My thoughts and some of those I remember this Memorial Day are up at LaughingWolf.
For the first time on the National Mall, VVMF will have people read the names of each and every American service member who has made the ultimate sacrifice since the attacks on September 11, 2001. Americans from across the nation will join together to read the names of these heroes in the order they were taken from us.
The reading of the names begins on Saturday, May 24th, 0900 EDT.
What is Memorial Day really about? While we are busy gearing up for the weekend, I thought I should post this annual reminder about the holiday. It may surprise some of you.
If you are relatively new to Blackfive, you should read this story about a Memorial Day eleven years ago - Mathew Schram's Memorial Day. And, unfortunately, we've posted many memorials to our Fallen Americans.
The words to "Taps" are:
Day Is Done,
Gone the Sun,
From the Earth,
From the Hill,
From the Sky,
All Is Well,
God Is Nigh
When Taps is played at dusk, it has a completely different meaning than when Taps is played during the day. No soldier really wants to hear it played during daylight. For when the bugle plays Taps in the daylight...that means a soldier has fallen...There is a belief among some that Taps is the clarion call to open the gates of heaven for the fallen warrior and letting them know to "Safely Rest"...
Of course, Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices that our military men and women have made over the last 237 years. We are still a young nation, but one that has made many sacrifices to remain free. We should also take time to remember the families who have lost loved ones.
We have focused on just a few of the fallen over the last few years. I've lost good friends during the War on Terror. And I write about the others to ensure that we don't forget their sacrifices - I do that for me as much as for anybody.
I can't speak for the friends of the many others who have fallen, but for Mat, Cooter, and Mikey, I can say this:
It is important to remember them, and it is just as important to enjoy yourself this weekend. To spend time with your family and friends. Have a beer while grilling Wisconsin brats (Schram-bo!) in the backyard while watching your kids play tag.
What better assurance to them that they did not die in vain?
Enjoying your freedom and understanding it's value is the best way to honor the sacrifices of my friends.
That's the way they'd want you to spend Memorial Day.
Remembering them, and being a good friend, father, and an American is the best way that I can honor their memory.
I'll close with this heartfelt letter, written by Rick Kennedy, that I received via the late and great Corporal Seamus Garrahy about Taylor Prazynski - a Marine who was buried at Arlington nine years ago.
On Saturday morning May 21st I flew to Washington, D.C to meet my daughter Mary with grandchildren Calista and Lindsey, and her husband Joe Teller to drive with them to Chesterfield Virginia to attend a ballet recital for Callie that evening. Joe and Mary were in Washington for the burial services of Lance Corporal Taylor Prazynski USMC the 20 year old son of Joe’s cousin John Prazynski. Taylor was killed by enemy fire in Fallujah on May 9th while serving in combat with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, and 2nd Marine Division. Mary and Joe, along with 50 other family members attended the burial service for Taylor on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, and when I met them they remained emotionally overwhelmed and forever moved by the elegant display of military reverence, and efficiency at Arlington. They were deeply saddened by the loss of this young Marine.
Earlier in the week Taylor’s body arrived at the Greater Cincinnati Airport by commercial jet. All passengers were instructed to remain on the plane until Taylor’s body was removed by a contingent of Marines. A military helicopter followed the Marine vehicle as it motored to the funeral parlor. Police and fire trucks were stationed at the overpasses and along the highway and saluted at Taylor passed by. At the funeral parlor no civilian was allowed to touch the body. The Marines prepared the deceased...A Marine color guard followed by a rider less horse accompanied Taylor’s body down Ohio Highway 4 for funeral services at Fairfield High School gym. Over 1500 people were in attendance of the funeral service at the school where the young Marine graduated in 2003, and played football and ran track. Pastor Dave Workman of the Vineyard Community Church presided. He gave a sterling tribute to this fallen hero that gave his life to his country. The pastor praised Taylor for his work with the church’s youth group, and his volunteer work with a multiple-disabilities class while in high school.
At Arlington on May 20th, the seven pall bearers dressed resplendent in the Marine dress blues uniform marched with the flag draped casket with military precision. When they reached the gravesite they abruptly raised the casket above their shoulders for 30 long seconds, giving the fallen Marine salute, and then rested the casket on its conveyor belt support over the grave. The military chaplain in civilian clothes gave the last rites, and presented the family Taylor’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart Medal.
All seven Marines removed the American Flag from the casket. They raised the stars and stripes above the casket pulling the flag rigid like a drum. Then they tightly folded the flag step by step in a triangle with the ends tucked firmly in place. One of the Marines did an about face and presented the flag to the Marine Sergeant standing alone to the rear of the casket, and saluted the flag.. The Marine in charge carrying the flag proceeded to the seat of the father John Prazynski. The Marine knelt down and bowed his head and presented the flag to the grieving father as the final gesture of sympathy and appreciation by the United States Marine Corps for the brave service of this young Marine.
Seven Marines standing away from the proceedings fired their rifles in three volleys representing a 21 gun salute, and you could hear muffled screams of sorrow from the youth in attendance as a lone bugler in Marine dress blues played the sad haunting sound of “Taps’ that echoed across the green rolling plains of Arlington on to the endless stream of white stones in this section called” Iraqi Freedom”. This was the Marines way of sending a signal to God to open the gates of Heaven for the arrival of [Corporal] Prazynski who gave his life for his country and our fight against terror throughout the world.
And have a great Memorial Day.
You might have seen the announcement or even read the citation that will be presented with the Medal to Sergeant White. But you should go here to read about Kyle White's actions from someone who witnessed his uncommon valor under extreme conditions over at From Cow Pastures to Kosovo. Five paratroopers and one Marine lost their lives that day...it's certain that that count would be higher if it had not been for the actions of the platoon RTO.
It's worth your time to read.
"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 20th 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.
From the 10th Group's history page (emphasis is mine):
...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...
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.
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...
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)
MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer)
LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)
LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)
COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander)
LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer)
LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)
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 like I am today.
Please take a minute to pray for their families today and remember that their hard work and sacrifices led to a flourishing Kurdish enclave - a place they would be very, very proud of today. I don't think in our wildest dreams we ever thought that would have been possible.
We're just under 2 weeks away from our Arlington National Cemetery Missing Man Flyover for USMC 1st Lt Bruce Guetzloe. Things are shaping up but we still need help with fuel and operational contributions. Links are below the fold!
The line up will be Jim Tobul in his F4U Corsair, the type aircraft Lt Guetzloe flew in the south Pacific (off the USS Franklin) and in Korea. On either wing will be 2 P-51 Mustangs owned/flown by Andrew McKenna and Scott Yoke. Following will be 4 L-39 jets, with Sean "Flopper" Cushing flying lead, Scott "Buster" Clyburn on the left wing, Geoff "Hak" Hickman flying the pull jet at #3 and Art "Kaos" Nall on the right wing.
Here's a little bit of what it was like last September while waiting to be cleared for the fly-over:
Arlington Nat’l Cemetery Fly Over for MAJs Sizemore and Andre
The Turn In. We’d been in holding for probably 20 minutes or so near the NOTTINGHAM (OTT) VORTAC (a VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) beacon and a tactical air navigation system (TACAN) ) in southern Maryland, along the Patuxent River near the town of Nottingham. Andrews AFB was a bit to our north and the President was supposed to be heading out on AF1 at some point that morning. That had me/us worried that we may end up being an airborne scrub if he was delayed and the Secret Service wanted a sterilized air environment for his helo transit from the White House to Andrews. Flopper (my pilot) had made it known to the other L-29 aircraft during the brief that he had 53 fewer gallons of gas than they did because of the no tip-tank mod his aircraft had, so we had a bit more of a pucker factor than the other aircraft had in terms of holding time.
Tooling around in our holding pattern, 10 mile legs, inbound to the OTT VORTAC, we heard our controller slide our Time on Top (TOT) target from noon to 10 past to 20 past the hour, making the whole evolution a bit dicey in my mind. Not being too familiar with the L-39 fuel system, with its litres of fuel or whatever former communist fuel display system that jet had only added to the entertainment.
Finally though, we received the signal to “Push”, and all the aircraft, at their different holding altitudes, edged their noses to the northwest and began their inbound transit. It was going to work out fine after all.
Please consider contributing to our next Arlington Fly Over at IndieGoGo
or at the Warrior Aviation home page at:
Seventy years ago, 200 (plus) Allied airmen made a bid for freedom from a German prisoner of war camp. Seventy-three made it out, and only 3 got away. Seventy were recaptured, and fifty were murdered by the Gestapo. There's a small movie about it , and it is worth seeing though it is a movie and not a documentary. Take a moment today, to honor all those who were part of The Great Escape.
Ladies and gentlemen, officers and enlisted: The Fifty!
Sandstorms settled in the south
of that sour place,
and terror-men opened wide a mouth
etched in a hate-filled face.
The rifle-spit struck down Malone
and he in a moment gave
a life well-lived, alone,
to set men free of the grave.
In later days men drew down
statues from on high;
they struck Iraqi ground
so dust and cheer could fly.
What, one Irish fighting man
to free millions from cold chains?
Not noble words, not gracious plan
could make real such gains.
Or--Is our time so coy,
so wild and free a thing?
Not Harvey nor Kelly, boy
of Killarn, not the Brian King
Freedom bought at such a cost,
where glory's priced so steep:
Where the name of each good man lost
Can memory's Herald keep.
-Poem by Grim, April 10th, 2003, in honor of Ian Malone
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:
Ian's death brought people together
By Philip Watson
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...
Is this really the first time that this has happened?
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel greets French President Francois Hollande at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Feb. 11, 2014, before Hollande lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and presents the World Ward II Unknown with the French Legion of Honor, France's highest military award. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
French President Francois Hollande lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Feb. 11, 2014, as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, second from right, looks on and Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan salutes. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
French President Francois Hollande presents the World War II Unknown with the French Legion of Honor, France's highest military award, at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Feb. 11, 2014. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who participated in the ceremony, thanked Hollande for the honor. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
Amidst the chaos that is the world, we need to take a moment to reflect on the good and the profound. We need, I need, to call out some of the good even as I call out that which is not.
In the Netherlands, on "Liberation Day" there are memorial services across the country for the Allied troops who died in that liberation. Families still adopt graves of those troops, and maintain them in honor. At these memorial services, since 1965, the service concludes with the playing of "Il Silenzio". Beverly Perlson shared with me this amazing, no, astounding performance by a then 13-year-old Melissa Venema backed by the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands. As someone who played trumpet in high school, I tell you that what you are about to hear is the voice of an angel rendered through brass. Dust Alert.
A small bit of beauty and good to share with you today.