Friday, August 31, 2007

In league with the stones...

You know one of the things I have enjoyed so much about blogging is all the wonderful people I have come in contact with through this blog that I might have never know otherwise. I have made some great friends. Some I have met in person and some only via other blogs and email. I am blessed to know each one of them.

The following is from former WWII and Korean War Marine, Sgt Jim Baxter. He sent this beautiful and wise essay to me in an email and I am so honored that he has allowed me to share it here. God bless you Sgt Baxter! Thank you for your service. It is a privilege to correspond with you.

Every September, I recall that is more than half a century (62 years) since I landed at Nagasaki with the 2nd Marine Division in the original occupation of Japan following World War II. This time every year, I have watched and listened to the light-hearted "peaceniks" and their light-headed symbolism-without-substance of ringing bells, flying pigeons, floating candles, and sonorous chanting and I recall again that "Peace is not a cause - it is an effect."

In July, 1945, my fellow 8th RCT Marines [I was a BARman] and I returned to Saipan following the successful conclusion of the Battle of Okinawa. We were issued new equipment and replacements joined each outfit in preparation for our coming amphibious assault on the home islands of Japan.

B-29 bombing had leveled the major cities of Japan, including Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, Yokosuka, and Tokyo.

We were informed we would land three Marine divisions and six Army divisions, perhaps abreast, with large reserves following us in. It was estimated that it would cost half a million casualties to subdue the Japanese homeland.

In August, the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima but the Japanese government refused to surrender. Three days later a second A-bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The Imperial Japanese government finally surrendered.

Following the 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese admiral said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant..." Indeed, they had. Not surprisingly, the atomic bomb was produced by a free people functioning in a free environment. Not surprisingly because the creative process is a natural human choice-making process and inventiveness occurs most readily where choice-making opportunities abound. America!

Tamper with a giant, indeed! Tyrants, beware: Free men are nature's pit bulls of Liberty! The Japanese learned the hard way what tyrants of any generation should know: Never start a war with a free people - you never know what they may invent!

As a newly assigned member of a U.S. Marine intelligence section, I had a unique opportunity to visit many major cities of Japan, including Tokyo and Hiroshima, within weeks of their destruction. For a full year I observed the beaches, weapons, and troops we would have assaulted had the A-bombs not been dropped. Yes, it would have been very destructive for all, but especially for the people of Japan.

When we landed in Japan, for what came to be the finest and most humane occupation of a defeated enemy in recorded history, it was with great appreciation, thanksgiving, and praise for the atomic bomb team, including the aircrew of the Enola Gay. A half million American homes had been spared the Gold Star flag, including, I'm sure, my own.

Whenever I hear the apologists expressing guilt and shame for A-bombing and ending the war Japan had started (they ignore the cause-effect relation between Pearl Harbor and Nagasaki), I have noted that neither the effete critics nor the puff-adder politicians are among us in the assault landing-craft or the stinking rice paddies of their suggested alternative, "conventional" warfare. Stammering reluctance is obvious and continuous, but they do love to pontificate about the Rights that others, and the Bomb, have bought and preserved for them.

The vanities of ignorance and camouflaged cowardice abound as license for the assertion of virtuous "rights" purchased by the blood of others - those others who have borne the burden and physical expense of Rights whining apologists so casually and self-righteously claim.

At best, these fakers manifest a profound and cryptic ignorance of causal relations, myopic perception, and dull I.Q. At worst, there is a word and description in The Constitution defining those who love the enemy more than they love their own countrymen and their own posterity. Every Yankee Doodle Dandy knows what that word is.

In 1945, America was the only nation in the world with the Bomb and it behaved responsibly and respectfully. It remained so until two among us betrayed it to the Kremlin. Still, this American weapon system has been the prime deterrent to earth's latest model world- tyranny: Seventy years of Soviet collectivist definition, coercion, and domination of individual human beings.

The message is this: Trust Freedom. Remember, tyrants never learn. The restriction of Freedom is the limitation of human choice, and choice is the fulcrum-point of the creative process in human affairs. As earth's choicemaker, it is our human identity on nature's beautiful blue planet and the natural premise of man's free institutions, environments, and respectful relations with one another. Made in the image of our Creator, free men choose, create, and progress - or die.

Free men should not fear the moon-god-crowd oppressor nor choose any of his ways. Recall with a confident Job and a victorious David, "Know ye not that you are in league with the stones of the field?"

Semper Fidelis
Jim Baxter
WW II and Korean War

Forecasting a deployment: 13th MEU METOC Marines

Lance Cpl. Richard Duran Jr., 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit meteorological oceanographic observer uses a Kestal 4000, which is a handheld automated weather observation system, to get accurate weather readings for the MEU. The METOC Marines play an important role here when aiding a unit with information about weather and visibility.

Aug. 30, 2007; Submitted on: 08/30/2007 04:17:49 AM ; Story ID#: 200783041749

By Lance Cpl. T. M. Stewman, 13th MEU

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 30, 2007) -- Imagine having the responsibility of weather forecasting for combat operations. Now imagine having the responsibility of advising military leaders on weather conditions that could either hinder or assist future operations.

To be a fortune teller of weather isn’t an easy task. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s weather Marines, unlike the six o’clock news, prove that weather forecasting and observation is more than blue screens and good looks.

The weather forecasters predict meteorological conditions, making an educated opinion of future weather environments. Typical duties include the retrieval and analysis of meteorological oceanographic (METOC) data to formulate short and long-range forecasts of weather conditions affecting all elements of Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations.

“On the basic level, forecasters analyze and interpret satellite and radar patterns in the atmosphere,” said Sgt. Brock Hemminger, 13th MEU METOC and Somerset, Pa. native.

But the forecasters cannot predict conditions on their own. They need weather observers to produce METOC data.

Duties of weather observers include observing, recording, coding, disseminating, retrieving and decoding METOC data. Weather observers are also required to perform preventive maintenance on the sophisticated METOC computer systems and equipment used to obtain data. One common piece of equipment used is the Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS).

The AWOS is a solar-powered, mobile system equipped with sensors that give readings on wind, temperature, pressure, visibility, humidity and precipitation occurrence and totals.

“This equipment is the hub of our daily job,” said Lance Cpl. Richard Duran Jr., METOC observer and Forest Hills, Calif. native. “It’s necessary in our job to keep an eye on weather trends, and that is what this gear allows us to do.”

The observers also use handheld equipment that is similar to the AWOS but not as accurate. The Kestal 4000 is a portable AWOS. It’s very beneficial to Marines when bigger systems aren’t practical.

“It’s a good piece of equipment considering it can fit in your pocket,” said Duran. “The gear is perfect for when we need to get a reading within a short period of time.”

Because Iraqi summers are usually hot and dusty “a lot of people think that being here makes our job easy, but that’s not true at all,” says Duran. “The stakes are high out here. The information that we receive, gather and analyze can ultimately affect the safety of Marines.”

A MEU’s weather detachment consisting of two forecasters and two observers is smaller than that of a Marine Expeditionary Force. They often rely on numerous military weather agencies for data because a MEU does not have the capabilities to transport the amount of equipment it takes to retrieve information.

Hemminger explained it takes a collective effort from all branches and units to get accurate data for future weather conditions.

“Since weather in the Northern Hemisphere moves west to east we rely on our counterpart’s data from Al Asad to make our predictions,” he said. “There are still a lot of variables we must factor in before coming up with a final forecast.”

Few things in this world have the ability to change as quickly as the weather, even in Iraq.
Accurate and up-to-date weather information is essential to the safety of Marines and the overall success of a deployed unit. The METOC Marines of the 13th MEU get the job done every day, preparing Marines in the air, on the ground and at sea to successfully conduct combat operations.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Calming Force in Fallujah

With Anbar Province being considered the success story of the American efforts in Iraq, much attention has been given to Ramadi, where Sheik Sattar and his fellow Sunni sheiks joined forces with the Marines of 1/6 to make peace and drive Al-Qada and the other insurgents from the city.
Less publicized, but equally important to the continued success in Anbar Province, are the efforts of Regimental Combat Team 6. Under the command of Col. Richard Simcock, RCT-6 is responsible for operations in Fallujah and the surrounding area. Known as AO Raleigh, RCT-6 controls within Fallujah, as well as the area halfway between Ramadi and Habbaniyah (west) and halfway between Baghdad and Fallujah (east).
The RCT arrived in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, at the beginning of January 2007 and are scheduled to remain in Iraq for approximately 12 months. Regimental Combat Team 6 is comprised of units from across the Marine Corps, including elements from all four of the Corps’ infantry divisions. Currently, there are roughly 5,500 Marines, sailors, and soldiers assigned to the regiment, as well as an embedded State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team ( ePRT ) under the leadership of Steve Fakan.
ON POINT talked by phone with Col Simcock yesterday about conditions in Fallujah, as well as what he expects to see in the future.
Q - Colonel, the news here is all about withdrawing our troops. If worse came to worse and the Marines in RCT 6 had to pull out, how well would the Iraqi Security Forces ( Army, Police, the Neighborhood Watch ) deal with next 30 to 90 days?
A - Well, it could be a problem. Obviously, we watch the news over here, and obviously like you, watch what's going on with our national leadership and the chance of pulling out sooner. The key thing to keep in mind is that, as Marines, we want to finish the mission we've been given. We don't want to go out before it's done. We're having a lot of success. You talk about the provincial security forces that we're working with over here, that continues to increase, and we get more and more benefit out of their participation over here we're doing.
So we really focus not only being pulled out too soon, but what we focus on is completing the mission that we have over here. And we're having a lot of success with that, and I can't overstate the importance of having the Iraqis working with us in the form of -- like you asked me -- about the provincial security forces.
Q - Are the ISF able to operate on their own? Are they getting that good?
A- I classify the relationship that we have with them as a partnered relationship. They are never on their own, and we don't want them to be. They provide such a critical avenue for intelligence to us about what's happening on the ground that we are constantly engaged with them. In addition to that, with the relation -- the partnered relationship, we're constantly training with them, making them better, more capable force.
We want to stay engaged with them for what they give to us as a combat multiplier here in our AO.
Q -If you were commandant for the day or CINC for the day, what one or two capabilities that you may not have or need more of would top your list?
A- That's an easy question. And the commandant was just out here a couple weeks ago and I told him exactly what I wish I had more of. Engineers and route clearance. Those are the two capabilities that we need more of out here. It's a low – density, high-demand type capability. The engineers, they're working 24/7, literally. They're either building something or tearing something down, and that's something that I wish I had more of.
Q - The last time we talked, you said that you were using a lot less air support, artillery and similar sorts of heavy weaponry; that a Marine rifle team was sufficient to the tasks you were encountering. Can you talk about whether that trend has continued, or changed in any way?
A- I would say that it has continued. We don't use the heavy fire support assets as much as when we first got here. The air aspect, the air combat element still plays a very huge role from the aerial reconnaissance aspect. They do a lot to contribute to the mission. But I think what I told you last time was there's nothing out on the battlefield that a Marine rifle squad couldn't easily deal with. That is still true and probably more so.
But what has changed is the Iraqi equation to it. They continue to grow, Iraqi security forces, in the form of the Army, the Iraqi police, the provincial security forces, neighborhood watches. That has been the key element that has been able to allow me to do my mission and work with them so that we're both trying to accomplish the same thing.
Q - One of the more consistent complaints, I guess you'd say, is the fact that while at local and provincial level governments are standing up and becoming responsive, Mr. Maleki’s Central Government is not. Is that your experience as well?
A - You're hitting the long-term solution that's going to have to happen if we're going to have long-term success here in AO Raleigh. We are seeing limited support from the central government. It is happening, and I'll give you some examples of it.
The Minister of Interior is providing money to pay the Iraqi police, the provisional security forces. In addition to that money, they're providing equipment to support those law enforcement and provisional security forces also, but we need more. And in a lot of different areas we need a lot more to come a lot faster, and that's the piece -- it is working, but it -- I tell you, it's not working fast enough, and it's not working in sufficient amounts.
Q - How do you feel about what you see at a local and provincial level?
A- To say that I feel good would be an understatement. I am continually amazed at how energetic and how much the local Iraqi government is actually doing to better their situation. They put in a great deal of work; they're working hand to hand, not only with my Marines and soldiers on the ground, but they're also working with my embedded Provisional Reconstruction Teams. And they're truly the experts, you know, in the terms of reconstruction and governance, and they're working very, very close with them. And I'm very, very pleased with the efforts that local governance is putting forth.
Q - There are numbers coming out of Ramadi in the past couple of months, basically how few incidents there have been, on a weekly or monthly basis. Drops in IED attacks, drop in fire fights, numbers of bullets fired and that type of thing. Can you give us those kind of number from your AO.
A - Yes. IED attacks are down. Casualties are down. All measures of effectiveness that we track, all are going down in that regard; and the contrary is all the other measured -- positive measures of effectiveness that we track -- economic development, city governments standing up, numbers of police -- those type of statistics that we track, all up. From an overall trend, they are all good and continue to go that way.
COL. SIMCOCK: I hope that we can talk again, because, as I've told you last time we talked, I believe this is very, very important to our nation. I think that there are a lot of national interests, you know, at stake over here, and I think it's an important mission, and I just appreciate the time to talk with you and hopefully give you a little insight to what we're going through over here in AO Raleigh.

Boiling point

desert training helps marines learn to cope with iraq's relentless heat

By Mark Sauer

August 26, 2007

TWENTYNINE PALMS – By 1 p.m., every metal surface was a skillet, every troop carrier an oven and every inch of skin was basted in gritty sweat.

Camp Pendleton-based Marines were patrolling a barren stretch of scorching Southern California desert on a recent midweek afternoon. They were preparing for a simulated attack the next morning, a high point in a month of training.

The goal: Get ready for what is waiting in Iraq, where temperatures reached nearly 120 degrees last week.

In this fifth summer of war in the Middle East blast furnace, U.S. Marines and soldiers continue to face roadside bombs, snipers and suicide attacks.

They also confront an additional relentless enemy: the heat.

The troops, meanwhile, fight on.

“You understand you're just going to boil in your own sweat over there; no use bitching about it,” is how Lance Cpl. Adrian Thompson, a Houston native who fought in Iraq last summer, put it.

If Marines have opinions about politicians fleeing the heat or the wisdom of the war, they keep them to themselves. Marines fight for their country and for each other, and they like to believe they are made of steel.

But even steel has a melting point.

On this hilly training ground 50 miles into the desert, four Marines already were being treated with intravenous fluids and ice inside a fan-cooled tent. A fifth was being airlifted back to the Twentynine Palms base hospital with life-threatening heatstroke.

Into the oven
Spending seven hours rolling through the desert inside an amphibious assault vehicle, dressed in full combat regalia, offers an appreciation for what a turkey experiences on Thanksgiving Day.

Battling the heat
Fans weren't working in some of the iron-hulled troop carriers that ferried troops to the mock battlefield. The only relief came from an opening in the roof.

One Marine said a sergeant showed a thermometer to the dozens of men packed into one of the carriers. It read 138 degrees.

“I thought it must have been 170 inside there,” said Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Romero, who was leaking sweat like a perforated hose.

“I drank four 'camelbacks' (more than 3 gallons) of water today. But I'm from Tucson. People who come from Wyoming or someplace like that, maybe they never get used to it.”

The military has been looking for ways to keep troops cooler in the desert theater of war since the March 2003 invasion. But if anything, it has only gotten hotter for Marines fighting in Iraq. The reason is their body armor has gotten better, meaning heavier.

A 2005 Pentagon study showed that up to 80 percent of Marine deaths in Iraq could be prevented by adding 7 pounds of shrapnel-stopping ceramic plates to the sides of Kevlar vests. So now combat armor – which also includes neck and groin protection – weighs almost 30 pounds.

To help reduce the number of heat casualties requiring hospitalization, the camelback water pouches Marines carry were increased recently from 2 liters to 3 liters, which means they now weigh nearly 7 pounds.

Eating to survive
Add a rifle or machine gun, ammunition pouches, a pistol, grenades, helmet, radio, night-vision equipment, flashlight, first-aid kit, knee pads, goggles, gloves and food, and it's no wonder a Marine needs up to 4,000 calories a day – twice that of an average man – just to maintain body weight.

“Drink water, remember to eat, drop the gear and find shade when you can – we preach that from Day One,” Cpl. Jonathon Smith said.

Smith said there had been “quite a few cases of heat exhaustion out here” during the training exercise, known as Mojave Viper. One reason was inexperience: “We have a lot of new people who have not been to Iraq yet,” Smith said.

The rule of thumb for Marines, who also guzzle Gatorade and pop salt tablets, is a liter of water an hour if they are not moving, 2 to 3 liters an hour if on patrol.

That means a lot of sweating in a place where bathing is a luxury.

Lance Cpl. Matthew Francis, who grew up in Temecula, went 60 days without a shower during his first tour in Iraq last summer.

“I don't think you can ever get totally acclimated to this kind of temperature,” Francis said as he suited up for another day in the desert. “Take a big old water bottle and dump it over your head – that's as close as you get to a swimming pool over there.”

Thompson said Marines rely on their families to send “comfort stuff.”

“You can't believe how handy baby wipes are in the heat,” Thompson said. “Often, that's the only way to get clean.”

The grime and pungent aromas of desert patrol were the least of concerns among the Navy medical corpsmen. They were treating heat-stricken Marines in the Basic Aid Station tent, the only cool, shady place for miles around.

“We've got four right now. We had seven one day last week, but this many heat casualties is not a lot when you have hundreds of guys out here training in this heat,” medic William Reese said. “Sitting in a Humvee in all that gear on a day like this, you are just baking.”

Signs of heatstroke
Sergeants are trained to watch for key warning signs – dizziness and disorientation.

“If they're bad off, they don't know where they're at, or what day it is,” Reese said. “Basically, they're so hot their brains are starting to shut down. They need hydration, salt, sugar, and they need to eat, which is the last thing they feel like doing.”

When a Marine's core temperature is 101 or below, the treatment is shade, water and rest. Between 101 and 103, it's IV fluids and ice packs at the aid station.

“Above 103, they are going on the chopper,” Reese said. “Every heat casualty we have out here is monitored over the radio by the safety guys back at the base. They hear 103 degrees and a chopper or ground ambulance is dispatched.”

If heatstroke isn't treated immediately, it can lead to organ failure, brain damage, even death.

More common are the headaches, cramps and fatigue of overheating coupled with dehydration.

“Treatment normally takes several hours. Then it's light duty for a couple of days and they usually are back and ready to rock 'n' roll,” Reese said.

By late afternoon, three of the four heat-afflicted Marines had been released from their IVs at the aid station and were refilling their camelbacks from a rig holding 2,500 gallons of ice water. They were stripped of their combat armor and camouflage tops.

One look in their eyes showed the lingering effects of ravaging headaches and fatigue.

A sergeant felt compelled to soothe the injured psyches of his men of steel.
“Don't feel bad about this. You did your mission; you did not fail us,” he told the trio. “You drank water; you ate. This was not your fault.

“Some guys are just more susceptible, that's all.”

The still-dazed Marines leaned against the shaded side of the water truck and watched in silence as the sergeant turned and marched off across the sand.


Mark Sauer: (619) 293-2227;


Blue Star Service Banner

The Blue Star Service Banner video pays tribute to military families and their loved ones who serve our nation in times of war – past and present. This historical journey through time honors their continued service and sacrifice. The video was produced, directed, and edited by Gulf War Veteran, Tim Reinhart.

IMMORTALIZE – “The Few. The Proud. The Marines”

The following was sent to me by the Command of our local Marine Reserve Unit. Please take a moment to vote for our beloved Marines and their slogan.

The United States Marine Corps and JWT are honored to announce that "TheFew. The Proud. The Marines." has been nominated BEST SLOGAN for the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame.

More than just a slogan, the three sentences represent what Marines are all about, epitomizing the challenge of becoming (The Few), and the reward of being (The Proud), one of the elite (The Marines).

Suffice it to say, few slogans convey such a Proud tradition. With your help, we now have the opportunity to immortalize these words as an American cultural icon. The Marine Corps will compete with 26 others for entry into the hall of fame based upon total number of votes received. The winning slogan will be etched on a plaque, and set alongside other time-honored brands on Madison Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets.

We ask that you vote for "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." by CLICKING HERE <> .

If you have Internet access in more than one location, you can vote more than once, so remember to vote from home, work, the library, and anywhere else you can find a computer. Be sure to pass this email along to your co workers, family members and friends so that they may also vote. We are confident a concentrated effort will deliver "The Few. The Proud. The Marines." into the hall of fame, in its rightful place among elite American slogans. Voting begins on August 28th and runs through September 24th. Remember to vote again at each location you have access to the Internet.

We thank you for your support.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Even here in Lubbock...

The war protesters are at work even here in Lubbock. I had no idea this was going on until I saw it on the news last night.

National Take-A-Stand-Day in Lubbock
Reported by: Candace Hutchins
Tuesday, Aug 28, 2007 @09:48pm CST

August 28th is National Take-A-Stand-Day and that's exactly what a group of Lubbock citizens did. Dozens lined 82nd street in front of the Lubbock Area Veterans Memorial Tuesday night armed with protest signs and a clear message for congress.

Vigil organizer Robert Polk says "in 2007 we lost 90 Americans a month and its just getting worse and we need to stop this war now." "My husband fought in WWII. We fought an enemy, to protect our nation. This war, I do not feel, is contributing to peace", says Helen Moss.

But others oppose that message saying we need to finish what we started.

"Of course being a Vietnam Vet, I feel a little deja vu. We've heard these things before and I hope these protesters have good and honest reasons for doing this, but I still have thoughts that you can't run a war from the basement of the White House and you certainly can't do it from a city street in West Texas", says veteran Phil Price.

Citizens also took time Tuesday to read from a war toll calendar to honor and remember the soldiers who died over the past year in Iraq.

Click here to watch the video.

Now these protesters are of course entitled to their opinions and I appreciate that their protest was civil and without any name calling. However, as a patriotic American and mom of a Marine currently serving in Iraq I would like to say that I must respectfully disagree. I wonder if these people realize that the fate of the entire middle east hinges on the outcome of the war in Iraq? We did not start this war and we must not pull out and leave the region unstable. I would also like to know where the "its just getting worse" comes from? Even the New York Times' left leaning critics of the war Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack are calling it a War We Just Might Win.
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

Protesting is NOT supporting the troops.

Please read Understanding "Jihadistan" and Islamic terrorism

Onward by Faith...

This book was suggested to me by another Marine mom. She said it is a great read for all Marine parents and family members. It is called Onward by Faith... by Gina Gippner and can be purchased at the author's website. Here are some quotes from the website:

Just when I thought motherhood couldn't get any harder, my only son, Glenn, decided he would join the Marines.

There were no conversations, only one quick decision that began my journey to Iraq and Back...

There’s a process those joining the Military go through, and there’s a process that mothers go though when their children join the Military.

Gina Gippner's "Onward By Faith " is a heartfelt, spiritually, uplifting tribute to the men and woman who serve in our nation military, and affirmation of a mother's love for her son.

-William Matson Law, Author of In the Eye of History

A must read for any parent who has had a son or daughter sent into harm's way. Gina Gippner captures the emotions I've felt during my own son's deployments with the U.S. Army. Allow yourself to laugh and cry as this Marine Mom discovers the catharsis of writing along with the fear of having a son go to war.

-Michael J. Cain, Author of The Tangled Web and proud father of an American Soldier

With the purchase of each book, you will also receive a *FREE* DVD of our videogram/pictorial "Your Dreams Became Our Marines" produced and edited by Jan, featuring many of our Marines/Marine familes. Special background music "When It's Time To Go" is provided by "4HIM" artists Jeff Silvey and Billy Simon from the album Basics of Life 1992- MusicServices.Org. This DVD is a loving tribute to our Marine sons and daughters who serve us so faithfully. We also honor the memory of our men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice along with our Gold Star families.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Omazing Grace

This is a hilarious rendition of Amazing Grace. I didn't know anyone could sing it in quite this way. Keep watching to the end. It gets even funnier.

Father’s influence inspires one son to enlist, with three more to go

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 23, 2007) – Master Gunnery Sgt. James Hunter and Lance Cpl. Mitchell Hunter enjoy a day together at Al Taqaddum. James is Mitchell’s father and he arrived here from his station at Al Asad to spend time with his son. At Al Asad, James Hunter serves as an aircraft maintenance chief with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).Mitchell Hunter will be serving here as a landing support specialist with Transportation Support Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

Aug. 28, 2007; Submitted on: 08/28/2007 11:51:44 AM ; Story ID#: 2007828115144

By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, 2nd Marine Logistics Group
AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Aug. 28, 2007) -- Many aren’t quite sure why they did it. For some, it is just something to do. Others just wanted the financial benefits. But Mitchell Hunter said money had nothing to do with his decision to enlist. Instead, it was about pride and an influential father.

“I thought the Marine Corps to be one job that you have to earn the title of,” said Hunter, a lance corporal who serves here as a landing support specialist with Transportation Support Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “At the same time, earning that title comes with a respect that I hoped to hold; that respect that I saw my father receive as a Marine.”

The Hunter family has seemingly adopted Marine Corps service as a family tradition. Mitchell’s father, Master Gunnery Sgt. James Hunter, an aircraft maintenance chief with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), explained he too enlisted out of his own pride and influence from his father, who served as a Marine during WWII. But in James’ case, money played a small role.

“Believe it or not, I enlisted on a bet with my father,” he said. “I always felt that he rode me harder than my older brother. One day, the topic of the Marine Corps came up and he said I wasn’t man enough or mature enough to survive Marine Corps boot camp. So I said, ‘Oh yeah? I’ll bet you a hundred bucks I am.’”

Needless to say, James graduated boot camp, earning one hundred dollars and a uniform he has worn for more than 24 years. James said he later used the money to buy a Father’s Day gift.

Of his four sons, Mitchell currently serves as an activated reservist, 18-year-old Justin is in the process of enlisting and 16-year-old Nathan has talked about it for years. If 8-year-old Brandon does as his brothers did, he will ask his parents to sign him up for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

“I’d like to say that I’ve had a positive impact as a father, at least in the realm of being patriotic and serving the country. I think that’s somewhat evident,” James said.

Whether Mitchell’s brothers serve or not, they’ve had their dose of Marine Corps culture. In addition to enduring their father’s three deployments, they’ve had to move every couple of years to new duty station locations. Now deployed and a husband of five months, Mitchell is experiencing these family hardships from a servicemember’s perspective.

“You feel as if you want to do as many things as possible with your family with what little time you have left before you leave,” Mitchell said. “It's really sad and heart-breaking to have to say goodbye to your loved ones, but you know you'll be able to come back home in a while. We tend to see the bigger picture and realize how great our family is and how important they are in a deployment like this.”

James is approaching the end of his deployment and will see his family soon, but Mitchell’s has just begun. Like most Marines, he misses his family but was privileged to have been welcomed by a familiar face when stepping foot onto the desert ground.

“The last time that I saw him in uniform was in boot camp,” James said after seeing his son land in Iraq. “This time seeing him in uniform was somewhat of an out-of-body experience. I was as proud today when I saw him as I was the day I saw him (graduate).”

James arrived here from his station at Al Asad Air Base approximately 20 minutes before his son. They spent two days together before James returned to his station.

He said he was happy to have seen his oldest son and he is looking forward to seeing the rest of his family when he returns home – wherever that is. Is it Iwakuni, Japan, where Mitchell was born? Is it one of the three bases his other sons were born on? Maybe Jacksonville, N.C., where Mrs. Hunter ran her own Cuban restaurant.

None of the above. James considers home to be West Palm Beach, Fla., where he moved with his father, who served with the Civil Air Patrol and met James’ mother after flying to Belize to evacuate people during a hurricane. But the Hunter family has moved so often, there is bound to be some disagreement amongst them as to where they feel comfortable.

Many say home is where the heart is. To the few and the proud, that often means the Marine Corps. This may be the same for the Hunter family. For they are among the many who consider their fellow Marines to be family, but among the few who know their family to be fellow Marines.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wounded troops find healing in Colo. outdoors

By Christine Benedetti - Aspen Daily News
Posted : Sunday Aug 26, 2007 18:03:46 EDT

ASPEN, Colo. — When Bryon Chambers stopped on a ledge halfway through the climb to catch his breath and plan his next move, everyone watching was unsure if he would continue.

But 10 minutes later, he was at the top of the pitch with a huge grin.

“It kicked my butt, but if felt good and I would do it again — not today though,” he said.

For Chambers, completing a rock climb is more than a physical accomplishment — it’s a metaphorical feat, too. A roadside bomb in Iraq injured the 20-year-old Marine Corps lance corporal in February. The driver of a light armored vehicle, he suffered a brain injury and a shattered right heel that ultimately cost him his leg from the knee down. Three others essentially walked away from the accident, but his vehicle commander, Sgt. Chad Allen, was killed on the spot.

“The three-ton engine next to me was thrown 40 yards, so that tells you something,” said Chambers. “I’m extremely lucky to be here. ... Everything I worked for I lost.”

Chambers is spending a week in the Rockies with other recently injured Iraq war veterans as part of a program hosted by Challenge Aspen. Eighteen men are in town for the Aspen Wilderness Program, and after spending three days river rafting through Westwater Canyon on the Utah/Colorado border, they spent some time scaling rock up the Lincoln Creek valley.

Chambers has only had his prosthetic leg since mid-July, and learning to walk has been a hurdle.

“I was 200 pounds in February, and that’s the last thing I remember,” he said. “I woke up four months later, and had lost it all. I’m about 150 pounds now.”

Chambers underwent 22 surgeries during that period, and while he wasn’t in a coma, he says it almost felt that way.

“I was in a dream state. If I didn’t like what I was doing, I would just go to sleep,” he said. “I thought I would wake up again in Iraq and be late for post or patrol.”

Part of his traumatic brain injury was short-term memory loss, which affected long-term memory loss too. Basically for four months of his life he blacked out.

“I think when I stopped trying to wake up from the dream is when things changed,” he said.

The Delta, Colo., native went home for the second time since the injury on Thursday night to visit family and friends. He’s an outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and has also spent time at a brain injury facility in Tampa, Fla.

“I’m mentally stable enough not to go crazy, or I’d like to say I don’t have it (post-traumatic stress disorder),” he said, laughing with a surprisingly good sense of humor.

The Aspen Wilderness Program is in its third year and, like many Challenge Aspen programs, it’s recreation-based therapy, said program director Sarah Volf. It encourages the soldiers to test their physical skills, in turn building self-confidence they may have lost along with their leg or arm. In September, Challenge Aspen will host the first TBI outdoor rehabilitation program in the country.

“It’s a way to work back into society,” said Volf. “Nature is so therapeutic. The changes we’ve seen, even in five days, is incredible.”

She points out Jake Altman as one of those cases.

The 20-year-old Army specialist was stationed in Germany. After five months of deployment in Iraq, his vehicle — the lead car in his convoy — was destroyed by a bomb.

“I didn’t really feel pain when my hand was blown off,” he said. “It felt like a lot of pressure and my hand was dangling by the fabrics of my uniform.”

Besides losing his right hand and forearm, both knees were severely injured, and physical tasks like rock climbing and rafting have been work — and fun.

“It’s really boosted my self esteem and I think it’s wonderful that they do this for the soldiers. It’s inspired me to work harder,” he says. “Honestly, this is the funniest experience of my life.”

A support system is something Altman could use right now, considering his wife — a German native — and 10-month-old son are still overseas. He hasn’t seen either since he left for Iraq, and he says securing a passport and dual citizenship so they can travel to America has been difficult.

“I still have fear but I just try to push through it,” he said.

And that is one of the Aspen Wilderness Program’s goals, notes Kristi Say, an occupational therapist at Walter Reed who accompanied the veterans to Aspen. It’s her third summer participating in the program.

“The meaningful goal is to independence,” she said. “That’s breaking down all barriers, whether or not they’re an able-bodied person or missing a limb. Some of these activities were a huge mental block before and it opens up the door to possibilities.”

Those options are different for each man. After completing therapy at Walter Reed, Chambers is returning to the Western Slope to attend college at Mesa State University in Grand Junction, where he hopes to go into computer systems. Greg Robinson, a 28-year-old Army Corps of Engineers staff sergeant based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., said he’ll return to his station for another 10 years to earn full retirement.

“It’s not for everyone, but I like the lifestyle and I like what I do,” he says.

Having been deployed to Kosovo, Korea and Iraq, Robinson was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in May, and it tore off his right leg. He already participated in a ski program for soldiers in Breckenridge and Vail last fall, and says gliding on two boards was easier than walking.

Looking back at where he’s been is tough, though.

“I would rather be there (Afghanistan) than Iraq, because you can actually see hope,” said Robinson. “Since the invasion the country has evolved, and it’s the smaller villages that are unstable. But in Iraq, when I was there, it was chaos.”

Volf said she’s sees a difference in the injuries that are coming back from overseas. She said what used to kill people now leaves them amputees because of the changes in armor and technology, which means wounds tend to be more severe.

“It’s a population that we need to proactively serve because in 10 to 15 years, these guys still don’t have a limb,” she said.

As a patient at Walter Reed, Robinson compares his progress rate with others to see where he should be in the future.

“If someone is six months ahead of me, I set goals to see where I should be compared to people that are already there,” he says.

For this group, those physical checklists are much more visible this week, and they all cheer each other on as they take on things like climbing and paddling.

As Chambers rappels down the rock face, everyone watching hoots, hollers and gives him a round of applause.

“These people are great,” said Altman. “They actually pushed me to keep going. ... Now I face that fear and before I didn’t have the tools.”

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Some Good News

Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn / Marine Corps Marines from 1st Platoon, I Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment move through a field while conducting clearing operations during Operation Michigan earlier this summer. The operation was designed to eliminate insurgent activity 20 kilometers south of Fallujah.

Coalition makes progress in Anbar

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Aug 26, 2007 11:31:25 EDT

Two years after most observers chalked up Anbar province as a lost cause in the face of stiff Sunni resistance, Marine commanders and outside experts say unprecedented progress has been made toward securing the violent region. And the numbers back that up.

Marine leaders pointed to the striking drop in the number of attacks on coalition forces and civilians across the province as proof of this “turnaround,” as the commander of Multi-National Force-West, Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin phrased it in a July 20 Pentagon briefing.

The decision by many Sunni sheikhs in the past year to stem attacks on coalition forces and instead focus their efforts on expelling al-Qaida from the region has been the key to providing more security in the province, said Lt. Col. Michael Manning, the operations officer for Regimental Combat Team 2, and Col. Richard Simcock, commander of Regimental Combat Team 6, during phone interviews from Iraq.

Gaskin referenced the drop in the number of Anbar incidents — defined as small-arms fire, indirect fire, rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and roadside bomb findings and attacks — from 428 during one week in July last year to 98 during that same week this year.

Manning said he has seen the number of incidents in his area of operations near the Syrian border drop from 95 per day to 20 in the past seven months.

Tribal leaders continue to encourage their followers to volunteer at recruit depots for the Iraqi army and local police forces in the face of al-Qaida threats against them and their families, Manning and Simcock said. Despite assassinations of tribal sheikhs by al-Qaida gunmen in the past year, the sheikhs have not swayed from offering their sons and lists with as many as 700 names of Iraqis ready to work with coalition forces, Manning said.

The increased cooperation occurred after Sunnis grew tired of al-Qaida members trying to control their tribes and attempting to bring Iraqi society back to the seventh century and eliminating modern conveniences, Simcock said. Combined with the killing of tribal sheikhs and the suicide bombings that have killed many civilians, the Anbar populace turned against al-Qaida, Manning and Simcock said.

“Al-Qaida’s abuses were so serious that it was alienating the people it was depending on for support,” said Anthony Cordesman, a senior Iraq analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies who just returned from a trip to Iraq, including Anbar province. He has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration’s war effort. “The longer al-Qaida was in a town, the more it alienated the people in the area.”

The number of tips Marine units have received from local Iraqis pinpointing al-Qaida cells has also increased — doubling for RCT-2 since last year — which has limited al-Qaida’s ability to blend into the local populace, Manning said.

The drop in attacks in Anbar province has allowed provincial reconstruction teams and government agencies embedded with Marine units to make headway rebuilding the region’s infrastructure. The average number of hours of electricity in Fallujah has doubled from seven to 14 hours over the past year, Simcock said.

Marine leaders and regional experts caution that the momentum built upon gaining the support of the sheikhs is dependent on receiving financial backing from the Shiite-led Iraqi national government and the inclusion of the Sunnis into the political process.

“What the sheikhs want is support in the way of money, arms and training to continue a century-old tradition of maintaining control,” said David Mack, a U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates during George H.W. Bush’s administration and the current vice president of the Middle East Institute.

He said while the Shiite-led government likes to see al-Qaida bombers distracted by Sunni fighters in Anbar province, it is hesitant to empower the Sunni sheikhs who held so much sway during Saddam Hussein’s era, when Shiites were discriminated against and even slaughtered to test chemical weapons.

U.S. forces have experimented with arming Sunni fighters, who now claim to target al-Qaida, but just recently were aiming their AK47s at Marines. Al-Qaida makes up a slight portion of the Sunni insurgency, and the Iraqi government is nervous about rearming any Sunni nationalist fighters who want to expel al-Qaida but also align themselves under umbrella insurgent groups like the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade and Ansar al Sunna. Those groups are often hostile to the current Iraq government, Mack said.

Sunni insurgency leaders, who until recently communicated only through their own Web sites, spoke with Western journalists to explain their disdain for al-Qaida and attempt to politically legitimize their groups with names like the Legitimate Committee of Ansar al-Sunna.

“Our people have come to hate al-Qaida, which gives the impression to the outside world that the resistance in Iraq are terrorists. Suicide bombing is not the best way to fight because it kills innocent civilians,” a spokesman for Ansar al-Sunna told The Guardian newspaper July 19. In the article, he went on to tell the paper his group will fight al-Qaida, but it will not stop targeting coalition forces and those that cooperate with them.

Even in the face of hazy allegiances, both Simcock and Manning re-emphasized how important it was for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to grant funding through the Ramadi provincial capital to be doled out to the Sunni sheikhs so the tribal leaders can show results of the increased cooperation to their followers.

“The Sunnis openly admit they made a mistake in the last elections,” Simcock said, regarding the Sunni boycott of government elections in 2005. “They have come and told us they want to participate.”

Sunni political groups like Anbar Awakening have popped up over the past year to help organize the political movement in the region. Awakening is made up of about 200 Sunni sheikhs who declared their platform is against al-Qaida and for cooperation with the Iraqi government in April.

The group was present at a conference in Ramadi in early July that was attended by Gaskin, Anbar province’s governor and more than 400 city professionals who celebrated the increased security in the region and the improved relationship between the Sunnis and the coalition.

Simcock said he watched how many Sunnis paid close attention to the U.S. mid-term elections in 2006, which led them to determine that Republican losses meant the U.S. wouldn’t be a permanent fixture in Iraq.

“Iraqis came to the conclusion that we weren’t making the 51st state of Iraq,” he said.

Simcock said he had noticed a distinct difference in the way tribal leaders had stopped referring to coalition forces as an occupation force since those elections.

The same level of cooperation with Sunni leaders has not been seen in the Kurdish- and Shiite-majority portions of Iraq and is not anticipated anytime soon, said Karol Sultan, who was an adviser to the Kurdistan government during negotiations concerning Iraq’s constitution.

Sultan warned there might be an unintended effect of conflict within a splintered Sunni faction due to the increased cooperation with coalition forces, much like the Mahdi Army has caused an internal conflict and violence within the Shiite majority.

Coalition forces in Anbar province have an advantage over other portions of Iraq since it’s a mostly homogenous society with few areas of Sunnis, Shiites or Kurds living together, Simcock said.

However, without the money and support from the national government, all of the progress made with the Sunni sheikhs might be wasted, he said.

“The money would be the icing on the cake for long-term solutions,” Simcock said.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sand Storm - Al Asad

MATSS meets 'digital sky' landmarks

Aug. 24, 2007; Submitted on: 08/24/2007 11:24:28 AM ; Story ID#: 2007824112428

By Lance Cpl. Cecilia N. Rooks, MCAS New River

Jim Kessler, a Marine Aviation Training Systems Squadron MV-22 Osprey instructor and retired Marine Corps major, demonstrates how to determine a destination while flying in a MV-22 Osprey full-motion simulator before unit instructors completed their 20,000 flight-training hours at MATSS Aug. 7.

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (Aug. 24, 2007) -- A group of instructors celebrated the completion of 20,000 flight-training hours and 10,000 missions in the Marine Aviation Training Systems Squadron MV-22 "Osprey" simulators Aug. 7.

The milestone flight-training hours and training missions were celebrated in a small ceremony signifying the unit's dedicated effort in ensuring the Marine Corps and "Osprey" program field the best trained and safest pilots available, said Maj. Walter D. Reece, the MATSS officer-in-charge.

Thirty years ago, pilots did not have simulators to help them learn how to fly the aircraft, explained Mark Thoman, a MATSS MV-22 instructor. He added that before simulators, Marines would come across problematic scenarios during training and would not know what to do.

"We have the simulators; if something goes wrong with the aircraft, (the pilots) have seen it and they will know how to react," said Kurt Miller, a MATSS MV-22 instructor.

"If a student makes a mistake, we can reset (the scenario) and do it over and over again until the Marine gets it right," explained Thoman.

Thoman, who has been a MV-22 instructor since MATSS' first simulator training class, explained that their first class was held in May of 1999 and that each mission consists of an hour brief, two hours of simulated flight time and half-hour debrief.

These instructors have 40,000 hours of actual flight time between them, which leaves no question as to why these mentors love to train young pilots, explained Jim Kessler, a MATSS MV-22 instructor.

Being able to put this flight suit on everyday and train young aviators in the ways of the aircraft is a blessing, said Miller, who is a retired Marine CH-46 pilot.

"It gives great pleasure to the civilians and us retired guys to be able to teach these Marines how to fly in a safe environment," added Thoman. "My biggest thrill is taking a young fellow who is having trouble with a maneuver and climbing into the simulator and taking him through it until he is doing it perfectly. That makes me grin," he added.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Law may not bar shirts with troops’ names

By Paul Davenport - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Aug 24, 2007 8:30:09 EDT

PHOENIX — A Flagstaff man who sells anti-war T-shirts with the names of service members killed in Iraq may escape criminal prosecution under a state law that legislators hoped would block his activities.

The criminal portion of a law passed earlier this year was written in a way that doesn’t actually bar sales of items that use the causalities’ names without family authorization, attorneys for the Attorney General’s Office and the Flagstaff city attorney’s office acknowledged during a court hearing Thursday.

Also, the federal judge weighing a request to temporarily block enforcement of the law on free-speech grounds said the law’s exemptions for news accounts and memorials may provide a shield for Dan Frazier from civil lawsuits authorized under the law.

And U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake said the law’s ban on advertising items with casualties’ names may not apply to Frazier because individual names can’t be discerned on photos of shirts displayed on his online business’ web page.

However, a lawyer for Frazier said he hopes Wake puts the law on hold while its constitutionality is decided because Frazier still could be burdened with having to defend himself against lawsuits from casualties’ families or charges filed by politically motivated prosecutors.

The Legislature passed the law last May in response to complaints by casualties’ family members who said Frazier had no right to use the names and that using them could lead people to believe that the casualties or their families shared his anti-war beliefs.

The emergency law took effect immediately when signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.

A suit later filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona on behalf of Frazier contends the law violates his First Amendment rights to make a political statement through his “Bush Lied — They Died” T-shirts.

Supporters contend its restrictions are permissible because Frazier’s activities are commercial in nature.

Even if actual sales aren’t prohibited in the part of the law making it a crime to use the causalities’ names without permission, there’s still the advertising ban, attorney Lee Phillips said. “We don’t want to have to fight this out in a bunch of separate courts.”

At several times during the hearing, Wake held up one of the T-shirts to look at the readability of the casualties’ printed names during the hearing, and he at one point likened it to Life Magazine’s decision during the Vietnam War to devote an entire issue to photos of one week’s American casualties.

“It had a significant effect on public opinion about the Vietnam War,” the gray-haired appointee of President Bush recalled.

Wake did not immediately rule on the request for a preliminary injunction to put the law on hold pending an eventual decision on its constitutionality.

Violations of the law’s criminal section would be punishable by up to six months in jail and fines of up to $2,500 for an individual or $20,000 for a company.

At least three other states — Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma — have similar statutes passed in the last two years because of complaints like those voiced in Arizona.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Free oil changes offered to military families

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Aug 22, 2007 17:22:29 EDT

Spouses of deployed or wounded military members can apply for a free oil change through Dec. 31, donated by Chevron Products Co. in conjunction with Operation Homefront.

The company is donating 1,000 free oil changes featuring its new “Havoline with Deposit Shield” motor oil, including lube and filter, at participating Texaco Xpress Lube locations. Military families in financial need can apply through one of Operation Homefront’s 31 local chapters, or online at Operation Homefront.

Operation Homefront will help administer the program by handling the distribution of the oil change gift certificates in various locations, spread over the rest of the year.

Each family can qualify for only one oil change.

“Our organization receives hundreds of requests for oil changes from our network of military families, but until now, we were unable to fulfill the requests,” Amy Palmer, executive vice president of operations for Operation Homefront, said in a statement announcing the program.

More information about the program is available at the Operation Homefront Web site.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sending mail to troops gets more costly

By Karen Jowers - Staff writer

The cost of postage stamps may have increased by two cents, or 5 percent, but rates for packages have gone up a lot more in some cases, say those who support the troops.

Before postal rates increased May 14, Mary Kay Salomone spent $10 to send a 25-pound box to Iraq or Afghanistan. Now, it’s $13.90, said the founder of Operation Support Our Troops in North Kingstown, R.I.

“That’s a 39 percent increase. This country is battle-weary. Donations are falling off. I’m not getting 39 percent more in donations,” she said.

For every 100 packages she sends, she’s paying $1,390 — $390 more than before.

“The people this is affecting the most are military families with deployed service members and nonprofits that are sending to deployed service members. I expected a 10 percent to 15 percent rate increase. How much more can you do to the military families?” said Salomone, an Army mother and wife of a retired soldier.

She wants the U.S. Postal Service or Congress to give a break to those mailing support packages to the troops.

“Congress should allow a 25 percent discount to those mailing to APO and FPO addresses of troops in harm’s way, even if it’s just a temporary discount,” she said. “Some of our troops with the Iraqi forces are still asking for basic things like toilet paper, shampoo, hand sanitizer and neck coolers. We throw in things to make their lives easier, like a clean towel.”

Across the board, the average increase in postal rates was about 13 percent, said Jimmy Cochrane, manager of package services for the U.S. Postal Service.

“We never like doing double-digit increases. But escalating fuel costs are the biggest driver — our cost to move the product around the country,” he said.

It is unclear whether the increase in rates has affected the number of packages being sent. Cochrane said business has been flat in terms of package volume, but “there’s a general flatness in the shipping market,” largely because of a slowdown in the economy.

But he said there has been no decrease in military mail, from what they see.

Salomone said volunteers for her organization in San Francisco would now pay about $8 less to send a 25-pound box by parcel post — down to $27.11 from $35. Cost depends on where the package is coming from, where it’s being shipped and the size and shape of the box.

For cost reasons, the San Francisco contingent has been sending items to the troops in the Priority Mail flat-rate box, which now costs $8.95 to send whatever you can stuff in. The cost to mail a flat-rate box increased from $8.10.

Cochrane said the flat-rate box is popular for sending items to troops, and from what he sees during mail processing, “about every other box” going to the troops is flat-rate. He advises those mailing overseas to check out that money-saving option.

For Carolyn Blashek, founder of Operation Gratitude, the increase means having to raise more money. Her group uses the flat-rate boxes. Assuming they send out 100,000 boxes — a low-end estimate, she said — that’s an extra $85,000.

Salomone said her group has had to make some tough decisions.

“We could send half as many boxes, or we could send smaller boxes with fewer items, which is not cost-effective,” she said. “So our focus is more on the troops in the rough parts of Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are living with Iraqi and Afghani soldiers and getting showers every two to three weeks.”

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pioneering female Marine dies

The Associated Press
Posted: Wednesday Aug 15, 2007 18:02:27 EDT

OWASSO, Okla. —
Maye Ryan, who was in the first class of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, has died. She was 97. Ryan, who was reportedly the oldest female Marine veteran in the nation, died Monday night at the Baptist Village, where she had lived for the last 14 years.

She joined the Marine Corps in 1943 and was assigned as a typist in Mojave, Calif., where she served for 32 months. She was discharged as a corporal.

In an April interview with the Tulsa World, Ryan said things didn’t go easily for those first few
women in the Marine Corps. She said her male counterparts often would look down at the female Marines and that many of the men had ugly names for them. Eventually, though, the women became well-accepted by the men, Ryan said.

She said she was proud of being able to take care of herself and did not apply for veteran’s benefits until 50 years after she had qualified for them. She applied for Medicaid 30 years after
she qualified for that program.

She was born May 18, 1910, in Red Oak. Her father’s job as an oil pumper took the family from Red Oak to Avant in Osage County and then south to Wewoka in Seminole County, where she
finished high school. She attended college in Wilburton and then taught school.

Throughout the Depression and Dust Bowl years, Ryan, an only child, used her teacher’s pay to
help support her parents.

Our thoughts and prayers to this brave woman and for each and every one that
walks in her footsteps.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps goes cellular

They’re everywhere…..cell phones that is. All the ring-a-ling and ding-a-ling around every corner and I’m sorry, most of the ringtones that the cell phones initially come with are on the very last nerve of annoying. I myself have downloaded some great tunes onto mine from my carrier’s webpage; the “Marine Corps Hymn” for most calls and my son gets his own ringtone of “Semper Fidelis”.

But now, just about everyone can get a great Marine tune. The Commandant's Own, The United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, now has ringtones. As the first in the U.S. Armed Forces to offer cell phone ringtones, the Drum & Bugle Corps have recorded a diverse mixture of public domain music, to include drum cadences, bugle calls, marches, and their most notable stylings in jazz.

These are MP3 tones that can be downloaded from any personal computer, and they have several tones to choose from. Now not all cell phones are able to download MP3 files, but you may know someone who can.

Check out the website of "The Commandant's Own" at and just click on ‘Ringtones’ in the left menu box.

Friday, August 17, 2007


That most wonderful Marine who did the most wonderful patriotic poem has been found. He is SSgt. Dean, stationed at Cherry Point. Dean has not served in Afghanistan or Iraq but said he would go the second he was asked. He says the poem "isn’t about the experience of fighting a war. It's about what the armed forces do. It's about the military service and the reason we do things," he explained. "We just defend the country, no questions asked. As a family, we do it. The poem was just utmost admiration and respect for the individuals that are there. ... They've answered the country's call." Kudos to this gentleman. No matter why he wrote it....the thoughts and feelings it brings forth is just awesome.

We should get hold of Semper Fi Mom since she is now in the same vicinity as Dean, and have her give him a truly big Marine Mom hug!!

TEST...TEST...TEST have after several tries and many nice words (and some not so) to the blogger site , I believe semperfi mom and myself may have been able to get me to be able to post. I am going to try to get this posted and if no problems abound, then I will be posting a few stories in semperfi mom's absence. Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Have they Found Him?

Go back and watch this video that I posted awhile back. Seems it's been VERY popular. I know I've seen it on several other blogs. Fox News did a story about him and he has earned the nickname BadA**Marine. There is even a website devoted to him. So far no one knows who he is, but Andy Denton says the search is over. Can't wait to find out the details! In the meantime, here are the lyrics:

and She called...
Blacks, Whites...wait
African Americans and Caucasians, Asians, excuse me.
Vietnamese, Philipenes, Koreans and Jamaicans or
Haitans, waitin' Hispanics y'all.

Please be paitent
Mexican, Puerto Ricans, Venezualean, Cuban, v Dominican, Panamanian Democrats
I beg your pardon, you partied with the late, great Reagan?
Republican, Independent, Christian, Catholic,
Methodist, Baptist, 7th Day Adventist, 5 Percenters,
Hindu, Sunii Muslim, Brothers and Sisters who never seen the New York city
skyline when the twin towers still existed.
But still She called.

From the bowels of Ground Zero she sent this 911 distress signal.
Because She was in desperate need of a hero,
and didn't have time to decipher what to call 'em,
so she called 'em all Her children.
The children of the stars and bars who needed to know nothing more than the fact that she called.
The fact that someone attempted to harm us
this daughter who covered us all with her loving arms.
And now these arms are sprawled across New York City streets.
A smoke filled lung, a silt covered faced,
and a solitary tear poured out of her cheek.
Her singed garments carpets Pennsylvania Avenue and the Pentagon was under her feet.
As she began to talk, she began to cough up small particles of debris
and said, "I am America, and I'm calling on the land of the free."
So they answered.

All personal differences set to the side
because right now there was no time to decide which state building the Confederate flag should fly over,
and which trimester the embryo is considered alive,
or on our monetary units, and which God we should confide.
You see, someone attempted to choke the voice
of the one who gave us the right for choice,
and now she was callin.
And somebody had to answer.
Who was going to answer?

So they did.
Stern faces and chisled chins.
Devoted women and disciplined men,
who rose from the ashes like a pheonix
and said "don't worry, we'll stand in your defense."
They tightened up their bootlaces
and said goodbye to loved ones, family and friends.
They tried to bombard them with the "hold on", "wait-a-minute's", and "what-if's".
And "Daddy, where you goin?".
And, "Mommy, why you leavin?".
And they merely kissed them on their foreheads and said "Don't worry, I have my reasons.
You see, to this country I pledged my allegience
to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic.
So as long as I'm breathin, I'll run though hell-fire,
meet the enemy on the front lines,
look him directly in his face,
stare directly in his eyes and scream,

And if by chance death is my fate,
pin my medals upon my chest,
and throw Old Glory on my grave.
But, don't y'all cry for me.
You see, my Father's prepared a place.
I'll be a part of his Holy army standing a watch at the Pearly Gates.
Because freedom was never free.
POW's, and fallen soldiers
all paid the ultimate sacrafice
along side veterans who put themselves in harms way.
Risking their lives and limbs just to hold up democracy's weight,
but still standing on them broken appendages anytime the National Anthem was played.
You see, these were the brave warriors that gave me the right
to say that I'm Black. Or white.


African American or Caucasian,
I'm Asian, excuse me.
I'm Vietnamese, Philipene, Korean, or Jamaican.
I'm Haitan, Hispanic

Y'all, Please be paitent.
I'm Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezualean, Cuban,
Dominican, Panamanian, Democrat
I beg your pardon, you see I partied with the late, great Reagan.
I'm Republican, Independent, Christian, Catholic,
Methodist, Baptist, 7th Day Adventist, 5 Percenters,
Hindu, Sunii Muslim,

Brothers and Sisters We're just Americans.
So with that I say
"Thank You" to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines,
for preserving my rights
to live and die for this life
and paying the ultimate price for me to be...FREE!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marine Fights For One Iraqi's Freedom

Watch this heart warming video from ABC News. Marine Capt. Zachary Iscol helps an Iraqi interpreter come to America. You will definitely need your tissues for this one.

Home Front Custom Charm

Look what I found today! You can order a custom charm shaped like a tiny dogtag with your loved one's picture on it. They look beautiful. These would be perfect for families with deployed Marines and Soldiers. One of my sons is deploying soon and I am planning to order one to wear while he is gone.

Order here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Marines searching for a few good golf clubs

By Gary Stallard - The Lufkin Daily News via AP
Posted : Sunday Aug 12, 2007 12:15:58 EDT

LUFKIN, Texas — If you’re a golfer, chances are you’ve experienced either firsthand or as a witness the hurling of a golf club blamed for a bad shot. You’ve seen putters snapped, five-irons bent around trees, and drivers hurled into the nearest water hazard.

Darn those defective clubs.

But a local police officer and former Marine has discovered a much better use for those clubs you’re ready to destroy.

As it turns out, the Marines are looking for a few good clubs.

Rodney Squyres of the Lufkin Police Department last visited the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego 29 years ago as a raw recruit. This past July, Squyres and his wife, Reba, revisited the depot, this time as parents of their own new Marine. Their son, Reed Squyres, graduated Marine Corps recruit training on July 13.

When the Squyres landed at San Diego International Airport the day before the ceremony, they had in hand a full case of six-irons, courtesy of Golf USA in Lufkin. Those clubs were en route to Balboa Naval Medical Hospital, where they would then become part of a rehabilitation program for wounded Marines returning from action in the Middle East.

Squyres said he and the other parents of M Company, 3rd Battalion’s new Marines had received an e-mail from 1st Sgt. Robert Young, Mike Company’s first sergeant. Young, a reconnaissance Marine who sustained a gunshot wound in Najah, Iraq, had been invited to a Wounded Warriors golf tournament in which a San Diego resident had raised more than $60,000 to assist rehabilitating Marines. According to Squyres, combat veteran Young’s e-mail stated, “This was a very emotional experience, and brought tears to my eyes.”

Young also described speaking to the young Marines following the tournament; they described the golf outing as enjoyable and “therapeutic.”

However, Young also discovered a problem: Although Balboa Hospital boasts several nearby golf courses, there weren’t enough golf clubs available for the wounded Marines to play as part of their rehabilitation programs.

Young’s e-mail asked “parents, golfers and parents who know golfers” to bring any and all old clubs to the graduation ceremony. Young would then deliver them to the Marines at Balboa to begin putting together golf bags.

Back home, Squyres received the e-mail and approached the owner of Golf USA in Lufkin, who handed over a brand-new box of 18 six-irons. Those were the clubs Squyres delivered to 1st Sgt. Young, promising to see what he could do to further the first sergeant’s efforts.

Now, Squyres is attempting to contact local golfers and course managers in an effort to round up as many donated golf clubs as possible.

Throwing a club into a water hazard might be a great stress reliever.

But some wounded Marines have a much better use for those crooked-hitting five-irons.


For information about donations and shipping instructions, contact 1st Sgt. Robert Young at

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Irish Humor

I could use a laugh, so I thought the rest of you might like one too. Here's a little Irish humor for you.

Paddy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said,
"Lord take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey".
Miraculously, a parking place appeared.
Paddy looked up again and said, "Never mind, I found one."


Father Murphy walks into a pub in Donegal, and says to the first man he meets, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
The man said, "I do Father."
The priest said, "Then stand over there against the wall."
Then the priest asked the second man, "Do you want to go to heaven?"
"Certainly, Father," was the man's reply. "Then stand over there against the wall," said the priest.
Then Father Murphy walked up to O'Toole and said, "Do you want to go to heaven?
O'Toole said, "No, I don't Father.
The priest said, "I don't believe this. You mean to tell me that when you die you don't want to go to heaven?"
O'Toole said, "Oh, when I die, yes. I thought you were getting a group together to go right now."


O'Toole worked in the lumber yard for twenty years and all that time he'd been stealing the wood and selling it. At last his conscience began to bother him and he went to confession to repent.
Father, it's 15 years since my last confession, and I've been stealing wood from the lumber yard all those years," he told the priest.
"I understand my son," says the priest. "Can you make a Novena?"
O'Toole said, "Father, if you have the plans, I've got the lumber."

Paddy was in New York He was patiently waiting, and watching the traffic cop on a busy street crossing.
The cop stopped the flow of traffic and shouted, "Okay pedestrians".
Then he'd allow the traffic to pass.
He'd done this several times, and Paddy still stood on the sidewalk.
After the cop had shouted "Pedestrians" for the tenth time, Paddy went over to him and said, "Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?"


Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend Finney.
"Did you see the paper?" asked Gallagher. "They say I died!!"
"Yes, I saw it!" replied Finney. "Where are ye callin' from?"


An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut.
The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.
He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"
"Just water," says the priest.
The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"
The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"


Walking into the bar, Mike said to Charlie the bartender, "Pour me a stiff one - just had another fight with the little woman."
Oh yeah?" said Charlie "And how did this one end?"
"When it was over," Mike replied, "she came to me on her hands and knees."
"Really," said Charles, "now that's a switch! What did she say?"
She said, "Come out from under the bed, you little chicken!"

Friday, August 10, 2007

Update on Cookbooks and More

Lubbock Marine Parents has been very busy lately! Mark your calendars for these upcoming events.

The cookbooks are selling like hotcakes! We have sold most of them already so we are thinking of ordering another printing. We want everyone to be able to get one. I have been using mine and the handsfree stand that comes with it is REALLY nice. We will have the remainder of our current printing for sale at Meet the Teacher Night at Crestview Elementary, 6020 81st Street, August 23rd from 5:00 to 6:30pm.

We are planning a fundraiser garage sale for September 1st. Our biggest challenge in shipping our care packs is always paying for shipping, so the money from the garage sale will be used for that. If you are in the area and would like to donate items for the sale, please let me know.

If you live in the Lubbock are and you have a loved one in Iraq, AT&T will be providing video calls on August 21st from 4 different camps. Among those are Al Asad, Camp Taji and Camp Victory. I don't know the 4th, but I will try to find out for you. Please let us know, and we will get you set up for that.

We are planning a Ruidoso, New Mexico scrapbooking retreat for the weekend of October 5th, through October 7th. Please let us know by September 15th is you would like to attend, so we will know what size cabin to reserve.

Our next meeting will be August 30th at 8:00pm at Daybreak Coffee on 19th and Quaker. We will be planning our September kick off for the Christmas care pack drive.

Gen. clears 2 Marines in Hadithah deaths

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Aug 10, 2007 7:50:27 EDT

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A top Marine commander dropped all charges Thursday against a lance corporal charged with the 2005 murder of Iraqis in Hadithah.

Lt. Gen. Jim Mattis, head of Marine Corps Forces-Central Command, made his decision to dismiss all charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt after meeting with Sharratt and his attorneys, and cited “this morally bruising environment” in his decision.

Mattis also dismissed charges on Thursday against Capt. Randy Stone, a lawyer who was serving as the infantry battalion’s staff judge advocate at the time of the Hadithah incident.

Sharratt’s defense attorneys said they were elated and relieved at the decision.

Theresa Sharratt, the Marine’s mother, got the call at midnight Wednesday from his attorneys, and her son called her in the morning to relay the news: “It’s over, Mom.”

“All of our prayers were answered,” she said by telephone from the family home in Pennsylvania.

“Justin always made us feel like they never did anything wrong,” she added. “He was so adamant about that.”

His attorneys, Gary Myers and James Culp, called it “an event of historic proportions.”

“In his dismissal of the charges against Lance Corporal Sharratt, General Mattis has accurately and eloquently described the extreme demands placed upon combat Marines and soldiers in insurgency warfare. The dismissal of charges demonstrates that this convening authority fully understands the complex and difficult circumstances his Marines face in Iraq and Afghanistan,” they said in a statement. “About the complexity of this conflict and Lance Corporal Sharratt’s innocence, we can add nothing to the powerful words of General Mattis.”

Sharratt is one of four enlisted Marines originally charged with murder in connection with the deaths of about two dozen civilians in Hadithah following a Nov. 19, 2005, roadside bomb attack that killed one leatherneck and wounded two others from their squad with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.

Four officers with the battalion, including the commander, also were charged with dereliction of duty and failing to follow orders for allegedly ignoring or not investigating allegations that squad members murdered the civilians.

An investigating officer recommended that all charges against Sharratt be dropped. Mattis, in a statement issued Thursday morning, said that he reviewed the investigations and evidence and concurred.

Sharratt, he wrote, “has served as a Marine infantryman in Iraq where our nation is fighting a shadowy enemy who hides among the innocent people, does not comply with any aspect of the law of war, and routinely targets and intentionally draws fire toward civilians.

“The challenges of this combat environment put extreme pressures on our Marines,” Mattis wrote. “Notwithstanding, operational, moral and legal imperatives demand that we Marines stay true to our own standards and maintain compliance with the law of war in this morally bruising environment.

“With the dismissal of these charges, LCpl Sharratt may fairly conclude that he did his best to live up to the standards, followed by U.S. fighting men throughout our many wars, in the face of life or death decisions made in a matter of seconds in combat,” Mattis added. “And as he has always remained cloaked in the presumption of innocence, with this dismissal of charges, he remains in the eyes of the law — and in my eyes — innocent.”

Sharratt’s civilian defense attorneys said they are satisfied that Mattis put a lot of time and thought into his decision. “I have never seen or experienced a convening authority who is so engaged with the process,” Culp and Myers said.

Sharratt, who has completed his enlistment, had reported to work at 7:15 a.m. and learned of the decision in a letter delivered to him and his military attorney, Lt. Col. Brian Cosgrove, they said.

Stone was charged with two counts of negligent dereliction of duty and one count of violating a lawful order for allegedly failing to fully investigate the allegations of civilian deaths.

Mattis, in making his decision, agreed with the recommendation of the Article 32 investigator that the case against Stone doesn’t warrant a court-martial. “I am aware of the line that separates the merely remiss from the clearly criminal,” Mattis said in a statement also issued Thursday, “and I do not believe that any mistakes Captain Stone made with respect to the incident rise to the level of criminal behavior.”

Stone was a judge advocate who deployed to Iraq and was assigned to 3/1 at the time.

Mattis, in the statement, noted the officer’s “enthusiasm” to take on challenging duties and “attentiveness” to training the Marines in the law of war and rules of engagement “and willingness to share their hardship to better appreciate the challenges facing them are notable.”

Stone, he noted, patrolled with the men and “he helped them embrace the imperative of ethical behavior in combat.”

“Stone and his fellow Marines served in the most ethically challenging combat environment in the world,” Mattis added. “Nonetheless, Marines are expected to withstand the extreme and fatiguing pressures inherent in counterinsurgency operations, protecting the innocent, while tirelessly fighting the enemy with relentless vigor. I have no doubt that he now understands the absolute necessity for objective inquiry into the combat actions of our Marines in such an environment, especially when innocent lives are lost.”

In his decision, Mattis supported the continuation of Stone’s career as a judge advocate, noting “it is incumbent on him to ensure that the lessons he has learned provide guidance for future judge advocates who may serve under similar circumstances in an infantry battalion in combat.”

“I have impressed upon Captain Stone the fact that the Marine Corps’ investigation into the Haditha [sic] incident has been driven solely by the interests of justice,” Mattis added.

Mattis, in issuing his decisions, acknowledged the difficulties that infantrymen face in a combat zone, particularly in a counterinsurgency environment. “The experience of combat is difficult to understand intellectually and very difficult to appreciate emotionally,” he wrote, citing the writings of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., an infantryman during the Civil War, who described war as an “incommunicable experience.”

Holmes, Mattis wrote, “has also noted elsewhere that ‘detached reflection cannot be demanded in the face of an uplifted knife.’ Marines have a well earned reputation for remaining cool in the face of enemies brandishing much more than knives. The brutal reality that Justice Holmes described is experienced each day in Iraq, where Marines willingly put themselves at great risk to protect innocent civilians.

“Where the enemy disregards any attempt to comply with ethical norms of warfare, we exercise discipline and restraint to protect the innocent caught on the battlefield,” he added. “Our way is right, but it is also difficult.”

Several months ago, Mattis dropped all charges against one of the enlisted Marines, Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz.

Five cases are pending:

* Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander, charged with violating a lawful order and two counts of dereliction of duty for failing to thoroughly investigate the allegations of war crimes. The Article 32 preliminary hearing has been completed and is awaiting a decision by Mattis, Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a MarCent spokesman, said on Thursday.

* Capt. Lucas McConnell, Kilo Company commander, charged with two counts of dereliction of duty. No date has been set yet for his Article 32 hearing, Gibson said.

* 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, intelligence officer, charged with two counts of dereliction of duty, obstructing justice and making a false official statement. The Article 32 hearing is pending.

* Sgt. Frank Wuterich, squad leader, charged with 13 counts of unpremeditated murder, two counts of soliciting others to lie and one count of making a false statement. His Article 32 hearing is scheduled to begin Aug. 22 at Camp Pendleton, Gibson said.

* Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, charged with assault, two counts of unpremeditated murder, four counts of negligent homicide and assault. The Article 32 hearing was held in July, and a decision by Mattis is pending.