The genesis of this post started many years ago, and I tend to edit and revise it each year. Maybe one day it will do justice to the day and those I remember on Memorial Day. Crossposted at Laughing Wolf
Foster Powers USN, KIA 1945
To the God in Man displayed -- Where'er we see that Birth, Be love and understanding paid As never yet on earth!
To the Spirit that moves in Man, On Whom all worlds depend, Be Glory since our world began And service to the end!
Final stanzas, The Choice, Rudyard Kipling
Let me start with the end, instead of the beginning. I am not asking that we make Memorial Day somber and solemn, a thing without levity or fun. I know none who have served who would want that, particularly those who did not come home. We should enjoy the day and the weekend in their honor, so that they and the reason for this day are not forgotten.
"They came to save us, and to give us dignity. Their sacrifice will remain in the minds of our children for the rest of their lives. We will teach their names to our children, and keep their names in our books of history as heroes who gave their lives for freedom." - Kurd Sheik Ahmet at the April 17th, 1994 memorial service in Zakhu, Iraq.
Today, is the 22nd anniversary of a dark day in our military history...while the inquiry results were weak, this was one incident in which many lessons were learned that later saved American and allied lives (true IFF came from this), and continued the long trek to freedom for one of the most deserving groups of human beings on this planet.
Let's start at what isn't quite the beginning but as good as any place to start this story...
In April, 1991, as part of U.N. Resolution 688, the National Command Authority commanded the US Armed Forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort. On the 8th of April 1991, the 1st Battalion (FWD) of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Bad Tolz, Germany, deployed to conduct humanitarian relief operations for over a half million Kurdish refugees. Soon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions arrived from the states.
...Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was one of the largest relief operations in history. During the critical first three weeks, the 10th Special Forces Group directed and executed the overall ground relief and security efforts. In the words of General Galvin, the CINCEUR "...10th Special Forces Group saved half a million Kurds from extinction."
The conditions in the refugee camps shocked the world. Before 10th Group arrived, an average of 450 refugees perished daily, with 70 percent being children. In two weeks time the rate was approximately 15-20 per day and of these, only 28 percent were children. 10th Group had made the difference.
The basic operation was divided into three phases. Phase one provided immediate emergency relief with food, water and shelter. The intent was to make an accurate assessment of the situation and to organize Kurdish leadership. Phase two provided basic services. The ODA and ODB detachments performed many tasks and missions: pipe water from the mountains, organize food distribution and camp sanitation, service drop zones and landing zones, and coordinate with the multinational relief organizations. Additionally, they assisted in rendering medical treatment for the refugees. Phase three prepared and moved the refugees from their mountain camps into resettlement camps in Iraq or straight back to their own homes. Waystations built by 10th SFG(A), provided food, water and fuel, and limited medical help enroute...
As the video below shows, it was really about saving the families and the children:
The mission was a tough one - to provide humanitarian aid to over one million Kurdish Refugees in northern Iraq. The mission began with airdrops (food, clothing, tents, blankets, medicine) and soon launched missions taking supplies directly to the Kurds.
A UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopter flies over a small village in the Kurdish occupied security zone in northern Iraq. The helicopters and the crews from C Company 6/159th Aviation Regiment, Geibelstadt, Germany, are deployed to Diyarbakir, Turkey, in support of the operation Provide Comfort. (DoD photo by: SSGT. THEODORE J. KONIARES Date Shot: 1993-11-17).
To further stop Saddam from killing the Kurds, a northern No-Fly Zone was placed north of the 36th parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft would be shot down in the No-Fly Zone.
Photo from CIA Factbook
The No-Fly Zone was patrolled and kept "clean" by the USAF with fighters (F-15s) being supported by command and control aircraft (AWACS).
General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the hard work of the Provide Comfort Soldiers and Airmen:
For over 1,000 days, the pilots and crews assigned to Operation Provide Comfort flew mission after mission, totalling over 50,000 hours...
The mission continued for 3 years until the first Commander was due to reliquish command...
On April 14th, 1994, two Blackhawk helicopters were ready for take-off from Diyarbakir, Turkey. COL Jerry Thompson - one of the most respected officers and commanders in Special Forces - was changing command (or co-command as "command" of Provide Comfort was shared with Turkey). He decided to show his replacement, COL Mulhern, the lay of the land. At 0730, COL Thompson assembled 26 people that comprised important (command group) roles for the mission. He included French, British, and Turkish commanders and liaisons, and also brought along Kurdish para-military personnel and linguists.
The two Blackhawks were designated Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. Their first destination was Irbil, Iraq, but they would have to make a stop in Zakhu, Iraq (where the military part of Provide Comfort operated). There were plans to visit several other areas as well.
At 8:22AM, Eagle Flight departed Diyarbakir. They were headed East-Southeast for a "gate" into the No-Fly Zone. Per Standard Operating Procedure, the command group was split between Eagle-1 and Eagle-2 to ensure continuity of command if one helicopter went down.
At 9:21AM, Eagle Flight called the AWACS (callsign "Cougar"). They requested and were granted permission to enter the "gate" into the the No-Fly Zone.
At 9:24AM, Eagle Flight lands at Zakhu, Iraq.
At 9:35AM, two USAF F-15 fighters launched from Incirlik, Turkey. They were designated Tiger-1 and Tiger-2. Tiger-1 was the lead fighter with Tiger-2 as the wingman. Tiger Flight was headed to patrol the No-Fly Zone.
At 9:54AM, Eagle Flight calls the AWACS to report departure from Zakhu, Iraq, with a destination of Irbil, Iraq.
At 10:12AM, Eagle Flight enters mountainous terrain. It's Identification Friend or Foe system (IFF) failed.
At 10:20AM Tiger Flight passes through "gate" into No-Fly Zone.
At 10:22AM Tiger Flight picks up radar contact at forty nautical miles. No IFF reading occurs. Tiger-1 reports, "Cougar, picked up helicopter tracking northwest bound." AWACS says the area should be "clean".
At 10:25 AWACS responds that there are "hits there" in the No-Fly Zone - confirming Tiger Flight's radar contact.
Tiger Flight makes visual contact with Eagle Flight at five nautical miles.
At 10:28 Tiger-1 conducts a visual identification (VID) pass of the helicopters. "Cougar, tally 2 HINDS."
HINDS are Soviet Helicopters used by the Iraqi Armed Forces.
AWACS replied, "Copy two HINDS".
Tiger-1 then instructed Tiger-2 to make a VID pass.
Thirty seconds later Tiger-2 confirms, "Tally 2."
Tiger-1 to Tiger-2, "Arm hot."
At 10:30AM on April 14, 1994, Tiger-1 fired an AIM 120 (medium range air-to-air missle) at Eagle-2. Tiger-2 fired an AIM 9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missle) at Eagle-1.
The missles hit Eagle Flight with deadly accuracy. Tiger-1 confirmed the hits to AWACS, "Splash two HINDS."
Of the 26 team members of Eagle Flight, there were no survivors...
US Military: SSG Paul Barclay (SF Commo NCO) SPC Cornelius A. Bass (Eagle-1 Door Gunner) SPC Jeffrey C. Colbert (Eagle-1 Crew Chief) SPC Mark A. Ellner (Eagle-2 Door Gunner) CW2 John W. Garrett, Jr. (Eagle-1 Pilot) CW2 Michael A. Hall (Eagle-2 Pilot Command) SFC Benjamin T. Hodge (Linguist) CPT Patrick M. McKenna (Eagle-1 Pilot Command) WO1 Erik S. Mounsey (Eagle-2 Pilot) COL Richard A. Mulhern (Incoming Co-Commander) 1LT Laurie A. Piper (USAF, Intel Officer) SGT Michael S. Robinson (Eagle-2 Crew Chief) SSG Ricky L. Robinson (SF Medic) Ms. Barbara L. Schell (State Dept. Political Advisor) COL Jerald L. Thompson (Outgoing Co-Commander)
British Military: MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer) LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)
French Military: LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)
Turkish Army: COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander) LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer) LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)
Kurdish Partisans: Abdulsatur Arab Ghandi Hussein Bader Mikho Ahmad Mohammed Salid Said (Linguist)
USAF Photo: U.S. Military personnel inspect the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter (Eagle 2) in the Northern Iraq No Fly Zone during Operation Provide Comfort, April 16, 1994.
DoD photo MSGT MICHAEL J. HAGGERTY: The remains of 26 people were flown in for transportation to the U.S. Army Mortuary Center, Frankfurt, Germany. The 26 were killed in an accidental downing of two U.S. Army UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopters by U.S. AIr Force F-15C fighters in the northern Iraq "no fly zone". Standing in review was the Rhein-Main-Air Base color guard, they displayed the flags of the countries that mourn the loss of their citizens, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey.
I took this photo while visiting the Colonel (his story is an interesting one). He's near Mary Todd Lincoln's tomb on a slight rise over looking a beautiful part of Arlington...You can visit him and Barclay, Hodge and Bass at Arlington.
This is an annual Someone You Should Know (St. Patrick's Day Edition) post to celebrate an Irish soldier's sacrifice. Below is the story of Ian Malone - a young Irishman who bridged the divide between Ireland and England in life and death.
Ian died during the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003 doing what he wanted to do - Soldiering for his country. Below is his story, told expertly by Philip Watson of the Telegraph:
Lance Corporal Ian Malone died in an ambush on the streets of Basra in April last year. Throughout a long, hot Sunday, he and his armoured brigade had been pushing through the southern suburbs of Iraq's second city, flushing out enemy soldiers. While most of the regular Iraqi Army had fled, the streets and houses contained pockets of determined Fedayeen fighters, paramilitaries who remained loyal to Saddam Hussein.
Having reached the edge of the old city and achieved their objective of securing a university campus, Ian Malone and his colleagues had left their Warrior armoured personnel carrier, and were regrouping. They had scoured the area and, in the dusty shade of dusk, all seemed safe.
In an instant, however, two Fedayeen in civilian clothes broke cover and sprayed the crew with automatic fire. Four soldiers were hit. Ian Malone took two bullets - one through the neck, the other in the head - and died instantly, becoming one of 55 British soldiers killed in Iraq in the past year.
What made the 28-year-old Lance Corporal remarkable, though, apart from the peerless qualities that all who knew him instantly recognised - he was a thinker and philosopher; courteous and religious; a talented chess player and musician; an exceptional soldier; and, as his school chaplain said at his funeral, not macho but manly - was that Ian Malone was an Irishman fighting for the British Army.
Many have found in Ian Malone's life and death something profoundly symbolic: the notion that he represents the continuing spirit of progress and reconciliation between Britain and Ireland...
Men of Harlech stop your dreaming, Can’t you se their spearpoints gleaming?
I remember this day.
It started like any other day, as I got in early to work at NASA. Part of my morning duties included checking various newsfeeds and related things, and when the first report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center, I remember wondering if it was a small plane and how such could have happened. Then came other reports, including an early one of an explosion at the Pentagon, and it was then I knew nothing was an accident, and I made the calls duty required.
I remember the shock that went through our office, and the building, and my efforts to get any information possible. I remember the much needed laugh when I confirmed that the President was airborne, and Air Force One was in National Emergency Airborne Command Post mode (that’s not just limited to the E-4s). My public shorthand called out to my manager that the President was KNEECAPed caused someone who shall remain nameless to think that an attacker had hit the President in the kneecap with a baseball bat…
I remember watching the news on televisions in various conference rooms, and the horror that ran through all when it was realized that it was not debris falling from the upper floors. Of learning more about the Pentagon, of tales of planes down elsewhere, and the command to land all planes now. Of wondering and worrying about people I knew at both locations.
I remember being ordered to evacuate, and driving home still in shock, angry, sad, and more. We knew we had been hurt, and that far too many were dead; but, we still didn’t know the true toll. Our thoughts had turned towards survivors, and I knew that around the country Nightingales were prepping to fly to New York to take survivors to selected burn and trauma centers around the country. Would to God they had been needed.
I remember the dust still caking the streets and buildings of lower Manhattan, and the smell of baked lime (chemical, not the fruit) and burnt sweet pork. Of being embarrassed by having an NYPD lieutenant drive me around to a day full of meetings. Of learning how he had barely survived both collapses, as he ran towards the trouble to help. Of being taken to Ground Zero, and watching the boots slowly melt off the workers as they searched their search. Of a young NYPD officer who made sure I saw the Statue of Liberty “while it’s still here” even as we checked out a report of a possible body in the river.
Today, I remember all that and more. Today, I remember Rick Rescorla, who’s preparations, quick thinking, and defiance of official orders allowed him to save 2,700 lives. I remember that he, along with members of the NYFD, died going back in and up, to try to save more.
Today, I remember the dead. Please remember and honor the 2,977 killed (no, not including the terrorists in that number, fuck them), and the more than 6,000 injured.
As for me:
I have not forgotten
I will not forget
I do not forgive
The war began before 9-11. It is not over. It has just barely begun.
At the request of Tiny who served with this fallen hero, today we pay tribute to a brave leader of the SAS...Captain Gavin John Hamilton who is someone that you should know.
The Captain entered service an infantry officer in Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment). He served in Cyprus, Belize and South Armagh in Northern Ireland before passing selection and assignment to the SAS in 1981. After 5 months in the SAS, in recognition for his professionalism, he was given command of 19 (Mountain) Troop, D Squadron, 22 Special Air Service (SAS). They soon headed to the Falklands to defend/take back the islands from the invading Argentinians.
In the Spring of 1982, Captain Hamilton led his troop into the raid on Pebble Island which resulted in the destruction of eleven grounded FMA IA 58 Pucará and T-34 Mentor enemy aircraft.
Having survived two helicopter crashes in appalling weather conditions on the Fortuna Glacier in South Georgia during Operation Paraquet, two days later Captain Hamilton led the advance elements of the forces which captured the main Argentine positions in Grytviken. This action resulted in the total surrender of all enemy forces in South Georgia.
Helo crash on Fortuna Glacier. Source: http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/southamerica/falklands/falklandswarfortunaglacier.htm
On June 5th, 1982, five Four man SAS patrols were inserted onto West Falkland to observe and report the movements of the two large Argentine garrisons on West Falkland. Because he had proved himself to be a excellent SAS officer during Operation Paraquat and the raid on Pebble Island, Captain Hamilton commanded one of these patrols behind enemy lines.
On the 10th of June, Hamilton and his four man patrol were using a well established OP near Port Howard when they were surrounded and out numbered by Argentine forces from the 1st Section 601 Combat Aviation Battalion. Two SAS men managed to get away but Hamilton and his signaler, Sergeant Fosenka, were pinned down. Hamilton was hit in the back by enemy fire and told Fosenka to get out while he covered him. "You carry on, I'll cover your back."
Moments later Hamilton was killed. He was 29 years old.
Sergeant Fosenka was later captured when he ran out of ammunition. Fosenka was not badly treated by the Argentines and Hamilton was buried with full military honors by the Argentines. The senior Argentine officer praised the heroism of the SAS officer.
Hamilton was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Some think he should have been given a VC. But because no British Officer was present during this action (apart from Hamilton himself ) no VC was awarded...
Captain Gavin John Hamilton, The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment)
Between 19th April and 10th June, when he was killed in action, Captain Hamilton and his SAS Troop were responsible for some of the most successful SAS operations carried out in the campaign in the South Atlantic.
Having survived two helicopter crashes in appalling weather conditions on the Fortuna Glacier in South Georgia, two days later Captain Hamilton let the advance elements of the forces which captured the main enemy positions in Grytviken. This action resulted in the total surrender of all enemy forces in South Georgia.
Ten days later, Captain Hamilton led his Troop on the successful and brilliantly executed raid on Pebble Island in the Falklands Islands when eleven enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Acting quickly and decisively and with great courage and coolness, he personally supervised the destruction of seven of the aircraft.
Later, even though his Troop had lost half of its strength in a helicopter crash the previous day, Captain Hamilton led the remainder of his men on a highly successful diversionary raid on Darwin in order to cover the main amphibious landings on East Falkland. That he was able to do this after such losses is an immense testimony to his resilience and leadership qualities.
Next, Captain Hamilton deployed with his Squadron to a position 40 miles behind the enemy lines overlooking the main enemy defensive positions in Port Stanley. Again, his leadership and courage proved to be instrumental over the next seven days of continuous operations in seizing this vital ground from which the attack on Port Stanley was ultimately launched. On 27th May he identified an enemy probe into the Squadron position and in the ensuing battle captured a prisoner of war. The next night, he and his Troop successfully held off another enemy attack and by doing so enabled 42 Commando to fly in as planned to re-inforce the position - an important step in the repossession of the Falklands. On the following day he ambushed another enemy patrol wounding three and capturing all five members of the patrol.
On 5th June, he was deployed in command of a four man observation patrol into a hazardous position again behind enemy lines on West Falkland to carry out observation of enemy activities in Port Howard. He managed to establish himself in a position only 2500m from the enemy, from where he sent detailed and accurate reports on the enemy.
Shortly after dawn on 10th June he realised that he and his radio operator had been surrounded in a forward position. Although heavily outnumbered, and with no reinforcements available, he gave the order to engage the enemy, telling his signaller that they should both attempt to fight their way out of the encirclement. Since the withdrawal route was completely exposed to enemy observation and fire, he initiated the fire fight in order to allow his signaller to move first. After the resulting exchange of fire he was wounded in the back, and it became clear to his signaller that Captain Hamilton was only able to move with difficulty. Nevertheless, he told his signaller that he would continue to hold off the enemy whilst the signaller made good his escape, and then he proceeded to give further covering fire. Shortly after that he was killed. Captain Hamilton displayed outstanding determination and an extraordinary will to continue the fight in spite of being confronted by hopeless odds and being wounded. He furthermore showed supreme courage and sense of duty by his conscious decision to sacrifice himself on behalf of his signaller.
His final, brave and unselfish act will be an inspiration to all who follow in the SAS.
Local residents of the Normandy, France, region, release paper sky lanterns June 5, 2015, to commemorate those who died here on D-Day, at a place the Allied Forces named Utah Beach for the invasion of an occupied France, 71 years ago. More than 380 American service members from Europe and affiliated D-Day historical units are participating in the 71st anniversary as part of Joint Task Force D-Day 71, June 2-8, 2015. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski
On Sunday, they came again, bearing Memorial Day bouquets for men and women they never knew, but whose 8,300 headstones the people of the Netherlands have adopted as their own.
For the American relatives of the fallen, it was an outpouring of gratitude almost as stunning as the rows of white marble crosses and Jewish Stars of David at the Netherlands American Cemetery. Each grave has been adopted by a Dutch or, in some cases, Belgian or German family, as well as local schools, companies and military organizations. More than 100 people are on a waiting list to become caretakers.
Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz, from Nebraska, served as a UH-1Y pilot and aviation safety officer with HMLA-469.
Lukasiewicz received his commissioned on March 28, 2008. He deployed to Afghanistan, with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and to Nepal.
Lukasiewicz was featured in a Marine Corps video about relief efforts in Nepal posted days before the helo accident. He described how they delivered rice, potatoes and tarps to remote areas devastated by the earthquake.
This is an annual repost honoring Casey Sheehan who gave his life in a fight to save his brothers...
Casey Sheehan grew up in a devout Catholic home. He served as an altar boy and then as a key member of his church's youth group for years.
When he was old enough, Casey joined the Boy Scouts, becoming the very second Eagle Scout out of his troop.
He enlisted in the Army when he was twenty years old. He decided to be a mechanic. He would undergo Combat Lifesaver training - a class on how to give IVs and treat trauma only second in intense learning to combat medic training. He was also certified to assist with giving communion to soldiers while in the field.
Specialist Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army in 2004 knowing full well that he could be sent into a combat zone.
Casey Sheehan was a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.
On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million). They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight. Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy. And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics. His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.
American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.
On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash. Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city. They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.
A battle raged across Sadr City. Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets. Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying. While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.
Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers. Sheehan had just returned from Mass. After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission. According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."
The QRF was launched. Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles. The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.
Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.
Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed.
A second QRF was formed - all volunteers - to go rescue the first. Specialist Ahmed Cason was hit in the second QRF - but kept fighting until he bled to death.
They were Spc. Robert R. Arsiaga, Spc. Ahmed Cason, Sgt. Yihjyh L. "Eddie" Chen, Spc. Stephen D. Hiller, Spc. Israel Garza, Cpl. Forest J. Jostes, and Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell.
It was Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday commemorates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. Back then, the palm frond was a symbol of victory - laid beneath the feet of those of the highest honor and triumph. Some believe it was this honor fit for a king that forced Jesus's enemies to act and crucify him.
In recognition of Casey, the Catholic Chapel at Fort Hood, Texas (where Sheehan was stationed) named the Knights of Columbus chapter the "Casey Austin Sheehan Council".
Casey also received the Bronze Star for his Valor that day.