Wednesday, December 07, 2011

December 7 ~ Pearl Harbor

December Seventh, 1941

Seventy years ago, December 7, 1941, the United States was rocked by the radio announcements that told of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Many historical and remembrance pieces will be written today: stories of history, stories of personal experience - though those will be fewer each year, stories of the reaction in the United States, Japan, the world, even a conspiracy theory or two. Most of the men and women who were old enough to know what was going on are no longer with us. Hopefully, we have heard their stories and remember their messages. I am re-posting my remembrances.

Pearl Harbor Day. A Day That Will Live in Infamy.

What I always will remember is growing up in the shadow of Pearl Harbor - the ever present reminder of how ugly war was. There was nothing noble or gleeful about the awful day. I grew up with the stories of those who were there, stories of people I knew, stories of people who lived through it. As I get older, I can 'see' and 'hear' the stories come alive.

Each Sunday before Pearl Harbor Day, Puna would take us to the Arizona Memorial. Armed with the leis we had strung from the plumeria blossoms on our trees, the family went together. It used to be rather low-key to visit there, and once you got there, quite unusual to have anyone else at the Memorial. There wasn't a Visitor's Center yet. There was no evidence of the Park Service then. Just a guy at the dock that grabbed the little shuttle boat, a Boston Whaler, tied it up and helped you off.

We would walk through the Memorial - our steps echoing in the cavern of the Memorial. Halfway through, we would stop and look at the ship resting beneath us, still leaking oil into the lapping sea, and carrying it ever away, like the spirit was still escaping the doomed craft. We would toss our leis into the water. Eventually, we would end at the Memorial wall, carved with all of the names of the men who died on the Arizona, most of whom were still entombed within.

Puna, this large mountain of a man, would clasp his hands behind him, dip his head in prayer, then focus on the wall and in a hauntingly beautiful, tenor voice would chant the names of the fallen. His voice would echo in the chamber. A more beautiful prayer I have never heard. Once, I looked at his face and saw the tears streaming down, but his voice never wavered. His eyes seemed to be closed, yet he never missed a name.

When the chanting was finished, we would walk back to the overlook on the ship and Puna would tell us about that Sunday morning. He spoke of the noise and the fear and the chaos. He spoke of curfews and rationing. He spoke of the increased military presence on the island. He spoke of the sorrow. And, he spoke of the fear of another attack. Then, he would talk about the uniting and the supporting and the belief in America.

Always, he finished with a warning. America will never be safe from people wanting to take away what we have. They will always want to destroy us, to conquer us, to marginalize us. If you don't believe me, come here and look - open your eyes and look - at what can happen, and will again.

I believe I only saw Puna serious twice a year - Pearl Harbor Day and Memorial Day. On those days, he spoke of bravery and heroism and patriotism. The rest of the year you could depend upon those laughing eyes and the aroma of his pipe. The parents are gone now, but the stories and the emotions remain. I am so grateful for what they shared and what they taught.

I'd like to say that I absorbed it all then, but I didn't. When we used to hike into the mountains and came across some of the crashed Japanese planes, mostly pirated shells, I still didn't get it. When December Seventh was marked at school by people telling their personal experiences, I didn't get it. Oh, I heard it all. I believed it all. I just didn't get it.

It wasn't until I was older and watched the world and global politics that I saw it, that I truly understood the lesson he was trying to teach all those years ago. On September Eleventh, one of the first thoughts I had was of standing in the Arizona Memorial with Puna and hearing his words.

I hope Americans have the resolve to fight for our country as we did in 1941, but I fear for us, now, more than ever.

This is my annual post on Pearl Harbor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do You Remember?

I remember where I was the day Kennedy was shot.
I remember where I was the day an American set foot on the moon.
I remember where I was when Apollo 13 was snatched from the ocean and, against all odds, they had made it home alive.
I remember where I was when Saigon fell.
I remember where I was when the first Space Shuttle landed.
I remember where I was when Challenger blew up.
I remember where I was when Columbia broke apart.
I remember where I was on September Eleventh, 2001.
These are moments that paint the character of my country.
God bless America.

I invite you read my September Eleventh posts here.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Roger Sherman ~ Founder and Patriot

Roger Sherman
1721 - 1793
Representative of Connecticut to the Continental Congress
Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Signer of the Continental Association, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution
(He was the only person to sign all four documents)

Roger Sherman was born in Massachusetts, but moved with his family, by foot, to New Milford, Connecticut in 1743.  He and his brother opened the towns first store.  Despite his lack of formal education, he was admitted to the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut in 1754, during which he wrote A Caveat Against Injustice and was chosen to represent New Milford in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1755 to 1758 and from 1760 to 1761. In 1766 he was elected to the Governor's Council of the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served until 1785. In 1784 he was elected Mayor of New Haven, which office he held until his death.  Additionally, he taught religion at Yale College.

Sherman is responsible for setting up the House of Representatives (representative government) and the Senate (equal representation for the states) in the US Constitution.

Robert Treat Paine ~ Founder and Patriot

Robert Treat Paine
1731 - 1814
Representative of Massachusetts to the Continental Congress
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Robert Treat Paine came to the cause of Independence early.  Born in Boston, graduating from Harvard College as a teacher and returning to attend Law School, Paine was actively involved in resistance to the British in the 1760's and early 1770's, against the hated Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and quickly became a patriot for the cause of independence. In 1770, Boston hired him to prosecute the British soldiers involved with the "Boston Massacre," and while he lost his case to opposition council John Adams, he became quite popular with the patriots.  In 1775, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Massachusetts, and supported the move for independence.  One of his most important jobs in the Continental Congress was to secure gun powder for the troops and assist in starting the manufacture of salt peter to do so.

He helped write the Constitution of Massachusetts and served as a Supreme Court Justice in Massachusetts.  He was respected as a scholar and was known to be devoutly religious, a firm believer in the divine origin of the Christian religion.

Signers of the Declaration of Independence

The Signers of the Declaration of Independence

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas M'Kean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carrol

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Thomas Lynch, Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Click on the links to read their stories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day ~ June 14

Flag Day ~ June 14

O'er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

Fort McHenry
The sight that inspired Francis Scott Key
to write the poem
The Star-Spangled Banner

Iwo Jima - Marine Memorial

The Flag at Arlington House
Arlington National Cemetery

The Flag at the National Archives

The 50 Flags of the States
Washinton Monument

Fredricksburg National Cemetery

The Flag at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine
The site where he died.

Flag at Petersen Gardens in Oregon
Mr. Petersen scoured the desert for rocks and glass and built some incredible stuctures from them. This flag has 48 stars.

World War II Memorial

Flag at Fort Meade Parade Grounds

Flag at Vietnam War Memorial
Pueblo, Colorado

Flag at the Painted Hills
John Day National Monument

Flag at Home
Summer and Winter

Photos from my personal collection and travels

Friday, June 03, 2011

Hallmark, Maxine & Memorial Day

Lots of people don't have to work today.
my motto is "Live every day like it is Memorial Day"

Saturday evening I was feeling a little melancholy, as I do each year at Memorial Day, thinking about the beautiful lives lost serving our country -- especially the ones who have touched my life - James Craig, Gregory Stone, Tom Tucker, Randy Newman, James Holtom, to name a few from the War on Terror - and, many others from Vietnam and those I have learned about over the years from all of our wars.  I was reading tributes people had put up about their loved ones or people who had affected their lives.  I was feeling the best about America and Americans.

Then, and without warning, the Maxine cartoon popped up on my Facebook page.  Wait.  Stop.  One Moment.  You mean Memorial Day is about having a day off?  Within moments the firestorm began.  There were several of us who posted almost simultaneously.  We were absolutely appalled at the message.  Those who were opposed to our feelings, at least saw the message for exactly what it was... the celebration of a day off.  You can read the original comments here.

It didn't take long for the crowds to turn on people.  Messages about attacking Maxine.  Messages about it 'just a cartoon'.  Many, many personal attacks were waged against anyone who suggested that the purpose of Memorial Day was to honor those who had fallen in battle.  At one point it descended to this level:  "Maybe the Bible Belt Inbred's need to do something for their country than sit behind a computer & complain get a life seriously."  She went on to talk about "bible thumpers who voted for Obama should leave Maxine alone."  It was later revealed that she was a Canadian and didn't even know what Memorial Day was.  It was evident that she didn't know what an Obama voter looked like either.   But, that didn't stop her vitriol - which she continues with daily.

Gold Star Wives and Mothers were viciously attacked when they asked that their loved ones were remembered on Memorial Day.  People even started pretending that they were members of Gold Star families to attack others.  

Then, the rewriting of the caption began.  Those who were defending Maxine started to leave out the "which is why" part of the caption and changed the meaning.  The attacking escalated.  People who were out of town and never read the cartoon or the original comments started to opine.

I was stunned at the behavior of the people commenting.  The stupidity and the disrespect were beyond belief.  Post after post after post was made attacking those who wanted a modicum of respect to be made to Memorial Day and the fallen.  And, it's still going on.

All this while, Hallmark moderators did NOTHING.  I guess they had the day, days, off.  Finally, they posted this apology on Tuesday:   

Dear Maxine Fans,

We understand some were offended by Maxine's post on Memorial Day, and for that we are truly sorry. While Maxine is known for her irreverence and playful nature, it can sometimes come off as being thoughtless and insensitive. Please understand that she meant no disrespect to the men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom, as well as those who continue to fight and sacrifice so much for our freedom today.

Those of us who help create Maxine regret missing the opportunity to say something meaningful to everybody on Memorial Day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and rest assured we will be more thoughtful next year.

John Wagner
Ideally, that should have been the end to it.  But, it just re-escalated the attacks on anyone who had asked for more respect.  Endless posts were made suggesting that people "get a life" - what an inane little phrase - and censorship.  "It's a cartoon" was repeated ad nauseum.  Yes, a cartoon written by a man who should know better, and admitted he did.  I do remember the days when Maxine was a flag waving patriot curmudgeon.

It is still going on.  Hallmark has begun to scrub some of the posts.  On Wednesday evening they said they would be moderating.  It's hard to tell when things disappear who is doing it, but those annoyed with any criticism continue to start it up over and over and over.

Let's be honest.  Maxine is a cartoon.  Facebook is used as a marketing tool to sell Maxine and other Hallmark merchandise.  Hallmark/Maxine people sat back and watched posts like this one sit on their site for hours. "Well, your stupid son volunteered to be in the military.  It's his own fault he is dead.  He should have made better choices."

I have one thing to say to Hallmark.  I could have forgiven the stupid, stupid sentiment on the Memorial Day cartoon.  I could have accepted your apology.  But, to allow Gold Star Moms and Wives to be derided was beyond the pale.  I went from, "It will be a while before I go into another Hallmark store" to "Hell will freeze over before I do."  Hallmark is a corporation that knows enough about PR to know better.  The ironic thing is that the 'get a life' people brag about not shopping at Hallmark.  Those that were disrespected used to shop at Hallmark, but will no longer.  You lost my business, and it was a considerable one.  I also am learning to like the new card maker I got for my new computer -- this time, I didn't buy Hallmark!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why My Mother Cried.....

As I have written before, my family would make a trip to the Cemetery of the Pacific on Memorial Day.  There was much talk of those who had fallen -- during World War II, Korea and later Vietnam.

We would walk through the headstones and we would read the inscriptions.  In those days, it was not uncommon to see family members at the headstones.

One year, we came across Ernie Pyle's headstone.  When I looked at my Mother, it was just in time to see her stop a tear.  I asked her why the tear.  She told me that Ernie Pyle had painted the pictures of World War II for her and others who were waiting at home for friends and family to return.  Ernie Pyle was their source of information, their source of understanding.  War journalists affect our lives whether or not we know their names.

On April 20, 2011, I finally understood her sadness when the deaths of photojournalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were reported.  These two men had painted the pictures of so many modern day conflicts for me.  Chris and Tim were both 41 years old - Ernie was 45 --- all had their lives cut short sending the story of war home to us.  All three were killed while covering war.  All three were killed in April.  All three gave the world insight into something most of us can not comprehend.  These were remarkable men.  We are better for having had them here -- a bright light has gone out at their passing.

But, there are more bright lights out there - more who will send back the stories and images of our world.  We are fortunate to have lived and to continue to live in the world with them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tim Hetherington ~ A Life of Images

Tim Hetherington

1970 - April 20, 2011

Photojournalist, Cinematographer

When the news came on Tuesday, April 20, that Tim Hetherington had been killed in Misrata, Libya, my thoughts turned immediately to my friend who was his friend.... this was personal.  I never met Tim.  But, I felt I knew him through her.  This is the first piece she wrote that morning:  Tim Hetherington, Killed.  

She has also shared some funny stories!  It seems that Tim was puzzled by our pancake houses and eating breakfast at night - he ordered a hamburger from a place that probably made the worst hamburger ever!  In honor of Tim, next time you are stopping for breakfast at night, have a hamburger and think of Tim!

The military community came to think of Tim as their own -- he wrote the book Infidel and directed the movie Restrepo.  He lived beside our warriors and told their stories.  In a way, we all felt we knew him, even though we didn't.

Tim covered the globe - covered the most difficult and dramatic events of war and human suffering.  He captured in moving photographs and film the stories of man.  At age 41, his voice was stopped in the bloody madness that is Libya.  He left a family and a fiancee.  He left people grieving who loved him and people who had never met him.

You can visit his web site.  You can read any number of articles if you Google his name.  You can read his books.  You can watch his films.  But, never again, will Tim shine light on the world in the magical way that led us to believe that we knew him and that he had let us glimpse into a world we might otherwise never see.

I leave you with his latest work - Diary.

Diary (2010) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chris Hondros ~ A Remarkable Life

Chris Hondros
March 14, 1970 - April 20, 2011

Killed in Libya

I knew of Chris Hondros not by name, but by his images.  As I went through his work on his site today, I saw so many photos that I remember.  His vision had meaning.  There are photos from Kosovo, Nigeria, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq --- photos that were beamed into my life on television and in hard copy in newspapers and magazines.  And, of course, there are the photos of Liberia and the child warriors fighting there.  And, there are the very special pictures from the Marine 4th LAR in Afghanistan.

With the news of Chris' death, I revisited the photographs and the history.  I read stories about him that I never knew.  The photo of the exuberant Liberian at war that became so famous led to the story of Chris' return to Liberia, finding the soldier and helping him to get an education.  You can see the picture and read the story in Chris' own words.... Me and Joseph Duo.

A year ago when the Marine 4th LAR was in Afghanistan he sent these remarkable images back.
I knew family members who caught a moment of the lives of their loved ones in his pictures.

This was a man with an eye that gave us images that told more about the event than words ever could.

I encourage you to visit his web page.  How little we would know of the world if it were not for men like Chris Hondros.  Thank you for all you gave to the world, Chris.  You touched lives of people like me that you never knew.

And, finally, a story of Chris coming home - take tissue to read this one.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Photojournalist Chris Hondros Wounded in Libya

The brilliant photojournalist, Chris Hondros, has been reported critically injured in Misrata, Libya.
Earlier reports listed him as killed.  The fog of war leaves much speculation.

A year ago, he was photographing the Marines 4th LAR in Afghanistan.

He has covered Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Liberia, The West Bank, Kashmir, Cuba, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Angola, Macedonia/Albania, Kosovo.....

Chris has provided a vision of the worst conflicts in modern history.  My prayers are with him and his family and his friends at this time.

As was reported and then retracted, Chris was killed today in Misrata, Libya.
Getty Images has confirmed his death.
May you walk with God, Chris.  And, my personal gratitude for your time with the 4th LAR - I will never forget the day you posted the picture of my friend's son. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Captain Coulson Cares for Pets Left Behind in Egypt

Photo credit courtesy Captain Eric Coulson
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 14, 2011) -- On Jan. 25, citizens of Egypt began protesting against the government of then-President Hosni Mubarak. By Feb. 1, the U.S. Department of State had ordered the departure of dependants and all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and their families from Egypt.

But not all "members" of the families departed -- the four-legged ones stayed behind.

"A lot of people had pets that they really didn't have a good plan for being taken care of in the event of evacuation," said Capt. Eric Coulson, office of military cooperation at the U.S. embassy in Egypt. He's part of a team that manages nearly $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military. "And the vets and the kennels here were kind of overwhelmed."

Coulson's wife Karen left Egypt -- but he and the couple's two dogs, Molly and Sayeret, stayed behind. Coulson and a fellow Soldier at the embassy, Maj. Alavora Roa, teamed up to take care of those pets that were left behind when their owners departed the country.

"We sort of organized an emergency kennel for all the people who didn't have a place to put their animals while they were being evacuated," he said. "We sort of reached out to people we knew had animals."

In all, Coulson and Roa found themselves running an impromptu pet hotel for about 20 animals, scattered among the deserted apartments of their coworkers who had evacuated. The two checked in on the apartments of their coworkers and also stopped in to feed the animals and take them for a walk.

One coworker, Coulson said, had a fairly large roof available on his apartment, and they kept several animals there.

"We consolidated them at the apartment of one of the other persons involved in this -- he has a large roof and we put them on the roof with some shelter -- with large water bowls and large food bowls and we took turns taking them out."

Coulson said the local Purina distributor in Cairo had made a generous donation of supplies to keep the officer's kennel operating.

"Most of the people who were leaving told us where to pick up dog food," he said. "The local Purina dealer did give us a couple hundred pounds of dog food, as well as cat litter and cat food. Between what people had and a generous donation from the Purina dealer here in Cairo, we've been able to take care of the animals at minimal expense."

Now, several of the pet owners have come back to Egypt, Coulson said, and some of the pets have been shipped back to where their owners are -- so the number of pets he's looking after will continue to dwindle, he said, till eventually he'll be left with just his two dogs Molly and Sayeret.

Coulson's pet boarding days will eventually be a distant memory, but the events in Egypt will stay fresh for a while, he said. The speed with which recent events happened was thrilling, he said.

"It went from probably about 10 miles an hour to 60 miles an hour in just a matter of days," he said, adding "it was absolutely interesting to watch. To be in the middle of history."

And the recent events weren't the first time he's been struck by historical change in Egypt. He was just 13 when Anwar Sadat was assassinated -- old enough to be able to gauge the impact and significance of what had happened.

"That was sort of one of my first big memory of things in the news -- of what we had as far as 'wall-to-wall coverage' back in 1981," he said. "I remember being riveted by the TV."

And the most recent changes in Egypt mean there's two things he'll remember for a long, long time.

"The two transitions of power in Egyptian history that have taken place in my life are really sort of important memories to me," he said.

Eric became a blogger friend when his unit was in Iraq and he wrote the amazing blog "Badgers Forward"  ~~~~  Since that time, I am also honored to call his wife, Karen, a friend.  Their adventure in Egypt gave me an insight into a country I have never visited, as well as a personal connection to the living history of the revolution in Egypt.  Who would have ever thought about the horror of having to abandon your beloved pets?  Fortunately, Eric was there for these animals.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering James Craig

Remembering my friend - Three years gone


Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

-Psalm 144:1

This is my friend, James. We 'adopted' James after he received a Christmas card from us in 2005 and wrote to thank us for it. We wrote and sent packages through out that year of his deployment. James sent long and fascinating emails. He was a character with a spirit as loud as it was kind. He was devoutly Christian and not afraid or hesitant to talk about it. At his mid-term leave in Fall 2006, James met the love of his life, Natalie. They married in July 2007. And, now, James is walking with God. Please feel free to join me in my wandering memories of James. I want you to know this wonderful young man who just gave his life for our country, for us.

When James recently returned for his third deployment to Iraq, he sent this email from Kuwait:

"Please write to me and pray for me. I would love to get letters and updates from all of you. I look forward to 2010 when I will finally be out of the Army and can carry on a regular life and can be a bigger part of your lives. You are all loved by me very much, that's why you are getting an email. I hope this letter finds you all in happiness and Christmas cheer."

James, 27, was killed on January 28, 2008, in Mosul, Iraq, along with four other soldiers when the unit encountered an IED, followed by an ambush from a nearby Mosque. They were members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Also killed were (click on their names to read their stories):

Staff Sergeant Gary W Jeffries, 37, Roscoe, Texas

Specialist Evan A Marshall, 21, of Athens, Georgia

Private First Class Brandon A Meyer, 20, of Orange, California

Private Joshua R Young, 21, of Riddle, Oregon

James served with the following units:

C Company 1/17 Infantry, Ft Wainwright, Alaska, Infantryman - Grenedier/Rifleman, 172nd ~ 1 Dec 00 - 10 Apr 02

HHC 1/17 Infantry, Ft Wainwright, Alaska, Sniper/Scout, 172nd ~ 11 Apr 02 - 18 Sept 03
B Company 1/8 Infantry, Ft. Carson, Colorado, Infantry Team Leader, 4th Infantry Division ~
19 Sep 03 - 28 January 2008

James loved being a soldier and wrote about that frequently.

James attended Cusick Jr/Sr High School in Cusick, Washington from 1992 - 1996, and the Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston, South Carolina where he graduated in 2000. He was involved in Football and Wrestling, excelled in English and Creative Writing and was member of the National Honor Society.

James called the northwest his home - specifically the area outside of Spokane - growing up 'riding horses and going camping.' He looked forward to eventually settling down somewhere in Washington. He was close to his family and spoke of his parents with great love and pride, and of his sisters and aunts, uncles and cousins. His DOD announcement and press reports list Hollywood, California and South Carolina as his home, but he considered the Spokane, Washington area his home.

I was touched by his love for his soldiers. He would send names of those he didn't think were getting enough (or any) mail and have me find people to write to them.

During his second deployment, James received a medal for some of the action he saw. Of couse, this went along with the "I got shot - don't tell my parents" email! Fortunately, the ammunition cartridge below took the brunt of the shooting!

There was also profound sadness on the 2nd deployment. James has this listed under 'Heroes' on his My Space page : Real American Heroes SPC Grant Dampier and SSG Marion Flint are the biggest heroes I have ever met who died in combat on 15 May 2006. I miss you and I will never forget you. See you on the flip side brudda' You can read their story here.

There are so many things about James that I admired. He was 'loud' and funny and articulate and sweet - even calling himself 'Sweet Soldier' - and brave and tough. He was a devout Christian and more comfortable with telling people he was than anyone I ever knew - he had a enviable, easy comfort with this faith. It would be so easy to write and write about James, but let me share some portions of his letters - his long and articulate letters.

"...I am very much looking forward to this war being over. However, I fully support everything that is going on over here ever since I saw first hand what the real situation was. Our media doesn't portray the truth of this operation or the necessity to the people here. The need freedom and desperately cry out for someone to help them. ... I know one thing, God wants me here."

"The war here is stating to come to an end. It will be a slow transition period where the responsibility of the battle space is handed over to the growing Iraqi Army. It all depends on the Iraqis if we are able to leave them with it safely."

" is a tale of my wonderful journey where I made memories I will never forget and stood up for something that I believe in...that sweet taste of freedom when the day is done and the knowledge that I have done something to ensure the positive future of my loved ones. And, you should know that it comforts me the most that what I do protects wonderful people like you."

"I just got back from my R&R around the 15th (september 2006). I spent a lot of time with family, wne on a couple of adventures, and met a very special Christian womand named Natalie who I have begun a relationship with...just wait until you meet her. I have included some pictures in this letter."

"I know the Bible says not to be anxious, but it is so difficult not to be when we only have a few weeks left of this deployment and I have met a wonderful Christian woman... Natalie. She is the kind of woman that God would want me to have, so we are going to take things slowley and keep our relationship pure. I am very excited about her."

James and Natalie were married in July 2007!!! It was a joy to watch their love grow and mature.

When I think of James, I always see that brilliant smile. I think of the love he had for life, for the Army, for his fellow soldiers, for his family, for his beloved Natalie, and for his friends. Dear James, you will be missed by so many people. You have touched so many lives. Many will have a difficult time going forward without you. I know God will provide comfort to them. The world will be a little less without the brightness that you brought. Farewell, my friend, and walk with God.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be at the funeral and memorial events Which will take place on the 9th in the Spokane area at the .at Fourth Memorial Church, 2000 N. Standard St., Spokane

News Reports on James: