Friday, December 28, 2007

What he said

Having just exercised my 2nd Amendment rights only yesterday, in the cheery company of fellow denizenne Bad Cat Robot, I found myself nodding in agreement with Lex.

"Just remember that when it comes to protecting your individual right to life - the most profound right, upon which all others depend - the constabulary can only obliquely contribute. They are not designed to prevent your murder, only to punish it. When the bad man comes, and seconds count, they will be only minutes away."

As always ... go read the rest.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Wherever you are, be safe and take care of each other. My thoughts today are especially with the ones in harm's way or preparing to head there - Allie, Sgt B, Jason, Sgt Hook, Sean and many others.

Make sure to catch John's Christmas round the world, and read Bill's reminder of why good people don uniforms and go where they go. And Thank Goodness that they do!

Merry Christmas, All!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Travel memories

I was catching up on the travel adventures of Kim and Connie du Toit, and found myself laughing out loud at the challenge of finding the way to their hotel in Vienna.

...But once in the city itself? Oy. The famous “Ringstrasse” is in fact a one-way (clockwise), and just because you can turn right easily into the Innestadt (inner city)—when it’s not a one-way out, that is—doesn’t mean you can get anywhere, because your street is likely to dead-end into a pedestrian walkway, or you’ll be forced into a T-junction with only a left- or right-hand turn (but never both). Getting lost, in an area half the size of Central Park, is easily done.

After an hour of frustration, we finally gave up, found a parking place (also no small feat), and walked the last four blocks to the hotel.

When we showed the receptionist a map of where we’d parked, and asked her to help us get our car to the hotel, she replied (and this is the quote of the trip so far): “I know exactly where your car is; I just don’t know how you got it there.” Pause. ”Or how to get it out.” ...

I could completely sympathize, as it was awfully similar to my own experience a few years ago.

When I wrote about the long day's drive from Venice, Italy to Zurich, Switzerland (by way of Schloss Neuschwanstein), there were some missing details. My brief description then :
Unfortunately, we had to wait 90 minutes until the next available tour. It was definitely worth it - but it made for a LONG day, as we didn't get into Zurich until about 9, and then couldn't find our hotel!

The REST of the story, as they say, is much funnier.

You see, I had a laptop with me for that vacation, on which I installed 'Auto Route'. That's the European version of Streets and Trips, and with it I had mapped all of our inter-city driving routes, from Geneva to Lausanne to Florence, then on to Venice, and the big final day of driving from Venice to Zurich. We were staying one last night there, as our international flight home was early the next morning.

That mammoth drive was actually a lot of fun. At one point, in the southern Germany countryside, we were weaving our way through small villages in an attempt to catch a highway and make speed into Zurich. My head would bob up to catch a marker or mile post, and then I'd try to correlate to the map on the screen, and warn of turns and roads to watch for. At one point I told the Hubster that we would pass through a village and then turn. As we pulled into the village, he said "Are you sure? Because the whole line of cars behind us ... turned left half a mile back."
Huh.
Sure enough - technology hadn't quite caught up to the roads, and the locals had taken a turn I didn't even show on the map. So we wheeled around, caught up with the gang, and found the highway. Until it ended 10 miles later. Oh, well.

But the topper of the evening was arriving (at 9pm, well after dark in September) in Zurich. The roads didn't look quite like the turns that the computer told me would lead to the hotel, which I had found in the resident database of the program. As we turned off the route a few blocks too early, and tried in vain to re-sync ourselves with the map, the conversation went something like this...

Me: What's the cross street?

Hubster: Most of these streets don't seen to have signs!

Me: Well, here's a major street - is there a sign?

Hubster: It says 'B-something-Strasse'.

Me: Oh, Hell! They're ALL 'B-something-Strasse'!!!

And so on. For an hour. We drove around getting more lost, and the only saving grace was (A) there is a river, which kind of sets some nice boundaries, and (B) we found the train station. Finally, we struggled up some streets which didn't really look promising, to the address that we had been seeking.

Except we were in the wrong place. Because that database of hotels? Was out of date - and the place we found wasn't the place we wanted. *sigh*

But the good news is that the nice people there knew how to find the right place. It was 5 minutes away, and we finally found it.

It was 10pm at this point, and we were starving, having been driving like maniacs for nearly 5 hours. Bless the management - the restaurant was still open! Wheeee! I don't think the Hubster will ever let me live down my little episode with the laptop map.

By the way - we're headed to Vienna next spring. I'll be reading the rest of the adventures of Connie and Kim very closely !! But I'll still be taking a laptop, with maps on it ... I'm not curable.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Great news for Soldiers' Angels

The final tally is in for the Project Valour-IT Fundraiser, and Team Army led the pack this year. Now if the Army football team can only carry that success onto the field this weekend ... heh!

This year's fundraising competition raised
$192,193.02
for the Valour-IT project of Soldiers' Angels, and that's a reason to Celebrate! That translates to over 300 laptops for our wounded troops, and it's something to be very proud of.

I noticed another great item while reading Something to be Very Thankful For at Chuck's place. Commenter H. L. DeVore noted something special that his company has done for Soldiers' Angels...

... You gave me a brief demo of a voice activated laptop. I didn't appreciate appropriately at the time meeting you. I do now. Hope to meet again in person some day. I've donated 280,000 holiday cards to Patti and Soldiers' Angels, however even more meaningful to me and my company are the three laptops that we are presenting to soldiers at our offices on this coming Friday (Nov. 30th). [emphasis added]

You can read more about the card donation at The Gallery Collection company's Greeting Card Blog, and check out the very nice line of patriotic holiday cards on their web site.

Thank You to Mr. DeVore and all of the folks at The Gallery Collection for supporting Soldiers' Angels and our troops!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Send Thanks to the Troops!

How do you plan to give Thanks this year? Here's an easy way to have a direct impact on the morale of our troops...

THE ASY GIVING THANKS CAMPAIGN
This holiday season, America Supports You is giving you a new way to send your thanks to the troops - by text message! When you send your message of thanks to 89279 (TXASY) between November 17th and 22nd, you'll receive a special thanks in return. Also, we'll be displaying those messages on our ASY Giving Thanks widget far and wide across the internet. Just another way that you can support our brave military men and women serving in 177 countries across the world.

Since Blogger hates embedding certain objects in posts, I've propped the widget into the top of the sidebar for easy access. Hop to it, folks! Thanks to my buddy Val for the hat tip.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Valour-IT ... Go Army!

Well, the competition for bragging rights among the services teams is fun to watch. But we have our work cut out for us ... even the Army team is barely a quarter of the way to our goal of $60,000!

It's time to pull out the stops and spread the word ... take the Gollum 'Three Friends' Challenge: You get three friends/relatives/passing acquaintances to donate, and they get three folks to donate, and so one.

Spread the word! Share the Donation link with your friends and family!

Make sure you check out the Valour-IT auction site, there are plenty of interesting items to bid on. For instance:


Check out the message from Patti Patton-Bader at Chuck's place. And be sure to see what Badger 6 offers to those who donate. But whatever you do, don't go to Lex's place ... think of the kittens!

Lefty bloggers have donated (including fellow Denizen Trias), righty bloggers have donated, folks who don't care about politics have donated.

Remember the most important part ... this isn't about supporting the war, global warming, or the next elections. It's about helping the men and women who have given of themselves, and been wounded. It's about taking their quality of life up a notch, and keeping them in touch with their loved ones and friends. It's about giving something back to the people who have put their lives on the line for us.

It's easy - just click on the Donation button in the graphic at the upper right of the page, and pop $10, $25, $100 into the pot. And if you're a blogger, join a team and spread the word!

Don't forget to read what the troops themselves have said about the impact of receiving their laptops, at blogs like Sgt Hook and Blackfive (Army team leader). Or read about JR Salzman at Fuzzilicious Thinking, and see what JR is up to these days.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Valour-IT notes

The Valour-IT fund raising competition is well under way! However, my widget in the sidebar is not keeping track, and I will replace it as soon as I can.

*UPDATE* Widget Replaced! Total is now correct and tracking. The donations entered through the first widget were accepted and properly assigned to the teams, but the numbers were not updating. Thanks to all who have contributed!

The current totals (at 8am pacific time) stand at:

ARMY: $5,190
Marine Corps: $5,137
Navy/CSG: $2,350
Air Force: $3,118

Total: $15,795

What Fundraiser? Read the post below for all the fun details.

Spread the word! We have a ways to go to reach our $240,000 goal!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Go Army! Beat Navy!

It's time to focus some attention on Project Valour-IT, as we approach Veterans Day. For anyone not already familiar with the program, here is the blurb from the Project Valour-IT web site:

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled and adaptive laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries at major military medical centers. Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field. The experience of MAJ Charles “Chuck” Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered serious hand wounds while serving in Iraq, illustrates how important these laptops can be to a wounded service member's recovery.

As in previous years, the fund-raising efforts are set up as a team competition, to add a little fun, and allow for some serious inter-service snarkage.

Who: Bloggers of any and all stripes who support the U.S. Military
What: Raising $240,000 ($60,000/team) for Project Valour-IT, the non-profit Soldiers' Angels program that helps supply voice-controlled and other adapted laptops to severely-wounded troops.
Where: Starting on the blogs, then spreading through your community and into major media
When: Monday, 29 October through Saturday, 11 November (Veterans Day)
Why: Because reconnecting the wounded with the world is a vital part of their recovery
How: Signing up for your favorite military branch, blogging, auctioning, emailing, and spreading the news

Here are the Team Leaders:



I'm a proud member of the ARMY team - as you can tell by the donation block at the top of the right hand sidebar. Please spread the word, send email, tell your friends, and consider a donation - no matter how small.

It all adds up, and the impact is huge.

Valour-IT

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

SpouseBUZZ 3 Live announcement

Greetings all - I just wanted to pass along the Buzz! Carren Ziegenfuss asked for help spreading the word on the news that SpouseBUZZ Live 3 is a Go.

The SpouseBUZZ team is super excited about taking our next LIVE event to Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Air Force Base. If you've never attended one of these events, you are in for a real treat.

I understand from the spouses who've attended the previous SpouseBUZZ Live events that they are the place to be. Here's more from Andi...

We have some wonderful surprises in store for you at SpouseBUZZ LIVE Ft. Bragg/Pope. Each of our LIVE events have been amazing, and this one will be no exception.

Please plan to attend. The SpouseBUZZ team wants to meet you. Tell your friends about SpouseBUZZ LIVE Ft. Bragg/Pope. Make it a girls weekend, or a girls day out. Are you a male spouse? We would love to have you. As much as Toad enjoys hanging out with all the ladies, I'm sure he would be thrilled to see a few male spouses in the audience, and so would we. Come relax, laugh, cry and bond with hundreds of other military spouses. Listen to great conversations, meet interesting people, make new friends, load yourself down with free stuff and walk away stimulated and energized. Hey, we need each other - especially now.

We want to extend a very special thank you to Military.com, the premiere sponsor for this event. Military.com has been incredibly supportive of all things SpouseBUZZ, and we are grateful for their deep commitment to the military spouse community.

So go here to read more about it, and go here to register. And if you aren't already reading SpouseBUZZ, add it to your list now!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sgt Hook is back...

I was happy to see his blog light up again today ... And he's got boots on the ground. Glad to see you again, Sgt Hook - Welcome back!

Monday, September 24, 2007

First Amendment and deployed soldiers

Flying Shepherd reviews the meaning of religious freedom in a deployed military unit - for those who defend our rights, there are always limitations. But the point here is that you have to defend everyone's religious freedom, not just those who worship as you do.

One of the issues that took up quite a bit of time lately was something that pops up in every Chaplain course and is typically part of any conversation I have with a civilian Christian about the Chaplaincy: The First Amendment. I phrase it that way, because that is the proper frame for what I had to do. I spent over 40 hours of work defending Wicca to my supervisors, and defending my supervisors to Wicca.

Read the rest here.

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Freedom Walk 2007

The local chapter of Operation Homefront organized the regional Freedom Walk event in Lakewood this evening. For those not familiar with the area, Lakewood is a community near Fort Lewis and McChord AFB, and home to a large contingent of veterans (such as fellow blogger Echo9er) and military families.

There were several speeches and presentations, by Lakewood mayor Claudia Thomas and Operation Homefront chapter president Janice Buckley. I also enjoyed listening to LTG Charles Jacoby, the commander of I-Corps, and to Lt. Judith Lemley (a self described Sand Sailor), who was present through the DoD 'Why We Serve" program. And I was surprised to discover that the man sitting in a wheelchair near the speakers was none other than Gen. Shalikashvili!

I was riveted, however, by the speech presented by retired Marine LtCol. Mark Wriggle. As the speakers finished, and the walk proper began, I hung back so that I could shake Mark's hand and thank him for speaking. I asked him for a favor, and he very generously provided the text of his speech, so that I could share it here.

FREEDOM WALK 2007

TODAY MARKS THE 6TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ATTACK OF SEPT 11TH 2001. I SUSPECT THAT ALL OF US REMEMBER EXACTLY WHERE WE WERE AND WHAT WE WERE DOING THOSE FATEFUL MOMENTS WHEN SOME 3000 PEOPLE PERISHED BY HORRIFIC AND UNIMAGINABLE MEANS IN BARELY 100 MINUTES OF THIS NATION’S HISTORY.

HOMEGROWN HERE IN LAKEWOOD, HAVING RECEIVED MY PRIMARY EDUCATION IN THE SCHOOLS OF THIS DISTRICT THROUGH MY GRADUATION IN 1974, I AM HONORED TO BE AFFORDED THIS OPPORTUNITY JANICE TO TALK WITH MY FELLOW COMMUNITY MEMBERS AFTER SO MANY YEARS OF ABSENCE. AND REALLY, THE REASON FOR MY ABSENCE BROUGHT ME TO THIS PLACE TODAY.

YOU SEE, I AM A RETIRED MARINE WHO HAS INTIMATE EXPERIENCE IN FIGHTING THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR. I CAN PERSONALLY ATTEST TO YOU, WITH TWO COMBAT DEPLOYMENTS TO OIF’S I AND II, HAVING BEEN IN RAMADI AND FALLUJAH JUST PRIOR TO MY RETIREMENT EARLY LAST YEAR, AND A DEPLOYMENT TO DESERT SHIELD AND STORM IN THE EARLY 90’S, THAT THE FACE,…AND RESOLVE [MIND YOU]…OF OUR FOE, IS QUITE REAL. IF THAT MAKES YOU FEEL A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE, THEN I HAVE DONE MY BIDDING.

PRIOR TO MY SPEECH LAST YEAR, I RESEARCHED THE WEB. AS I WAS PERUSING THAT SPEECH IN PREPARATION FOR TODAY, I DECIDED THAT THE FACTS I PRESENTED THEN ARE EVER MORESO RELEVANT TODAY. WE TRULY ARE STILL FIGHTING FOR OUR PRESENT (AND FUTURE) EXISTENCE.

SO, WHAT’S “THIS” ALL ABOUT? LET ME SHARE THE PURPOSE OF THE FREEDOM WALK WITH YOU; IT ESTABLISHES A NATIONAL TRADITION TO REFLECT ON THE LIVES LOST ON SEPTEMBER 11, RENEW OUR COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM AND THE VALUES OF OUR COUNTRY, AND TO HONOR OUR VETERANS, PAST AND PRESENT.” THEREFORE, I OFFER YOU THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS COMPOSED OF MORE THAN 200,000 TONS OF STEEL, 425,000 CUBIC YARDS OF CONCRETE (WHICH IS ENOUGH TO BUILD A FIVE-FOOT WIDE SIDEWALK FROM NEW YORK CITY TO WASHINGTON, D.C.), HAD 43,600 WINDOWS WITH MORE THAN 600,000 SQUARE FEET OF SURFACE AREA, HAD A 60,000 TON COOLING CAPACITY (THE LARGEST IN THE WORLD), 239 ELEVATORS AND 71 ESCALATORS. OF THE APPROXIMATELY 3,000 PEOPLE THAT DIED THAT DAY:
• OVER 400 EMERGENCY SERVICES PERSONNEL DIED
• 60 WTC COMPANIES LOST PEOPLE
• 1,402 EMPLOYEES DIED IN TOWER ONE
• 614 EMPLOYEES DIED IN TOWER TWO
• AGE OF THE GREATEST NUMBER WHO DIED: BETWEEN 35 AND 39
• 289 BODIES WERE FOUND "INTACT"
• 19,858 BODY PARTS WERE FOUND
• 1,717 FAMILIES DID NOT RECEIVE ANY REMAINS
• 1,609 PEOPLE LOST A SPOUSE OR PARTNER IN THE ATTACKS
• 3,051 CHILDREN LOST A PARENT
• 20% OF AMERICANS KNEW SOMEONE HURT OR KILLED IN THE ATTACKS
• 98 FDNY VEHICLES DESTROYED
• 1.5M TONS OF DEBRIS REMOVED FROM SITE
• 99 DAYS FIRES CONTINUED TO BURN AFTER THE ATTACK
• THERE WERE 146,100 JOBS LOST IN NEW YORK OWING TO THE ATTACKS
• DAYS THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE WAS CLOSED: 6
• POINT DROP IN THE DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE WHEN THE NYSE REOPENED: 684.81
• ECONOMIC LOSS TO NEW YORK IN MONTH FOLLOWING THE ATTACKS: $105B
• ESTIMATED COST OF CLEANUP WAS $600M
• $970M OF FEMA MONEY SPENT ON THE EMERGENCY
• APPROXIMATELY $1.4B WAS DONATED TO 9/11 CHARITIES
• ESTIMATED AMOUNT OF INSURANCE PAID WORLDWIDE RELATED TO 9/11: $40.2B
• ESTIMATED AMOUNT OF MONEY NEEDED TO OVERHAUL LOWER-MANHATTAN SUBWAYS: $7.5B
• ESTIMATED $500M RAISED FOR FUNDS DEDICATED TO NYPD AND FDNY FAMILIES
• PERCENTAGE INCREASE IN CIA APPLICATIONS FROM 2001 TO 2002: 50
• 1.4M AMERICANS CHANGED THEIR 2001 HOLIDAY-TRAVEL PLANS FROM PLANE TO TRAIN OR CAR

ARE WE AT WAR OR NOT? WHAT OTHER EVIDENCE DO YOU REQUIRE?

IN 1978, A YOUNG MAN HAD RECENTLY FINISHED HIS FIRST ENLISTMENT IN THE MARINES, AND ANOTHER MAN, SADDAM HUSSEIN HAD LED THE BAATH PARTY IN A COUP TO TAKE OVER IRAQ. WHILE IN COLLEGE, THE YOUNG MAN DECIDED TO FOLLOW HIS CALLING AND BECAME A MARINE OFFICER. SINCE HIS COMMISSIONING IN 1983, WELL OVER 150 SEPARATE TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS AND KNOWN SUBSIDIARIES, THE WORLD OVER, HAVE BEEN FOUND TO EXIST.

TERRORISM HAS EXISTED, IN FACT, MUCH LONGER THAN THIS COUNTRY. I WOULD HOWEVER, LIKE TO OFFER SOME MORE RECENT EVENTS SINCE THAT PINNACLE YEAR OF 1983. LET ME NAME SOME OF THE MORE MEMORABLE ATTACKS OF THE 100’S THAT HAVE OCCURRED.
CHRONOLOGICALLY:
THE MARINE BARRACKS IN BEIRUT 1983 (WHILE I WAS AT TBS)
THE SS ACHILLE LAURO 1985
TWA FLIGHT 847 HIJACKING 1985, SEAMAN ROBERT STETHEM
ROME AND VIENNA ATTACKS 1985
TWA FLIGHT 840 BOMBING 1986
THE BERLIN DISCOTHEQUE 1986
KAL FLT 858 1987
PAN AM FLT 103 1988
ISREALI EMBASSY BOMBING IN BUENOS AIRES 1992
WORLD TRADE CENTER 1993
TOKYO SUBWAY SARIN GAS ATTACK (WHILE I WAS STATIONED AT ATSUGI NAF) 1995
THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING 1995
DERAILED TRAIN IN PALO VERDE, AZ 1995
KHOBAR TOWERS 1996
JAPANESE EMBASSY IN LIMA, PERU 1996-1997
U.S. EMBASSY IN KENYA 1998 (I SPENT SIX MONTHS THERE IN 2003 AFTER OIF I)
THE U.S.S. COLE 2000
ANTHRAX ATTACKS ON CONGRESS & NEW YORK GOVERNMENT OFFICES 2001
THE LAX EQYPTIAN GUNMAN 2002
BALI 2002
CASABLANCA 2003
MOSCOW CITY BOMBINGS 2003-2004
PHILIPPINES SUPERFERRY BOMBING 2004
SPAIN’S COMMUTER TRAIN BOMBING 2004
AND LONDON’S DOUBLE-DECKER BUS AND TRAIN STATION BOMBINGS 2005
PALESTINIAN KASSAM ROCKET ATTACKS ON GAZA 2006
DAHAB, EGYPT RESORT 2006
TEL AVIV RESTAURANT BOMBING 2006
PHILIPPINES BOMBINGS 2007
AL QAEDA ALGIERS BOMBING 2007


THERE ARE COUNTLESS OTHER ATTACKS NOT SO POPULARIZED AND SEVERAL RECENTLY FOILED ATTEMPTS AS WELL. MY QUESTION IS SIMPLE: “WHAT ADDITIONAL PROOF DO YOU NEED?”

THE LATEST STATISTICS REGARDING OUR SERVICEMEMBERS AND WHAT THEY HAVE COMMITTED TO DATE ARE:
DEATHS - 3,774
WIA - 27,186

HOW MANY MORE CASUALTIES ARE NECESSARY FOR THIS COUNTRY TO SURVIVE? MY ANSWER IS: AS MANY AS IT TAKES. FOR MY CHILDREN, YOUR CHILDREN, FOR THEIR CHILDREN, AND THEIR CHILDRENS’ CHILDREN.

FREEDOM, VALUES, AND THOSE WHO PUT THEMSELVES IN HARM’S WAY TO PROTECT US. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE HERE FOR. OUR COUNTRY IS FIGHTING FOR ITS EXISTENCE. WHAT ARE WE ALL GOING TO DO TO INSURE ITS SURVIVAL? WHETHER WE CARE TO ADMIT IT OR NOT WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF A CLASH OF CULTURES. MY DAD ONCE SAID TO ME AS A YOUNG TEEN, “AS LONG AS THERE ARE TWO MEN ON THE PLANET, ONE WILL HAVE TO DOMINATE AND THE OTHER WILL SUBMIT.” WHICH ONE DO YOU WANT TO BE?

TODAY, WE ALL WALK FOR FREEDOM. LET EVERY STEP WE TAKE TODAY MOVE US CLOSER TO FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY FOR ALL, THE PHILOSOPHY WHICH THIS GREAT COUNTRY OF OURS WAS FOUNDED.
THANK YOU

I wish you could hear it the same way that I did, and hear the passion and intensity in his voice as he spoke. He told me that it could be made more flowery, but that some things just have to be said ... popular or not.

Couldn't agree more. I think it's just right, as is.

[Bio on Mark from the Clover Park School District site:
Mark Wriggle recently retired from the Marines after 26 years of service in both the enlisted and officer ranks. He returned to Lakewood where he attended Clover Park Schools from elementary through high school graduation at Lakes. His three sons currently attend Clover Park High School. Wriggle is involved in international business development activities, is an Advisory Board member for Operation Homefront helping wounded veterans and their families, and is a of the Clover Park Rotary, the Military Officers Association of America, and the Marine Corps League. He is working towards his MBA in Global Entrepreneurship and plans to make Lakewood his long-term home. He is committed to a quality education for the students of our community while building a safer and increasingly-involved community.]

Have you Forgetten?

One of my favorite Darryl Worley songs...

Remember Why We Fight


The Global War on Terror came to our shores 6 years ago today. It didn't start here, but we must never forget, and never stop fighting.

John remembers.
Bill remembers.
Beth remembers.
Cassandra remembers.
FbL remembers.
AFSister remembers.
Boston Maggie remembers.
Homefront Six remembers.
Lex remembers.
Maj Pain remembers.
Greyhawk and Mrs. Greyhawk remember ... just start at the top and scroll down.
Trias, our Aussie Denizen, remembers.
Blackfive remembers, and shares the memorial of Marian Jordan Lewandowski of Poland. Jordan is a fine photographer and wonderful supporter of the U.S. and the war on terror. (The MJL Photography web site is currently having problems.)

** Added **
Sgt B remembers.
Kat remembers.
Murray remembers ... each individual.

The U.S. Department of Defense remembers.

Today I will remember by walking with Operation Homefront at the local Freedom Walk.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Backpacks for the kids

Operation Homefront organizes a Back-To-School backpack giveaway for military dependents. The Washington state chapter got together on Fort Lewis last weekend to hand out backpacks, loaded with supplies such as notebooks and pens/pencils, notecards, rulers, even crayons for the younger crowd.

We started off bright and early - I had to be at the base by 7am to join the caravan to the community center. Since I live an hour's drive north of the base, I was up way early. Good thing they provided coffee and donuts as promised, though!

We had plenty of Operation Homefront volunteers ...




And the 'customers' sure seemed happy ...



... Although many times the Moms looked much happier about the whole Back To School thing than the kids did ... *grin*.

We handed out backpacks from about 8am till 2:30 pm. There were moments of heavy scurrying, separated by periods where we wondered if we were taking hundreds of backpacks home with us! But at the end of the day, we packed the lack 20 or so into a car to be delivered to another post. Counting the 35 or so that were loaded up for one of the Navy base units, that means we handed out about 500 backpacks.
*whew*

We had a blast. The chance to give back something tangible was wonderful. And the look on some of the parents faces as they realized that the backpacks were truly free -AND- came with supplies, was precious.

But my favorite moment happened when one of the Moms realized her phone was ringing. It was her husband, currently deployed in Iraq! She finished signing for the backpacks for her two girls, and they talked for a bit. Then he talked to the girls - who happily told Daddy all about their neat new backpacks. Their excitement absolutely made my day complete.

Friday, August 24, 2007

When helicopters fall

We mourn for the families and friends of the soldiers lost in the crash of a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq - some of whom were based here at Fort Lewis.

Killed were the following soldiers assigned to the 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.:
Capt. Corry P. Tyler, 29, of Georgia.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, 28, of Whitsett, N.C.
Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman, 30, of Groveland, Calif.
Spc. Rickey L. Bell, 21, of Caruthersville, Mo.

Also killed were the following soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii:
Capt. Derek A. Dobogai, 26, of Fond du Lac, Wis.
Staff Sgt. Jason L. Paton, 25, of Poway, Calif.
Sgt. Garrett I. McLead, 23, of Rockport, Texas.
Cpl. Jeremy P. Bouffard, 21, of Middlefield, Mass.
Cpl. Phillip J. Brodnick, 25, of New Lenox, Ill.
Cpl. Joshua S. Harmon, 20, of Mentor, Ohio.
Cpl. Nathan C. Hubbard, 21, of Clovis, Calif.
Spc. Michael A. Hook, 25, of Altoona, Penn.
Spc. Jessy G. Pollard, 22, of Springfield, Mo.
Spc. Tyler R. Seideman, 20, of Lincoln, Ark.

I'll be helping out with the Operation Backpack handout tomorrow at Fort Lewis. The event ought to be a time for children to giggle as they ready themselves for school. This changes the tone a bit, but we'll make sure that the kids are taken care of, while remembering the sacrifice of all of the fallen.

As at the Castle, now is the time when we dance In Memoriam.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

OMV Sends: Operation Alljah

Sometime after 0200 Operation Alljah began in a middle-class neighborhood in northern Fallujah. The Marines of the 2nd Battalion 6th Marines occupied a police precinct and began a swarm or strategic blocking off of the streets, in order to control access both in and out of the neighborhood. That morning, by the time I arrived with the 5/10, a civil affairs unit out of Camp Lejeune, the 2/6 were firmly ensconced in the east side of the concrete precinct, the 5/10 took the west and the Iraqi Police seemed to have everything in control.

Since traveling north from Kuwait on an Army convoy, and crossing into Baghdad, and later Camp Fallujah, I had always heard stories of how bad, corrupt and unprofessional the Iraqi police is. "They smile at us because they know there's an IED planted ahead," said one platoon leader. An Iraqi interpreter said they were "not to be trusted", and troops in the Green Zone handled all security so they had little interaction with the Iraqi police and even fewer compliments.

That all changed when we were at the police precinct in Fallujah and a police officer blocked a suicide bomber from passing through the 2nd layer of security for screening potential recruits. Although the press reported 20 victims, there was in fact only one, the suicide bomber. Call me old-fashion, but when someone protects you, even inadvertently, I feel he's due a fresh benefit of the doubt, so I talked to a couple of police officers and recruits through the interpreter.

Most of the officers were from the neighborhood or Fallujah, which meant they were taking a great risk. The "bad guys" as the interpreter called them, often targeted the politicians, the businessmen and the police. Many officers wore ski-masks so as not to be recognized by someone who may have had issues with authority figures, and what figures they were. In their ill-fitting blue shirts, mismatched uniforms and barely any firepower, the Fallujah police were a Sunni version of the keystone cops.

Despite my perception of Iraqi Police, there was a line of over 300 men who wanted to join the auxiliary neighborhood watch program, with the aspiration of becoming one of those policemen. Marines from the 2/6 and 5/10 attempted to barter for the Fallujah Police t-shirts, but I didn't see any of the officers make the exchange (the last bid in earshot was $50 dollars, which represented a month's pay for some). The Iraqi army, many of whom were shia foreigners to the city, was better armed and, most felt, better trained, but the men of the Fallujah police force knew the terrain and gathered more valuable intelligence. Historically very insular, someone from Fallujah confided more in a fellow Fallujan than in any foreigner, American or otherwise. The police precinct showed promise, I learned that a police officer had uncovered information on insurgent activity that lead to an arrest.

Since their arrival, the infantrymen of the 2/6 had taken an RPG and some small arms fire. A young lieutenant told me an Iraqi police recruit, who was shot in the finger, proudly showed him the wound and told him he was happy to prove himself to the Marine. The lieutenant later remarked "He didn't have to go through that much trouble to prove himself," I thought about how much these current and future officers would have to face to make the city and concluded that maybe he did.

H/T to Maj Pain at One Marine's View.

Friday, August 17, 2007

US Soldiers rescue baby from war zone

Another positive story about our troops ...



Aug. 17: Against all odds, a 9-month-old Iraqi girl is alive and well in an American military hospital. One of the soldiers responsible for rescuing her talks about her amazing journey.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Catching Up

I finally got to meet the Ziegenfusses (Ziegenfi?) here in Seattle yesterday {happy dance}! Chuck and Carren are much fun to spend time with, and I was only sorry that we had limited time to spend. (Hope you two had fun at the Space Needle!) Ever since Chuck blogged about coming to Fort Lewis for the summer, I've been trying to figure out how to hook up with him. So it was ironic that I discovered Chuck was trying to reach me by reading this post ... before I checked my cell phone!

Other items that I have been slack on posting about:

Vets for Freedom Week 6: "Cost of Defeat" Call in Campaign
YouTube Smackdown (H/T to Castle Argghhh!)
Maj Pain is starting up a One Marine's View mailing list - join up!

Views from Ground Level:

Greyhawk
Michael Yon
Go Jack Army
Fightin 6th Marines
Francis Marion
Joel Maxwell

Friday, August 03, 2007

Watch "The Anvil of God"

I got this in an email from a friend, and will try to watch, even though it means tuning to *shudder* CNN...

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I have exciting news! As many of you are aware, I have spent the last few months working on a one hour documentary about the November 2004 Battle for Falluja. The program, The Anvil of God, is scheduled to air this Friday (8/3) at 10pm eastern.

This is the third hour that I have produced with correspondent Tom Foreman. (Ambush at the River of Secrets and The Lion in the Village) Our hope in creating Anvil is for viewers to pause and consider the sacrifices made every day by the men and women serving overseas and their families back home.

The Anvil of God tells the story of Camp Lejeune’s 1/8 Bravo Company. Bravo went into Falluja believing the battle would last 96 hours. It lasted five weeks. As they walked the entire city the Marines fought heated battles, searched house to house and faced their mortality on a daily basis. The Marines of Bravo were the tip of the spear as Americans progressed through the Falluja and they suffered numerous casualties as a result.

I appreciate all of the interest many of you have expressed in this project and hope that you will be able to tune in!

Spread the word!

The Anvil of God CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 FRIDAY 8/3 – 10P EASTERN

Best, Amanda

Amanda Townsend Producer CNN - Anderson Cooper 360

People you should know

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Allan Davison and Chief Warrant Officer Micah Johnson are awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions in rescuing two other pilots on July 2.

Chief Davison and Chief Johnson made sure their brothers came home. Because that's what troops do.

Somebody please clue in the MSM. As of this morning, there is scarcely a mention of these two fine soldiers in the news, and nothing in the major newspapers at all. Shameful.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sending cards to the Troops

Have you joined the ranks of Soldiers' Angels? If not, go visit Castle Argghhh or The Middle Ground to read about the need for a Surge in Angels!

If you are an Angel, or an AnySoldier or BooksforSoldiers volunteer, or you have family or friends deployed, you know that it is sometimes a challenge to find a card that hits the right tone.

Luckily for me (and for the troops on my writing list!), the good folks at Hallmark have a line of cards which is perfect for the task.

Sample card


Continued Demand for Cards for Military Brings "America's Heroes"

In response to a need for cards to send to Americans serving in the military, Hallmark offers America's Heroes – a line of cards first introduced in 2004 specifically for those in the military and others who protect and serve.

When Hallmark learned from Hallmark Gold Crown® retailers that consumers were asking for patriotic and military themed cards throughout the year – not just for Veterans Day – America's Heroes From Hallmark was created to fill that need.

Using information from retailers, Hallmark's employee idea submission bank, and the Idea Exchange (on-line consumer groups that provide opinions to Hallmark), artists and writers learned the kinds of cards people wanted to give.

America's Heroes From Hallmark features 28 greeting cards. The most popular cards in the group express missing you, thinking of you, thanks and appreciation, and love. The line provides a mix of humorous, light-hearted and serious cards, including religious messages.

In addition to being perfect for military personnel, most of the cards also are appropriate for those who serve in other ways, such as police or firefighters. Some cards are meant for anyone who is patriotic or supports those in the military or their families. One such card features a flag and fireworks, and simply says: Congratulations!...You deserve to be celebrated!

America's Heroes cards are available in Hallmark Gold Crown stores nationwide, as well as in military outlets at home and abroad.


Do I have to send a fancy card each time I write to a troop?? Not at all. But what a nice way to introduce myself to a new contact - someone who doesn't yet know my love for this country, and for the men and women who go out to serve it every day.

There's a bigger picture here as well. We need to vote with our checkbooks (figuratively) to let businesses know that they are doing the Right Thing. If we don't generate sales for these beautiful cards, then Hallmark will do the normal business thing, and remove them from the shelves. So make sure to check for them in your local Hallmark store, and if they aren't in view - ask for them.

Let's send the right message to Hallmark - and to our men and women in uniform!

Monday, July 16, 2007

What paper do You read?

I was exploring the Ejectia blogroll today (so many new blogs, so little time), and found myself visiting Ready, Fire, Aim, Apologize. This Guide to US Newspapers is probably old news, but it's the first I've seen it, and I had to share ...

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they should run the country.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand the Washington Post. They do, however like the smog statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn’t have to leave L.A. to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country, and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who’s running the country either, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority, feministic atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are democrats.

10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Give the mission time

As John of Argghhh points out, the troops are in Iraq and Gen. Petraeus is now fully implementing the plan for which the military deployments 'surged'. So it must be time for our short-sighted, instant-gratification driven culture to cry 'Failure'.

How about we try something new? Let's allow the troops to actually have some space while they try to, ya know, perform the mission. Keep reporting on the actions in the Middle East, just don't make every IED explosion or terrorist who escapes into proof that 'the Surge is failing', for heaven's sake!

As Eric of BlackTygrrrr says - Unless your name is General David Petraeus, your opinion on the war is irrelevant.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Email surge is working!

We have an update today from the Fightin' 6th Marines. The email count is now almost at 9,000 - and still growing!

That is Awesome, folks. But when you think about it, that is still less than 2 emails per Marine. Keep it UP!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The wisdom of children

How true ...

Dear God...

Cheerfully borrowed from Wayne, who has a whole collection of these.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

We have a winnah

Early this morning a visitor arrived here out of the blue (no referrer), apparently decided they were in the wrong place, and zoomed off to places unknown. That was my 50,000th visitor. The only thing I can tell is that they are located in Billings, MT ... and whoever it is likes to get up much earlier in the morning than I do! {Hugs} to you, anonymous visitor!

So Amy of Gentle Whisper, and John of Castle Argghhh! ... you got close, but no ceegar.

Over the two-plus years that I've been exploring the blogosphere and feeding the blog monster (sometimes on a starvation diet), I've met some great folks. We've talked about ideas large and small, cheered on our troops and honored their sacrifices, ranted against the inequities of the world, played meme games, and raised virtual glasses in joy, and to honor those who are no longer with us.

This occurs largely in the virtual sense, being spread out around the world as we are. Sometimes the virtual spreads into the physical world, and real margaritas can replace virtual ones - and life is even better.

Not that virtual friends are less than real, as has been discussed before in this space.

... friends are friends - whether we met first through the internet or in person matters not. Secondly, I think that not only can we form true friendships without meeting one another, it may lead a purer form of friendship.

We didn't form these friendships because we happened to work together, live next to one another, etc. We formed them because we shared ideas with each other, and came back for more. As long as we have been honest, then the bonds between us are not based on age or physical parameters, or on other accidents of location. Instead the bonds are based on how we think - and that is a better, stronger bond to me.

Getting to meet any of you face to face will just be the icing on the cake!

I'm glad you came by, drop a comment in the box if you're so inclined. Come back anytime ... And when you get to the Pacific Northwest (Hi Chuck!), leave a comment so the virtual and real worlds can intersect.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

50,000!

Wow - sometime Saturday night or Sunday my sitemeter will tick over 50,000 visits, recorded over two and a half years.

It's been a ton of fun! Sorry ... no prizes for pushing the counter past the milestone. You'll get a mention here, though, as will the blog that you came from. And a big virtual {Hug} from me for helping the meter to tick over!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kaziah's Gift

Artist Kaziah Hancock gives her talents and time to honor fallen troops by painting portraits for their families. I was introduced to her efforts by this video (thanks for the link, Beck!). She has completed almost 200 paintings since 2003, and does it all without accepting any payment from the families themselves. This is her Thank You gift to our fallen heroes, and to their loved ones.

Here's one example of her talent and devotion ...

Portrait by Kaziah Hancock


Marine Sgt. Adam Cann was killed in Iraq in January of 2006, but he is alive in the hearts of his friends and family, and again in this portrait.

Artists like Kaziah, and like Michael Reagan, who I profiled last year, give freely of their talents and their time to keep alive the spirit of these fallen heroes. Neither of them will accept money from the families who request the portraits, so if you have a few dollars to spare, visit Kaziah and Michael to help them continue in their missions:

Kaziah - Portraits of Heroes

Michael - Fallen Heroes Project

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Marines of the Fighting 6th need You!

How can you help the Marines of Regimental Combat Team 6? I'm glad you asked! How about starting out with an email to tell them you support them...

We have a golden opportunity to make a direction connection with the help of Grim and Blackfive (with a tip of the hat to Kat), you can even do it right from your computer. How easy is that?!

Just sit down and tell these warriors at the tip of the spear that you care, and that you support them and their mission. These are our Marines, putting it all on the line every day - thousands of miles from their homes and families. So take 10 minutes of your day to tell them you care.

Then send another email to all of your friends and family who support the troops. And tell them to do the same thing. Let's make certain that these Marines know we support them, and completely flood their email box!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy Birthday, US Army - and Happy Flag Day

This date has dual significance to US citizens. First, it is the 232nd birthday of the US Army.


Happy Birthday, US Army!June 14, 1775 - Recognizing the need to form a unified army to fight Great Britain, the Continental Congress creates the Continental Army and unanimously votes George Washington of Virginia as its commander. Organizing the army from the militia units gathered outside Boston, Washington led the Continental Army for the duration of the war. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, most of the army was disbanded. The following year on June 3, Congress authorized the formation of United States Army to take the place of its revolutionary predecessor.
(From About.Com : Military History)

Today is also Flag Day, in honor of which I offer you my own flag.



I'm working today, but I have a special event planned for Friday. If you're curious, the details are at the American Legion of Washington site. I won't actually be on base at Fort Lewis, just close to it. But I expect to get to meet 'n' greet some soldiers. If I get pics (and permission), I'll post them up this weekend. Hope you all have fun as well!

*** UPDATE ***
Yippee! I just found out that Walt Gaya will be at the golf event tomorrow, to take pictures. Yay! If that name doesn't ring any bells, you need to read Mike Yon's post Americans Among Us and Angels Among Us for lunch, and then read A Piece of Cake for desert. I will be honored to once again get to see and talk with Walt.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This humbles me ... Again

While every story of our brave men and women in uniform has the dual effect of inspiring and humbling me, the stories of Major Doug Zembiec, the "Lion of Fallujah", maxes both impacts for me. I thought that I could not be more inspired after reading his story at Blackfive. I was wrong.

Go read the letter this fine Marine wrote to the family of another fallen Marine. Take the hanky with you. You'll need it.

Captain Doug Zembiec in Fallujah, April 2004
Zembiec Family Photo - Captain Doug Zembiec, April 2004


*** Update ***

Just when I cleared the blurriness from my vision, my blog-son brings it back again, with the simple word Friend. Go read
Living With Our Scars to see how far Major Zembiec's words reach.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How I remembered D-Day

Imagine my excitement last week when I saw that I would be able to attend a special event today at work. In honor of the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, and in the spirit of Memorial Day, we were going to host a special guest. Buck Compton, a member of the E (Easy) Company, known to most as the Band of Brothers, would come to our work campus to speak.

Let me set the stage for this event a little. Within the company are many social organizations, and among these are two groups - those who are military veterans, and those who are reservists. They were the organizers of the event, and of the 300 or so folks in the lecture hall, I'd guess at least 75% were members of these two groups - or their guests. The organizer, Paul, is a veteran, and he introduced another veteran, Chris, who has been a co-worker for a year since retiring from the Marine Corps with 2 stars.

Chris started off with a moment of silence in honor of our fallen troops, as this was also a Memorial Day observance. That was followed by a playing of the Star Spangled Banner, and then Chris provided the background on just who this Buck Compton fellow is. And I learned many things I didn't know.

For all those who have read Stephen Ambrose's book, Band of Brothers, or enjoyed the mini-series, the name Lynn "Buck" Compton should be familiar. As one of the members of E (Easy) Company of the 506th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) of the 101st Airborne Division, Buck made the jump into Normandy on D-Day, and was awarded a Silver Star for his actions in disabling a German gun emplacement.

But before he put on the uniform of an Army officer, there was college. Buck attended UCLA, where he played baseball with Jackie Robinson, and joined the UCLA football team in winning the Rose Bowl in 1943.

After the war ended, Buck became a police officer in L.A. and started a family. He decided to became a lawyer and moved on to the District Attorney's office as a Deputy D.A., where he led the team which prosecuted Sirhan Sirhan for the murder of Robert F. Kennedy. He was then named to the California Court of Appeal, where he spent 20 years as an associate justice.

He retired to the Pacific Northwest, and ended up the neighbor of a co-worker. And it turned out, when asked, that he was happy to come to speak to us in honor of the day. Which was our good fortune, because Buck is equally comfortable talking about the events of 63 years ago or the current war front in Iraq. He can tell tales of the past, but he doesn't dwell there.

Right off the bat, Buck made us chuckle, as he pointed out the uniqueness of being introduced by a former Major General. He noted that in his career, he hadn't had much exposure to General officers! This set the tone well, as he proved to be very down to earth and matter of fact about his experiences. As with other WWII vets I've known, he feels that what he did was nothing special. In fact, he pointed out that having a book based on Easy Company was pure chance, partly founded from the relationship between Walter Gordon, a member of Easy Company, and Stephen Ambrose - as they were neighbors.

I would need a transcript of the hour he spent with us to remember all of the topics he covered - everything from current politics and the war in Iraq, to the differences between Reality as he recalls it versus the movie version of events. After telling a few tales to illustrate some of the artistic license, I had to grin when someone asked him, "But you did get shot in the butt, right?" - and Buck chuckled and said "Oh, yeah. That happened."

Buck made an incredibly important point, however, that I shall never forget. He talked about how people will walk up to him and thank him for 'fighting for our freedom'. Because he is certain that many, probably most, of the people who do so are not really thinking about what all of those freedoms are. They think of Freedom of Speech (and the evidence is how many people spout off ... *grin*), but they ignore equally important freedoms and rights that we have in this country. Freedom to associate with those we choose to, the right to own property, a free market economy, and so on. These are all part of what makes America special, and we have seen way too much nibbling at them over the years.

It was also quite refreshing to hear him denounce the 'so-called' government leaders who play politics with the troops, and worry too much about whether the NSA is listening to their phone calls. And music to my ears when he referred to Madame Pelosi as traitorous. If he were running for office right now, I'd be voting for him!!

Both before and after the event, Buck generously signed autographs and allowed photos. Since we wanted to get good seats, the Hubster and I did not pause on the way in to buy a copy of Ambrose's book, and on coming out afterwards, I found that they were all sold out. I bought a copy of the book "Biggest Brother", by Larry Alexander, instead - and had that autographed instead, along with a poster for a friend.

I came to shake the hand of one of the Band of Brothers, and instead I got to meet a wonderful American ... priceless.

By the way, I couldn't resist doing a little web searching afterwards - after learning so much more about the rest of Buck's busy life. He may be retired, but he isn't sitting around doing nothing. He has a regular radio gig for a station in Anacortes (north of Seattle, for those east of the Rockies), commenting on current events and political topics. Better yet, he has a blog where one can listen to his previous commentaries. If you're interested - wander over to Buck Compton Online, and tell him Barb sent you!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Reports from the Sandbox

There's a few people from my sidebar who are currently in Iraq or Afghanistan, or have family in country. Go drop them a comment or two if you have a moment, and let them know you're thinking about them.

Jack Army went out on Patrol the other day, and listened to the silence (Not!) of the lambs.

Partamian scowled while en route to the 'Stan.

Amy of Gentle Whisper blogs and misses her hubby Joel, who is in Afghanistan as well.

Homefront Six shares a video she made while she waits for MacGyver to come home safely.

The Bastidge is no longer in the military, he's in Iraq as a civilian contractor.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

Before you take off today for picnics or cookouts, or boating or golfing, whatever enjoyment awaits you with family and friends, remember those who have died in uniform. They served, and whether they fell in uniform or passed on in later years, we should take time to honor their service. That is the real meaning of Memorial Day, and it is sometimes lost.

John Donovan remembers , and his memory is long, and broad.

Blackfive remembers.

Francis Marion remembers.

Maj Pain remembers.

Lex remembers.

Sgt. Hook remembers.

We remember 1st Lt. Laura M. Walker and Sgt. Robert G. Davis, who died in Afghanistan.

We remember Pfc. Devon Gibbons, who died from wounds received in Iraq.

We remember Sgt Adam Cann/USMC, who died in Iraq.

I remember my father, Robert M. Stanley, who joined the Army in 1943 as a gawky teenager to fight against Hitler, and came home to marry the girl next door and live the American Dream.

** Update **

Fellow Denizenne Kat created a beautiful and moving video tribute, which she shares in her post Remember Them - Memorial Day.

Enjoy your day ... and Remember the reason that you have the freedom to do so.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Denizenne Micro-meet

Fellow Denizenne AFSister had to leave the heartland this week, and travel to the awful Pacific Northwest, where all week people have tried to feed her fish parts. *gasp*

The Good News it that Bad Cat Robot and I got to meet up with her for dinner last night. As she was in Portland, we scoped out a place about halfway from here to there, and met up near Centralia ... a well named burg.

'Ritas were had by all, and much grinning and giggling ensued as we three caught up on events such as the Milblog conference and such. As always, these quick meetings are over much too quickly, but at least I got to add another Denizenne to my 'Bloggers I've met' sidebar!

Of course, the Commander of Argghhh is demanding the photo evidence (see the comments) of this meeting, but he'll just have to wait until AFSis posts the pics. Yep, I forgot my camera. D'oh!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Community

My post "Where are we headed?" opened the question of the tidings for our future, and a hope for the same. Make sure, by the way, to read the cogent comments in that post from some who have seen the elephant. Very important.

In particular, I want to highlight the words left behind by Francis Marion:

I wrote this a few weeks ago when I was struggling with some of the same thoughts...

Hope

There is an ugly place and I go there often
I go there to keep it from spreading to your place
When it does not spread you do not see it
When you do not see it you do not understand it
That which you do not understand is ignored
That which is ignored becomes an ugly place


Today, Bill Whittle has posted his Good News in this same vein. So grab a pot (a cup won't do it!) of coffee, and settle in to read:
You are Not Alone (part 1)
You are Not Alone (part 2)

When you have registered that completely, continue on to his initiation post for Building Ejectia. You see, the whole concept of You are not Alone, is that we build Ejectia together. Now get reading!

Clap for me, too

Cheers on Corridor Three

The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is an applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway. A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating.

By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class. Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events on Altercation, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden … yet. Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier’s chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel. Behind him, and stretching the length from E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

You have to read the rest at Blog Them Out Of The Stone Age.

Thank you for clapping for me, Colonel. I wish I could do it myself, but perhaps your applause means more than mine could.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where are we headed?

A couple of interesting and thought-provoking posts crashed together in my head today, and the pieces are still forming back together into an image. Before I try to describe that image, you need to go read the posts for yourself.

First, John Donovan initiates a discussion On the Democrats, Republicans, and the waging of the war, and looks at the shape of politics under the specter of the Global War on Terror, and how that shape will affect our decisions in the 2008 elections, and beyond. Make sure that you continue into the comments ... as with many discussions at the Castle they are as important as the post.

When you are ready to continue, the next stop is Our Society's Undoing, from America's Son. Dip into the mind and heart of one of the Sheepdogs who knows the face of the enemy in Iraq, and the face of the criminal enemies of our society.

Still with me? Good.

Be honest - did you spend a few moments wondering why you bothered to get out of bed today, if we're all going to hell in a handbasket? The thought flashed through my mind. But I'm not able to dwell long in that state, so I found something that happened over the weekend to help balance the grim outlook.

Last Saturday, I joined with the fine folks at Operation Support Our Troops for a rally in celebration of Armed Forces Day, at the Memorial Park in my town. In addition to OSOT, there were members of the American Legion of Washington, and several teams of the local Issaquah School District NJROTC units - including color guard, rifle team and a bugler. We even had a visit from my Congressman, Dave Reichert (8th district). After the speeches and ceremonies, the presentation of the wreath, and 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps, we adjourned to the main intersection in town (a block away) to wave signs of support and wave to the drivers by.

One of my favorite parts of the day, however, was before the events began. I found myself standing next to a young man in cadet uniform, both of us alone - and I struck up a conversation with him. Randy turned out to be a high school senior and senior member of the local NJROTC, and his role for Saturday was to play Taps. We talked for almost 15 minutes, during which time I learned of his college plans (he will attend UW in the fall), about his family (he is the youngest), and about the horn he would be playing - which actually wasn't a bugle.

We talked about some of his friends, who were also members of the Junior ROTC program, and have graduated from high school already. Some of these young men are already enlisted in the military, and Randy told me that some of them are being deployed this year. I gave Randy one of the AnySoldier.com cards that I always carry, and asked him to pass the site along to his friends, so that someday one of us can send them support to ease their time.

If at least half of the class of 2007 is as personable, bright and dedicated as Randy is, then I know that the future has great possibilities.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Celebrate the Military

May 19th is Armed Forces Day, and I plan to celebrate it by joining the Operation Support Our Troops gang at the Armed Forces Day Rally in Issaquah this weekend. Come join us if you are in the area!

May 19th Rally - Join us!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Apache tribute

Need to satisfy that urge for some helo action? Check out the video at Guidons, Guidons, Guidons. The video is a tribute to the Apache AH-64D community, and especially to the memory of two fallen pilots: CW4 Keith Yoakum and CW2 Jason Defrenn.

After that, you can learn more about these two heroes in Wayne's "Above and Beyond" post at Savannah Daydreamin'.

Fallen aviator sought to ‘make a difference’



It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
~ Gen. George S. Patton ~

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Micro blogmeet

I was very lucky to catch up with soldier and sometime blogger Dogtulosba a couple of weeks ago. He and his wife J were catching up with both of their families, now that he is returned from spending a year in Afghanistan. So the three of us met up at a local eatery, and chowed down on some great Thai food while we caught up on events. They are good people, and it was a blast to spend time with them. I even sweet talked J into taking a picture of me with D, just to prove it really happened.

Before he left the sandbox, though, his commander made sure that he came home in style. Sporting new bars, that is...
First salute as Captain

Friday, May 11, 2007

Think of the children

Our military knows how important their mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is, because they see the faces of the future every day. Today, Jack Army shares one of those images as a reminder of the mission and that future.

I find it hard to believe that America's congressional leaders want to abandon these people. I mean, look at those kids! They are adorable, happy and worth all the effort we can put into securing this country and giving them a chance to get a handle on things. Freedom is worth it.

And this country is crawling with these kids, the future of Iraq and the Middle East. Every Soldier here or that has been here probably has several photos like that one above. These kids are everywhere, not just little rural villages like I described, but everywhere.

Abandon them? I think not.

You know the drill. Go read the whole thing. Look at the faces of Iraqi children, and then tell your congress critter to shape up.

Report from Iraq

This report from LTC G, currently serving his third tour in Iraq, came by way of a mutual acquaintance. It's actually his Update number 13, and I will post the previous Updates very soon.

"Update # 13
9 May 2007

I would complain about being hot, but I know that the worst is yet to come. After several months of remarkably pleasant nights and reasonable days, our grace period is up. At a mere 104 degrees everything is incrementally harder. The only real mercy is that the sun remains out longer, and the pace of life in the mid-east adjusts to the brutal reality.

We make the turn off of Haifa Street and into on of the poorer muhallas. Three months ago this wide side street would have been completely empty of all but trash, stray dogs, and a few men busy getting from one place to another. Two months ago, we would have been confronted by elder males eager to tell us about their woes. One particular shop owner made a point of stopping every American patrol that passed in those first weeks and bringing them to his shop. Off his shelf he would take one of about twenty cans of various foodstuffs. The can had a bullet hole in one side and out the other. Proof of the “sniper,” that hunted by night in the high rise apartments that overlooked the slums. An all too real urban legend, the sniper boogey man, struck fear I the neighborhood and kept them out of the main street and tucked in the relatively secure back allies. Coupled with the corpse like hulk of the burnt out power station on the other side of the neighborhood, the residents told a constant and unrelenting tale of horror. Last month, the sniper threat had stopped as some cancer in the local forces was carved out. People ventured back out in the streets and children became common place.

Now, the street is packed for the almost nightly game of soccer. The late afternoon cools off significantly and the last few hours of the day see families enjoying themselves at every doorstep, in the cafes, at the slowly improving parks and gardens, and in the streets. The crowd parts as we pass by during a joint patrol with our shurta. We weave in and around the makeshift rock goal posts and through the slums. In another few hours, when we pass through again, curfew will be in effect. The streets will be empty, and most of this area will be dark, the electrical corpse here has not been resurrected yet.

But the next neighborhood tells a different story. This area while still a ghetto, is nowhere near as ancient as the one we have just left, nor has it suffered quite as much recent loss. Its infrastructure has been easier to replace, and neon signs and well lit shops are gearing up for the setting of the sun. The streets are filled, and our fourteen vehicles wind trough as if on parade. The tentative waves of February’s children are replaced by almost enthusiastic responses from entire May families. Women that once discouraged kids from interacting smile and wave. Males eagerly take the newspapers we drop off. Hard to say if they believe the governmental papers, but they are at least considering them. We still get hard stares from many. Knots of young males glare from street corners. Older men study us as we go by. Many still hate us, but terrors fever has largely broken and fled the neighborhood.

At the end of the block we recognize two of the local government leaders from our weekly council meetings. We pull over and dismount to chat with them. COL B, MAJ B and I chat on the corner while the nightly block party swirls around us. The frosty reception COL B received at our arrival in sector has been replaced with warm greetings and genuine appreciation. Months ago, the conversation would have been dominated with a list of demands about plugged sewers, mounds of trash, downed power lines, missing relatives and abusive security forces. Tonight, over a cold orange soda hastily offered from a local vendor, they eagerly tell us of the work that has gone on the last few days. Junker cars towed away. Water pipes repaired. Increased electricity. They are beginning to see that cooperation with security forces allows real work to get done. And when real work gets done people are happy. And happy people are happy voters.

As we stood there, the shurta passed out newspapers. Many of the young kids took them, anxious to have anything free. One tiny young boy, barely pushing two was determined not to be left out. Smart enough to know that the papers probably originated from the Americans and not the National police, he gathered up his courage, strode up to MAJ B, executed a flawless parade ground salute, stomped his heal in Iraqi style and asked in a clear young voice if he too could have a newspaper. One of COL Bs security detachment quickly acquired one back from the many they handed out while our terp filled us in on the young lad’s request. MAJ B presented the young trooper his trophy. If I could have one untaken photo from my trip here, it would be of that young child saluting the American soldier.

I won’t be so na├»ve to say that all is rosy. The violence still rages all around our sector and as last week reminded us, also in ours. Nor will I say that these men on the street corner have been converted. It is however progress that they are at least showing signs of being conflicted. Unsure if they should jump fully on the winning team, or if they should hedge their bets and keep one foot solidly in the enemy camp…just in case worse comes to worse. These men walk a fine tight rope. And why shouldn’t they, they read a steady diet of defeatism in the press.

I can’t help but wonder about the huge amount of relief the enemy must feel after years of climbing, knowing that they are no longer looking at a false peak. There it is! The summit, right in front of them! I have climbed enough mountains to know how easy that final ascent is. The burst of enthusiasm at knowing the end is in sight. After years of constant conflict, in a brutal strategy of pure attrition, this must be a huge relief. They had no measurable way of marking success. No march across Europe. No castles to siege, no flags to raise. Only an endless series of explosions and ethnic killings with no real way of knowing when victory might be in sight. But now, completely inexplicably we have told them where the finish line is. Foes that thought they were in a marathon know that they only have several hundred more meters to run. Those on the fence have renewed hope. Victory is in sight.

I wish my grandparents were still alive, or my parents were old enough to remember D-Day. I would love to know how they felt on hearing Eisenhower’s powerful D-Day message.


Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower

How sad that General Petreus couldn’t pull this speech in it’s entirety off the shelf. Unfortunately the third paragraph needs some serious work….but this is 2007, much has happened since Al Queda’s triumph of 9/11. We have inflicted serious defeats on the enemies’ capabilities. Our home front…well, ok we don’t have a funding bill…..and the freedom loving nations of the world…well, ok they have lost their stomach…and victory would be cool and all…But you troops, you guys rock! We love you. Go knock yourselves out…you have about three months to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Don’t screw it up.

The note that Eisenhower didn’t publish, the one he kept in his pocket, written before the operation in case of failure, read:


Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
What an incredibly amazing document. The fact that the commander, on the ground, in charge of the free worlds human and industrial treasure, took personal responsibility for the success or failure, knowing he had the backing of his government and its people. Great big brass balls!

Can you imagine if we had put the D-day invasion up to a congressional vote? How about the A-Bomb? How much harder would D-Day have been if every aspect of the strategy had been second guessed in every nightly talk show and editorial for months on end. Rommel would have giggled like a school girl.

While I would never advocate a restriction on a vigorous public debate, the simple reality is that there is a time and place for the doors of Congress to be shut. The hard decisions to commit or withdrawal should be done in secrecy. And in a way that keeps the troops certain that the sand on the beach is worth wading up onto, keeps the enemy uncertain of how high the climb is, and keeps hope alive in the millions tyrannies’ victims who have a vested interest in which way the tide will turn.

Our job gets harder every day, but is no less rewarding. This morning we drove past construction crews already rebuilding last weeks collapsed traffic circle. The crazy lady has been forced to pick a new corner to sit on, but she is alive. And I am left to wonder whose world is crazier, hers or mine."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Honoring the Fallen

It has been a tough week for the Washington state military community.

Six soldiers from Fort Lewis were killed on Sunday, from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division:


Staff Sgt. Vincenzo Romeo, 23, of Lodi, N.J.

Sgt. Jason R. Harkins, 25, of Clarkesville, Ga.

Sgt. Joel W. Lewis, 28, of Sandia Park, N.M.

Cpl. Matthew L. Alexander, 21, of Gretna, Neb.

Cpl. Anthony M. Bradshaw, 21, of San Antonio, Texas.

Cpl. Michael A. Pursel, 19, of Clinton, Utah.

On May 3rd, two soldiers from Company B, 321st Engineer Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserve, Hayden Lake, Idaho were killed.


Staff Sgt. Coby G. Schwab, 25, of Puyallup, Wash.

Spc. Kelly B. Grothe, 21, of Spokane, Wash.

Coby's unit was one of those adopted for the Operation Support Our Troops Santa's Soldiers event that I took part in last November. His wife PFC Mallory A. Schwab serves in the 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3-2 SBCT, also out of Fort Lewis.

Operation Support Our Troops is planning a tribute at the Freedom Bridge for this weekend:

When: Saturday, May 12, 2007
Where: Exit 122 off I-5 Madigan
(Freedom Bridge)
Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

To show our Love and Respect for our Fallen Heroes and their families, we will be paying tribute at noon with the playing of Taps, a moment of silence and prayers at the small white cross memorial at the entrance to Madigan Hospital.

Six soldiers from Fort Lewis were killed in Iraq on Sunday and the entire military community is grieving the loss of these Heroes. Let's show them the civilian community grieves with them.

This is an especially painful time for us, because SSG Coby Schwab was also killed in Iraq this week. Coby was assigned to the 321st Engineers from Hayden Lake, Idaho. OSOT adopted Coby's unit this past Christmas and his wife, PFC Mallory Schwab's unit for Easter. Coby was the son-in-law of Stacey Fenton, one of OSOT's Core Team members. May Coby rest in peace and know that his service will always be deeply honored by us.



To borrow from Echo9er ...

May God hold them in his hands and may their families carry them forever in their hearts.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fun in Cabo

We're doing the usual stuff ... playing golf, laying by the pool, getting sunburned. And going fishing ... for Really Big Fish. Or at least, bigger than anything I've ever caught before! (hi-res here)

Objective time to haul in the 101" long marlin ... maybe 25 minutes. Subjective time - about 2 hours. Yowza! Yes - that one is mine. The Hubster hauled one in as well. Except for being a bit green around the gills at times, a very productive morning.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Playing in the Sun

I'm not here -- gone beachin' for a while. See you when I get back.

In the meantime, visit Castle Argghhh!, or any of the other fine blogs listed in my sidebar.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good news on Free Speech in Washington State

During the 2004 election cycle, ballot initiative I-912 was introduced to repeal the 9.5 cent per gallon additional gas tax that had been voted into law by the state legislature. I-912 was a polarizing issue, and drew hot debate. Sadly, many of my fellow inmates citizens voted against I-912, and the gas tax increase stayed the law of the land.

Why does this relate to Free Speech? Because local KVI radio hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson were accused of using their platforms as free advertising for I-912, and were ordered to report their online support as a political contribution, which I posted about in July of 2005.

They have been fighing this finding ever since, and today we have the determination from the Washington State Supreme Court, by way of Michelle Malkin:

Breaking: Free speech victory in Washington state
There's an important breaking court decision on a political free speech case involving my friends at KVI radio in Seattle. A reader e-mails:

A unanimous Washington state supreme court ruling, issued this morning, reversed a lower court ruling that held radio commentary by Seattle's KVI-570's Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson made "in-kind" contributions when they promoted an anti-gas tax voter initiative on their shows in 2005.

Majority Opinion by Justice Barbara Madsen.

Concurring opinion by Justice James Johnson, scolding the abusive prosecutors.


Seattle Times coverage:

The state Supreme Court said in an opinion released this morning that KVI talk show hosts did not need to report their advocacy for an anti-gas tax campaign as an in-kind political contribution. And the court has reinstated a countersuit filed by the No New Gas Tax (NNGT) campaign against local governments that initially sued.

We hold that RCW 42.17.090 did not require NNGT to disclose the value of KVI's radio broadcasts supporting the initiative campaign as an in-kind contribution. The statutory media exemption, RCW 42.17.020(15)(b)(iv), excludes from the definition of "contribution" political advocacy for or against a political campaign by the hosts of a regularly scheduled talk show, broadcast by a radio station that is not controlled by a candidate or political committee. We reverse the order dismissing NNGT's counterclaims and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.



Great news, and a solid statement for free speech! I was listening to Kirby this morning, and he indicated that if this decision had gone against them, he and John were prepared to take it to the US Supreme Court. I'm glad that the justices of my state were able to see the light.