Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

New Year's Eve will be marked by a Blue Moon --- as in, "once in a blue moon" --- which actually means about 2.5 years! A Blue Moon is when we have two full moons in one month... this happens on New Year's less often.

As we begin the last year of the first decade of the 21st century, we are finding that we are continuing to be under siege from Islamic terrorists, the country is more divided than ever, and that the troops sent around the world are still fighting and dying, though they receive less recognition than ever before --- even the anti-war figures seem to have lost interest.

For me, I will renew my commitment to support our troops around the world and our wounded warriors and veterans. And, you? Maybe we can all do something special, once in a blue moon!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Soldier's Christmas Song

God Bless you, everyone...
We miss you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Soldier's Christmas ~ Michael Marks

A Soldier's Christmas

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
in perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
and I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
to the window that danced with a warm fire's light
then he sighed and he said "It's really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night"

"Its my duty to stand at the front of the line,
that separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,
I can carry the weight of killing another
or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
who stand at the front against any and all,
to insure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone.
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
to know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

-Michael Marks,
December 7, 2000

Author's Note: A Soldier's Christmas was the first in this series of patriotic writings, drafted on Pearl Harbor Day 2000 when in the wake of the 2000 Presidential Election our nation saw the right of US Armed Forces personnel openly questioned and debated. I felt it unconscionable that at the onset of the Christmas season, those serving to defend our nation would hear anything but our love and support. It is our challenge to stand for their rights at home while they stand for our lives and safety overseas. This poem went out and quickly spread around the world in emails, letters, magazines. I received letters from Marines in Bosnia, soldiers in Okinawa, from a submariner who xeroxed a copy for everyone on his sub. Moms wrote, dads, brothers and sisters. I have saved and cherish every letter and set out to continue writing throughout the year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas, My Friend

"Merry Christmas, My Friend"
By Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
A sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen,
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I'd just read,
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan,
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
Owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
Because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more,
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still,
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.

So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
And covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
With eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.

Although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
And for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
Said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all's secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas, my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

James M. Schmidt wrote this poem back in 1986 while a Lance Corporal stationed in Washington, D.C., serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers [in 1986].

Schmidt hung this poem on the door of the Gym in the BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave. The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide, and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine.

Schmidt's original version, entitled "Merry Christmas, My Friend," was published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December 1991, "Gyrene Gyngles," Page 79. As Leatherneck wrote of the poem's author in 2003:

"Merry Christmas, My Friend" has been a holiday favorite among 'leatherneckphiles' for nearly the time it takes to complete a Marine Corps career. Few, however, know who wrote it and when. Former Corporal James M. Schmidt, stationed at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., pounded it out 17 years ago on a typewriter while awaiting the commanding officer's Christmas holiday decorations inspection . . . while other leathernecks strung lights for the Barracks' annual Christmas decoration contest, Schmidt contributed his poem to his section."

After leaving the Corps, Schmidt earned a law degree and now serves as an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles and is director of operations for a security consulting firm.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bloggers Go Silent

H/T Brat and Blackfive

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

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

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

An excellent story on the situation with C.J. can be found at Military Times:
While there have been new developments, the core problem remains, and C.J. is having to raise funds to cover legal expenses to protect both his good name and his career.

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

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

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

Some milblogs will remain silent for several days; some just for the day. All have agreed to keep the post about the silence and C.J. at the top of their blogs until Friday 18 December.
The issues go beyond C.J., and deserve careful consideration and discussion. We hope that you will cover this event, and explore the issues that lie at the heart of the matter. Contact the milbloggers in your area or that you know, and hear the story that lies within.
A Partial List of Participating Blogs:
This Ain't Hell
Boston Maggie
Miss Ladybug
Drunken Wisdom
Grim's Hall
CDR Salamander -
LL -
Two cartoonists join in!
Check them out as well...
If you wish to donate to CJ's defense fund, please use the following address, or click the link below. He's in a serious battle against a serious foe. Read the article to find out all about it.
Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893
Please write "Grisham Legal Fund" in the memo line if you use this option.

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

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

Mr Wolf

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apologies to My Readers.....

I have long resisted word verification for those who comment on my blog. I have now turned it on - I'm sorry. But, this morning I spent over an hour getting rid of spam - including Japanese - in caricature, no less - and Russian - in Cyrillic.

As you know, I do have moderation turned on. There are valid reasons for this. The first comment that set this off was on a post about the murder of the soldiers in Kuwait at the beginning of the Iraq War - some one left the comment, "We salute soldiers who kill their officers" on the post. Unfortunately, the Mother of one of the soldiers was the first to see it. Comment moderation has been on ever since.

And, over the years, it has proven to be necessary. My recent idiocies have included:

-The mother of the soldier convicted of the murder of the soldiers above. According to her, her son is innocent and someone else did it, but we wanted it to be a Muslim --- and, he will soon walk free. FYI - his death penalty conviction is working it's way through the required appeals processes of the military system of justice.

-A leftie with a foul mouth called me names because I listed Scott Speicher's rank incorrectly - except I didn't - the idea of him increasing in rank while MIA was too deep for the fool. When I refused to have the argument on a tribute post, he, of course, had to yell about freedom of speech. Somehow, he could not understand that this is MY HOUSE!

-An ex-wife left a scathing attack on her ex-husband on a post about some of his accomplishments in Iraq. It was pretty mean and vile.

-Another ex-wife and her friends use a tribute post to attack the current widow and they come back regularly to do so.

-Someone wrote a long complaint about how someone is using MySpace in an unethical manner - geesh, report it to them, it's not my job to fix it.

-I had someone pretend to be a Chaplain and try to get a soldiers address and phone number from me... I didn't have the information, but if I had, it would have taken more proof than a yahoo email address to convince me he was who he said he was.

-I always have people writing 'I don't want this posted, but...' and then go off to very strange places.

-And, last but not least are the two page essays on the personal political views of Anonymous!!!

So, my friends, we now have moderation and word verification - I'm so sorry.... I hope you understand.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas ~ 2009

The 2009 PNC Christmas Price Index

The Cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas!

One Partridge in a Pear Tree

Two Turtle Doves

Three French Hens

Four Calling Birds

Five Gold Rings

Six Geese A-Laying

Seven Swans A-Swimming

Eight Maids A-Milking

Nine Ladies Dancing

Ten Lords A-Leaping

Eleven Pipers Piping

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Total for 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Elsey

Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Elsey
Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Elsey
U.S. Navy

Abdul Rashid, a 5-year-old resident of the Nawa district of Afghanistan, receives a dressing for a wound on his face from Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Elsey, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, while a linguist translates at a medical aid station at Patrol Base Jaker Dec. 3. Rashid was injured by a motorcycle earlier that day. Navy hospital corpsmen like Elsey routinely see local residents and children here to treat their wounds.

Photo Courtesy United States Marine Corps

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives
so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday.
For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.

Wednesday Hero Logo

Monday, December 07, 2009

December 7 ~ Remembering Pearl Harbor

December Seventh, 1941

Sixty-six 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. I am re-posting my rememberances.

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 tree, 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, 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.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Oregon Football in Iraq!

Ducks 37 - Beavers 33

Far, far away in Iraq, the soldiers of the Oregon National Guard
were treated to the Oregon - Oregon State Civil War Football game.

To see the festive pictures and read the story, click here

A former Ducks cheerleader was also in attendance!
Nike sent over shirts and hats for both teams.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Civil War ~ Oregon Style!

41BCT PATCH: The Sunset Patch is the official unit insignia of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team. It features the setting sun over a field of blue water. In 2005, the unit participated in search and rescue operations in Louisiana following the devastation left by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Approximately 3,000 members of the unit are currently deployed to Iraq, making it the largest single deployment of Oregonians since WWII.

The "Sunset" patch, representing the Oregon Army National Guard's 41 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will be displayed on the helmets of both the Oregon State University "Beavers" and the University of Oregon "Ducks" for the upcoming Civil War game, Dec. 3. The game will be played at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. PST (9:00 p.m. EST). Photo courtesy of Oregon State University.

Tonight is the "Civil War" Football Game - the 113th Annual. The Oregon State University 'Beavers' and the University of Oregon 'Ducks' will meet in their annual showdown. This year, the stakes are even higher - the winner will go to the Rose Bowl on New Years' Day! People here are going overboard, as football fans are want to do!

Quietly, the best part of the game is that the game will be honoring the 41st Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon National Guard. Football players on both sides will be wearing the units emblem, the rising sun, on their helmets.

Currently, about 3,000 members of the 41st BCT are on deployment in Iraq.

The 41 BCT can be traced back to 1887 when the Summers Law established the Oregon National Guard. During WWII, the unit saw some of the fiercest fighting throughout remote locations in the South Pacific, earning the brigade the nickname "Jungleers".

Members of the Oregon Army National Guard's Youth Challenge Program are scheduled to participate as the official Color Guard during opening ceremonies.

Thank you to everyone who is remembering the best in our state tonight!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama’s Indecisiveness Over Afghanistan Cost American Lives

While Obama took his own sweet time to ponder the way ahead in Afghanistan, this country had Troops fighting in that country. His unwillingness to listen to the Generals on the ground; REALLY listen to them, cost the lives of 116 American Troops. That's 116 too many as far as I'm concerned and Obama is responsible. On August 30th General McChrystal told Obama that reinforcements were needed in Afghanistan and asked for additional Troops in a 66 page assessment that was submitted to Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. It wasn’t until December 1st that Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 Troops to the country. McChrystal clearly stated in the 66 page document that without additional resources, the mission in Afghanistan was likely to fail.

I find it appalling that Obama chose to ignore McChrystal’s plea for additional Troops for such a long period of time. Instead, he focused on things such as attempting to get the next Olympic Games in Chicago, attempting to figure out ways to further bankrupt our country, finding ways to shove his healthcare initiatives down the throats of the American people and his willingness to ‘bow down’ to the leadership of other countries. His disdain for the US Military was never more apparent to me, than his speech following the horrific and senseless murders at Fort Hood last month, when he choose to only mention that tragedy as an afterthought as he was addressing Native Americans. That disdain is further evidenced by his complete and utter disregard of General McChrsytal’s plea for additional Troops for over 3 months. That disdain and complete disregard of the emergent needs of our Troops serving in Afghanistan cost lives. President Obama should be ashamed of himself, he dropped the ball BIG TIME.

The period since Gen. McChrystal submitted his assessment that additional troops were needed has included the second deadliest thee-month period of the war. In September through November, there were 112 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan (including 37 in September, 58 in October and 17 in November). Together with 4 casualties that occurred on August 31, these account for the 116 total U.S. casualties that have occurred in Afghanistan since the general’s assessment.

The deadliest three-month period of the war was June through August of this year, when there were 119 U.S. casualties. These included 24 in June, 44 in July, and 51 in August.

So far this year, there have been 291 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, making 2009 the deadliest year of the war. Prior to this year, the deadliest single month of the war in Afghanistan was June 2008, when 28 U.S. troops were killed.

That's completely unacceptable! I’m not saying that all of the deaths of Troops that have occurred since August 30th would have been prevented had he acted quickly on General McChrystal’s request for additional Troops. That’s not realistic, but I do feel that had those reinforcements been sent in a timely matter, perhaps the number of casualties could have been drastically reduced. General McChrystal is the expert, NOT Obama and it’s critical that he learn to listen, really listen to what the experts on the ground say. They know what is necessary for the Troops, they live, sleep, eat and breathe the war in Afghanistan. It’s time that he learned that the sign of a good leader is one who, when faced with a decision about something they have little or no experience with,that they will defer to the expertise of those who DO have experience. This isn’t a game and Obama would do well to learn that as quickly as possible. It’s time for him to take his job as Commander In Chief of the US Military seriously.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Elk Hunters Don't Cry

Elk Hunters Don't Cry
by Perry P Perkins

"Elk Hunters Don’t Cry" is 19 humorous, poignant, and sometimes absurd adventures of a Pacific Northwest sportsman. It’s a well-known fact that outdoorsmen, elk hunters in particular, don’t cry. In fact, not so many years ago this was considered a badge of honor, a mark of courage for young hunters to aspire to as they watched their fathers and uncles grimace manfully in the face of pain. I’ve seen several of my own hunting friends take tumbles in rocky riverbeds, gash themselves with skinning knives, and char various portions of their anatomies in campfires…all without a single tear. Some of them defoliated large tracts of national forest with white-hot profanity, but none ever cried…”

Novelist, blogger, and award winning travel writer, Perry P. Perkins is a stay-at-home dad who lives in the Pacific Northwest. Perry has written for numerous outdoor magazines and anthologies including American Hunter, Bassmaster Magazine, and Northwest Fly Fishing. His novels include Just Past Oysterville, and Shoalwater Voices.
His website is

50% of proceeds from this sale will be donated to Kevin’s Driftboat, a ministry to help returning veterans re-adjust to daily life by spending some time in a relaxing environment, talking about their experiences, and enjoying the outdoors.

Mitch Webb, founder of Kevin’s Driftboat, has taken countless returning vets (as well as the parents of our fallen heroes) on multi-day fishing trips around Oregon.

To order this great book, $9.99 (+$2.50 S/H)
and donate to Kevin's Driftboat
use this PayPal link

I am honored to call Mitch a friend and support his work.
Thank you, Mitch, for all you do for our best!
And, thank you, Perry for your generosity.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fishing to Remember Kevin Davis

SSG Kevin Davis was killed in Iraq on April 6, 2005.

In his memory, his fishing buddy, Mitch Webb of 'Kevin's Driftboat'
has made it a mission to take our veterans fishing.
This video is of one fishing adventure with Mitch and SGT Trent Stuart.

To read all about it, please click here

"After fishing in Oregon for almost 20 years I made it over to Mack's Canyon to fish for summer steelhead. Mitch Webb founder of Kevin's Driftboat Project and his good friend Oregon National Guardsmen Sargent Trent Stuart invited me over for the day to talk about the project and fish spinners through the drifts in hopes of hooking up with Deschutes steel.

Trent also an active member of the project and Mitch have something in common, their friend and fisherman Oregon National Guardsmen Staff Sgt Kevin D. Davis. Kevin lost his life to a roadside bomb in the fight against terrorists in Iraq on Aprill 8th 2005. I wanted to shoot a film to help Mitch tell Kevin's story and get the word out about the great thing he is doing but this day turned out to be so much more for me then I could have ever expected. It was also a goal to get Trent into his first steelhead this day as well. Trent told me that he had fished in Oregon for over 20 years for bass and other fish but had not yet tackled the mighty steelhead.

Their goal is to help returning soldiers in their transformation back into life at home and help them to remember how great it is to be here in the Northwest. Not always easy task for them to do on their own. Mitch has been very active in his venture by not only taking these heroes out himself but also in hooking them up with other anglers and guides through threads and the Kevins Driftboat Yahoo group..." Read the rest here and some amazing pictures, too!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts by Neil Cavuto

I cannot imagine eating Thanksgiving dinner in a mess hall.
In a foreign country.
In a hostile foreign country.
Away from family.
Away from friends.
Away from all I hold dear.

I cannot imagine wondering whether this meal might be my last.
Or the buddy sitting next to me won't always be with me.
I cannot imagine going through what our soldiers go through every day.
But, especially "this" day.
When we should all give thanks.

But, they barely have the time to eat.
Before they're back on the line.
Back protecting us.
We who debate their role.
Some of us who even mock their cause.
This isn't about war.
This is about those who fight it.
And live through it.
In a place we forget.
On a day we should not.

I am very lucky to have this day with my family.
My creature comforts are secure precisely because theirs are not.
It's not fair.
It's not right.
It just is.

They are due our thanks every day.
Our prayers all days.
But they are due both, especially this day.
It's amazing to me that those paid so little, give so much.
Never complaining.
Always giving.
So that we can sit down in peace.
While they stand guard, in war.

Thank you, my friends.
And, Happy Thanksgiving.

-Neil Cavuto, Cavuto on Business, FoxNews, 2006

Painting by Norman Rockwell, 1945

This is the fourth year I have posted this. Neil spoke to the heart of the matter then and now. With gratitude to all. ~Flag Gazer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Say Thank You ~ Help Fisher House

Thanks for Being There!

State Farm is running a program where you can say Thank You~
You can post your thank you note on their site
and you can email it to the person you thank.

For every Thank You they receive,
State Farm is donating $1 to Fisher House
and will donate up to $50,000.

Long time readers will know that Fisher House is one of my favorite charities.

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House™ Foundation donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.

I have known veterans who have lived at Fisher House for periods in their recovery,
and it provides them a place to be with their families.
This is an easy way to help Fisher House and our troops
while thanking the people you care about.

So CLICK THIS LINK and Say Thank You to anyone you want.

Right now, the site is up to 9,006 - surely we can get it to $50,000!

While you are there, click on some of the pictures -
the thank yous are very moving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Hero - SSG Dennisur Thompson

Staff Sgt. Dennisur Thompson
Staff Sgt. Dennisur Thompson
U.S. Army

Staff Sgt. Dennisur Thompson, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, overcompensates a left turn while on a driving simulator as a part of the Save a Life Tour in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives
so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday.
For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Military Appreciation Day at the Golden Corral

Golden Corral

Military Appreciation Day

Monday, November 16, 2009

Active Duty Military and Veterans Eat for FREE

For hours and more information, go here:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pitchfork Brigade; Pitch in to help a Veteran who’s rights have been trampled

I'm reposting a post that was written on another Blog. This is a story which I'm very passionate about, as the Soldier who's rights are being trampled on at all levels is a very close friend of mine. Unfortunately due to these events, his blog, which has been one of the top Military Blogs for quite some time, has been shut down. Please read the below article and do whatever you can to help. H/T Troy at Bouhammer

**11/13/09 UPDATE, if you want to hear a lot more of the story and from Emily directly listen to her interview with Dale Jackson from this morning,**
My good friend CJ has not asked me to post this or do anything specific. I asked his permission to blog about his case and he said that was ok. He has no idea how this post looks. If you don’t know, CJ is a fellow Sr. NCO, co-host on You Served Radio, milblogger and very close friend of mine. The guy is more patriotic and dedicated to not only this country, but also the Army than I think most people will ever know. His wife Emily is a sweetheart and would not hurt a fly unless you try to hurt her family.

If you don’t know the story of what has happened to CJ’s family as he tried to stand up and exercise the rights that he has fought so hard for, then you need to educate yourself first. I encourage you to listen to Emily on Greta Perry’s radio show here, Also watch this broadcast from a local TV station in the Huntsville area, Read a very good breakdown of everything here and watch the video of the meeting here, Then go here and read this,

After watching and reading all of that I am sure you will agree with me that there has been a terrible injustice done to CJ, Emily and their kids. Even though I could say what I wanted in my blog as a National Guardsmen as long as I was not on duty, I can really say whatever I want now that I am retired. So here goes; the Garrison CSM is a complete tool. He is what is despicable in the Army today. He is the example of what gives Sergeant Majors a bad name and reputation. Leaders that have forgotten what it is like to take care of soldiers. When the Principal and PTA president called the military base to complain about CJ and make up slanderous allegations that CJ threatened them and made them scared (keep in mind that I am pretty sure both of these people are ex-army) the military should have responded with “This is a private matter between a parent in your school and you, this is not a military matter”. That should have been it. There was nothing else for the Army to do. As long as CJ did not show up in uniform or use his military status in some way during his conversations or interactions with the school principal or PTA, then it is NOT AN ARMY PROBLEM!!! PLAIN and SIMPLE. But becuase the leadership of the base caved in and acted with cowardice becuase some “civilians” complained, the Principal and PTA President know they have CJ by the marbles. All they have to do is call up the military, make fake allegations and they see the outcome…CJ being called on the carpet, having his career put in jepordy and facing a lot of stress in his family.

How is it that a Army Major can make treasonous remarks and still hold his job and then go and murder 13 people, but CJ tries to exercise his rights of free speech and then gets his life turned upside down? What the hell is this about? How can this happen? There are lots of unfair things in life, and I usually mark those as “that is life”. Not everyone can get a trophy, not everyone can get all the breaks. But what is happening to CJ, Emily and their kids is criminal. An Army that CJ has fought for, supported and evangalized for, has turned their back on him. It was stuff like this that the American people never see. Not everyone in the Army is a “hero” or worthy of praise. Some are complete tools that don’t deserve to wear the uniform, like the Post Command Sergeant Major, Ricky Cooper. If you can’t support your soldiers that report to you, then it is time to leave and quit taking up space. The Garrison Commander, COL Pastorelli started out supporting CJ, but he has caved under the pressure of CSM Cooper and the civilians.

Don’t get me wrong this is not all on the Army, as they had nothing to do with the start of this and have no control over civilians making unfounded allegations. There are others who can be asked, written to, called and pestered to look into this situation and possibly have the authority to step in.

Who are they you ask? Well let me tell you. Rather than have people searching all over the web, here is some contact info for anyone that wants to step up and ask the hard questions that others are failing to. In all my years in the Army, I can tell you that if there is one thing that Army leaders are afraid of, it is a congressional inquiry. I have seen the impossible happen when a elected representative starts asking questions of the military.

The State of Alabama Board of Education
President- Governor Bob Riley
State Capitol
Room N-104
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36130
Phone: (334) 242-7100
Fax: (334) 242-0937
Contact Form-

Secretary and Executive Officer- Joseph B. Morton
State Dept. of Education
5114 Gordon Persons Bldg.
Montgomery, AL 36130
Phone: (334) 242-9700
Fax: (334) 242-9708

District 8 Representative and President Pro Tem- Dr Mary Jane Caylor
PO Box 18903
Huntsville, AL 35804
Phone: (256) 489-0541
Fax: (256) 489-0552
State of Alabama PTA
President- Pam Berry
Phone: 334-546-6667

Alabama Parent Teacher Association
470 South Union Street
Montgomery, AL 36104-4330
Phone: (334) 834-2501 or toll free (800) 328-1897
Fax: (334) 834-2504
Executive Director Cell: (334) 549-0140

Alabama State Senators
Jeff Sessions
Contact Form-

Richard Shelby
Contact Form-

Congressional Representative
Parker Griffith
Contact Form-§iontree=4,7

Redstone Arsenal Leadership
COL Robert Pastorelli

Last but not least, I encourage you to check out and read the letter from Jennifer Dombrowski-Scott who is the VP of membership for the PTA at Williams Elementary School. As you read it and then read the responses by CJ, Emily and several other parents I think you can get a good appreciation of the obviously confused and mentally challenged people that sit on the PTA of that school. This lady talks about everything from quoting scripture to how American soldiers rape and abuse enemy prisoners. Somehow that is all related to wearing uniforms in schools and a parent trying to get the chance to speak on the issue. I think once you read the letter it is obvious what caliber of people CJ has been dealing with on this PTA.
Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and I thank you ahead of time for any correspondence you have with those listed above or for spreading the word to anyone you can.

Friday, November 13, 2009

13 Counts Of Premeditated Murder Filed Against Hasan

On Thursday, it was announced that the Army has formally filed 13 counts of premeditated murder against Major Nidal Hasan. The charges were read to Hasan in his hospital room at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. His civilian attorney, John Galligan apparently wasn't present and was upset that he wasn't there when the charges were read to Hasan. At this time, an Army CID spokesman said that they were still determining whether he would be charged with an additional count of murder in the death of the unborn child who died as a result. Additional charges are still possible. In my opinion, he should also be charged with, at the minimum Aggravated Assault for the injuries of each person who survived the attack on November 5th. I would hope however that the Army will charge him with attempted Murder for each of the victims, because that was his goal, to murder as many of his fellow Soldiers as he possibly could. (

The distinction of premeditation in the charges is a very important one. That means that Hasan willfully and methodically planned what he was going to do, how he was going to do it and carried those plans out. The definition of premeditation, completely fits these horrific crimes. Premeditation is defined as:
1. The act of speculating, arranging, or plotting in advance.
2. Law The contemplation of a crime well enough in advance to show deliberate intent to commit the crime; forethought. ( All the information that has been released to the public definitely shows that Hasan’s rampage completely fits this definition. If found guilty of the charges, Hasan could face the death penalty. He deserves no less than the death penalty.

President Obama has apparently ordered a complete review of any intelligence that agencies have gathered in relation to Hasan. As we know, there have been reports that the FBI and other intelligence agencies have been watching Hasan for quite some time, due to some postings made by him or someone using his name, at various radical muslim websites. There have been conflicting reports about this. Some stating that the FBI and Homeland Security were indeed watching Hasan, while others have claimed that Intelligence Agencies have denied this. Hopefully any review and investigation will uncover the truth. If it shows that these agencies were indeed watching Hasas, then they have a whole lot of questions to answer, in light of his actions of November 5th. There is also information that has been released, showing that he worshiped at the same Mosque that 2 of the 9/11 terrorists worshipped at and questions on whether he had any dealing with them. Information as well as surfaced that he may have been attempting to get in contact with a radical Muslim cleric, who encouraged Muslims to kill US Troops. Had they alerted Army officials, perhaps the tragedy at Fort Hood would not have occurred.

Officials in the Army, also have a lot of questions to answer. This monster spent several years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His performance there was far from stellar. Doctors and staff there report him at times as being belligerent, defensive and argumentative, especially when it came to discussing his Muslim faith. He was reprimanded on at least one occasion for the way that he interacted with patients and placed under closer supervision. He was considered a mediocre student and a lazy worker at Walter Reed as well as the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Despite those documented problems, he was transferred to Fort Hood, where his superiors felt that because of the size of Fort Hood, if he continued to perform poorly, other doctors could handle the workload and his superiors could document any continued behavior problems. (

That angers me on so many levels. First and foremost, while Fort Hood is the largest military installation, and thus has many more doctors in place than on smaller installations, it also means that there are also a larger number of patients for these doctors to see. Having personally dealt with the medical system at Fort Hood, I know firsthand that the doctors there are stretched to the limit as it is, with their own patients, without having to cover the workload of another doctor who doesn’t do their job. Besides the fact that these patients deserve the very best care that can be provided, instead of care from a doctor who has already been classified as someone who is lazy and mediocre. That’s not fair to the other doctors and certainly not fair to the patients that he would be seeing. In my opinion, the officials at Walter Reed and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences dropped the ball big time and in typical fashion, passed the buck and sent him to Fort Hood, so that they didn’t have to deal with Hasan themselves. The officials who made that decision should be reprimanded for that decision, as they too are partly culpable for what has transpired. Had they chose to remove him from practice and from the Army, perhaps this tragedy could have been averted.

Now I’ll address the medias’ handling of this, from the start. It infuriates me, that immediately upon learning who the shooter was at Fort Hood, the media began to question whether he was suffering from PTSD. Upon learning that he never deployed, they immediately began suggesting that he was suffering from secondary PTSD. That’s probably the biggest load of crap that I’ve heard so far! How then, do they explain the countless doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, counselors, soldiers and others, who deal with human suffering every day in their jobs, that never commit these types of crimes. Heck, if that were the case, then I should be a prime candidate for secondary PTSD due to the nature of work that I’ve done my entire adult life. I’ve never even considered doing something like this, let alone carried it out, nor have the others who do this same kind of work, day in and day out. When I first heard that mentioned in the media, my immediate thought and something that I still believe, was that the media was rushing to provide Hasan’s attorney’s with something that they could use as a defense in this case. It’s almost as if the media is instead attempting to blame everyone BUT the evil, depraved individual who committed these atrocities. Enough is enough. Eyewitness accounts and evidence show that Hasan committed these crimes and he should PAY for his actions. Were it you or I, you can bet we’d be held accountable for our actions, as we should be.

This is a story that I will continue to follow very closely. This whole thing hit close to home. I lived and worked at Fort Hood for 3 years. I still consider Fort Hood home and the people there, I consider my family. I feel violated, helpless and I feel that the government, from the Intelligence agencies to the Army itself, let the entire Fort Hood community and the Army community as a whole down. They dropped the ball, big time and they too should answer for their part in this horrific tragedy, that perhaps they had the power to prevent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day 2009

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month....

It was the end of WWI - 1918 - we had fought the War to End All Wars.

Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Poppy Day.

The Red Poppies grew every where the land had been disturbed
at the graves of the fallen, at the trenches, in the tire and tread tracks.
France was ablaze with the red poppies each spring.
Now they are a symbol of remembrance.

Remember them we should,
Remember them we must,
Thank them, always.



It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

-Charles M Province, US Army

Honoring The Men And Women Who Make Our Freedoms Possible: Veterans Day 2009

Today, November 11, 2009 is Veterans Day. For myself and many other Americans, Veterans Day this year is a rather poignant, coming on the wake of the horrific tragedy that occurred at Fort Hood last week. For myself though, that tragedy makes this day even more important. It makes me realize how quickly our lives can change and thus how important it is for me to ensure that every single Soldier and Veteran that I come into contact with, knows just how grateful I am for the sacrifices they have made for myself, my family, my community and my country. Were it not for these brave men and women, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the things in life that I do. I wouldn’t be able to choose my profession, I wouldn’t be able to write and speak what I feel, I wouldn’t be able to live where I choose and how I choose, and I wouldn’t be able to have the religious freedoms that I have. These brave men and women, many who’ve given their very lives, have made it possible for me and my fellow Americans to lives the lives that we choose. We owe them so much, and we owe it to them to show our appreciation for them, not only today, but each and every day.

Other people might not feel as strongly about Veterans Day as I do. It’s unfortunate and extremely sad, but our Soldiers and Veterans have made that possible for them. For many, it’s just another day that they have off work, a federal holiday. Many don’t often even stop to think why it is that they have that holiday or any holiday for that matter. They don’t think about the blood, sweat and tears of the thousands of Soldiers and Veterans that have paid the price for them to have that freedom. Most people probably couldn’t even tell you the history of Veterans Day. But, that’s okay, because I will.

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."

On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.

In 1958, the White House advised VA's General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee's chairman.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. (

I urge everyone who reads this, to share the history of Veterans Day with everyone they come into contact with. I further urge everyone to take some time out of their day today, to thank a Veteran or a currently serving Soldier. Go up to them, shake their hand and say “Thank you for my freedom, thank you for your service.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Outback Steakhouse on Veteran's Day

Outback Steakhouse

Veteran's Day

Free Bloomin' Onion & Beverage
With Proof of Military Service

Details Here

Applebee's Offers Veteran's Day Meals to all Veterans & Active Duty


On Veteran's Day, November 11,
all active duty military and veterans can eat for free
as a Thank You for your service to our country.

Details can be found here:

Take you ID or proof of service with you.
There is also a restaurant finder on the site.

Bon Apetit!

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Fall of the Berlin Wall ~ 20 Years Later

The Brandenberg Gate - then and now
A site where President John F Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan
both delivered speeches supporting a free and united Germany

Dancing on the wall as the Soviets lift travel restrictions

The Iron Curtain
Adding coiled razor wire to the top of the wall,
which was already embedded with large glass shards

The Yellow Line represents the location of the Berlin Wall

20 years ago, November 9, 1989, the communist East German government announced the lifting of travel restrictions between the east and the west. People from both sides ran to the wall in celebration. They climbed the wall - and weren't killed with bullets in the back for it. They danced on the wall. They tore the wall down. Families and friends were reunited for the first time since the division of the country after the end of World War II.

While the Soviets tried to starve West Berlin into reuniting under the rule of the east, they were kept alive by the heroic efforts of the Berlin Airlifts. I have written about the airlift here and the Candy Bomber here and the 60th Reunion of those who kept Berlin alive here and the memories of a child in Berlin during the airlift here.

The Berlin Wall stood for oppression and denial of freedom - the fall of the wall stood for freedom and prosperity.

For a magnificent photo history of the wall, click here.

And we must never forget what a truly great speaker sounds like ~ June 12, 1987

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thoughts on Fort Hood....

On Thursday, November 5, we were all stunned by the reports of violence at Fort Hood. The early reports were fluid and frightening. Multiple shooters were confirmed and then retracted. The shooter was confirmed dead, then that was retracted. What wasn't retracted was the horrid event - a soldier murdering soldiers in an act of terrorism that was despicable beyond belief. The soldier shooter was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.

Today, the bodies of the fallen have been moved to Dover. Military investigators and the FBI are putting together the pieces of the puzzle. News organizations are digging up everything they can find - exaggerating some things and downplaying others. Rumors abound from those 'in the know' and those who aren't. We may never know the official findings, as these things fade into the distance as the justice system plays out and people forget.

People have forgotten about the terrorist murders at Camp Virginia in Kuwait on March 23, 2003, when Hasan Akbar threw a grenade into a tent, then shot those who ran out - and in the back - killing Maj Gregory Stone and Capt Christopher Seifert. Akbar, an American soldier, convicted of 2 counts of pre-meditated murder and 3 counts of attempted pre-meditated murder, received the death penalty and is still working his way through the military appeals process. More here.

Should Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan manage to survive his wounds and stand trial, he will have a larger burden of death than Hasan Akbar did. And, he will have the taint of killing people he worked with, as well as those he never knew. I know the military justice system is up to the task of incarcerating and trying him.

At this time, 13 people and one unborn baby have died and 30 were wounded. The fallen and wounded and survivors have roots in all corners of the country, and make this an identifiable event for most of us. One of the wounded is from our community. The fingers of terror reach even further - into the hearts and minds of those who care, who now know that in a place that should be safe, the most horrendous and terrifying acts have taken place.

The stories of fear, the stories of helplessness, the stories of loss are starting to stream out. Along with them, the stories of heroism, of action, of compassion are also being told. Soldier helping soldier - rushing into action and caring for one another - some stories we will hear, others will be private, yet cherished in memory.

Today, George and Laura Bush made a private visit to Fort Hood, to meet with the wounded and the families of the fallen, taking their compassion and love where it was most needed. Once again, they were comforting those who needed them far away from the cameras and reporters. We can all learn a lesson from them about reaching out to those who need us.

Unfortunately, the current President seems incapable of that compassion and has been unable to make a believable or coherent statement about it. He can fly all over the country for day trips to fund raisers and campaign speeches, but he could not go and comfort the people at Fort Hood. He will, however, put himself in the spotlight at a memorial service on Tuesday.

Like most of us, I am still angry and sad and helpless and dumbfounded by this. The terror I felt on Thursday won't soon so away. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone at Fort Hood and with their families and friends.

The soldiers speak out about the attacks:
To read an excellent analysis by my blogger friend, Charles M Grist, read "Lone Wolf" (click here)
Another amazing piece by JR Salzman, who was a patient at Walter Reed - "What is bothering me is the general reaction of our media and those stupid enough to think this was not an act of terrorism..." read the rest here

In days to come, I will pay tribute to each of the fallen, for now, I leave you with their names...

  • Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55, Havre de Grace, MD
  • Maj. Libardo Caraveo, 52, Woodbridge, VA
  • Cpt John P Gaffaney, 54, San Diego, CA
  • Cpt. Russell Seager, 41, Racine, WI
  • Staff Sgt Justin Decrow, 32, Plymouth, IN
  • Sgt Amy Krueger, 29, Kiel, WI
  • Spc Jason Hunt, 22, Tillman, OK
  • Spc. Frederick Greene, 29, Mountain City, TN
  • PFC Aaron Nemilka, 19, West Jordan, UT
  • PFC Michael Pearson, 22, Bolingbrook, IL
  • PFC Kham Xiong, 23, St. Paul, MN
  • Pvt Francheska Velez, 21, Chicago, IL
  • Michael G Cahill, Cameron, TX [civilian]

Wrapping My Mind Around The Murders At Fort Hood

Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military installation in the world, a place that will always hold fond memories for me. It’s a place that I called home for almost 4 years and a place that’s in mourning. Part of my family is at Fort Hood, not a family related through blood, but my family none the less, because the friends that I made there, are and always will be family to me. Fort Hood will always be my home. Thanks Flag Gazer for posting the pictures you did of Fort Hood. They bring back so many fond memories.

Right now, I feel so helpless, I feel like I let my family at Fort Hood down, because I wasn’t there with them when this tragedy occurred. I wasn’t there to offer my comfort and support to them, though I was able to do so, via phone calls, emails and text messages. Yet I still feel guilty, because I wasn’t there. I feel that I could have assisted with the wounded, due to my training as a Paramedic. But I wasn’t there. So, I’ll do what I can from here in Kansas. I’m already working on getting people together here to do what we can to help. I still feel though that somehow that’s not enough.

Why did this horrible tragedy happen there at Fort Hood on Thursday November 5, 2009? That’s a question we may never have all the answers to. But I do know that if anyone will find out the answer to that question, it will be Army CID at Fort Hood and the FBI professionals who are currently working this case. I know that the Army and the US Government have the best of the best there, trying to piece this all together. The very best that the Army has to offer is right there at Fort Hood working as CID agents. I know this, because in my job as Victim Advocate at Fort Hood, I was privileged to be able to work very closely with CID on many of my cases. They do their job and they do it well. They do not rush through a crime scene haphazardly and do their jobs half assed. Instead, they take their time, putting all the pieces together and building their case, so that it’s a solid one that will stand up in court. They will work themselves to the point of sheer exhaustion when they’re working a case. I’ve seen them do it many times. I expect no less of them in this case. They’re true professionals in every sense of the word. They hate when a fellow Soldier does something that soils the name of their beloved Army and they do everything in their power to ensure that criminals in the Army find out that crime does not pay on Fort Hood.

There were so many Heroic actions that day. Most have not even came to light yet and some might never be known to us. Police Officer Kimberly Munley for instance. The police officer who risked her life to put an end to Hasan’s rampage. In putting an end to his murderous rampage, she herself was shot. She is a true Hero, and like most Hero’s she’ll be the first to say that she was only doing what she was trained to do. It’s been reported that as the events unfolded, Soldiers were seeing ripping off parts of their clothing to use as bandages for the wounded. Footage has shown many of them assisting emergency workers in carrying wounded to waiting ambulances and vehicles. We’ve heard of the young female Soldier who ripped off parts of her top to form tourniquet for a fellow wounded Soldier, despite the fact that she was wounded herself. Or the young Soldier who was in his pickup in the parking lot nearby when he the commotion. He responded, saying people who were wounded and shouted for them to jump in his pickup. He then sped 5 of the wounded to the hospital there on post. He says he’s not a Hero, he was doing his jobIt’s likely we’ll hear more and more stories like this as the days go by. There is no doubt in my mind that there were many equally heroic actions that happened that day. Each of our Soldiers are Heroes in my eyes. None ever thought that they’d have to perform such actions at home, a place where they are supposed to be safe and free from harm. But somehow, the unthinkable happened at Fort Hood on Thursday. Something that will likely live in the minds of Americans for many years to come.

That brings us to the cowardly, crazed lunatic who committed these murders. We may never know his true intentions or motives behind his horrific actions. He may never speak or tell authorities his motive behind this senseless atrocity. Often people like him don't. Some people claim this was a terrorist act. I’ll reserve judgment on that at the moment, as all of the facts are not in and many of the things being said in the media have not been verified by Law Enforcement officials at the moment. A few facts about him have surfaced and I’m sure many more will as the investigation continues. What we do know is that Nidal Malik Hasasn was a Major in the US Army and was at Fort Hood serving as a Psychiatrist, someone who was there to help Soldiers who were dealing with issues from the wars and other problems. We know that he was facing an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan and he was not happy about this. He reportedly didn’t agree with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know that he was of Palestinian descent, both of his parents having immigrated to the United States. We know that prior to coming to Fort Hood, Hasan served at Walter Reed Army Medical center and that he apparently had some discipline problems while he was there. We’re hearing conflicting stories about this man. Some are already trying to say he was suffering from secondary PTSD. To that supposition I say, Bull Shit. I’ve worked in Law Enforcement, EMS, as a counselor and as a Victim Advocate over the course of my adult life. I’ve heard and seen many horrific things, yet I’ve not snapped. Nor have countless other professionals in these fields. Claiming secondary PTSD is just providing this cowardly, evil, crazy man with an alibi and that pisses me off. That’s an excuse that I won’t buy, ever! Let’s call it was it is: a coward who didn’t want to deploy and so he figured that” suicide by cop” would be the best way out. His actions leading up to this event point to that. It’s common for those who commit suicide, to act fairly calm and rational in the days and moments leading up to taking their lives. He followed the typical pattern that is often seen. They begin to say their good byes to family and friends, which Hasan reportedly did. They begin giving away their belongings, as Hasas reportedly did. I don’t think he felt he would survive what he planned on doing. I’m sure he felt that he would be shot and killed at the hands of one of Fort Hood’s fine police officers. He was shot alright, but he remains alive to answer to his crimes. It’s my hope that he’s given the death penalty, he deserves no less.

Did the Army drop the ball when it came to Hasan? Probably so, but we probably will never know all the details about their decision to send him to Fort Hood and allow him to continue serving in the Army, to give him a second chance. I’m sure, knowing the shortage of Mental Health Professionals in the military at this time, that this had a lot to do with their decision to give him a second change. I also know that this happens a lot with problem Soldiers. I’ve seen it in my job, where a problem Soldier will be transferred to another unit, for a second chance. I can think of a case where this happened and like Hasan the Soldier continued to commit horrible acts, before he was eventually discharged. Perhaps the Army needs to take another look at that, in light of what has happened.

I don’t like what I’m seeing in the media and in my fellow Americans at the moment. I’ve heard many people state that all people of Middle Eastern descent are Muslims and that they should be removed from the military. That angers me, because I know several Soldiers who are of Middle Eastern descent, where at least one of their parents are from a Middle Eastern country. I’ve seen them honorably serve in the Army and know personally that they are not Muslim and abhor what has happened. I’ve heard comments made that all people of Middle Eastern descent should be rounded up and imprisoned. That frightens me for this country. Mass hysteria is at a peak. Are we going to begin acting like the radical Muslims act, hating those who are not like us? I certainly hope not. Are we going to begin ostracizing people based on their heritage? I hope not, because Hasan does not define every person of Middle Eastern descent, nor does he define every Muslim. We have to be careful about how we react to this, so that more senseless tragedies don’t occur. We’ve had enough senseless tragedy and I pray we won’t have more.