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April 2004

Taking Chance Home

The following is Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's account of escorting the remains of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. It's a long and beautifully written and it deserves to be read in it's entirety. It's about Valor, Honor and Respect. Thanks to Jarhead Dad for sending it to me.

23 Apr 04 – The enclosed article was written by LtCol M.R. Strobl USMC who is assigned to MCCDC Quantico, VA and served as the officer who escorted the remains of PFC C. Phelps USMC from Dover AFB, DE to his home. PFC Phelps was assigned to 3d Bn, 11th Marines – an artillery unit functioning as a provisional infantry battalion during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 2. PFC Phelps was killed in action from a gunshot wound received on 9 Apr 04 during combat operations west of Baghdad. He was buried in Dubois, WY on 17 Apr 04.

chance
TAKING CHANCE

Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn’t know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him.

Over a year ago, I volunteered to escort the remains of Marines killed in Iraq should the need arise. The military provides a uniformed escort for all casualties to ensure they are delivered safely to the next of kin and are treated with dignity and respect along the way.

Thankfully, I hadn’t been called on to be an escort since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. The first few weeks of April, however, had been a tough month for the Marines. On the Monday after Easter I was reviewing Department of Defense press releases when I saw that a Private First Class Chance Phelps was killed in action outside of Baghdad. The press release listed his hometown—the same town I’m from. I notified our Battalion adjutant and told him that, should the duty to escort PFC Phelps fall to our Battalion, I would take him.

I didn’t hear back the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday until 1800. The Battalion duty NCO called my cell phone and said I needed to be ready to leave for Dover Air Force Base at 1900 in order to escort the remains of PFC Phelps.

Continue reading "Taking Chance Home" »


Big Mistake

Senator John Kerry is asking for trouble:

Kerry Questions Bush Attendance in Guard in 70's
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JODI WILGOREN
<...>
Mr. Kerry had previously declined to join other Democrats in raising questions about Mr. Bush's National Guard attendance record. But during a contentious interview on national television on Monday, when pressed on whether he threw away his Vietnam war medals in a protest in 1971, he defended himself and attacked the president.

"This is a controversy that the Republicans are pushing," Mr. Kerry said on "Good Morning America" on ABC. "The Republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me, and this comes from a president and a Republican Party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. I'm not going to stand for it."
<...>
"When they start questioning what I did or didn't do 35 years ago, or said, on a personal level, I'm going to fight back," he told NBC News. "If George Bush wants to ask me questions about that through his surrogates, he owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it."...

So I guess that makes Charlie Gibson a surrogate of President Bush?

Who believes that?!

The point here is that the medals/ribbons throwing and the awarding of Kerry's medals have about as much bearing on the campaign and election as President Bush's service in the National Guard.

For someone that is supposed to be comtemplative, this outburst doens't appear to be a smart move.

I think Kerry is getting rattled. Very rattled.


Operation Iraqi Freedom - Troop Morale Survey

Some of you may have seen this already. It's a report put together by Charles Moskos - a world famous behavioral scientist (Northwestern University) who did extensive work on the all volunteer force and Army behaviors over time. I'll just post the survey results without editorial.

Subject: FW: OIF Survey report

31 March 2004

To: General John P. Abizaid, Central Command

From: Charles Moskos

Subject: Follow-Up Report on Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)

This is a follow-up to the preliminary report on OIF dated 14 Dec 2003. Attached the tables of the OIF survey we conducted in December when in theater. The responses of our soldiers are much more positive than those usually reported in the media. Some highlights are given below.

1. The morale of the soldiers was higher than anticipated. In fact, junior enlisted and NCOs report almost identical morale as their WWII counterparts (table #17)! Not the officers though.

2. The survey data reinforce the interview data given in the preliminary report. Namely, reserve components had markedly lower morale than the active duty, BUT, the survey data show that RC lower morale is mainly due to the perception they are treated as second-class members of the Army (tables #3, #7, #8, #9), NOT with the mission itself (tables #1 and #2). This, in a sense, is good news because the problem is fixable. A listing of RC perceptions were covered in the preliminary report.

3. Compared to surveys conducted in earlier deployments in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, the OIF soldiers are more optimistic about what their mission will accomplish (table #15).

4. A significant percentage report that OIF had made them more religious and regularly attended religious services. The role of the chaplaincy is central to troop morale and one that ought be supported further (table #12).

5. An open-ended question asked for the most difficult thing of the mission (table #20). Leading complaints were separation from family and climate; no big surprises there.

I placed the report within the Extended Section of this post:

Continue reading "Operation Iraqi Freedom - Troop Morale Survey" »


Help The Marines - Part 4

donatebutton.jpgThe battle of the blogs has commenced. HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WAR - Please donate now!

US Marines seek to equip seven (7) television stations serving local communities within Al Anbar Province, Iraq. The Province includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. These stations will offer information that is more accurate and balanced than existing alternatives. The goal is to improve understanding between Americans and Iraqis, build trust and reduce tensions. Current TV news in Iraq often carries negative, highly-biased accounts of the U.S. presence. Unanswered, its effect is to stoke resentment and encourage conflict. The Marines seek to ensure the Iraqi people have access to better, more balanced information. By equipping local television stations and providing the ability to generate news and programming, the Marines will create a viable news alternative - one owned and operated by local Iraqi citizens.

Da Goddess has a very interesting item up for bid and a great post to go along with it. Anyone who talks about both *ahem* bras and Monty Python in the same post has my vote. Seriously.

Smash keeps putting things up for bid - the latest being deck of the most wanted cards with the Kuwait Embassy seal on them.

Sondra K. also has an official Ba'athist Party Notecard for auction. Check it out.


Ribbons and Medals and Real Heroes

Ribbons are representations of medals. Essentially, they are the same thing and for anyone, especially a Senator, to think otherwise is complete B.S. Charlie Gibson interviewed John Kerry this morning on Good Morning America:

...GIBSON: senator, i was there 33 years ago and i saw you throw medals over the fence and we didn't find out until later -

KERRY: no, you didn't see me throw th. charlie, charlie, you are wrong. that's not what happened. i threw my ribbons across. all you have to do -

GIBSON: the military makes no distinction between ribbons and medals but you are the one who made the distinction. in 1984 --

KERRY: no . we made no distinction back then, charlie. we made no distinction.

GIBSON: senator, i don't want -- i just want to ask the question. in 1984 when you were running for the senate, that was the first time that you called someone in from labor because they were upset that you had thrown ribbons away.

KERRY: no.

GIBSON: you called them and you made the distinction and said i didn't throw my medals away. i just threw the ribbons away. you made the distinction.
<...>
(via Instapundit - source Drudge Report)

If you want to understand why some of us veterans have so much blatent disregard for John Kerry, read this report of a Soldier (and member of the Warrior Caste) returning from Iraq (also via Instapundit):

Continue reading "Ribbons and Medals and Real Heroes" »


Santa Barbara

Of Chimichangas and Californians -

At one point, we sat down at nice restaurant to have lunch. All the groomsmen ordered some kind of healthy version of tacos or enchilladas. With the exception of a few of us, most are from LA or San Francisco. I ordered a steak chimichanga (a burrito that is deep fried).

The entire table had collective apoplexy. Seriously, they freaked out.

"You are gonna eat THAT?!"
"Oh boy, Matt, you own your organs now. Don't think about donating them."

So I asked our waitress if she could have it dipped in butter, too.

Silly Californians.

Of Politics and Patron -

I promised myself that I would not get into any political discussions on this trip. It was, after all, about celebrating the marriage of two wonderful people.

Every man should know his limitations (hat tip to Clint Eastwood). Mine is Tequila. Tequila brings out my evil twin. Don't know why, but it does. I avoid it at all costs. However, the groom's favorite drink is Tequila. He might even be considered an expert. So I drank tequila.

Unfortunately, I did get in a few civil arguments with some of the folks from overseas about the war in Iraq and, specifically, about the U.N.'s role. Once they found out that I was a veteran, they asked me a lot of questions about the War on Terror. So tequila'd up, I broke my promise. I summed up my concerns as this:

    Sure, the U.N. can (and should) have a role in the political aspects of rebuilding Iraq - like supervising elections. However, the biggest concern that I have is that the reconstruction will eventually be funded out of oil revenues.

    Are we supposed to trust an organization that siphoned ten billion (or twenty freaking percent) of Iraq's Oil For Food program?

    And the Europeans call us Imperialists?!

I think I convinced a few Americans about it. The Europeans didn't want to hear about it, though. I didn't get through to a single one. We just changed the topic of conversation to the weather.


Home!

I barely survived the weekend. Over the last 4 days, I have slept for maybe ten hours (and most of that was on the plane). Resting tonight. Back tomorrow. A few highlights:

Talked the groom into drinking Patron shooters at 2:30am...about seven hours from the wedding. We bribed the jazz quintet at the reception to play "Jump Around" by House of Pain. Yeah, I really know how to add class to an event....This story was told a few times as well as this one (Todd and another groomsman were there for that one). Todd's mom, Adele, kept introducing me as the man who got her husband blind drunk at Oktoberfest.

    Side story: My last memory of that night was our taking over for the band durning a break. We were actually leading the Spaten tent in John Denver's Country Roads:

    Matt, Todd, and Gordon: Country Roads

    1,000 drunk Germans: Take Me Home!!!!

    MTG: To the place

    1,000 drunk Germans: Where I belong!!!!

    After about eight hours of drinking, Gordon needed some down time. I wrote down the address to our hotel on a card and Todd dumped Gordon in a cab and sent him home. Adele was NOT pleased. Great lady with an extensive memory.

Santa Barbara was BEAUTIFUL. Had a mariachi cruise on Friday before the rehearsal. Three Words: Over.The.Top.

And thanks to Darren Kaplan for the excellent restaurant advice. The Bachelor Party was impressed with the choice.


Help the Marines! - Part 3

donatebutton.jpgThe battle of the blogs has commenced. HELP MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WAR - Please donate now!

The story: I've been recruited by the good Donovans at Castle Argghhh! for a blog-a-thon to raise money for the Marines around Fallujah. The MilBloggers are up against some of the biggest bloggers around. This one in particular (photo shamelessly stolen from Castle Argghh - hey John, if it ain't nailed down, GI's will steal it).

Here is a link to an update from the Donovans - complete with Wall Street Journal mention and a list of more and more recruits!

The Imperial Armorer She Who Will Be Obeyed The Imperial Animatrix Right Wingin-it! Loyal Reader Calliope! Un-named Left-of-Center Blogger Not Appearing in this blogroll* Triticale Darthvob A Soldiers Blog Practical Penumbra Road Warrior Rules for Survival Brain Shavings The Bejus Pundit! Blackfive - The Paratrooper of Love! Technicalities The Anti-Idotarian Rottweiler Democrats Give Conservatives Indigestion Bloodletting The Politburo Diktat The Mudville Gazette Geeklog The Common Virtue The Ghost of a Flea Grim's Hall Feste, A Foolsblog! LC Glen, Imperial Longbowman Dawn L, the Non-Commenting Commenter! Loyal Reader "Brass" Loyal Reader "Bill" (Constructive credit for already donating) Marine Corps Moms! Colorado Psycho Wasted Electrons Citizen Smash! A Special Kind of Stupid Aaron's Rantblog Da Goddess

Update 11AM CST 04-21-04: Just received an email from Jim Hake, founder of Spirit of America. Here is why your donations are important:

...We are pressing ahead with fundraising. We understand we're at the very beginning of the effort needed to achieve peace and stability in Iraq. The Marines and others serving in Iraq have made clear that all the support we can muster will greatly assist their efforts to win the peace. Rest assured we do not confuse success in donor support with the real results we all seek to achieve. The real work lies ahead. But the funding makes the results possible and we now have a great foundation to build upon.

We are now focused on delivering the basic equipment requested for the first seven stations. Thanks to you we will have everything at Camp Pendleton by next Thursday (April 29). That delivery will make it 21 days from receiving the Marines request to fulfilling it. You can imagine what a response like this means to those on the front lines whose lives are at risk...

Thanks to all who have contributed so far!