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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

2/10 Marines return home

Photo and text by Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen
USN Corpsman Raymond W. Culver, serving with 2/10 Lima Company greets his wife Briana after returning from a seven-month deployment.
2/10 Marines are home after a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

“The Marines did a great job,” said 1st Lt. Steven C. Allshouse, Headquarters Battery commander.

While deployed, they completed numerous security operations to include providing security for firm bases around Iraq, patrols inside and outside of the firm bases, and convoy security for third country nationals.

According to Allshouse, some of the units were under constant small arms fire while doing their job. One incident with insurgents turned into a four-hour firefight, but the Marines handled the situation effectively.

Some Marines from the battalion were put in charge of security for one of the voting polls during the democratic election. Others were used as security for workers at one of the polling sites.

In addition to providing security, the battalion spent time helping the surrounding communities. The Marines participated in several construction projects restoring running water, plumbing and electricity to several villages near Camp Taqaddum. The Marines also distributed clothing and school supplies improving relations with the local populous.

“The local contractors and villagers were hired to improve the housing in the villages,” said Gunnery Sgt. Patrick T. Patton, information and operation chief with the battalion.

The battalions mission required extra personnel from Combat Service Support Battalion 1, 1st Force Service Support Group and several Army units. Many of these Marines joined the unit right before the battalion deployed. Within a few weeks of the deployment, the new Marines got to know the rest of the battalion and many new friendships were born, according to Allshouse.

The Marines of the battalion now receive a well-deserved block of leave to spend with their families and loved ones. After helping and protecting communities in a foreign country for seven months, these Marines now get to relax with the ones they protected at home.

Posted by Deb at 01:17 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

Midweek update from the Mayhem Marines

Here's another update from LtCol Mark Smith - if I weren't already a fan, his comments about the Oregon National Guard would have tipped that balance.

A mid-week "update" of sorts. As we continue to press the attack against our evil and cowardly enemy, and since chopping from the 2 BCT to the 5 BCT, we continue to receive enormous support and forces in the Mayhem AO. Some of those forces are from a National Guard Battalion, a company of which is from Oregon and depicted in the below article, who was chopped to the Mayhem Battalion a couple of weeks ago. Now, these Warriors have been OUTSTANDING. I say that for two reasons:
  1. I have seen much press bashing the National Guard. I can tell you this. Since chopping to the US Army Command, we have had significant contact with National Guard Units, particularly support units. They have gone out of their way to support the Mad Ghosts. They have always crashed through the walls of bureaucracy and provided maintenance and logistics support with a sense of urgency, based out of respect for the fight the Mad Ghosts are in. As Warriors, A and C 2-162, of which A or "Angel" Company is depicted below, have been dedicated, professional, and tactically proficient Warriors. THEY HAVE BEEN AN ABSOLUTE WELCOME ADDITION TO THE MAYHEM BATTALION, AND FOR ME, I HAVE NOTHING BUT RESPECT AND ADMIRATION FOR THE NATIONAL GUARD AND THEIR SERVICE TO THEIR NATION, THEIR PATRIOTISM, AND THEIR DEDICATION TO THE NEVER ENDING CAUSE OF FREEDOM.

  2. Second reason, they have fought side by side with YOUR Mad Ghosts. And, anyone that does that, well, HE is my brother...for life! May God Bless and Keep the Magnificent Families of 2/24, now inclusive of the families of A "Angel" and C "Cajun" Companies of the 2-162. Oregon just became part of the "Mayhem from the Heartland"...all the way from the Left Coast!

    LtCol Mark A. Smith, MAYHEM 6
    CO, Task Force 2/24

Posted by Deb at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oregon National Guard working with 2/24 Marines

Photo by Major Arnold V. Strong
Capt. Eric Riley calls for covering fire.

Major Arnold V. Strong, Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard, has been a lot of help to the Oregon Marine Corps Moms with past projects. Here's a story he recently released about the Oregon National Guard in Iraq, currently attached to the Mad Ghosts:

Six Roadside bombs. Three days. No casualties. An enemy on the run is a good enemy. A sure sign that the insurgency is on the run and the coalition is continuing its progress. Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, of the Oregon National Guard is currently attached to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, a Marine Corps Reserve unit that can relate to the citizen-soldiers of Oregon in more ways than as foot soldiers.

Since the day these soldiers have arrived in the sector, they have been in contact with a hidden enemy. In the past three days, six of the company's vehicles have been struck by Improvised Explosive Devices. In a testament to the strength of the equipment they are fielded with and the training they have borne by experience, none of the soldiers have been injured in the attacks. All but one of the vehicles, after a brief term in the maintenance shop, has been returned to the line.

Led by Capt. Eric Riley, 35, of Roseburg, Ore., and Sgt. Maj. Randall Mefford, 42, of Medford, Ore., Alpha Company is a unique element of the Volunteer battalion. True volunteers, the great majority of this unit are not native to the battalion but volunteered as augmentees from the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry out of Southern Oregon and 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry out of the Portland area. Many of these soldiers have already served on Active Duty since September 11th, 2001, either as peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula, with the Multinational Force and Observers mission of 2002 or as ground infantry in Operations Iraqi Freedom I in 2003. When the chance to again serve in combat alongside their fellow Oregon Guardsmen came, hundreds of Oregon citizen soldiers volunteered to join the fight. This company is a shining example of that Volunteer spirit.

For most of the soldiers in this unit, the change in pace from Baghdad is refreshing and an opportunity to close this deployment on the high point of targeting the enemy and destroying the resistance of the insurgency in the last few weeks they serve as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

"At least it doesn't smell like burning garbage and raw sewage out here," said Lieutenant Michael "Corey" Jones, 27, of Grant's Pass, Ore., of the change from urban sprawl to rural farmland on the first day the unit served here in the Babel province, south of Baghdad. By the end of the third night here, his assessment was far more direct. "Forget the IEDs. It is just a sign of how desperate these guys are. I want to go house to house, tell these people that we are here to find the bad guys and I want to get these guys that are killing our trucks and trying to kill us," he said to a dark room full of battle hardened noncommissioned officers. "This is where it's at," he told his squad leaders. "This is the best place to be for all of us right now. It is the last chance we have to get the bad guys, tell these people that we mean business and that we are not going to tolerate their nonsense," he concluded.

The company has been doing just that. In taking the fight to the enemy, they are moving, platoon by platoon, building by building, room by room, mounted in HMMWVs or dismounted on foot through thick marsh-filled farm lands, across this rural landscape; establishing their presence and informing the local farmers and village merchants of their purpose: to stop the insurgency that is exploiting the people of Iraq, to confiscate the means to destroy coalition forces and to capture or destroy the terrorists. It is a purpose that these soldiers take very seriously. Eight of their brothers in arms have made their final journey home since this battalion arrived in Iraq last year and with six roadside bombs detonated in the past three days, many of these war weary troops want to destroy the enemy with extreme prejudice, move themselves and their equipment North for the final withdrawal from Iraq and get home to their families, friends and communities in the next month.

"It is clear that we have the enemy on the run," said Capt. Riley. "I just returned from the (Marine) battalion command and they want all of us to know that, as dangerous as it has been in the past days, this is a sign of the desperation of these insurgents that their only method of attack is with these IEDs," he said in describing a meeting with the staff and commander of the 2-24 Marines. "Beside all of that, you need to remind your men of the great work they are doing. This is the best way we could possibly close out this deployment, and your men are doing a fantastic job," he concluded.

The little things seem to make this trip more tolerable, if not enjoyable. Last night, the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Sgt. 1st First Class Shannon Compton, 38, of Roseburg, Ore., brought a special gift from the 2-24th Marine Battalion Commander. On a resupply mission to the battalion's headquarters, Sgt. Compton picked up crates of potatoes, green peppers and onions, boxes of frozen hot dogs, buns and cases of condiments for an old fashioned hot dog roast. In the courtyard of the bombed out former police station that has become home to these citizen-soldiers and Marine reservists, Sgt. Compton and his noncommissioned officers made a feast to write home about. "This is awesome," said Specialist Baldwin, 25, of Salem, Ore., "This is the first hot meal we've had in about a week. And it was good," he paused. "Awesome."

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

Keeping Iraq Safer

A 2nd LAR Apache Weapons Marine on post. The sign reads: "Suicide Bomber Checkpoint. Please stand on the wooden pallet, open your coat and raise your hands. Do not approach the sentry until directed."

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

1/7 Update - "We accomplished our mission"

Here is the latest update from Lt.Col. Woodbridge - homecoming is so close!

First off, let me apologize for not sending an update to this message for a while. As our deployment to Iraq comes to an end we have been any less busy, and most of the month of January was a blur of activity preparing for and conducting the Iraqi elections.

I'm sure you have all seen what a success the elections here have been, and you should all be very proud of the work our nation and your marines and sailors did to make this a reality. These were the first free, democratic elections in Iraq in over 30 years, and this historic event marks the beginning of Iraq's future as a free country. The entire battalion taskforce performed flawlessly in supporting this event. We accomplished our mission and provided a secure environment for the citizens of Al Qa'im to exercise their right to choose to participate in the future of their country.

Now, the question I know is on everyone's mind: when will we be home? Let me tell you, it feels great to be able to say: "the battalion will be home next month." We will, but until I have the exact days and times, I'm not going to get anyone's hopes up. As soon as we know who is flying home on specific flights, we will let you know.

As close as our return is, everyone must keep in mind that the deployment is not over until we walk off the buses at 29 Palms. Between now and then we will continue to operate in this extremely hazardous place. Over the next few weeks we will very busy as we both engage the enemy and prepare to turn the area over to the battalion relieving us. Your support and prayers are even more vital now as we make a hard sprint into the finish line. Your Marines and sailors have the courage and endurance to push through to the end, so please be as strong as they are, and before you know it, we will be with you.

God bless you and Semper Fidelis,
LtCol Woodbridge

Posted by Deb at 04:11 PM | Comments (4) | 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

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 23, 2005

Carrying on the tradition of Iwo Jima

60 years ago today, February 23, 1945, two American flags were raised on Mount Suribachi. The first flag was a photo opportunity and the Marines who carried it posed at the photographer’s direction. Even so, the sight of this flag, fluttering over the beach where thousands of Marines had lost their lives in a brutal battle, was a potent symbol of victory over a fierce enemy. The battle lasted 36 days and resulted in 25,851 casualties, including almost 7,000 deaths of Marines and Sailors. But when the flag went up, Marines on the beachhead below raised their voices, cheering as conquering warriors. They were heroes, all. And it’s worth noting that 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for exceptional bravery during that battle – out of 84 total MOHs during WWII. And, James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, commented to Commanding Officer Howlin’ Mad Smith, “Holland, the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”

The first flag was short lived – it was removed as battalion property and a second flag raised in its place. The raising of that second flag, captured on film by photographer Joe Rosenthal, is a symbol for eternity. Symbols have power. The raising of the flag stands for victory over oppression, the triumph of good over evil. Marines, more than any other branch of the service understand that symbolism.

The Marine Corps Hymn, sacred to all former and present Marines, contains the line, “Our flag’s unfurl’d to every breeze from dawn to setting sun” In every victorious battle, the American flag has been raised however briefly. When the statue of Sadaam came down in Baghdad, the American flag was unfurl’d to be immediately replaced by the Iraqi flag. As it should be. But the imagery lives on.

And, when Fallujah fell last fall, our Marines raised flags of victory in the tradition of Iwo Jima. Our Marines understand full well that the reason for this war in Iraq was the war waged on us when over 3,000 were killed on September 11, 2001. When the Battle of Fallujah was concluded last November, the brave warriors of 3/1, under the command of Co. Willy Buhl, reenacred the flagraising at Iwo Jima. Here’s the story behind it from John Wintersteen, Adjutant - Mt. Diablo Det. 942, Marine Corps League:

Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardmen, Seabees and Patriots - One of our adopted units, 3rd Bn, 1st Marines, the "Thundering Third", has planted the Four Flags that flew at Ground Zero in December, onto the soil of Fallujah, Iraq. Marines from India, Kilo and Lima companies are shown in the accompanying photos, sent to us by Col Willy Buhl, CO of 3/1. I have forwarded these photos to Lt. Mary Ellen Ferris and Lt. Joe Randazzo of the NYPD, who arranged for this chain of events. To think that Mt. Diablo Detachment was honored by having our picture taken with these flags on 18 December, and to ship them to the Colonel a week later to make the connection between the NYPD/NY Port Authority PD and the Marines, is very special to me. Another key person in the exchange is MSGT John Mitchell, USMC (Ret.), (Chosin Survivor, Korean War) and friend I made in 2000 at the first reunion of my Boot Camp Platoon at Parris Island (Plt 208 - 1959). John is Mary Ellen's cousin and because of that connection, we were contacted and asked to find a unit to which the Flags should be sent. Col Buhl's 3rd Bn, 1st Marines was a natural since he kept us constantly updated with situation reports and acknowledged our shipments several times. Not only that, he is from Los Gatos, CA - a homeboy, so to speak. Another connection for me is his Kilo Company Commander, Captain Tim Jent, a lad from Sparta, New Jersey - great memories of Lake Mohawk. If it weren't for the fact that our Detachment started shipping boxes after the death and in honor of Lance Corporal Kyle Crowley - San Ramon, California - we would never have been involved in what I consider a historic, symbolic event. Our shipments are the reason we were contacted in the first place. And, all of our beloved Contributors are a part of this too. All of those who sent donations and all of those who brought us goods to ship are connected to the planting of those Flags. When you look at those tough, young Marines planting those Flags, pat yourselves on the back, would you? Be proud that you helped the NYPD and the NYPAPD honor our Marines and all troops by helping with Project Marine Care. In turn, these pictures and a video of these Flags flying will help those Police Departments honor the 60 people they lost on 9-11. I hope you feel as touched as I do. If this helps raise the morale of those Marines and those Police Officers one iota, then we have done our job.

p.s. Besides the American Flag, the other three flags are the NYPD (with green stripe), the NY Port Authority Flag (multi-colored) and the World Trade Center Flag (Twin Towers) - that Flag was designed by the NY Port Authority Police Dept. and they are responsible for Ground Zero.

Posted by Deb at 04:40 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Planning for homecoming

For some families, the countdown to our Marine's homecoming is almost in single digits. Almost. Others are just starting the adventure, but the focus for each of us is the same - our son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister stepping off the bus and into our waiting arms.

The anticipation can overwhelm the reality and it's good to know what to expect. Chaplain Benson with the CSSB-7 has these words of wisdom, primarily for spouses but they apply to parents as well.

Principles to live by in reuniting:

  1. Change happens
    Your Marine or Sailor has changed to a greater or lesser extent. They have been given responsibility and placed in demanding situations in a combat environment. During the past six months, you have also changed. You have been through experiences that have effected you and changed you. The good news is that change doesn’t have to be bad! It may be a positive force in your relationship if you are open to it. It will be easier to reunite if you accept that things may be different.

  2. Go slow
    You may be tempted to want to make up for lost time, but those who have been through this process consistently say it is best to take it slow. Take time to become reacquainted and renew the emotional bonds. This is especially true for those with children. Small children may react with shyness or fear at the return of your Marine or Sailor. Try not to pressure the child to react a certain way, but let your child warm up to your loved one’s return on his or her own time. For spouses, those who have been in your shoes recommend going slow with physical intimacy. Remember that intimate relationships may be awkward at first, and it is wise to tone down your fantasies – reality may be quite different! It is also a good idea to let the person returning set the pace on social and family activities. They may not be ready for a large family reunion right after getting off the plane. Be sure to talk about any planned visits from extended family with your returning Marine or Sailor to make sure you are on the same sheet of music.

  3. Communication is the key
    Talk with each other about your experiences, but avoid the “Who Had It Worse” game. No one wins that one! You each have had challenges and hardships as well as achievements and accomplishments. Communicate openly with your partner and family in healthy ways. Speaking the truth with love is the best way to successfully reunite with your loved one.

  4. Use help
    If you find that you or your Marine or Sailor is struggling with this process, use the help that is available. On base there are Chaplains and Family Service centers that offer a variety of help. If you aren’t near a base, make use of community resources, Veteran Affairs, churches, family and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help early instead of letting things get worse. You aren’t alone!

You can have a joyful and successful return and reunion with your loved ones! A little thought and discussion can take you a long way. Once again, I want to thank you for your support and efforts to care for your Marine or Sailor in Iraq! Your efforts have made a difference for us! Personally, I would like to say that it has been an honor and privilege to work with the men and women of CSSB7. You can be proud of them and they way they have represented our nation in this place.

May God bless you!

When my son came home from OIF1 in October 2003, he had served in a relatively safe place. Najaf was a holy city and the people there loved the Marines. When my son stood guard, men from the city would bring their chairs and sit with the Marines as a show of solidarity and support. When 1/7 left Najaf to return home, citizens lined the streets as the convoy left town. Many wept.

So, when he stepped off the bus, he was happy to be home and his stress level was relatively low. I didn't know what to expect so I didn't make any plans beyond that first hug. After the company had a brief formation and were released to their anxious families, we walked up the hill to his new home in the barracks. The boxes of belongings that he'd left in storage prior to deployment were waiting for him and, like a Marine, he attended to business. Each box was unpacked and his belongings stowed in the available storage space. On the inside flap of each box was a handwritten scrawl, "I love you Mom". As he unpacked, he explained that if he didn't come back, he wanted me to know that. And, he didn't understand why I cried. I still have those pieces of cardboard - they're in his baby book with tiny inked footprints and a lock of hair from his first haircut.

After he'd finished his on base business, he told me he'd like to visit Los Angeles, so we headed west. When we hit the city limits, it was after midnight and we found the nearest In-N-Out Burger - there's nothing like that in Iraq. The reverse culture shock was significant; we walked in at the same time a performing group tour bus pulled in. Shane looked at the musicians spilling from the bus - blue hair, amazing clothes, rapping and clapping - and muttered, "I want to go back to Iraq".

Over the next few days, he adjusted to his return home. Having choices was a novelty. I learned very quickly that when we went into a restaurant that he would order everything that he'd missed while deployed, but eat just a few bites. Not a problem. It was good to see him satisfied and I didn't order for myself - instead, I ate what he couldn't. He thought he might like to go to Disneyland, so we checked into a hotel across the street from the main gate. Although we walked around the Downtown Disney part, we didn't go in the parks. Choices. He had spent the last seven months following a very regimented lifestyle. Now, he was home and the variety of options was disorienting. So, he set the pace and by the end of three days, he was somewhat back to normal.

This time will be different. His company has been in a volatile area for seven months and they've seen significant action. Again, I'm not making any plans past that first hug - he'll set the pace and I'll accomodate him. He thinks he wants to go to Vegas and I'm looking forward to that 220 mile drive. 4 hours of reconnecting as a family is going to be a very short trip.

Posted by Deb at 01:11 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

"Little by little, success comes"

Col. Tucker, Commanding Officer for RCT-7, has been busy for the last few months - this update tells why:

It has been 4 months since I have written. Much has passed in those months: a time of great victories, an election, the emergence of a competent, professional Iraqi Army and Police units who stand to their tasks, and a tipping point in this battle against terror and evil.

I believe that my last letter was dated 18 October 2004. On 21 October—under cover of one of those dirt-fog nights unique to Iraq; with drivers barely able to see the edges of their hoods---the RCT Command Element moved from Al Asad to Camp Baharia, a protected “FOB” about 5 kilometers east of Fallujah.

TF 1/8 joined us two days later; BLT 1/3 a few days after that. We added 2d Recon Bn to the mix, assumed an area of operations south of Fallujah, and between 25 October and 6 November conducted a series of operations in the vicinity of Fallujah designed to force the enemy to show his hand.

Meanwhile, back in Al Asad, the Command Element of 31 st MEU assumed command of operations in our old AO. TF 1/7 remained in place vic Al Qaim. TF 1/23 remained in place vic Hit-Haditha. And 3d LAR, for a time, remained in place in Korean Village near Ar Rutbah. As plans developed, the 3d LAR HQs, one LAR Company, and B Co 1/23 would eventually move east and join RCT-1.

On 5 November, TF 2-2, a U.S. Army Mechanized Bn joined RCT-7. At 1900 on 8 November, the RCT crossed the line of departure north of Fallujah, By 2200 all three battalions were through the breach and fighting in the city. There followed 30 days of intense infantry combat fought in houses, tunnels, spider holes, and underground complexes against an enemy who routinely feigned surrender, feigned injury, used women and children as shields, booby trapped his dead and fought to the death from fortified and mutually supporting positions. The actions and courage of your Marines and Sailors were aptly captured in the media and I have neither the time nor adequate words to describe their actions here. History will record their deeds with an honor due their forefathers.

We pulled out of Fallujah on 8 December, and assumed an area of operations around the city. BLT 1/3 remained in the city with RCT-1. TF 1/8 and 2d Recon Bn joined the RCT in the outlying area of operations. In January 2005 TF 3/8 replaced TF 1/8. And on Feb 5 th 2005 the RCT returned to Al Asad, leaving Fallujah and environs as the safest place in the Sunni Triangle. We relieved 31 st MEU on 8 Feb, and once again assumed control of our old area of operations. As I write both 3d LAR and B Co 1/23 have returned to us and the RCT team is whole again.

Al Asad is crowded. We are beginning the RIP with RCT-2 and 2d MarDiv; their advance parties and lead elements are flowing into theater and into our AO. 29 Palms units will start flowing home soon, with CSSB-7 leading the way towards the end of this month, and then your husbands, fathers, uncles, and sons begin flowing in a steady stream of homecomings that will happily consume the month of March. Still work to be done here. But we are anxious to come home.

Ok…just one picture today. And there is a story to go with it.

Election day. RCT-7 is assisting the Iraqi Security Forces and IECI at two polling sites located within 10 kilometers of the city of Fallujah. Much work and preparation has gone into this day---a strong effort to ensure that those Iraqis who chose to vote can vote in safety. Polls open at 0700. At 0915 I am at the easternmost polling site in my AO. And not a single voter has come to the polls. At 0930, a man, two women, and two children walk up to the security gate, into the polling station, and then depart. As they are leaving the man walks up to the Iraqi Army Colonel standing with me and tells us that there is a “group” of people gathered in the nearest city who want to come vote, but want to be reassured it is safe. He informs us he is going to go tell them it is safe. 20 minutes later, 1500 Iraqi men and women come over the hill and take their place in line. For the next 7 hours, the scene in this photograph remained unchanged as 5000 people from the surrounding community walked over the hill and into history. Over 7000 voted in the city of Fallujah itself. 12,000 in an area that 3 months before was the hells acre of terrorists and vicious criminals. It is now the safest area in the Sunni Triangle. And it will remain so.

Twice in the course of this day the enemy fired mortars at the polling station. In both cases the mortars flew harmlessly overhead and impacted as duds in the field beyond. The women prayed, the men held their children close. But they all calmly held their places in line, and they cheered when we located and killed both mortarmen.

Women cried as they walked out after voting. Both women and men walked up to and hugged the Marines as they walked out of our perimeter. TF 3/8 was holding that perimeter, and had been in Iraq for less then 2 weeks.

But the Marines from my Detachment have been here for a year. Cocky, confident young men. Men of 19 and 20 and 21 who have fought their way through 4 major battles, traveled over 30,000 miles on some of the most dangerous roads in Iraq, 10 of whom have been wounded and returned; young men who have handed candy to children, painted schools, pulled children out of the line of fire, played soccer with their Iraqi peers, and helped farmers pull tractors out of the mud. And they watched. And waved. And returned the hugs. They stood there with an air of accomplishment and satisfaction that cannot be described in words. About 1300, as the line showed no sign of diminishing, one of the Corporals walked over to me and said “Sir, we knew they would come.” And we did. Those of us here knew they would come. You don’t often get a chance to see a nation show its courage. On 30 Jan 2005, the people of Iraq reminded us of the virtue of self-determination. We continue to win. Little by little, success comes until it tips inexorably towards victory. And it has tipped. There is much to do still. But it will be said---of those who have fought this last year for the future of Iraq and the destruction of the terror that threatens our nation---it can and will be said that they ventured into hell, and did not return with empty hands.

Share your courage. We will be home soon.

Posted by Deb at 10:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005


More from the awesome warriors of 2/24:

Greetings. I hope beyond hope that this letter finds you in high spirits, good health, and planning feverishly for that day when you will be reunited with your beloved Marine or Sailor, your Mad Ghost. It truly is rapidly approaching! Advance elements of the unit that will be replacing us are on deck and learning the Mayhem AO. And, I just completed a two hour orientation brief from my staff on redeployment planning. All of this is relayed to you so that you may know it is a horizon event, and you are rapidly approaching the spot where the sun meets the sea!

Now, that said, the fight continues, and it continues in earnest. This was a good week. THIS WAS A VERY GOOD WEEK!!! We completed the third of three Bn Operations that were dubbed Red Mayhem I, II and III. These Operations combined the assets and forces of the Red Team, our HHQ, the 5th Brigade Combat Team, and your Magnificent Mayhem Mad Ghosts in company succession, I for Fox, II for Golf and III for Echo. As always, our magnificent Mobile Strike Teams provided lethality and maneuver, the Personal Security Detachment provided for mobile Command and Control and movement of Mayhem 6, the Motor T and Truck Platoons provided mobility and critical support, the Comm Section provided the communications assets for Command and Control, the HET Marines provided the interrogation set and skill, remaining elements of H&S provided stalwart FOB defense, our Navy brethren provided medical care and religious services and our Staff Section Marines surged from their standard 18-20 hour day duties to augment the combat forces and power of the Mayhem, and our magnificent military working dogs, Tino and Dingo, were forward in the fight, where they most like to be. Yes, THIS WAS A VERY GOOD WEEK!!!

In each and every one of these operations, the insurgency learned, yet again, we go where we want, we go where they think we can't or WON'T, and we find them; we find their caches and we bring help, assistance and hope to those whom they have terrorized. During Red Mayhem III, some of the caches we found had been buried with all of the skill of a puppy first learning how to bury a bone. The Marines and Soldiers from the 1-7 CAV, as well as our Iraqi Army counterparts found them with relative ease and very early on in the operation. And, by the way, on this operation we assigned our Iraqi Army counterparts, for the first time, their own search sector. Marines from the Civil Action Platoon from Co E acted from overwatch only. And, if I might, the Iraqi Army performed magnificently! They found several caches of insurgent/terrorist weaponry, and they moved and acted like professional soldiers from start to finish. Yes, they are inching ever closer to the day that THEY WILL operate without US Forces, and will crush those who oppose law and order.

There is no doubt the tables have turned against the insurgents in our zone! The atmospherics we get from the people are SIGNIFICANTLY different than when we first arrived. They talk of fighting back against the insurgents. They talk openly of their respect for us and their gratitude at our assistance. They are far less afraid to be seen talking and cooperating with us. They are growing. GROWING IN FREEDOM in what will be a long process, but one whose outcome is inevitable. There is a wind of change in this part of the world. And it blows strong and hot. And it blows with a discontent for evil, for repression, for tyranny, for brutality. It blows with it a desire for peace, for righteousness, for dignity, for tolerance and for FREEDOM. I tell you, you can taste it in the air.

Now, our enemy will not cease. He continues his daily war of IEDs and cowardly tactics. The Mad Ghosts continue to hunt him relentlessly. For example, this week, the Marines of Mobile Strike Team 2 were executing one of the unique techniques that have been adopted by the ever evolving Mad Ghosts, but will remain ambiguous for security reasons, when they seized a boat on a canal. In the boat were IED making materials and the two Iraqis in the boat tested positive for explosives, and were immediately detained. One of the sharp Marines noticed wire, which they traced to a daisy-chained IED consisting of 11 explosive rounds! The IED was safely disposed of by the professional US Navy EOD team currently assigned to the Mayhem Battalion. This was but just one of the many HUGE successes accomplished this week by your Mad Ghosts.

Let me tell you another one. The Marines of Co E, who have to have set a record for miles logged in foot patrols, and whose phsyical condition is currently second to no one, were on one of their daily and continuous patrols through Mahmudiyah. While on this patrol, they were approached by a local who told them of a shooting a couple of blocks away. The local explained that armed men pulled up in a couple of cars, sprayed another car with machine gun fire, kidnapped the male driver, left the female driver for dead, and then placed a bomb in the trunk. Now, immediately, the Marines of Co E knew this was a standard tactic of our enemy who knows no limit to his cowardice. They approached the scene cautiously and established a safe cordon around the vehicle. From the cordon, the squad's US Navy Corpsman, through long range observation, saw what he believed to be bubbles forming in the blood underneath the nose of the supposed dead female. "Doc" made the decision that she was still alive. With that information, the Doc and the Squad Leader moved forward, extricated the female, and were approximately 30 meters away when the car detonated in a huge fireball of death and destruction. This entire episode was captured by one of the Marines on video and is as dramatic as any Hollywood scene you have ever viewed. Now, we can debate the smartness of their actions all we want, but what I ultimately know is this: this Marine and Sailor COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY DISREGARDED THEIR OWN SAFETY TO SAVE THE LIFE OF AN INNOCENT IRAQI WHO HAD BEEN GUNNED DOWN IN COLD BLOOD, IN BROAD DAYLIGHT ON A BUSY STREET! Now unfortunately, the women later died at the Mahmudiyah Hospital. But know this, the Iraqi crowd that had gathered to witness this whole event, well, they cheered. No, check that, they celebrated in the Arab way of near hysteria for the heroic actions of the Doc and the Marine. They saw once again what AMERICANS are all about. And, I have no doubt, once again, they have learned. They have learned for future actions. They have learned evil and terror can be fought. They have learned that there is a heavy price, BUT GOOD ALWAYS TRIUMPHS OVER EVIL!!!!! (Now this video should be released soon, and if it does not make the major media outlets, well, then something is wrong! But if it does not, we will show it to you all upon our return.) It is heroism in action, and just another day at the office for the Mad Ghosts of 2/24.

One more story and then I shall take my leave of you for another week so that you may turn to your important tasks and duties. This story revolves around a pin: it is called the Fleet Marine Force Pin. It is a decoration that may be worn by US Navy Corpsman who have earned it. It says that they are Fleet Corpsman. It says that they have completed the required screening, training and evaluation to wear this pin. It is a US Navy design with a United States Marine Corps Eagle Globe and Anchor emblazened in the center of it. And...it is coveted. For all that is difficult to attain is cherished most. One of the things that has to be accomplished to achieve the pin, just one of many, is for the Sailor to pass the USMC physical fitness test. Today, one did. But, you ask, what is so special about that? Well, part of the USMC Physical Fitness Test is a 3 mile run. And, in the Mayhem AO, we embrace the warrior spirit, we do not challenge it. So, EVERY TIME you leave a hardened structure, whether it is to go to the porta-pottie or to run 3 miles inside the wire around the FOB, you do it with your helmet on, your flak jacket and SAPI plates on (approximately 30 lbs) and with your weapon and ammunition. So, this is how the good Doc ran his 3 miles. In full up gear, or as we like to say "full battle rattle!" And, he accomplished it in 27 minutes. Phenomenal time with that much gear on.

Only accomplished through sheer determination and will to succeed. But, for you hard to impress types, let me add a couple more facts. The Doc that did this....oh yeah, he is 55 years old! You heard me, 55 years old. He is a brain surgeon in Chicago! He joined the Navy at 52 to give back to his country following the impacts felt around the world on September 11, 2001. He has a fantastic wife and two lovely children. He to this day refuses to tell me how much money he is losing by being here, but my simple Hoosier mind knows it is at least 6 figures, if not 7. He is as hard as woodpecker lips and as gentle as a fall breeze. He is the man we should ALL aspire to be. He has taken sacrifice and dedication and compassion and EXAMPLE to a new level. And you know what; in the middle of the blood and the mud and the hate and the terror and the fear and the violence, I have never once seen him that he did not have a smile on his face! His enthusiasm is contagious. He is an amazing human being. And although my junior in rank, he is a shining example of manhood and the Warrior Code, and we are all just lucky as lucky gets to have him among us!!!


Posted by Deb at 09:09 PM

Connected to the Marine Corps Family

Connie and I will be guests on the new MSNBC show, Connected: Coast to Coast today, talking about how we cope with our sons' deployments and how we support other Marine Corps parents through our website and blog. Please tune in, then come back and give us a thumb's up or thumb's down!

Posted by Deb at 01:32 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 20, 2005

Airport Gate Passes for Military Passenger Family Members

The TSA has put out a security directive that applies to Military Passengers. Security Directive 1544-01-10w explains how this works.

"Military Passenger" Family Members may be given a pass

  • To escort the military passenger to the gate
  • To meet a military passenger's inbound arrival at the gate.

Family members who want to escort the service member to the departure gate must request a pass when the service member checks in for his or her flight at the ticket window.

Family members who want to meet their returning hero at the arrival gate should check first at the USO Office if the airport has one. If not, they should request a pass at the ticket counter. In order to get through security checkpoints, every family member will need the gate pass and photo ID. Not all airports/airlines allow this but it might help for the service member to notify the departure airport that family members will be asking for gate passes at the other end.

This will be a welcome change for our troops - they won't have to wait as long for that first hug!

Posted by Deb at 11:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Semper superbus...nunca plenus

Major Holton from 2/24 Golf Company sends along this update from the sandbox:

This past week saw the return of 3rd Platoon to the company, after a period of about a month where they “belonged” to the army. They have continued to thrive in conducting the separate and critical mission of securing the Main Supply Route that runs through our area of operations. Without a doubt, they have experienced the roughest continuous living conditions of anyone in the battalion. To give you an idea of how others view them/us, when the army unit they worked with drove up for the first time to their positions, they asked, “Where do you stay at?” When the Marines replied, “We stay out here,” the soldiers shook their heads and said “We’re not staying out there.” But our guys do it, and they do it because a conscious decision has been made that this approach is the best way to accomplish the mission. Luckily, the company is blessed with a group of men who understand that mission accomplishment is not just important when the task is easy.
The past 10 days has been one of the most professionally rewarding periods of my life. The elections were a great accomplishment that every one of our Marines and sailors can be proud of for the rest of their lives. What occurred on that day, from the great turnout of voters, to the low effectiveness of violence by the insurgents, was a testament to all of the hard work that has been put into this area for the months leading up to them. We had the opportunity to help bring about a process that we take for granted in our country, but which I think meant a lot to the people of this country. Though in the big scheme of things, the elections were only one step, they were a huge step. If this country is ever going to be truly free, this step had to happen. And the fact that it did, almost flawlessly after all of the warnings and “doom and gloom” predictions, made it that much more impressive. After the elections, your Marines rolled right back into “normal” operations and has continued to push. Just yesterday, we conducted an operation that netted our company’s best one-day output of detained insurgents since we arrived here. We continue to execute in everything we are given. I feel confident that there is no tactical mission that can be given to us that we wouldn’t knock out of the park. Why do I feel that way? Because history and experience are the best gauges for predicting the future, and my history and experience with Golf Company is that we have succeeded in every tactical mission we have ever been given (now if we could stop losing gear, I may be able to remain as company commander until we get back to Wisconsin!). It really is neat to see the type of things that our guys do automatically now, and then to see the sum of all of the parts in operation. When we are in the middle of tactical operations, everyone knows what they are supposed to do, accepts their role, and then does it to the very best of their ability. It sounds so simple, but just those three actions, consistently applied, has been our secret of success. And it doesn’t just happen by chance. You should know that the Marines leading this company -- the platoon commanders, platoon sergeants, squad leaders, and all of the noncommissioned officers – continue to lead in the best way possible…by example. If there is one thing that I am proudest of within the company is that we don’t have Marines that lead by fear, directive, or rank alone.

We have people who “get it” that important component of leading is by doing and letting those around observe what the expectation is.

I feel as though I have to thank you once again for the great job your loved ones are doing over here. One of the other things that I am proud of in this company is how close the Marines and sailors are to one another. Yes, we all have ranks and our guys know well how to operate within the rank structure. But more important than having great Lance Corporals, Corporals, Sergeants, Captains, and Majors is just having great Marines and great men. And that is what we have in Golf Company. These guys offer no pretense to be that which they are not. They just go out every day and get the mission done. The mission is repetitious and challenging in the enormous consistency it requires to attain success. Every day when a squad walks or drives out of the base for an operation, the challenges it might face on that day range from looking for and/or discovering an improvised explosive device, dealing with angry people who have complaints about water, gas, or lack of a job, or getting sniped at randomly from some location. Sometimes, the challenges they face are finding a small boy who has been beaten up and left in an abandoned house, dealing with a man who has been detained for insurgent activity who then has a heart attack, or having the mother of a detained man faint and slump to the ground as her son was led away. In all cases, your Marines and sailors have had to transition from one mindset to another very different one in a matter of seconds, and then to make decisions and act when literally lives are in the balance. They have proven themselves quite adept at the type of flexibility this demands.

We continue to pray for our wounded Marines. Staff Sergeant Simon, Sergeant Ganem, Sergeant Cornell, Lance Corporal Skaar, and Lance Corporal Kruchten are on our mind all of the time and we are grateful to get the updates on their progress. We look forward to the reunion with them and are proud to have had the wonderful opportunity to serve with them. We also keep in our mind the sacrifices that were made by Corporal Warns, Lance Corporal Ramey, Lance Corporal O’Donnell, and Lance Corporal Cantafio made for all of us. I am in awe of such men and consider myself extremely lucky to have the opportunity to serve in the company of heroes.

The next few weeks will test us in ways that we wouldn’t have envisioned five months ago. Not only will we be fighting an active (but dwindling) insurgency, we will also be fighting complacency and our desire to be home NOW. The tasks and missions that were brand new three months ago are commonplace to us now. We have the benefit of being able to apply experience to almost any task now; however, we also have the danger of what is routine causing us not to address each task with the amount of detail that is due in combat operations. Our time will come and we know it will seem like a blink of the eye before we are reunited with all of you at Madison Airport. Until then, help us to keep the kind of singular focus that has helped the company to be as successful as it has. If you haven’t been stern with your Marine/Sailor to date, now is the time to do it. If you haven’t lectured your son/brother/husband/friend, now is the time to do it. Focus is all we really need to ensure that we can finish in the way that we a started, and is the strongest variable in the equation that equals all of our Marines and Sailors stepping off the plane and into your arms. Have a great week, thanks again for what you do to support us individually and as a company, and I will send out another update next week.

Best regards,

Adam Y. Holton
Major, United States Marine Corps Reserve

“Semper superbus...nunca plenus!!!”
“Always proud...never satisfied!!!”

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