Friday, February 29, 2008

Helpful Links

Military Life
MCCS provides a wide range of services to help Marines do everything from developing financial responsibility, to continuing their education, to moving to their next duty station or preparing to return home after completing their obligations.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
Of the 25 million veterans currently alive, nearly three of every four served during a war or an official period of hostility. About a quarter of the nation's population -- approximately 70 million people -- are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans.

For more than 60 years, we in AMVETS have taken to heart the credo of service set forth by our organization’s founding fathers. In so doing, we endeavor to provide our fellow veterans with the type of support they truly deserve. This outreach effort takes many forms, from the professional advice our service officers offer on earned veterans benefits to our legislative efforts on Capitol Hill to the work done by our hospital volunteers. Other AMVETS members involve themselves in a range of initiatives aimed at contributing to the quality of life in their local communities.

Government Made Easy™ is the U.S. government's official web portal

Emergency Financial Assistance
The American Red Cross works in partnership with the military aid societies including the Army Emergency Relief, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Air Force Aid Society and the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. This alliance helps to provide financial assistance for emergency travel that requires the presence of the service member or his or her family, burial of a loved one, or with assistance that cannot wait until the next business day such as for food, temporary lodging, urgent medical needs, or the minimum amount required to avoid eviction, utility shut off, etc.

In FY 07, the Red Cross, in partnership with the military aid societies, facilitated access to more than $5.5 million in emergency financial aid to more than 5,000 service members, their families, retired military personnel and widows of retired military personnel.

Marine For Life
The mission of the Marine For Life Program is to provide transition assistance to Marines who honorably leave active service and return to civilian life and to support injured Marines and their families

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meeting Tonight!

Please join us for our meeting tonight at 7:00pm at the Elk's Lodge at 34th and Milwaukee.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Very Powerful Message From the 1/1 Chaplain

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13

This past summer I began a new chapter in my life: I became a reserve military chaplain, specifically, a Navy Chaplain. The US Navy Chaplain Corps has been around since the Continental Congress formed it in 1775 to minister to the needs of those serving their country. Navy Chaplains serve not only the Navy, but the Marines and Coast Guard, as well. Why am I telling you this? Because of what I have seen in just my few months as a Naval Officer.

I have been assigned to work specifically with the 1st Division of the 1st Marines Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton. The men and women I speak with, hump (hike) with, ride with, fly with, eat with, and so on, are not Marines because they wish to be war mongers. For the most part, these are kids right out of high school, the same age as the students I walk around the CLU campus with. These young folk are saddled with the responsibility of firearms and hand grenades and tanks and humvees -- and the responsibility of knowing when and when not to use them. One cannot honestly look at the Marine Corps and say that they are about love and peace. But I can look at the individuals who comprise that group and see that for many of them, that is what they are personally about. These Marines joined up not to kill, but to be part of something worthwhile. When I speak with them, they are not about the war on terror, earning medals, blowing up Iraq. They are about each other. When on a hump (hike), if one starts to fall back, their whole team will rally around that person, push them on, not leaving them behind. It is shocking to me that when thinking of what the popular culture sells as "The Marines" --how I thought of the Marines -- how off base I was. It is truly amazing how compassionate and gentle they are with each other. I look at these young men and women and know without any question that they would die for the sake of those around them without a second's hesitation. Greater love has no one than this.

Whether you agree or disagree with "The War on Terrorism", whether you are Democrat or Republican, whether you served in the armed forces or protested the armed forces, whether you are a pacifist or a card-carrying member of the NRA, it makes no difference -- Christ calls us to be about two things alone: God and each other. As disciples of Jesus we have but one example to follow. As apprentices to the Word-made-flesh, we have but one voice to heed. He came down that we might have love and have peace -- who are we to offer anything different to those around us?

AND WE PRAY: Lord God, we pray for all of those who put themselves in harm's way for the sake of others, like our military, our fire departments, and our police. Grant them safety, grant them wisdom in judgment, grant them peace -- true peace. Let all the people of the world become instruments of your love and peace. Start with us.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Marine donates kidney to man he barely knew

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Feb 23, 2008 7:43:56 EST

Staff Sgt. Darren Smiley was sitting at Thanksgiving dinner in 2006 when he made a decision: He needed to see if he could help a man he barely knew by giving up a kidney.

Within weeks, Smiley, a reservist with Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, started a lengthy testing process that led him to an operating table Jan. 30 at UCLA Medical Center in California. His left kidney was removed and placed in Daniel Haven, 43, an X-ray technician and father of a 4-year-old girl.

Days after the surgery, Smiley, a 31-year-old father of three who has served two tours in Iraq, shrugged off the donation.

“I have a young son myself, and the waiting list is usually seven or eight years,” he said in a Feb. 5 phone interview from California. “I would hope that someone would do the same for me if they had the chance.”

The surgery has brought together two clans that had a familial connection but did not know each other particularly well. Haven and Smiley’s wife, Mylinda, are first cousins, but the two men had met only once or twice, in part because the Smileys live in Plains, Mont., and the Havens in Oxnard, Calif.

“I really got to know [Smiley] for the first time through this,” Haven said in a Feb. 5 telephone interview from his home. “How can you thank someone for the gift of life?”

Haven was born prematurely and diagnosed at 12 with glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys that can cause fluid retention in the body, high blood pressure and kidney failure.

He was also born with hip problems that led to a December 2005 replacement surgery that almost killed him when potassium levels in his blood spiked, said his wife, Yanira.

“He almost flat-lined on us on the [operating] table,” she said. “He ... almost had a heart attack [because of his potassium levels].”

Not long after the hip replacement, Haven’s kidney problems increased, he said. Doctors had told him for years that he eventually would need dialysis, but he hadn’t expected it would begin in March 2006, at age 41.

A near-perfect match
Haven’s O-positive blood type made finding a match particularly difficult because a donor would have to have the same blood type. He was told he would probably have to wait five to seven years for a match and began undergoing dialysis three times per week.

Smiley learned of Haven’s condition while attending Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Haven’s father, Terry. When Terry Haven mentioned that no one in the immediate family was a potential donor, “something clicked” inside him, Smiley said.

“He said all [a donor] needed to be is O-positive, and that’s what sparked it,” Smiley said. “My wife and I prayed about it, and we decided to see if it was at least a possibility.”

The decision did not surprise members of Smiley’s unit, which deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2005.

“He’s a damn good man,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ben Murrell, who has known Smiley for more than five years. “He’s the kind of person who can be a war fighter one minute and be telling you what the good Lord thinks the next.”

In fact, Smiley downplayed what he was doing, asking only for a month off from drill because he had “a doctor’s appointment he couldn’t miss,” said Maj. Allan Jaster, Charlie Company’s commander.

“I casually asked him what was up, and he said, ‘I’m giving my kidney to my wife’s cousin,’ and it was all very matter-of-fact,” Jaster said. “He wasn’t looking for any bonus points.”

Smiley said he sought permission from the Corps before agreeing to donate, and is expecting a clean bill of health.

“I went through the proper channels,” he said. “They said that as long as I knew the Corps wasn’t liable if anything went wrong during surgery, I was free to do it. I felt very supported by the command in my unit.”

Lt. Col. Mark Hashimoto, commanding officer of 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, said that — according to the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery — a leatherneck must only notify the Corps if he chooses to become a living donor.

Hasimoto met with Smiley before the surgery, taking a personal interest in part because his own wife and several members of her family also have received kidney transplants after being diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease.

“When I took over command of this battalion in August 2007, I tried to stress the concept of developing good character and letting your actions speak for themselves,” Hashimoto said in a telephone interview from his Hawaii office. “I thanked [Smiley] for embodying what we are looking for.”

When reached by Marine Corps Times, Smiley was already sightseeing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs six days after surgery. He returned home to Montana on Feb. 9.

“I’ve been taking little walks and trying to get exercise, but it hasn’t been bad,” he said.

Haven said his new kidney has responded well after being placed in the front right side of his abdomen, above his bladder. Haven still has his original two kidneys, including a nonfunctioning left one.

“I’m tired, but everything is going great at this point,” he said. “Fifty percent of all transplanted kidneys get rejected, but [doctors] can reverse it if it’s caught early with medication.”

Yanira Haven said she and her husband consider the staff sergeant a godsend and feel they have a “lifetime connection” with him.

“After putting his life on the line for his country, he put his life on the line for us,” she said. “He’s one in a billion, I think.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why I Like Marines

This is one of those things that no one seeems to know who wrote. It is attributed to a speech given by Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN, 8th Chief of Naval Operations in 1995 which is impossible because Admiral Stark died in 1972. At any rate, I like it and I think you will too.

"The first reason I like Marines: They set high standards for themselves and those around them, and will accept nothing less.

I like the way Marines march.

I like the way Marines do their basic training, whether it's Quantico, San Diego, or Parris Island.

I like the idea that Marines cultivate an ethos conducive of producing hard people in a soft age.

I like the fact that Marines stay in shape.

I like the fact that the Marines only have one boss - The Commandant. And I like the directness of the Commandant.

I like the fact that Marines are stubborn.

I like the way Marines obey orders.

I like the way Marines make the most of the press.

I like the wholehearted professionalism of the Marines.

It occurred to me that the services could be characterized by different breeds of dogs.

The Air Force reminded me of a French Poodle. The poodle always looks perfect. . . sometimes a bit pampered and always travels first class. But don't ever forget that the poodle was bred as a hunting dog and in a fight it's very dangerous.

The Army is kind of like a St. Bernard. It's big and heavy and sometimes seems a bit clumsy. But it's very powerful and has lots of stamina. So you want it for the long haul.

The Navy, God bless us, is a Golden Retriever. They're good natured and great around the house. The kids love 'em. Sometimes their hair is a bit long....they go wandering off for long periods of time, and they love water.

Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean or skinny and mean. They're aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They've got really short hair and they always go for the throat.

So what I really like about Marines is that first to fight isn't just a motto, it's a way of life.

From the day they were formed at Tun Tavern 200 plus years ago, Marines have distinguished themselves on battlefields around the world. From the fighting tops of the Bonhomme Richard, to the sands of Barbary Coast, from the swamps of New Orleans to the halls of Montezuma, from Belleau Wood, to the Argonne Forest, to Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima, and Okinawa and Inchon, and Chosin Reservoir and Hue City and Quang Tri and Dong Ha, and Beirut, and Grenada, and Panama, and Somalia and Bosnia and a thousand unnamed battlefields in godforsaken parts of the globe. Marines have distinguished themselves by their bravery, and stubbornness and aggressive spirit, and sacrifice, and love of country, and loyalty to one another.

They've done it for you and me, and this country we all love so dearly. They asked for nothing more than the honor of being a United States Marine"

Email from Jennifer Griffin in Iraq!

Click here to read Jennifer's email to Greta Van Susteren. In the email she talks about Gunnery Sergeant William Gibson from Pryor, Oklahoma. He is a true hero! Gunny, you make us proud!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MV-22 Osprey in Iraq

AL ASAD, Iraq (Feb. 14, 2008) – Sergeant Zachary Hoag, an MV-22 crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, mans the 240D medium machine gun while ensuring a safe landing on the flight line here Feb. 14. As of January 2008, the tiltrotor squadron has conducted more than 1,400 missions across the Al Anbar Province.
U.S. Marine Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jessica N. Aranda

Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jessica Aranda
Photo ID: 2008220298
Submitting Unit: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Photo Date:02/14/2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Iraqi interpreters afforded new life

“Bruce,” an Iraqi interpreter, practices a grammar question in an Arabic to English dictionary to better his English skills. Bruce has worked for the Coalition Forces for 12 months now and he plans on putting in an immigration package so he can immigrate to the U.S. with his sister and mother. He also has plans of continuing his education in the U.S. and joining the Marine Corps. Once an interpreter has worked for 12 months with Coalition Forces, they can submit an immigration package that will allow them to move to the U.S. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Shawn Coolman

Feb. 6, 2008; Submitted on: 02/18/2008 08:12:21 AM ; Story ID#: 200821881221

By Lance Cpl. Shawn Coolman, 1st Marine Division

HADITHA CITY, Iraq (Feb. 6, 2008) -- The prospect for a better life awaits the men and women serving as interpreters in Iraq.

Iraqis who serve as interpreters for Coalition Forces have an opportunity to submit their immigration package and possibly become U.S. citizens.

“This is an incentive for their loyal and faithful service for serving us in our mission,” said Capt. Manuel F. Munoz, 42, the unit linguist manager for 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, who is from New York City.

To be considered, a minimum of 12 months of service is required in aiding the Coalition Forces.

An immigration package is then compiled and consists of letters of recommendations, security and background checks and any additional letters which describe the actions of the individual.

After an interpreter submits a package to the proper chain of command, the package is then sent up to the regimental commander and commanding general of Multi National Force West, said Munoz.

“The package is then sent to the American Embassy in Rome for special immigration status for the interpreter,” added Munoz.

Approximately six months after the package is submitted, an interview with the interpreter is arranged to discuss if his/her access to the U.S. will be granted, said “Hector,” an Iraq interpreter who is submitting his package this month.

Reasons why English speaking Iraqis want to become interpreters are extensive: a better life, a good job and security are just a few.

“It’s a good job,” said Hector, who has aided the Coalition forces for 12 months. “I studied to be an interpreter; I got a bachelors degree in English Literature from a Baghdad university.

Although, there are no guarantees that the interpreters’ packages will be approved, the command observes and creates their own recommendations for their package.

“We look at it like this; would the U.S. benefit by having these people there,” said Munoz. “Some of these interpreters are college educated, and our intent is to pick the very best.”

When an interpreter arrives in the U.S., they will have to file for a green card to work while their citizenship is finalized.

“They have to create liaisons when they get there (America); their intent is to hit the ground running,” said Munoz. “Their future is wide opene for them, and they can do whatever they want to in the U.S.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Marines bring the band to Africa

By Michelle Tan - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 15, 2008 9:25:05 EST

DAMERJOG, Djibouti – Most of the kids couldn’t speak English, but they had no trouble dancing along to the American music that filled their village.

Members of “Thunder Roll,” one of Central Air Force’s two bands, performed for the kids for more than an hour Monday morning, playing everything from The Clash to Smash Mouth.

The village of Damerjog is less than 20 minutes from Camp Lemonier, the primary U.S. military base here, and the Marines who conduct base security often visit Damerjog and the other surrounding villages in an effort to get to know the local residents.

The Marines brought the band, which belongs to the Georgia Air National Guard, to Damerjog for Monday’s performance.

“It’s all about relationships,” said Marine Capt. Christopher Crim, commanding officer of B Battery, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Crim and his Marines visit four local villages at least once a week. They play soccer with the kids, set up movie nights, hand out school supplies, help repair water reservoirs and simply spend time with the villagers.

“The purpose of this is quite simple: to gain an appreciation of their culture and build relationships,” he said. “The simple things go the farthest, school supplies, flip flops, things that are useful to everyday life.”

Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Larry Winner, one of the band members, got into the mix and danced with the children during the performance.

“At first I was a little apprehensive, but we saw how they were reacting,” Winner said. “When you look into their eyes you could see a connection. The music was just lighting them up.”

Winner said he was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reception the band received.

“Music truly is the universal language,” he said. “That’s an old cliché but it’s true. Everyone can relate to the beat.”

Audio and photos from the bands performance

Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain's Marine son returns from Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who almost always refuses to speak on the campaign trail about his son serving in the military, got a rousing reception Wednesday when he told a private gathering of House Republican congressman that his son Jimmy — whose Marine unit had been deployed to Iraq — had arrived home safely.

According to three GOP sources present at the closed meeting of the House Republican Conference, the Arizona senator said that when his son first arrived in the country, he reported seeing IEDs everywhere — but when he recently left, some seven months later, Iraq had become so safe he was handing out soccer balls.

According to the sources present, the congressmen greeted the news with standing ovations.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Texas Fun

Greetings from Texas
Greetings from Texas

Happy, Texas 79042
Pep, Texas 79353
Smiley, Texas 78159
Paradise, Texas 76073
Rainbow, Texas 76077
Sweet Home, Texas 77987
Comfort, Texas 78013
Friendship, Texas 76530

Sun City, Texas 78628
Sunrise, Texas 76661
Sunset, Texas 76270
Sundown, Texas 79372
Sunray, Texas 79086
Sunny Side, Texas 77423

Bacon, Texas 76301
Noodle, Texas 79536
Oatmeal, Texas 78605
Turkey, Texas 79261
Trout, Texas 75789
Sugar Land, Texas 77479
Salty, Texas 76567
Rice, Texas 75155
And top it off with:
Sweetwater, Texas 79556

Detroit, Texas 75436
Colorado City, Texas 79512
Denver City, Texas 79323
Klondike, Texas 75448
Nevada, Texas 75173
Memphis, Texas 79245
Miami, Texas 79059
Boston, Texas 75570
Santa Fe, Texas 77517
Tennessee Colony, Texas 75861
Reno, Texas 75462

Athens, Texas 75751
Canadian, Texas 79014
China, Texas 77613
Egypt, Texas 77436
Ireland, Texas 76538
Turkey, Texas 79261
London, Texas 76854
New London, Texas 75682
Paris, Texas 75460

Whitehouse, Texas 75791

Earth, Texas 79031

Texas City, Texas 77590

Energy, Texas 76452

Blanket, Texas 76432
Winters, Texas

Santa Anna, Texas
Goliad, Texas
Alamo, Texas
Gun Barrel City, Texas
Robert Lee, Texas

Staples, Texas 78670

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, Texas 76084

Texline, Texas 79087

Kermit, Texas 79745
Elmo, Texas 75118
Nemo, Texas 76070
Tarzan, Texas 79783
Winnie, Texas 77665
Sylvester, Texas 79560

Frognot, Texas 75424
Bigfoot, Texas 78005
Hogeye, Texas 75423
Cactus, Texas 79013
Notrees, Texas 79759
Best, Texas 76932
Veribest, Texas 76886
Kickapoo, Texas 75763
Dime Box, Texas 77853
Old Dime Box, Texas 77853
Telephone, Texas 75488
Telegraph, Texas 76883
Whiteface, Texas 79379
Twitty, Texas 79079

Kilgore, Texas 75662

Cut n Shoot, Texas
Gun Barrell City, Texas
Hoop And Holler, Texas
Ding Dong, Texas and, of course,
Muleshoe, Texas

1. Beaumont to El Paso : 742 miles
2. Beaumont to Chicago : 770 miles
3. El Paso is closer to California than to Dallas
4. World's first rodeo was in Pecos , July 4, 1883 .
5. The Flagship Hotel in Galveston is the only hotel in North America built over water.
6. The Heisman Trophy was named after John William Heisman who was the first full-time coach at Rice University in Houston .
7. Brazoria County has more species of birds than any other area in North America .
8. Aransas Wildlife Refuge is the winter home of North America 's only remaining flock of whooping cranes.
9. Jalapeno jelly originated in Lake Jackson in 1978.
10. The worst natural disaster in US . history was in 1900, caused by a hurricane, in which over 8,000 lives were lost on Galveston Island .
11. The first word spoken from the moon, July 20, 1969 , was 'Houston.'
12. King Ranch in South Texas is larger than Rhode Island .
13. Tropical Storm Claudette brought a U.S. rainfall record of 43' in 24 hours in and around Alvin in July of 1979.
14. Texas is the only state to enter the U.S. by TREATY, (known as the Constitution of 1845 by the Republic of Texas to enter the Union ) instead of by annexation. This allows the Texas Flag to fly at the same height as the U.S. Flag, and may divide into 5 states.
15. A Live Oak tree near Fulton is estimated to be 1500 years old.
16. Caddo Lake is the only natural lake in the state.
17. Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885. There is no period in Dr Pepper.
18. Texas has had six capitol cities: Washington-on-the Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, West Columbia and Austin .
19. The Capitol Dome in Austin is the only dome in the U.S. which is taller than the Capitol Building in Washington DC (by 7 feet).
20. The name 'Texas' comes from the Hasini Indian word 'tejas' meaning friends. Tejas is not Spanish for Texas.
21. The State Mascot is the Armadillo (an interesting bit of trivia about the armadillo is they always have four babies. They have one egg, which splits into four, and they either have four males or four females.).
22. The first domed stadium in the U.S. was the Astrodome in Houston.

For unit, third time in Fallujah is a charm

Marines buoyed by gains since 2004, 2006 tours
By Geoff Ziezulewicz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, February 12, 2008

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Marine Sgt. Matthew Keenan’s third trip to this city was unnerving at first. But it had nothing to do with enemy contact.

“We were coming into Fallujah, and there were lights,” said Keenan, 24. “That was crazy.”

You’ll have to excuse Keenan for being bowled over by such an innocuous circumstance. Keenan was in Fallujah before, when the only light came from fires and Marines in combat: He was here in 2004 during the Battle of Fallujah. And in 2006, when the enemy’s tactics had evolved.

Some men of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines have seen the city at its lowest point and are witnesses now as Fallujah tentatively makes its way forward.

“I pretty much have a house here,” joked Sgt. Sergio Mucino, on his third deployment to Fallujah and fourth overall in Iraq.

Despite lingering issues involving electricity and water, Marines said the city’s peace outbreak is a vindication for those who have been here before.

Mucino said he’s not sure yet if the city’s progress was worth the lives of his lost comrades — a close personal friend in particular — and the sacrifices Marines have made.

“I want to say yes, but who knows where it’ll go from here,” he said. “From what I saw until now, it’s seriously progressing.”

‘There were insurgents everywhere’
Sgt. Leodir Santos, now on his third Fallujah deployment with 3-5, headed to the city in the late summer of 2004 knowing a fight was brewing.

“We knew something big was going to happen,” he said. “We didn’t know what.”

Stationed at Camp Baharia outside the city, Santos was not in Fallujah for the first part of that battle in November, but he knew it was close.

“Twenty-four seven, they had incoming inside the FOB, always,” he said. “Same thing for outgoing. You could hear planes blazing away inside the city.”

One night, a round struck right outside his tent.

He had always wanted frontline action, he said, “but not at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Meanwhile, Mucino was pushing through the city with Lima Company.

The residents had been told to evacuate before Marines went in, and Mucino said he remembers that there would be streets with nothing at all, but insurgents would swarm on other thoroughfares.

Before the fight, Santos remembers the exodus of city residents clamoring to get out before the Marines invaded.

“It was like Godzilla,” he said, “people moving away and all the traffic backed up.”

“There were insurgents everywhere,” Keenan said. “And the mentality was to rid the city of them.”

On the tail end of the initial city fighting, Santos took part in a “mini-push” that targeted a stubborn area in the northeast of the city.

“Every room was either sprayed with M-16s or had a flash-bang or grenade thrown inside,” he said, adding that freezing nights were spent trying to sleep on rooftops. Guys were sleeping in the sweat-drenched clothes they had spent the day fighting in.

“Any time we’d find a house with any kind of weapons we’d burn the house down,” he said.

The city was empty for the rest of 2004. Santos said he remembers seeing huge packs of wild dogs and that’s about it.

Mucino, Keenan and Santos finished their deployment by the spring of 2005. But before they left, the people of Fallujah were allowed to return in January.

“I had never seen the city with the population in it,” Mucino said. “We thought, ‘Oh man, how are they going to react? Their houses are demolished.’”

Roads become perilous
In early 2006, the 3-5 Marines returned to the city. Their peril now lay in the roads they traveled.

“It was nothing but IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Mucino said. “There was an IED pretty much every day. It was pretty much a faceless enemy.”

Regardless of where they were in and around Fallujah, Santos, Mucino and Keenan all said that roadside bombs plagued that second deployment.

“You’re not necessarily face to face with the bad guys,” said Keenan, who spent his deployment largely at a base just across from the city. “It was pretty monotonous the whole time. The same thing over and over and over again.”

The frustration of not being able to secure 800 meters of road between Camp Fallujah and Camp Taqqadum was infuriating during that second deployment, Santos said. He remembers between 25 and 30 vehicles being blown up.

“There was no way the IEDs should have been there,” he said.

In the fall of 2006, the men went home again.

Mucino is at a loss to remember exactly when he got back, only that he made it home in time for his birthday, around the end of September.

Talking to people
Now Keenan, Santos and Mucino are in Fallujah again, here with Lima Company until May. And again, things changed while they were gone.

“We still haven’t got shot at or hit by an IED,” Santos said. “It’s like there’s something missing. It’s not the same Iraq anymore.”

Before, training involved urban warfare. This time around, their training involved talking to people.

“I knew coming over here was going to be a little bit different,” Santos said. “We started picking up trash inside the city. We didn’t do any of that during our first deployment.”

Santos said he has no problem with the change in orders.

“First deployment, if you tell me to kill somebody, I’ll put two shots in the head,” he said. “Now if you tell me to give some kids candy, there you go.”

Keenan said he’s heartened to see Fallujah take steps forward.

“For the guys who were in the [2004] push, to see the city and how it’s changed, it’s awesome,” he said. “It shows us that what we did actually worked.”

Ever mindful of the past, Santos said Marines must keep making progress in Fallujah, to honor the fallen and to bring eventual closure to the mission here.

“If we don’t accomplish what we came to do, all those sacrifices will be wasted,” Santos said. “All that work, for what?”

Friday, February 08, 2008

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

This is one of my favorite shows and it will be especially good this Sunday, February 10th at 8/7 central.
Daniel Gilyeat is a decorated U.S. marine and a loving father to his children, having served not one but two tours in Iraq. During the second tour he volunteered for, he was out on a mission when a bomb hit his truck. He suffered major injuries and lost his left leg above the knee. In addition, his marriage ended and he suddenly became a single father. As with many soldiers, deployment had put a huge stress on his marriage. But despite these setbacks and personal battles, 25 days after losing his leg, Daniel was up and walking with a prosthetic leg, and inspiring other wounded soldiers by visiting them in the hospital and speaking with their families. He tries to create a normal environment for his children and to take proper care of them, but household chores are difficult because the house is not handicapped accessible; it's nearly impossible for him to get around, as all the floors are uneven and the doors are very narrow -- he often has to rely on a wheelchair. What's more, the laundry is in the basement. Daniel's trying to rebuild his life, and one of the things he desperately needs is a safe home where he can raise his kids.

The guest star will be Miley Cyrus. Read more here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

First Female Engine Mechanic Retires

Marine Corps News Sgt. Michael T. Knight February 06, 2008

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CA. - She walked in to the joint recruiting office intending to join the Army. Then she saw a Marine in dress blues. The rest is 30 years of Corps history.

Born in Pittsburgh, Maj. Lou Ann Rickley joined the Marine Corps in 1977 and blazed a trail of accomplishments, as the first female to contribute in many areas of the Corps.

She became an Aviation Mechanic and soon discovered this was her dream job when landing with a harrier unit; Marine Attack Squadron 513 Flying Nightmares. There she became qualified as the first female AV-8A Harrier Plane Captain, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring the aircrafts are ready for flight.

"I suspected that the Corps made a mistake by assigning me to this unit because it was a deployable unit and females were not yet allowed to deploy," Rickley said.

That issue was highlighted when then-Sgt. Rickley realized participation in work-ups for the unit's deployment was necessary for promotion in her field. The work-ups included sailing out aboard a ship which had no female living quarters.

"Eventually, I was allowed to sail out for one day to obtain the necessary qualifications, but had to be flown off ship the same night," Rickley said.

"I believe the obstacles Rickley faced as a female earlier in her career had a tremendous impact on creating her well known 'firm but fair' style of leadership," said Lt. Col. Vincent E. Clark, commanding officer for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39.

Her years on the drill field may have influenced her leadership style as well. In 1986, Rickley graduated Drill Instructor school and became a Senior Drill Instructor after one training cycle. In her tenure, she trained a total of nine platoons and all nine took home final drill trophies.

"It was a mental game," said Rickley.

"The recruits always aim to please the Senior DI. The day before final drill I would be extremely upset with their performance, whether it was good or not, and walk out. On final drill day it would all be 'snap and pop.' It worked every time," she said.
Before leaving Parris Island, she was meritoriously promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and was the first to fill the newly established position of Series Chief Drill Instructor, 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

Clearly identified as an outstanding Marine and beating every obstacle thrown her way, Rickley was just getting started.

While stationed at MALS-11, Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, Calif., Rickley was selected to become one of only two female Warrant Officers in the Marine Corps.

"I probably would have been the first female Warrant Officer," said Rickley.

"After several unanswered submissions I gave up. It never occurred that there were no female WO's in the Corps. The year I gave up was the year they selected the first female," she said.

"I applied again and may have been selected as the second."

Rickley's first deployment came in 1996 with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 to Aviano, Italy in support of Operation Decisive Endeavor, Bosnia.

As a Chief Warrant Officer, Rickley applied for the Limited Duty Officer program and was the only Aircraft Maintenance Officer selected and promoted to Captain in 1999.

That year, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 demanded all her experience. The unit failed their maintenance inspection and Capt. Rickley was called in to fix it.

"She came in like the Tasmanian Devil," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Pfister, Maintenance Administrator, MALS 39, who was a Pfc. at the time.

"It took eight months for her to dismantle the unit and rebuild it the right way. We passed the next inspection with flying colors," she said.

Her final accomplishment as a Marine included her being promoted to Major and becoming the first female Aircraft Maintenance Limited Duty Officer in March 2005.

"Rickley has represented the epitome of all that is right in the Marine Corps and in the aircraft maintenance profession," said retired Lt. Col. Michael Nisley, Rickley's former Aircraft Maintenance Officer.

"She has strived and worked her whole career to be an equal regardless of gender, she is not a female Marine, she is a Marine who happens to be female."

Rickley's final tour as a Marine was with MALS 39 as their AMO. There is where she has made her mark not only as an outstanding Marine but an outstanding human being.

"Maj. Rickley is Mother Teresa in a Marine Corps uniform," Pfister said.

"She's very tough and accepts nothing but your best performance, but she's equally relentless at taking care of her Marines."

Rickley officially retires from of the Corps in December. But even after her retirement, she'll be first again, as a civilian contractor titled Program Management Air 226 West Coast CH-46 Helicopter Manager.

"She has earned the respect of every Marine she's touched, and the Marine Corps will benefit from her prodigious talents for years to come," Nisley concluded.

Wounded Warrior Inspires Giants

Army News Service | Elizabeth M. Lorge | February 05, 2008
WASHINGTON - When the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots' perfect season in the last two minutes of Sunday's Super Bowl, they did it with one of the Army's own as an honorary teammate.

Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, a field-artillery officer with two prosthetic legs, was on the sidelines Sunday after giving a pep talk to the Giants Saturday night.

When Gadson, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, was hit with an improvised-explosive device in Baghdad last May, he almost died from blood loss. Doctors amputated one leg due to infection and he decided to give up the other to improve his quality of life; but believing he could still serve Soldiers, he decided to stay in the Army.

One of Gadson's old football teammates from West Point was Giants wide-receiver coach Mike Sullivan. He visited Gadson at Walter Reed bearing a Giants helmet and jersey with Gadson's old number, which had been signed by Giants' players. When he asked if he could do anything, Gadson had one simple request: he just wanted to go to a game when the Giants came to D.C.

They came to town after a two-game losing streak, and Sullivan wondered if Gadson would mind saying a few words to the team the night before their game against the Washington Redskins. He did and the Giants won after being down 14 points at half time.

"Inspiration is something that's internal and it's impossible for me to measure how I inspire someone or if they feel like I inspire them," Gadson said, reluctant to take credit for inspiring this or any of their wins, although the Giants and media have credited him with providing extra motivation for the team.

At the same time, he acknowledged that something he said must have made a difference: Sullivan would tell him how the Giants players continually asked about him and were eager for him to come to other games.

When they arrived for their first play-off game against Tampa, Gadson was waiting for them in the hotel lobby - standing on prosthetic legs.

"If you could have seen the look on their faces, I knew there was a special bond because I could see it in their face when they saw me standing there. They all either came up and shook my hand or gave me hugs. It was very personal and I really felt very special," he said.

"To see him taking a couple of steps was amazing," cornerback Corey Webster told

"We were so happy for him."

Gadson had to miss the Giants' next play-off game against Dallas because he needed more surgery on his right leg and right arm, which was also injured during the blast. He credits the Giants with helping him get through eight rough days in the hospital.

"I was really struggling," he remembered.

"It was hard going back in the hospital because of the memories it brought back and it was pretty painful. And I have to admit, I drew some strength from being around the Giants. I thought about them and some of the things I talked to them about and fighting, and that kind of helped me get through the difficulties I was having in the hospital."

The Giants named Gadson an honorary captain for their final championship against Green Bay, and both Gadson and his 13-year-old son Jaelen were back on the sidelines.

"Everyone was concerned with me being in the weather and they had box seats for me, but I decided that the right place for me to be was on the sideline by my teammates," he said.

When the game went into overtime and Webster intercepted a pass from Brett Favre, he gave the ball to Gadson.

"He's a big motivating factor for me, personally, and the team," Webster told ESPN.

When the Giants invited Gadson and his family to the Super Bowl, they were inviting one of their own. He and his son were at the team practice and meetings, and he spoke to them again Saturday night.

Gadson has declined to say what he talked about that night, saying it's just too personal, but he said he was so proud of them for winning and that he has received far more from the Giants than he has given.

"Last year about this time, I was on my way to Iraq, leading my battalion into Iraq and a year later, I've lost my legs and I'm beginning to put my life back together," he said.

"And to be a part of this is absolutely mind-boggling in some respects. The Giants helped me too. They've been inspirational to me. I got a chance to be a part of a team. Being a part of a team is so important to me.

"That's why I enjoyed battalion command so much. It was an honor and privilege to be a battalion commander. I got taken out very suddenly and very quickly and I kind of didn't have a team.

"My focus has been on rehabbing myself, but I'm not a team by myself. The Giants let me be part of their team. I saw them (Monday) morning, they were going 'What's up Champ?' They were calling me a champion. It's hard to tell you how that makes me feel, but I got to be part of a team again. My first team was my battalion back in Iraq and I probably won't rest easy until they get back (in April), but this was a great opportunity and a great blessing."


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Last Marine in Original Iwo Photo Dies

Associated Press February 05, 2008

REDDING, Calif. - Raymond Jacobs, believed to be the last surviving member of the group of Marines photographed during the original U.S. flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II, has died at age 82.
Jacobs died Jan. 29 of natural causes at a Redding hospital, his daughter, Nancy Jacobs, told The Associated Press.
Jacobs had spent his later years working to prove that he was the radio operator photographed looking up at an American flag as it was being raised by other Marines on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945.
Newspaper accounts from the time show he was on the mountain during the initial raising of a smaller American flag, though he had returned to his unit by the time the more famous AP photograph was taken of a second flag-raising later the same day.

The radioman's face isn't fully visible in the first photograph taken of the first flag-raising by Lou Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck magazine, leading some veterans to question Jacobs' claim. However, other negatives from the same roll of film show the radioman is Jacobs, said retired Col. Walt Ford, editor of Leatherneck.

"It's clearly a front-on face shot of Ray Jacobs," Ford said.
Annette Amerman, a historian with the Marine Corps History Division, said in an e-mailed statement "there are many that believe" Jacobs was the radioman. "However, there are no official records produced at the time that can prove or refute Mr. Jacobs' location."
Jacobs was honorably discharged in 1946. He was called up during the Korean conflict in 1951 before retiring as a sergeant, his daughter said.
Jacobs retired in 1992 from KTVU-TV in Oakland, where he worked 34 years as a reporter, anchor and news director.

--Their watch is over. Their patriotism and sacrifice shall not be forgotten, for it lives on in the hearts, minds and footsteps of all those that follow. Rest in peace Marines.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Valentine's Care Packs

Thanks to all of you, we have 86 Valentine carepacks now headed to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I also want to share with you a "thank you" that we recieved from a soldier who got one of our Christmas care packages.
Hello from Iraq!
Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and for sending the care packages for us. We are honored to know that there are so many people back home who support us and are willing to sacrifice their time and effort to make our lives better.
Thanks from all of us at Camp Delta!

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Boy’s Wish Made Real

Dontay Burton and Gunnery Sgt. William C. House watch Marines in a battalion formation run at Camp Lejeune in May 2007. During a Make-A-Wish Foundation visit in North Carolina, Burton toured Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point, Camp Gieger, as well as Camp Lejeune.

Jan. 31, 2008; Submitted on: 01/31/2008 03:26:47 PM ; Story ID#: 2008131152647
By Capt. Paul L. Greenberg, Marine Forces Reserve

BROOKPARK, Ohio (Jan. 31, 2008) -- On Jan. 12, 2008, a warrior named Dontay Burton was laid to rest at the First Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He was eight years old.

Reserve Marines from Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve here attended the funeral to pay their respects.

“All he ever wanted to be was a Marine,” said Lt. Col. Minter B. Ralston, the battalion inspector-instructor, who attended the service with Sgt. Maj. Carl L. Chapman, the battalion sergeant major.

Burton, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic Leukemia in November 2006, was inspired to be a Marine by his grandfather, retired Marine First Sgt. Freddie Crawford, according to Ralston.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation coordinated with the U.S. Marine Corps to make Burton’s dream come true during his short lifetime.

On May 2, 2007, with his cancer in full remission, Burton set off from his home in Maple Hills, Ohio for Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he met up with his sponsor, Gunnery Sgt. William C. House.

House, who was an intelligence chief for 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division at the time, told a Marine Corps reporter, “Dontay is an inspiration to me and all the Marines that got to meet him during his visit to Camp Lejeune. His fighting spirit to not only live but to succeed will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

During his stay in North Carolina, Burton toured Marine Corps Air Stations New River and Cherry Point, Camp Gieger, as well as Camp Lejeune. His experiences included a ride in an M1A1 Main Battle Tank, shooting at an indoor marksmanship trainer, and “flying” in an F/A-18D Hornet Simulator.

“We may grant the wishes, but we also appreciate the tremendous generosity and assistance of the Marines in giving the wish kids such a terrific experience. Everyone really goes all-out for the kids when they visit,” said Brent Goodrich, the media relations manager for Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Although he fought his cancer into remission for about two years, Burton passed away on Jan. 6, 2008 in a Cleveland, Ohio hospital from complications resulting from a bacterial infection.

House, who stated that he saw Burton “as one of my kids,” drove to Ohio from his current duty assignment at Marine Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., to help comfort the family in their grief. He was not able to stay for the funeral, but dressed Burton in a small Marine Corps camouflage uniform for the burial.

Although their time together was short, it was clear that the impact made by Dontay Burton and the Make-A-Wish experience will be long lasting.

“He showed the young Marines at 8th Marine Regiment that no matter what the obstacle, it will be O.K.” explained House. “Dontay never complained. He was a grown man at heart. He taught me that adversity, no matter what form it comes in, does not have to stop or even slow us down.”