consider the notion of past military victories: The First War with Iraq, the defense of South Vietnam, the landing at Inchon, Iwo Jima, the Second Battle of the Marne, Gettysburg, New Orleans, and Yorktown. What made these battles significant for American forces was not only the skillful tactics of the troops, it also consisted of the support of a political entity whose primary goal was to win, not to participate in petty, partisan politics. Nobody questioned President Franklin Roosevelt's strategy by saying we needed to pull out of World War II because he did not foresee the intensity of the Japanese on the South-Pacific islands. There was no doubt about fighting the Germans, even though they did not attack the U.S. Absent were the calls that President Woodrow Wilson engage in self-defeating reflection by apologizing for the brutality of trench-warfare. General George Washington held firm over a period of seven years in his overall strategy, despite early defeats. Yet, they all believed in what was right and their persistence proved successful. The fight for freedom is a relatively recent phenomenon, therefore, it is not widely accepted and it is a difficult process.

The American soldiers are not concerned about arguments that Saddam Hussein's payments to terrorists did not contribute to September 11th. They do not want to hear that Hussein's acquiescence to the presence of the barbarian Zarqawi in Iraq in 2001 was not a threat to our country. They are not going to analyze whether Hussein's "secular government" would ever conspire with religious fanatics to attack the U.S. More importantly, they do not consider the war in Iraq as a "distraction" from the efforts in Afghanistan. Yet, this is the anti-war mantra heard ever since the Islamo-fascists had the temerity to attack American troops. These are the same people who crashed jetliners into innocent Americans and you want to withdraw because they shoot back. What did you expect? This is war. Unfortunately, we were going to experience losses. Each loss is tragic, but each loss represents the yearning not to allow another innocent American to be attacked on U.S. soil ever again. Their lives were not lost in vain.

Never has a nation invaded another for the purpose of improving the style of government in the occupied land, while simultaneously respecting the lives and resources of the people. Naturally, there is a self-serving national security concern that is the overriding issue; however, the American military truly believes that it is also improving the lives of the Iraqi people. After three successful elections never before witnessed in this part of the world, American service-members have much to be proud of.

However, you portray the war as an imperialistic adventure along the lines of Napoleon. As Camillus saved Rome, you play the role of a present day Manlius. Envious of success, along with a desire to contradict the President at every opportunity, you conduct yourselves in ways that reflect your self-centered, degraded pursuit of power. How shallow it must be to sacrifice the honor of the American military and all of its accomplishments in Iraq at the altar of the 2006 and 2008 elections.

You constantly refer to the "failure" and "defeat" of Vietnam to justify your criticism of the current war. It is an unusual thought that you revel in the so-called defeat in Vietnam and optimistically predict the same self-induced conclusion in Iraq. To paraphrase John S. Mill: War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The degraded state of patriotic feeling, which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who cares about nothing more than himself is a selfish figure who has no chance at being free, unless provided by others better than himself.

When you criticize the President and the war effort, you are criticizing every service-member in this war. Please do not patronize the public with the often heard, "I support the troops, but I don't support the war." You cannot support the troops without supporting the war because their mission in life right now is to win the war, provide security for our country, and return home safely with honor.

However, you make that realization more difficult each passing day. Your talk of "there aren't enough troops", "the President lied", or, "we need a strategic withdrawal" is tiring and self-defeating, as well as contradictory. If you have legitimate concerns about achieving success in the war, perhaps you should discuss them with the President behind closed doors. Military exercises and combat operations require an analysis for lessons learned. Constructive criticism is expected and beneficial, but never is it acceptable when it is situated on the world stage for political purposes as it places the overall mission in danger.
The constant carping and criticism by Democratic leadership, who ignore the success stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan as related by military experts who see the day-to-day progress, is dangerously close to treason. Especially when journalists helpfully spin it some more. Cassandra, writing at TigerHawk's blog, cuts to the heart of this issue:
When Colonel Danny Bubp, himself a Marine, had the colossal nerve to express publicly to his Congresswoman what the vast majority of Marines think privately (that withdrawing from the field of battle and reneging on our promises would be a cowardly act incompatible with over 200 years of proud Marine Corps history) Rep. Harold Ford charged across the House floor in anger and had to be physically restrained. How dare one of those uppity military types voice an opinion? Who let him in here? House Democrats then tried to have his words stricken from the record before thinking better of it.

The media then launched a ridiculous smear campaign complete with unfounded allegations that Rep. ("Mean Jean") Schmidt "misquoted" Bubp. In reality, the only alteration between her remark and Bubp's quote was her substitution of Murtha's name for "that congressman who sponsored the bill" - a change that altered the meaning of Bubp's comment not one iota. They also tried to make hay of Bubp's statement that he never meant to imply Murtha was a coward. Well of course he didn't. Unless English is your second language, a plain reading of his comment (difficult, as most news accounts of the story omitted the quote and simply informed readers Schmidt had called Murtha a coward) makes it quite obvious that was never his intent. Schmidt and Bubp have agreed on this point from day one.
Transforming Iraq and Afghanistan, from rule by tyranny to the beginnings of democracy, in just a few years is a tremendous accomplishment. This has been accomplished, not by oil-for-food or appeasement, but by fighting Al Queda where they live and work. And, at the same time, engaging in nation building. Our troops have reopened schools and hospitals, supported local leaders as they identify infrastructure deficiencies, and gained the trust of local folks who defy terrorist death threats to vote in national elections. And, our troops have voices. If only our leaders would listen. And learn. JCS Chairman, General Peter Pace, suggested as much in a question & answer session following a speech last December:
QUESTION: Thanks for taking my question. Sir, it seems like the press and the media have one perception of how the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is being conducted. And on the other end of the spectrum we have our government and the military's perception of how the war is being carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my view, there's a gap. In other words, those perceptions do not match. What are we doing about it? And specifically, in the victory outline, I noticed there could be a lot more reference to informational use as an instrument of power. And I'd like your comments, please, sir.

GEN. PETER PACE: Yeah. Thanks.

I think you are correct that we have not -- we, guys like me -- have not articulated well enough what is happening in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

We made a conscious decision in June of '04, when the Iraqi government took over sovereignty, that we would step back a little bit in the press to do the proper thing, which was to let the Iraqi government speak for itself publicly. And that was a good idea. But as a result of stepping back, I think we may have stepped back a little too far inside our own country with regard to explaining to our own people what we were doing. And I think you can do both; I think you can have the Iraqi government, properly so, speaking about what they're doing for their own country and their own people, and still have U.S. military leaders, in our case, talk about what the U.S. military was doing in a way that explains to the American public the progress that's being made.

So, it's incumbent not only on folks like me in Washington, but also on lieutenant colonels, and colonels, and captains, and lieutenants, and lance corporals and corporals. When they come home, we should be encouraging them inside their local communities to take the opportunity to talk to the local newspapers, to the local chamber of commerce -- just to be able to answer our fellow citizens' questions as openly and honestly as we can, understanding that PFC Pace's view of the battlefield is different than General Pace's view of the battlefield. But if enough of us are making ourselves available to answer questions publicly, then the American people will have a large enough buffet, so to speak, that they can pick and choose and read and listen and determine for themselves what's really going on.

If you remember back when the war first began, it was 24/7 coverage. You could watch TV all day long, you could read magazines, you could read newspapers. If you cared to, you could have all the information you wanted to determine for yourself what was really going on.

Understandably, we don't have 24/7 coverage anymore. Therefore, the amount of information out there for the general public is less than it used to be. Those of us who have the opportunity to put more on the table for more people to look at and turn around and decide for themselves what's right and what's not, need to take those opportunities. That's a reason why I mentioned upfront how appreciative I am of the press being here today. But it's also an answer to your question, which is not just the senior leaders of our organizations, whether they be civilian or military, need to be out talking, but all of us need to think through what do we know that we'd like our fellow citizens to know, and how might we have the opportunity to just sit with groups and talk and have a dialogue in a way that would help them understand what their military's doing.
If that happens, our military needs to be more proactive in finding opportunities to get their message out, to find those groups, to open those dialogues. And, while that message may be ignored by some media or politicians, if the stories are heard enough times they will be harder and harder to ignore. Or, spin. Predictably, General Pace's comment was mischaracterized by John Roberts at CBS. As related by Brad Wilmouth:
Roberts began his story by introducing Pace's comments as part of a "campaign of contrition to win back the public trust in Iraq," as if the Joint Chiefs Chairman were repenting for some grave misdeed. Roberts then asserted, "Today, it was the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff who admitted mistakes have been made," followed by the below clip of General Pace:

General Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs Chairman: "We, guys like me, have not articulated well enough what is happening in Iraq and in Afghanistan."

After also citing a Bush speech from the day before, which is covered in more detail further down, Roberts maintained that, "The change in tone is an answer to critics who claim the President won't acknowledge errors or learn from them. The new candor won praise from some Democrats..." which gave the impression the administration was admitting to errors in the way the war has been conducted since Democrats have frequently made that criticism.

The quote from Pace was therefore misused to add credibility to charges that the Bush administration made mistakes in conducting the war, rather than conveying the full scope of the problem Pace's comments were actually referring to: the negative portrayal of the Iraq War's progress by the media. Notably, Pace, who was responding to a question from an audience member, chose not to frame his comments as an attack on the media, but instead referred to his own failure to be more proactive in conveying the message to the public. Pace also did not himself use the word "mistake," as this was Roberts' choice of words.
This would have been clear to anyone reading the full transcript and the obvious conclusion is that Roberts deliberately misinterpreted General Pace's words to make his negative point. Cassandra finishes up her essay with the following observation:
But it's so much easier to control the dialogue if we can just keep those troublesome military folks (you know - the ones who are actually fighting the war) away from the megaphone and let the press control public perception. Just trot out a few worn out and disaffected vets, and if anyone dares to disagree with them - even active duty folks who actually know something about the subject - either refuse to cover what their remarks, mischaracterize them, or call them partisans.
And sometimes, all of the above.

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January 05, 2006

Finding Gold at Parris Island

Last September, Ashley Edwardson attended a USMC graduation ceremony at Parris Island, South Carolina. Via Jarhead Dad, here is the letter he wrote to the Gainesville Sun, chronicling his experience:
To the editor:

I recently had the privilege of attending a graduation ceremony at Parris Island, South Carolina. Little did I know that this would be one of those rare defining moments in my life. One of those moments which forever change the way you see yourself and the rest of the world. Since I left there, I have been sifting through my thoughts and feelings, like a miner trying to glean the nuggets from the sand. Hopefully, I will leave my Parris Island gold with you.

My trip to Parris Island was a study in contrasts. The contrasts between the Marine world and the world I live in. When you pass through the entrance and converse with the sentry, you are convinced in about five seconds max that Parris Island is a place where they say what they mean and mean what they say. You note the posted speed limit is 25 MPH and you are not tempted to try 26. You instinctively know that the rules there are not meant to be broken, bent, or circumvented. Parris Island is utterly devoid of any trash, even the size of a postage stamp. Every square inch of sidewalks and roadways are edged, mowed, and manicured to exceed Disney World standards. In stark contrast to my world, there were no drive-by shootings. There were no blaring stereo speakers blasting profane garbage that disgraced the maker and disrespected the listener. There were no hats on backwards and no exposed posterior crevasses. There was no graffiti. They use the words "ma’am" and "sir". Two separate invocations were held during the ceremonies. No one was offended and no ACLU lawyers showed up to save us and file lawsuits. The flag was flown and the national anthem was played and no federal judges declared it unconstitutional. I felt safe without my Glock. It is the only place I've ever been that I saw my tax dollars were well spent and hard at work.

Those rare defining moments that I write of have been few for me. I used to have them when my daughters passed milestones in their lives and achieved goals. I cannot take much credit for those successes. Each of my daughters has always been her own person, but in a small way, when they succeeded, I did too. Those are the moments I treasure and that I hope define me as a parent. Being a Deputy Sheriff for then years put me in the company of so many outstanding officers, not surprisingly, many of whom were ex-Marines. I treasure those days as well. So too, when I attended Recruit Dustin T. Ryan's graduation, I felt fate had made me part of something so much better than myself and I came away a better and wiser person.

Before Parris Island (BPI), I spent hours and days watching the events unfold in New Orleans on TV. I was both angry and depressed. The scenes reminded me of a really bad reality TV survival show. I was embarrassed for the world to see some of my fellow countrymen at their worst. I was sure that our country could not survive if the best we could do, during bad times, was loot, shoot at our rescuers, and throw food on the ground – the same food that our soldiers in Iraq eat every day. During this same time period, the recruits on Parris Island were going through the Crucible (a 72 hour, 30 mile obstacle course, where they are allowed three meals - total - and four hours of sleep a night). They would not graduate without passing this course. They would not pass the course without working together to achieve goals and survive. Now, (AP), I know what separated these two groups of people - training, self reliance, the will to survive, and most importantly - leadership. I'm pretty sure the recruits weren't allowed to give up and wait for FEMA to do it for them.

Here then, is the gold I found at Parris Island. At graduation, I saw Dustin T. Ryan and 481 other graduates stripped of some twenty years worth of wrong thinking. The thinking produced by a society that highly values freedom, but hardly values character. A society which lives for today and never gives a thought about tomorrow. Much of American society has lost what can be found in abundance at Parris Island. API, I'm still not sure that our country will survive, but I am sure of this one thing. If one Marine is left anywhere, honor, courage, commitment, and leadership will carry on. Self reliance and self sacrifice will survive. The qualities and character that made America and her citizens great before are still alive and well on Parris Island. Even Mac, the Parris Island bull dog, was a model of canine obedience. His house was cleaner than most hospitals I've been in. The Marine Band which is small in number but big in sound was a model of what I saw everywhere. Doing more with less. Doing it better and faster. Doing it precisely on time and with perfection. If only the rest of America could grasp what Col. Steven D. Hogg and the United States Marine Corps have figured out. My hat is off to Dustin T. Ryan and the other recruits who graduated from H company. As they say in today's vernacular, you guys rule.

Ashley Edwardson Alachua, FL
It's a continual source of amazement to me that in 13 weeks, the Marine Corps accomplishes what 18 years of parental nagging cannot - turning a typical teen into a squared away Marine. Oohrah.

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January 04, 2006

Born on the birthday of the Corps

B.J. Daniels, former Marine with a caring heart passed along this request:
I was getting myself pumped up for all the big football games this holiday. Reading all the various websites when I came across a story and picture of this lovely little girl.
http://www.curenikolette.org/


I read it and it it brought tears to my eyes. Now as a former macho Marine type that is usually hard to do but to me she was as brave as anyone I served with in the Marines.

I thought to myself how can she smile after undergoing not one but two Chemo treatments...well she must be truly special!

Then I read her bio... Well! Well! Look at her birthday!

November 10th!!!! She is truly special! To share that birthday with the best Military unit ever....she is a born fighter!!

I know this is tough times for all who serve and their families, but we must help her. Please post her story somewhere on your site and let the Marines know about this brave little girl who shares our special day and needs their help.

Thank you and God Bless!
I noticed on the Cure Nikolette website that there's a place in Beaverton, OR where donations can be dropped off, sold on E-Bay, and the proceeds will go towards her medical care. I need to clean out a few closets this weekend and now I have a place where all those treasures I no longer need will go.

Posted by Deb at 07:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 02, 2006

Force Multipliers

From Wikipedia:
Force Multiplier-a military term referring to a factor that dramatically increases (hence multiplies) the combat-effectiveness of a given military force.
Russ Vaughn, poet laureate of OIF, sent along his latest:
Force Multipliers
In Iraq an IED explodes,
An American soldier dies,
But that blast will grow as the media blow
It up before our eyes.
And trumpet to the watching world,
These fifth column falsifiers,
Like sheep they bleat we face defeat,
Our foe's force multipliers.

Osama and his minions know,
In combat they can't beat us;
So they hope and pray will come a day,
Our own media will defeat us.
Ignoring all the good we've done,
Liberals focus on the gore,
On losses mounting and body counting,
To prove we've lost this war.

They disgraced us once in Vietnam,
So now these leftists feel,
That again they'll win with media spin,
And make America kneel.
But defeatists aren't the only ones,
Learned lessons from the past;
Back then we swore we'd lose no more,
This time we're standing fast.

The Internet's exposed them,
As elitist media liars;
They stand unclothed and widely loathed,
Our foe's force multipliers.
Some day when all our troops return,
With Iraq on freedom's path,
The liberal elite who sought defeat,
May face some Righteous wrath.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66
Thanks, Russ, your words are also a force multiplier.

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January 01, 2006

A comprehensive list of Milblogs

One of my new new favorite sites, www.milblogging.com is starting 2006 in grand style with a major media plug this morning - if you haven't checked it out yet, do. It's a great place to find both established and brand new milblogs - voices that provide a candid look at current events. Reading through these weblogs is a terrific way to start out the new year.

Posted by Deb at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2005

General Pace: "This has been an incredible year"

Last Sunday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USMC Gen. Peter Pace appeared on the Fox News Channel's "Fox News Sunday," Here's what he had to say about re-enlistment rates and the contributions of military families, via John D. Banusiewicz with the American Forces Press Service:
"(The high re-enlistment rate) shows their pride in what they're doing and their understanding of how important it is," the general said. "It is absolutely true that for those units that have served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, that their re-enlistment rates are the highest of all of our armed forces."

Pace said servicemembers know they're doing important work, and also know it's appreciated. "I think Pfc. Pace understands the value of what he or she is doing, and they know that what they're doing is appreciated by the Iraqis and the Afghan people. They know that the support here at home for the armed forces is very, very solid and very strong. They're proud of what they're doing, and they want to continue to do it."

The chairman acknowledged that waking up far from home on Christmas morning can be difficult for the nation's deployed forces, but he added they can wake up with great pride in what they've accomplished in 2005.

"This has been an incredible year," the general said, "and all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen (and) Merchant Marines have so much to be proud of, and we should all be thankful."

Pace cited an unprecedented concentration of major relief efforts, including the South Asia tsunami, hurricane relief in the United States and earthquake relief in Pakistan. He also noted that U.S. servicemembers' efforts helped to bring about Afghanistan's second parliamentary election as well as two elections and a referendum on a constitution in Iraq.

"When they wake up this Christmas Day, and they're away from home, they also can take enormous pride in being part of a really historical year," Pace said.

The chairman also noted the contributions military families make. "You know, when we're overseas and we are in harm's way, we know when we get in trouble, and we are able to, through our training, do something about it," the general said. "Our families here at home don't know when we're in trouble, so they wait and they pray.

"And when we come home," he continued, "they stand in the background and pretend that we did it all on our own. But the families that we have supporting our military are serving this country at least as well as those who wear the uniform."
Amen.

Posted by Deb at 07:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2005

Vice President Cheney" "One Team, One Fight."

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife made a surprise visit to Bagram Afghanistan - here's the text of his speech to the assembled troops:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Don't hold back. (Laughter.) Well, that's quite a welcome. And Lynne and I are delighted to be here today. And I want to thank you for that fantastic welcome. And, General Eikenberry, for your kind words, and say good afternoon to my fellow Americans. Let me also thank General Sterling and Command Sergeant Major Savusa. It's great to be here today. I have a message from the folks back home: We're proud of you; we're grateful for your service; and we're behind you 100 percent.
It's good to be back at Bagram Air Field, and to express our country's appreciation to every man and woman in Joint Task Force 76. I'm only sorry I didn't come earlier this month. Somebody told me I missed a chance to meet Vince McMahon, Big Show, and Triple H. (Applause.)

I was last here a year ago, and over this time you have done extraordinary work fighting terrorists, standing up the Afghan security structure, building a secure and peaceful future for Afghanistan. With Christmas and Hanukkah just around the corner, I wanted to come and let you know how impressed we've been with the tremendous progress you've made. And to each and every one of you, I bring the personal gratitude and the good wishes of our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

More than four years have passed since the United States was attacked by a terror network that received support and safe harbor from the Taliban regime. And after the awful events of September 11th, this nation set out to hunt down the terrorists, one by one if necessary, and to hold accountable regimes that gave shelter to the enemies of civilization. With good allies at our side, we came into Afghanistan, joined up with freedom fighters, and began dismantling the training camps of terror and the apparatus of a violent regime. It was a huge and challenging task to face these enemies in their own element -- going into rugged, isolated territory to find terrorists who dwell in the shadows, in mountain ledges, and caves.

Some of the challenges in the Afghan campaign were unprecedented. For example, our naval expeditionary forces had to establish a forward-operating base 450 miles inland -- more than twice the distance that previous doctrine considered supportable. And yet for all the difficulties we had to confront, America and our superb coalition partners acted with speed and precision -- bringing down the Taliban, capturing or killing hundreds of al Qaeda, and liberating 25 million people from tyranny.

As we pledged to do, our coalition has stood with this nation and helped prepare the way for democratic institutions and a free society. On our trip last December, Mrs. Cheney and I had the privilege of attending the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai. Just this morning we witnessed another milestone, as newly elected representatives took their place as members of the Afghan Parliament. Once again, in free elections, the Afghan people have shown the world their determination to chart their own destiny. In this journey of freedom and progress, they will continue to have the full support of America and our coalition. We are proud to count Afghanistan as a free country, a fellow democracy, and a friend of the United States of America.

We are firmly committed to the safety of the Afghan people, to the success of this democracy, and to lasting peace and stability in the region. And by serving here today, each and every one of you is playing a vital role in that cause. There is still a terrorist element in this country, and some Taliban die-hards who apparently are slow learners. (Laughter.) The job of this Task Force is to find these enemies, to confront them directly, and to take them out of commission. And that is the business at hand, and you're doing it extremely well.

I also want you to know, ladies and gentlemen, that I was in Iraq yesterday, and spent some time with soldiers, Marines, and Navy corpsmen serving in the western part of the country. Your comrades are doing fantastic work over there. On occasion they receive mixed signals from politicians about whether America has what it takes to stay in the fight. I assured them that the American people do not support a policy of submission, resignation, and defeatism in the face of terror. In the war on terror we are up against an entirely new kind of threat to our security -- a threat global in scale, and often hidden from view. And the United States has made a decision: We will engage the enemies of civilization. We will face them with our military far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities.

Along with the American servicemen and women in Task Force 76, I want to express our nation's gratitude to all the personnel operating here at Bagram, and to the men and women from other nations in the coalition. Together you are "One Team." You've stayed on the offensive from day one, and your tremendous skill and professionalism are helping to make history.

In this fight our special forces, expeditionary forces, and Task Force Devil are at the tip of the spear -- going into the high mountains and along border areas. In the intel, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations, our coalition is using aircraft, drones, and people on the ground to keep an eye on the enemy in order to strike at the right moment. Our forces have also found and destroyed enemy weapons caches and IED cells. Overhead, the EC-130s provide an electronic shield around ground forces, giving them another edge against the enemy. Here at Bagram you operate the busiest runway in Afghanistan, and the 455th ECES is out there every day keeping it in great repair.

At the same time, our coalition is building up the infrastructure to improve both security and living conditions in Afghanistan. Three major all weather combat roads have been built in the last eight months, making our forces less vulnerable to IEDs while helping to unify this country and strengthen its economy.

The capability, confidence, and experience level of the Afghan forces continues to rise month by month. There have been many joint operations, including some very tough combat against the terrorists. Since last March, JTF-76 has completed over two hundred combat operations, and increased operations with the Afghan National Security Forces. The Afghan military is a respected institution, committed to its duties, and critical to the success of this nation. Americans are proud to serve with the forces of a free Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan have been through so much -- from hostile occupation by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, to the horrors of the Taliban in the 1990s. But this young century is turning out to be a time of promise -- with a democracy, a market economy, equality for women, and millions of children going to school for the first time. America has made a long term commitment to freedom and progress in this land. And in your conduct as members of the military here at Bagram, you are showing the true character of the United States. I think of people like those in Joint Task Force 76 Surgeon, who have provided medical care to thousands of Afghan citizens, and also veterinary care to farm animals and pets. I think of all that was done to provide relief after the earthquakes in this area- with our military moving thousands of tons of equipment and supplies to the affected areas, and providing treatment to thousands of people who were injured.

I think as well of the great kindness you've shown in the "Adopt-A-Village" program, as you go into Afghan communities with clothing, school supplies, and toys. After going into a village one of our soldiers said, "Once the trip's over, you're really proud of what you've done and of the country you serve." It speaks well of America, and of our military, that we have people like you building ties of friendship with the citizens of Afghanistan. And it's another reason the folks back home are grateful to you.

By fighting enemies, by standing with our friends, we honor both the ideals and protect the security interests of the United States. The victory of freedom in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq, will be an inspiration to democratic reformers in other lands. In the broader Middle East and beyond, America will continue to encourage free markets, democracy, and tolerance -- because these are the ideas and aspirations that overcome violence, and turn societies to the pursuits of peace. And as the people of this region experience new hope, progress, and control over their own lives, we will see the power of freedom change our world, and a terrible threat will be removed from the lives of our children and our grandchildren.

Each one of you is helping to write a very proud chapter in the history of freedom. You've carried out your duties in difficult conditions, far from home and family, often risking your lives, and experiencing the loss of comrades. You have done everything we've asked of you. You have conducted yourselves with professionalism and with honor. And when you return home from this part of the world, you can be proud of your service for the rest of your life. (Applause.)

Once again, I thank you for a wonderful job on behalf of the United States. I want you to know, especially at Christmastime, how much you mean to America. This is a season for counting our blessings, and Americans realize how fortunate we really are to have people like you wearing the uniform of our country. I want to thank you, once again, for serving far from home, in an hour of great need. You reflect immense credit on the uniform you wear and on the cause you serve, and the nation is proud of each and every one of you.

"One Team, One Fight." Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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December 23, 2005

Will there be justice for Robert Stethem?

18 months ago, we printed an eyewitness account to Robert Stethem's brutal murder. He was killed by Hezbollah terrorists because he served in the U.S. military. Here's part of that account:
I was one of the Navy Seabee Divers who had to endure the pain of hearing and seeing SW2 (DV) Robert Stethem go through the brutality of terrorism on June 14, 1985. It has been 19 years since that day. I will NEVER FORGET what he sacraficed. I was lucky/blessed to be able to return home after 17 days of captivity. The mental and physical pains which we all endured during that time will heal, but will also be forever etched into our memory. Bobby was a close friend who is deeply missed by many. Let us all remember what has been taken away from us by EVIL and call it what it is. Many people ask me the question of, are we doing the right thing in waging a world wide war on terror, as if I am some type of an expert on the topic. I can only respond by saying,"If you can answer that question buy saying NO, you have not personally felt the pain of the enemy. Only a casual observer can say that we are doing the wrong thing, someone who lives in a bubble". Let us not just remember the events of Sept. 11,2001, but remember all of what has happened over the course of many years. Remember we are not the bad guys in this fight. It is right for us to take a stand and support the cause of freedom and to do our best in preventing these acts of barbarism. I have no doubts that if Robert Stethem were still alive what his answer would be.
Stethem's killers - Mohammed Ali Hamadi and Hasan Izz-Al-Din, escaped after the kidnapping. Hamadi was later captured, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Germany. German courts refused a U.S. request for extradition because Hamadi might have faced the death penalty if he were tried by U.S. courts. So, what does a life sentence for terrorism mean in Germany? Earlier this month, Hamadi was set free from his German prison cell and flown back to Lebanon. And, according to a post on an Arlington National Cemetary website, Stethem's parents, Richard and Patricia, continue to press for Hamadi's extradition. They have not forgotten. Patricia Stethem will visit her son's grave at Arlington this Christmas, with a message . . . "We'll be after him. We won't let it rest." Hopefully, this time, America will also stand behind them and this extradition request will not rest until Hamadi and Izz-Al-Din stand before a judge in the United States.

Posted by Deb at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005

Marines - "a microcosm of America at its best"

Here is a must-read for today. Matt Pottinger, a Wall Street Journal correspondent recently gave up journalism to become a Marine. He is commissioned a 2nd Lt. today at Quantico. Why would he do this? His parting editorial can be found at Opinion Journal, but his walkaway paragraph says it all:
"In a way, I see the Marines as a microcosm of America at its best. Their focus isn't on weapons and tactics, but on leadership. That's the whole point of the Marines. They care about each other in good times and bad, they've always had to fight for their existence--even Harry Truman saw them as nothing more than the "Navy's police force"--and they have the strength of their traditions. Their future, like the country's, is worth fighting for. I hope to be part of the effort."

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December 09, 2005

A Marine Dad responds to Representative Jack Murtha

I've heard from a number of Marines and Marine parents who were outraged at Representative John Murtha's challenge to President Bush. The following was recently sent to Rep. Murtha by a proud Marine Dad who put those feelings into this eloquent letter:

Representative Murtha:

During the dark days of the American Revolution the Commanding General, George Washington, seemed unable to win any victories. There were wholesale desertions, troops were starving, the fledgling government was sporadic with money, food and ammunition in short supply. Out of this darkness emerged a genuine American Hero. This officer brilliantly led his troops in combat and though seriously, and almost mortally wounded, won victory after victory for the desperate and beleaguered American Continental Army.

After helping to turn the tide of war in the favor of the Americans, this officer's fame grew as did his prestige, but his prowess on the battlefield, his courage under fire and indeed all of his life, is forgotten because of one act. His name is now synonymous with "traitor" in the dictionary. General Benedict Arnold, like you, had a brilliant military career of courage, honor, and sacrifice. Like you, in my opinion, he was a traitor to his country and to his oath as an American soldier. It is indeed fitting that you are member of the same political party as another traitor and seditionist, former Lieutenant John Kerry USN, who betrayed his country, not only on the very floor of the House of Representatives that you now serve, but also, secretly, in the presence of our enemies in Paris, France.

Unlike you, he is a self proclaimed warrior and you earned your decorations, but the pair of you forgot one important thing. The United States of America and indeed the world are at war. We are at war with an implacable enemy. An enemy of racist, bigoted, fanatics whose sole goal in life is to destroy the people of the United States of America, their culture and their religion. More American civilians have died on U.S. soil in this war than died on our shores in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, and Dessert Storm put together.

We are at war, Murtha, and your actions and conduct give aid and comfort to our enemies. Just in case you have forgotten the definition of treason and sedition, I have attached Webster's definition as Tabs A and B to this letter.

A wise man once said, "There are no former Marines, only dead Marines." He was wrong. You are not a Marine. You have lost the right to use that title. You have dishonored all of those who have fought and died up to the day you stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and demanded that we withdraw immediately. You lied to the press, when you said you did not make that statement. I watched you make that statement. Albeit your Bill, submitted, which I have also read, added a caveat, "as soon as practicable." That is pure horseshit and you know it.

Yes, Representative Murtha, you have given aid and comfort to our enemies in a time of war. You have given them hope, which they have fast been losing, due to all of the victories and sacrifice by our sons and daughters on the field of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have been honored by our enemies on the front page of Al Jazeera. Kerry has a hallowed spot in the Hall of Heroes in the Museum of the Revolution in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

No, you are no longer a Marine. Your soul is dead. Your honor is dead, and without a soul or honor, you are nothing.

Be advised, my son is a Marine Officer. He has commanded men in battle through two (2) tours and he is due to return to Iraq on a third tour. If he should be harmed in any way as a result of your actions on the floor of the House this week, I will do everything in my power to see to it that you are driven from office and that you are charged and tried for treason and sedition.

The Marine Officer whose message was read on the House Floor by fellow member of Congress, Jean Schmidt, was right. You are a coward. Marines do not cut and run.

Fortunately, your obesity prevents you from wearing your Marine Uniform with even a semblance of pride, but I know your face. If I am in a room when you arrive, you will not enter. If you are in a room, when I arrive, you will leave. It is as simple as that.

OUT.

LTC Christopher J. Stark IN USAR

When my son was home recently over Thanksgiving, he heard several opinions from well meaning people regarding our troops' presence in Iraq. I've heard those same opinions myself a number of times. In contrast to those who feel our troops should be brought home, my Marine absolutely believes in this mission. And, he has the moral standing to make that statement since he has been over there twice and will return next year for his third deployment.

Listen to the troops. They know what is going on. They can see the progress that is not being reported by major media . . . both in winning hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and the training up of the Iraqi Army. It's significant. And it's too bad that Rep. Murtha refuses to acknowledge the incredible achievements made by our troops. Parents whose sons and daughters have made the ultimate sacrifice and who continue to support the not only the troops who are still there but their mission. More on that later this week, but Representative Murtha does not represent the views of the Stark family, or the Conrad family, or so many other families who have far more to lose than the Murtha family.

I applaud Murtha for his service during VietNam, but given that experience, he should know better. Shame on him.

Posted by Deb at 09:08 AM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

November 02, 2005

"Promoted from shower shoe to go-faster" - the life of a new Marine

Pfc. Kaitlyn M. Scarboro graduated from MCRD-Parris Island recently and is now assigned to the other side of boot camp - chronicling the day to day life of Marines as a journalist. Here's a personal look at the life of a very new Marine as written for the September 23 Chevron.

I don't even rate to wear my little blue ribbon yet. You know, the one you get after being in the fleet for 60 days. I haven't even reached the end of my first enlisted year.

According to my friends, I was just recently promoted from shower shoe to go-faster.

I like being considered overly motivated and perky. I enjoy 'oorahs' and 'devil dogs.' I still smile at recruits and return their greeting of the day because I remember what it was like to be there "just a few weeks ago."

My friends around the barracks pick on me when we go out to eat, offering to take me places like Chuck E Cheese's or McDonald's so I can play on the little kids toys while they finish their meals.

Being new to the Marine Corps is like being new to the world, fresh out of the womb. You have so much potential and so many opportunities available.

But don't worry. The wonder and awe of it all fades away quickly. And then you are just another Marine doing your job in the same outfit as everybody else.

But you are still the new guy. As the new guy, you get picked on a bunch. You get sent on gag office supply runs or get stuck taking out the trash every night. You usually get tasked to do the job nobody else wants to do and you are expected to do it with a smile.

It's the life of the new guy, the green blooded, the boot. It's not all bad though.

Earning the title Marine is a big accomplishment that hardly goes unnoticed. Despite getting stuck with the dirty work, there is a bond between Marines that can never be broken. You've proven yourself loyal to the same cause that millions of other people have turned up their nose at or don't have enough discipline to pursue.

Not only have you taken the challenge to better yourself, you have overcome all the obstacles and proven yourself dedicated to the protection of your country, Corps and friends.

I came to this realization when I had the opportunity to visit with many Vietnam veterans at a dinner banquet after I had only served a few weeks in the fleet. They served their country and defended the rights of the constitution so I could live my life with the freedoms our forefathers intended. I considered it a great honor to be invited to such an event.

The retirees and veterans, however, expressed to me what an honor it was for them to be in my company. They knew what it took for me to join the Marine Corps. They understood what a compromise it was for me to leave home for the adventures and challenges of the military.

My lack of experience in the military was of no consequence to them. They held me in the highest regard because I joined knowing that sometime soon I could be returning fire in a giant sand box on the other side of the world.

They expressed remorse in the fact that they could not take my place at the battlefields. Some wanted to return to the heat of the battle, and some wanted to protect the young lady standing in front of them from the horrors they couldn't bear to speak of.

I went to the banquet intending to honor the ladies and gentlemen who had served in a war with my grandfather, a retired Army colonel. Instead, I was honored for being courageous enough to follow in his footsteps.

Being the new guy isn't all that bad. The trash doesn't take itself out, that's for sure. But wearing the uniform of a United States Marine is reward enough, even if it is a little too constricting to climb the rope wall in McDonald's ball pen.


Posted by Deb at 08:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

An oath, a dedication, a way of life.

Here's an essay by a deployed Marine that perfectly captures the esprit de corps that personifies the Corps:

The Marine Corps is an institution. One that you have to prove you have what it takes to join and to survive. We are an organization that develops strong bonds even between Marines who had never met before but hold the same title. We have a saying that reads, "Once a Marine, Always a Marine" because when you get out of the Army or other branches you say I use to be in the Army. Marines don't say "Im a former Marine". We stay Marine and we stay together. We have lost Marines in the past months here. We have lost Marines in the past months back in the states as well. Some by accidental deaths and some by old age. To all the Marines, we salute you and your families for the hardship that you endured. For what you have done in the past and for what you are being trained to do in the future. Semper Fi Marines we hope to fill your shoes and make you proud.

We have a continued commitment to duty to complete what we were sent here to do because we believe in it. Before any service member begins their military career they are sworn in and repeat the below:

I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

It may be difficult for those who never have been in the military to understand but it's a dedication, an oath. That's right America, an oath to defend and have allegiance to the greatest country in the world. If for some reason you wake up and eat a bowl of dumbass and break what you have sworn, you can and will be tried by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is the military system of law. This a building block to our foundation of defending this great country. We are sworn to do it.....and we will defend it so help us god!

I've heard the same thing from every Marine I've talked with in the past three years. It's a quality that sets Marines apart from every other group I've seen - and that's a good thing.

Posted by Deb at 01:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2005

"Heroes are people who overcome evil by doing good at great personal risk"

Former Marine Oliver North recently defined the word hero: "Heroes are people who overcome evil by doing good at great personal risk. Through self-sacrifice, fortitude and action -- whether they succeed or fail -- heroes provide a moral and ethical framework -- and inspiration -- for the rest of us."

North goes on to provide examples of heroes who fill that description:

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Holsey really is a hero. A nine-year Army veteran, Staff Sgt. Holsey was serving in the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment -- one of the units I've been privileged to cover in Iraq for FOX News. A roadside bomb -- placed by a terrorist, not an insurgent, not a "bomber," a terrorist -- so severely wounded him that his left leg had to be removed below the knee at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He now wears a prosthetic leg -- yet he plans to stay in the Army. When I asked him why, he replied, "because my soldiers need me. We have a war to win -- and my country needs me."

Marine Lance Cpl. Jake Knospler is another hero. On November 12th, 2004, Knospler was leading his fire team in the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines during the fight to liberate Fallujah from terrorists -- not "freedom fighters," terrorists. An enemy grenade hit Knospler in the face, blowing away his jaw and part of his skull. He miraculously survived his terrible wounds and more than a dozen surgeries since. In the next two weeks, doctors at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center will reinstall part of Knospler's shattered skull that was removed and sewn into his chest until he was healthy enough to withstand the operation. Knospler told me, "I have to get better. My country, my corps and my family are counting on me."

There are so many others. This generation of young Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen/airwomen have put their own interests aside to serve their country and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Hat tip: View from Tonka

Posted by Deb at 11:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

Taking the fight forward

In today's Opinion Journal, Daniel Henninger describes how a nation that was seemingly united following 9/11 quickly descended into partisan political posturing. But not everyone is convinced.

On a very warm Wednesday this past May, during Fleet Week in New York City, a passerby at Ground Zero encountered some 150 astonishingly young Marines in fatigues, wet with sweat after a run, standing at attention on the site's edge, outside the fence. They were from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and they appeared to be in the middle of a formal ceremony. Yesterday the organizer of the May event, Maj. Dave Anderson, explained they were laying a wreath to honor the victims of September 11, and that the three Marines chosen to lay the wreath had earned Purple Hearts while serving in Iraq. When the ceremony ended, he said, a woman came out of the crowd, crying, and grabbed his wrist to say that her brother had died in there that day, and she said to him, "When people see you Marines doing this, they'll know that you will take the fight forward."

Despite the best efforts of folks like Michael Moore, Ward Churchill, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy to deny the reason we are in Iraq and Afghanistan, ordinary people know. They realize that Marines are taking the fight forward and will continue to protect their freedom. Thank God for the Marines on this 4th of July and every day of the year.

Posted by Deb at 11:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 26, 2005

A Soldier's Commentary on Troop Support

For the past two years, I've received hundreds of e-mails from ordinary citizens, some parents of troops, some with no family members in service, but most of whom are solidly in support of those sons and daughters who protect and serve. Thank God for our troops, but I'm also profoundly thankful for those who support our troops. And I still get choked up when someone notices my Marine Corps Mom t-shirt or my lapel pin proclaiming my pride in my son and asks me to pass along their thanks. Yesterday, I called Southwest Airlines to secure military pricing on my son's flight home for the 4th of July holiday. The Southwest representative on the other end of the phone line helped me with the flight details, then said, "When he gets off the plane, please tell him that my son and I in Oklahoma City are so thankful for his service. Please tell him that." And I'll be happy to pass that message along. It will be nice to see him. It will be even nicer to remind him that folks all over America are in support of him and the rest of the forces that put their lives on the line for us.

A U.S. Army Captain recently back from the sandbox wrote this editorial on his view of the support provided to our troops by America. His words mirror the sentiments I've heard from other returning troops who are amazed at the level of support they've received. It's well worth reading - and remembering, the next time you see a young man or woman in uniform. A quiet "thank you" will make their day. And yours.

Here are the words of Capt. Steve Alvarez:

When I came home from Iraq a couple of months ago, I kept the promise I made while I was still there: I wouldn't watch the news, and I'd step away from the war, ignoring the events that had consumed my life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was time to catch up with my family and make them the focus of my life 24/7.

For about a month I was able to successfully ignore the constant horrid imagery and sensational reports filed from Iraq. But as a public affairs officer and self-proclaimed news junkie, I soon found myself scanning headlines on the Web and tuning into radio news programs, instead of my favorite jazz station.

I don't think the charred skeletal remains of a vehicle-borne explosive device are the watermark of this war. The images I see back here are not the same indelible images I saw in Iraq - those of a resilient country making its way back from decades of oppression - helped by the many friendly nations that liberated them.

But now I'm on the sidelines, and instead of feeling and hearing the car bomb explode and seeing its eerie black plume of smoke rise nearby, I read about it. And rather than witness history as I did for a year, I find myself writing my comrades to get accurate accounts of what is happening in Iraq.

What I saw in Iraq was the boundless bravery of a seemingly endless line of Iraqi recruits gathered to join the Iraqi army, the smiles and waves of Iraqis as we convoyed through the city of Sulaymaniyah, the first flight of the Iraqi air force, and the sound of Iraqi tank guns as they thundered for the first time in years in support of liberty, not tyranny.

I remember the jubilation of my Iraqi friends as they showed off their ink-stained fingers, a badge of honor on their fingertips, indicating they had voted in their country's first democratic election in decades. I remember the Iraqi female military police soldiers who became pioneers for women in that region by joining the Iraqi military, clearing not just personal hurdles, but cultural ones.

Mostly, I remember the thousands of Iraqi and coalition troops that each day hunted the enemy and kept me safe. I remember the drivers and gunners on convoy, the pilots and crew chiefs in the sky, the sentries and tankers at the gates, and all of the warriors who were out there trying to make Iraq a better and safer place.

Someday, probably decades from now, the actions of this generation and its brave men and women will grace history books. The lesson, I'm confident, will be that they left a peaceful and productive imprint on the region and its people, and forever changed the landscape of the Middle East.

Despite what is being reported and what is reflected in media opinion polls, there is no doubt in my mind that the public is behind the troops in Iraq.

While I was in Iraq, I received hundreds of Christmas cards from students at an elementary school and from members of a church in Florida. A sorority from Indiana sent dozens of letters and cards of support, and Americans from all over the country sent me e-mails from places like Chicago, Sacramento, and Texas just to name a few.

Wool caps made by an Internet knitting club kept me warm during the cold winter months in Iraq and donated phone cards kept me in touch with my family who waited for me more than 6,000 miles away. Care packages stuffed with goodies and comfort items were never in short supply at our command. In fact, we had to appoint a "morale sergeant" to manage all of the goodwill pouring into our compound.

When I came home in uniform on R&R, strangers approached me at the airport and shook my hand, patted me on the back, and thanked me. Airline employees did what they could, offering passes to their VIP lounges and upgrades to first class, and those airlines who had nothing to offer did what they could-extra pillows, fistfuls of peanut or pretzel bags and free headsets. But their "thanks" alone was enough for me.

Ask any returning war veteran and I'm sure you'll find their experience was similar. At one point I was so overwhelmed by the outpouring that I found myself in an airport restroom trying to keep my composure after a mother walked passed me with her two sons and one of them said aloud, "Thank you, Soldier," his brother waving anxiously at me.

On my return to the war after R&R, a few other soldiers and I were dining on one last restaurant-cooked meal in the airport when the waitress approached us and told us that another patron had paid for our meal.

We thanked the man but said we couldn't accept his offer. He replied that it was "the least I can do for you guys," adding, "We're all proud of you."

In my town when I came home after the war, I passed homes displaying yellow ribbons and flying U.S. flags. At my welcome home party, a restaurant donated food for more than 100 guests and people all over the city made it a point to express their support and gratitude.

The support I received bordered on immense. Never had I expected such support, and never had I received so much for merely doing my job.

My memories of Iraq will forever be engrained in my mind alongside of the memories of the incredible outpouring I received when I came home. They are one.

Last weekend, keeping true to the promise I made to make my family the 24/7 focal point I attended a baseball game on Father's Day and during the seventh inning stretch there was a salute to U.S. military personnel serving the war on terror.

A singer proudly sang "God Bless America" and all around me, people joined in and sang along.

My personal opinion poll has found, plus or minus a few percentage points, that the American people unconditionally support the soldiers in Iraq. I arrive at this conclusion having experienced their support firsthand, and having been held in their warm embrace upon my return from the war.

And the support continues today. When I recently learned about the opinion poll results I e-mailed one of my stateside supporters who befriended me during the war. I wrote him to say hello, and to restate my appreciation for his support during my deployment.

I asked him if he had heard about the media opinion polls and he replied as I had when I learned of the poll.

"News to me."

Capt. Alvarez, thank you for serving. May you hear that over and over again.

Posted by Deb at 02:08 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

A tale of two widows

Cassandra recently wrote of Kathy Trent, a Jersey Girl whose husband died at the WTC on September 11, 2001. She collected over five million from the Federal Victim Compensation Fund and from family and friends. She's now down to her last half million, according to this news report:

Between spending $1.5 million on tripling the size of her suburban New York home, adding a basketball court, a volleyball court,a hot tub, and a heated pool,Trent managed to spend $500,000 in shoes,$5,000 Gucci and Capelli gowns, and Fendi and Judith Leiber handbags, that also go for $5,000 per bag.

The spending did not stop there as Trant spent $70,000 to take six friends to the Super Bowl and another $30,000 for a trip for 20 friends and relatives to the Bahamas.Then add on another $15,000 for her housekeeper,who received the money to buy a home in El Salvador.


Contrast Trant's story with another widow, Amanda Ries, whose husband was killed last year in Iraq battling the same forces that were responsible for the death of Trant's husband.

SSgt David Ries had already served one deployment, didn't have to go back, but he volunteered to join his brother Marines from the 6th ESB. Just weeks later, he was killed during the Battle of Fallujah by an IED blast as his convoy returned to base after resupplying forward units. And Mandy, who was bathing her children when the knock came at her door and who received far less in military death benefits than the millions lavished on Kathy Trant, responded as Marine wives have throughout the years. She remains a Key Volunteer for the 6th ESB. I saw her twice in May. The first time was at a welcome home dinner for the Marines who served with her husband. Mandy should have been welcoming her husband home. Instead, she set aside her grief to help with the dinner, helping to coordinate a heroes welcome for those who made it back. A few weeks later, she arranged a get-together at a local pizza parlor, leaving her own children with a babysitter so that she could support the Marine families of the 6th ESB. On Sunday, she was at Oaks Park in Portland, wearing her red KV shirt, helping with the annual Family Day festivities.

Kathy Trant said, "I want my husband back." Well, so does Mandy. And hundreds of other Gold Star wives, mothers, and families who chose to reach out of their grief to make a better world for the living. Gold Star wives aren't faced with the problem of building additional closets for $5,000 Versace gowns. Their idea of a fashion statement is a t-shirt that proclaims their identity as a Marine family. And they have more immediate concerns . . . where to move when they leave military housing? What kind of job will allow them to care for children who miss their daddy just as much as Trant's children who will come into their own $800,000 trust funds some day?

Two widows. Two stories. Amanda Ries has my utmost respect for her courage and selflessness and her story deserves to be heard as well.

Posted by Deb at 01:43 PM | Comments (7)

June 12, 2005

Duty driven by love

Via, The Mudville Gazette, here is an essay on why good men and women continue to enlist in the armed forces that is well worth reading. It's from Scott Ott at Scrappleface who has that rare ability to make his readers think, laugh, and sometimes shed a tear. . . occasionally at the same time. Imagine a Pentagon briefing like the one Scott describes - here's a snippet, but read the entire piece at Scrappleface:

(2005-06-11) -- The United States Army, which has missed its recruiting goals in each of the past four months, despite increasing financial incentives, today held a news conference to announce a new recruiting gimmick which it called "duty."

At a Pentagon briefing, an unnamed Army spokesman said that, historically, this little-known concept has motivated more citizens to rise to America's defense than money, prestige or promises of college education.

Journalists at the news conference, baffled by the terminology, unleashed a barrage of questions about why anyone would volunteer to fight for a country that runs a gulag at Gitmo, invades peaceful sovereign nations like Iraq and has no respect for the most Holy Koran.

The Army spokesman further confused reporters with his response.

"Men volunteer to fight, bleed and die for the United States of America because she is the last, best hope for peace and freedom on earth," he said. "They consider the evidence that America has pushed back the veil of tyranny and saved countless millions of men, women and children from imprisonment, torture, starvation, humiliation and brutal death. And they act on that evidence, knowing that the blood of free men is always the price of freedom. While critics jabber about global diplomacy, these men step into the breach to shield us all from the peril of our naivete about the so-called 'basic goodness of humanity'. These men don't think America is perfect, because they know the evil that lurks in each of our hearts. But they devote themselves to preventing untrammeled wickedness from roaming the earth. Their heads are clear. Their hearts are steadfast. And their sense of duty has shut down gulags, death camps and dictatorships for nearly a century. You can't lure this kind of man with money, slick advertising or blue-sky promises. They need money, but money does not stir their hearts. These men are attracted by the grind, the challenge, the moral obligation and even the thrill of knowing that your heart beats, bleeds and may ultimately stop, in service to a dream -- an ideal that has found practical expression in a nation, under God, that we call the United States of America."

There's more. Read it all and know that Scott's walkaway line is closer to the truth than satirical fiction . . . and that truly is a tragedy. Thank God for young men and women who serve out of love and duty.

Posted by Deb at 09:25 AM

May 29, 2005

Memorial Day message from Brigadier General J.M. Paxton Jr

From the C.G. at MCRD-San Diego, here's a Memorial Day message:

For well over a century, our nation has set aside this day to honor those fallen comrades who gave their lives in service to their country. On this Memorial Day, keep in mind that Gettysburg, Soissons, Coral Sea, Iwo Jima, Mogadishu, Kandahar, Fallujah and countless other patches of hallowed ground and sacred waters around the globe are not merely chapters from the pages of our history, but powerful reminders to all Americans that liberty has a cost – that freedom is not a birthright.

Today, as we combat terrorist forces in countless foreign lands, we are engaged in a war unlike any we have experienced. The ideals of selflessness and sacrifice embodied in the example set by those who served before us are as necessary as ever in the quest to guarantee ultimate victory and a safer world. Let us pause today to commit ourselves to continuing their noble efforts as we face the unknown challenges that lie ahead.

Those men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation and beliefs did so because they truly believed in the idea of America. People throughout the world cite many reasons for our greatness. First among these is our founding axiom that all men and women are created equal and free. Others praise our government institutions, economic might, or preeminent military strength. All of these make America an envied model, but they are more the result than the cause of our greatness. Memorial Day provides an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on perhaps te true source of our greatness: a national spirit that imbues so many with the will to give what President Lincoln called, "The last full measure of devotion" to defend a cause that is larger than self. Your families and your countrymen are proud of your service. Thank you for all you do and for the significant contributions each of you make every day in defending our Constitution and our way of life. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

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


Posted by Deb at 06:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

Jordan's King Abdullah on Iraq: "I think at the end of the day Iraq will succeed . . ."

Jordan's King Abdullah was quoted in yesterday's Washington Post:

"I think at the end of the day Iraq will succeed and stand on its own two feet and be independent and completely capable. . . The Iraqis have matured over the past several months and they believe that they have to make Iraq for Iraqis. I think that the turning point was the elections on January 30. They were successful beyond my expectations if I can be that honest. . . It meant Iraqis wanted to take the risk for their future, and I think it can only get better from now on"

Posted by Deb at 11:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

Derrick Jackson's lost his mind . . . and his heart

Derrick Jackson, columnist for the Boston Globe, has finally suggested in print that he's lost his heart and his mind. His headline, not mine. That's the logical conclusion from this hateful diatribe against U.S. troops who he denigrates as "pawns of President Bush". The Marine Dad who sent this to me noted:

"What follows is Mr. Jackson's op-ed. If you find it sickening, offensive, demeaning, and insulting to our troops, rest assured you are not alone."

Here's a snippet:

If all that soldiers can now accomplish is curse at baffled Iraqi families and berate people in the streets for exercising what we consider the right of free speech to tear up a newspaper, then there is no mission.

In a sign of their morass, the soldiers described themselves in lowly terms far removed from the pre-invasion build-up, when Vice President Dick Cheney said "we will be greeted as liberators." The supervising soldier in Mosul told NPR as his armored vehicle cruised the streets, "If you look on the walls here, you can see all this graffiti. We've really taken to the streets here kind of like a gang unit would in, say, LA. It's a giant gang war, and we've got the biggest gang, so every time we see graffiti, we mark it out, we tag it with 'US Forces,' and we say, 'Hey look, this is our block.' "

Funny, when Bush told us we were liberating the Iraqi people, he said nothing about employing the Crips and Bloods.

Morass my ass. Jackson is basing his blatantly biased editorial on a equally partisan NPR news story. His writing is chock full of false arguments and fallacies. This slash piece doesn't begin to approach what good editorials accomplish - enrich discussion through a critical examination of current issues. Instead, Jackson's overtly political agenda is patently obvious and an embarrasment to the Boston Globe.

Marine Dad concluded:

"And here we thought our young men and women risking life and limb over there were heroes. Silly us. If anyone feels inclined to differ with Mr. Jackson's labeling of our loved ones as nothing more than lowly gang members, his email address is: jackson@globe.com"

Posted by Deb at 01:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 12, 2005

Civilians start wars. The military ends them.

Here's an editorial by Lou Sessinger,a columnist with The Intelligencer in Philadelphia. It's worth reading:

It's all about this great freedom we enjoy here, the freedom of speech. It's a freedom worth defending, and over the years a lot of people have defended it in a lot of different ways, some on the battlefield and others on the protest lines, in the courts and in jail cells.

I'm talking about the reaction of a few people to some photos that were published in this paper last week.

The spread featured some shots of a Marine helicopter and its crew at a student career day event at Gayman Elementary School in Plumstead.

I was attracted to the photos, which bore the headline "Send in the Marines." I thought how excited and interested I would have been as a kid to see a huge CH-53 land outside my school. It's something that doesn't happen every school day.

And I thought about how educational it would have been to go aboard the aircraft and talk to the crew about how it worked and what it was used for.

On another level I was, of course, interested because I'd done a hitch as a Marine helicopter crew chief a long time ago. So if you want to say I'm biased, go ahead. It's one of your freedoms as an American.

But a few readers had different opinions about the helicopter incident.

In essence, they believed that representatives of the military shouldn't be allowed to attend career days at public schools.

One reader said she was "appalled" and "ashamed that our educational system is promoting war and teaching small children that killing and being killed is acceptable and glamorous."

Sessinger skilfully poked holes in each ignorant statement and concluded with:

What these readers are implying is that the military should be denigrated because its members are sometimes required to wage war. Well, that's its purpose. And, yes, war is bad, and nobody despises the veil of war more than the warrior.

But to my knowledge, the American military has never started a war. Civilians start wars. It's the military's duty to end them, even when it doesn't necessarily agree with the purpose.

Some people cling to a naive belief that, if we dismantled the military, all of a sudden conflicts would just disappear and our enemies would cease to be.

You might think we're living out the lyrics of some wistful John Lennon song, and that if we'd only give peace a chance, we could all hold hands, love each other to death and skip blindly along our merry, flower-strewn way.

Well, to a certain extent, we can do all those things to a greater degree than many people in the world can.

And a major reason we can is due to the preparedness of our armed forces.

I think every kid should learn that lesson.

And perhaps a few adults need that lesson too. In my experience, kids get it. They understand and appreciate our armed forces. Somewhere along the way to adulthood, some lose that knowledge. Thank God for columnists like Lou Sessinger who remind them.

Posted by Deb at 09:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 03, 2005

Stuck in the '60's?

Sometimes, I wonder who reads this website and how the reports from Marines, who are actively engaged in rebuilding Iraq and supporting Iraqi citizens who are building a democracy, are perceived. Yesterday, I found out. When my Google news alerts popped up a news story on Husaybah, I was taken aback to find one of our first MCM posts quoted by Scott Ritter, former UN Weapons Inspector and also a disgruntled former Marine, in an editorial titled Dereliction of Duty Regarding Iraq published in Al-Jazeerah. He describes his reaction to the "tragic events unfolding in Mesopotamia" in one word. "Vietnam". Here's a snippet:
Recently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, insisted, at a press conference, that the US and coalition forces were winning the war in Iraq, and noted that he was confident of a military victory. "I'm going to say this: I think we are winning, okay. I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time," Myers said. Myers' statements, mirroring his earlier pronouncements, as well as those of his fellow joint chiefs, represent a posturing for the public that is not matched by the reality on the ground in Iraq. For every general who speaks of 'winning the war', there are hundreds of soldiers and marines, veterans of the harsh reality of ground truth in Iraq, who believe otherwise.
Somebody forgot to tell the troops. On tonight's NBC news broadcast, military analyst Jack Jones who is a Vietnam combat veteran and one of only 124 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor described a fact-finding trip he made to Iraq. Here are his words:
"When I was in Vietnam, if you asked anybody what he wanted more than anything else in the world, the answer was to go home. (In Iraq)we asked hundreds and hundreds of soldiers, low ranking soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq the same question and the response to a man and woman was, 'to kill bad guys'. And that was startling to me. Morale is just over the top. . . . They perceive that they're making progress. Success will do that to morale."
What Ritter describes as "chest thumping bravado" is simply business as usual for our troops. It's not Vietnam. Not even close. My son spent 7 months in the same border town where the 3/7 Marines, that Ritter describes, won that victory a year ago. He had no way of knowing what was going on in other regions of Iraq, besides news reports, until he returned to the Al Asad base prior to coming home. He described it as night and day from just last August. Iraqis were enjoying a new freedom. He said, "It's the first time I felt like we were really making a difference. A positive difference." And he's not alone. The "hundreds and hundreds of troops that Jones spoke with seem to agree. I don't know where Ritter is getting his information. But he needs to take another look.

Posted by Deb at 12:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005

Media Culpability

If you read nothing else this week, spend some time digesting this excellent editorial. Here's the bottom line:

What it all boils down to is this: are American networks protecting, aiding, and abetting the terrorists in return for easy access to terrorist tapes?

Read it.

Posted by Deb at 11:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Marines and self esteem

In December 2002, I watched with heart-swelling pride as my son was awarded the title of United States Marine after 12 weeks of boot camp. Just three months earlier, the young men who executed flawless precision as they passed the reviewing officer had been ordinary late-sleeping, back-talking, soda-drinking, fast-food junkies who lived for the moment with their stereos turned up and their cars accelerated to just over the legal limit. Now, they marched in unison, uniforms spotless, and each knowing beyond doubt that he was part of the finest fighting force in the world, and that the men in front, in back, and to each side would lay down their lives to protect him. And that he would do the same for them. That is the Corps. Try to find that ethos in the civilian world. Just try. So how did that transformation happen? Cassandra has this to say:
Interestingly, no one would accuse Marines of a lack of self-confidence. Yet from the moment a brand new recruit steps off the bus at Parris Island his sense of self is under full-scale assault. A good DI doesn't waste time building up a recruit's self-esteem. In fact, it's quite the opposite: everything that happens at boot camp convinces a recruit that there's nothing particularly special about him. He may come in there thinking he's pretty hot stuff, but they shave his head, take away his fancy sneakers and stylish jeans and issue him a funny-looking uniform that looks just like everyone else's. If he screws up, no one makes excuses for him. He gets yelled at as though he were a little kid. It can be humiliating at times. It's designed to be that way. But if he persists, if he keeps coming, if he hangs in there and he works with the team, he will eventually earn their respect and perhaps even the coveted approval of the drill instructor. And at the end of the line, there is The Crucible. Not some touchy-feely pajama party, where sensitive New Age metrosexuals sip Chardonnay and wallow in their insecurities as they affirm their dependence on each other, but an all-out, balls-to-the-wall ordeal where if he can hang in there, he just might earn the right to be called 'Marine'.
I can't count the number of times I've been at a business dinner or walking down the street or at an event where the CEO of a successful company approaches me after seeing my pin that proclaims that I am the mother of a Marine and quietly whispers, "Semper Fi". Former Marines who enter the civilian world put those same lessons learned in boot camp to good use. Cassandra continues:
And that's something no amount psychotherapy can deliver. Self-reliance. You can see it in the way they walk: I can usually spot a Marine (even a retired one) a mile away. The carry themselves differently. There's a self-awareness, a calm, not-quite-cockiness in their bearing. At my son's police graduation I picked out the gentleman next to him in the lineup, for no particular reason, as a Marine. There was that indefinable something in his eyes. It stays with them all their lives, what they learned in Marine training. The discovery that in many ways, life is like an obstacle course. Many of these young men and women come from less than ideal circumstances. But no matter where they came from, they came to the Marine Corps because they were looking for something. And in recruit training, through challenge and adversity, they find the answer to a question, not outside, but deep within themselves. They find hidden reserves of strength and character they never knew they possessed. And they also find the enormous power that comes from voluntarily disciplining yourself, from working as part of a team. From not making excuses, or whining, or complaining, but simply adapting and moving on when life doesn't turn out the way you hoped it would. Many of them find God for the first time. No, no one would describe Marines as lacking in self-esteem. But it wasn't given to them. They earned it themselves. And perhaps that is the essential difference: what they earned for themselves, they know can never be taken away by life, or by other people.
There's more and it's good. Read it, especially if you're a parent with a son or daughter entering boot camp. And know that when your son or daughter comes home on leave, that they will still love loud music, fast cars, and leave laundry on the bathroom floor. It's home, they're comfortable, and you'll be so happy to see them that you won't care. But every so often, you'll see a glimpse of that metamorphosis that took them from civilian teen to outstanding Marine. And you'll get that rush of pride all over again.

Posted by Deb at 04:31 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

Gunny Therapy

Why former Marines would make the best doctors:

There is where any dreams I have of being an ideal physician hit the wall. There are some patients which need what I call "Gunny therapy." Gunny therapy is where you start smacking someone and yelling at them until they STFU and start making some sense. Most people who have ever appeared on Jerry Springer need a good dose of Gunny therapy. When some "out of control teen" comes marching out on stage dressed like a Harry Hines Hooker, flicking people off, and calling her mom a bitch, she needs Gunny therapy. She needs someone to come along, smack her briskly about the ears, and berate her for her poor behavior until she finally figures out that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

This child doesn't need to talk about his feelings. He doesn't need peer counseling. He doesn't need "A self affirmating environment producing synergistic moods conducive to realizing his full personhood." He needs someone to stand tall and give him a good, swift kick in the ass.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Deb at 11:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 09, 2005

"Audie Murphy would be proud"

Owen West, a third-generation infantry Marine who served in OIF with First Force Recon, sent along a link to a spot-on critique of how media coverage of military action is missing the mark. It appears in the 4/07/05 edition of National Review Online. Here's an excerpt:

In Iraq, the most famous soldiers to emerge are PFC Jessica Lynch and PFC Lynndie England, a victim and criminal, respectively. Their public images are the offspring of Vietnam. Celebrity and cynicism have trumped achievement.

Habits die hard, for the press as well as for the rest of us. The disproportionate coverage of seven guards at Abu Ghraib and one quick-acting Marine in a mosque trumped the extraordinary victory won by thousands of Marines and soldiers in Fallujah, now one of the safest cities in the Sunni Triangle. The obsessive spotlight damaged the image of the American soldier at home while failing to assuage our detractors abroad. America is proud of its collective conscience, but self-flagellation has a deteriorating effect.

A nation's selection of its heroes is a reflection of its values. Jihadists like Zarqawi are not idealistic agrarian reformers. We are not a nation of victims. The press ought to make a real effort to show the tough guys who fight for us.

Read the rest here. Then, visit the Westwrite website to see what Owen and his dad, Bing West (who served in both the Vietnam and first Gulf War), have been up to. Father's Day is coming up and their books would make great gifts for a Marine dad. Or Mom.

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

The real "die-in" isn't on a peaceful Ohio campus

Following a symbolic "die-in" by 20 clueless war protesters last Wednesday on the campus of Ohio University, Marc Fencil, a OU senior and Marine who is currently deployed in Iraq, sent this invitation via e-mail to those who participated:

It's a shame that I'm here in Iraq with the Marines right now and not back at Ohio University completing my senior year and joining in blissful ignorance with the enlightened, war-seasoned protesters who participated in the recent "die-in" at College Gate. It would appear that all the action is back home, but why don't we make sure? That's right, this is an open invitation for you to cut your hair, take a shower, get in shape and come on over! If Michael Moore can shave and lose enough weight to fit into a pair of camouflage utilities, then he can come too!

Make sure you all say your goodbyes to your loved ones though, because you won't be seeing them for at least the next nine months. You need to get here quick because I don't want you to miss a thing. You missed last month's discovery of a basement full of suicide vests from the former regime (I'm sure Saddam's henchmen just wore them because they were trendy though). You weren't here for the opening of a brand new school we built either. You might also notice women exercising their new freedom of walking to the market unaccompanied by their husbands.

There is a man here, we just call him al-Zarqawi, but we think he'd be delighted to sit down and give you some advice on how you can further disrespect the victims of Sept. 11 and the 1,600 of America's bravest who have laid down their lives for a safer world. Of course he'll still call you "infidel" but since you already agree that there is no real evil in the world, I see no reason for you to be afraid. Besides, didn't you say that radical Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance?

I'm warning you though -it's not going to be all fun and games over here. You might have bad dreams for the next several nights after you zip up the body bag over a friend's disfigured face. I know you think that nothing, even a world free of terror for one's children, is worth dying for, but bear with me here. We're going to live in conditions you've never dreamt about. You should get here soon though, because the temperatures are going to be over 130 degrees very soon and we will be carrying full combat loads (we're still going to work though). When it's all over, I promise you can go back to your coffee houses and preach about social justice and peace while you continue to live outside of reality.

If you decide to decline my offer, then at least you should sleep well tonight knowing that men wearing black facemasks and carrying AK-47s yelling "Allahu Akbar" over here are proud of you and are forever indebted to you for advancing their cause of terror. While you ponder this, I'll get back to the real "die-in" over here. I don't mind.

I'd be willing to chip in for a collection of 20 one-way tickets. No telling how long it would take this group of protestors to realize that their right to dissent was bought and paid for by warriors like Marc Fencil who are willing to go over there to fight so that men in black facemasks will not come here.

James Taranto at Opinion Journal notes that "The same day, Iraq's democratically elected National Assembly chose Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, as Iraq's new president. If the protesters had their way, Saddam Hussein, who murdered tens of thousands of Kurds, would still rule the country. This "die-in" has to be the worst-timed protest since Al Gore's "global warming" harangue, delivered in New York on the coldest day in decades."

Hat-tip to Chrenkoff, via Blackfive.

Posted by Deb at 12:21 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 31, 2005

Update!

Yesterday, the Salem-Keizer school district caved just a bit. They agreed to allow the posting of this picture in Mr. Costa's freshman social studies classroom:

Note that there is still a weapon in Cpl Riecke's hand. The principal originally insisted that the weapon in the first picture be digitally removed. Thanks to the power of public opinion - hundreds of e-mails and letters from all over the nation - this silly application of zero tolerance was halted.

Mail is still coming in. Here's the latest, including this missive from a retired US Marine:

I am extremely disconcerted when I hear about educators such as Cynthia Richardson, who cannot tell the difference between gang bangers and US Marines in the field who are risking their lives for freedom. It makes me worry about their critical thinking skills. It causes me to question every other decision they make.

This sets the definition of political correctness as Stifling anything you personally dont like in the name of diversity.

What happened to common sense? I am fairly sure no school district bans that. Am I wrong?

Unbelievable.

A sisters pride in her brother. A weapon in the defense of democracy, held by US Marines. Common Sense. Pride in country.

Sacrifice. Courage.

No greater love hath he, than to lay down his life for his brother.

Please tell me this situation has been rectified

J Brock
Major
USMCR Ret

When Michelle Malkin picked up the story, our traffic increased . . . and so did the mail:

After seeing the article at http://michellemalkin.com/archives/001931.htm I feel compelled to write and say that the photo absolutely SHOULD be displayed at the school. For that matter, it should not only be displayed; it should be PROUDLY and PROMINENTLY displayed. In any case, the entire USA knows about the photo and the school handling of it now, so what harm is there in displaying it? Louis Wilen Olney, Maryland

Click below to read the rest of today's mail.

This from another retired hero:

Dear Ms. Richardson & Baker:

As a Marine Vietnam Veteran, I know we have fought for our freedom and
for the freedoms of many nations in this world. These men and women
who lay down their lives for our freedoms need to be recognized.
Certainly if they are one of our own school alma maters. What High
School would not be proud to count themselves worthy of being one of
the mentoring groups which developed this great American? Apparently
yours.

I am astounded the Salem educational system is bereft of sound
guidelines to know how to Honor a Great American, in this day and age.
This is not the '60's and '70's, unless you're still thinking that's
the way to treat our troops. To only be able to honor Bill Riecke by
digitally removing the American weapon which he uses to protect us,
himself, his fellow warriors and to serve our free Nation is
ridiculous.

With your logic, one would then think we could not show Firefighters
holding axes, or Police with their SWAT gear or K-9 units, etc., etc.

We need to be honoring our Marines and troops who serve us. Why not
provide a "Heroes Wall" at your school and enlist all the relatives to
place their photos to give thanks for their service????

Now, that would be an American thing....

Sincerely,
william halvorsen

BTW, here's a great poll:

http://www.katu.com/news/news_poll_soldier_in_school.asp

Gotta love a veteran who quotes Santayana:

Please tell me this is NOT true a picture of a GUN (yes I have seen the photo in question) is not a graphic display of violence or even an un-graphic depiction of something evil any more than a picture of a cheerleader is a display of softcore porn . or anything else evil even though we know that some individuals MIGHT get that impression or thought in their heads. As a veteran of 10 years I am outraged. Pictures of weapons in the hands of brave young man and women fighting and dying in some cases appear through out our history books, and rightfully so to dishonor the actions of these young men by removing the weapon from the picture in the name of ZERO TOLERANCE is absurdity in the extreme.

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted, it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience. - George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905 US (Spanish-born) philosopher (1863 - 1952)

L. S. Hicks

Another voice from academia:

I have been and remain a part-time teacher. My mother was a long time teacher. My wife has taught. So has my sister and two sisters-in-law. I remain very active in the academic community at various levels and capacities. I am one of 5 children, all with extensive backgrounds in education. I am the father of two children, one in public high school and the other a recent high school graduate.

I am sure you have received a flood of e-mail on this. Ill be short. Youre completely wrong on this issue and your position is so inherently flawed that it is abundantly clear that your good intentions and otherwise clear thinking have been horribly corrupted by living in the bubble of academia. No amount of logic, illustration or rational argument is really going to help you see this at this point.

Take some time off and refresh yourself before you do any more damage. Go do something else for awhile and then come back to academia when you can do more good than harm.

K. Howard
Oldwick, NJ

A bit of sarcastic wit from Texas:

Dear Enlightened Administrators.

I'd say just GO for it. Ban the Marine photo and suspend the kid for trying to display a half-nude male figure. Gin up the local politicians to get some cover! You know the folks. Children: Yes, half-nude Marines with disgusting, immoral, tools-of-the-Chimperor fully automatic death spurting machines: NO! Stand up and be counted! Who the heck do these folks think they are fooling with? You're a PUBLIC SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR, for Gaias sake!

Not only do that Scot's shield and sword have to go, but the Scot as well. Who is he supposed to be fighting, anyway? If your students fight or carry weapons, don't they get dumped back on their parents laps until they have been to peer anger counseling? And what's with the HE? Isn't that a little suppressive of your female and future transgendered students? And what is a SCOT doing in Oregon? Can't you get a shaman or an indigenous person as some sort as a mascot? Or forget this homosapien centric kind of thinking. Isn't there a snail or a mushroom that can be adopted as an inspiration to learning? The ecosystem is loaded with cedars, breaking waves, gravel, organic substrates, tectonic plates, asexual fungi, and the best you can do is an underwear-free European male swinging a rapier? Someone thought this was GOOD? You could out-patriot these folks by adopting the TSA or a metal detector as the school mascot. How about hybrid cars or the 1040 EZ? Think, people, THINK. At LEAST let's go with a shorebird!

Let's show a little liberal backbone up there!

Robert Langham
Tyler, Texas

And here's a future career suggestion:

When Cpl. Riecke finishes his active duty with the Marines he should consider a film career. Definitely movie star material.

Your principal is a bufoon & I'm so glad you have used your site to highlight the absurdity in her position. Thank you to you, your son, and all the brave servicemen and their families.

Sincerely,
Mary D.

Another Marine Veteran answers Principal Richardson's question:

During an interview with KATU News, the school's principal, Cynthia Richardson, asked, "What message am I sending to my students if I post that picture?"

The message this picture sends is that brave young American men are willing to take up arms, go into harm's way, and be ready to do violence to defend the principles that make this country the greatest country in the history of the world, spread freedom through this miserable world, and stand on the wall in the dark of the cold night so that we--even people like Cynthia Richardson--can sleep safe in our beds.

This is nothing new. As a Marine veteran, though, I couldn't let it go without putting in my two-cents worth. (I probably even would've chipped in if your son had gone into the Army!)

Please give my best regards and a hearty Oooo-RAH! to Cpl. Riecke.

Semper Fi,

Bob Engler
USMC (1970-1978)
Newark, Delaware

A Marine father's outrage:

Dear Ms. Richardson, I have been following the story of the young Marines you refused to honor by rejecting a request to place their photo in your school. Today I finally saw the picture. As the father of a young Marine who served in Iraq all I can say is that seeing that picture shook me deeply and I would like to share this perspective with you. There is not a Marine family member who has not seen their loved one in a similar pose taken during down time in the combat zone with close buddies they lived with and depended upon for their very lives. There is also not a Marine family member who does not feel as I do about their own picture - feelings of deep pride mixed with memories of long days and longer nights fearing for the safety of their own loved one, dreading that knock on the door that might come at any moment. I would not hesitate to say that for most of us this picture is among our most personal and cherished possessions. It is for this reason that I feel the need to voice my own opinion on your refusal to allow this Marine's family to share their own experiences that are embodied in that picture. I find it difficult to put the words together in a way that truly conveys my sentiments other than to say your machine-like allegiance to some arbitrary, unthinking and unfeeling bureaucratic policy is of truly immense proportions. I find your willingness to hide behind these arbitrary regulations despicable and incredibly inhuman. That you are in a position to influence young children on a day to day basis is a crime.

Dan Dumarot

It's not just the Marines who have a problem with this:

Having become aware of the controversy over the posting of your son's photo at his old school, I wanted to contact you to offer my support. I'm certain that you are justifiably proud of both your children - as you should be. As the father of two bold paratroopers, I know I would be equally appalled should their service be denigrated as your son's has been. Rest assured that your family is in my prayers.

William R. Bridgeman
LTC, USAR, Retired

1st Bde (Abn), 1st Cav Div, RVN, 1965-6
HQ, XVIII Airborne Corps, Gulf, 1990-91

It's been said that the safest place in the world is right behind a United States Marine:

I would definatley put my life in these young mens hands before I would trust my life with any bureaucrat, especially if that bureaucrap had a black robe on.

Here's a question on equitable treatment:

Principal Richardson,

Are there any text books or books in the school library that contains a picture of members of the military or law enforcement carrying a firearm? If so why haven't these pictures been removed from the school in accordance with your policy? What about a picture of Bonnie and Clyde? Is it acceptable to show a picture of a criminal holding a firearm but not someone in the military?

Joseph O'Neill
Groton, CT

By refusing to post the original picture, Salem Keizer administration guaranteed that it would be seen by a far wider audience:

Perhaps your son's photograph will not be displayed at McKay High School, but it is now displayed on Michelle Malkin's website, imported as the background for my computer screen, printed on my printer and will now hang in my office. I can't be the only one who had the impulse to do that. Isn't it interesting how the high school administration's attempt to censor an image has caused the image to spread far and wide? Thank your son for me. We appreciate his service. I hope someday he walks back into his old high school recognized as the hero he is. Wayne Kraft

And another letter of support:

Good Afternoon, I'm sure you are getting hundreds of emails, at least I hope we can depend on others to stand up for the men and women who are standing up for us by sending you emails concerning your school not posting a picture of a Marine that is holding his rifle. Is this not History? Are these wars and death not discussed in your history classes? Are these men and women not over there defending our freedom, freedom of speech? I'm sure if you sat down and looked through the history books you may find some pictures of Military men and women holding rifles. What is the harm of posting this Marines photo? Isn't it true that your school mascot is holding a sword? What kind of message does that send to your students? It just doesn't make any sense to me. I think your school should be honored and proud to have a graduate such as this young man turn into a fine Marine. This is the real life. War happens in real life. Thank you, Dawn C. Gillespie, Illinois

Tools of the trade differ from trade to trade . . . but this letter points out that a Marine needs a weapon as much as a doctor needs a scalpel:

Why should the school administrators object to a photograph of American workers and taxpayers posing with the tools of their trade just because their trade involves a certain level of danger or violence? Is it any different than showing a mechanic with a wrench, a doctor with a scalpel, an IT specialist with a computer, or a judge with a gavel? Isn't it possible that the mechanic builds tanks, the doctor performs abortions, the IT specialist programs nuclear missile trajectories, or a judge sentences the defenseless to death (RIP Terri Schiavo)? The school administrators should be proud that one of their graduates is risking his life to defend his alma mater and everyone connected with it. Would the school administrators prefer photos of graduates waving white flags to Osama bin Laden, or saluting the U.N. flag. Let all Americans show dignity and pride in their country and chosen profession.


Here's the only (slightly) dissenting opinion I've received so far:

Hi!

First, let me say that I applaud your daughter's pride in her brother's mission on our behalf. And I salute your decision to back her, and, of course, your son.

Second, let me say that I see no reason that a picture of a man with a gun cannot be displayed for whatever reason, in a school.

However, I think that this particular picture just borders on the sensational; and might even cause problems for younger, or less mature students than your 15 - year daughter.

Perhaps a picture of them, in Iraq, but in a more relaxed (unarmed)
pose, like one of the pictures here would have been more appropriate.

If it were necesary for a picture of her brother to include arms, a different picture could still have been used

Thanks,

Frank DiSalle
Viet Nam veteran '69 - '70
New Rochelle NY


Posted by Deb at 03:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

More mail

The amount of mail sent by those with opinions on the Salem-Keizer debacle is incredible. Here are some of the letters we've received today. The first is from a VietNam veteran who is determined to give returning OIF veterans a different homecoming than that experienced by the troops who fought the earlier war.

As a veteran I can only ask "what are you thinking". Shame on You! Do you dare to try to take away the pride of a family of this Marine by demonizing him AND his brothers in arms?

Is this an attempt at left wing censorship?

Are the pictures of our armed forces so disgusting to you that you feel the need to try to make them into evildoers?

Maybe you would be happier with pictures of the "peaceful" Muslims beheading people here in this country?

That is why we (US) are fighting the terrorists in Iraq, as opposes to Albuquerque.

This decision reflects either "Anti- American" or "Anti War"sentiment, is this your own agenda you are forcing on the students.

OR, ... does freedom of speech only apply to the "appropriate" sentiment?

What message are you REALLY trying to send your students?

As long as I am alive I will do whatever I can to prevent what was done to us in Viet Nam by the liberal "enlightened", so called educators and press.
Stop making the US the bad guys.

As far as your zero tolerance policy. You had better get that sword painted over on you school symbol. That, or, you could use a little common sense or maybe even some good old fashioned pride in what those boys in the picture stand for,.. You're right to sit safe in Salem and be idiots

Patrick Schaar US Navy (Seabees) Veteran

Mr. Schaar, thank you for serving . . . and for your dedication to the current troops.

There's more, just click the link.


Here's a letter from retired USAF LtCol Cal Taylor:

Dear Ms Richardson and Ms Baker, As I'm sure you are aware, the issue of posting a photo of a young Marine in a McKay HS classroom has become well known. As a veteran of 26 years of US Air Force service, including combat flying in Vietnam, I must respectfully disagree with the decision that was taken. Even with the knowledge of what hapened recently in Red Lake, MN, in mind, I can't agree with the decision that only a sanitized photo (e.g. without a gun) of a combat veteran is permissible in the school. That young man and his companions and all who serve over there are continuing a proud tradition of service to the United States of America. It is because of their service, and that of my generation in Vietnam and my parents generation and beyond that the United States remains a free and open society. Th denigrate Marine Riecke's servie by aribrushing away that which is fundamental to his profession is not acceptable. As I understand it, because of a newspaper reporter's question, you are now even considering modifying the depiction of the school mascot, to remove the sword he carries. If the district policy is carried to its logical fulfilment, you have a huge task ahead of you. Every textbook, magazine, library book and sheet of printed material must be reviewed so that any picture that features a weapon of any sort can be removed. That includes any picture of Revolutionary War or Civil War troops, George Washington if he is carrying a sword and all airplanes, tanks, and warships from every war that has been fought by the US. Miss Shea Riecke is justifiably proud of her brother, and, I'm sure, very concerned for his continued well-being, as is her family. To allow only a formal photo of him in uniform is to deny the reality of his profession. Do you similarly prohibit display of photos of police officers or sheriff's deputies who are wearing their service weapons? HOw about pictures of people engaged in the sport of fencing? The possibilities extend much farther than this short message can include.

Most disappointedly,

Cal Taylor
LtCol, USAF (Ret)

Dear Mr. Costa, Saw on 11 o'clock news tonight the flash on your attempt to allow Shea to have a picture of her brother posted in your classroom. And the result of your asking for permission to have it placed in the classroom, the denial, the airbrushing (or other alteration) to take the rifle out of the picture. Not your fault, sir, just another case of political correctness gone amok. Please pass this on to your administration, in case I have not guessed correctly at Ms. Richardson's address: Ms. Richardson, please feel free to share this with the school board - how awful it must be to take one of your students' honorable hero's and dismiss them out of hand. Lets see, a young man, graduate of your high school, who thinks enough of his future and his country to volunteer for service in the U.S. Military... sends a picture of himself in military garb and outfitted appropriately for the conditions in Iraq to his sister... who brings it to school to have it proudly displayed... only to have it rejected by the school administration... unless of course reality can be altered and the rifle in the picture can be photo-shop'd out...(?!). Tell me, does the school have any pictures of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's fine oil-on-canvas 'George Washington Crossing the Delaware' hanging anywhere in the school? OR perhaps in the library? OR maybe just in a book within the library? Let's hope that book is never opened within your overly PC school; would not want to see the results of your airbrushing out the rifles in that scene. And even poor Mr. Washington with sheathed sword in hand... tsk, tsk. Way to go, you fine supporters of our men and women in service. I'm sure Bill is certainly proud to be a graduate of Douglas McKay High School. Shame on you. I'm sure you all didn't intend for this to become a matter of public record, but it has. Seems only fitting a rethinking of your decision and a public apology would be in order. Now please go do the right thing.

Sincerely,
Stick

Here's another local voice:

Principal Richardson,

I wish to add my voice to the others that should be contacting you.

Efforts to keep our schools children, faculty, and staff safe are very appreciated. What has happened recently in some schools is absolutely tragic.

Please choose policies that really help with promoting safety. Neither the picture of the brave brother posted by his proud sister, nor the picture of the schools mascot is likely to incite any violence.

Perhaps focusing on EDUCATION rather than political correctness and political agenda would help our students at least stay even with students from third world countries.

Ed O'Neil
Salem, Oregon

These letters and the others printed here are models of civil discourse. Well said.

And, a poll on the KATU website that asks the question, "Should a Salem-Keizer student be allowed to display a photo of her Marine brother holding a firearm on a classroom bulletin board?" is currently at 6,713 votes with 90% in favor. If anyone who is against the display would like to provide a thoughtful opinion via the e-mail link at right, I'll run it.

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

March 29, 2005

Sending a message

KATU interviewed McKay high school principal Cynthia Richardson last night regarding her decision to prohibit display of a photograph of an active duty Marine, Cpl Bill Riecke, holding a weapon as part of an exhibit showcasing past McKay graduates. During the interview, she asked, "What message am I sending to my students if I post that picture?"

Marine Dad Skip Paris has a response:

How sad it is that our society has forgotten the hard work and dangerous living that our young men must endure to preserve freedom.

During World War Two photos like this bolstered the moral of the folks at home and helped us to remember that even though our boys were fighting in some strange place, they were still our boys.

And isn't that really the bottom line for us Marine Corp Parents? There in that hovel are our boys. Look at them in this photo, living thousands of miles away in conditions that the ACLU would find unacceptable in an American prison, yet they smile and joke. These are tough young men taking and passing the ultimate test.

I wrote to the school board and I understand their reasoning. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. To me it's simple: our children should understand the American warrior ethic. They should see our brave young men and women holding the tools of the trade. Only in this way will they come to understand the sacrifices that some make to protect the many.

So please, take this school board to task, remind them of their duty to educate. Point out the history of Americans at war and the fact that our society owes it existence to people like our Boys.

A former Oregon resident also offers a clue:

Dear Ms. Richardson and Ms. Baker: May I respectfully suggest that the United States Marine Corps is a military organization whose function is to carry weapons on behalf of all of us and to use those weapons skillfully so that our country can remain free. When you show a likeness of a United States Marine graduate of your school without his weapon in a battle zone like Iraq, you are showing him effectively out of uniform. You might as well show a battleship without its guns or Paul Revere without his horse. Your decision to modify a picture of Bill Riecke to remove his weapon is wrongheaded. It betrays an irrational fear of firearms properly used. You do not need to be afraid of firearms, nor of photographs of Marines handling them. On the contrary, you should be proud that your graduates find the military an honorable and patriotic way to serve their country. I am a former resident of Oregon and my son still lives there. Don't fall prey to politically correct policies. Let Mr. Costa put an unadulterated picture of Bill Riecke up in his classroom. You will not be sorry that you did. Sincerely, James D. Ellen Washington State

Here's a perspective from a VietNam veteran (and thank you for your service - it is appreciated):

Ms. Baker & Ms. Richardson:

I served to my country proudly during the Vietnam Era. When I came home I
was greeted with distrust and questions. What you've decided to censor in a
photograph of a Marine while on duty is another insult to all servicemen
past and present. Did the photograph show anything remotely described as
morbid? Body counts were common during my time yet the media managed to
display morbid photographs with the evening news. Instant worldwide media
today could do such things and common sense forbids a repeat of their past
stupid actions. Pride as a Nation could be undermined with your brand of
censorship. Reconsider your actions and replace the photograph as presented
proudly by the 15 year old sister of a Marine. ( Shea Riecke )

USMC - 1970-74
(name withheld)

I'll give you my name if that is important to you - When you respond with
justification to uncontrolled censorship and disrespect to our Military
Servicemen.

Posted by Deb at 11:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Media Update

Oregon residents can tune in to the 11:00 p.m. news broadcasts for KOIN and KATU tonight to watch Connie and her daughter Shea discuss the Salem-Keizer school district's decision not to allow a picture of Cpl Bill Riecke, an active duty Marine holding his weapon, to be posted unless the weapon was removed from the picture via photo editing software. Here is the photo in question:

Posted by Deb at 06:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Zero-tolerance Update

Connie will be a call-in guest on Lars Larson's nationally syndicated radio show today at 1:00 PST, discussing the Salem-Keizer school district decision to ban the picture of her son, Cpl. Bill Riecke from a social studies classroom at McKay high school because the active duty Marine who was serving in Iraq was holding a gun. Find your local station here.

We also sent a link to the Opinion Journal and were pleased to see that they picked it up, albeit with the wrong link back (to the Statesman Journal article instead of Marine Corps Moms).

Posted by Deb at 12:58 PM

March 25, 2005

Update on Salem-Keizer School District

Two weeks ago, Shea Riecke took a picture of her active duty USMC brother, Cpl Bill Riecke who graduated from McKay high school, to her high school social studies classroom to share with other students.

In order to display it, the school district told her that it would have to be altered to remove the gun. We printed Connie's letter to the school district earlier and asked you to comment. Many of you did and the story hit the city newspaper today in an editorial by Carol McAlice Currie:

Unless they want to risk violating the school-district's zero-tolerance for weapons policy, Salem-Keizer student marksmen cannot have a pistol embroidered on their letterman jackets. Teen hunters are not allowed to wear silk-screened T-shirt images of themselves standing with rifles and bagged bulls.

And now, a high-school freshman who wants to hang a picture of her brother serving in the military is finding similar prohibitions because the image features a fully automatic rifle and a machine gun.

Last week, Shea Riecke, a freshman at McKay High School, tried to take a snapshot of her brother, Cpl. Bill Riecke, a Marine currently stationed in Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., to her social studies class.

She wanted to display the picture with those of other McKay grads' career choices. Riecke's teacher, Rick Costa, encourages the exhibits.

But Riecke's photo created a little controversy. Actually, it kicked up a sandstorm of grief for the family and school-district officials because of the photo's content. It pictures the Marine hefting a big gun while decked in military desert camies (camouflage). It was taken while he was stationed in Iraq; he will be redeployed there this summer.

The image of Shea's brother does not necessarily convey military service, said Simona Boucek, Salem-Keizer's communications coordinator, and the automatic weapons are the most prominent feature in the photo. The soldiers are pictured casually in a nondescript room.

School officials denied the photo on the grounds the guns in the picture violated district policy. Riecke's mother, Connie Riecke, appealed to district officials including Superintendent Kay Baker. Connie Riecke said she has not heard back from the district but was told that it probably could be displayed if she consented to having the weapons removed, via computer, from the photograph. Riecke said her son insists that it run as it is or not at all. She agrees with him.

"I don't think our school policies are meant to rewrite history. It doesn't make any sense to me," Connie Riecke said. "Are they going to go through every textbook and take out pictures of the Civil War that have soldiers carrying guns? Are they going to go through the library and take out all the Time magazines that feature soldiers with guns? I don't think so."

Connie Riecke said she understands the district's policy but thinks it should make an exception in this case.

"I want educators to be truthful," Riecke said. "This is a career choice, and children need to know that this is an important but dangerous job."

She believes that if the district allows military officers to recruit in high schools, it shouldn't conceal realistic images like the one of her son.

"It's a difficult issue for the district," Boucek said. "We'd be happy to honor her son and his service to our country, but it has to be a photo that's more appropriate for the classroom."

Boucek said an official portrait in dress uniform would work.

"We understand the girl's concerns, but our policy prohibits any display of weapons. This photo just isn't right for a classroom," Boucek said.

The district's caution is understandable, especially when earlier this week, a 16-year-old Minnesota student went on a shooting rampage at his high school, killing five students, a teacher and a security guard. He also killed his grandfather and the grandfather's companion before the attack at the high school, where he later killed himself.

This is a tough choice.

I don't believe that the minds of our high-school students are so malleable that they can be changed by the presence of a photograph, and sanitizing frightens me when government does it, so I wince if schools are doing the same.

But how do we know where to draw the line in this hot desert sand

For these Marines, that line was drawn in Iraq where they have spent months at war with insurgents bent on crushing the birth of democracy. It takes weapons to do that. Cpl Riecke and the other two Marines in the picture are infantry Marines, who served in one of the most dangerous regions of Iraq, and they take their weapons with them everywhere. On some bases, weapons can be secured when they are within the perimeters. Not in Husaybah. My son (1/7 Marines who replaced 3/7 when they came home last year) was shot at more times than he could count by snipers and mortered by insurgents on a regular basis. When I told him this story, he said that it's hard for people back here to understand that the weapon becomes an extension of the Marine. It's necessary. They understand that.

Unfortunately, people like Superintendent Kay Baker and Communications Coordinator Simona Boucek do not. They live in Oregon, a far reach from any battlefield. Their ability to drive through town without fear of being blown up by an IED, their freedom to walk down the street without worry of being taken out by a mortar or bullet, has been guaranteed by the blood, sweat, lives, and bullets expended by Marines and other troops for hundreds of years.

Educators at this school district take pride in instilling critical thinking skills in its students. If only that same standard were applied to educators.

The hot potato has evidently been tossed to Boucek. Here is her e-mail address: BOUCEK_SIMONA@salkeiz.k12.or.us

And, if you'd like to point out the obvious distinctions between a troubled young teen in Minnesota who shot up a school, and our armed forces who are protecting the innocent in Iraq, feel free to drop a note to the Salem Statesman-Journal expressing your opinion of this situation, here's a contact: ccurrie@statesmanjournal.com


Posted by Deb at 09:42 AM

March 16, 2005

They got mail

At the end of Connie's editorial posted yesterday, we offered to print letters that folks sent to the principal of McKay High School and the superintendent of the Salem-Keizer School District. Here are the first ones - thanks for making your voices heard! Keep 'em coming and I'll post them as they arrive.

Ladies, I am writing to express my opposition to a decision made by your administration to alter a photo of a United States Marine for display on McKay High School premises.
I submit to you that this censorship will only serve to misguide the young adults you are supposed to be educating. We have a patriotic duty to acknowledge the fact that the servicemembers currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are doing dangerous work in an attempt to spread peace and democracy to a part of our world that desperately needs it. You cannot adequately convey that message by sanitizing photos as you see fit.
Please reconsider your stance on this issue.


Sincerely,

Chief Warrant Officer Matt Frazier, USMC

and

My name is Jennifer, and my son Cody recently returned from his first tour in Iraq (specifically Fallujah). It is, definitely, appalling to hear the school will not allow the picture to be posted in its true form.

Codys high school allowed him to attend a full day of Government classes with his best friend Justin (also a Marine in Codys company). They spoke to each class, answered questions, and were allowed to be candid and honest in their answers. The truth, Cody felt, was important for his former underclassmen (including his younger brothers Junior class) to know. The local newspaper showed up that day, and printed Cody and Justins stories. The media, of course, appreciated the honesty, but the biggest impact was on the students, and all of the educators that made their way into the Government class to see and listen to their former studentsnow Marines.

I am sending this, also, to Salkeizthey need to know that this is not a time to hide the truth, but respect it, honor it, and let everyone see and hear it. Codys former high school obviously gets it, hopefully Salkeiz will get it, too.

Jennifer L. Kay

Proud Mother of Lcpl Cody 3/1 India Co.

Proud Friend of Lcpl Justin 3/2

A veteran speaks out!

I am a Marine that served back in the late 50's and early 60's and I am writing about the Marine's picture that you chose to "edit" so it can be displayed in school. I think that you all should re-consider your actions and stand up and tell the world that you are proud of our fine young people over there protecting you!! Sincerely,

Senior-Vice Commandant

Marine Corps League Post #239

Daniel Cotter

Here's another:


Dear Mmes. Baker and Richardson:

I recently read of a student of yours who brought in a photo of her brother, a combat veteran Marine of Operation Iraqi Freedom--and was dismayed that her teacher was instructed to edit the photo to omit the rifle he was holding.

Are you not intent on educating children in a truthful manner?

If the case exists that you do not agree with the war in Iraq, I say this to you: your politics should have nothing to do with teaching children about the realities of history including war and how wars are fought and the courage shown by those who volunteer to fight in them.

My brother is also a Marine, a combat veteran of OIF, and this direct smack to all brave servicemen greatly bothers me.

As far as I know (having attended a public high school) educators waste no time lauding America's "failure" in Vietnam, and showing movies about wars (I was shown Glory, Good Morning Vietnam and Apocalypse Now) and you're worried about a REAL LIFE HERO holding a weapon who helped free an oppressed country?

I wonder if you have children, I wonder if they have video games, or watch violent movies. I wonder if you know any combat veterans--young or old--and really understand the sacrifice they make to keep America safe and free and free opressed people. Nothing my brother, and your student's brother has ever done has or will make me as proud as serving in the United States Marine Corps.

This is not about politics; it is about history. You have an obligation as an educator to educate your students in a honest manner. Or, are you so politically motivated that you feel whitewashing a picture will help people understand the realities of war?

Remember, you are free because many have died in war for this country.

I hope you take this to heart, and keep in mind the sacrifices made for ordinary citizens everyday by our military.


Sincerely,
Noelle Franzen
"Freedom Isn't Free"

Oohrah!

Dear Ms. Richardson, I live in Albany, Oregon and I have two sons who graduated from South Albany High School (2000 & 2004). Two years ago I attended a football game at McKay High School. My youngest son was the starting quarterback for South Albany at the time and we were playing football against McKay that night. During half-time we were treated to a great show. There was a huge parade of McKay student clubs as well a group of motorcyclists, a local Harley Davidson club I believe, who rode onto the center of the football field bearing the American flag. The crowd was riveted and the air was energized with patrotism. The announcer then proceeded to make an awesome and chilling announcement. He was honoring a former record-holdiing McKay football player (I think I also recall that this student's name and photo was still hanging in the locker room at McKay), now a decorated Marine, home from his first tour in Iraq following the American invasion. This honoree, unbeknownst to him that he was even being honored, was standing on the sidelines of the football field talking to former teachers, students and parents. This honoree was Bill Riecke. As his name was announced he waved his hands to the crowds of people in the stands and around the field. The crowd errupted in applause with shouts and offered him a standing ovation ~ an outward expression of admiration ~ an outward expression of gratitude and thanks. I was sitting in the visitor bleachers that night. I was sitting next to two other Albany parents, one whose husband was preparing to leave for Iraq as a member of the National Guard Reservists, and another whose son was also a Marine and would be leaving soon for Iraq as well. I don't know if you were present that night or even if you were associated with the school at that time. But I can tell you that the entire half-time event is something I will never forget. There was such a sense of pride for Mr. Riecke, for McKay High School and for our Country - a crowd of "American's" uniting in their pride and patriotism. I had reason recently to visit a Marine webpage in which I read about the Bill Riecke "Marine photo situation." I would like to express the following observation and opinion regarding this issue. I can not begin to understand or agree with the position you and the Salem-Keizer school district has taken regarding the editing of the photo Bill's sister brought to school. How can your school offer a public tribute acknowledging Mr. Riecke's accomplishments and his former association with McKay High School, and then so blatantly disregard his personal sacrifice as well as his personal request to not edit the photo. If for all of time we edited photos, that in our opinions, might promote evil and/or violence, what kind of history would we have? What could we teach? What we would know to be true? Have you edited all of the history books in your school district to be sure there are no photos depicting soldiers with guns? Have you removed all newspapers with photo's depicting soldiers with guns from your school libraries? We, as a society, may not agree with the truth we live with today. We may not like that our children live in a world in which violence and terrorism is so real. But our children are much more wise and resilient than your policy is gving them credit for. I urge you to reconsider your position. DO NOT edit this photo. Honor your former record-holding McKay football player/McKay H.S. graduate's request and post the photo his sister brought to school in it's original format. Honor Bill Riecke's service to America! A Proud American Mrs. Carrie Pool

Slippery slope:

They will have to replace all of their history or government books if they are going to stand by this kind of policy and for sure none of those history movie clips that might have guns in them. And, this could carry over to any English class that might have a book about war or heaven forbid a Shakespearean tragedy with any kind of weapon in it.

And, here's a Marine Dad:

I am apalled at your decision not to let this teacher hang a picture of a US Marine in his classroom. That same Marine is providing the very freedom that we enjoy today. Its not about your freedom of speech. You people just don't get it !!

Why don't you take the time and explain to these kids that if it wasn't for this Marine and others before him with their guns they wouldn't be enjoying all the freedoms they do have. Teach them to be proud of their service men and woman that VOLUNTEERED to protect them.

People like you are the problem with our society.
If you ever have to confront an enemy with a gun....you would be the one to run and hide behind that Marine and cry help me.

You have made a bad bad choice here.

I will be forwarding this story to all the media.....especially Bill O' Reilly and Shaun Hannity.

Gregg
Proud Marine Dad
Son deployed in Iraq

and, another proud Marine Mom speaks out:

Dear Ms. Baker, Are you aware that every Marine, no matter what his assigned duty is a Rifleman first and foremost? What would you have our Marines and soldiers enter combat with? Flyswatters? Do you truly believe that removing the "tool" that our fine Marine uses in combat from the photo is going to help the world? Do any of the kids in your high school know what the Holocaust was? Do you? You, Ms. Baker, need a serious reality check. Our Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen are all putting their lives on the line for ALL OF US. You should recognize that they cannot defend us or protect our nation unless they are armed. I thank God you are just a school superintendent, and not our Secretary of Defense. I think you owe the Rieckes and all our military personnel an apology. Get off your PC horse and let kids have ALL the information. They can make up their own minds with out you deciding what is appropriate for them. Good luck, Karey Keel-Stidham Proud Marine Mom

Sandy, whose son just returned from Iraq, also has an opinion:

We send our children to school to learn. We trust teachers and educators with our children. Teachers are with them more during the day than with their parents. You have to be a VERY special kind of person to be a teacher or care giver. You have to want to make a difference in a child's life. You have to do something that they may remember their entire lives. Obviously Mr Costa is a very wonderful teacher who continues to remember those students who made a difference in his life. He is trying to teach the kids the real world, not only that these graduates may have been high school heros but the same students have gone on to help make world history. They were given independence and freedom of choices along with educational smarts, but now they have moved on to bigger choices of independence, responsibility, patriotism, freedoms, honor, valor and ethics, all in a days work for any branch of service. They have moved on from high school football heros, class president and honor role students. Why has McKay High School retreated and why is it moving backwards? Unreal! Do you think every graduate has a white or blue collar job...sorry we need our military also. When those kids graduate from high school and come out from the protection of their parents, there is a real world out there filled with terror, pain, heartbreak, fear.....when the lights go out, it gets pretty scary after sunset. They don't have to be taught how to use a gun, but they should be taught what guns are really used for....WAR! Guns should not be used by gangs or people who can't handle life's reality....those are the people who should not have guns but end up having them. They kill innocent citizens. When in war, innocent citizens get killed also sometimes, but so do the insurgents who have destroyed thousands and thousands of innocent citizens for no reason. My son returned last week from IRAQ. Everyone in WAR has a gun and a BUDDY! What should a soldier be holding....a pea shooter? Get real, get back into the real world. These kids have all seen guns, we grew up with war shows and western shows 50 years ago. Everybody got killed with guns, pistol, arrows and shotguns in those shows. There were even cannons and lets not forget about racism about Indians and blacks right here in the USA! Get out of the dark ages and let these kids see real heros. Let them put a face on a hero. When my son left for IRAQ, my 12 year old took a Marine poster to school for a project. As he started to send pictures home from IRAQ, Ryan took those to school and yes, David was holding a gun. It was his brother over there, fighting for freedom, fighting for their safety and their security. When his picture went up, there was a real face to the war. The poster was put in a glass bulletin board and was seen by all kids k-8. Because of the very small kids I did not send a poster with guns, however, I believe high school kids would be able to comprehend the real pictures of war by this time. Those kids were so behind in our project of sending care packages to these troops. They collected 187 containers of powdered juice mix for the troops. They even sent their allowances to me for shipping costs. They wrote cards out for every holiday that I would send over. In those cards they spoke their little minds. All of them said how thankful they were that you are protecting us and hoping they stay safe. Some mentioned how brave and heroic they were for helping children in IRAQ their age. Others asked how they were doing and asked about their familes back home. If grade school kids know what is going on over there, I can't believe high school kids do not have the comprehension of knowing there are people getting killed and saved by the soldiers caring guns for protection and to free a world who has not seen freedom for over 30 years. Come out of your shell because the real world has been out for a long time especially since 911. GIVE ME A BREAK! Your not helping our kids by showing them the truth, you are hindering them from the real world. Keep them away from the news Media who show the bad and get them connected to the Internet and find out about all the good things that these brave men and women do over there. Like you the news media is afraid of showing we are doing good over there, they only want to show the bad. These are our heros, not Video games and Clint Eastwood or other move stars. The ones who fight and lose their lives for your freedom....start giving them the credit they deserve and the benefits they should have. Our sons and daughters are proud of their brothers and sister and parents. Why aren't you proud of them. What are you afraid of? PROUD MARINE MOM OF A BRAVE SON WHO SERVED IN IRAQ! PROUD NAVY WIFE OF A BRAVE HUSBAND WHO SERVED DURING VIETNAM! Sandy Arensdorf, Iowa

Posted by Deb at 07:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Healing Wounds

Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul Roarke Ordnance Chief for the 2nd MAW, currently deployed at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, recently encountered a tiny survivor . . . and wondered what the future hold for this child and for the nation of Iraq.

At first glance, he seemed no different than any other 5-year-old boy hyperactive, curious in the way all young children are and, when placed in the adult world, tiny. Yet this kid was worlds away from the designer-clad youngsters who roam shopping malls and fast-food restaurants in the United States. He was an Iraqi child, living in a war zone.

I came across the boy recently while traveling to one of the smaller forward operating bases to check on some of my Marines.

As anybody who has done it will tell you, traveling by helicopter in the Iraqi theater involves a lot of waiting around. Having your flight canceled, or getting bumped from the ones that are running, is just a fact of life here.

It was during one of these long waits that I came across this boy and heard his story. I first noticed him as I walked through the terminal. He was trying to sit up on a cot where he had been sleeping. But both his arms from the elbows down were heavily bandaged, and he couldnt manage it on his own. As I walked over to help, an American contractor, who was an interpreter, got there first and helped the boy sit up.

I asked the man what had happened to the boy; though he didnt know all the details, he told me what he had heard. The boys father had worked for coalition forces. Insurgents from their town got wind of this and tried to kill him and his family by burning their house down.

Fortunately, everyone escaped, but the boy suffered bad burns on both of his arms. He was treated by American doctors and was awaiting a flight to receive further treatment at another hospital.

As I listened to the story, I looked at the little guy sitting on the cot next to me. He watched our conversation with big dark eyes, though he understood no English. As a father of two boys, I felt bad about his condition. When he saw me looking at him, he gave me a big, white-toothed smile. When kids smile, you cant help but feel good. So I gave him candy left over from a Meal, Ready to Eat, wished him luck and made my exit to wait for my flight.

Later, I watched the boy play a pickup game of soccer with Marines. He was a better player than the big, heavily armed leathernecks who struggled to keep up with his polished moves. Everybody laughed as, over and over again, he maneuvered the ball around them. You could tell that he and the Marines were enjoying themselves.

As I watched, I couldnt help but wonder what he was making of the situation his injury, the big camouflaged men all around him, the weapons. I wondered, when all is said and done in Iraq, how this little boy will remember it all. Will he look at the scars on his arms and think in some twisted way that they were caused by our presence here? Or will he realize the truth that it was the work of a few low-life thugs?

Will he grow up to embrace freedom and democracy? Or will he be drawn to the dark side of the Islamic religion and end up shooting at one of my sons years from now?

I pray not.

I hope he remembers Marines as the guys who protected his family, got him help for his burns, played soccer with him and gave him candy.

But what I really hope is that when he gets older, he realizes these Marines left their friends and families behind and put themselves in harms way to come and help children just like him. That they risked life and limb to give Iraqis the opportunity to live free and without fear.

Sadly, many of those Marines wont return home. I hope this boy grows up to remember and appreciate their sacrifice.

Only time will tell, but I think we are on the right track, and as that boys wounds heal, the nation of Iraqs wounds will also heal.

Iraqis will have their scars, but theyll end up better in the end.


Posted by Deb at 02:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2005

Daily Collegian, Redux

On Thursday, I posted an editorial originally published in The Daily Collegian, by Thomas Naughton who presumably is a student at the University of Massachussetts. Mr. Naughton left this comment on the post:

To Whom it may Concern-

I am the "jerk" or the "asshat" who wrote the column, "No Yellow Ribbons Here". I really appreciate you people spending your time and energy to go crazy about my column. I'm already reaping the benefits of scandalization with offers to write for some pretty venerable magazines. Please forgive my sarcasm, I'm just trying to pay you all back for the "kind thoughts" you've addressed to my email and personal phone which include:
death threats, the word "faggot", and to my delight, lots of invites to hang out with handsome members of the armed forces!

Here's what troubles me (free of sarcasm):
NONE OF YOU GOT THE MESSAGE. ALL I WANT IS FOR OUR TROOPS TO COME HOME SAFE TO THEIR FAMILIES. If it was my choice, they would all come home today. My column was addressing the fact that these WAL-MART-bought yellow ribbons don't bring back the lives of US SOLDIERS that were lost FOR NO REASON. Its clear that no one can say anything in this country that is percieved to be against the war or Mr. Bush. How sad.

The actual column was not printed in its entirety. If you are interested in reading the full version, email me, I'll be happy to oblige you.

Finally I want to say this (also free of sarcasm):
It was never my intention to harm, disrespect, or disregard the great sacrifice that our troops have made by fighting this war, and I don't think I did. I think about the 1000+ dead soldiers and their poor families and friends EVERY DAY and that is why I wrote my column. Before you judge me, read the entire column and consider that I am a patriotic American who LOVES AMERICA. I will not, however, be bullied or intimidated into jingo-ism while young men and women die overseas, while only 1 of our congressmen has a son or daughter fighting this war.

I know in my heart that my intentions were right. I pray for all of your sons and daughters, wives and husbands, sisters and brothers to return quickly and safely. I pray that they will rejoin their families and live long happy lives.

Thank you for your time

Thomas Naughton

and the perspicacious JHD replied:

Thomas, you simply do not get it. And you never will. Why? Because you haven't earned the understanding. Intellectual interpretations can only go so far. You cannot separate the man/woman from the mission. You cannot understand that there troops ARE protecting your freedom to receive your offers from "venerable magazines". You will never, ever understand the concept that our men and women in uniform BELIEVE IN THE MISSION! They are not forced or drafted, just simply volunteers. They are not ignorant or lacking in opinion. Truthfully they are mainstream Americans with something more than you will understand! What you believe is just fake patriotism is something so real the blood of our Country flows through it.

Your little vandalism project that you are so proud of is an affront to all of us. You seem to think that WE are the enemy yet I can just bet you believe the terrorists we are fighting are nothing more than "freedom fighters" defending their homeland from an "occupying" force. You also make the assumption that WE do not support our troops, President, and Country. Coming home not having accomplished our mission is a failure. Much as your moral bankruptcy on this issue. Our Armed Forces will not accept or tolerate defeat. Defeat is not an option simply because of what is at stake. Your personal freedoms are directly connected to what we are fighting for. These young men and women are the ones that make it so easy for you to have your fantasy. The blood of generations allows you your opinion without fear of beheading, body parts chopped, or being put feet first through a shredder. You sir are not a pimple on these noble troops collective asses but they will lay down their lives to allow you your opinion. This is frankly something you will never be able to intellectualize no matter how hard you try.

Why do you think you are getting so much heat? Why are the returning troops not plastered all over the TV like they were in Nam? Do you really believe the hatred felt for you is because of your opinion? No, it is your disrespect to all of us that you show through your childish acts of vandalism that has created the sh*tstorm you find yourself in. And you can laugh all the way to the bank for the freedom you have to generate your articles on the blood of those greater than you! Is this a great country or what? Enjoy your selfishness and please, we do not want, care for, or need your support!

I'll leave you with something one of the greatest American statesmen of all times left us for prosperity. Read it, learn it, live it. But alas it'll mean nothing to you and that is apropos of your ilk:

"It is a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own." --Benjamin Franklin

I received a note of explanation from Mr. Naughton - not an apology, as he was careful to point out - that he was misunderstood, as those who say unpopular things often are. Deja vu. Michael Moore all over again. To me, there is nothing especially praiseworthy about stealing yellow ribbon magnets from other people's cars. It's just petty theft and shows a callous disregard toward the feelings of those who placed them there. But hey! His guilt must be assuaged. So, it's okay and the hell with everyone else.

I've lost a number of yellow ribbons from my car in the past year. Some were personalized with my son's name and rank, others just as they came from the package. And, thank God Wal-Mart is offering them for $1.50 - any profit margin on this item must be minimal. But my reasons for showing my support of our troops in a tangible way have nothing to do with "blindness or ignorance". For the past year, this site and other milblog sites have posted story after story about the incredible rebirth happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two brutal regimes overthrown. 50 million people freed from despotic rule. I wonder how much effort Mr. Naughton has put into understanding the other side? And I wonder, where is the blindness and ignorance?

Connie related a recent lunch conversation where the viewpoint was expressed that the U.S. shouldn't be in Iraq and that our troops should come home now. The conversation ended when one woman observed, "Most of my family is Jewish. I can tell you that we are very grateful to the United States for intervening in WWII when they did." The historical parallels are similar. And it may be that a generation from now, the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan will be thought of the same way by future descendents. In the meantime, I - and countless other Marine parents, spouses, grandparents, children - will continue to support not only our troops but their mission . . . and their Commander in Chief.

Mr. Naughton, why do you think my son, Connie's son, JHD's son and countless others like them chose to join the Corps. It's not because they didn't have choices. There are many parents just like me who would have happily paid tuition at any college. But they looked beyond "what's in it for me" to "what can I give back". My son didn't suffer from "blind belief" as you charge - he shipped to boot camp on 9/13/02, knowing full well that he would almost certainly see action. But his love for his family, country, and Corps was prioritized before his own comfort and self-actualization. As JHD said, you have no idea what real patriotism is. The difference between patriotism and jingoism is like the distance between the deep and lasting love of a family and a cheap porn flick watched by yourself.

Mr. Naughton, have you ever talked with Gold Star parents? I have. I've attended funerals for fallen heroes and prayed that they would never have to do the same for me. I've cried with them, laughed with them, and shared the memories of their precious sons - sons whose lives were cut far too short but who lived with honor and dignity and were the absolute best this country had to offer. They still support the troops and they still support the mission. And, they are still filled with pride and awe, knowing that their sons will never be forgotten by the extended Marine Corps Family. Will anyone be able to say that about you, stealer of yellow-ribbons?

Posted by Deb at 02:04 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

Massachusetts tax dollars at work

Read this, then e-mail or call the Daily Collegian to express your view of the asshats who rip off yellow ribbon magnets. Especially this one, whose first amendment rights are protected by the troops he refuses to support. Bah.

By Thomas Naughton, Collegian columnist

February 23, 2005

Guilt can only weigh on a person's mind for so long before they crave the act of purgation; to get the weighty feelings of shame and responsibility out of the mind - or at least the guilty parties attempt to find some kind of peace if they cannot rid themselves of a screaming conscience that implicates and indicts its possessor.

That said, perhaps some readers will understand why my friends and I rip yellow ribbon "support the troops" magnets off of cars or wherever people have affixed them. By ripping off these ribbons, we find a way to deal with our guilt, as though with each ribbon swiped we take back a life that was taken by this senseless war started by our senseless president and those who support him.

I will never say, "support the troops." I don't believe in the validity of that statement. People say, "I don't support the war, I support the troops" as though you can actually separate the two. You cannot; the troops are a part of the war, they have become the war and there is no valid dissection of the two. Other people shout with glaring eyes that we should give up our politics, give up our political affiliations in favor of "just supporting the troops." I wish everything were that easy.

What they really mean is that we should just give up our will, give up our identities, give up our voices to those in power. Perhaps that's just the way people aligned with the right wing choose to get rid of their guilt: blindness and ignorance.

I listen to talk radio very often. It's important to know who your enemies are. The pundits on the radio are the pinnacles of guiltless, shameless wonders, and I am jealous. It must feel good to believe without question, to benefit from the blind belief of young men and women who chose to join the armed forces, to sit in a radio studio in New York and admonish the public to give in like the troops, to just follow orders, to live as just a number that will soon be etched into a gravestone that no one will ever see.

I look into the cars of people with "support the troops" ribbons as I speed past, trying to find some trace of recognition on their face, recognition of their guilt and the fact that they have given up. I usually see nothing; just a mouth moving robotically, singing the pop hits of today or the contemporary country wine of fake cowboys who share a lot with George Bush: no shame.

We say, "support the troops" so that we won't feel guilty about saying "no" to war. We reason that if we say that we support the troops, somehow we aren't monsters for not saying a word when the death tolls of U.S. soldiers climbed above 1,000. Those ribbons are yellow for a reason, they are not the mark of armed forces support, they are the mark of cowards.

Pundits on the radio advise their cowardly listeners to approach men and women in army uniforms and say "thank you." I cannot do that. Every time I pass a person in uniform I look long and hard at them and all I can think inside to say is "I'm so sorry." I want to apologize to them, to their families and to their friends. I feel sorry that we, the people, couldn't control our own government at the outset of this conflict when most of us knew deep inside that it was a mistake.

Where are we now? Are we in a better place? Is the world safer for democracy? No, it is not safer and we are not in a better place. In this war that we are fighting to somehow avenge the deaths of the Sept. 11 tragedy, we have amassed a field of body bags, the number of which almost matches the number killed in the terrorist attacks four years ago. Now, we stare at yet another request for barrels of money for this war by President Bush, while people in our own country search fruitlessly for jobs to feed their starving families, while every public school gets left behind, while our elderly are ensured an uncertain future of unpaid medical bills.

I guess we shouldn't think about those things though, right? We should just buy a yellow magnet and slap it on the butt of our car so we can sleep at night and just let our government do whatever they want. That's supporting the troops, right?

Two years ago my friend Eric called me out of the blue after almost five years of silence between us. We were in a band together when we were teenagers and he had joined the army around the time I was graduating from high school. He had to join the army; he had a son to provide for in the grand tradition of many young members of the armed forces. He called me to tell me that he was going back to Iraq, against his will. He was so sad and angry and scared. He didn't say it, but I know he was calling to tell me that he might die. I didn't say it to him then, but I felt such overwhelming guilt that I couldn't do anything to keep him from going back.

I haven't heard from him since. I don't know if he's dead, and my guilt is alive and well. I hope that all of our family members in harm's way return alive. Until then, I can really honor their sacrifice by demanding that it finally comes to an end.

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Posted by Deb at 05:59 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

The Boys of Iwo Jima: The Story of Six Boys

Here's a moving story behind the story of Iwo Jima. When I posted this last February, I asked that anyone had the name of the author, that I'd love to give credit where credit was due. Since then, I've heard from the author, Michael Powers, who contacted me. His info is below this except from The Boys of Iwo Jima, one of the stories in the the book: Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter by Michael T. Powers

Each year my video production company is hired to go to Washington, D.C. with the eighth grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history-that of the six brave men raising the American flag at the top of Mount Surabachi on the Island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, "What's your name and where are you guys from?"

I told him that my name was Michael Powers and that we were from Clinton, Wisconsin.

"Hey, I'm a Cheesehead, too! Come gather around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story."

James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good-night to his dad, who had previously passed away, but whose image is part of the statue. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:

"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called Flags of Our Fathers which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game, a game called "War." But it didn't turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out; I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old.

(He pointed to the statue)

You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection, because he was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the "old man" because he was so old. He was already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, "Let's go kill the enemy" or "Let's die for our country." He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, "You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers."

The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, "You're a hero." He told reporters, "How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only twenty-seven of us walked off alive?"

So you take your class at school. 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.

The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky, a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, "Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night."

Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Kronkite's producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, "No, I'm sorry sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back."

My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell's soup, but we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, "I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID NOT come back."

So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."

Suddenly the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own eyes, but a hero nonetheless.

Michael T. Powers
HeartTouchers@aol.com

Copyright © 2000 by Michael T. Powers

Michael T. Powers resides in Wisconsin with his wife Kristi. His stories appear in 22 inspirational books including his own entitled: Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter." For a sneak peek or to join the thousands of readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com. You can email him at: HeartTouchers@aol.com

Bradley's book, Flags of our Fathers is highly recommended. It's not a book that you sit down and read cover to cover in one sitting - it's graphic and the word images evoke strong emotional response. I had to walk away and come back several times - but I always came back.

Posted by Deb at 02:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

Know them, thank them, never forget them

Kathryn Lopez met a few good men in a Georgetown eatery last week - Marines recuperating at Walter Reed. She shares this encounter with the rest of us:

Every American should have the privilege of knowing the caliber of Americans who go off to war to protect us. He's a Marine who nonchalantly gets up and walks around the table to cut his one-armed brother's steak for him. He's a Marine who with one arm closes and lifts his brother's wheelchair into a car. He's still strong still stronger than I am, for sure and no enemy's going to take that away from him if he has anything to say about it. He's a boy whose youth shocks you, who is minus a leg, who spent months in a coma, and who has three brothers who have signed up for the war effort in some way. He's Casey Owens, who so many of us saw salute the president on Inauguration Day, from his wheelchair, and who's probably the best spokesman for the war out there. On Saturday night, when a few Marines took the night off from Walter Reed for dinner and drinks at a happening Georgetown restaurant and bar, everyone wanted to know him and thank him and never forget him.

There are so many stories from this war that will never be told, individuals most Americans will never know about. He who had the top of his skull blown off but he'll take his headaches because he is grateful to be alive.

These guys consider themselves the lucky ones, you see. They weren't killed.

Of course, we are the lucky ones to have them.

There's more. Visit the National Review site to read it all.

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February 06, 2005

Your pre-Superbowl entertainment

She's on her game today:

Cassandra fisks Clarke.

My word, Mr. Clarke. Do you mean to tell us that democracy has been in existence for... what... six years and terrorism has not been completely stamped out? We confess it - we are shocked! What a miserable failure.

Democracy takes time to evolve, and sometimes it happens in fits and starts. It took the noble experiment called the United States over two hundred years and we're still working on getting it right. Japan tried it once with the Meiji Constitution, but true democracy came only at the point of a gun after [horror of horrors!] a lengthy US occupation, post-WWII. Funny you don't mention that one in your cherry-picking expedition. It must not have fit into your agenda basket.

And the crowd roars.

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February 02, 2005

SecDef on the Iraqi Election

DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Klein, USMC
Members of the Iraqi Police and U.S. Marines (3/5 India Company) keep a watchful eye over the lines of Iraqi citizens waiting to cast their ballots in Iraq's first free election in over 50 years at a polling station in Jolan Park in Fallujah, Iraq, on Sunday.

Here's Donald Rumsfeld's message to our troops:

On January 30th in Iraq, the world witnessed an important moment in the global struggle against tyranny, a moment that historians might one day call a major turning point. America's men and women in uniform, who were instrumental in the liberation of Iraq, were there to witness this moment as well.

During the struggle to bring freedom to Iraq, many of you have faced difficult times far from home. I suspect there have been moments along the way when some of you may have wondered whether or not the effort would be worth the cost, or whether, even, the people you were trying to help truly stood with you.

Last Sunday, the Iraqi people answered those understandable questions in a resounding way, just as voters had in Afghanistan last October. The world is experiencing a global struggle between freedom and fear -- and you are on the side of freedom. That's the side to be on. And the people of Afghanistan, and now the people of Iraq, have chosen to stand with you.

Consider the courage it took for the Iraqi people to go to the polls when they had been warned that the act of voting could cost them and their family members their lives. Think of the determination they must have possessed to risk becoming targets for bombings or beheadings.

And yet the Iraqis voted -- millions of them.

Voters arrived on crutches and donkey carts, passing by graffiti warnings on the walls that said: "You vote, you die"; Iraqis came to a polling station to vote even after a rocket attack had killed three people several hours earlier; children waved Iraqi flags as they witnessed the birth of their new, free system; elderly women with tears in their eyes held up their voting cards; and voters displayed their ink-stained fingers as badges of honor in the fight against extremism.

Iraq's security forces also deserve recognition for their bravery and their willingness, despite the threats, to wear their country's uniforms and to provide security on Sunday for both the millions of voters and the thousands of election workers.

These are times of consequence. In the past few months, 50 million free people in Afghanistan and Iraq have begun to build new futures. They have rejected the extremism that fuels attacks on civilized people. And you have made that possible. Have no doubt: the courage and sacrifices of U.S. forces have helped to create the environment in which Afghans and Iraqis are developing the ability to take hold of their countries.

Now these free people continue to seek your help in building free, democratic and peaceful nations in some of the world's most violent regions. No one treasures peace more than you who have endured the horrors of war.

So to all of you who are serving on freedom's front lines, and to your families, I offer my deepest appreciation and respect. To those who have lost friends or loved ones during this conflict or who have been injured in defense of our freedom, find comfort in knowing that your sacrifices have historic meaning. And know that one day, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will find a way to thank you, as I do, from the bottom of my heart.

May God bless you and may God bless the United States.

Donald H. Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense


Posted by Deb at 06:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 29, 2005

Marine Corps Families

When tragedy strikes, families pull together and the Marine Corps family is no different. On discussion boards and through e-mail, via phone calls and knocks on the door, with tears and smiles and hugs, emotional support is offered and burdens shared.

Here's a note of condolence sent by Earl Hinz, Corporal, USMCR, Mag-21, EWA, Dec. 7, 1941:

My condolences to the families of the Marines and the Sailor lost in the January 27th helicopter crash in Iraq. I feel like it was only yesterday that I was a Gyrene but it is 63 years. I grieve with you.

And, Cassandra writes of the incredible bond that extends the motto, Once a Marine, Always a Marine to Once a Marine Family, Always a Marine Family. It's true for the newest Marine families and as Mr. Hinz's post demonstrates, those bonds do not diminish over time.

The night before last at dinner, I listened to General Mattis speak of another helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Desperate for a replacement, he contacted Washington and obtained one from the command back home. Later he learned that, that evening, the young widow of one of the men who died in the crash, seven-months pregnant, showed up with fresh-baked brownies to bid farewell to the outgoing crew as it headed out to Afghanistan.

That is why I continue to believe in the United States Marine Corps. I wish every American could have heard some of the stories he told. As long as our Marines and their families have spirit like that, there is no army on this earth that can beat us. They haven't given up yet. And stories like this are not unique to the Marine Corps - we are a team, working side by side to make this happen.

Right now, the families of the fallen need our support and other Marine families - and Navy families, Army families, civilian families, and others - are reaching out. Their bravery and commitment to this country, and to those struggling for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, deserves our utmost respect, honor and gratitude. They are heroes to all us us and as Mr. Hinz stated above, we send our sincerest condolences to their families - both the family they were born into and the family that was brought together by military oath. And we will continue to pray together during this difficult time.

Posted by Deb at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2005

So You Say You Support The Troops?

Russ Vaughn has a way with words . . . and here are some worth reading.

It's so easy to say you support the troops, regardless of which side you come down on in the issue of the War in Iraq itself. Yeah, you can send care packages and put yellow ribbon magnets on your car to make you feel all warm and fuzzy that you're doing your own small part. You can do as I do and use forums such as this one to expound the viewpoint of the folks we send in harm's way, hoping that someway, somehow, someone who can make a difference may read your rant and actually do that something that makes a difference.

But right now, folks, we have a rare opportunity, a seldom-held power for ordinary citizens, to actually do something for the troops that will bring them more comfort than any supportive letters or boxes of cookies and candy ever possibly could. You see, right now we have the ability to provide them with comfort of mind, to lift a mental and emotional burden that they all carry with them when they enter any theater of combat. We hold in our collective hands the ability to grant them assurance that should the worst befall them, we, their grateful nation, will provide for their loved ones in a manner that will approximate what they would have provided in the normal course of their lives.

Under current law, Uncle Sam is a rather parsimonious patron when it comes to providing for the families of fallen warriors. For example, when an American is killed in combat, the surviving spouse receives a one-time death gratuity of $12,400. Service Member's Group Life Insurance coverage (SGLI) up to $250,000 is available for those service members who can afford to pay the premiums. If the fallen trooper has been in service for an extended period of time, the surviving family may also qualify for the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), which is paid up to age 62 or until the spouse remarries. This SBP benefit is limited to 55 percent of the soldier's retirement pay, in the pay grade at the time of death. With so many combat deaths occurring among the youngest service members, we must keep in mind that this is frequently a pay grade that actually qualifies the family for food stamps and aid for dependent children.

The annual base pay of a sergeant E-5, with six years of service is less than $30,000. With twenty years service his retirement benefit is half of that. Think for a moment what 55 percent of less than $15,000 amounts to. Think about being a young widow trying to raise small children on less than $700 a month. And for lower pay grades, which constitute the majority of combat deaths, the situation is even grimmer because most of them will not have served long enough for their families to qualify for even this miserly benefit. Even if the service member is insured to the maximum amount, an unlikelihood for younger troops, think about how little $250,000 amounts to over the twenty-plus years required to raise and educate children in today's world.

Now think about the benefits conferred by our government on the survivors of 9/11. Yes, think about it long and hard: millions awarded to families because their loved one happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Millions handed to them not because their loved one had volunteered for the hard service of fighting in combat, but had simply shown up for work. Tell me, America: where's the justice in this situation?

Fortunately, there are some in government who have taken notice of this gross injustice and are preparing to attempt a legislative correction long overdue. Senator Joe Lieberman, D-CT, and Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL, are scheduled to introduce the Honoring Every Requirement of Exemplary Service (HEROES) Act on January 24th. This legislation will increase the benefit paid to the survivors of military personnel killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and future conflicts, from $12,400 to $100,000, retroactive to October 2001. The benefit for non-combat deaths will remain at $12,400. The Act will raise SGLI Insurance coverage from $250,000 to $400,000, with the government paying the premiums for the first $150,000 for military personnel serving in a combat zone, also retroactive to October 2001.

So you say you support the troops? Then as soon as you finish reading this, start hammering that keyboard and let your two senators and your congressman know that you expect no less than their full support for early passage of the HEROES Act. To a person, they all swear they support the troops, regardless of party affiliation or individual positions on the war. Let them know, their future electoral efforts will, in your mind, be dependent upon their actions on behalf of those troops and those families who have given that "last full measure of devotion," to their nation.

Want a place to start? For a list of sites with congressional contacts, go here.

Get off your butts, America and show you really do support the troops.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66


Posted by Deb at 04:55 PM | Comments (391) | TrackBack

January 19, 2005

Test post

I'm grading papers, sipping coffee, and watching my dog carry her kibble - one piece at a time - from her dish in the kitchen to the living room rug. Eating in the living room is forbidden for her and she knows it. Hence, the wagging tail and guilty side glances. I've spent yesterday evening and most of the morning trying to post a wonderful editorial by Lori Holman, a proud mother of two Marines, and it's not working. JP, from Aces Full of Links, is trying to help me figure out why I keep getting error messages . . . so I'm going to test post a few other things to see if I can replicate the error. I'm a mom on a mission - Lori's writing is wonderful and it deserves a wider audience. Comments are strangely quiet today too, except for the SPAM - I've already cleaned out more than 50 offers this morning from idiots who think MCM is a great place to hawk Viagra, online poker, and loan services for the credit-challenged. I keep deleting and they keep coming back. If only keyboarding burned more calories.

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January 18, 2005

Bob Herbert - Confusing Light for Darkness

Every so often, I read an editorial that causes me to shake my head and reach for my keyboard. More often than not, those editorials are from the New York Times and here's the latest from Bob Herbert who spent a recent evening with Hollywood celebs Martin Sheen, Lynn Redgrave, Alfre Woodard, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson and others less notable, reading Ariel Dorfman's play "Speak Truth to Power: Voices From Beyond the Dark." This inspired him to write the following editorial, presumably with a straight face.

Here, he describes the impetus for the book that spawned the play - a collection of interviews from people who have "defended human rights in countries that span the globe". One such woman:

Dianna Ortiz is an Ursuline nun from New Mexico who went to Guatemala in the 1980's as a missionary. She was abducted, gang raped and tortured by government agents. She said one of the men overseeing the torture appeared to be American. At one point she was lowered into a pit filled with the bodies of men, women and children who had been murdered.

"To this day," said Sister Ortiz, "I can smell the decomposing of bodies disposed of in an open pit. I can hear the piercing screams of other people being tortured."

Horrible. But the man "appeared to be American"? America is a country made up of people from all ethnic backgrounds. How does an American look?

And, her experience also describes stories coming out of the Iraq during Saddam's reign. Keep this in mind when reading the following excerpt:

From my perspective, this is a dark moment in American history. The Treasury has been raided and the loot is being turned over by the trainload to those who are already the richest citizens in the land. We've launched a hideous war for no good reason in Iraq.

He needs to take another look. We have one of the highest standards of living anywhere in the world. Along with Australia, we took the lead in post-tsunami relief work, leaving the U.N. in the dust. We've liberated 25 million people in Afghanistan and another 25 million people in Iraq - 50 million good reasons. And if he's forgotten why we went to war, these Marines haven't:

That's my boy, LCpl Shane Conrad standing for freedom with the other proud Marines of 1/7, Baker Company.

Herbert's editorial continues:

Never since his assassination in 1968 have I felt the absence of Martin Luther King more acutely. Where are today's voices of moral outrage? Where is the leadership willing to stand up and say: Enough! We've sullied ourselves enough.

I'm convinced, without being able to prove it, that those voices will emerge. There was a time when no one had heard of Dr. King. Or Oscar Arias Sanchez. Or Martin O'Brien, who founded the foremost human rights organization in Northern Ireland, and who tells us: "The worst thing is apathy - to sit idly by in the face of injustice and to do nothing about it."

Mr. Herbert, change your perspective. The voice you're hoping for has indeed emerged and his name is George W. Bush. He acted when others sat back . . . and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan now face the future with hope instead of fear.

Thanks to Cassandra for the original link.

Posted by Deb at 11:58 AM | Comments (5)

January 17, 2005

". . . we're doing a bang-up job"

Here's a first-hand look at what's going right in Iraq from Marine Corporal Isaac D. Pacheco, currently deployed in Baghdad. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on September 12, 2001.

Something struck me as odd this fall as I watched a U.S. satellite news broadcast here in my Baghdad office. Something just didn't seem right. There was the usual tug-of-war between presidential candidates, a story about the Boston Red Sox and a blurb about another explosion in Iraq. The latter story showed the expected images of smoke and debris and people frantically running for cover - images that have become the accepted norm in the minds of many Americans thanks, or should I say no thanks, to the media.

There were no smiling soldiers, no mention of rebuilding efforts, no heartwarming stories about honor and sacrifice. I could swear I've seen that "stuff" here.

I've become somewhat callused to this kind of seesaw reporting because every day I work with the news agencies that manufacture it. However, many service members shake their heads in frustration each time they see their daily rebuilding efforts ignored by the media in favor of the more "sensational" car bomb and rocket attack stories. Not to say that tragedies don't happen - Iraq is a war zone - but there is so much more happening that gets overlooked if not ignored.

Army Sgt. Addie Collins' Kicks for Kids program is an example of this. Three months ago this Army Reservist from Los Angeles asked her friends and family to forgo sending the usual box of goodies, and instead send a few pairs of kid-sized shoes, which she would hand out to Iraqi children she'd seen walking barefoot. Friends and family told friends and family, and today, 10,000 pairs later, Collins is outfitting an entire Ramadi community with sneakers, sandals and boots.

Where's her morning talk show appearance?

Many others, military members and civilians who truly care about the Iraqi people and rebuilding their nation, have stories that mirror Collins'. Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen are working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi people to build schools, pave roads and train police officers. In the process we're re-instilling the citizens of Iraq with a sense of national pride that years of oppression had smothered.

I may just be a good ol' Kentucky boy, but if my voice counts for anything, I'd say we're doing a bang-up job.

Semper Fi.


Posted by Deb at 01:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 15, 2005

Coffee and conversation

I'm sitting in a small coffeehouse in Corvallis where the coffee is good and there are people around. Generally, I enjoy the lively conversation and various viewpoints that typify life in a college town. Not tonight.

For the past 20 minutes, I've listened to a conversation where an earnest young man is explaining to the young woman sitting across the table why the resistance in Iraq isn't really terrorism, it's just the normal reaction of citizens who resent the invasion of their homeland. And how our troops react to bullets by indiscrimately shooting in the direction of the shots. Just mowing 'em down.

The subject changed after I stood up and introduced myself as a Marine Mom with a deployed son. It is a very good thing for this young man - who is able to sit in a free country, secure in the knowledge that he can spew forth his opinions without fear of being dragged out in the street and executed by thugs sent by the dictator of his country or having his tongue cut out as a warning for others - that this Marine mom doesn't get to choose who her son protects and defends. Some folks aren't worth defending. Honestly.

I had a similar conversation in Salem recently with a folksinger who is evidently stuck in the sixties. It was a pleasant evening and I was enjoying the music when he announced that the next song was in "honor" of a certain son-of-a-Bush and lauched into a takeoff of Country Joe's anti war anthem, "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag''. After he finished slamming our president and the troops who are bringing democracy to Iraq, I walked over and introduced myself as the mother of a Marine who was at that moment in Iraq, one Marine in a long line of Marines who have given their sweat, blood and - in some cases - their lives, fighting for his right to sit here and sing snarky songs about the commander in chief. Just thought he'd want to know. Talk about a deer-in-the-headlights look.

There is a time for silence. And there is a time to speak out. I seem to find myself doing that often these days.

Anyway, for an accurate look at one of the many reasons why we're in Iraq right now and what we're accomplishing, read this excerpt from last week's update on security for the elections to be held later this month in Iraq. Speaking is Army Major General Peter Chiarelli, commander of the Multinational Division in Baghdad and the CG of the 1st Cavalry Division:

Today we stand just a few weeks away from historic elections in Iraq. The choices made by Iraqis will set the course for generations to come. The stark differences the Iraqi people face between the insurgent enemy and the prospect of a democratic future are indisputable.

The insurgent or terrorist is intent only on one thing: the grab for power at any cost. The insurgent has no plan for the betterment of Iraq or its people. He destroys. He kills innocent civilians. He delays, obstructs and divides the people by playing on their fears. There is no glory or honor in what some call the resistance. What is he resisting? The Iraqi government and the multinational forces are clearly intent on supporting the full independence of the Iraqi people through a government recognized internationally. What is he resisting? Construction and repair of the infrastructure of Baghdad is under way, and the insurgent has attempted to be an obstacle every step of the way. What is he resisting? The government will hold internationally monitored Iraqi-led elections. What is he resisting? The Iraqi security forces are growing in size and skill, and more and more responsibility for the security of the people is coming from the Iraqi security forces.

Also important, why is the insurgent resisting? He is resisting the will of the Iraqi people because he has a private agenda and he is terrified of what the Iraqi people will have to say at the polls. He is resisting a safer, economically sound and free Iraq to protect his self-interest. He is wicked and he has malicious partners within the country and from foreign lands that do not care about the Iraqi people. Consider that Osama bin Laden, not an Iraqi, has laid the terrorist -- labeled the terrorist Zarqawi -- not an Iraqi -- an emir or prince of Iraq. None of these people care about the people of Iraq. That is their only unifying theme.

Ultimately, the people of Iraq realize this as fact. They will not turn away from a free future. The insurgent will fail, but he will continue to fight in the near term.

To that end, we have a message for the insurgent who attempts to operate from the area and disrupt these elections. We will find you, we will watch where you move, we will listen to you speaking to each other, we will fight, and we will defeat you. You cannot sleep, eat, move or meet without the clear understanding that you may be killed or captured at any moment. Cease your operations now and you'll be choosing to live. Cease now and Iraqis can join in the progress being made in Baghdad.

Freedom. Progress. Life without fear. That's what we have here in America. Why should Iraqis settle for less? Here are snippets from a Washington Post interview with a few Iraqis at a coffee house on the other side of the world.

"Going to the polling stations is a victory for the Iraqi people," said Ali Danif, a 45-year-old writer.

"The elections are more important than the candidates," insisted Jamal Karim, his garrulous friend.

Not to be outdone, a smiling Suheil Yassin jumped in. "It's one of my wishes to die at the gate of the polling station," he said, a gesture that was self-consciously dramatic. "I want to be a martyr for the ballot box."

and

Danif, Karim and Yassin, friends who gather every Thursday at the cafe, smiled as they talked about the vote. Like others, they knew little about the candidates, the parties or their platforms. But they celebrated what the elections represent.

"I don't trust anyone in politics," said Karim, 48. "I only trust the Iraqi people."

Yassin sipped his tea, then spoke up. "With the election," he said, "the pages of the totalitarian order will be turned and never opened again."

From his mouth to God's ear.

Posted by Deb at 10:19 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 27, 2004

BeliefNet's "Most Inspiring Person of the Year"

BeliefNet, a site that offers information and advice on topics ranging from A(theism) to Z(oroastrianism) has posted their choice for "Most Inspiring Person of the Year", following a popular vote. Here's a list of the finalists and the percentage of the vote received:

Jason Dunham, Fallen Marine 33%
Christopher Reeve, Fallen actor21%
Mukhtaran Bibi, Rape survivor11%
Pat Tillman, Fallen Soldier 9%
Fantasia, "American Idol" contestant 8%
Margaret Hassan, Murdered by thugs in Iraq5%
Smarty Jones, racehorse - why he's on this list at all is a mystery to me 5%
Nancy Reagan, caregiver and former First Lady4%
Spc. Darby, Abu Ghraib whistle-blower4%
Curt Schilling, Red Sox Pitcher1%

Following the vote, the editors of BeliefNet chose Pat Tillman to receive the award. Here's their reasoning:

Despite our intention to keep divisiveness out of the Most Inspiring Person this year, even acts of heroism are viewed through the lens of politics. Judging from online comments and our conversations with people about this year's nominees, it seems those who see mostly tragedy in the Iraq war are most inspired by Spc. Joseph Darby, who blew the whistle on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, or Margaret Hassan, the director of Care in Iraq, who devoted her life not to killing but healing. We would hope that all of us could see the extraordinary courage in all four of them. Surely war supporters can admire Margaret Hassan for staying in Iraq, at obvious personal risk, to help suffering Iraqis (the point of this war was, after all, to help Iraqis) or understand that one cannot promote a moral war while concealing the immorality of prison torture. Surely even the war's most outspoken opponents can appreciate the sacrifice evident in Pat Tillman?s story or the extraordinary courage and valor of Jason Dunham, who flung his helmet and possibly himself on a live grenade to protect the lives of others. Dunham won our "People's Choice" award among Beliefnet users. As one friend of Dunham?s wrote, "What he did for his fellow soldiers and for mankind in beyond comprehension. In our small town of Scio he will NEVER be forgotten."

In the end, despite the great physical or moral courage of all four of them--and the incredible stories of the six other most inspiring finalists: Christopher Reeve, Nancy Reagan, Fantasia, Smarty Jones, Mukhtaran Bibi, and Curt Schilling--we choose Pat Tillman as the most inspiring person of the year.

Tillman, who walked away from a multimillion dollar NFL career to volunteer for service after 9/11, was deployed in Afghanistan, where American soldiers successfully overthrew a tyrannical regime that was subjugating its population and harboring Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Tillman was killed there in April.

There's more and you can read it at the BeliefNet site. I'm not quibbling over the choice between Pat Tillman and Jason Dunham - they're both heroes to me, although I do have a bias for Cpl. Dunham. Taking the deliberate action of throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his brother Marines elevates him to superhero in my book. A real superhero, in contrast to another entry on the list who played one on the movie screen, and would not be on the list at all if it were not for his celebrity status prior to his injury. In reading through the comments regarding Cpl Dunham's selection as "People's Choice", I was struck by some of the bone-headed, blindedness of the posts. Here are a couple:

I'm against the war precisely because of men like Cpl. Dunham. He deserved to serve and die in a war worthy of him. I don't think the one in Iraq is it. I hate the casual way in which the administration is using our courageous men and women. They deserve far better.

The hypocrisy of this statement is breathtaking. Cpl Dunham didn't deserve to die - none of our fallen heroes have. But to qualify wars as "worthy" based on armchair quarterbacking by folks with no stake in the outcome is insulting.

General Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, pinned Cpl Dunham's Purple Heart medal on his hospital gown less than an hour before he died. In a speech later, he said that all Dunham's parents could talk about was how he felt about the Marine Corps and how he loved and respected the Marine Corps. "They have a 15-year-old son who wants to join the Marine Corps," the general said. "And they're going to support him."

Cpl. Dunham's parents, more than any one else, understand the ultimate sacrifice made by their son - putting the life of his brother Marines over his own. And they would support their younger son's decision to join the Corps. Amazing parents.

Here's another quote:

Killing yourself doesn't take as much courage as living. Killing yourself is over quickly. Living and striving through hardship is much harder than dying. The glory of God is the person fully alive. I say vote for one of the people who lived, and honor life, not death.

Commandant Hagee told of how Dunham, a 22?year-old squad leader, was engaged in close combat with an enemy combatant in Iraq when an enemy hand grenade threatened the safety of Dunham and his fellow Marines. Dunham reportedly jumped on the grenade, shielding the blast using his helmet and himself, and was severely wounded.

"He was thinking of only one thing: the Marines in his squad," Hagee said. Dunham was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Because of Cpl. Dunham, the other Marines on his team were spared. I wonder how the above commenter justifies his self-centered comment in light of the admonition of Jesus, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13. Cpl. Dunham demonstrated the epitome of love.

The next quote illustrates how blind some remain. Cpl. Dunham gave his life to protect his brother Marines. However, he was there in the first place to bring peace and freedom to the people of Iraq. In this entry, posted on the BeliefNet discussion board, the poster draws no distinction between Cpl. Dunham, the enemy combatant who tried to kill him and the other Marines, and Hitler's Nazi troops. It's ironic that someone who lives in a country where he is free to say anything he wishes, without fearing religious or military persecution, cannot make that distinction.

Is there really any difference between Jason's actions and those of the suicide bombers who he chose to confront? Being willing to die for unjust causes is not a quality of heroism, unless one is a member of the cult of death that supports the particuliar cause. The fact that the US military adventure in Iraq to control a fifth of the world's oil has murdered in excess of 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians and lost the faith of the Iraqi population in it's attempt to install it's CIA puppet makes the whole venture catastrophic and immoral. Would you have voted for one of Hitler's troops for this award sixty years ago?

Contrast the above with the message left on an online message board by childhood friend Dean Phillips: "I hope one day I could be half the hero he is. I hear there is a special place for heroes in heaven."

There is. I am certain that Cpl. Dunham is now guarding the streets of Heaven with other fallen Marines. And thank God that some people recognize what qualifies as inspiring. 33% of the people voting in this poll did. And future generations of Marines will - Cpl. Dunham's action will be told and retold by young Devil Dogs who will wonder privately if they would have the courage to act as he acted. He is an inspiration to them and to the rest of us as well.


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

December 26, 2004

Donald Rumsfeld's Holiday Message

Secretary of Defense's 2004 Holiday Message to the Troops

This is the time of year when we want to give special recognition to the men and women in uniform -- volunteers all -- who defend our Nation and the cause of freedom.

But it is appropriate to go beyond a usual holiday message to put in context what is taking place at this time in our country's history. What the men and women in uniform are doing today will prove to be a pivotal chapter in the history of America's meaning and mission.

Since this great Republic's founding, Americans have stood at liberty's front lines. In its earliest days, the United States was the world's only democratic nation. But as the centuries have passed, the audacious and powerful ideals of freedom and self-determination that defined the American experiment have swept across the world.

We have seen it in recent times, in nearly every region of the world: in the joy of reunited Germans dancing atop the crumbling Berlin Wall; in the face of the lone young man who stood defiantly before the line of tanks in Tiananmen Square; in the millions of Afghan women who braved violence and intimidation to cast their votes in Afghanistan's first-ever democratic presidential election; in today's passionate debate over free and fair elections in Ukraine; and in the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have volunteered to come to their newly liberated nation's defense.

These momentous events would not have been likely had it not been for the daring and determination of America's founders, and for each of the many generations of Americans that followed who kept the flame of liberty alive at home and nurtured it abroad. This is the meaning and mission of America and no one is more important to that mission than the American soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine.

In these difficult and trying times, I ask our men and women in uniform to remember this: There is perhaps no greater calling in life than what you are doing -- standing on freedom's front lines. And there could be no finer legacy to bestow to future generations than being part of our nation's forward strategy for freedom and contributing to a safer and more peaceful world.

So to all of you who are serving our nation -- I thank you for your courage. I thank you for your commitment. And to your families and loved ones, I extend my deepest appreciation for your sacrifices. And to all of those who have lost loved ones in this global struggle against extremism, and to all of those recovering from the wounds of battle, know that all who have served our country have been part of something that history and future generations of Americans will honor for decades to come.

Please also know I am deeply grateful to you and that you have my full respect. You have my very best wishes for the holiday season.

Donald H. Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense

Posted by Deb at 01:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2004

I am the one with a frayed yellow ribbon

Mary Ellen Salzano is the the mother of a Marine who has recently returned from Ramadi, Iraq. She recently wrote this op-ed for her local paper and has given permission for a reprint here. Her words capture the essence of what a military parent experiences during the holidays and during the other days of the year.

The days are long, yet the years are short. These words have been resounding for me this past week, as I look over the days of 2004 and the year of 2004. Often I wonder, where did the year go...seems just like yesterday that we were putting up decorations and baking cookies, yet I know that 300 and some days have passed. My perception of time changes from moment to moment. Some moments take forever like waiting to see our Marine at the gate in Hawaii for the first time since his return from Iraq, to the moments that are over in a heartbeat, like the two weeks we spent in Oahu on his turf, his permanent duty station. 2004 has been a year of personal and spiritual development and I am certain 2005 will be the same in diverse ways, ways I have never dreamed possible or probable.

Would enjoy seeing a reality show of soldiers and Marine's loved ones back home. Meeting people and sharing about our son's military service is always a unique experience. Never knowing if this revelation will bring out the wrath or the respect of the person I am speaking with Sometimes I am asked, "How do you do this?" So, for a slice of reality, I'll share how many military parents feel on a day to day, minute by minute basis. I received portions of this in an email, and the author is unknown....I have changed bits and pieces to reflect my life, my thoughts and emotions.

You see me everyday going about my life as usual, or so it appears to you. I am your co-worker, your neighbor, the person sitting next to you at church, or at a ball game. I shop at the same grocery stores and fill my car at the same places you do. You can find me anywhere; you might see me anywhere, but do not be deceived by the normalcy of my actions and words. I have not been "normal" for months. I am the mother/father of an American soldier/Marine.

I am the one with the frayed yellow ribbon or photo of my son/daughter pinned on my clothing. It was fresh and new when our loved one first deployed months ago. We know the war is not over and will not be over...the war on terrorism is with us to stay. My child is in a place where bullets and grenades are as common as the birds singing outside your windows. I am dedicated to wearing my ribbon or pin until he comes home, because this reminds me and others to pray for him. So please, when you see someone wearing a yellow ribbon or a support your troops pin, whisper a prayer for their child or children and for all the others still protecting our country while facing the holidays and birthdays and celebrations without their families and friends.

My house is the one with the faded yellow ribbons and the United We Stand placards. Always remembering how our lives were changed on September 11, 2001. There is an American flag on a pole attached to the front porch, and black ribbons get attached on days of rememberance. A small red and white banner with a blue star in the middle hangs in a window. We were presented with this by our local American Legion. Gold Star parents are the ones whose sons or daughters do not return home. Our hearts are in a constant ache for them and a piece of our heart and soul is with them.

When you drive by a house with a banner or military flag waving, please pray for the family and the son or daughter who may be overseas or homeland choosing to defend our ways of life, which we take so very for granted.

My heart is warmed each time I pass a home or car with a yellow ribbon or support your troops magnet as I know you have an idea of the sacrifices being made. Thank you. For many emails are received sporadically as well as phone calls, yet at times, there are no calls or letters for weeks at a time, and the papers are filled with stories of wounded and casualites or negative comments and it pierces our souls.

When I read of a soldier or Marine that has been killed and the name has not yet been released by the Department of Defense pending notification of family, restlessness, depression, insomnia and even physical illness can rule my life until 24 hours have passed and the men in dress uniforms have not appeared at my door. You learn how to scan your neighborhood before you pull into your driveway, hoping there are no government cars parked outside your door. You then feel guilty as the relief turns to grief as you know others will be getting a visit. The days of taking a full breath are long passed, we sometimes need to remind ourselves to breathe.

Going to the store is a chore that many of us avoid until the cupboards run bare. If you see someone standing in front of the snack foods, with tears streaming down their face, stop and give them a hug. If you see a man and woman at the store buying tuna and crackers, beef jerky, hand sanitizers and baby wipes take a moment and see if they are filling a care package, and if you can, ask what you can provide. If you see a woman buying more than 3 sympathy cards at one time, and tears rolling down her face, know she is a part of an online support group who sends cards to those parents whose child has paid full price.

I am here among you, trying to carry on a semblance of a normal life and my holiday table will have a place setting and chair ready for our loved one whom we know will not be with us. Like so many others I am the parent, the mother of an child serving in the military. Because of their sacrifices, we sleep in our bed at night safe and free. Your prayers and words of love mean the world.

May your holy/holly/holidays be filled with the Light of Spirit, the love of the Divine, the Joy of Creation, and the Compassion of the Eternal. As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you and look forward to sharing a new year filled with wonders and joys. May each moment of your life be overflowing with blessings, prosperity, love and grace.

Mary Ellen writes "Sharing and Caring" for the Morgan Hill (CA) Times and she may be reached at maryellen_salzano@yahoo.com

Posted by Deb at 01:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Milblogger laments

Currently deployed in defense of America, Greyhawk puts down his weapon for a minute to pick up a pen - he skewers a critic who suggests that he "focus on the soldiers and not indulge in name-calling with respect to those who exercise their Constitutional freedom". Ho hum. Ho humbug. Our cherished constitutional freedoms - for which generations of other trops have fought, bled, and died - include that of speech. And this freedom especially includes being able to say what you wish without risk of government interference . . . especially if you are the one paying for the soapbox.

In A Milblogger's Lament, Greyhawk uses humor to make his point - and in rhyme, no less. Here are the first few verses - do visit his site and read the rest.

Merry Christmas dear friend, I'm inspired, you know,
But the Mrs should get all the thanks
It's her time and effort that makes this site go,
While I'm here dodging helos and tanks

So few minutes to spare out of each busy day,
but so many things cry for attention
there's no time for issues that seem far away,
so most of them get not a mention

While sometimes in our vehicles politicians ride,
'round V-beds and mortars detected
I still think we GIs can help them decide,
how much armor could keep us protected

And reporters with pens that kill us the same,
as things in Iraq or a 'Stan
and enemies here with unpronounceable names,
will get a few words when I can

But there's nothing here now and few posts I recall,
unrelated to things military
That's what MilBlogs are about, after all;
it's sad that you find us so scary

There's more and it's all good.

Posted by Deb at 01:12 AM

December 15, 2004

Keeping Villanous Company

Cassandra's back . . . unleashed. Check out her new blog, Villainous Company, and put it on your favorites list. She's wickedly funny and always good for an aha! moment and a link to another great blog. Check out this must-read link to a post appearing on a new-to-me site, The Diplomad. Excerpt here, but do read the entire thing.

Among the MSGs at this post we have two fresh from combat in Iraq, and itching to go back. These youngsters, one 19, the other 21 (both younger than my kids!), seem genuinely puzzled when we civilians ask, "So what was it like?" They can't seem to believe that anybody would be interested in, much less amazed by hearing about coming under mortar attack or driving a truck at high speed down some "Hogan's Alley-type" street lined with crazed and armed Jihadists. They relate it in a shy, matter-of-fact manner, full of military jargon. And they want to go there, again.

Watching these guys as they pulled toys out of the big "Marines' Toys for Tots" box in the Embassy lobby and hearing their cheerful shouts of "Oh, cool! Check this one out!" I couldn't help but think, "They're kids. They're just kids. Probably not much older than the orphans to whom they'll give those toys." I kept thinking about my own kids, living safely in the States, and the fact that they're older than these kids, these Marines.

But then I went with the "kids" out to the gun range. Suddenly they became deadly serious. The "kids" disappear; no goofing around; strict discipline and concern for safety kicks in. They certainly know firearms, and treat them with respect and care. It was quite a sight to see the former "kids" deliberately, methodically pumping out rounds from their M-4s -- single shot, three-shot bursts, full auto -- punching out quarter-size groups in targets I can barely see. They don't look like kids, anymore. They look like Hollywood's idea of Marines; like the actors John Wayne "led" in "Sands of Iwo Jima." Now my thinking shifts to, "I wouldn't want to go up against these guys." And for a brief, very brief moment, I almost feel pity for the poor stupid thugs in Falluja who had dared tangle with the Marines, "You jerks haven't got a chance. Just call Dr. Kevorkian and get it over with."


Posted by Deb at 12:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 07, 2004

Historical Parallels

Occasionally, one of our readers submits a compelling editorial and we're happy to reprint. Sam Pender, author of Iraq's Smoking Gun submitted this in tribute to this anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Why did the United States go to war with Germany in WWII? Those certainly weren't German Stukas and NAZI pilots over Pearl Harbor on December 7th. It was because Hitler supported Japan-not because they ever attacked us or had plans to do so. Pearl Harbor was specifically the result of a US oil embargo placed upon Japan as a result of the Japanese occupation of formerly French Indochina.an occupation permitted by the Germans who had recently conquered France and controlled its holdings-but the embargo was place upon Japan-not Germany. So, how did the United States interpret the 12/7 attacks as a final step into war with both Japan AND with Germany if Germany had nothing to do with 12/7?

"It is difficult to find a parallel to the unwisdom of the British and the weakness of the French Governments, who none the less reflected the opinion of their Parliaments in this disastrous period. Nor can the United States escape the censure of history. Absorbed in their own affairs and all the abounding interests, activities, and accidents of a free community, they simply gaped at the vast changes which were taking place in Europe and imagined they were none of their concern."
-Winston Churchill, Memoirs of the Second World War

"By the autumn of 1933 it was plain that neither by precept nor still less by example would the British effort for disarmament succeed. The pacifism of the Labour and Liberal Parties was not effected even by the grave event of the German withdrawl from the League of Nations. Both continued in the name of peace to urge British disarmament, and anyone who differed was called "warmonger" and "scaremonger." It appeared that their feeling was endorsed by the people, who of course did not understand what was unfolding."
-Winston Churchill, Memoirs of the Second World War

True, America's allies were in trouble and asking the U.S. to help them, and a handful of Americans privately did before 1942 (see also Flying Tigers, Eagle Squadron, Hemmingway in Spain etc.). Another interesting aspect is to try and find a smoking gun in pre-Aunschlus Germany. It can't be done. There were violations, but nothing individually causing a war. Even Pearl Harbor was not the single reason for America's entry into WWII. No war should ever start for a single causus beli, and few do (including WWII, 911, and the war in Iraq).

"There was no moment in these sixteen years when the three former allies, or even Britain and France with their associates in Europe, could not in the name of the League of Nations and under its moral and international shield have controlled by mere effort of the will of armed strength of Germany."
-Winston Churchill, Memoirs of the Second World War

"Until the middle of 1934 control of the events was still largely in the hands of His Majesty's Government without the risk of war. They could at any time, in concert with France and through the League of Nations, have brought an overwhelming power to bear upon the Hitler Movement, about which Germany was profoundly divided."
-Winston Churchill, Memoirs of the Second World War

The United States went to war with Germany because Hitler declared war on the US (as had Saddam and Bin Laden both throughout the 1990's), because Germany and Japan were allies (as were Saddam and Al Queda...see also 1998 indictment of UBL and the 1993 non-aggression agreement between them), and because there were repeated, close, high level TIES between Hitler and Japan (just as there were repeated, close, high level TIES between Saddam and Al Queda). Al Queda is not Japan, but it is a nation without borders (just not a nation-state after the fall of the Taliban).

"Don't believe that anyone in the world will hinder me in my decisions [to invade Austria and Czechoslovakia]! Italy? I am quite clear that they are with Mussolini: with Italy I am on the closest of terms. England? England will not lift a finger for Austria.And France? Well, two years ago when we marched into the Rhineland with a handful of battalions [breaking the 1991 Treaty of Versailles]-at that moment I risked a great deal. If France had marched then we should have been forced to withdraw..but for France it is too late!"
-Adolph Hitler, 1938

So, on December 11th, 1941, the United States went to war with Germany because Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. Germany had no knowledge or involvement in the 12/7 attacks, was not involved, but Hitler had a relationship with the Japanese, had declared war on the US, and hadn't followed the terms of the Versailles Treaty (ie, the WWI armistice agreement/cease-fire had been broken repeatedly by Hitler). Hitler didn't have an air force (the WMD of the day), but he had the capacity to build one rapidly-as most of Europe would find out by 1943. Following the declarations of war, the United States acted quickly to strike back at the Japanese with the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, and finally halting Japanese free reign of aggression in at the Battle of Midway just 6 months after Pearl Harbor (note: 6 months after the 9/11/01 attacks, the Taliban were routed, Bin Laden was driven from his safe haven and pinned down in the mts of Pakistan, and Afghanistan was already starting to rebuild).

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
-Edmund Burke

So, where are the historians? Where is the generation that saw the right thing to do, AND had the courage to do it? Half of America has seen the right thing to do (specifically 51%), and has the courage to endure it. The other half prefers to ignore history, seek appeasement and isolationist policies, and to politicize the war on terror. Half the nation sees the history, and has learned from it. The other half continues to replace the cold realities of the 21st Century with political conspiracy theories piled upon each other as their own means of denial.

After a while, the conspiracies get harder and harder to grasp. Pres Bush (a man constantly painted as a moron by his political opponents) apparently stole the 2000 election by controlling 1/3 of the govt, the Supreme Court, and pulled off the greatest conspiracy in American history. THEN, this alleged Happy Meal-without-the-fries managed to pull off the greatest conspiracy in the history of man; he created the 911 attacks with the help of the Pakistanis who actually committed them using Saudi hijackers.

Why? So he could invade Afghanistan to get access for the natural gas pipelines to fund his invasion of Iraq which he used to fund his 2004 theft of the Presidential election. One conspiracy alone is tough to realistically put faith in, but for President Bush (purportedly the dullest knife in the drawer) to have pulled off 4 of the greatest conspiracies in the history of man (each one dependent on its predecessor) is just impossible. With four successive coups the odds become exponentially smaller and smaller; 4 of the greatest in mankind? Millions of people are grasping at straws in denial, and there's another 4 years yet to start. Why do they grasp? What DON'T they grasp?

Given the hundreds of thousands of people who have looked into each one of these conspiracies, the independent, foreign, and bi-partisan investigations that have disproved them, the reason that people still cling to them can only be described as political denial, as historical denial, and as proof positive that those who have ignored the lessons in their history classes truly have been doomed to repeat them.

"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of NAZI rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight in the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender; and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old." ie, "Bring em on"
-Winston Churchill, Memoirs of the Second World War


"Let's Remember Pearl Harbor" was America's battle-cry on 12/8/41....maybe it should be once again?


Posted by Deb at 04:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 28, 2004

What it means to be a grunt

Sgt. Robert M. Storm, press chief for The Scout, the base newspaper at Camp Pendleton wrote this essay on his experience as an infantry Marine. I've heard the same sentiment from my own 0311 son.

There are so many different aspects of the job: training, the field, combat. During each of these times, the job varies. I could explain each of these experiences at great length and detail but as with many experiences, words dont adequately express what it means to be a grunt. But Ill try to give you a picture anyway.

Training: Four words sum this experience up: Any clime and place. This means you go complete a Combined Arms Exercise at Twentynine Palms, Calif., in 100-degree plus heat, or a cold-weather package at Bridgeport, Calif., in negative 14-degree weather with 40 mph winds. Spending a month in Jordan to cross-train with the Jordanian military or carrying out a range on Guam in the pouring rain are just other ways to use our time. Sitting eight hours in the back of an AAV sucking diesel fumes and getting a headache while being jostled worse than any roller coaster Ive ever been on. Even when were not doing ranges, we stay busy with endless classes on radios, Marine Corps martial arts program, close quarters battle, first aid, crew-served weapons and nuclear, biological and chemical training, all so that we can deal with problems quickly, cleanly, decisively and with swift violence when necessary.

The Field: Next Ill move to the field, where the motto is, If it aint raining, you aint training. This aspect probably wouldnt be that bad except that contrary to popular belief, we rarely use tents. You will also eat the best meals of your life as a grunt. Im not joking either because believe me when I tell you that the meal you eat after spending four months eating Meals Ready to Eat will be the best meal of your entire life no matter what it is. The MRE you eat after a day of patrolling or a 12-mile hike with an 80-pound pack will taste pretty good too.

Combat: Its a lot easier than training. After all, its pretty easy to get shot at. Most of the time combat is boring, waiting for something to happen followed by a few quick minutes of excitement. In those hours of doing nothing, you try not to think of everything you miss back home. Playing cards passes the time and if you dont know how to play, dont worry because youll learn, with spades, hearts and rummy being the most popular games. In the meantime, youll run endless patrols and search house-to-house all day long. Youll crawl through an Iraqi sewer and climb to the roofs of many buildings so you can clear from the top down. After exhausting yourself all day, youll dig a fighting trench so that you can bed down for the night. In the interest of speed you make this hole just big enough for you and your partner so that you can get as much sleep as possible, since during war youre usually at 50 percent firewatch. This results in closeness with your fellow grunts that I dont even share with my wife at home. Despite all these occurrences, there are fun times; the joy of blowing up a bus on a demo range, fast roping out of a helicopter, conducting a live fire range at night with just tracers. The camaraderie you feel with fellow grunts as you complete a mission and bed down for the night underneath the stars. These are the parts of the job that make what it means to be a grunt.

Posted by Deb at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 25, 2004

Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

JHD shares this blast from the past, commenting "In today's secular society I can just imagine the rave reviews this Proclamation would've engendered!":

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord. We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choisest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

A. Lincoln October 3, 1863

Posted by Deb at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2004

"Let's hear it for the Marines"

Marine wife, Mary Helen, sent this opinion by Janan Ganesh as published in the London Times:

The motto of the US Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis, or always faithful. And faith is exactly what the Western media eschew in their relentlessly cynical coverage of the American Armed Forces, which plunged to a new nadir last week with the outrage at a Marine who shot dead an injured and unarmed Fallujah terrorist. Their determination to portray the Americans as trigger-happy louts and the Iraqi terrorists as mere rebels slanders the former, sanctifies the latter and betrays everybody who trusts journalists to be objective.

Each American transgression is covered exhaustively and reproachfully, while triumphs, such as the trouble-free elections in Afghanistan and the reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure, are treated as background noise. The torture of a few dozen prisoners in Abu Ghraib, for example, received far more attention than the restoration of the Marsh Arabs homeland.

And this bias predates the Iraq war. If you get your news from Channel 4, you probably believe that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are wide-eyed young gadflies who were enjoying an innocuous 18-30 holiday in glamorous Tora Bora before being kidnapped by rampaging Navy Seals. The truth is that many are al-Qaeda members who fought coalition forces during the invasion, but whose crimes are too legally vague to guarantee a conviction in court. America is therefore faced with the choice of releasing known enemies or detaining them indefinitely. That they choose the latter is not only sensible but generous any of historys previous superpowers, such as Soviet Russia would have shot them on sight.

Jack Nicholsons you cant handle the truth routine in A Few Good Men has become an iconic monologue of modern cinema, but the point he was making is rarely grasped. The injustice Nicholson laments is not that we expect a noble minority to pay the blood price for our security it was ever thus but that we demand the right to tell them how to do it. Shackled by laws, norms and protocol concocted by legalists, the US Armed Forces who have done more for freedom of the press than all the worlds journalists combined are put in an impossible position. It is nauseating enough that they are now casually disparaged as hicks and rednecks by do-nothing civilians, without the supposedly objective media joining in.

Semper Fidelis is exactly right. The Marine who shot this unarmed enemy was responding to what he perceived as an immediate threat. There have been numerous instances of enemy combatants faking death or injury and then shooting or blowing up our troops. In this case, the Marine didn't know and should not be expected to determine if the enemy was unarmed before shooting. He reacted just as he had been trained - to protect his brother Marines. The ultimate goal of warfare is to make sure the other guy dies and this Marine achieved that goal. For that, he deserves praise, not condemnation.

Posted by Deb at 03:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 23, 2004

Jet Noise muted

Cassandra from I Love Jet Noise is hanging up her keyboard. She's on my short list of writers who I read every day and she never fails to elicit a laugh . . . or a tear. I'm sorry to hear this and hope that she'll find a new venue for her witty and right-on-target opinions very soon. And the welcome mat is open here.

Posted by Deb at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2004

Marine Dad, Frank Schaeffer, speaks on troop support

Watching the bickering by survivors of those killed on 9/11/01 has been incredibly frustrating for parents and family members of troops who watch their loved ones take incredible risks for a country that is made up of both fervent troop supporters and those who never think about the men and women that protect and defend their right to live in a free society. In this editorial, Frank Schaeffer puts this frustration into words.

Staff Sergeant Aaron White, USMC was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19, 2003 in Iraq. Here is an excerpt from his last letters home to his wife Michele and to his baby daughter Brianna.

"What keeps me up at night is thinking you may never know what you mean to me.... If I don't come home, please tell Brianna that her daddy loves her more than life....

Brianna, it breaks my heart to have to miss your first birthday. I hope that you will forgive me.... I fall asleep every night with visions of you and your mommy in my head, reminding me of all I have been blessed with. I will be with you every day, if not in body, then in spirit. I love more than my words could ever say..."

Aaron was killed two days after Brianna turned one. When an American in a military uniform is killed his or her family receives a one-time death gratuity of $12,000. The surviving family may also qualify for Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP) paid up to age 62 or until the widow remarries. SBP amounts to 55% of the soldier's retirement pay, pay that is already so low that it qualifies many military families for food stamps. These "benefits" are contingent upon fulfilling many petty regulations. Michele did not qualify for SBP because Aaron was in the Corps just under10 years service. Several further benefits, like the income-based Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), may or may not pay out about $800 per month and $200 per child depending on the case. Michele did not qualify because of several arcane technicalities. Michele and Brianna's medical benefits will end three years from Aaron's death. However Michele did receive some modest insurance compensation because Aaron paid for coverage out of his own meager salary.

A just released study by the Rand Corporation found that the families of civilians killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 received on average, $3.1 million in government and charitable compensation. The families of the firemen and cops who died received even more. Their average compensation exceeded $4.2 million.

Our soldiers are being killed on a daily basis but most of us seem to feel little personal connection with them. If we did their widows and families would be better compensated. Our idea of "supporting the troops" is to stick magnetic yellow ribbons on our cars. Those Americans who do not serve or do not have family serving are disconnected from our all-volunteer forces and their families. I know. I never served in the military and before my son unexpectedly enlisted in the Marines, then went to war in the Middle East for eleven months, I looked at our military as made up of people who had little to do with me.

Let's strip away our yellow ribbon sentimentality for a moment and admit the truth: we treat our military like second-class citizens. I'm glad the 9/11 families were generously compensated but it's time to ask why the family of someone who has done no more for his country than show up at a stock trading office on the wrong day should receive hundreds of times more compensation than a soldier who volunteered to leave his wife and child to defend the rest of us.

Most of the dead from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are being buried in small towns and the blue collar or middle and lower middle class sections of our cities. Our politicians seem better able to identify with the needs of stock trader's widows (not to mention the businesses and airlines that were also generously compensated), than with the needs of the families of our soldiers. This is a scandal.

In his second to last letter home Aaron wrote: "Believe me I am not having a good time here. This is an ugly hasty land. I hope [our] people appreciate the blood we are to spill." Judging by how we are taking care of his widow and daughter apparently the answer is that we do ot.

Thank you, Frank.

Posted by Deb at 10:03 PM

November 09, 2004

I am America!

A soldier shares a recent experience that put her place in this war into focus:

Something happened to me that I'd like to share. I've always been a patriotic person. I've always loved my country and I enjoy serving it. My mom and dad taught me, by example, to honor the American flag and to pray for our country. When people sing the Star Spangled Banner, I've always gotten that chill of pride down my back. In the past when I have said or have heard other people say, "God bless America", to me America was a place I cansidered home. God bless America meant, God bless the place that I live and the military that protects me and the government that makes me free. As of yesterday, that has changed for me.

My unit has picked up NATO soldiers at hospitals here in Kosovo that in the states we would consider condemned. Hospitals where there are no pillows, blankets, or sheets and wires are hanging from the cieling and there are holes in the floors. When we arrive the NATO soldiers always look up at us with gratitude in their eyes and say thank God please get me out of here. Yesterday I did a Med Cap in town. I was giving out medications to over 200 people and being very buisy when one old woman grabbed my arm demanding my attention and stoping me from working. She held my hand with one of hers and with her other hand she patted my cheek. For a moment in my own self righteousness I shuddered from her touch. All I could think about was the filth and the stench of the woman and what she could be transmitting to me by touching me. But then she began saying something in Albanian over and over again. I turned to ask my interpreter what she was saying and he told me that she was saying, "God bless America, God bless America, thats all I can say is God bless America."

I was too busy to think about it just then but last night I couldn't sleep and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I realize now that with that old womans touch the only thing she gave to me was a gift I will never forget. She let me know that when I think that America (home) is thousands of miles away, to her it is right here, in me. I AM AMERICA! To the rest of the world it is not a place. In their time of need, it is the representation of what we believe. We are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL! So now when I have a moment of homesickness wondering why I am here and why the US doesn't let us come home and stop worrying about the rest of the world. I will remember that old woman. She gave me a sense of purpose and taught me a wonderful lesson, and it could not have been more appropriate than now, this close to Veterans Day.

If I didn't share this story with all of you I just wouldn't have felt right. I made a deep impact on me. Please pray for all of those people who are deployed and also pray for the people in those countries who's lives have been destroyed by war. We are all Gods people.

Amen.

Posted by Deb at 01:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 20, 2004

The good guys . . .

"Where is Daddy, again?"

That question caught me off guard, shopping at the commissary with my three young sons. "Daddy" just left a few days ago, in the middle of the night.

We saw him, and a bunch of other Marines climb on busses and head out to the first stage of a journey to Afghanistan.

I was already shopping for care package items when my nine year old asked the question.

"Your Dad is in Afghanistan."

"How close is that to Kabul?"

"Kabul is a city in Afghanistan. Kabul is the city, Afghanistan is the country."

My son nodded. "He's going to be gone, like, six months, right?"

"At least."

My youngest, age four, piped up, "But he'll come home for my birthday, right?"

His birthday is just a week away.

The oldest has the best understanding, and the hardest time adjusting.

This is not just what Daddy does, it's part of who he is. I can live with that.

Recently, I heard about a young woman who wanted to find a "safe" job for her fiance` within the confines of the Marine Corps. Something where he wouldn't deploy, wouldn't be in danger, wouldn't have to separate from his true love.

I hate to break the news, but life isn't safe. We're all born, and we all die, and it's what we make of the time in between that really counts.

Three years ago, my husband had what might be called a "safe" billet. He worked in an office in a secured building. He went to work in the morning, commuted home in the evening, and worked pretty regular hours. He was a "pencil pusher", a "desk jockey", back then.

One morning, he got breakfast, a quick hug and kiss, and a "Have a nice day, darlin'," and went off to work. Three hours later, I got to see his office building on a "Live Special Report", and I was watching, as a reporter began to talk, and suddenly was shaken. A moment later, he announced, "Something has just happened here at the Pentagon."

Within mere moments, we got the news. A plane had flown into the newly renovated wedge of the Pentagon. We knew that my husband's office was in that wedge, and it was several hours before I got to hear the dearest sound on earth, my husband's voice, coming in over a poor telephone connection, "Hey, babe, I'm ok."

We made a decision after that. We have three children. They need to grow up in a world where terrorists are terrified of us, not us of them. We will not raise these young American citizens in fear. We will make whatever sacrifices are demanded, to see to it that that happens.

My children don't understand all of that. They understand simple things, like good guys, and bad guys, and Daddy's one of the good guys.

In these days, as we head to elections, and people protest everything under the sun, and the media spends its valuable time seeking out the worst possible images of our military members, I wish that more adults understood the simple stuff.

Daddy, and his fellow men and women in uniform are the good guys.

Posted by at 09:14 AM | Comments (3)

September 30, 2004

Media perspective by a journalist

Tim Chavez, reporter for The Tennessean is one of my heroes and this story is one reason why. He quotes LtCol Jim Rose who is currently working in Samarra. Here's an excerpt:

"Samarra is a beaming success story over here," writes Lt. Col Jim Rose, a Tennessee Marine whose parents live in Old Hickory. "We were getting ready for a take-down there right after Najaf. We told the locals, 'Hey, see what happened in Najaf? Is that what you want? Cause we're coming.' It took the locals about two days to get the bad guys out."

Rose is based in the Sunni Triangle. That's where most U.S. casualties occur, where the Sunnis are supportive of terrorists coming in. Fallujah is there, along with Samarra and Najaf, where Marines drove terrorists out of one of Islam's holiest shrines.

Rose verified a message I received from another Marine officer in Iraq. He provided perspective missing in the media: "Those achievements, more than anything else ? account for the surge in violence in recent days ? especially the violence directed at Iraqis by the insurgents. Both in Najaf and Samarra, ordinary people stepped out and took sides with the Iraqi government against the insurgents, and the bad guys are hopping mad. They are trying to instill fear once again."

Rose asked: "Why isn't the media covering Samarra?"

Instead, we get what reader Jim League of Smyrna complains about. He cited a picture and story featured at the top of Page 13A in Saturday's Tennessean:

"The perhaps 100 protesters get front-and-center billing, and the impression is that all of Iraq is unhappy. What is missing is perspective. Imagine a foreigner perusing the front page of The Tennessean. He reads about a 15-year-old-boy being chained to his bed for six weeks. Would he be justified in believing that all parents in America constrain their children? If he had no perspective and if his impression was selectively reinforced by subtle media or political pundits, this could be possible."

Exactly. And what we get on TV is also just one side. Consider this story Rose saw reported: "I was going through the battle damage assessment at my desk with NBC's Today on the TV. The attack occurred in the middle of the night. I had the footage of the attack on my computer, and here's Katie Couric (or whoever hosts it) showing the same bomb location.}

"I had pictures of the bombed vehicles, which is how I knew she was talking about the same location. The next shot is kids being carried into a hospital. We had eyes on this for a long time. If there were kids in there, they were toting weapons or the terrorists used them as human shields. ?"

"I went to our Combat Operations Center and walked into them watching the same thing. I verified what I thought and spoke with our intelligence guys. They said the whole thing was staged and probably old footage. They track the footage and have seen repeat footage shown in the past. They also said to look at the footage and see if it makes sense. More often than not, it doesn't ? pulling a child from rubble with relatively clean clothes. "

Is NBC wrong and the Marines right? Americans deserve both sides to make up their minds.

"The Najaf shrine ? HUNDREDS of dead women and children were brought out after Sadr left," Rose wrote. "They (Sadr's supporters) rounded them up during the battle and brought them in to be executed. Why? Because they anticipated the Americans would eventually enter the shrine and walk into a media ambush. We never went in. The people of Najaf love us right now because of that. They hate Sadr and want him dead."

''Have you heard that one yet (in the media)?''

No we haven't. We just get one side. That's bad journalism ? by a news media acting in concert with Kerry.

Posted by Deb at 03:54 PM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2004

A Marine Cobra Pilot writes

USMC Lt. Kevin Brown, a Marine Cobra pilot and 2001 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, wrote the following letter in response to a question from his father. It's excellent reading and reminds those who have forgotten, just what happened on September 11, 2001, and why it's crucial that we keep it in mind.

Dad, you asked me what I would say to America from Iraq on 9/11 if I had a podium and a microphone. I have thought about it, and here is my response. Your Son, Kevin

September 11, 2004
Dear America,

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -George Orwell

The Marine Corps is tired. I guess I should not say that, as I have no authority or responsibility to speak for the Marine Corps as a whole, and my opinions are mine alone. I will rephrase: this Marine is tired. I write this piece from the sands of Iraq, west of Baghdad, at three a.m., but I am not tired of the sand. I am neither tired of long days, nor of flying and fighting. I am not tired of the food, though it does not taste quite right.

I am not tired of the heat; I am not tried of the mortars that occasionally fall on my base. I am not tired of Marines dying, though all Marines, past and present, mourn the loss of every brother and sister that is killed; death is a part of combat and every warrior knows that going into battle. One dead Marine is too many, but we give more than we take, and unlike our enemies, we fight with honor. I am not tired of the missions or the people; I have only been here a month, after all. I am, however, tired of the hypocrisy and short-sightedness that seems to have gripped so many of my countrymen and the media. I am tired of political rhetoric that misses the point, and mostly I am tired of people "not getting it."


Three years ago I was sitting in a classroom at Quantico, Virginia, while attending the Marine Corps Basic Officer Course, learning about the finer points of land navigation. Our Commanding Officer interrupted the class to inform us that some planes had crashed in New York and Washington D.C., and that he would return when he knew more. Tears welled in the eyes of the Lieutenant on my right while class continued, albeit with an audience that was not very focused; his sister lived in New York and worked at the World Trade Center. We broke for lunch, though instead of going to the chow hall proceeded to a small pizza and sub joint which had a television. Slices of pizza sat cold in front of us as we watched the same vivid images that you watched on September 11, 2001.

I look back on that moment now and realize even then I grasped, at some level, that the events of that day would alter both my military career and my country forever. Though I did not know that three years later, to the day, I would be flying combat missions in Iraq as an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, I did understand that a war had just begun, on television for the world to see, and that my classmates and I would fight that war. After lunch we were told to go to our rooms, clean our weapons and pack our gear for possible deployment to the Pentagon to augment perimeter security. The parting words of the order were to make sure we packed gloves, in case we had to handle bodies.

The first Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom was in my company at The Basic School, and was sitting in that land navigation class on September 11. He fought bravely, led from the front, and was killed seizing an oil refinery on the opening day of the war. His heroism made my emergency procedure memorization for the T-34 primary flight school trainer seem quite insignificant. This feeling of frustration was shared by all of the student pilots, but we continued to press on. As one instructor pointed out to us, "You will fight this war, not me. Make sure that you are prepared when you get there." He was right; my classmates from Pensacola are here beside me, flying every day in support of the Marines on the ground. That instructor has since retired, but I believe he has retired knowing that he made a contribution to the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States of America.

Many of you will read that statement and balk at its apparently presumptuous and arrogant nature, and perhaps be tempted to stop reading right here. I would ask that you keep going, for I did not say that Americans are better than anyone else, for I do not believe that to be the case. I did not say that our country, its leaders, military or intelligence services are perfect or have never made mistakes, because throughout history they have, and will continue to do so, despite their best efforts. The Nation is more than the sum of its citizens and leaders, more than its history, present, or future; a nation has contemporary values which change as its leaders change, but it also has timeless character, ideals forged with the blood and courage of patriots. To quote the Pledge of Allegiance, our nation was founded "under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." As Americans, we have more freedom than we can handle sometimes.

If you are an atheist you might have a problem with that whole "under God" part; if you are against liberating the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Asia, all of Europe (twice), and the former Soviet bloc, then perhaps the "liberty and justice for all" section might leave you fuming. Our Nation, throughout its history, has watered the seeds of democracy on many continents, with blood, even when the country was in disagreement about those decisions. Disagreement is a wonderful thing. To disagree with your neighbors and your government is at the very heart of freedom. Citizens have disagreed about every important and controversial decision made by their leaders throughout history.

Truman had the courage to drop two nuclear weapons in order to end the largest war in history, and then, by his actions, prevented the Soviets from extinguishing the light of democracy in Eastern Europe, Berlin. Lincoln preserved our country through civil war; Reagan knew in his heart that freedom is a more powerful weapon than oppression. Leaders are paid to make difficult, sometimes controversial decisions. History will judge the success of their actions and the purity of their intent in a way that is impossible at the present moment. In your disagreement and debate about the current conflict, however, be very careful that you do not jeopardize your nation or those who serve. The best time to use your freedom of speech to debate difficult decisions is before they are made, not when the lives of your countrymen are on the line.

Cherish your civil rights; I know that after having been in Iraq for only one month I have a new appreciation for mine. You have the right to say that you "support the troops" but oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have the right to vote for Senator John Kerry because you believe that he has an exit strategy for Iraq, or because you just cannot stand President Bush. You have the right to vote for President George W. Bush if you believe that he has done a good job over the last four years. You might even decide that you do not want to vote at all and would rather avoid the issues as much as possible. That is certainly your option, and doing nothing is the only option for many people in this world.

It is not my place, nor am I allowed by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, to tell you how to vote. But I can explain to you the truth about what is going on around you. We know, and have known from the beginning, that the ultimate success or failure of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the future of those countries, rests solely on the shoulders of the Iraqi and Afghani people. If someone complains that we should not have gone to war with Saddam Hussein, that our intelligence was bad, that President Bush's motives were impure, then take the appropriate action. Exercise your right to vote for Senator Kerry, but please stop complaining about something that happened over a year ago. The decision to deploy our military in Iraq and Afghanistan is in the past, and while I believe that it is important to the democratic process for our nation to analyze the decisions of our leadership in order to avoid repeating mistakes, it is far more important to focus on the future. The question of which candidate will "get us out of Iraq sooner" should not be a consideration in your mind. YOU SHOULD NOT WANT US OUT OF IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN SOONER.

There is only one coherent exit strategy that will make our time here worthwhile and validate the sacrifice of so many of our countrymen. There is only one strategy that has a chance of promoting peace and stabilizing the Middle East. It is the exit strategy of both candidates, though voiced with varying volumes and iffering degrees of clarity. I will speak of Iraq because that is where I am, though I feel the underlying principle applies to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American military must continue to help train and support the Iraqi Police, National Guard, and Armed Forces. We must continue to give them both responsibility and the authority with which to carry out those responsibilities, so that they eventually can kill or capture the former regime elements and foreign terrorists that are trying to create a radical, oppressive state. We must continue to repair the infrastructure that we damaged during the conflict, and improve the infrastructure that was insufficient when Saddam was in power. We should welcome and encourage partners in the coalition but recognize that many will choose the path of least resistance and opt out; many of our traditional allies have been doing this for years and it should not surprise us. We must respect the citizens of Iraq and help them to understand the meaning of basic human
rights, for those are something the average Iraqi has never experienced. We must be respectful of our cultural and religious differences. We must help the Iraqis develop national pride, and most importantly, we must leave this country better than we found it, at the right time, with a chance of success so that its people will have an opportunity to forge their own destiny. We must do all of these things as quickly and efficiently as possible so that we are not seen as occupiers, but rather liberators and helpers. We must communicate this to the world as clearly and frequently as possible, both with words and actions.

If we leave before these things are done, then Iraq will fall into anarchy and possibly plunge the Middle East into another war. The ability of the United States to conduct foreign policy will be severely, and perhaps permanently, degraded. Terrorism will increase, both in America and around the world, as America will have demonstrated that it is not interested in building and helping, only destroying. If we run or exit early, we prove to our enemies that terror is more powerful and potent than freedom. Many nations, like Spain, have already affirmed this in the minds of the terrorists. Our failure, and its consequences, will be squarely on our shoulders as a nation. It will be our fault. If we stay the course and Iraq or Afghanistan falls into civil war on its own, then our hands are
clean. As a citizen of the United States and a U.S. Marine, I will be able to sleep at night with nothing on my conscience, for I know that I, and my country, have done as much as we could for these people. If we leave early, I will not be able to live with myself, and neither should you. The blood will be on our hands, the failure on our watch.

The bottom line is this: Republican or Democrat, approve or disapprove of the decision to go to war, you need to support our efforts here. You cannot both support the troops and protest their mission. Every time the parent of a fallen Marine gets on CNN with a photo, accusing President Bush of murdering his son, the enemy wins a strategic victory. I cannot begin to comprehend the grief he feels at the death of his son, but he dishonors the memory of my brave brother who paid the ultimate price. That Marine volunteered to serve, just like the rest of us. No one here was drafted. I am proud of my service and that of my peers. I am ashamed of that parent's actions, and I pray to God that if I am killed my parents will stand with pride before the cameras and reaffirm their belief that my life and sacrifice mattered; they loved me dearly and they firmly support the
military and its mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. With that statement, they communicate very clearly to our enemies around the world that America is united, that we cannot be intimidated by kidnappings, decapitations and torture, and that we care enough about the Afghani and Iraqi people to give them a chance at democracy and basic human rights.

Do not support those that seek failure for us, or seek to trivialize the sacrifices made here. Do not make the deaths of your countrymen be in vain.

Communicate to your media and elected officials that you are behind us and our mission. Send letters and encouragement to those who are deployed. When you meet a person that serves you, whether in the armed forces, police, or fire department, show them respect. Thank the spouses around you every day, raising children alone, whose loved ones are deployed. Remember not only those that have paid the ultimate price, but the veterans that bear the physical and emotional scars of defending your freedom. At the very least, follow your mother's advice. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Do not give the enemy a foothold in our Nation's public opinion. He rejoices at Fahrenheit 9/11 and applauds every time an American slams our efforts. The military can succeed here so long as American citizens support us wholeheartedly.

Sleep well on this third anniversary of 9/11, America. Rough men are standing ready to do violence on your behalf. Many of your sons and daughters volunteered to stand watch for you. Not just rough men- the infantry, the Marine grunts, the Special Operations Forces- but lots of eighteen and nineteen year old kids, teenagers, who are far away from home, serving as drivers, supply clerks, analysts, and mechanics. They all have stories, families, and dreams. They miss you, love you, and are putting their lives on the line for you. Do not make their time here, their sacrifice, a waste. Support them, and their mission.

Posted by Deb at 01:27 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

Rumsfeld's Patriot Day message to the troops

September 11 was the third observance of Patriot Day, a day set aside to remember and honor those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Here's the address by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that was broadcast over radio to troops at home and abroad:

I value this opportunity to talk to those of you serving in our armed forces, and I want to thank you, personally, for your commitment to our country.

As you know, this week we lost the thousandth servicemember in Iraq. Some ask whether the global war on terror is worth a thousand American lives. It's an understandable question, but the answer should be clear to all who have studied our nation's history.

And I want you to know what I believe the answer is to that question.

First, we need to recognize that we passed the thousandth casualty mark in the global war on terror a long time ago. On September 11th, 2001, alone, we lost over 3,000 men, women and children. Since that time, the extremists have killed many more innocent men, women and children all over the world.

While some may feel we have been at war only since September 11th, the enemies we face have been at war against us for a good deal longer. Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. They bombed our airmen in the barracks at Saudi Arabia, they attacked Americans at our embassies in East Africa, and they killed the sailors aboard the USS Cole.

During that same period, Saddam Hussein's regime tried to assassinate a former U.S. president, regularly fired at American and British aircraft that were flying in the Northern and Southern No-Fly zones over Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was, of course, paying the families of suicide terrorist bombers $25,000.

President Bush was faced with a choice to confront a repressive dictator plotting to get his regime out of the international inspection and to amass the world's most lethal weapons or wait until Saddam had succeeded. The president was faced -- as presidents always are -- with the risk of acting versus the risk of failing to act. But after September 11th, our country could no longer accept the risk of failing to act.

Because of your courage and commitment, some 50 million people from Afghanistan and Iraq are now experiencing freedom. Other regimes that also sponsored terror now support our cause.

Because we are eliminating the havens of those who seek to terrorize our nation, our country is safer today. And that is why the important work you are doing is worth the cost, and why it is so deeply appreciated.

Throughout history, brave Americans have come to the defense of our freedom. Today, that task falls to you.

Over my decades of service, I have been fortunate to meet a great many of our servicemen and women. And I always come away impressed impressed by your dedication, by your professionalism, and by your devotion to our country.

With you on the front lines in this global struggle against extremists, this global war on terror, I know we will not falter, or tire, or fail, or yield. Our country is deeply in your debt.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

Donald H. Rumsfeld


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

Brig. Gen. Paxton reflects on the importance of 9/11

BrigGen Paxton commands the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Here is his essay on September 11:


Marines, Sailors and Marine Civilians,

September 11th will forever be a date America will mourn and never forget. As we take time today to recognize the tragic events of that day, we should all reflect on the importance of 9/11 and how it has changed our lives.

During the three years since September 11, 2001, we have been steadfast in our solemn duty here aboard MCRD San Diego to recruit and transform the very best young men and women this country has to offer into United States Marines. The recruits who have marched across this parade deck over the past three years have played a crucial role in defending freedom and fighting terrorism throughout the world. Many of the young men and women we continue to recruit and make into Marines will ultimately go into harm?s way around the world in the ongoing global war on terror.

The past 12 months in particular have seen many Marines make the ultimate sacrifice abroad, so that all Americans may continue to enjoy freedom and security at home. Throughout Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Iraq, Marines have displayed heroic valor and determination in the face of a ruthless and cowardly enemy determined to attempt to keep freedom and peace from innocent people.

Places such as Ramadi, Fallujah, and Nasiriyah now take their rightful place in Marine Corps lore with Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, and Khe Sahn as historic battles where Marines of today have continued to uphold their time honored reputation as the world?s finest fighting force.

This date will forever remind us of how precious the freedom in our country is, the importance of preserving our freedom and way of life, and how our mission at the Depot is crucial to ensuring this country never again experiences the catastrophic events of September 11th. As we pause to remember all who have given their lives on and since September 11th, let us be ever vigilant at the mission we have as Marines and the ultimate task we have as Americans in preserving freedom and democracy.

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

Posted by Deb at 12:00 PM

September 17, 2004

I Love Jet Noise goes a'wandering

Cassandra from I Love Jet Noise is guest-blogging at Mudville Gazette while Greyhawk is busy protecting and defending the rest of us. Here's a snipped from her inaugural post describing those who keep up the home front by supporting their Marines and soldiers - it's an excellent read, as always:

We're used to thinking of courage on the battlefield: the active kind you see when adrenaline is pumping and bullets are flying. But what of the quiet courage it takes to face a wheelchair? Or months of pain, disfigurement, or physical therapy? What of the grace, faith, and amazing strength of our military wives and mothers, who must deal with all the hardships of deployment: bills, the absence of a husband and father, loneliness, depression...and face all these things with a smile because their loved ones look to them for support?

She describes the courage and fortitude of the family of Sgt. James Lathan who had just finished breakfast and was entering the rec tent to watch a movie when he was injured last 4th of July. His wife and parents are remarkable people - read the story here.

Posted by Deb at 02:16 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 16, 2004

Forever Proud

As sons and daughters deploy to other lands, parents wait at home, knowing that there is little to do but hope and pray that our children will stay safe and strong. And we wonder whether the commanders who lead them into battle can possibly understand the warring emotions of fierce pride and absolute fear that we go through as the news reports come back from half way round the world. Each time there is a reported death, we have to remind ourselves to breathe again. We grieve with parents who we will never meet, knowing that it could just as easily be our own precious son or daughter. And yet, we know that our children are exactly where they have chosen to be and are protecting and defending us - a role reversal that many of us are not quite ready to relinquish willingly.

We scour internet sites and news sources, looking for references to where our children are sent. And we wonder about the commanding officers who have the power to send our children into harms way. Here is a message from 1/7 SgtMaj Gary Weiser that sheds light on the character of men who make the USMC a career.

As the Marines of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines once again deploy into harms way I would like to let you know how much your support, prayers, and thoughts give your Marines the courage and resolve to carry out this next mission. Your Marines have stepped forward to add to the great heritage of our country.

For the past 228 years of the independence and freedom that we as Americans have enjoyed, at times throughout our history, many of our young citizens have stepped forward to protect and defend those same freedoms. A freedom of such great there is no price that can be placed upon it. Even as some of your young Marines do not even yet fully understand the value of the concept they are willing to protect, the willing do so and in time they truly will understand the importance and value of their actions.

While we enjoy our way of life here in the United States of America many others around the globe can only dream of it, and have known only repression. During the last two years we have helped to liberate over 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq. The war in Iraq took only a few weeks.

Since that time, American men and women with the help of multiple other forces from around the world have remained in Iraq to secure the freedom for the Iraqi people and to ensure that they can build the foundations of their new government and way of life. Most of the Iraqi people are extremely grateful for what we have accomplished so far. The job is not yet finished and like the time it took to establish our own government, theirs will also require time and many growing pains.

Your Marines will face danger from the few in Iraq who wish to control the country for their own purposes and also from those that wish to destroy our own civilization here at home. They come from many areas to attack the freedoms that we have brought to Iraq and to attempt to kill the Americans who are there and the will of all you back here at home, but we must never lose our resolve.

In the words of our President, The Honorable Mr. Bush, Freedom is not Americas gift to the world, it is Gods gift to mankind. The efforts of your Marines in this War on Terrorism are truly in concert with the efforts and sacrifices that we as Americans have put forth throughout our history. You can be forever proud of your Marine, and your support while he is away will bolster his courage and purpose of mission. I thank you for your thoughts, prayers and continued support.

Last year, when 1/7 Marines returned to 29 Palms from their first deployment to Iraq, I met SgtMaj Weiser briefly when I stopped him to ask directions to the redeployment site. A few weeks later, he stepped into the role of top enlisted Marine for 1/7. Reading his words above helps me to understand why my son and his brother Marines have a great deal of trust and respect for him. And the words, "forever proud", are an apt description of parental feelings about not just their but all Marines.

Posted by Deb at 02:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 13, 2004

Rushing through Monday

My laptop is undergoing a motherboard transplant today - the surgeon hasn't announced when the procedure will be done. And, I think he's a bit tired of my frequent phone calls. Since my antique desktop will not let me access web sites, including Marine Corps Moms, I'm stuck with 30 minutes at the library with an impatient sixth grader in line behind me. Here's some good stuff for today.

Cassandra has a marvelous piece on the Kerrylied rally. Here's my favorite part but you really need to read it all.

First up was Dexter Lehtinan, an Army paratrooper and Ranger who was seriously wounded in 1971. His recovery took 18 months and many operations - most of his cheekbone was destroyed. Now an adjunct law professor, Mr. Lehtinan retired as a 1st Lieutenant, then graduated first in his class at Stanford Law School. He has served in the Florida House and Senate, was a US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and has argued before the USSC. The Unit and I had seen him just that morning on Washington Journal, where he argued persuasively against another Vietnam Vet who supports Kerry. Despite his scars, he is still a handsome and imposing man.

Lehtinan spoke of his experiences: "I was discharged from a military hospital 18 months and several operations later, almost as good as new from the wounds my enemy had inflicted on me. Those wounds were just flesh and blood. But the wounds inflicted by John Kerry -- the bearing false witness against me and a generation of honorable veterans -- those wounds were much more serious; they went much deeper. Those wounds went to the heart and soul. Those wounds never go away."

"Now we're in another war. Now my son is in the Marine Corps, a weapons officer flying F-18D Hornet jet fighters. That's the Marine Corps Kerry mocked with a book cover showing protesters simulating the flag raising at Iwo Jima, with the American flag upside down. That's the F-18 fighter that Kerry voted against in the Senate. And today John Kerry's picture hangs in an honored place in the enemy's war museum in Saigon, as an honored hero to the Vietnamese communists."

"At least he's a hero somewhere.", he commented wryly.

B.G. Burkett, author of Stolen Valor, invoked the recent 60 Minutes forgery scandal, relaying how Dan Rather claims to have been a Marine, but actually failed to complete Recruit Training. Burkett discovered this while checking up on Rather's claims after Rather ran a CBS TV documentary, "The Wall Within, in which he portrayed vets as guilt-ridden, dysfunctional, and mentally disturbed.

She's got some great pictures to go with her narrative - please visit her site and read the rest.

Posted by Deb at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2004

Kerry's new campaign strategy

Hugh Hewitt thinks Kerry is channeling Jon Lovitz.

The New York Times explains:

The installation of former Clinton lieutenants is creating two distinct camps at Mr. Kerry's campaign headquarters on McPherson Square in downtown Washington.

The first is the existing Kerry high command, which includes Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager; Bob Shrum, a senior adviser; Tad Devine, a senior adviser; and Stephanie Cutter, the communications director. The second is the Clinton camp, which includes Joe Lockhart, a former White House press secretary; Joel Johnson, a former senior White House aide; and Doug Sosnik, a former Clinton political director. And Howard Wolfson, a former chief of staff to Hillary Rodham Clinton, joined the campaign yesterday."

I think he's getting his signals from Eugene Fields.

The Duel
(The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat)

by Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went " Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Me-ow!"
The air was littered,an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney place
Up with it hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed,"Oh dear! What shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw-
And oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate!
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock, it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

It's a toss-up as to which camp is protected by the gingham dog and which by the calico cat. The role of the Chinese plate will be easy for anyone who can look down the tracks and see this particular train wreck coming. And the rest of the country will be forced to play the part of the old Dutch clock.

Posted by Deb at 05:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Delta gets it wrong

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Benton Courier on August 31. Mr. Nelson was a passenger on a Delta flight and witnessed an act of discourtesy to a young mother, home on a brief deployment leave. I am appalled.

This letter is NOT to the editor. This letter is to the young female soldier from Benton, who I had the privilege to meet this past Friday evening as we were both trying to get home to Arkansas. Returning from a business trip to New Jersey, I was changing planes in Cincinnati when we met. I had just boarded Delta Flight 6281 (operated by Chautauqua Airlines, a Delta Connection Carrier), Delta's last flight of the evening to Little Rock, when you came onboard and sat down in front of me. I, along with other passengers who had already boarded, listened while you shared your story with us. Having spent [more than] six months in Iraq, you were traveling home to Arkansas. While in Iraq, you had been under enemy fire frequently - on many occasions, several times a day. You had lost two fellow soldiers from your post, and just recently (watched) another lose a leg. You were exhausted from two days of travel, having flown from Iraq to Kuwait, from Kuwait to the Netherlands, from the Netherlands to Cincinnati ? but you were excited and happy, because Cincinnati to Little Rock meant you would be home, just in time for your youngest child's second birthday. You had 18 days' leave remaining before returning to Iraq.

This letter is also to the well-dressed, middle-aged woman who boarded the plane late, who through some administrative error had been assigned the same seat as the soldier. Your behavior made it obvious to me and those around me that you had no intention of handling the situation in a mature way. You approached the flight attendant and demanded "your seat." As the flight attendant worked with the gate crew to try and resolve the issue, the soldier was asked to leave the plane. Shortly thereafter, you returned. When I inquired as to whether you were aware that the individual who had previously been in "your seat" was a soldier traveling home from Iraq on leave to see her family, your verbatim response was, "So what ? I'm a victim from Chicago! What's the difference?" All within earshot were dumbfounded. It was apparent that you have no appreciation for your fellow Americans who leave home and family and risk their lives wearing the uniform of the United States military.

This letter is also to Delta Airlines. When I, along with several others onboard, approached the Chautauqua flight attendant volunteering to give up one of our seats for the soldier, she left to ask the pilot if that could be arranged, then returned to inform me that the pilot was discussing it with "ops." I overheard part of her ensuing conversation with the pilot, where he conveyed the message that Delta would not permit a paying passenger to be replaced with a "non-rev" ? so, in the end, the decision which caused the soldier to spend yet another night away from home was a financial one. Why, instead, don't soldiers like this one get preferential treatment from Delta instead of being placed last on the list? I am, and have been for many years, a Delta Medallion frequent flier, and may continue to fly Delta when appropriate. However, in spite of Delta's well-publicized financial difficulties, if it is your corporate policy to prioritize profit margin over principled corporate citizenship, then I will be a vocal opponent of any federal financial aid to Delta Airlines.

This letter is also to those in the U.S. military responsible for placing this soldier and all like her in this situation in the first place. As a small businessman, I understand fiscal responsibilities and expect taxpayers' money to be stewarded wisely. I cannot believe, though, that there are not better ways to save money than having our military personnel traveling to and from combat situations on leave flying on commercial airlines under this type of arrangement. Does this policy apply to the military decision-makers as well? Will it take you three days to get home on leave if and when you are ever again asked to serve in combat?

As I was deplaning in Little Rock, the flight attendant handed me a folded piece of paper and personally thanked me for offering my seat to the soldier. Walking through the terminal, I read the note she had written. The youngest of her six children, her only son, was joining the Army. She was expressing her hopes that, in the event he was ever placed in a similar situation, he would be treated differently or at least know that there were those who appreciated his service.

Back to the young soldier: Because you were asked to leave the plane, you did not see that there were numerous volunteers willing to give up their set for you. You only heard the one ingrate who had no appreciation for the sacrifices you are making for all of us. That was no way to be welcomed home to America. I was both ashamed to have been a part of what happened and angry that, in spite of our efforts, there was nothing the other passengers and I could do to help you. Again, this letter is first and foremost to you. It is my intention that it appears in the media before your return to Iraq, so that you will know your efforts are appreciated and that you are sincerely welcomed home by most, if not all, of us. I hope we get another opportunity to do just that. May God bless you and keep you safe.

Michael E. Nelson
Warren

Delta will be hearing from me regarding their "corporate policy to prioritize profit margin over principled corporate citizenship". And thanks to Mr. Nelson for taking the time to write this letter.

Posted by Deb at 12:16 AM | Comments (64)

September 03, 2004

Double Digits

New Time Magazine poll:

New York: For the first time since the Presidential race became a two person contest last spring, there is a clear leader, the latest TIME poll shows. If the 2004 election for President were held today, 52% of likely voters surveyed would vote for President George W. Bush, 41% would vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry, and 3% would vote for Ralph Nader, according to a new TIME poll conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. Poll results are available on TIME.com and will appear in the upcoming issue of TIME magazine, on newsstands Monday, Sept. 6.


Posted by Deb at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

President Bush, Commander in Chief

He had me at "Mr. Chairman, delegates, fellow citizens: I am honoured by your support, and I accept your nomination for President of the United States". But when he talked about the personal cost of serving as Commander in Chief, it was an electrifying moment. I'm printing this out and mailing it to my son, currently somewhere in Iraq.

One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them -- and whatever strengths you have, you're going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on September 11th -- people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I've held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.

And I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers ? to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.

The world saw that spirit three miles from here, when the people of this city faced peril together, and lifted a flag over the ruins, and defied the enemy with their courage. My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say: Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose.

Thank God we have one candidate who is strong, resolute, and can look to the future with clarity of vision. I have no doubt that he will continue to keep his eye on the ultimate goalpost. And I really hope he's given the opportunity to do so in his second four-year term.

Posted by Deb at 11:20 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 28, 2004

What's it all about, Kerry?

One of my favorite former Marines, Oliver North, has some advice for John Kerry. He starts by pointing out that it's not President Bush's fault and it's not about the medals and not about getting lost (not) in Cambodia. So what's it about? "The issue is what you did to us when you came home, John."

When you got home, you co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War and wrote "The New Soldier," which denounced those of us who served -- and were still serving -- on the battlefields of a thankless war. Worst of all, John, you then accused me -- and all of us who served in Vietnam -- of committing terrible crimes and atrocities.

On April 22, 1971, under oath, you told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that you had knowledge that American troops "had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam." And you admitted on television that "yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed."

And for good measure you stated, "(America is) more guilty than any other body, of violations of (the) Geneva Conventions ... the torture of prisoners, the killing of prisoners."

Your "antiwar" statements and activities were painful for those of us carrying the scars of Vietnam and trying to move on with our lives. And for those who were still there, it was even more hurtful. But those who suffered the most from what you said and did were the hundreds of American prisoners of war being held by Hanoi. Here's what some of them endured because of you, John:

Capt. James Warner had already spent four years in Vietnamese custody when he was handed a copy of your testimony by his captors. Warner says that for his captors, your statements "were proof I deserved to be punished." He wasn't released until March 14, 1973.

Maj. Kenneth Cordier, an Air Force pilot who was in Vietnamese custody for 2,284 days, says his captors "repeated incessantly" your one-liner about being "the last man to die" for a lost cause. Cordier was released March 4, 1973.

Navy Lt. Paul Galanti says your accusations "were as demoralizing as solitary (confinement) ... and a prime reason the war dragged on." He remained in North Vietnamese hands until February 12, 1973.

John, did you think they would forget? When Tim Russert asked about your claim that you and others in Vietnam committed "atrocities," instead of standing by your sworn testimony, you confessed that your words "were a bit over the top." Does that mean you lied under oath? Or does it mean you are a war criminal? You can't have this one both ways, John. Either way, you're not fit to be a prison guard at Abu Ghraib, much less commander in chief.

One last thing, John. In 1988, Jane Fonda said: "I would like to say something ... to men who were in Vietnam, who I hurt, or whose pain I caused to deepen because of things that I said or did. I was trying to help end the killing and the war, but there were times when I was thoughtless and careless about it and I'm ... very sorry that I hurt them. And I want to apologize to them and their families."

Even Jane Fonda apologized. Will you, John?

Good question. Our vets deserve at least an apology. But so far, Kerry hasn't answered the Swift Boat Vet charges . . . he attacked them 30 years ago and he is still doing so. Major Kenneth Cordier, who spent six years in a Vietnamese POW camp where his captors quoted Kerry's words to him, spoke up against Kerry and was instantly slammed by the Kerry campaign. That's their strategy. Attack the messenger instead of addressing the message. Our vets deserve better and so does this country. To use Kerry's own words, "We can do better."

Posted by Deb at 12:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

Pictures 1-4

This is why I live in Oregon. And will never live elsewhere.

Posted by Deb at 08:35 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Strengthen the Good

Sometimes very small acts reap very large rewards. The Command Post is testing this notion with a new effort called Strengthen the Good; a blogging community micro-effort to parlay small acts of kindness into results that make a difference in people's lives. On the third Sunday of each month, a coalition of bloggers will post "opportunities that are simple, personal, non-bureaucratic, and inspiring" This month's effort is The Gulf Coast Community Foundation Of Venice Hurricane Charley Disaster Relief Fund. Give a dollar or more and pat yourself on the back for making a difference.

Posted by Deb at 01:32 AM

August 19, 2004

Sadr, but not wiser

What happens when you earn degree after degree after degree, then accept a tenure-track faculty position? You get a constipated academic who can pontificate but has no real world knowledge or experience. Juan Cole is an example. He's educated but that's about all that can be said for him. I have friends who get their political notions from his blog. While I usually just shake my head and find a credible source, sometimes a reaction is necessary. Here's an excerpt from a blog link that was sent to me. It is Cole's reaction to a New York Times report.

"I studied colonial history with John S. Galbraith of UCLA, who was known for emphasizing the "Man on the Spot." That is, colonial officials and military men out in Malaya or Africa often made policy without reference to London. (Much of India was acquired in this way. It is amusing to go back and read the cautions of the British cabinet to British governors-general of the 18th century not to conquer more territory without permission).

If Berenson and Burns are right, American Men on the Spot are making crucial policy decisions that have the potential to affect the lives of all Americans and all Muslims. The Marines in Najaf were acting like just another militia, engaging in a local turf war with Muqtada and his men, and giving no thought to the consequences of behaving barbarically in the holy city of Najaf.

Helena Cobban subjects the NYT article to a searching analysis that is well worth reading. She argues that the Najaf attack shows a Marine corps out of control and a command structure that is a "tangled mess" and in which US Ambassador John Negroponte played a sinister role, supporting the initial Marine miscalculation in the Najaf attack. [addendum 10:45 am].

Readers sometimes complain to me that Muslims seem to have lots of holy cities and lots of mosques, so is Najaf really all that special? O.K., here are the holy cities in order of holiness: Mecca, Medinah, Jerusalem, Najaf, Karbala. Najaf and Karbala are especially holy to Shiites. There are other holy sites and cities, of course, but they are mostly sacred because of association with later saints. The five I just mentioned are sacred because of their direct association with the Prophet Muhammad, his son-in-law and vicar, Ali, and his grandson, Husain.

The Shrine of Ali is a tomb, and although it has a mosque attached to it, it is not just a mosque. It is a Shrine. Like the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad in Medinah or the shrine of Imam Husain in Karbala, it is a sacred resting place of holy remains. A lot of mosques could be damaged with impunity. These shrines cannot.

The ignoramus Marines in Najaf clearly don't know all this, and since they don't know it they don't have any business making military policy there. They have endangered all Americans profoundly by potentially spurring a whole new wave of Shiite terrorism against us, recalling the bad old days of the early to mid-1980s (when some of our present allies in Iraq, like al-Da`wa and SCIRI were attacking US targets like the embassy in Kuwait or helping take Americans captive in Beirut)."

I wonder if Cole has ever stood face to face or conversed with a U.S. Marine. I have. I've talked with a number of Marines from all ranks and I've never met an "ignoramus" yet, especially at the Battalion Commander level. The Marines who are on the ground and in the middle of the battle have a perspective that someone who stays safely in an ivory tower will never realize.

If Cole is an expert on Islam, he should realize that when a mosque or a shrine is used as a base for staging battle, it loses its protected status. The revered Ayatollah al-Sistani has implicitly concurred with this assessment. Even so, the Marines have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid damaging shrines and mosques in all holy cities.

The 1/7 Marines who spent 7 months in the An Najaf province last year effectively contained and neutralized Sadr. They realized that he was a wanna-be cleric who was at most tolerated and mostly disliked by the Shiite Muslims in Najaf, a power-hungry punk who is most likely responsible for the murders of potential rivals Abdul Majid al-Khoei and Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim. When 1/7 Marines left for home last September, they knew that Sadr's quest for power and influence would continue to be a problem. But, the Army took over control of the region and ignored Sadr for months as he built his militia and power base, much like they did with Fallujah. When the 11th MEU arrived on the ground, they found a mess, much like that in Fallujah. And, like Marines have done for nearly 229 years, they cleaned house. It's long overdue. Sadr needs to be removed - one way or another - now.

Grousing by the Army should be taken with a very large grain of salt. If they had done their job, arriving Marines would have had a much easier time. And carping by an academic far removed from the battlefield is absurd.

Cole's vitae states "I also offer with fair regularity an upper-level class, History 542 Modern Iran and the Gulf States." His word choice is unfortunate; he is so full of it that regularity seems to be an ongoing problem for him.

Posted by Deb at 01:02 AM | Comments (3)

August 18, 2004

Dear Very Famous People

A horror is unfolding in Sudan. And one woman is determined to make a difference.

I've known Elyzabeth Marcussen for several years as an online friend. She cares passionately about people who live on the margins of life, people who have no one to speak for them. Recently, she's opened my eyes about the genocidal tragedy in Sudan. Here's an editorial that appeated in the Cincinnati Post, written by Mike DeWine (Republican senator from Ohio) and John McCain (Republican senator from Arizona):

Imagine that we could rerun the events that occurred in Rwanda 10 years ago. With the certain knowledge of horrific events to come, would the world's great nations again stand idle as 800,000 human beings faced slaughter? If the recent expressions of grief and regret from world leaders are any indication, the answer is no -- this time things would be very different. Yet, in 2004, just as in 1994, the international community is on the verge of making a tragic mistake. Mass human destruction is unfolding today in Sudan, with the potential to bring a death toll even higher than that in Rwanda.

Darfur, a Texas-size region in western Sudan, is the site of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Since December the largely Arab Sudanese government has teamed with the Janjaweed, a group of allied Arab militias, to crush an insurgency in Darfur. The methods that the government and the Janjaweed have employed are nothing short of horrific. They are slaughtering civilians in a systematic scorched-earth campaign designed to "ethnically cleanse" the entire region of black Africans. By bombing villages, engaging in widespread rape, looting civilian property, and deliberately destroying homes and water sources, the government and the Janjaweed are succeeding.

The numbers are appalling. Some 1.1 million people have been driven from their homes, and as many as 30,000 are already dead. The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that, even under "optimal conditions," 320,000 may die by the end of this year, and a death toll far higher is easily within reach. In the face of this catastrophe, the government and the Janjaweed continue to block humanitarian aid, and widespread killing and destruction persist. While civilians flee, the government's Antonov bombers target water wells, granaries, houses and crops, clearing villages so that the Janjaweed can enter and take over. In the meantime, famine looms.

The administration has rightly spoken out against the atrocities in Sudan and taken admirable steps, including the provision of financial support and increased diplomatic pressure. The State Department has also made clear that the Sudanese government is sorely mistaken if it believes it will get a free pass in Darfur in exchange for brokering peace with rebels in the south. But as the rainy season approaches and threatens to hinder the delivery of aid, time is running out. We must do more, and we must do it immediately. . . .

A survivor of the Rwandan genocide named Dancilla told her story to a British humanitarian group. She said: "If people forget what happened when the U.N. left us, they will not learn. It might then happen again -- maybe to someone else." All Americans should realize one terrible fact: It is happening again.

Elyzabeth states:

"I am a strong individual...probably of my friends one of the strongest if not the strongest. I am tapped out in my volunteer efforts, but most able to help those in need. I help them in anyway I can. I certainly do not give excuses like, "I know your husband is beating you but if I call it domestic violence I am morally responsible to help you get out of that situation. I am presently unable to do that. So, therefore it is not domestic violence. And I don't have to help you out."

Instead, I say, "I will protect you in anyway I can." And then, I find a way. By enlisting the help of other friends. By giving to organizations that help that person. By standing up and speaking out publicly about domestic violence.

We are not any less involved as human beings on the same planet simply because we call a waddling, quacking duck a sparrow.

I know there are many important causes in the world, but I'd be a hypocrit if I didn't keep nagging people to write to spur the international community to call Darfur genocide."

She mentioned in an online discussion recently, "For a moment, let's pretend Michael Moore and the Swiftboat Dudes are at a corner bar discussing the 7 minutes Kerry spent on the can. One million plus people are still expected to die while their government not only turns their back on them, leaving them stranded at the border...but continues to strafe them with helicopter gunships put in the hands of those who would see them perish...even burn alive."

The current situation in Sudan is dire. It's too late to save thousands who have been murdered by the janjaweed or died from starvation. Wondering where the international uproar is, Elyzabeth penned the following letter to those celebrities who have opined long and loud about various world events. Her words are compelling and need a wider audience.

Dear Very Famous People:

I write this letter to all the celebrities, pundits, wonks and op ed types in the hope that someone with star powered wattage could turn the worlds eye to the death and destruction continuing in Darfur, Sudan.

I thought that perhaps if people like Michael Moore, Bill Clinton, Linda Rondstadt, Paris and other famous people making the rounds in the headlines shouted out to people for help in Darfur, maybe we could get the world moving.

Mr. Moore. I know you worked very hard on Fahrenheit 911 and it includes some very important footage and revelations. But now, those 7 minutes are really unimportant when you consider that a million people are on the verge of starvation. Remember when you stormed that beach in Connecticut? Maybe you could storm the refugee camps along the Chad/Sudan border and help get the food these people need. You can even poke fun at McDonalds and Enron while you do it.

Mr. Clinton, I know youve already just recently discussed the Sudan on your book tour. But every time they ask how many times you slept on the couch, could you answer with Oh, this one mom in Maryland would like for me to respond to that very important question with the phone number to Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, Oxfam, Amnesty International and many other more important numbers? I think it would be beneficial twicefirst, it would get out these phone numbers for people to make donations. And then, it would shut them up, because, really who cares about your affair with Monica when as recently as this last Tuesday, another village was strafed with bullets from a Sudanese helicopter.

Linda Rondstadt prove your compassion for the world by saying something productive. And, even better for you, the people dying in the Sudan are mostly not Christians OR Republicans. So, youd be saving people you like by asking people to donate.

Paris, while you and Nicole are driving around the country in a camper perhaps you could put the number for your favorite relief organization on the side of your Airstream.

I have written my representatives and the newspapers asking for more attention to this global dilemma. But, apparently, tens of thousands of displaced people dying the cruel death of starvation just isnt as sexy as a gay governor stepping down with his wife at his side. So, maybe we can find some gay refugees who have momentarily put aside their fight to be married in order to stay alive as the rains, locusts and newly deputized Janjaweed police officers rape their daughters.

Pleasespeak out against this genocide. Donate to the relief organization of your choice. Talk about this with your friends and family. But do not put this on a back burner. The need for international help is now.

Donations can be made to these very hardworking groups by either writing, calling or visiting on-line:

Amnesty International:

1-800-AMNESTY

Donate to Amnesty International


UN World Food Program:

Friends of WFP
P.O. Box 11856
Washington, DC 20008


Doctors without Borders:

1-888- 392-0392


Oxfam America:

Oxfam America
Donor Services Dept.
26 West Street
Boston, MA
02111-1206

Episcopal Relief and Development (this is my faithIm sure many other faiths have emergency missions underway in fact, the link below offers a listing of ways for different faiths to donate on-line. The ERD allows me to give directly to their Sudan Relief Fund.)

Episcopal Relief and Development
Box 12043
Newark, NJ 07101

1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129

Another link for ERD,


UNICEF:
unicefusa.org
333 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016

1.800.4UNICEF

Sincerely,

Elyzabeth

Can you add your voice?

Posted by Deb at 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

Message from Chaplain Slater

Chaplain David L. Slater writes from the Al Anbar Province of Iraq:

Whether a Marine or Sailor deployed or a family member at home, no one understands better than we do the high cost of freedom. As we worry about each other and take stock of our sacrifices and grief its hard not to ask the question, Is it worth it? Will all the blood, sweat and tears America has poured into helping Iraq make any lasting difference? The truth is that many of us are skeptical about whether or not the Iraqi people will take advantage of the opportunity for freedom we have given them. This has been a personal struggle of mine. I have thought long and hard about it and this is what Ive come to realize. The question, Is it worth it? is certainly a question worth asking. But to answer it on the basis of whether it will change Iraq is to miss the whole point of what America has done. The measure of our success is not in whether Iraqis ultimately make Iraq a freer and more prosperous country. The measure of our success is simply that liberating and stabilizing Iraq was the right thing to do and doing the right thing is always worth it.

Think of it this way. If someone was drowning and you swam out to save them but in fear, panic or ignorance they fought off your attempt and drowned anyway, does that diminish one bit that trying to save them was absolutely the right thing to do? In fact, couldnt you be rightly criticized if you said, Oh, they probably wouldnt let me save them anyway, and just let them drown without even trying to help? Even if you died trying to save the thrashing victim wouldnt your attempt to save them be judged as noble, selfless, heroic and good? Even if Iraq chooses to jump right back into the waters of tyranny it still doesnt change the fact that trying to save them was the right thing to do. Actually, America has succeeded in saving Iraq from drowning in ruthless tyranny. Saddams regime is gone and Saddam has been captured to face judgment for his crimes. Yet, we are still criticized, unfortunately, even by fellow Americans who just dont get it..

The truth is, the same people who criticize America for being in Iraq and question our success are the very same people who would criticize America for doing nothing if Saddam was still in power and perpetrating human rights violations on the world and his own citizens. This is my point. We will be questioned, criticized and ridiculed no matter what we do. So Id rather suffer for doing what is right than for doing nothing about what is wrong. This is actually a Biblical principle. I Peter 3:17 says, For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong (NASB).

It is a shame so many people have missed the point that we all know so well and hold so dear. This is not about whether Iraq is worth it. It is about the character of America, and individual Americans and their families who have always been willing to sacrifice and suffer, even for the unworthy, just because it is the right thing to do. As the men and women of Task Force 3/7, we owe our deepest respect, thanks and love to all of you at home for so courageously and faithfully standing with us in doing what is right.

Posted by Deb at 11:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 15, 2004

ON SHEEP, WOLVES, AND SHEEPDOGS

This essay, by Lt.Col. Dave Grossman, former West Point psychology professor and retired Army Ranger, was sent by the wife of a retired Marine. She notes, "I've met many Marines in the past 25 years, all the same type: Strong, compassionate, patriotic, brave. Many of our non-military friends say they can't understand why Marines are the way they are. I thought the following article shed a bit of light on these brave men."

Warrior Ethos
"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?" - William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy, November 24, 1997
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there that will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, which is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up! Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous
battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one
hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. -- From sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

"Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

"There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men." - Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize; especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your gun, you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: "...denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling."

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself... "Baa."

This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

Lt. Col. Grossman is an expert in the study of violence in war and killing. I first read his work when I took a graduate class on the subject of children and violence; it was refreshing to find research by someone who had both academic expertise and real world experience. After reading this, my overwhelming reaction is, thank God for sheepdogs.

Posted by Deb at 09:46 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 14, 2004

Get out of bed

U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Ouimette is Commodore of Training Air Wing One at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. Here is a speech he gave 18 months ago to the Pensacola Civitan Club - it's worth hearing again.

We Americans need to wake up NOW.

That's what we think we heard on the 11th of September 2001 and maybe it was, but I think it should have been "Get Out of Bed!" In fact, I think the alarm clock has been buzzing since 1979 and we have continued to hit the snooze button and roll over for a few more minutes of peaceful sleep since then.

It was a cool fall day in November 1979 in a country going through a religious and political upheaval when a group of Iranian students attacked and seized the American Embassy in Tehran. This seizure was an outright attack on American soil; it was an attack that held the world's most powerful country hostage and paralyzed a Presidency. The attack on this sovereign U. S. embassy set the stage for events to follow for the next 23 years.

America was still reeling from the aftermath of the Vietnam experience and had a serious threat from the Soviet Union when then, President Carter, had to do something. He chose to conduct a clandestine raid in the desert. The ill-fated mission ended in ruin, but stood as a symbol of America's inability to deal with terrorism. America's military had been decimated and downsized/right sized since the end of the Vietnam War. A poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly organized military was called on to execute a complex mission that was doomed from the start.

Shortly after the Tehran experience, Americans began to be kidnapped and killed throughout the Middle East. America could do little to protect her citizens living and working abroad. The attacks against US soil continued.

In April of 1983 a large vehicle packed with high explosives was driven into the US Embassy compound in Beirut. When it explodes, it kills 63 people. The alarm went off again and America hit the Snooze Button once more.

Then just six short months later a large truck heavily laden down with over 2500 pounds of TNT smashed through the main gate of the US Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut and 241 US servicemen are killed. America mourns her dead and hit the Snooze Button once more.

Two months later in December 1983, another truck loaded with explosives is driven into the US Embassy in Kuwait, and America continues her slumber.

The following year, in September 1984, another van was driven into the gates of the US Embassy in Beirut and America slept.

Soon the terrorism spreads to Europe. In April 1985 a bomb explodes in a restaurant frequented by US soldiers in Madrid.

Then in August a Volkswagen loaded with explosives is driven into the main gate of the US Air Force Base at Rhein-Main, 22 are killed and the snooze alarm is buzzing louder and louder as US interests are continually attacked.

Fifty-nine days later a cruise ship, the Achille Lauro is hijacked and we watched as an American in a wheelchair is singled out of the passenger list and executed.

The terrorists then shift their tactics to bombing civilian airliners when they bomb TWA Flight 840 in April of 1986 that killed 4 and the most tragic bombing, Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 259.

America wants to treat these terrorist acts as crimes; in fact we are still trying to bring these people to trial. These are acts of war.

The wake up alarm is getting louder and louder The terrorists decide to bring the fight to America. In January 1993, two CIA agents are shot and killed as they enter CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The following month, February 1993, a group of terrorists are arrested after a rented van packed with explosives is driven into the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. Six people are killed and over 1000 are injured. Still this is a crime and not an act of war?

The snooze alarm is depressed again. Then in November 1995 a car bomb explodes at a US military complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia killing seven service men and women.

A few months later in June of 1996, another truck bomb explodes only 35 yards from the US military compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It destroys the Khobar Towers, a US Air Force barracks, killing 19 and injuring over 500. The terrorists are getting braver and smarter as they see that America does not respond decisively..

They move to coordinate their attacks in a simultaneous attack on two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. These attacks were planned with precision. They kill 224. America responds with cruise missile attacks and goes back to sleep.

The USS Cole was docked in the port of Aden, Yemen for refueling on 12 October 2000, when a small craft pulled along side the ship and exploded killing 17 US Navy Sailors. Attacking a US war ship is an act of war, but we sent the FBI to investigate the crime and went back to sleep.

And of course you know the events of 11 September 2001. Most Americans think this was the first attack against US soil or in America. How wrong they are. America has been under a constant attack since 1979 and we chose to hit the snooze alarm and roll over and go back to sleep.

In the news lately we have seen lots of finger pointing from every high officials in government over what they knew and what they didn't know. But if you've read the papers and paid a little attention I think you can see exactly what they knew. You don't have to be in the FBI or CIA or on the National Security Council to see the pattern that has been developing since 1979.

The President is right on when he says we are engaged in a war. I think we have been in a war for the past 23 years and it will continue until we as a people decide enough is enough.

America needs to "Get out of Bed" and act decisively now. America has been changed forever. We have to be ready to pay the price and make the sacrifice to ensure our way of life continues. We cannot afford to keep hitting the snooze button again and again and roll over and go back to sleep.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto said "...it seems all we have done is awakened a sleeping giant." This is the message we need to disseminate to terrorists around the world.

Support our troops and support President Bush for having the courage, political and militarily, to address what to many who preceded him didn't have the backbone to do - both Democrat and Republican. This is not a political thing to be hashed over in an election year this is an AMERICAN thing. This is about our Freedom and the Freedom of our children in years to come.


Posted by Deb at 01:22 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

Swift Vets Interview

Greyhawk has the first in a series of interviews with Swift Boat veterans posted on The Mudville Gazette. It's well worth reading and I look forward to future installments.

Posted by Deb at 01:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

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 insaneshe said so herselfbut 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-Websters Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition. Websters 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 dont carry weapons. I dont 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 Im 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 Americas 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 thats his job. But I say its 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, Im 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. Lets 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 23, 2004

Marine Message to Michael Moore


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July 20, 2004

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
President
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.

Yours,
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.

Oohrah!

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 didnt 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 shouldve 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 its a proof for the democracy of the west that doesnt 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. Its 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. Its 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. Isnt a weapon with such capabilities worth to go for a war to (disarm it)? Saving twenty million people from that weapon, isnt 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. Hes the man who rid us of the worst dictator in history. Yes, he did a mistake when he didnt 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 wouldve continued producing WMDs. A world without Saddam in power is safer"
Abu Mohammed Al-Shammary-Danmark.

" The clear statement in Lord Butlers report that emphasizes that theres no evidence for any bad intentions for Mr. Blair in taking the decision to participate in the war, this statement confirms that his (Blairs) conscience and humanity motivated him to rid the region and the 3rd world of the ugliest dictator in the 20th century. Blairs 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. Theres 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. Its the same principles Tony Blair depended on when he decided to help Iraqis get their freedom and their pride back from a butcher whos 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 shouldnt have started this war on Iraq for any reason. Life in Iraq in President Saddams days were much better than life under occupation and Iraqis say so. Thats 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 its a play produced to save Tony Blair once again and its 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 its 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 peoples 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 shouldve not been done because its 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

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 taxesa 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 WONT 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 didnt 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 havent seen. But hell 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.

Pete

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 14, 2004

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.

Im appalled at the news as its reported from Iraq. Just as disturbing is the lack of knowledge a lot of people have about whats really going on, why were here and what its really like. Id 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 its 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 were trying to bring to their country, they know their children will enjoy the rights that we take for granted in the United States.

Ive 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 couldnt do when Saddam was in power. Ive 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, were sponsoring a local secondary school. Weve received $65,500 of Saddams 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.

Were 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.

Ive 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.

Thats why Im going back.

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

July 13, 2004

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 Ive learned one thing from my time as a writer, its what to expect from those who read my columns. Ill 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, hes 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, Im 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 Gods 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 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 theyre 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, its 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, its 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, its the subtle smell of the cool, aged, stone walls inside one of the buildings by famed architect Bertram Goodhue. If youre a hat, its the smell of Bulldog aftershave and Listerine. If youre 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 youre a member of the Museum Historical Society, its 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, theres 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. Its hard to hear myself think when theyre fl ying over, so Im waiting for this one to pass) recruits yelling Aye aye, sir! and Yes, sir!

I know. Drill instructors calling (plane again) cadence. Thats got to be the most familiar sound. At least, I cant 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.

Theres 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 theyll 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 watchs recruit knowledge. He doesnt really notice at first. Hes too busy thinking about cruise ships and fireworks.

Ill miss this place.

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

July 08, 2004

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)

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.

and

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

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 dont want to see lostthat you want to see perpetuatedand youre 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 ideala principle; a burning desire that the things that people think are best for their country and its people are protected from erosionprotected 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 cant see it, you cant feel it, you cant hear italbeit 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 missionto provide for the security of this nation. Everything else is included in this goal. Devotion to countrypatriotism, if you willis 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 heartsa faitha 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 faithand I believe it isthen 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 countrytrue 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 countrys current affairs of concernvote for leadersfoster education for more of our peopleand 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

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":

MY PROBLEM WITH FAHRENHEIT 9/11
As a military parent whose son was recently deployed in the Middle East I object strongly to Michael Moores 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 elseBushthen feigns respect for those same soldiers the filmmaker is mocking I want to tell the film maker he cant 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 Moores 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 dont see is the real military majoritymiddle class white kids from small towns following in their fathers 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 Moores moviethe Saudis are the real enemy in the movieand attacked them after 9/11 I bet Moore still wouldnt like Bush.)

It is a little hard to take Moores Bambi approach to the pre-American invasion Iraq seriously. Remarkably all we see is in his movie of Saddams 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 arent really all that important (it has been a long time since the best and brightest wanted to run and weve 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 womenVoices 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 doesnt work because there are some streets in Flint Michigan where the houses arent very nice. (Will he be sharing the 20 million or so hes 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 servicea great idea by the way, listen up Ted Kennedydid Moore just happen to forget to also ambush his rich pals in Hollywood? Have any of Harvey Weinsteins kids signed up recently? Or does Moore only hate rich jerks that vote Republican? Will Moores 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 dont 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 reasonsay college benefitsbut 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 doesnt 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 Moores leftist base of support. She was not any old military mom. What would Moores 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. Im 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 Bushs 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. Hes just not a very good person.

In all cases the men and women of our military are stripped of dignity in Moores 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 Moores portrayal of our men and women and tell America that you dont want our votes if they have to be generated by sinking to Michael Moores level. Do that and Ill vote for you, Ill 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 sons death there are fifty others who want us to win in Iraq so their sons deaths wont have been in vain. Maybe they are deluded but Moore should at least have represented the bereaved parents fairly.

Here are some things Id like to explain to Michael Moore:

These days the military is the last place you cant 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: Its 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

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!

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

Posted by Deb at 08:42 AM

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)

June 28, 2004

If life were fair

Fred Schoeneman found this news item:

When Chrysler executives first envisioned the target audience for its new flagship passenger sedan the 300C gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg probably didnt leap to mind.

But last week, the language-twisting Los Angeles hip hopper left a voicemail message for Dieter Zetsche, CEO of DaimlerChrysler AGs Chrysler Group, asking for one of the hot-selling sedans.

What I gotta do to get that brand new 300 up outta you?, he said to Zetsche, 51, whose first language is German. He then suggested Zetsche should: Get back in contact with my nephew so he can make it happen, then its official like a referee with a whistle.

In a fair world, Snoop Dogg would buy his own damn car and Zetsche would offer a brand new car - gratis - to this American hero:

Daniel Lasko thought he was coming home for a quiet visit with family Saturday afternoon, but when the U.S. Marine arrived at Eldridge Avenue, he was shocked to find a hero's welcome waiting for him.

More than 150 relatives, friends and neighbors threw a block party in honor of the corporal who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan. Lasko, 21, lost his left foot in April when it was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.

"He deserves this," his older sister Lisa said of the celebration. "He had his life on the line."

Lasko pulled up to the street about 1:15 p.m. He got out of his fiance's car and, braced by two crutches, slowly made his way to his house, where he was greeted by rousing applause.

"Oh, my God. Oh, my God," he kept repeating, as he steadied himself with his left prosthetic leg and was embraced by family members.

This weekend was the third time Lasko visited home since the attack that left him without a left foot. He is still undergoing physical therapy at an Army hospital in Washington, D.C., which specializes in prosthetics.

Lasko planned to return there today. He's unsure when he will be home for good.

"Whenever I feel like I can," Lasko said, adding that he's feeling pretty good these days.

He recalled the attack Saturday, describing how he spotted the Taliban fighter, who he said looked suspicious in all black and a turban.

Moments later, Lasko said he heard two "big blasts" and looked down at his foot.

"It was all messed up. It was gone," he said, adding that one of his buddies came over and actually ripped his shredded foot from his ankle before bandaging the wound. Lasko was serving with the 23rd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Once he is released from the hospital, Lasko will have to decide whether to serve another year in the Marines or be medically discharged. He said he's unsure of what he wants to do.

Regarding the 300C, Snoop Dogg told Zetsche, If you want this car to blow, give it to me. In contrast, Danny Lasko's friends are throwing fundraisers to buy him a car without a stick shift.

Snoop Dogg will probably get his freebie, the result of a marketplace that values vocal celebrities over quiet heroes . . . and that really does blow.


Posted by Deb at 03:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 27, 2004

Letter from Grant Hibbard, USN Retired

Marine Corps Moms has never been intended to be a political site - there are many blogs out there, including milblogs, that do a wonderful job of discussing current issues. We're all about troop support.

However.

It's Sunday afternoon, I'm out of chocolate, and I just saw this on Cassandra's site:

Criticism of Kerry's Purple Heart is just

Retired U.S. army colonel David Hackworth defends presidential candidate John Kerry's Purple Hearts. He correctly notes that they are awarded for a wound that necessitates treatment by a medical officer and that is received in action with an enemy (''The meaning of a Purple Heart,'' The Forum, June 16).

I was the commanding officer to whom Kerry reported his injury on Dec. 3, 1968. I had confirmed that there was no hostile fire that night and that Kerry had simply wounded himself with an M-79 grenade round he fired too close. He wanted a Purple Heart, and I refused. Louis Letson, the base physician, saw Kerry and used tweezers to remove the tiny piece of shrapnel -- about 1 centimeter in length and 2 millimeters in diameter. Letson also confirmed that the scratch was inflicted with our M-79.

We admire Col. Hackworth, but he, above all people, knows why it is unacceptable to nominate yourself for an award. It compromises the basic military principle that we survive together. To promote yourself is to denigrate your team. I hope Col. Hackworth will rethink his characterization of Kerry's swift-boat comrades as ''grousers'' passing on ''secondhand bilge.'' In our case, this is firsthand knowledge, and our integrity is unquestioned.

Kerry orchestrated his way out of Vietnam and then testified, under oath, before Congress that we, his comrades, had committed horrible war crimes. This testimony was a lie and slandered honorable men. We, who were actually there, believe he is unfit to command our sons and daughters.

Grant Hibbard, retired commander
U.S. Navy, Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Louis Letson, M.D.
Retired lieutenant commander
Medical Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve
Scottsboro, Ala.

Bolding mine.


Posted by Deb at 06:07 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Combat in Iraq: A personal view

This e-mail from an Army lieutenant provides an on-the-ground look at fighting war.

"Well, I'm here in Iraq, and I've seen it, and done it. I've seen everything you've ever seen in a war movie. I've seen cowardice; I've seen heroism; I've seen fear; and I've seen relief. I've seen blood and brains all over the back of a vehicle, and I've seen men bleed to death surrounded by their comrades. I've seen people throw up when it's all over, and I've seen the same shell-shocked look in 35-year-old experienced sergeants as in 19-year-old privates.


"I've heard the screams - `Medic! Medic!' I've hauled dead civilians out of cars, and I've looked down at my hands and seen them covered in blood after putting some poor Iraqi civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time into a helicopter. I've seen kids with gunshot wounds, and I've seen kids who've tried to kill me.


"I've seen men tell lies to save lives: `What happened to Sergeant A.?' The reply: `C'mon man, he's all right - he's wondering if you'll be OK - he said y'all will have a beer together when you get to Germany.' SFC A. was lying 15 feet away on the other side of the bunker with two medics over him desperately trying to get either a pulse or a breath. The man who asked after SFC A. was himself bleeding from two gut wounds and rasping as he tried to talk with a collapsed lung. One of them made it; one did not.


"I've run for cover as fast as I've ever run - I'll hear the bass percussion thump of mortar rounds and rockets exploding as long as I live. I've heard the shrapnel as it shredded through the trailers my men live in and over my head. I've stood, gasping for breath, as I helped drag into a bunker a man so pale and badly bloodied I didn't even recognize him as a soldier I've known for months. I've run across open ground to find my soldiers and make sure I had everyone.


"I've raided houses, and shot off locks, and broken in windows. I've grabbed prisoners, and guarded them. I've looked into the faces of men who would have killed me if I'd driven past their IED (improvised explosive device) an hour later. I've looked at men who've killed two people I knew, and saw fear.

Read the rest.

Posted by Deb at 03:08 PM | Comments (1)

Three Heroic Marines

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee, recently shared his stories of respect commanded for United States Marines around the world, and three current heroes of the Corps: Cpt. Brian Chontosh, Cpl. Jason Dunham, and Cpl. Timothy C. Tardif.

Photo by By Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service
Speaking to the audience at the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation's 10th Annual Invitational Gala in Atlantic City in mid-June, Hagee said a recent Gallup poll indicated that the American people recognize what the nation's servicemen and women are doing today. "They stood right at the top of the profession most admired by the American people," Hagee noted. "For those of us wearing the uniform today, that's quite a responsibility that we have to carry on."

That, Hagee said, reminded him of another story having to do with the Battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918, which is a touchstone for Marines. "Marines marching from Paris toward Belleau Wood stopped the Germans about 45 kilometers from Paris in about a two-week battle that occurred in that small forest," the general noted.

"What most Marines don't know (is that) something else occurred there almost 70 years later," Hagee said. "The battlefield looks today just like it did in June of 1918. During rainstorms, quite often, relics come up from that battle. In the mid-'80s, a Marine came up out of the ground and he was to be buried at the American cemetery," the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery south of the village of Belleau, France.

Hagee said about 70 Marines attended the burial. "But what wasn't expected was that more than 400 Frenchmen came to the interment," he said. "They came for one reason to honor the United States Marine who had given his life in defense of their country. That's the reputation that we have; not only here in the United States, but throughout the world."

When he was in France for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Hagee said, Frenchmen came up and, even though they didn't speak English, they got their point across: "We thank you very much for what you do, what you have done for our country and what you are doing for the world today."

The general then asked all the active duty Marines at the gala to stand up and be recognized, which resulted in thunderous applause from the audience. He then told heartwarming stories about individual Marines who represent all active duty Marines and those who have gone before.


His first story was about the heroism of then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh, who was recently promoted to captain.

While serving as a platoon commander in an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on top in Iraq, Chontosh was caught in an ambush. His platoon came under heavy enemy fire from AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. An RPG struck one of his Humvees, killing one Marine and wounding another.

"He was in the kill zone of the ambush," Hagee noted. "He saw the only way out was to drive right toward a .50-caliber machine gun. So he told his driver to attack that machine gun emplacement. The driver drove straight at it, and the machine gunner up top at point-blank range took out the Iraqi machine gun emplacement."

"He was still receiving fire, so he saw a trench line on his left and told his driver to go into the trench line," Hagee continued. "The good news is they got to the trench line. The bad news is it was an Iraqi trench line."

"This lieutenant got out of his vehicle with an M-16 in one hand and a 9 mm pistol in the other hand, and he started working his way down the trench line," Hagee continued. "He ran out of ammunition. He picked up an AK-47 and continued working down the trench line. He ran out of ammunition again. He picked up another AK-47 and continued working down the trench line. He reached the end of the trench line and there was an Iraqi machine gun emplacement sitting up on the top. He picked up an Iraqi RPG and took out that machine gun emplacement."

"He didn't get a scratch not one scratch," Hagee noted. "I had the honor and pleasure of awarding this nation's second highest award for bravery the Navy Cross about three weeks ago. When I gave it to him and thanked him for his service and what he'd done, he said, 'Sir, I was doing it for my Marines, to take care of my Marines.'"

Hagee then told of the heroism of Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who wasn't so lucky. About three weeks ago, the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., asked Hagee to come to the hospital to pin a Purple Heart on Dunham in the presence of the corporal's parents.

"It had to be done right away because they were afraid he was going to die," Hagee noted.

When the commandant arrived at Dunham's bedside, the corporal wasn't conscious. "I was able to pin the Purple Heart on him, and he passed away about 45 minutes later," Hagee said.

He said all Dunham's parents could talk about was how he felt about the Marine Corps and how he loved and respected the Marine Corps. "They have a 15-year-old son who wants to join the Marine Corps," the general said. "And they're going to support him."

The commandant told of how Dunham, a 22year-old squad leader, was engaged in close combat with an enemy combatant in Iraq when an enemy hand grenade threatened the safety of Dunham and his fellow Marines. Dunham reportedly jumped on the grenade, shielding the blast using his helmet and himself, and was severely wounded.

"He was thinking of only one thing: the Marines in his squad," Hagee said. Dunham was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Hagee's last story was about another 22-year-old squad leader, Cpl. Timothy C. Tardif, who was suffering from grenade fragment wounds and had been evacuated to Germany, but found a way back to the battlefields of Iraq.

"He was in a platoon that was in a very fierce firefight, and he was able to lead his squad across an open road into a village to secure the right flank of the village," Hagee said. "The good news is they made it across. The bad news is they were in a hand grenade-throwing contest."

The battle continued for a couple of hours. Tardif was seriously wounded by shrapnel, but he refused to be evacuated, the general said. "They were successful and secured the village," Hagee noted. "But as they were pulling out of the village, Corporal Tardif passed out because of loss of blood."

Tardif was evacuated to the Army's Regional Medical Center at Landstuhl, Germany, where most of the wounded servicemen and women go before returning to the United States.

"Somehow, Corporal Tardif convinced the doctors that he need to be checked out of the hospital," Hagee said. "The doctor checked him out, and Corporal Tardif got ahold of a corpsman and borrowed a utility uniform. Then he went to the Air Force base and talked his way onto an aircraft to go back to Iraq."

Hagee said this was in April 2003, and Tardif stayed in Iraq until September, when his squad returned home. Pointing out that Tardif is married, the general said the corporal called his wife from Germany and told her, "Honey, I could come home right now, but I'm a Marine. And I have responsibilities. I'm a squad leader and my Marines need me. And I'm going to go back."

"That's the type of young Marine that we have in the Marine Corps today," Hagee said. "It's also the type of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen we have in all of our services today. It's the type of young Americans we have in all of our armed forces today."

Posted by Deb at 02:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Paul Wolfowitz pays tribute to the troops

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz followed General Hagee at the speakers podium at the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation banquet. He accepted the MCLEF "Most Distinguished Americans" Award and had these wonderful words to say about our Marines and other troops. It's worth reading, all of it.

Thank you. Jim [Kallstrom, MCLEF Chairman of the Board], its a real honor to be able to be here to accept that award on behalf of another great generation. I must say, as I heard my biography, I guess Id like to point out one thing that wasnt pointed out. Among many things Im very, very proud of is eight years serving for President Ronald Reagan. And it was wonderful to see the outpouring of support and admiration from this country as the president made his final journey.

Its truly an incredible privilege to be able to work in the Defense Department with the remarkable men and women who serve this country today. Id also like to thank the leadership of this foundation inspired by and dedicated to the Marines who help keep order in the world and to the men and women who help keep order here at home. To paraphrase the ancient saying, when you give someone the gift of education, you forever change their life. And through your scholarships, you are helping to shape Americas future and to honor Americas heroes.

I feel especially privileged to be part of this evening, given your extraordinary mission and truly humbled to be in the presence of these nine special heroes. I recall Vice President Cheney saying once that when you have the privilege to meet one of Americas medal of honor recipients, Remember the moment, for youve just met one of the bravest men in our nations history.

At this point, its appropriate to recognize the many distinguished guests present, but its a task that has already been largely and expertly handled for me. So I needed an innovative and creative way to single out the people that I should recognize. Thats a delicate mission, to be sure. So naturally, for delicate matters, you turn to a Marine.

And for this one, I turn to our former commandant and now Supreme Allied Commander [General] Jim Jones. In true Marine fashion, this will include everyone I want to recognize and it budgets every word with an economy that would elicit even from Donald Rumsfeld his famous toothy grin, so here goes: Marines, former Marines and friends of Marines. I think Ive just recognized about everybody here in seven words or less. Proving, once again, that Marines are not only masters at budgeting their resources, theyre unequaled in making every shot count.

When todays invitation came to my office, I can tell you I would have said yes regardless. But it came with a handwritten note of gentle encouragement from our wonderful vice chairman, General Pete Pace, the first Marine to hold that high office. He wrote to tell me that this foundation is a great group of Americans, which I know is true. And he made a big promise: If you can support this event, you will have a good time. Right again. But he didnt stop there. In typical fashion, he wanted to ensure that all his bases were covered, so he went on to tell me, You wont have to work too hard. In fact, he promised, You should look on your role as something like the dear departed at an old-fashioned Irish wake. That is to say, the party cant go on without you, but no one expects you to say very much. Well, dont get your hopes up."

I do feel a special kinship with Pete Pace. No doubt, a large part of that is because were both number twos. When I accepted this job, I remembered the tradition of number twos and thought, how tough can that be. Ambrose Bierce, in his Devils Dictionary has a definition of a deputy. The deputy, it says is commonly a handsome young man with a red necktie and an intricate system of cobwebs extending from his nose to his desk. When accidentally struck by the janitors broom, he gives off a cloud of dust.

But that hardly describes what its like to work for Donald Rumsfeld. When Don Rumsfeld welcomed me back from my third tour at the Pentagon, he said, Paul, were going to keep bringing you back until you get it right.

And theres hasnt been a dull moment sinceand no cobwebs. No cobwebs on Pete Pace either. We number twos have got to stick together. Pete is a lot of fun to be around. And hes just plain funny. Of his great lines, I think, my favorite is: You should never let a promising career get in the way of a good joke.

I thought of that line every time Ive been tempted to ask Donald Rumsfeld why he was coming back for a second tour. But so far, Ive been able to resist the temptation.

But no one understood the impact of a good joke or liked one more than President Ronald Reagan, to whom we said farewell this weekend. I think he would have liked this particular legend from Marine Corps lore. Its about one of those Marines under the command of Captain John Paul Jones aboard the Bonhomme Richard in the great naval battle of 1779 against the British ship, Serapis.

It was a pitched battle, one of the most dramatic sea fights in our history. Not surprisingly, the hero of our story was a Marine, probably a gunny. He was loading and firing his gun without stopping. And in the middle of that great fight, John Paul Jones, his clothes tattered, grimy, sweaty and bloody, went below to change into a new uniform. As he came topside, a big section of the mast, along with the ships colors, came crashing down. And a voice boomed through the smoke, the fire, the fog of war. It was a British captain demanding of Jones, Have you struck your colors? He wanted to know was the burning, sinking ship finally surrendering. And our Marine, all sweaty and bloody, turned around to see the captain of the ship resplendent in his clean Navy uniform and then he heard Jones immortal reply: Struck, sir, I have not yet begun to fight. And the gunny said, Thats the Navy for you, always the last to get the word.

Well, true story or not, it does tell us this, the Marines special qualities have been evident since the earliest days of the Corps: their bravery, their skill, their panache, their way with words. This funny story happens to be true. One of our distinguished Marine generals--who had the misfortune of being asked to brief the press in the early stage of the Afghan wardescribed the Taliban as eviscerated, a couple of weeks before they actually were. People were all over him for that particular use of the word. A wonderful Marine, a colonel who worked for me said, Well, we Marines may not know how to spell eviscerate, but we know how to do it.

Well, the real truth, of course, is that Marines know how to do both and extraordinarily well. And lots of other things, too. In my job, Im fortunate to meet Americas soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. We just lost, by the way, the first Coast Guardsman in combat since World War II, helping to prevent a disaster in the Persian Gulf. Ive been fortunate also to meet many men and women from our law enforcement organizations. I was born in Brooklyn, back when there was still an Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers. And my heart went out to each one of those responders who rushed into the Twin Towers on that tragic day in September 2001. These are men and women who choose service over self-interest and they stand for those American values that Ronald Reagan spoke about so eloquently, and which had been brought out this past week in the moving tributes to our 40th president: idealism and optimism, common sense and decency, professionalism, pride and courage.

Ive worked with enough Marines to learn a thing or two about your special club. My former boss, Secretary of State George Schultz, who fought as a Marine in the Pacific in World War II, was the one who first educated me on the point that theres no such thing as an ex-Marine. Marines never forget the Corps and they never forget their own. The same is true for those who serve in law enforcement. So I think it was probably inevitable that the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation would come to bean organization that embraces fully Abraham Lincolns charge that American must care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan. And what this organization has done and is doing is nothing short of extraordinary.

In the Department of Defense, we are especially grateful for what you do to help educate the children of our Marines, and for what youve done for the children who lost a parent in the Pentagon on September 11th. This year, youve extended your generosity to children who lost parents serving as part of the international coalition in Afghanistan and in Iraq, taking your generosity to a truly global level. That is America at its best and we thank you for it.

Last summer I had the honor of joining Pete Pace at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. General Pace himself a veteran of battle in Hue City in Vietnam, told that audience, mostly made up of Korean veterans, that one thing that motivates every soldier or Marine in the heat of battle is the idea that their own personal actions might let our veterans down. General Pace concluded, Well never, never let that happen.

I think those words capture the essence of what this evening is all about. This is our generations hour of testing. The men and women who serve America today measure their own actions against a standard that Americans before them have fought and died to uphold in our nations hours of need. They have never let our veterans down. They have never let our allies down. And they have never let the American people down.

Those brave young Americans are the ones who deserve the recognition and the awards. So Im happy to accept the foundations highest [Most Distinguished American] award with enormous gratitude and a full heart on behalf of all the men and women serving America today. They are truly our Most Distinguished Americans.

I had the privilege of serving with many distinguished Americans. Some of them are here tonight. Youve seen them, General Jones, General Hagee, General Nyland, Sgt. Maj. Estrada, Sgt. Maj. McMichael. But theyre not all Marines.

Jack Keane is a great soldier whom Im proud to call a friend. When Jack retired as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army last fall, he spoke words that applied to every American who serves or has served. Foreign terrorists, General Keane said, have no idea who theyre up against. They think that were weak, but they do not know our will, our courage or our character. To understand America and Americans, they need to understand the Marne in 1918 or Tarawa in 1943, Omaha Beach in 44 or the Chosin Reservoir in 1950. They need to understand that a nation that produces Alvin Yorke and Audie Murphy; John Pershing and George Marshall; Chesty Puller and George Patton; Randy Shugart and Gary Gordon; produces heroes in every generation. They are out there, the general said, performing every day. And he is right.

There are American heroes out there now performing magnificently on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan today, 25 million Muslims who have suffered from a quarter century of invasion and Civil War, are struggling now to have a chance at what we havewith the help of brave Americans. In Iraq, another 25 million people, mostly Muslims again, are working to build a free Iraq after 35 years of torture and abuse by one of the worst tyrants of the 20th centuryagain with the help of brave Americans. Millions of Afghans and Iraqis are grateful to those Americans for the sacrifices that had given them a chance for freedom after decades of tyranny. But it is we Americans who should be grateful most of all because these brave men and women have been fighting for us and for our children and grandchildren, so that we can live free from the fear of terrorism that showed its horrible face on September 11th two years ago.

As this organization appreciates so well, among the people that went to war to meet this threat, there are heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country and their cause. In their memory, we must rededicate ourselves, as President Lincoln said, to compete the work which they have, thus far, so nobly advanced.

Contemplating the sacrifice of the heroes whove come to the aid of our country in every hour of need, President Reagan used to ask, Where do we find such men? And he would answer, They come from places large and small across this great nation.

With each one I meet, I am changed. They impart the certain knowledge that courage and heroism are not simply ideas, they live in those who are called to selflessness and sacrifice.

Id like to tell you tonight about three heroes that Ive had the privilege to know personally: men and women whove been to war, who faced its dangers and borne its wounds. Although each of these individuals is remarkable, like the other three that General Hagee told you about, countless other Americans share the same noble spirit. Each of these individuals has a different perspective about whats at stake in Iraq where they fought. Their views are not necessarily the same as mine. But what I find so moving about the men and women serving in this war, as in every one past, is that no matter what their personal views, their devotion to duty and their love and dedication to one another and to their country, are unquestioned, unwavering and unsurpassed.

Army Spec. Danielle Green is 27 years old. She comes from Chicago. Even lying in a hospital bed with her arm gone, she had a beautiful smile that lit up her face. Before she joined the Army and became a military policeman, she played basketball at Notre Dame where she helped lead that team to four NCAA tournament bids. But she had a childhood dream to join the Army a dream that helped her avoid the fate of her single mother who had become addicted to drugs. That dream never left her.

And so on May 25th, Spec. Green was in Iraq with the 571st military police company. On her shift that day, she volunteered to go by herself to the roof of a Baghdad police station to provide security. And not long after, she heard a rocket strike a building in front of her. Then a second rocket tore into her left hand and knocked her onto her right side. As she lay there, she first thought she might die. But her next thought was, Oh, God, I havent done enough in my life. Im going to live to tell my story. So she fought to stay awake. And she did.

When she got to the hospital, she asked her sergeant if her hand was gone. Yes, he told her. It happens to be her shooting hand the one shed use to score more than 1,100 points at Notre Dame. But she never mentioned that in my conversation with her. Instead, she spoke of her two buddies who went back to the roof to search for her hand. They knew theyd get in trouble, she said, but they went anyway. They found Danielles hand and her wedding rings. That meant the world to her.

How did she survive that terrible moment on the roof alone? She said, The Army teaches you how to be brave. But always in her conversation, she went back to the two soldiers who faced not only the Armys wrath, but the real dangers of that roof. Those soldiers, she said, are the real heroes and I told them how proud I was of them.

Army Sergeant Adam Replogle is from Colorado. He has a new wife and a new baby. He was recently promoted to gunner and has served on every position on a tank crew. On May 12th, he and his unit were fighting Sadrs army near Karbala. As they moved to make contact with the enemy, Sgt. Replogle was shot and momentarily paralyzed. But he remembers getting up and firing again. Then an RPG slammed into his chest. He lost his left arm and the sight in his left eye. I wish the injuries hadnt happened, he said, but Im going to get on with my life.

Was the sacrifice worth it? Adam had this to say: Of course, it was worth it. Were fighting for everything we believe in. Weve freed Iraqis from a dictator who was killing Iraqis by the millions. Saddam affected everyone in that country. Something had to be done.

Sgt. Replogle had been part of a mission to remove that threat, to undo that harm and to rebuild a new Iraq. Weve done so much there, he said. You should have seen my sector after a year. There were two schools when we arrived, now there are 40.

He has personally changed many lives in Iraq. He had made friends with interpreters. He had destroyed terrorist cells. He had helped people get back into their houses. He spoke about teaching Iraqi kids to say some words in English He even bought bikes for Iraqi girls and boys. After all, he said, they only cost 5 bucks, and these kids didnt have anything.

Ask 90 percent of the Iraqis, he said, and they say God bless America.

Like Danielle Green and Adam Replogle, Corporal Eddie Wright, U.S. Marine Corps, is another impressive human being. Corporal Wright is 28 and from Seattle. His father is an Air Force colonel, currently a surgeon with Air Force Special Operations. Corporal Wright has been in the Marine Corps three and a half years. On April 7th he and his fellow Marines were escorting a convoy of Humvees and trucks to a supply point near Fallujah, looking for enemy mortar teams, when they were ambushed. As Wright was firing his weapon, it was hit by an RPG. His eardrum was ruptured, his femur was broken and both of his hands were blown off. Wrights team leader and a machine gunner were hit also. One Marine had never seen combat before and another seemed to have forgotten what he was trained to do, even as he was trying to help Wright tend to his wounds. I had to help him calm down, Wright said. I knew I was in bad shape and I had to keep calm myself or Id die. Plus we were still in the kill zone.

So, Wright told the Marine to relax, that he was fineboth hands missing, remember. He told them how to get tourniquets to help staunch the bleeding in his leg and arms. He directed the Marine in each step of his own first aid. He also directed the driver how to steer their way out of the ambush zone.

A couple of weeks ago, Corporal Wright was awarded a Bronze Star for valor. Id like to read from the citation. Corporal Wright, it says, was the epitome of composure, understanding the severity of his own injuries, he calmly instructed others on how to remove the radio, call for support and render first aid. He also pointed out enemy machine gun emplacements to his fellow Marines, assisting in the demise of 26 enemies killed in action.

With a Marines typical bravado, Eddie Wright said, Nobody fights as well as the Marines. But he captured the essence of why all U.S. forces are so effective. As an American, he said, you dont have to know the guy next to you, but youll still fight to the death for him.

Eddie wants to stay in the Marines where hes wanted to be since he was a boy. My military assistant Brigadier General Frank Helmick whos here tonight and, by the way, who spent seven months as Assistant Division Commander for the marvelous 101st Airborne Division up in Mosul in Iraq. General Helmick has a story that embodies Corporal Wrights endowment of optimism. Eddie was telling the general about his team leader, the one whod been injured in the firefight that same day. When the team leader saw photos of Corporal Wrights Bronze Star ceremony, he told the young Marines that hes training now down at Quantico all about Corporal Wright. And he told them about what happened after Corporal Wright was evacuated.

And with great enthusiasm, Wright repeated his team leaders words: We smoked their hindquarters only hindquarters isnt the word he actually used.

Eddie Wright is moving on with his life with the same courage he summoned in that desperate firefight in Iraq. Hes determined to make his life every bit as useful to his family and his country as his service has already been. You may have seen Corporal Wright paying his respects to President Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda the other day. Seeing that gallant young hero whose life lies ahead of him salute the gallant old warrior who now belongs to the ages in that moment, I was struck by this: great Americans come along just when we need them most, ready to risk whats most dear to do the right thing. There is no question America is richly and deeply blessed.

Recent weeks have been marked by remembrance from Memorial Day in Normandy to the monument for the veterans of the Second World War and the passing of a great president. We remember each of those events for what we mourn. But were an optimistic people, as Ronald Reagan constantly reminded us. So we also remember them for what we celebrate: our freedom, our nation, our heroes.

And for each life lost, death never has the final word. Love has the final word, because it comes from Almighty God: love of country, love of duty, love of a buddy on the front line. Our wounded heroes will bear the marks of courage the rest of their lives, but they will see their wounds not as a burden or a scar, but as a reminder from God that they responded to a call that few may be able to answer.

Something had to be done, thats what Adam Replogle said. In each generation, countless Americans have done it.

Green, Replogle and Wright and so many others stand for what is decent and good and true.

In recent days we paid appropriate tribute to the Greatest Generation that saved the world from the menace of Nazism. Then the burdens of war were enormous and had to be shared widely among the American people. Today most of us are spared those burdens, but that makes it even more important that organizations like yours help those who bear the greatest burden: helping mobilize Americans at large to help bind the wounds of war. This generation is every bit as great as that Greatest Generation. We owe them nothing less.

One veteran of the Second World War, Bob Dole, looking back on his youth said, We were just ordinary young men and women who were asked in some cases to do extraordinary things.

Well, the future belongs to such men and women heroes who dream the oldest and noblest dream of all: the dream of peace and freedom.

May God bless our Marines. May God bless all the men and women who serve us so selflessly and so well. And may God bless America. Semper Fidelis.

Posted by Deb at 02:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 22, 2004

A columnist's reaction to The Green Side

Mike North is a columnist for 6 papers in the northwest GA, southeast TN, and northwest AL area. After reading Major Dave Bellon's letters to his father on The Green Side, he wrote a two part editorial. Below is an excerpt from the first installment.

Maj. Bellon writes his Dad regularly. In his letters, we get a glimpse of the conflict not described by the media. In a letter dated April 14, 2004, Bellon writes, The real story here that the media is ignoring is how brutal the enemy has been on the Fallujans and other locals who have chosen not to fight. I cannot tell you how many reports I have gotten about insurgents threatening civilians at gunpoint telling them that they will be killed if they try to leave the city or do not let the enemy use their land/homes for attacking us. The enemy takes over houses at gunpoint and tries to draw fire hoping that we will kill innocents so they can exploit it.

He continues, I could go on and on about the treachery of our enemy here, smuggling weapons in humanitarian rations under Red Crescent banners, moving arms and ammunition via ambulances, bombing civilian vehicles in order to alienate the people from the coalition....However, the worst are reports that these foreign fighters have snipers in the city that engage the women and children as they try to escape the fighting. It sounds too horrific to be true but nothing is off the table to this enemy. Daily, they fire unguided rockets into the city and then get on the mosque loud speakers to blame the US. On, and on and on....

I wonder if the reporters and writers back home understand how they undermine the efforts of these soldiers and Marines. Do they even care? Their reportage isnt going unnoticed. Maj. Bellon told his father, I sincerely doubt that the Marines have passed by a mosque/minaret where they have not taken fire. We return fire and it is the lead story. The hypocrisy and lies are exasperating. Almost as exasperating as some of our own media's seeming eagerness to believe it or at least report it as fact. I can hardly bear to read CNN as it just disappoints me to know when the heroism and suffering of the Marines in that town has been twisted for political agendas.

The picture painted for us at home by the networks and major market newspapers may be bleak, and our forces are sometimes portrayed as callous and trigger happy. But Maj. Bellon describes a different picture. Many people have died during this offensive and during the moments when the adrenaline/anger dies down, it is clear that we have an obligation as human beings to spare as many lives as possible. We also have an obligation to encourage the Iraqis to take some responsibility and ownership of their own destiny.

These do not sound like the words of a man whose sole goal is to kill Arabs, as some critics have stated.

To the contrary, this is a man who along with his fellow Marines, is risking his life to help the Iraqi people help themselves. The Major also believes that a democratic Iraq means a safer America. There has been so much bantering, he writes, over the past two years about whether or not we should be involved in Iraq as it has nothing to do with Terror. Nonsense. Terrorism is what is going on right now, today in Iraq. Al Qaeda and other extremist/terrorist organizations are active in Iraq making it their primary battleground.

The second part will be published next week. It's refreshing to read a columnist who gets it.

Posted by Deb at 05:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2004

Tribute to Robert Stethem, USN

Jen Martinez called attention to this comment left on her tribute to Flight 847. where USN diver Robert Stethem was beaten and killed by terrorists on June 14, 1985. His body was dumped on the tarmac of the Beirut airport. Here is an eyewitness account of Stethem's last minutes:

Over the couse of time we are told that we will forget the pains that have been inflicted upon us.

I was one of the Navy Seabee Divers who had to endure the pain of hearing and seeing SW2 (DV) Robert Stethem go through the brutality of terrorism on June 14, 1985. It has been 19 years since that day. I will NEVER FORGET what he sacraficed. I was lucky/blessed to be able to return home after 17 days of captivity. The mental and physical pains which we all endured during that time will heal, but will also be forever etched into our memory. Bobby was a close friend who is deeply missed by many. Let us all remember what has been taken away from us by EVIL and call it what it is. Many people ask me the question of, are we doing the right thing in waging a world wide war on terror, as if I am some type of an expert on the topic. I can only respond by saying,"If you can answer that question buy saying NO, you have not personally felt the pain of the enemy. Only a casual observer can say that we are doing the wrong thing, someone who lives in a bubble".

Let us not just remember the events of Sept. 11,2001, but remember all of what has happened over the course of many years. Remember we are not the bad guys in this fight. It is right for us to take a stand and support the cause of freedom and to do our best in preventing these acts of barbarism.
I have no doubts that if Robert Stethem were still alive what his answer would be.

As the gunman fired the fatal shot into my friends head, he cried out to God. That is the example I will always remember and try to follow. Never give up, endure all that is pressed upon me, and cry out to God for strength when I have done all that is within my power. We as a Nation can respond to evil in this same way. The motto of the USS Stethem DDG-63 is, "Steadfast and Courageous". This very applicable to the way Bobby lived & died.

We can honor him and all the other 5000+ Americans who have fallen to terrorism by applying this creed to our support of our Armed Forces and President of this great nation.

May we endure as Bobby did untill the end and always "Keep the Faith"

Posted by Deb at 10:30 AM | Comments (11)

June 18, 2004

An Iraqi's view on why this war is good for America

Ali provides a great perspective on "occupied" Iraq.

Some people think that the American officials didnt expect such fierce fight from the Islamic groups that keep flowing into Iraq from almost all directions after toppling Saddam. They say that the American army have fell into a trap in Iraq. I want to say that I agree on Iraq being a trap, only its a trap for the terrorists not the Americans.

Given their belief in that the war on Saddam and establishing democracy in Iraq was the key stone in combating terrorism, the American administration surely had expected (not planned) this situation as a result of freeing Iraq. The American administration said it more than once that its better to fight terrorism outside America than wait until being forced to fight it inside her borders.

This war is good for America in many ways; it eliminated a potential danger, it gives America a good and very much needed ally in the heart of a hostile area, one that is a member of the family, unlike Israel and Turkey, it secures American interests in the region and makes America safer by attracting the main efforts of the terrorists away from her borders and by building a sort of a nucleus for a democratic Arab Muslim world that will surely diminish the dreadful threat of a combined terrorism and WMDs.

Read the rest here. His walk-away line is worth reading twice:

We didnt take the decision of the war, thats right, but weve accepted it with full knowledge of the consequences and thats why you cannot see one large demonstration asking the coalition to leave. We gained our freedom, after Saddams fall almost for free, as most of the enormous losses we suffered before that time were not the result of real attempts to gain freedom; they were in most times the result of mere disapproval with the Baathists or were part of the systematic killing to maintain the paralyzing fear at a maximum. Maybe its time to pay and this time we are ready because we are free from that fear after seeing the weakness of our enemies and we have seen what we were missing and are not ready to lose it no matter what happens. We will pay the price and we will not surrender or compromise, we will fight and we will win.

Posted by Deb at 08:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2004

Unfair and Unbalanced Reporting

Here's an editorial written by LCpl Oscar Gonzalez for the Chevron at MCRD-San Diego:

If you havent heard about the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, then you must have been in a cave for the past month and just recently emerged. Unless, of course, you shared that cave with Osama bin Laden.

It seems that these days all the media giants ever talk about is how bad things are going for the military in Iraq. The media have framed events in ways to make the American public feel like things in Iraq are going terribly wrong. Every time the president or the defense secretary speak about developments in Iraq, the media emphasizes on negative quotes and keeps repeating the same thing, over and over. But the most disturbing thing of all is that we never hear about service members going above and beyond the call of duty, performing incredible acts of heroism, and putting their lives in harms way to protect their fellow troops and accomplish the mission.

In a recent article by John D. Banusiewicz from the American Forces Press Service, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, I suppose that for whatever reason, people seem to think that news isnt news unless its bad news because thats essentially whats getting reported.

That is exactly whats happening right now; the media is painting a biased report of the war while ignoring other sides deserving of national attention. Recently, two Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, received the naval services second highest award for heroism. Capt. Brian R. Chontosh and PFC Joseph B. Perez were awarded with the Navy Cross; the last Navy Cross awarded was during Desert Storm in February 1991. To earn a Navy Cross, a commendable act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility.

Another thing most people havent heard about is the story of Cpl. Jason Dunham, a Marine from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, who was recently nominated for the Medal of Honor, the nations highest military award for heroism. If awarded the medal, Cpl. Dunham would be the first service member to receive it since it was last awarded posthumously to two soldiers in Somalia in 1993. But apparently this doesnt deserve national media coverage; after all, the only thing Dunham did was jump on a grenade so his body would absorb the explosion and save his fellow Marines.

There are countless more newsworthy stories of troops who go above and beyond the call of duty and more stories concerning the construction of new hospitals and schools. All of these things are examples of what we as the public are not hearing about from the media giants.

Whatever the reasons the news media have for keeping the public in the dark should not excuse them from showing the American public another set of pictures: those of their fellow Americans who gave more than demanded for
their country.

Posted by Deb at 09:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 14, 2004

On this Flag Day

This memory by Army Cptn. John Rasmussen was original published in the Army Link News as a Memorial Day tribute 2002. It's new to me, and perhaps to you as well, and I thought it was also appropriate on this Flag Day.

It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for physical training. Traffic was backed up at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was moving way too slowly. I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more impatient.

The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Assault Division.
Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial plaque. My concern at the time, however, was getting past the bottleneck, getting out of the rain and getting to physical training on time.

All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started again, the car in front of me stopped. A soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.

I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up everyone for who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking. I waited to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.

He was getting soaked to the skin. His Battle Dress Uniform was plastered to his frame. I watched as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the rain, and set it upright again.

Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back to his car, and drove off. I'll never forget that incident. That soldier, whose name I will never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures.

That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag -- encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier." I thank God for examples like that.

And on this Memorial Day, I will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom, and one private, soaked to the skin, who honored them.


Posted by Deb at 01:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

These Colors Don't Run

Honoring the American Flag


From a speech by Leo K. Thorsness, recipient of The Congressional Medal of Honor.

You've probably seen the bumper sticker somewhere along the road. It depicts an American Flag, accompanied by the words "These colors don't run."

I'm always glad to see this, because it reminds me of an incident from my confinement in North Vietnam at the Hao Lo POW Camp or the "Hanoi Hilton," as it became known. Then a Major in the U.S. Air Force, I had been captured and imprisoned from 1967-1973. Our treatment had been frequently brutal.

After three years, however, the beatings and torture became less frequent. During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade bucket.

One day as we all stood by the tank, stripped of our clothes, a young Naval pilot named Mike Christian found the remnants of a handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall. Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag. Over time, we all loaned him a little soap, and he spent days cleaning the material. We helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces of anything he could use.

At night, under his mosquito net, Mike worked on the flag. He made red and blue from ground-up roof tiles and tiny amounts of ink and painted the colors onto the cloth with watery rice glue. Using thread from his own blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on the stars.

Early in the morning a few days later, when the guards were not alert, he whispered loudly from the back of our cell, "Hey gang, look here."

He proudly held up this tattered piece of cloth, waving it as if in a breeze. If you used your imagination, you could tell it was supposed to be an American flag. When he raised that smudgy fabric, we automatically stood straight and saluted, our chests puffing out, and more than a few eyes had tears.

About once a week, the guards would strip us, run us outside, and go through our clothing. During one of those shakedowns, they found Mike's flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for him. Night interrogations were always the worst.

They opened the cell door and pulled Mike out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him in the torture cell. They beat him most of the night.

About daylight, they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken; even his voice was gone.

Within two weeks, despite the danger, Mike scrounged another piece of cloth and began another flag. The Stars and Stripes, our national symbol, was worth the sacrifice to him.

Now whenever I see the flag, I think of Mike and the morning he first waved that tattered emblem of a nation. It was then, thousands of miles from home, in a lonely prison cell, he showed us what it is to be truly free.

Posted by Deb at 01:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 13, 2004

D-Day, revisited

Via VodkaPundit, this D-Day observation in France:

On the eve of D-Day ceremonies, an association dedicated to the memory of Saint-L as it was before the destruction of the city organized a debate in the local theater involving two veterans, survivors of the bombing of the city and high school students aged 15 to 17.

The title of the debate, suggested by questions from the students, was "The Battle of Normandy, Invasion or Liberation?" It was the first troubling sign of the deterioration of the knowledge and understanding of the past.

The questions from the students were even worse. It was clear they were reading D-Day through the filter of Iraq. Their conversation with the survivors of the bombing of the city was most revealing. How could you welcome Americans as liberators, asked the young boys and girls, after they had reduced your city to ashes? Because "it was a sacrifice for France," replied their elders, shocked by the question.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Deb at 09:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 02, 2004

Overheard on a Marine Base

I visited the Marine Base at 29 Palms over the Memorial Day weekend and met several young 1/7 Marines, all friends of my own son. At one point, they were discussing the current lottery jackpot and what they would do if they won. One Marine noted that such a bonanza would mean a "material change in lifestyle" and that an enlisted winner could probably get out of deployment. I asked if any of them would do that and, to a man, they all said no. They have lived together, trained together, bonded as brothers, and none of them would let their buddies go back to the sandbox without them.

Posted by Deb at 09:27 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

"I was there"

LtCol Stan Coerr, USMC Reserve, asks an excellent question:

When is someone going to ask the guys that were there?

Here's a snippet:

The analogy is simple. For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused, but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis.

None of us had even heard those arguments for going to war until we returned, and we still don't understand the confusion. To us, it was simple. The world needed to be rid of a man who committed mass murder of an entire people, and our country was the only one that could project that much power that far and with that kind of precision. We don't make policy decisions: we carry them out. And none of us had the slightest doubt about how right and good our actions were.

The war was the right thing to do then, and in hindsight it was still the right thing to do. We can't overthrow every murderous tyrant in the world, but when we can, we should. Take it from someone who was there, and who stood to lose everything. We must, and will, stay the course. We owe it to the Iraqis, and to the world.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Deb at 02:07 AM

May 14, 2004

A message to our troops on Armed Forces Day

Ive watched a lot of TV, read a lot of news reports and editorials, followed stories of individuals and groups who have demonstrated against and issued statements regarding our government and our military. There has been much publicity regarding celebrity pronouncements and political edicts from people who know and people who should know better.

One thing that Ive learned over the years is that kids usually have a pretty good idea about what is happening in the world. And, they are willing to share their thoughts - we just have to be willing to listen. They often make more sense than some adults. I asked the second through fourth grade kids at a local elementary school what theyd like to say to our troops on Armed Forces Day. Here are some of their responses:

Thank you for giving people freedom like people in Iraq. I think you are very nice and strong and brave to fight for our country. I hope that one day I could be as strong and brave as you are. ~ Mandy

Thank you for keeping our country safe and for giving it all you got. ~ Spencer

I hope you are doing well. We all support you back here. I hope that you come back home safely to your family. You are doing something I hope to do when Im older. ~ Lindsey

Thank you so much for fighting for our country. You made a difference in peoples lives. ~ Ariel

Im proud that we are a a country that helps each other. ~ Megan

Thank you for fighting for our country. You are fighting for people you dont even know and that is so cool. You are risking your life for us. So thank you for everything you are doing and have done. ~ Rochelle.

I think that your service to the community is a great thing to be doing. You nsure our safety and help us get things like freedom. Thank you for risking your lives for our country. You are heroes in my eyes. I think you are very kind to do something like that. ~ Eli

Dear soldier; Thank you for being there for us and fighting for us, and saving us from them taking over our land and not letting them take over us. Thank you for being there for us. ~ Brittney

Thank you for making our state safe and free. I also want to thank you for taking care of our country and keeping us safe and free. I hope you live as long as you can. This part is to the Captain: Sir, it is an honor to have you read my letter. P.S. Sir, yes sir! ~ Kevin


Thank you for fighting for our country and leaving your homes just to fight for our country. I really appreciate what youve done for our country to save it. You are my big hero. God Bless America. Love Lizzy

These kids get it. They are unabashedly patriotic and not concerned with political posturing. And, to them, our troops are the real heroes.

Thanks to all who serve, protect, and defend. I agree with the kids - you are all heroes to me.


Posted by Deb at 10:17 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 12, 2004

A Marine Corps Dad's View

Frank Schaeffer, author of Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps and Faith of Our Sons has captured in this Baltimore Sun editorial the competing emotions of both unspeakable pride and unthinkable fear that every parent of a deployed Marine or soldier faces.

THE UNTHINKABLE: My youngest son, my friend, my fishing partner, the little boy I had patted to sleep, was at war. The traditional father-son roles were reversed. My child risked his life to protect me. And I was powerless to help him. I had unwittingly joined the ranks of the tens of thousands of family members for whom sick dread has been a way of life since we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. From March through December 2003, my son John, a corporal in the Marines, was facing roadside bombs and random bullets in Afghanistan. I was proud of his service - and terrified. I was also confronted by the reality that, except for families of our military men and women, few Americans, from my own circle of friends to our nation's leaders, seemed to be sharing my stomach-churning anxiety. Meanwhile, my heart was protected by nothing more than providence and John's Kevlar helmet and flak jacket.

Soon after John was deployed, and before I knew where he was located, I half-heard a snippet of news on a TV in a restaurant. "Three Marines died in a chopper crash." My gut cramped up too much to finish my meal. What three Marines? Where? From then on, every war-related bulletin cut like a knife.

When I'd hear about our losses, a sense of dread suffocated me till I knew it wasn't John who was killed or wounded. Maybe it was only a few terrible seconds. Maybe a time-stopping hour, or even an eternal half-day before I knew it wasn't John, but every announcement that began, "Today an American was killed" made my world go dark. When I found out it wasn't my son, I'd feel intense relief followed by intense shame at my relief: Someone else was getting the news.

My eyes would fill with tears for no reason. My wife suffered, too. In the mornings I would find her sleeping curled on John's bed. Sometimes I'd wake bathed in the moonlight pouring through our bedroom skylights and wonder: Did this moon provide light for a terrorist as he wired an IED (improvised explosive device) to kill John? Will today be the day?

John's calls were precious. I longed to learn how he was coping. Was he becoming a better or worse person, was he being hardened or made kinder? Was he surviving spiritually, emotionally? Had he killed people? Was his cheerfulness during our few short calls as insincere as mine?

"I hear they were shooting at you guys this weekend," I said as nonchalantly as I could.

"Did they report that in the paper?" John asked.

"Yes."

"They shoot at us all the time. The paper just happened to report it this time. Don't worry. Their aim isn't very good, and anyway, a lot of the time they're shooting at each other."

One morning while driving to buy a picnic table for an Easter get-together, I turned on the radio. "Today an American soldier was killed and five wounded when a patrol in southern Afghanistan was attacked." I had to slam on the brakes. My hands were shaking too hard to drive. They said "a soldier," not "a Marine," but often the media can't keep the two straight. How long did it take for the military to send someone to inform the family? Surely by now they'd be here if it were John.

I was fortunate; my son came home alive. He will start college this fall, now that he is completing five years of service. My friend, Gregory Commons, father of Cpl. Matthew A. Commons, has other hopes. One day he wishes to visit the mountaintop of Takur Gar, Afghanistan.

"Someday," Greg told me, "I hope to run the dirt through my fingers where Matthew died."

Matthew also wanted to go to college. He was an Army Airborne Ranger, and he was on the helicopter that was shot down during an attempt to rescue Navy SEAL Neil C. Roberts. Then Matt was shot.

We have an all-volunteer military, but we, the platoon of parents, wives, children and husbands of those who serve, have only one choice: to love or not. Our job is to struggle with our fears in plain sight of the carefree lives we used to live and in plain sight of our friends and leaders who have no direct involvement, no loved ones at risk, no skin in the game.

Copyright 2004, The Baltimore Sun


Posted by Deb at 02:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

Redefining "Hero"

In recent days, the nation has said goodbye to Army Ranger Patrick Tillman. Tillman's death in combat operations in Afghanistan caught national attention, because, at one point, Pat Tillman was a promising young NFL player, and the Arizona Cardinals thought highly enough of him to dangle a 3.5 million dollar contract as bait.

He turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Army.

Because he died in service to his nation, there's been a lot of attention paid to that decision. The national media has been all over the story. His death has been called a "tragedy", and Tillman has been hailed as a "hero". I've heard some interesting comments from military family members about this. Some question the attention that Tillman got, as opposed to the many others who've died on the battlefield, whom the national media has given one line in a list of casualties.

I don't begrudge the Tillman family one word of condolence from their fellow citizens, or one accolade that Pat Tillman's life has received.

Pat Tillman was, no doubt about it, "special". His death was a "tragedy". He lived his life as a bona fide "hero". None of that has to do with football. It wasn't his talent on the football field that made him special. It wasn't his ability to earn fame and fortune with that talent. Something else made Pat Tillman special.

When you compare Pat Tillman to others in professional sports, you can't help but notice the opulent, pampered lives of professional athletes. Unless you're living without the benefit of national media, you can't help but notice how many of them need criminal defense attorneys, either. However much attention they get, many of those talented athletes don't have the moral fiber or courage to earn the title of "hero". In that crowd, Pat Tillman is unique. When you compare him to the average, upwardly mobile, twenty something male in this country, he's a standout in that crowd, too.

Those people weren't his peers. Pat Tillman was a man who turned his back on the world's definition of success to face a greater challenge. He joined the Army. Not only did he join the Army, but he became one of the "elite" Rangers. Tillman made an honorable choice to serve his country. He followed through on that decision and he excelled.

To find his peers, you have to find other heroes. You have to seek out people who've made that same choice to serve in the defense of freedom on behalf of this nation. You have to find people who've passed on other opportunities, other paths for their futures, to pursue the same one that Pat Tillman chose. That group includes young men and women from small towns and big cities all over this nation.

When you ask military members about the death of Pat Tillman, they don't call him "special". They award him an accolade that the media cannot begin to understand. He's one of their own, and they call him "brother."

For a long time, the national media has talked about professional athletes as "heroes". I think that's changing. Our heroes can be honored for their skills, their talents, their sacrifices and their courage. They can be honored for protecting our lives, and our freedoms. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who wear the uniforms of the U.S. Armed Forces. They're all heroes, and Pat Tillman was one of them.

Posted by at 08:27 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 02, 2004

An Answer for Andy Rooney

Last month, Andy Rooney published a rant that characterized our troops as men and women who enlisted only because they couldn't find other jobs.

Our soldiers in Iraq are people, young men and women, and they behave like people sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes brave, sometimes fearful. It's disingenuous of the rest of us to encourage them to fight this war by idolizing them. We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. A relatively small number are professional soldiers. During the last few years, when millions of jobs disappeared, many young people, desperate for some income, enlisted in the Army.

Rooney then went on to pose a number of questions for our troops. Sgt. Hook thoughtfully collected responses from currently deployed soldiers. Here's an answer to Rooney's 4th question:

4. If you could have a medal or a trip home, which would you take?

I am not here to earn a medal Mr. Rooney. I am here to serve my country and defend our way of life. I am here to make sure there is a home for me to take a trip to.

A medal. (was the answer for 6 of the 15)

Oliver North, retired Marine also responded.

Not heroes, Andy? Meet Lance Corporal Conyers, a member of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. On April 6, Conyers was on patrol with his squad when they became engaged in a firefight. "I was out in front at an unlucky moment and took a round to the chest," Conyers told me, "then one ricocheted off the light pole next to me and hit me in the leg." The corpsman rushed to Conyers side and treated him, and Conyers stayed in the fight.

In his column, Rooney insists that our troops "want to come home," and says if he had the chance to interrogate our guys in uniform to prove his point, he would ask them, "If you could have a medal or a trip home, which would you take?"

What do you think Conyers chose, Andy? The bullet Conyers took in the chest was fired from an AK-47. It was inches from his heart and could have killed him. But because of the plate of armor he was wearing -- armor that critics told us would not work -- Conyers is alive. The wound Conyers received to his leg, a "through and through" wound, was his ticket home. But did Conyers take it? Of course not. Of the wound, he told me, "That won't keep me down," and said he owes it to his squad to "continue on and fight."

Lance Corporal Conyers is just one of hundreds of Marines and soldiers who, while fighting to defend the American public and liberate the Iraqi people, have been shot, hit, wounded and treated, only to stay on the battlefield and with their units instead of going home. These are remarkable young Americans.

Remarkable indeed. Pat Tillman gave his life while saving the lives of his squadmates. He fought valiantly and died a hero. And there are so many fallen heroes with similar stories.

North concluded:

May 1 marks the start of Military Appreciation Month. Millions of Americans will show their gratitude for the troops in a variety of ways. When Lance Corporal Conyers appeared with me the other night on Fox News's "Hannity & Colmes," Sean Hannity showed his appreciation to Conyers by promising to buy him a big, thick, juicy steak from Ruth's Chris steakhouse when he gets home. What are you going to do for them, Andy, other than criticize? One thing you could do to show your appreciation for our troops who are defending your right to speak is to shut the hell up.

Yep. And the question for critics, "What are you going to do for them, . . ., other than criticize?" is a good one. What are you going to do?

Posted by Deb at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

Thank you to the Spanish Army

When the 1/7 Marines came home from the An Najaf province last year, the Spanish Army took over. For the past year, they've engaged in humanitarian and peace-keeping operations in one of Iraq's holiest cities. Now, they are returning home - not by their choice but because of politics.

Last year, a couple of my friends - all Marine Corps Moms from Oregon - worked with me to send over 5,000 lbs. of school supplies to Najaf, Iraq to benefit the schoolchildren. We purchased and filled almost 700 backpacks with school supplies, and sent 50 teacher bags with classroom supplies. However, our Marines came home before our supplies arrived. With no one to receive the supplies and distribute them to the schools, we were stymied. But, Army Civil Affairs Sgt. Katie Utecht gave me an e-mail address for Major Pepe Perez Ucha, battalion commander for the Spanish Army in the Najaf province. Despite his responsibilities, he agreed to pick up our shipment in Kuwait City and transport it to Najaf. Without his assistance, the schoolchildren would not have been helped. He has worked very hard to ensure a better life for Iraqi children. Here is an e-mail I received last year that describes some of his activities:

Dear Deborah

My complet name is Mayor (Major) Jose Lis Perez Ucha. The e-mail addres is the best way to reach me. We are working a lot of rebuilding schools, and Social Affaires building. I want to tell you we are inagurated the school of Blinds and Deafs in najaf and the Orphanis. We visited the primary and secondary schools and Kufa and Najaf in order to fix it. We are about to buy two buses for the orphans to resolve the probleme of transportation of the children. Another day we organize a travel of 30 girls, these girls belong to the primary school which located in the city center of Najaf, 9 years old for Granada (Spain). These girls right now at Spain for touring and entertainement, eighteen days, to see amusement parks and Arabics monuments at Spain.

Best regards for all

It wasn't his choice to leave. And while he was there, he accomplished much good. Thank you, Major Ucha.

Update:
Tim Blair posted a link yesterday to a news item on the Spanish Army.

Aside from the military code of honour and their desire to finish the job, some Spanish troops said they were also sad to be leaving some of the Iraqi friends they had made in Diwaniyah.

Three soldiers manning the checkpoint at the entrance of the base were laughing with an Iraqi labourer who spoke to them in broken Spanish.

"I will miss these guys very much, I have gotten used to them," he said.


Posted by Deb at 02:55 PM | Comments (1)