Soldiers/Vets Archive

Memorial Day 2010

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I've not lost any close friends or family in the service of our country, so on this Memorial Day I remember the sacrifices of two men I never met.

• First Lieutenant Jonathan Shine, USA (KIA October, 1970)

• Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shine, USAF (MIA 1972-1996)

I only know of these two men because, before I enlisted, I was enrolled for two years as an ROTC cadet under the command and tutelage of their brother, Colonel Alexander Shine, USA (Ret.)

Apart from losing both of his brothers, he himself was seriously wounded in Vietnam, and awarded the Silver Star for actions there. Though I have had only a couple of extremely intermittent contacts with the Colonel over the years, he remains one of the finest men it's ever been my privilege to know.

I was dismayed to learn that COL Shine's younger sister, LTC Sarah Cameron Shine, USA, fell to a heart attack last year.

Few families have served so devotedly and sacrificed so much for our country.


COL Shine now leads trips to Europe, touring important WW2 locations. If I were physically able to travel, I'd be saving my pennies to go on one of his tours.



Other Memorial Day posts:

Michelle Malkin » Memorial Day Weekend 2010: Giving thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice
Memorial Day Post: The Warriors Among Us - Right Wing News
The Jawa Report: 2010 Memorial Day Remembrance
Cold Fury » Memorial Day, 2010
Flopping Aces Memorial Day Weekend Post
Riehl World View: Memorial Day Weekend
Memorial Day 2010 « Sister Toldjah
The Anchoress | A First Things Blog
BLACKFIVE: Last Missions
BLACKFIVE: Memorial Day - They Sacrificed their tomorrows for us
Mudville Gazette - just read everything there.
Sense of Events: Prayer for Memorial Day
Cassy Fiano » Someone to remember this Memorial Day
Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated » Memorials. and Days
Hot Air » Memorial Day: Make them known to your children, and your children's children
Ace of Spades - Memorial day vignettes
Hot Air ยป The price of freedom
Gateway Pundit
Jammie Wearing Fool

Milblogs Go Silent

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From John at Castle Argghhh!:

On Wednesday 16 December 2009, many milblogs -- including This Ain't Hell, From My Position, Blackfive, Miss Ladybug, Boston Maggie, Grim's Hall, Bouhammer, and those participating in the Wednesday Hero program -- are going silent for the day. Some are choosing to go silent for a longer period of time.

The reason for this is two-fold. First, milblogs are facing an increasingly hostile environment from within the military. While senior leadership has embraced blogging and social media, many field grade officers and senior NCOs do not embrace the concept. From general apathy in not wanting to deal with the issue to outright hostility to it, many commands are not only failing to support such activities, but are aggressively acting against active duty milbloggers, milspouses, and others. The number of such incidents appears to be growing, with milbloggers receiving reprimands, verbal and written, not only for their activities but those of spouses and supporters.

The catalyst has been the treatment of milblogger C.J. Grisham of A Soldier's Perspective (http://www.soldiersperspective.us/). C.J. has earned accolades and respect, from the White House on down for his honest, and sometimes blunt, discussion of issues -- particularly PTSD. In the last few months, C.J. has seen an issue with a local school taken to his command who failed to back him, and has even seen his effort to deal with PTSD, and lead his men in same by example, used against him as a part of this. Ultimately, C.J. has had to sell his blog to help raise funds for his defense in this matter.

An excellent story on the situation with C.J. can be found at Military Times by clicking here.

While there have been new developments, the core problem remains, and C.J. is having to raise funds to cover legal expenses to protect both his good name and his career.

One need only look at the number of blogs by active duty military in combat zones and compare it to just a few years ago to see the chilling effect that is taking place.

Milblogs have been a vital link in getting accurate news and information about the military, and military operations, to the public. They have provided vital context and analysis on issues critical to operations and to the informed electorate critical to the Republic.

On Wednesday 16 December, readers will have the chance to imagine a world without milblogs, and to do something about it. Those participating are urging their readers to contact their elected representatives in Congress, and to let their opinions be known to them and to other leaders in Washington.

Some milblogs will remain silent for several days; some just for the day. All have agreed to keep the post about the silence and C.J. at the top of their blogs until Friday 18 December.

The issues go beyond C.J., and deserve careful consideration and discussion. We hope that you will cover this event, and explore the issues that lie at the heart of the matter. Contact the milbloggers in your area or that you know, and hear the story that lies within.

A Partial List of Participating Blogs:

This Ain't Hell 
Boston Maggie
Blackfive 
Miss Ladybug
Drunken Wisdom
Grim's Hall
Frommyposition
CDR Salamander
Bouhammer

You can donate to CJ's Legal Fund by logging into PayPal, go to the send money page, and put in his email: dj_chcknhawk (AT) yahoo (DOT) com; or, you can send donations directly to:

Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893

Please write "Grisham Legal Fund" in the memo line if you use this option.

Milblogs have been a vital link in getting accurate news and information about the military, and military operations, to you. Today, many milblogs are gone and others are under attack from within and without. Today, you have the chance to imagine a world without milblogs, and to do something about it. Make your voice heard by writing your congressional representatives and others, and by making donations as you see fit.

The battle for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas is fought on many fronts and in many ways. Without your help, the battle may well be lost.

Dig deep.

Today...

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... would be a great day to donate to Project Valour-IT.

Veterans Day

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Though it's been almost 20 years since the end of my time in uniform, I still think those were the best years of my life so far.

There have been a lot of changes in the intervening years, but as the report below shows, not everything has changed since I became a civilian.

To all who wear the uniform and serve to keep us free: my most hearfelt thanks.

Shock and boo yah!

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Poor career choice: IED Emplacement Team.

Through an ally's eyes

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Very interesting item about US troops, as seen by one of the French troops serving alongside them in Afghanistan: A Nos Freres d’Armes Americains.

OK, OK, you might not actually read French. My apologies.*

An English translation is here: American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland — everything here reminds of that: the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner.

Quite a nice tribute to our lads over there. Do read the whole thing.


* To be honest, my French is somewhat rusty, it having been close to 30 years since my four years of Mr. Piacentini's classes in high school... one of those intervening years spent at the Defense Language Institute Korean Basic Course, by the conclusion of which I had trouble writing English, much less remembering anything about French, other than that I had once been moderately fluent.

Victory in Iraq

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By every measure, The United States and coalition forces have conclusively defeated all enemies in Iraq, pacified the country, deposed the previous regime, successfully helped to establish a new functioning democratic government, and suppressed any lingering insurgencies. The war has come to an end. And we won.

What more indication do you need? An announcement from the outgoing Bush administration? It's not gonna happen. An announcement from the incoming Obama administration? That's really not gonna happen. A declaration of victory by the media? Please. Don't make me laugh. A concession of surrender by what few remaining insurgents remain in hiding? Forget about it.

The moment has come to acknowledge the obvious. To overtly declare a fact that has already been true for quite some time now. Let me repeat:

WE WON THE WAR IN IRAQ.

The Iraq War is over. We won.


Of boom sticks and banjos

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I've owned and/or fired one version or another of every rifle that has been standard issue for the US Army since the 1870s. Of all this wide variety of rifles, without a doubt my favorite has been the M1A, the civilian version of the Army's venerable M14 which, as you may already know, was replaced in service by the M16.

In nearly every measure of performance, the M14 was the superior weapon; for accuracy and terminal ballistics, the raisons d'être of a combat rifle, the M14 far outstripped the M16. The only disadvantages commonly cited were that it was heavier and required a heavier ammunition load, chambered as it was in NATO-standard 7.62mm.

The M16, on the other hand, was lighter and allowed the soldier to carry more ammunition — a cynic might say that the higher number of rounds almost made up for their lack of effectiveness — and was favored by the "top-down" weapon procurement policies of the 1960s Department of Defense under McNamera.

"The M16 is to a rifle as the banjo is to a guitar" - Jeff Cooper

The M16 was adopted over the objections of US servicemen and our allies alike; when the Pentagon told our NATO allies that our forces would standardize on the M16's 5.56mm round rather than the 7.62mm, they were decidedly unhappy, having already invested a tidy sum in standardization.

The M16 with its 5.56mm round was sadly lacking in performance (earning it nicknames like "Mattel rifle" and "poodle shooter") and though it had sent a variety of our enemies to Hell over the years, it wasn't really until the introduction of the M16A2 (and a more powerful round, the M855) in the 1980s that the M16 became a reliably effective weapon under most circumstances.

The grand old M14, though, lives on. Though it's not new news, I'm nonetheless pleased to see this article (which prompted me to write today) at Military.com, New Lease on Life for the Beloved M-14.

There's a time and place to say "out with the old and in with the new," but I'm glad to see that our newest generation of warriors has a fondness for the classics.


It's Ammo Day today, by the way.

Veterans Day

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Semper Fi

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Happy 233rd birthday to the United States Marine Corps.

Comparisons

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It only just occured to me: with my two years as a squad leader in the Army, I have more executive experience than Obama does.

Sarah Palin's years as a decisive mayor and governor — and as a reformer — far outweigh Obama's history of "present" votes (or absenteeism) during his career as part of the — undeniably corrupt — Chicago political machine.

Tactics

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Taliban suicide troops attack US forces in Afghanistan, with predictable results.

Perhaps they should have watched a training video or two:

Boom

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You can keep your 12-gauge shotguns. (I'm certainly keeping mine.)

They don't rate with the Tank Cartridge, 120mm, Canister, XM1028.

Above and beyond

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In the past I had, from time to time, harbored the hope that I might someday return to the Army, despite the back problem that ended my career. Now, of course, I'm too old and thoroughly broken to get back in.

Here's an amazing story of a soldier who refuses to quit, despite horrific injury: Blind Special Forces soldier: determined to serve.

"I am going to push the limits," the 40-year-old said. "I don't want to go to Fort Bragg and show up and sit in an office. I want to work every day and have a mission."
Which raises once again the question: where do we get such men?

I don't know, but I thank God that we do get them.

Any time in the future that I'm tempted to think, because of my disability, how hard it is to do whatever I'm doing, I hope I'll remember Captain Ivan Castro.

(via Hot Air headlines.)

. . . Mike at Cold Fury has used it well enough that I don't have to: "risible."

(Language alert is in effect.)

Death in the "family"

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Korean linguists in the US Army are an extremely rare breed. It's hard just to qualify for the training; even harder to make it through. There were and are very few of us in the service at any given time, and when I was in, we all knew (or knew of) each other.

One of the things I've most regretted since I left the Army all those years ago is that I didn't keep in touch with the others in our small, select fraternity. Recently, however, thanks to the Internet, I've gotten back in contact with a number of my former colleagues.

It's been good, rebuilding those links, and catching up with the news of who is doing what these days, as well as hearing from those who came before and those who followed my time in the service.

Unfortunately, bad news comes along from time to time, too.

I recently learned that one of my fellow squad leaders from Fort Ord days, while serving another tour in Korea, had collapsed and died after a morning PT run. He was a month younger than me. He was a heck of a soldier, and highly regarded by all who served with him.

And this past weekend, one of my former platoon sergeants died suddenly of a heart attack. He'd just gotten married, and was getting ready to go on his honeymoon trip this week. He was only a few years older than I am. I remember him as a smart and steady leader, and a nice guy, as well. I've been thinking about him a lot this week.

Both these men dedicated their lives to our country, and though neither faced combat, both were dedicated and skilled, and served willingly and with good cheer. Both are missed.

A friend recently noted that though we in the Korean linguist community never had our careers "highlighted" by a shooting war, we stood there at the very threshold of war for all the time we spent in "The Land of the Morning Calm." Very few others can truly appreciate the full time "pucker factor" induced by incidents such as Kim Il Sung's death, the Tree Chopping Incident or the many other tension-raising events that shaped our service.

When the Taliban tried attacking a US base, they received the warm reception chronicled in the video below. It's soldiers... so there's some language....

Via Ace o' Spades HQ. From the comments:

"The length some guys will go to to work off their bitterness about economic insecurity and government neglect!"

Heh.

Naming conventions

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My brother's wife's brother's son is a Marine, newly stationed only an hour or so away from where I am. I'll be seeing him tomorrow as he comes up to relieve me of the burden of having one vehicle too many. He's getting the Blazer.

What does one call one's brother's wife's brother's son?

I'm opting for "nephew in law, once removed."

Either that, or "Lance Corporal."

I Am A Veteran, So...

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You might want to keep your distance. Just in case, I mean.

Photos

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While digging through 25 years worth of personal effects, looking to get rid of a lot of pointless junk that has accumulated over the course of my life (and without which I could really do), I found stacks of photos — hundreds of them — that I took while I was in the Army in Korea from 1988 to 1990.

Sorting them and identifying the people in the pictures will be an overwhelming task... but I think I might scan a few and post them here from time to time.

For now, a picture from October 1988, somewhere near the DMZ in South Korea, a much younger me takes a break to listen to a cassette and write home.

Wow. I used to have hair.

A Road Trip I Wish I Could Make

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My working nights and weekends means I'm not able to do a few things that most people might be able to do. My social life has, shall we say, been negatively impacted.

My social life was never that great to begin with. What I regret not being able to do, though, is something like this:

What: Gathering of Eagles

When: March 17th, 2007 0700-1600 (7 AM to 4 PM)

Where: The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall, Washington D.C.

Why: To stand silent guard over our nation's memorials, in honor of our fallen, and in solidarity with our armed forces in harm's way today. Read our mission statement.

I wish I could go.

Quote of the Day

There’s a big difference between volunteers and mercenaries. Our fighters are where they are because, by and large, they believe in something bigger than themselves, they have learned that you can live in a community where virtue does not equal narcissism, and they know that they are far more than a nuisance. They’re in it for all of us, and if they lose it’s going to be bad for all of us.

Michael Ledeen, in Those Who Serve.

Respect

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Powerline examines Washington Post reporter William Arkin's anti-troop sentiments, laid out bare for all to see.

Apropos of which, Instapundit has some linkage, and reader comments, including this steaming pile from one of Arkin's blog commenters:

"U.S. soldiers are by no means "volunteers," any more than I am a volunteer plumber. When a person accepts compensation in the form of respect, glory, and not least of all monetary benefits (not to mention a host of other privileges for serving one's country after service is completed) a transaction is made in which both sides receive some benefit. Fisherman in Alaska take on relatively larger risks in exchage [sic] for relatively larger reward. Why is the U.S. military of the 21st century so different in this regard?"

The problem with this sentiment is that soldiers voluntarily take on much, much larger risks for much smaller rewards. If one were to do a risk/reward calculation for various professions, from CEO to registered nurse to cop to garbageman to soldier, soldiering would come out pretty much at the bottom of the scale.

No one who can do math joins the Army for money; anyone joining for "glory" is in for a big disappointment.

And yet, the commenter is tangentially correct in one regard. If I were young enough (and could walk without falling over) I'd drop my career in a heartbeat and go back into the service, because I never respected myself as much as when I was a soldier.

Self respect doesn't exactly max out the 401K, does it?

There's much more here, courtesy of the indispensible Michelle Malkin.

Last Full Measure

On this Veterans Day, we have recent news that the nation's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, will be awarded posthumously to Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC. There is an entire category dedicated to CPL Dunham at America's North Shore Journal. Read it, and remember.

On April 14, 2004, Corporal Dunham heroically saved the lives of two of his fellow Marines by jumping on a grenade during an ambush in the town of Karabilah. When a nearby Marine convoy was ambushed, Corporal Dunham led his squad to the site of the attack, where he and his men stopped a convoy of cars trying to make an escape. As he moved to search one of the vehicles, an insurgent jumped out and grabbed the corporal by the throat. The corporal engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. At one point, he shouted to his fellow Marines, "No. No. No. Watch his hand." Moments later, an enemy grenade rolled out and Corporal Dunham jumped on the grenade to protect his fellow Marines, using his helmet and body to absorb the blast. Corporal Dunham succumbed to his wounds on April 22, 2004.

I have in the past had to do a few things that might require one to "suck it up" and carry on, but I cannot fathom the kind of courage exhibited by CPL Dunham. We as a nation are blessed to have such fine people serving.

I Can Dig It

Via Blackfive, a music video from Australian country singer Beccy Cole.

The song, Poster Girl (Wrong Side of The World), is her answer to those fair-weather fans who didn't like the fact that she supports the Diggers.

Outstanding.

Can we adopt her or something? And send the Dixie Twits to, I dunno, France?

Druthers

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Everything I am in my present career, everything I do, I am being and doing only because I can no longer be a soldier.

I like my career, but I love the Army. I'd give anything to be young enough to start my Army career over... and to be prescient enough to avoid the back injury that put an end to that career.

Hoo-rah.

(Video found courtesy of Major John at Miserable Donuts.)

Five Years

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[This is a re-post, modified, from 9/11/2004]

One morning while working from home I turned on the TV in time to see one of the World Trade Towers burning. As I watched, an airliner slammed into the second tower; in that second, the world changed.

No, that's not right. The world didn't change — we all woke up.

As events unfolded, I could only think of the people trapped by the fire, and I wondered how the authorities would evacuate so many people. Helicopters on the roof, I figured.

Then the towers fell. A plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and everyone expected there would be more attacks.

Our "vacation from history" was over, and we were at war. Against whom didn't quite matter at that moment.

Remember the preliminary casualty estimates? Numbers upwards of 30,000 were cited that morning. The shock I felt could only have been the merest shade of the horror and despair felt by the families of the victims watching on TV, wondering if their loved ones had escaped... or wondering if the body falling from the tower was their family member.

Five years later, we count ourselves fortunate that "only" 3,000 died on 9/11.

From that day and in the years since, we have learned of acts of incredible courage and steadfastness, starting with Todd Beemer and his fellow passengers on Flight 93, continued by the people who stopped Richard Reid's potentially deadly shoe-bomb plot, carried on by men leaping into the darkness over Afghanistan, with leaders like GEN Tommy Franks, and continuing today with all our armed forces.

We are also fortunate that the man in the White House is a man of moral courage and intestinal fortitude, who knows that doing the right thing should not be subject to an opinion poll.

Since 9/11, the war on terrorists and terrorist states has gone very well overall, with few mistakes and a blessedly low casualty rate for our soldiers. We have also been lucky enough — and good enough — not to have suffered another attack approaching the magnitude of 9/11.

The lesson I take from all this is that we can never again allow ourselves to nap through history; it has a way of catching up with us, and when it does, it will take all our skill, intelligence and courage to face it down. The bad guys, present and future, may get lucky again some day, but real Americans are made of stern stuff. No matter the setbacks we may face in the future, we will ultimately win.

The Letter

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Today, I got the letter.

Dear Veteran:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently learned that an employee took home electronic data from the VA, which he was not authorized to do and was in violation of established policies.

. . . .

As a result, information identifiable with you was potentially exposed to others.

Swell. Just &@#%^! superb.

Memory - 2006

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It seems that nearly everyone in my blogrolls has something to say for Memorial Day.

Me, I'll just repeat part of what I said last year:

There is something fundamentally sacred that attaches to those who have given their lives for this great nation, and consequently I tend to think that Memorial Day is as close to a religious holiday as any secular holiday can possibly be. The appellation "holy day" rarely seems as appropriate. But mere gratitude doesn't seem to me to be enough - to honor those who have fallen, we must truly memorialize them, committing their sacrifices to memory and never ever forgetting them.

Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy posts a note from a Marine OIF veteran and her own message.
Chuck Simmons tells of two soldiers.
At Cold Fury, Al says thanks.
Confederate Yankee has not one, but two must-reads.
Acidman has a link you shouldn't miss.
A video tribute at Hot Air.
Major John tells of a Vietnam hero.
Vinnie has a special flag at the Jawa Report.
Nehring reviews ten top war films.
SGT Hook remembers an old friend.
For Love of Country, from Jim at Smoke on the Water.
Ian links to a Ben Stein piece.
Val at Babalu reminds us that Freedom Isn't Free.
Cox & Forkum need no words.
Smash. Go and read.
Greyhawk revisits some sacred words. In fact, you ought to just read his whole site today.
John Donovan... well, you can read this and this, but you'd be better off reading his whole site, too.
Emperor Misha I, on remembering the fallen.
James Joyner has the President's Proclamation.
Scott of Scrappleface gets serious.
Kelly has suggestions for observing the day, at The Patriette.

Link roundups:
Michelle Malkin.
Stop the ACLU.
Wizbang!
Blackfive.

Others posting:
Ith at Absinthe and Cookies.
Laurence Asks the Cats about Memorial Day.
The Gettysburg Address, courtesy of the Llamabutchers.
Brian at gives a repeat performance. Nicely done.
Tanker at Mostly Cajun pulls no punches.
A few thoughts from Mr. Minority.
Banagor tells us what he really thinks.
Gettysburg remembered, at Power Line.
Remembering why, at Spatula City.
Scott says thanks at Speed of Thought.
Jeff at A Little More To The Right.
Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters.
Doggerel Pundit (and be sure to follow his link to Elements of Chance.)
Lori at Downtown Chick Chat.
Donnah, at Florida Cracker.
IMAO gets serious... twice.
Jim at Parkway Rest Stop.
John Hawkins, Right Wing News.
William Teach at Pirate's Cove.

Poseur, Fake, Fraud

If you're going to have a group called "Iraq Veterans Against the War" you might consider having actual veterans going public.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion; no one is entitled to lie.

Disgust and Anger

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Disgusting:

Hecklers harass families of US soldiers killed in Iraq

Five women sang and danced as they held up signs saying "thank God for dead soldiers" at the funeral of an army sergeant who was killed by an Iraqi bomb.

For them, it was the perfect way to spread God's word: America was being punished for tolerating homosexuality.

In my ever-so-humble opinion, the best dancing those women could do would be at the end of a rope.

For the hundreds of flag waving bikers who came to this small town in Michigan Saturday to shield the soldier's family, it was disgusting.

"That could be me in that church," said Jackie Sandler whose son Keith is currently serving his second tour of duty in Iraq.

. . .

But it was the callousness and cruelty of harassing the grieving families of soldiers at dozens of funerals across the country that has sparked a grassroots movement of bikers determined to drown out the jeers and taunts.

In Flushing, Michigan they turned their leather-clad backs to the five women and held flags and tarps up so that mourners walking past wouldn't see the signs saying "God hates fags," "fag vets" and "America is doomed."

It's enough to make me want to buy a Harley.

While Westboro's congregation remains stable at around 100 people - most of whom are the extended family of founder Fred Phelps . . .

"Stable" is the last adjective I'd use to describe those dirtbags.

. . . the ranks of the Patriot Guard Riders has swelled to more than 16,000 in just a few months.

The Patriot Guard Riders are to be commended for their actions — as well as for their restraint. I'm not sure I could keep myself from punching Fred Phelps or any of his followers in the face. Or beating them with a tire iron. Some people just need to be horsewhipped. Tar and feathers might be useful, as well.

This country needs an occasional display of righteous anger... and at the moment, I can't imagine a more worthwhile reason.

More analysis at Ace of Spades. **Naughty language warning is in effect.**

Retirement

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When I was a somewhat younger man — pretty much still a kid, really — I decided on a military career.

There was no single reason for that decision; rather, it was the product of the cumulative influences on my life up to that point.

That my grandfather had been a soldier played no small part in my decision, but other factors encouraged the idea.

I enrolled in JROTC in high school — a move guaranteed to make me unpopular in the years following Vietnam. I went off to college to continue with ROTC, but dropped out due to my extreme dislike of going to school.

After a couple of years of working hum-drum jobs and trying (unsuccessfully) to get re-enthused about the idea of college, I finally did what I ought to have done in the first place: I enlisted in the Army. I did so with the full intent to make a career of it, to stay in uniform as long as Uncle Sam would have me.

Naturally, after basic training I was sent off to school. This, however, was language school, for which I seem to have had some real talent. After a year of Basic Korean (graduating with honors, thankyouverymuch) and nine more months of Military Intelligence training, I finally ended up at my first permanent duty station, the 102nd MI Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, at Camp Hovey in Korea.

Duty in the 2nd ID was considered a hardship tour; unlike duty in Germany, soldiers couldn't bring their families, or cars, or indeed much of anything. Consequently, assignments were for only one year. I found that I enjoyed the duty there, though, and extended my tour by a year, and then by an additional six months. While in Korea, I reenlisted for an additional six years. I knew my decision to be a "lifer" was the right one. I could imagine no other life. I earned my Sergeant's stripes in Korea, as well.

Eventually, though, I wanted to come back stateside for a bit of a "civilization break" — not that Korea was uncivilized, but it just wasn't America. As I was making my plans to return, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Transfers were frozen... but my timing was good — the freeze began two weeks after I left the 102nd.

Being a Korean linguist in a unit (107th MI Bn, 7th ID) tasked for rapid deployment to Korea meant there was no chance I'd be sent to the Gulf. Indeed, when there was a call for volunteers with security clearances, we "Koreans" were expressly ordered not to volunteer. It's an odd thing, wanting to go to a war, but I think the motivation was the desire to put years of training to use in a real live mission. As it happened, though, only non-linguists (analysts and the like) were allowed to volunteer for Gulf War duty, and perhaps half a dozen of my friends went and returned.

Shortly after the ceasefire in Iraq, in the Spring of '91, our unit had what we referred to as a "Mandatory Fun" day — no motor pool duty, no training, just a day for troops to bring their families onto the post, to have a cookout, and to play a little softball.

I was pitching. I don't remember for sure, but I couldn't have been doing too well in the position. One batter got a big piece of one of my pitches, sending a line drive low and to my right. As I twisted and lunged to try to spear the ball with my gloved left hand, there was a small *-pop-*... and my Army career was over.

I had torn some ligaments and herniated a disk in my lower back, an injury which still plagues me with an occasional week in bed and with more frequent sciatic pain. It took a year and a half to figure it out, but from that day on I was no longer capable of fully functioning as a soldier. In a profession that demands physical fitness, I could no longer keep up. In September of '92, I was a civilian again.

Maybe if something had gone differently, maybe if I'd been held over in Korea for a few more months, maybe if I hadn't volunteered to pitch that day, maybe if I'd been a better pitcher, I'd have remained in the Army for the full 20 years.

Today would have been my retirement day.

I miss being in the Army; I think about it every day. I often wonder where I would be and what I'd be doing if I was still in the service. Some of the finest people I've ever been privileged to know were those with whom I served, and if I have one regret it's that I've kept in touch with so few of them.

Maybe Clothes Do Make the Man

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Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) made rather a big splash this past week by very publicly "changing" his mind about the course of the war in Iraq — changing it to the same position he's held since last year, if not earlier. We already know this, of course, from a number of reports.

Murtha served honorably in the Marines, initially on active duty, and retiring from the Reserves in 1990, and is often described as a hawkish Democrat.

From the congressman's biography, I note that he has been in the House since 1974. Hmmm.

Murtha had a total of 37 years in the Marines, active and reserve. He had some number of years on active duty — his bio doesn't make it clear, but let's call it 12 years. I have no doubt that his years in uniform were spent completely honorably, and we know he was awarded the Bronze Star for valor during his tour in Vietnam. His service to the country cannot and should not be denigrated.

On the other hand, he has been a full-time Democrat congressman for more than 30 years.

Murtha has spent perhaps twice as much time in a suit as in a uniform. Which wardrobe, do you then suppose, has had more influence on his public pronouncements about the war?

Veterans Day

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I never met my grandfather.

He served as an artilleryman in France in the First World War. He brought mementos home with him — some french coins, his rifle sharpshooter badge, a set of Captain's bars, his gas mask, his helmet, and others. Most of these items hang on the wall in my home, reminders of a man I never knew.

He served, came home, married, had three kids, died young, and was buried among fellow soldiers on the Presidio of San Francisco.

He never knew that decades later there would be another SGT Russell Emerson.

Thanks, granddad. I wish I could have known you.

At the office where I work, there are large TVs situated around the open bays and tuned to CNN (but muted, fortunately) so that most us us can see what's going on in the world. This is actually useful, professionally, since when a natural disaster occurs anywhere in the world, our customer networks are likely to be affected. Having hundreds of network nodes disappear over the course of a weekend is more easily explainable if you realize that there is, say, a hurricane coming onshore in Louisiana.

So the other night, we noted the news story of pirates thwarted off the coast of Somalia, and were talking about that part of the world. The subject of Black Hawk Down came up, and the conversation ultimately migrated to other books and films before we got on the topic of Hal Moore's and Joe Galloway's We were Soldiers Once...And Young. I and the Marine veteran in the office educated our coworkers a bit, and then the conversation moved along, but not before we touched on the story of Rick Rescorla on 9/11.

Almost serendipitously, then, Greyhawk of the Mudville Gazette today tells us that the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang is coming up next week, with veterans of the battle gathering to remember their brothers in arms and the events that have earned them a place in the history books.

Boston Herald writer and editor Jules Crittenden wrote a remarkable article about a couple of the men who came through the battle, particularly about SGT John Eade. The entirety of said piece not fitting the space constraints of a newspaper, Mr. Crittenden has graciously allowed Greyhawk to publish the whole thing: I Am Going To Die Well.

Our troops then and now are not nameless automatons whose deaths and injuries are to be tallied as on a scoreboard. Each has a name, and each has a story. Thanks, Mr. Crittenden, for telling us more of those stories, lest we forget.

Direct Action

In the aftermath of Katrina, one man decided to do something to help. He didn't just write a check. He loaded up a deuce-and-a-half truck and drove to Louisiana.

Read his incredible story.

(via Kim du Toit)

Texan's Road Trip

Beth of Yeah, Right, Whatever took a little road trip Monday...

... to Crawford, TX.

Someone recently asked me why more pro-WoT Gold Star Families don't speak up (against the group at Camp Casey, and against the anti-war protesters in general). I've been thinking about it, and (though R hasn't confirmed it) I think I have an idea. Most Gold Star Families, the ones who believe in what their children/spouses were doing with their lives, just want to be left in peace to mourn. They have faith in our country, and in the mission their family member was on. They don't want to be part of a movement.

Read about her trip here.

Gold Stars

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There's one particular thing that strikes me about the entire Cindy Sheehan to-do: the invasion of Iraq began over two years ago, and it's taken this long for the hardcore moonbat Left to find a Gold Star mother who would front for them in a very public way.

There are approximately 1,800 mothers who have lost a son or daughter* in Iraq, and Michael Moore's Marching Moonbat Mob has been able to find one mother willing to seek such notoriety.†

I'll be generous and allow that the Left might have 100 or more such parents to trot out on demand. The numbers nevertheless speak for themselves.

More (and more ably done) commentary here, here, here, here, and here. Particularly noteworthy is the post at Iraq the Model.


* They are sons and daughters, but most assuredly not children. The loaded question "would you send your child to die?" is disingenuous on every level. They are neither children nor chattel, and they are not sent in order to die. Every person serving in the military is a volunteer, and though we know some will inevitably die in service to their country — in combat, in accidents — "we purpose not their deaths when we purpose their services."

If I had a son of military age, I would be proud beyond my ability to describe, if he were to choose to serve his country in the military.

† At last count there were approximately 60 families involved with Gold Star Families for Peace, but none who have allowed themselves to be used by the anti-American Left to quite the extent Cindy Sheehan has.

Stewart. James Stewart.

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I don't go in much for Hollywood "fan-dom." Entertainers are (or should be) just that: people hired to entertain us, not people over whom to swoon. [I'd consider making an exception for Emily Procter.]

There have, however, been a few entertainers – actors, athletes, and so on – I've admired for one reason or another. For as long as I can remember, Jimmy Stewart was one of those.

Was it because I enjoyed every single film of his I ever saw? Maybe that played into it... but I've enjoyed every Errol Flynn movie I've seen, and I am not an Erroll Flynn fan, as such. More likely, it was because I learned early on that Stewart had set aside his Hollywood career during World War 2 to be a B-17 pilot – a decidedly hazardous occupation. Other things I learned about his off-screen life only reinforced my conception of the man.

[By purest coincidence, Stewart and my father died on the same day: July 2, 1997. Because of that, I feel what would be considered an irrational connection to the man. I have this mental picture of Dad and Jimmy meeting up at the Pearly Gates....]

Now, new revelations that Stewart was doing a bit of work for the FBI – in an era when there really were communists trying to take over Hollywood – only adds to the high regard in which I hold him (despite the article's obvious negative slant.)

Stewart, FBI badge

There really were communists in Hollywood. They really were trying to take over. They really were enemies of America.

Too many people have forgetten that.

Now we have Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and Sean Penn.

What we could really use is another Jimmy Stewart.

(via Ace.)

(More at PoliPundit.)

Credentials

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[This post was originally published 21Jun05. Due to the topicality today, I thought I'd bump it up.]
[There are updates - see below.]

Neat-o. An actual lefty koolaid drinker, right here on my very own site.

Now, I wouldn't be surprised if someone from the anti-American anti-war camp had found this site accidentally — it happens all the time, and some occasionally drop a turd or two in the comments — but this fellow actually came here from my mini-bio page at BlogsForBush. He came here looking for a fight to pick.

As is so often the case with the anti-American anti-war crowd, he rolled out what he thought would be a rhetorical nuke: the tired and discredited "chickenhawk" argument — questioning my "credentials," my qualification to offer opinions about the war. I guess the obvious military theme here escaped his notice, and I called him on it.

Not content to leave well enough alone, however, he decided to leave another steaming pile in the comments. I figured it deserved an up-front response. I know it will fail utterly to convince him, as he apparently arrived at his current opinions shortly before turning off his brain, but a response is nonetheless warranted.

Read on and, as always, feel free to comment.

Duty

If you've never read Scott Ott's Scrappleface for the funny stuff, you don't know what you're missing.

But if you've never read it when he's making a serious point, shame on you.

Quote of the Day, plus a transcript

I think it's an affront to their memory that we have a tax on the books in this country today that says if you work and earn some money and you pay your income tax on it, and you try to give it to your kids or your family — the natural object of your bounty — you're going to get taxed again.

— Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton, one of the Band of Brothers


In honor of the 61st anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the end of the Third Reich, Lieutenant Compton made an appearance on Fox and Friends this morning. As well as telling some of his own story, he has an issue he stands for. He laid his life on the line for this country. He deserves the courtesy of a respectful hearing.

I've tried, thanks to the DVR, to make a decent transcript of the entirety of LT Compton's appearance on the program. A generation is passing away; things like this should not disappear down the memory hole.

Ageism

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Via Sir George at Emperor Misha's place:

Lawmaker Wants Lower Soldier Drinking Age

One Wisconsin lawmaker figures if the U.S. military trusts 19-year-olds with a $10 million tank, then the state should trust them with a beer.

State Rep. Mark Pettis, a Republican who served in the Navy, is pushing a bill that would drop the drinking age to 19 for Wisconsin soldiers — but only if the federal government agrees it will not yank an estimated $50 million a year in highway aid.

A federal law ties federal highway dollars to compliance by the states with the required drinking age of 21.

"We're treating these young men and women as adults when they're at war. But we treat them like teenagers when they're here in the states," he said.

Now, I'm not exactly a proponent of the idea that teens, in general, are just as smart or wise as those of us who have been around the block so many times we know the only parking spot that's free.* Indeed, I've always had an extremely poor opinion of teenagers, even when I was one myself.

But I think it is not altogether unreasonable to extend all the privileges of full majority to anyone who has [honorably] completed a certain amount of time or reached a level of training in the military services. By volunteering to serve, and then by completing basic training (or maybe six months or a year of service), one has demonstrated a level of maturity that will not be attained by many people who are several years older.

Go on — just try to tell me that a college junior or senior is necessarily more mature than a Marine on his first duty assignment, merely because of a date on a birth certificate. That Marine, or airman, sailor, coastie or soldier has accepted the adult responsibilities attendant with service to his country, and deserves to be treated like an adult. He has earned it.

And by "privileges of full majority," I don't mean just the drinking age. I also refer to the rights protected by the 2nd Amendment. Why should a soldier — trained in the use and safe handling of very deadly weapons — be denied the right to purchase a handgun before his 21st birthday?

To deny those rights due merely to age is a dangerous precedent. Why the arbitrary cut-off at 21? Why not 25 or 30? Or, heck, why allow anyone to buy a handgun at all? When an arbitrary standard such as age (beyond the attainment of legal majority) is used as a determining factor in the exercise of an explicitly protected Constitutional right, who is to say what other arbitrary restrictions may be placed on the exercise of that right?

* With apologies to the Barenaked Ladies.

Memory - 2005

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Some people would say that there is a certain nobility associated with serving in the armed forces, regardless of the service performed. Perhaps this is so. I served, but my contribution in the intel field was mostly technical (though I do have a few good stories.)

But unlike so many of our soldiers today, I never had to charge across the length of a country in chemical protective gear expecting the cry of "gas gas gas" at any moment, nor have I had to patrol the streets of a hostile city, wondering when the crack of a hostile sniper rifle might sound. While there is always a degree of risk associated with military service, I never had to face the possibility of suicide bombings or IEDs.

The troops who have served and are serving in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in unseen and unknown places around the world are doing a far greater service than I ever did. And many of them have paid for our security with their lives.

There is something fundamentally sacred that attaches to those who have given their lives for this great nation, and consequently I tend to think that Memorial Day is as close to a religious holiday as any secular holiday can possibly be. The appellation "holy day" rarely seems as appropriate. But mere gratitude doesn't seem to me to be enough — to honor those who have fallen, we must truly memorialize them, committing their sacrifices to memory and never ever forgetting them.


[As with last year's holiday, this year I'll be collecting links to all the Memorial Day posts I can find, as well as any Op/Ed pieces I happen to see. And it wouldn't hurt to go look at those links from last year.]


John of Castle Argghhh! gives us Memorial Day 2005, and a collection of links.

Blackfive: Opening the Gates of Heaven.

Mudville Gazette: Memorial Day. In fact, just go to the top, scroll down and read all the Memorial Day posts.

GeorgeMoneo at Babalu reminds us: "It is the soldier."

Mark Steyn reruns last year's column - Memorial Day (but it's as good now as last year.)

Michelle Malkin points us toward Legacy.com. Her post has also been updated with some excellent links.

At Powerline, John has a Memorial Day photo, and Scott tells us about Michael Carlson and His Credo.

Florida Cracker has photos, too, here and here.

Jennifer at A Collection of Thoughts posts Memorial Day, a Day of Thanksgiving! by Col Bob Pappas, USMC (ret).

Lee at Right Thinking from the Left Coast has comments, a photo, and an interesting link.

Jim at Smoke on the Water reposts For Love of Country.

Via Indigo Insights, a link to Passing of a Generation.

Brian B at Memento Moron honors his father and grandfather in his Memorial Day post.

At Mostly Cajun, a bit of Kipling.

Stryker Brigade News has a collection of links about Memorial Day.

Austin Bay has the transcript of a speech he gave for Tejanos in Action.

At the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, Sir George says Remember the Fallen.

Mr. Minority has comments.

At Spatula City, there's a link you should follow.

Citizen Smash, the Indepundit, pays a visit to a national cemetery. This is a must-read.

At the Command Post, a poem and comments.

Three veterans' stories, at Crusader War College.

Kim du Toit reposts one of his classics.

Bill at INDC Journal has a few photos, and must-follow links.

Tim Blair posts a note from reporter Jules Crittenden.

Roger Simon has photos.

At Cold Fury, Mike says a lot in just a few words.

Just one word is all it takes, at Parkway Rest Stop.

Charles Austin has a picture. I am reminded, in part, of that 1963 photo of the young John-John Kennedy saluting as his father's caisson rolled by.

Denita writes about beautiful freedoms at Who Tends the Fires.

Ith of Absinthe & Cookies has a prayer, and a link to photos of the military cemetary at the Presidio of San Francisco where, coincidentally, SGT Russell Lloyd Emerson — my grandfather — is buried.

Cox & Forkum. No words necessary.

DoggerelPundit reposts an excerpt from Elements of Chance. I think you should follow his link and read the whole thing.

Mickey Chandler has a Medal of Honor citation. I really need to learn more about the Vera Cruz campaign....

Cry Freedom posts The Final Inspection. (Link via Billy Budd at American Dinosaur.)

Joel, No Pundit Intended: Memorials.

James at Outside the Beltway has the President's Memorial Day radio address, and a collection of links.

Keeping faith with the fallen of Flanders Field, courtesy of Pirate's Cove.

Denny the Grouchy Old Cripple comments.

A small incident with a lot of meaning, recounted at Redsugar Muse.

Columnist Jeff Jacoby tells the story of Sergeant Rafael Peralta, USMC.

Jim Lacey talks about those who command our troops.

BummerDietz at Scylla & Charybdis recounts the Battle of Midway, with special attention to the sacrifice of the torpedo bomber aviators.

Over at Barking Moonbat, a series of posts: So That Others Might Be Free. Start with Part One... heck, just go to the main page and read them all.

Riverdog posts. Check the comments, too.

Guy S. at Snugg Harbor was once a bugler... I can't imagine how hard it would be to play "Taps."

J. R. at Top of My Head has a Memorial Day Tribute.

Shamalama at Common Folk using Common Sense: Memorial Day 2005.

The Raleigh News & Observer editorial page: In Honored Glory.

Doc Russia at Bloodletting has a few words.


If there's a post you know about (yours, or anyone else's) that I haven't linked, please tell me about it in the comments.

Memorial Day Movie Classics

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The two major cable channels that show "classics", American Movie Classics (AMC) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) are showing military-themed movies this weekend. Apart from that general topic, the film selections couldn't be more different.

I don't have a list of all the films the two channels have already shown this weekend, but the guide on the digital cable can tell me what's coming up for the rest of today and tomorrow.

Looking at the list of movies below, I get a distinct impression about the attitudes of the two stations as to what constitutes an appropriate film for a Memorial Day marathon.

Journalistic Overkill

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Michelle Malkin has been on top of the case of USMC 2nd Lt. Ilario G. Pantano from the beginning.

The Raleigh News & Observer, as part of the mainstream media that has thus far failed to convict the LT on charges of murder, now suggests that as a fallback position he be disciplined by the Marine Corps for committing "overkill."

Given the media's inclination to commit journalistic overkill in stories that make the military look bad, I'm disinclined to take their suggestion seriously.

Today's edition of the N&O editorializes on the case:

COSTS OF OVERKILL
A Camp Lejeune Marine officer who fired repeatedly into the bodies of two Iraqis should be disciplined for poor judgment

I'd love to know which article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice covers "poor judgement."

It would be understandable if the U.S. Marine Corps dismissed murder charges against 2nd Lt. Ilario G. Pantano, based at Camp Lejeune, in the deaths of two Iraqi men last year. It would be a travesty, though, if the matter ended right there.

Only because the press won't otherwise get their pound of flesh out of the case.

Those who fight America's battles around the world must hew to the highest standards of professional military conduct. Right now in Iraq, that's crucial if our armed forces hope to win citizens' hearts and minds away from the insurgents who continue their violent resistance to the American presence and to Iraq's new government. To be of help to that government as it attempts to get organized and establish security, U.S. troops must be seen as the good guys.

I suspect one way to be seen as good guys would be to kill bad guys.

What happened in the Iraqi city of Mahmudiyah on April 15, 2004, hurt America's cause, just as the notorious instances in which U.S. personnel have abused Iraqi prisoners have hurt it.

Frankly, I don't see how. Killing bad guys is rather the whole point, isn't it?

As three dozen Marines moved toward a suspected hideout for insurgents, two men tried to drive away. With rifles, the soldiers disabled the car and ordered the two men out. Pantano feared booby traps so he had the prisoners pull apart the car's seats.

As they went about it, speaking in Arabic, the men are said to have moved in Pantano's direction, which the Marine interpreted as an attack. Pantano opened fire, emptying 80 percent of his ammunition into the bodies.

Eighty percent? If we're talking about an M-16 with a 30-round magazine, that means 24 rounds. Frankly, considering the relative ineffectiveness of the 5.56mm round, if I wanted to kill someone until I was absolutely certain they were dead-dead-dead I'd have considered reloading and shooting some more.

[The same goes if the LT was using the 9mm Beretta sidearm.]

He then posted a sign over them with a Marine slogan: "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy."

I fail to see a problem. Certainly the terrorists in question didn't care.

After hearing the evidence for and against Pantano, Maj. Mark E. Winn recommended last week that the premeditated murder charges, carrying the death penalty, be dropped against him.

Perhaps that's in part because the charges were prompted by the complaints of a disgruntled subordinate who is probably making the rounds of the Upper West Side "we're-not-against-the-war-we're-on-the-other-side" cocktail circuit.

It was combat, after all, and Pantano followed the rules of engagement -- up to a point.

I'm sure the News&Observer's editorial staff would be happier if 2LT Pantano had called in an airstrike to convert the terrorists into a pink mist... that wouldn't have been "overkill," would it?

Look: dead is dead, regardless of how you get there.

Yet Pantano's own account of his actions, as quoted by The Wilmington Star-News, was damning:

Damning? Only if one is predisposed to damn the Lieutenant, as no doubt the editorialist is. Instead, I say three cheers for 2LT Pantano.

"I had made a decision that when I was firing I was going to send a message to these Iraqis and others that when we say, 'No better friend, no worse enemy,' we mean it."

An auxiliary message might be "when you've been captured by Marines and they tell you to do something, listen and obey."

[I suspect, however, that what the LT was really thinking was more along the lines of "Die, terrorist a**holes!" The quote above sounds like an after-the-fact embellishment.]

Rambo-type behavior

You could tell that was coming, couldn't you?

is unbecoming any American in uniform, particularly one in a leadership position. Emptying a rifle into the bodies of dead men evokes the tactics of the tyrants and terrorists that U.S. forces went to Iraq to oppose.

No, the tactics of the tyrants and terrorists are more along the lines of


  • emptying machineguns into the living bodies of women and children and bulldozing them into mass graves,
  • using chemical weapons against villages,
  • kidnapping and beheading civilians, and
  • driving explosive-laden vehicles into crowds.

To suggest that there is some sort of moral equivalence is both absurd and morally repugnant. The N&O ought to be ashamed of itself.

Marine commanders must send a message to the troops that such behavior won't be tolerated.

It's one thing to, for instance, make necklaces of the ears of dead enemies, but another thing altogether to make those enemies dead in the first place. The former is not to be tolerated. The latter, however it is achieved, is the point of combat, isn't it?

[Bear in mind, also, that illegal combatants have only the "rights" we choose to let them have. That they are not summarily tried and executed is a mercy we grant them, but which we would be technically within our rights to withhold.]

The hearing officer's sensible recommendation is for Pantano to be disciplined for the way he dealt with suspected enemies, rather than be court-martialed for murder. It is Maj. Gen. Richard Huck who must make a call recognizing both the difficult demands on soldiers and the national values they represent.

As an aside, I'd like to note that soldiers are held to higher standards of conduct than members of the press are. Make of that what you will.

A decision of uncommon wisdom is needed.

Which is why the Marine Corps will make the decision, not the staff of the News&Observer.


[Non sequiter: by all means, make Outside the Beltway a regular read.]

Valor

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Sergeant First Class Paul Smith later today will be the first soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for courage above and beyond the call of duty in Iraq. Like too many recipients of the Medal of Honor, he paid for his bravery with his life, but in so doing saved the lives of dozens of his fellow soldiers.

SFC Smith is the first serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor since Army snipers Shughart and Gordon were so honored for their actions in the 1993 Somalia mission (later immortalized in the book and film Black Hawk Down.)

SFC Smith's award will be accepted by his 11-year-old son.

Be sure to visit the online presentation, published earlier this year, which covers the whole story of SFC Smith: The Last Full Measure of Devotion.

The text of the citation for Smith's award will be available after the presentation ceremony.

Update — the citation:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by an act of Congress, March 3rd 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, United States Army.

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action [against] an armed enemy in action near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq, on 4 April 2003.

On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his task force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over a hundred fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense, consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and three armored personnel carriers.

As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a sixty millimeter mortar round.

Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a fifty-caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded.

His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack and resulted in as many as fifty enemy soldiers killed while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.

Sergeant First Class Smith's extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division (Rock of the Marne), and the United States Army.

[Transcribed from CSPAN's coverage of the ceremony.]

Update 2: Matt has a transcript of the President's remarks.

Encounter

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I was nearing the end of the self-guided tour of the USS North Carolina yesterday, and would have been off the ship and on the road in maybe half an hour, when my cellphone rang. I answered, and the ensuing conversation took half an hour. The delay turned out to be rather fortuitous.

I ultimately rang off and resumed my walking tour, wrapping up with the ship's bridge area. As I stepped out of the pilot house (where they steer from) and out to the signal bridge (where the signal flags are kept) I was alone, but for a tall dignified-looking elderly fellow who was standing there.

"Can you imagine being Captain of a ship like this," he said to me, out of the blue. "The responsibility...."

"Indeed," I replied, "being responsible for a ship like this, and so many men, it must have been... well, I can't imagine it." I really can't. I had a squad of seven troops and maybe a couple of million dollars of hardware — that's nothing compared to 2,600+ men and maybe 100 million dollars (in the 1940s) of ship and gear.

"And the authority," he continued, "the Captain had responsibility, but he also had authority."

"The two go hand in hand," I said, "you can't have one without the other." Garrr... just call me Mr. Cliché.

He continued, "The Captain was like a father to us." Holy smokes... the man was no mere tourist — he was revisiting his old ship. "He held the crews' lives in his hands... he was like a father and we were like a big family."

I saw what he was driving at. He meant not only responsibility for the crew, but to the crew as well. They trusted the Captain to know how to fight the ship, and he in turn trusted them to know their individual duties and to do them well.

And "well" is how they did. USS North Carolina earned 12 battle stars in the Second World War for participation in every major campaign of the Pacific war.

We strolled the deck and talked a while longer, about the differences 60 years can make, but also about many things about the service that never change. And the whole time, I was thinking this is a man who saw it happen.

My cellphone rang again, and I really did not want to answer, but I was sort of expecting it, so I excused myself... it wasn't the call I thought it might be. As I pocketed the phone, I turned to talk to the fellow, but he had gone. I looked for him, to resume our conversation, but he was nowhere to be found.

If I hadn't earlier received that 30-minute phone call, I'd never have met the man. Call it serendipity. I had actually met and spoken with a man who had stood on the decks of that very ship while under fire from the Japanese. The weightiness of the encounter didn't fully hit me for a few minutes. I had met a hero. No, I don't know his name, but as far as I am concerned, all those men were heroes.

Being the age I am, born at the tail end of the baby boom, I've known WW2 veterans since I was a kid. Many of my Dad's friends had served — Dad was a bit too young, having been born in '36, but he worked with a lot of guys many years older than he was. To a kid like me, raised on John Wayne movies, Combat! and The Rat Patrol, those men were like giants. I've even met a bona fide legend, USMC ace and recipient of the Medal of Honor Joe Foss, and one of my most prized possessions is a signed photo of some of the Doolittle raiders on the deck of the USS Hornet on their way to Japan. These things mean a lot to me.

Most of those men are gone now, of course. One who is still with us was one of my Dad's best friends in the years before my Dad's death. He's in his 80s now; during the war he flew B-29 bombers over Japan. When he bought a new car several years ago — a Mitsubishi — he joked with me that 50 years earlier he had been dropping bombs on the factory where his car was made. That is the only thing I have ever heard him say about his wartime experience.

Though they are fewer every day, some of those men are still among us. We now, however, have a new generation of men — and some women too — who I hope will be looked at by future generations of kids the way I regard the men of WW2 — as heroes.

Tribute

I know there have been plenty of very nice Flash slideshows of photos from Iraq.

Here's one I hadn't previously seen.

Make sure your speakers are on; nice soundtrack.

LT's Hell

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A 2nd Lieutenant met an untimely end and found himself standing before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

Said St. Peter, "Welcome, Lieutenant. You have served faithfully, and may enter Heaven."

"Well," said the shavetail, "I'd sure like to come in, but if there are any Sergeants Major in Heaven, I don't want to go in. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's being treated like a child by a cigar-chewing, know-it-all, been-everywhere, seen-everything Sergeant Major."

"No," said Peter, "there's not a single Sergeant Major who ever made it here to Heaven. Not a one. Now, report up to the Heaven HQ for your assignment. It's that gold building at the top of that hill."

"I figured as much," thought the LT to himself as he marched through the Pearly Gates.

Moving towards the golden building, the Lieutenant realized how orderly the setting around him was, and knew he would be very happy in Heaven. Every street had been policed, all the grass freshly mown, and every rock painted. Getting closer to HQ, though, he began to hear what sounded like yelling coming from one of the open windows. He crept up to investigate.

Looking in the window, he saw what he feared most — a Sergeant Major, leaning back in a swivel chair, feet up on his desk, shouting into a telephone and waving a cigar around. Around the desk, half a dozen junior officers were doing pushups non-stop.

Horrified, the Lieutenant hastened back towards the Gates. "I want out of here ASAP!" he told St. Peter.

"Lieutenant!" cried Pete, "what's wrong? I thought you were going to be happy here!"

"Happy?" wailed the young shavetail. "How can I be happy here? I spent my too-short career being condescended to by every Sergeant Major I ever saw! I hate them! And when I asked if there were any here, you said no!" He described what he had seen.

"Oh!" said the saint, "No, no, no. That wasn't a Sergeant Major at all.... You see, that was God — He just thinks he's a Sergeant Major!"

[Old joke, brought to mind by this post at Castle Argghhh!]

Sorrow

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Yesterday was a somber day around the VRWC as one of our own, Spence, lost his brother LCpl Kyle Renehan to wounds sustained in Iraq. For those of us who did not know Kyle, it was an occasion of great sadness on behalf of Spence and his family.

[Our friend Beth has kept us all apprised of the situation from the beginning. Thank you, Beth — you are an angel.]

A young man's life — the unfulfilled potential which no one now can ever know, the children he will never raise, the things he will never do, the good times he'd celebrate and bad times he'd overcome — these are all gone, and for that we grieve for the fallen.

As we mourn, though, it is not so much for Kyle as it is on behalf of those left behind. They have lost the son, the brother, the cousin, the nephew and the friend they all knew, and all that he might have become is gone. They will have their memories, his medals, the token artifacts of his life to remind them of him, but he's gone and nothing of this Earth will completely fill the hole in all their lives that he leaves behind.

Knowing they are in pain, we who did not know Kyle can empathize, we can mourn with and for them, we can try to comfort them, but their grief is theirs — it is up to them and to God to fill the gap Kyle leaves behind... and though it will take time, fill it they will.




Kyle's war is over. Rest in peace, Marine.

For the Renehan family, a much harder struggle lays ahead. May God grant them the strength to bear it.




Spence, I'm not good at offering advice, all I can do is recount my personal experience from the loss of my father. Time will never heal your loss completely, and you probably won't want it to do so. But you will someday be strong enough to live with the hurt, and you will be able to look back, remember, and smile about the good times. And your friends will be here to help, whenever you need it.

Mourning

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Kyle Renehan, Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps.

Requiescat in pace.

LCpl Kyle Renehan Update

Beth has all the details.

Update: see this.

Veterans Day 2004

vetday04.jpg

Team Spirit

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While in the Army, I took hundreds of pictures. Though not a gifted photographer, my camera came with me whenever our unit went to the field. Naturally, I don't appear in many of those pictures.

I hope to be posting some of those in the future, as I get them scanned. In the meantime, here's a photo of my own Band of Brothers (and a couple of Sisters), taken in Korea at the conclusion of Team Spirit 1990.

First Platoon, A Company, 102nd MI Battalion:

ts90-thumb.gif

(Click the picture for a full-size version.)

One Veteran

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Russell L. Emerson, my grandfather, enlisted in the Washington State National Guard, and served in the Field Artillery in France during the First World War. A number of the artifacts of his military service -- his medals, his marksmanship badge, and a set of Captain's bars, among others -- are kept at my Mom's home.

Russell L. Emerson

He came home after the war and lived his life. I'm pretty sure he was a Federal Marshall, but I've never been too clear on that.

He was felled by a heart attack in 1939, and is interred at San Francisco National Cemetery.

One of my most treasured posessions is the presentation flag from his funeral.

I wish I'd known him.

Tradition

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Long ago, Acidman had a bad experience with gin. Now, he's on speaking terms with it, at least. Good.

In 1988, I had just been posted to Korea, and our "op-tempo" was pretty high. From April until September of that year, our routine was to spend 3 or 4 weeks in the field, up near the DMZ, then three or four days in garrison, refitting, before heading right back up to the DMZ for another mission.

We had a little ritual each time we deployed to the field, involving gin. We'd dress up in some decent civilian attire (which was almost invariably jeans and a button-down shirt) and head to the NCO Club on our post, Camp Hovey. There, we would consume pitchers of Gin & Tonics.

Not having been much of a gin man myself (I prefer a single-malt Scotch now, particularly Glenmorangie and The Glenlivet, and back then I was an unsophisticated Bud man, thankyouverymuch), I was rather put off by the taste, but for the sake of comradeship, a man will do a great many things he might not otherwise do.

Nowadays, every now and again, I pour some gin, add a little tonic water, and drop in a quarter of a lime. And I think of the great men with whom it was my privilege to serve.

Why G&Ts? I don't know. Someone started the ritual long before I got to Korea; I hope that the tradition has continued in 1st Platoon, A Company, 102nd MI Battalion. Confido!

Veterans Day is almost upon us again.

I'd better go buy some limes.

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