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.