Friday, November 30, 2007

Packing Party

Please join us for our packing party TOMORROW at 1:00pm at the Elk's Lodge on 34th and Milwaukee. We started sorting through everything last night and I'm guessing we should be able to fill at least 200 boxes! Thank you all so much for your generosity!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Messages to the Troops

Friday, November 30th, is your last day to send print Holiday Messages to the troops in the print editions of Stars and Stripes. You can choose which edition you want your message (European edition, Middle East edition, Pacific edition, or online only). You can submit a message with or without an image. Submissions will be printed in a Holiday Messages section of the daily newspaper over the holiday season, unless designated as "online only."

Stars and Stripes is a daily newspaper published for the U.S. military, DoD civilians, contractors, and their families. Unique among the many military publications, Stars and Stripes operates as a First Amendment newspaper, free of control and censorship. We have published continuously in Europe since 1942, and since 1945 in the Pacific. In those two theaters, our readers number over 100,000.*

Today, Stars and Stripes maintains news bureaus in Europe, Pacific and the Middle East to provide first-hand reporting on events in those theaters. In addition to news and sports, our daily paper contains all the elements of the hometown paper our service members left behind, from "Dear Abby" to coupons, comics and crossword puzzles. In all, we publish five daily editions: Mideast, Europe, Japan, Korea and Okinawa.

In 2004, Stars and Stripes created a website where family and friends could post text messages and photos, addressing them to U.S. service members all over the world. The messages are available online, and printed in a supplement of the daily newspaper during the holiday season. Last year nearly 6,000 messages from friends, family members, and supporters were printed and delivered to Service members in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, and the Pacific.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve

For those of you who still have some Christmas shopping to do, I encourage you to check the list at to find companies that are supportive of our Guard and Reserve members. You can click on your state to see which employers have signed a statement of support for our military.

A 5-Star Employer denotes the following:

Signed a Statement of Support publicly demonstrating support for their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve.
Reviewed their human resources policies to ensure compliance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act Law (USERRA).
Promotes training for managers and supervisors to effectively manage their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
Adopted polices and programs that are “Above and Beyond” what is required by the USERRA Law.
Serves as an advocate for employee service in the National Guard and Reserve and helps to promote the mission of ESGR.

I was pleased to see many Lubbock employers on the list.
AMERICAN STATE BANK, Lubbock (with 5 stars)
APPLEBEE'S LUBBOCK #11, Lubbock (5 stars)
APPLEBEE'S LUBBOCK 2 #40, Lubbock (5 stars)
CITY OF LUBBOCK, Lubbock (5 stars)
CON-WAY (LUBBOCK), Lubbock (5 stars)
LUBBOCK COUNTY, Lubbock (5 stars)
LUBBOCK LION'S CLUB, Lubbock (5 stars)
MCWHORTER'S, Lubbock (5 stars)
SECURITY STATE BANK, Lubbock (5 stars)
TOWN & COUNTRY FOOD STORES, Lubbock (5 stars)
UMC HEALTH SYSTEM, Lubbock (5 stars)
Lubbock Chamber of Commerce

Please patronize these businesses and let them know that you appreciate what they are doing for our military.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rally to Support the Troops on Dec 3

There will be a Rally to Support the Troops on Dec 3, 9 AM at the War Memorial located at 82nd St and Nashville in Huneke Park Lubbock. This rally is non-political, Just Say Thank You to The Troops, Thank You For Your Service and is one of forty to be held by on their caravan tour across the US from CA to NY and on to Iraq to deliver Holiday cards and gifts. It is their Honoring Heroes Holiday Tour. On Dec 14 they will have an entertainment event in Washington DC at the Lincoln Theatre for our wounded soldiers from Walter Reed and Bethesda.

This is the second cross country tour MAF has done and the second trip to Iraq. Let's make sure that Lubbock is one of the biggest and best rallies on the Tour.

Rally sites are 11/26 Santa Nella, San Jose, Walnut Creek, 11/27
Stockton, Fresno, 11/28 Bakersville, Barstow, 11/29 Las Vegas,
Bagdad, 11/30 Phoenix, Tucson, 12/1 El Paso, Alamogorda, Roswell,
12/2 Amarillio, Groom, 12/3 Lubbock, Abilene, 12/4 San Antonio,
Houston, 12/5 Shreveport, 12/6 Jackson, Birmingham, 12/7 Montgomery,
Mobile, 12/8 Pensacola, Talahasee, 12/9 Tampa, 12/10 Orlando, 12/11
Savannah, Columbia, 12/12 Fort Bragg, Raleigh, 12/13 Norfolk,
Richmond, 12/14 DC Lincoln Theatre, 12/15 Philadelphia, 12/16 New
York City WTC, and on to Iraq

Saturday, November 24, 2007

MacGyver in Mesopotamia

It took Marcelle Shriver nearly a year—and hundreds of donations—to pack up 80,000 cans of Silly String to send to her son in Iraq. This was no lighthearted care package: Todd and his fellow soldiers were using the foamy substance to detect trip-wired explosives by squirting the string across a room and watching how it fell. It was a creative response to an ever-changing war and, as it turns out, one of the many innovative tactics being used by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chewing tobacco kills: Some troops have taken to eating raw tobacco to kill stomach worms that come from local foods. Veterinarians even recommend mixing it with pet food to get rid of parasites in cats and dogs.

Put your butt to use: Cigarette butts are a perfect fit for gun barrels and can help keep out dirt, sand or water. And they shoot out easily when the weapon is fired. For non-smokers, there are other options: in Vietnam, soldiers rubber-banded condoms around the tops of their guns.

Makeshift medics: Tampons are great for plugging up bullet wounds, soldiers say, and nothing seals a punctured chest like Saran Wrap. Sealed lips: After cholera scares hit the region, some soldiers began using lip balm—or Vaseline—to coat their mouths when they showered, to keep out contaminated water.

Sticky situation: During her training at Fort Dix, N.J., Spc. Cynthia Brabant got in the habit of putting tape, sticky-side up, around her bed to catch poisonous insects. Now in Baghdad, she stretches socks over her boots at night to keep the scorpions out. "It's kind of silly," she says, "but it works."

© Newsweek, Inc.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Treasure, Turkey
Thanksgiving Treasure, Turkey

Have a happy Thanksgiving and remember to keep our troops in your prayers today and every day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Care Pack Donations

*This is a sticky post and will remain at the top for several days. Scroll down for new posts.*

Please help make Christmas a little brighter for our troops who are far from home. We are requesting that all items be donated ASAP so that we can start sorting and getting them ready to mail.

Drop off locations for care pack items:
All locations of Bodyworks
Elks Lodge (34th and Milwaukee)
Leathers N Lace Motorcycle Apparel 3806 50th St Ste 210 (across from Memphis Place Mall)
All recruiter's offices (not just the Marine recruiters)
Crestview Elementary School 6020 - 81st Street

Requested Items:
Food items:
Beef jerky
Canned chips (Pringles/Torengos)
Canned ready-to-eat meals (Ravioli, chili, soup, Easy Mac, Dinty Moore, Ramon cup)
Dried fruit
Granola/Breakfast/Protein bars
Gummy candy, Hard Candy
Individual size canned fruit
Jelly beans
Microwave popcorn
Nuts, Sunflower seeds, Trail mix
Tuna lunch kits
**Pork or pork by-products are NOT allowed to be shipped to Middle East combat locations.

Drink Items:
Coffee, coffee mixes
Gatorade mix (powdered only)
Hot cocoa mix
Lemonade/Koolade/Tang mix
Presweetened beverage mixes (“On the Go” flavor packets that can be added to 16-20 oz. water bottle)
Sweetener/creamer packets for coffee

Recreational Items:
Batteries (AA – most requested)
Board games/puzzles
DVDs (new or used; original only)
Hand held games
Magazines (current issues)
Music CDs (new or used; original only)
Nerf footballs/Frisbee/Hackey sack
Puzzle books
Stationary/small writing pads

Personal Care Items:
Advil/Tylenol (individual packs)
Baby wipes/Handi-wipes
Chap stick
Disposable instant hand warmers
Liquid hand sanitizers (pocket/travel size)
Medicated foot powder/swabs
Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash (travel size)
Q-tips (individual packs)
Tissue (individual packs)

♥ Letters and cards of encouragement and support ♥

Thank you for your willingness to help support the troops who are away from home during Christmas time. Your love and support are greatly appreciated.

A monetary donation of $35 will fill and send a stocking! There are 3 ways to make a monetary donation:
- Checks can be made out to Lubbock Marine Parents and mailed to:
Lubbock Marine Parents
PO Box 64192
Lubbock, TX 79464-4192
- Deposited to Lubbock Marine Parents at any American State Bank location
- Paypal donation here at the blog in our sidebar

Discounts for Marine Families Attending Homecomings

Marine Corps News November 20, 2007

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Families have spent thousands of dollars attending homecomings of returning Marines, but with costs of airfare sky rocketing, many families can’t afford to make the trip.

Addressing this issue, Christie Rooney, a Marine mom from Bixby, Okla., contacted America Airlines in order to ease these costs with fare discounts for Marine families, traveling to homecomings, discounts on airfare.

“Over the past few months, I've heard Marine families discuss the [difficulties] of making travel arrangements for homecomings,” said Rooney. “I decided to call America Airlines to see if they could help.”

Within two weeks America Airlines signed a contract with SATO Vacations to offer discounts to families traveling to their Marines’ homecoming from Nov. 1 – Dec. 15.

“The only airport that America Airlines flies into near the Camp Lejeune area is Raleigh-Durham Airport, which is why this is the only airport where we can honor the discounted prices for military families,” said Jerry Krus, for America Airlines.

If the arrival dates are changed and the military families notify America Airlines about the changes, the fee will be waived, as long as the families purchase their tickets through SATO Vacations, said Krus.

If America Airlines handles the exchange transaction, a $15 reservation fee will apply, he continued.

Marine families, who are unable to make the flight due to uncontrollable circumstances will be able to refund their non-refundable tickets for travel vouchers, concluded Krus.
For more information about the discounted airfare, call SATO Vacations at 1-877-698-2554, or visit the Web site at

Monday, November 19, 2007


What do you get when you combine 100 officers and 9000 enlisted men from the Marine Barracks in Parris Island in 1919? Well, you get the living emblem of the United States Marines……the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

Just click on the following link to check out pictures of many “living” pictures of several famous faces, sites and emblems including the EGA, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. These pictures were all taken during the early to mid 1900s. Absolutely fabulous!!

Meeting Tonight

Please join us for a meeting tonight at 7:00PM. We will be meeting at Daybreak Coffee on 19th and Quaker. Remember that our meetings are open to family members of any branch of the military, not just Marine family. Also anyone who is interested in learning more about our care packs is welcome to attend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Marine Trivia

I've been asking the other parents for some ideas for the blog and one suggestion was to have some Marine trivia. So here is Marine trivia question #1.

I'll post the answer tomorrow. Pay attention, there might be a test later! :)

Has "Semper Fidelis" always been the Marine Corps motto?

Answer: No. According to the Marine Corps History Division, the Corps adopted "Semper Fidelis" as its official motto around 1883. "Fortitudine", meaning "With Fortitude", was the first motto, dating to the War of 1812. Later, "By Sea and Land", a translation of the British Royal Marines' "Per Mare, Per Terram", was adopted, followed by "To the Shores of Tripoli", which lasted until 1848 when the motto became "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli".

The Taliban Song - Toby Keith

*Warning: language

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thank you North Ridge Tigers!

The North Ridge Tiger student council has collected several bags of socks, a big box FULL of AA batteries and $101 for our care packs! North Ridge students have also written over 150 letters for the soldiers and Marines. Thank you Tigers for your exceptional patriotism and character! You have helped to make Christmas a little brighter for our troops.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Marine Realizes Importance of Deployment

Marine Corps News November 13, 2007

HADITHA, Iraq -- (Nov. 09, 2007) -- This time last year, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Michael Mathes was working for the local sheriff and fire departments in Waller, Texas. It was his duty to serve the people of his small community, protecting them from dangerous situations and providing a safer environment for everyone. These days, Mathes walks down the streets of a different neighborhood and in a different uniform, but his basic duty hasn’t changed. For the next several months, he will be responsible for the welfare of Iraqi civilians living in Haditha and his brothers-in-arms, as he proudly serves as an infantryman with 3rd squad, 1st platoon, Company L.

Mathes joined the Marines Corps more than two years ago as a reservist for 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, stationed in Houston. Early this year, he volunteered to deploy and was attached to 3rd Battalion, stationed out of Montgomery, Ala.
He said he did not enlist, or deploy, for the money, college tuition or sense of adventure, but rather out of an obligation he felt toward his country.

“Honestly, I feel every able-bodied American should serve in the military,” Mathes said. “You come to places like this and you see how good we really have it.”

Now that Mathes is in Iraq, he sees firsthand the progress being made. He has heard of past horrors, but said now people here have moved on, wanting a better way of life for themselves and their children. Most of Haditha’s 70,000 residents have embraced the Marines, casting out the terrorists who hid bombs in their streets, closed local schools and uprooted families. This city that use to be a safe haven for terrorists is now a sprawling community with markets and restaurants, construction and playgrounds.

“We owe very much to the Marines,” said a local Iraqi policeman, known only as Cash. “The Marines do very good here, people here like the Marines and it’s very safe now.”

Cash is the most outspoken of all the police here. He has seen three deployments of Marines come and go. He knows the streets like the back of his hand; the residents are like members of his family. He said he is happy to see the progress and is glad to be a part of it.

“I’m very proud of my city. We are good people and we will do anything to keep the terrorists off our streets,” he said. “If (the terrorists) come back, we kill them.”

The police and the Marines are not the only ones fighting to keep this Euphrates River town safe. The local townspeople, many living here for generations, are doing everything they can to keep the peace. This is a tremendous benefit for the Marines.

“We have the population on our side, they’re helping us. They’ll tell you if somebody doesn’t belong here,” said Mathes. “It’s not because they want a reward, it’s because they don’t want these people here any more than we do. You always have somebody watching. People on the streets will come up and tell you if someone doesn’t belong here.”

These days the streets are clean, the climate is calm, the people are smiling. There are no more gun battles, no more mortars, no more war, just rebuilding. This is something Mathes is glad to witnessing.

“The citizens are trying to turn it around. Every day we come out on patrol, you see them either rebuilding the streets, the sewer lines or something. They always have some kind of project going to try and better this place,” he said. “They know that we’re here to help them, so they’re trying to make the best of it, just like we are.”

Mathes himself grew up on a large farm that has been in his family for generations. His father broke away from the family tradition of farming and joined the police force. Many years later, Mathes did the same thing, but as a teenager. His grandfather was the only other family member to serve in the military, the Army. Mathes wanted to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, a choice he has never second guessed.

Mathes said the toughest aspect of his deployment was the distance and time that separates the self-described country boy from his loved ones. He misses life on the farm, he misses his job, he misses his family, but he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I miss work. I love what I do, that’s my career. At the fire department, I love hearing that alarm go off,” he said. “But, I love what I do here. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Every day I walk these streets I know we’re doing this for the right reasons. You got people saying we need to leave this place, I don’t believe it. It’s coming slowly, but it’s coming. They need to have what we have.”

As Mathes patrols the streets of the new, safer Haditha, he shakes hands, smiles and waves, and has nothing but good things to say about the people, their culture and their willingness to rebuild. He sees the classrooms crammed with laughter, markets filled with commerce, a city overflowing in peace. Just like the rest of Al Anbar, the terror has left, fleeing for other places to hide.

It’s hard to say where Mathes will be this time next year. He hopes to finish classes and become a paramedic. The police and fire departments have held his job. It’s likely he’ll be the same ole country boy: simple, hardworking and modest. He will always have the memories with 1st platoon, the people of Haditha, the living conditions, the weather and all the little things that make it a deployment. Afterall, he said this is what makes him proud to be an American.

My Favorite Posts

Believe it or not, this will be post number 532! Wow! I thought this would be a good time to go back through our archives and point out some of my favorites among them.

First would have to be our most popular You Know You're a Marine Mom When... and You Know You're a Marine Mom When...Part II (which also includes some from the dads). I hear from other moms that this list was sent in to Dr. Laura and posted on her site.

Two more of our popular posts are about postage and packing tips to make sure your mail gets to your Marine or soldier and tips for communicating with your Marines.

Here are some neat posts about Marines and their history.
The Articles of the Code of Conduct
Slingin' Slang about boot camp slang
Tribute to the Marine Corps
Enlisted Rank Structure
Marine Quotes

Famous Marines:
A through C
I through P
R through Z

MCRD Parris Island 1950s

It's funny how little has changed since this video was filmed. The guys look much different on arrival, but the skinny, bald recruits look just like the ones I saw in San Diego when my sons graduated. Graduation looks remarkably similar too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pictures From the Ball

We had a great time at the Marine Corps Ball Friday night. The ceremony was beautiful and the speaker did an awesome job. I was proud of myself that I didn't cry through the whole thing! There were 10 of us Lubbock Marine Parents in attendance and we were very honored to be invited.

Monday, November 12, 2007

232 reasons to love your Corps

The Marine Corps turned 232 years old Saturday. Ever since it was formed in a Philadelphia bar in 1775, the Corps has given Marines countless reasons to take pride in the heritage of their organization.

There is no shortage of instances in which Marine units and individuals have distinguished themselves in battle, but the bragging rights earned over the past 232 years weren’t all born on the battlefield.

The Corps’ culture sets it apart from other branches of the military in ways that those who have never earned the eagle, globe and anchor find difficult to fully understand. But what is obvious to even the most casual observer is that Marines distinguish themselves through their unique appearance, spirit and accomplishments.

To know the Corps is to love the Corps, which is why Marine Corps Times compiled the following list of 232 reasons to stand proudly at this year’s birthday ball.

Read the reasons here.
One of my favorites is reason #29. Recruiting in Texas is like hunting at the zoo.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tribute to Vietnam Marines

Our veterans and those currently serving are in our thoughts and prayers today and every day. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. You are not forgotten.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And the winner is...

Amid all the ceremony and fun last night we didn't forget about our drawing. The Inspector Instructor 1st Sergeant was gracious enough to draw the name for us and even let us take his picture! You can't really read the name on the slip of paper in the picture, but the winner is....Don! Congratulations Don! You win a cookbook and a BBQ Apron! If you will email me with your mailing address we will get them sent to you ASAP.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Last Chance

Today is your LAST CHANCE to enter our drawing! For every $5 you donate by 5:00pm (central)today, your name will go in the drawing for a cookbook and a BBQ Apron. Even if you already have one of our cookbooks, another would make a great Christmas gift! The winning name will be drawn TONIGHT at the Marine Corps Ball by one of our Marines.

You can donate through the PayPal link in our sidebar or by dropping off a donation to the Lubbock Marine Parents account at any American State Bank location. If you choose to drop off a donation, please email me by 5:00 so that I can put your name in the drawing. semperfimomx2 @ I will check my email at 5:00 on the dot and the I am out the door! :)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

RCT-2: Enemy incidents down 75 percent

By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Nov 7, 2007 16:04:13 EST

Marines have seen a 75 percent plunge in “enemy incidents” since the beginning of the year, Regimental Combat Team 2 commander Col. Stacy Clardy said Monday.

RCT-2’s area of operations in western Iraq, which encompasses 30,000 square miles of Anbar province, was once considered some of the toughest ground in the battle-torn country. But since January, Marines have tracked the return of urban activities, such as open markets, banks and municipal governments, the commander told reporters via teleconference from Iraq.

The development is “a significant crippling of the al-Qaida in Iraq and the Sunni insurgent capability, and a real opportunity for progress,” said Clardy, who credits the presence of more than 4,000 Iraqi soldiers in the area of operations.

“The [Iraqi] army brigades have grown 200 percent in the last seven months with the support of the sheiks and are now responsible for their own security areas and missions across the province, but particularly around the urban areas,” he said.

The Iraqi police force has grown 40 percent, to 5,200 officers, he said.

Some very good news! My son is serving with RCT2 and says he wishes they were having a little more excitement. Boring and quiet sound great if you ask me!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Depot to mark Corps birthday in 232-mile run

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Nov 6, 2007 7:31:35 EST

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Let’s face it: Marking the Marine Corps’ 232nd birthday this year wouldn’t be exciting without a distinctive way to do it.

So how about running 232 miles? That’s the plan at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where Marines and other runners will lace up their shoes to run the distance — that’s nearly nine full marathons — by sharing those miles in an ultra-marathon over two nights.

The 232-mile MCRD Relay Run will kick off at 4:50 p.m. Tuesday, with the first runner stepping off on the mile-loop course around the depot’s massive parade deck before handing off the baton to the next person. At least one person will run each mile segment, although “you can have a whole shop running,” said depot spokesman Austin Mansfield.

The final, 232nd mile will be a large, formal formation run expected to begin at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. “It should be a pretty good crowd,” Mansfield said.

Depot officials pulled out their calculators and estimated that participants would average a 10-minute mile, “which is a pretty slow pace,” he said. “But for some of the folks, a 10-minute mile is a challenge.”

As for the miles run at, say, 2:30 a.m., he predicted, “speed starts slowing down.”

Monday, November 05, 2007

Scammers tell military mom her son is injured in Iraq

GASTON, SC (WIS) - A military mother recently got news that her son was critically injured in Iraq. After days of not knowing if her son was alive or dead, she says it all turned out to be a hoax.

Andrew Smith is serving in Iraq, a member of the Army Special Forces.

A couple of weeks ago, his mother, Tina, got a call from her youngest son, the call no military family wants to get.

"He said that our youngest son Andrew's truck had been hit by a RPG and was in critical condition in Germany," Tina Smith said.

The weird thing, according to Tina, is that Andrew's immediate family didn't get the call. A man who said he was with the military called Andrew's aunt in Louisiana.

"He said his name was Sgt. Somers," said Tina.

And that's pretty much all Tina Smith knows. Scared and confused, Tina says she called the Red Cross.

"They explained to us that the military would be the ones to get in touch with us. His parents, not anybody else. And unfortunately nine out of ten of these phone calls were hoaxes," Tina told WIS News 10.

But she didn't know for sure, and that didn't give Smith or her husband any piece of mind.

"We were going through hell. It was really bad," Smith says.

She and her husband went two days without hearing their son's voice, not knowing if he was dead or alive.

Then on Monday a prayer was answered. The phone rang, and it was Andrew's.

"I couldn't talk to him. All I could do was cry, just to hear his voice. He promised me he was ok," Smith said.

So who made the initial call? Is there really a Sgt. Somers? The Red Cross is trying to get to the bottom of that.

Smith has a message for military families everywhere, especially those receiving calls about the well-being of their sons or daughters.

"Make sure that you know the military will make the phone call or they told us they will pull up in your yard and won't contact anyone but the immediate family members," Smith says.

WIS News 10 tried calling the Red Cross to see if there were any other cases similar to Tina's, but no one returned the call before the story aired.

A spokeswoman at Fort Jackson did say that this is the first time she's heard of anything like this.

Reported by Trey Paul


I can't imagine who would do something like this. I don't blame the mom for being scared. Even though I KNOW what the procedure is for these sorts of things I would still be worried sick until I actually talked to my son.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hard Corps

The remarkable redemption of a gangster turned hero
By Chris Lawson - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Nov 3, 2007 8:16:24 EDT

The moral of this story is pretty simple: As impossible as it may sometimes seem, people can change. Even small-minded, petty and violent criminals like Marco Martinez.

Ponder the highlights from his 2004 Navy Cross citation:

“After his squad leader was wounded, he took control and led the assault through a tree line where the ambush originated. As his squad advanced to secure successive enemy positions, it received sustained small arms fire from a nearby building. Enduring intense enemy fire and without regard for his own personal safety, Corporal Martinez launched a captured enemy rocket propelled grenade into the building temporarily silencing the enemy and allowing a wounded Marine to be evacuated and receive medical treatment. After receiving additional fire, he single-handedly assaulted the building and killed four enemy soldiers with a grenade and his rifle.”

Not bad for a soulless former gangbanger, a self described “sh--head” who, before joining the Corps, was on a bullet train to loser land.

His is an epic tale of the redemptive power of military service, the glories and horrors of war and the constant quest for forgiveness and acceptance.

It’s also a love story, of sorts. Love for his “brothers from other mothers” and for the Big Green Marine Machine itself.

“All I ever am, or will become, I owe to my beloved Corps,” he unabashedly says.


“They say that those who experience combat never see the world the same way again. That’s been true for me. I’ve seen the world through rifle sights. Everywhere I go, the war is present.”

It’s 10:45 Pacific time, and former Marine Sgt. Marco Martinez has just gotten out of class. It’s day three of the Southern California wildfire disaster, and the skies are choked with black smoke. Martinez describes the scene in a cell phone call to a reporter as he drives to work on an Orange County back road.

“The smoke is so thick you can barely see the sky,” he says. “I’m just eight miles from one of the bigger fires. It’s really sad. People are losing their homes.”

Just yesterday, the Santa Ana winds that are driving the fires ripped a branch from a tree and slammed it down onto the hood of Martinez’s brand-spanking-new 2007 GMC Sierra Denali.

“I don’t even have 400 miles on it, and it’s already damaged,” he laughs.

Still, despite the dangers and frustrations, life is good. Real good. When you’ve dodged the reaper’s scythe as often as he has, wildfires are wussies.

Three years as a teenage New Mexico street thug and four more as a fire team leader in a front-line infantry unit during a time of war will shape that sort of worldview.

“Every day is gravy since I’ve been back from Iraq,” he says. “I’ll take the good with the bad. As long as I’m living and have all my limbs, I’m doing fine.”

In the three years since returning to civilian life in 2004, Marco has made yet another transformation. He’s gone from Navy Cross-decorated Iraq war stud to college puke. Now he has added published author to his pedigree.

“Hard Corps,” Martinez’s gritty, gripping memoir of going from gang member to Marine hero, was released in October. It’s a teeth-rattling, E-4 insight into gangs, grunts and Iraq war gore. It’s also a riveting, poignant and, yes, inspirational story. You can’t help but root for the guy as he struggles to right his moral compass, shake his shame and, later, face down terrorist attackers. His battalion was one of the first into Baghdad after the Iraq invasion.

“We couldn’t wait to go. I wanted to go to Iraq,” he said. “It’s what I joined the Corps to do. I wanted to serve and see combat.”

Just a few pages into his book, however, it’s clear to see his enlistment was about something far more: a search for honor, courage, commitment.

The troubled, aimless son of a 20-year Army Ranger needed the Corps as much as his country needs men like him to serve. In the Marines, he certainly found his path, his purpose, his muse.

“Sometimes when I lie down at night, my mind rewinds to that exact moment. There I am, sitting in that car with that gun, an insecure, violent, cocky, disgraceful little sixteen-year-old punk. I want to reach through time and kick my own ass.”

All it took was one look at the 6-foot-tall, dark-skinned, Mexican-American USMC recruiter to help a troubled teen find his future.

Staff Sgt. Marquez — Martinez never dared to ask his first name — was barrel-chested, with bulging forearms and a commanding presence. He was a real badass, the kind of man who ate street toughs for breakfast.

“Seeing him walk through that high school hallway made me feel like everything I’d ever done meant sh--,” Martinez recalls in his profanity-laced book. The Marine was everything Martinez longed to be.

For the first 17 years of his life, Martinez says, he was a “sh--head.” A gangbanging, trash-talking thug.

“I was the kind of loser who today I — and probably you — can’t stand,” Martinez writes. “From stealing cars to beating the hell out of guys because I could, to ‘tagging’ [writing graffiti] to sporting a gang tattoo, you name it and I probably did it.”

Gang life was adventurous, never boring. The familial culture and camaraderie fascinated him.

But in 2001, after years of staying just two steps ahead of the police — and constantly disappointing a mother and father he loved — he wanted a way out. Staff Sgt. Marquez was the prism he used to see that better life.

“I knew I wanted to change ... to really, really change. Thank God I never shot anybody, even though I was prepared to. My lifestyle was just a lot of crap,” he said. “The Marines were willing to bet on me. Words just can’t describe how grateful I am.”

In the first part of his memoir, Martinez recounts in graphic detail the dangers and drama of small-time street gangs. He admits taking penitentiary chances for petty stuff nearly every day. He’s never proud of that past, but painfully peels back the curtain.

Readers are then quickly thrown into the deeply bonded world of Marine Corps boot camp, the School of Infantry and life in the Fleet Marine Force. The last third of the book is devoted to his unit’s combat street brawls in Iraq.

For example, after missing the chance to deploy to Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks, Martinez’s unit later learns it will deploy to Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. It’s time to form for war, and the team is stoked.

“This is where the road divides between those who wear the uniform and civilians,” Martinez writes. “This is where what I’m about to say will either make you nod knowingly or shake your head in confusion, maybe even revulsion: The Marines of 2/5 [2nd Battalion, 5th Marine regiment] — myself most assuredly included — began cheering and smiling and high-fiving and celebrating.

“Here’s why: We were the ones who were going to get the privilege of doing something about what the hell just happened on your television screen. We felt honored, privileged, God-blessed — and ready to rip the mother-f------ face off the enemy.”

“Not everyone was meant to understand what it takes to keep a nation free. Not everyone was meant to understand hardcore devotion to military service, or to our beloved Corps. Not everyone was meant to value a brother’s life as much as you value your own. But that’s ok. That’s as it should be. Not everyone was meant to be Hard Corps.”

When he traded his Tec-9 gang gun for an M16 used to defend his nation, Martinez found his focus for life.

In his new world view, as reflected in his book, things are pretty black and white. There are good guys and bad guys, and Marines wear the red capes.

“Violence isn’t senseless,” he now says. “Senseless violence is senseless.” Marines help resolve those issues.

These days, however, the violence is mostly purged from his system. No more gangs. He’s now a former Marine.

He attends community college nine credits a semester while working full time “in the nuclear security industry.” While there’s no violence, there’s apparently still some adventure in his life.

Martinez hopes to earn a business degree and perhaps write another book. The advance he earned from “Hard Corps” has helped set up that bright future.

Still, despite his hard-earned hero status in Corps and country, he struggles with his past. He ruefully, shamefully sighs “God” when he shares gang stories. He wonders if “hard corps lifer” Marines will like a book written by a former gang member.

“I hope people can understand,” he says.

But as he drives off under the smoke-filled California skies, his mood is infectiously upbeat.

This isn’t some movie. It’s his life. And all he wants — all he needs — is still out there.

Read: An excerpt from the book

Mr. Martinez is also a columnist with Read his columns Why Do Conservatives Love the Military? and Marine Hero: The 5 Things I Saw that Make Me Support the War

Friday, November 02, 2007

New Look

I've been fooling around with the blog layout. Tell me what you think? Is the background too distracting? I was just getting tired of the old look and had to try something new.

Don't they make you proud?

This is such a cute video. I'm so proud of our troops and how they handle themselves. My son has told me that the Iraqi children have come to expect soldiers and Marines to always have candy or presents and swarm the humvees pointing to their mouths every time the troops go through a town.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

House committee approves military tax breaks

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Nov 1, 2007 21:03:55 EDT

Service members, veterans, firefighters and certain volunteers moved a step closer to maintaining current tax and earnings benefits — and gaining new ones — under a bill approved Thursday by a House committee.

The House Ways and Means Committee agreed to the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2007 without a quibble over the bill’s 14 benefits, which include making permanent a provision that makes the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit more accessible for military personnel.

“America is forever in debt to the women and men in the armed forces for the great sacrifice they make on behalf of all Americans,” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the committee chairman and chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “This bill makes a small but important step honoring their commitment by giving much needed tax relief to them and other volunteers who are our first line of defense in times of emergencies.”

“There’s a lot of good things in here that do little things to make the system work better,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

One such thing is the Earned Income Tax Credit. Under current law, pay earned by all enlisted members and most junior officers in a combat zone isn’t subject to federal tax. But a certain baseline level of taxable income is required to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is aimed mainly at helping low-income households stay off welfare. The credit can translate into a larger refund, depending on the amount earned and how many children live in the household.

Under a temporary change made a few years ago, service members have the option of counting pay earned in a combat zone as taxable income for the purpose of qualifying for the EITC.

In addition to the bill’s 14 provisions, the committee approved four “revenue raisers” to help cover the costs of the new breaks and benefits. One would raise the penalty for failing to file a tax return.

The committee spent most of its time debating an amendment that would have allowed states to exclude the basic allowance for housing when calculating whether military families qualify for a low-income housing tax credit. The suggestion was voted down.

If the bill ends up being passed by the full Congress and signed into law, it would:

* Make permanent the ability to include combat pay as earned income for purposes of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

* Make permanent and modify qualified mortgage bonds used to finance residences for veterans.

* Modify the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to allow the day before the date of death to be treated as the date the employee returned to work for purposes of triggering payment of benefits under a qualified plan.

* Permit an employer to make certain contributions to a qualified plan on behalf of an employee who was killed or disabled in combat.

* Include differential wages paid by an employer to an employee who goes on military active duty in the calculation of wages for retirement plan purposes.

* Clarify the tax treatment for certain rebates of deductible state and local taxes for volunteer firefighters and exclude from income certain reimbursable expenses incurred in the line of duty by volunteer firefighters.

* Extend the time limit for filing tax refund credit claims arising from Department of Veterans Affairs disability rulings.

* Make permanent the expiring Internal Revenue Code provision that allows reservists to make penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans when mobilized for active duty.

* Make permanent the expiring provision that authorizes the Social Security Administration to disclose tax return information to the VA for purposes of determining eligibility for certain veteran’s programs.

* Permit recipients of military death benefit gratuities to roll over the amounts received, tax-free, to a Roth IRA or an Education Savings Account.

* Clarify the application of the “five-year requirement” to the sale of a principal residence by a Peace Corps volunteer.

* Reclassify military cash allowances as earned income, which is included in Supplemental Security Income eligibility and benefits for military families.

* Disregard state annuity payments paid to blind veterans when determining SSI eligibility and benefits.

* Disregard benefits or allowances paid to all AmeriCorps volunteers for purposes of determining SSI eligibility and benefits.

The bill is now ready for consideration by the full House.