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November 2004

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday, the Midwest got clobbered with a snow storm.  We only received a couple of inches here, but it was enough to cover the trees on my street.  Below is the picture that I took while looking out of our living room window - I was contemplating shoveling the driveway versus waiting for the snow to melt.


Proud Thanks by Russ Vaughn

Proud Thanks

Across the world, in far off lands,

On heaving seas, on desert sands,

You serve our flag, you guard, you fight,

Make despots quake and fear our might.

You show the world a fearsome face,

But do it with a noble grace.

The same steel fists that man the guns,

Unfold in kindness to little ones.

How can you warriors fight through the night,

Then hand out food when comes the light?

Unlike other armies, you American G.I.’s

Are not viewed with fear by civilian eyes.

Other nations see this and are amazed

Not us, we know it’s how you’re raised.

Wherever you serve, the world can see,

You’re the fine result of our democracy.

On this day of grace we send our prayer,

And give proud thanks to you everywhere.

Russ Vaughn

2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment

101st Airborne Division

Vietnam 65-66

That’s The Way They Were Raised

While surfing through websites for information on my old unit, the 101st Airborne Division, I ran across a quote by a reporter, who was embedded with the 101st in Iraq during the invasion. In his tribute to the young troopers he served beside, he marveled at how they could fight Iraqi forces so ferociously through the night, then spend their days handing out food and medicine to Iraqi civilians. The reporter observed that Stephen Ambrose, historian and author of “Band of Brothers,” another tribute to the Screaming Eagles, but those of an earlier war, had this to say about American troops,

    "When soldiers from any other army, even our allies, entered a town, the people hid in the cellars. When Americans came in, even into German towns, it meant smiles, chocolate bars and C-rations.”

The reporter followed that quote with two sentences of his own which I find truly moving and profoundly insightful,

    “Ours has always been an army like no other, because our soldiers reflect a society unlike any other. They are pitiless when confronted by armed enemy fighters and yet full of compassion for civilians and even defeated enemies.”

Those words should be chiseled into granite on a prominently displayed memorial somewhere, because they speak a great truth, not just about our fighting men and women, but also of the nation and society that molded them.

As a former combat infantryman, I will wager that for every single occurrence of violence and mayhem reported from Iraq, there are hundreds of acts of kindness and generosity by American forces, which go unreported. And that’s fine because that’s as it should be. Their compassion shouldn’t be remarkable. They do it, quite simply, because that’s the way they were raised, and they don’t change just because they put on battledress uniforms and become proficient with deadly weapons.

I am so proud of those young Screaming Eagles serving in Iraq, and proud to be a part of that fine unit’s legacy. I’m proud, as well, of all the other young servicemen and women who are contributing to the effort to create peace and build a democracy in Iraq.  But, Folks, I am most proud of being just one of you, a nation and a way of life, that creates such valiant yet kindhearted warriors. We should all be proud of what we’ve produced.

Russ Vaughn

2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment

101st Airborne Division

Vietnam 65-66

Thanksgiving in Fallujah - Emails Home

Via Seamus and Gunny Gregory come a few emails sent home from Marines in Fallujah.  The Marines only have about a minute to fire off emails home.  These were sent at 5am CST today.

The first is from Marine Corporal Joel Yeager who happens to be General Chuck Yeager's grandson.

How's everyone doing, well i I cant complain  much here cause i'm out of the city right now. Im pretty sure im going back in tomorrow for about two weeks but the marine corps loves to change their mind all the time so that will probably change. We did some pretty crazy stuff and about pissed my pants a few times. Ill have some good storys for all of you when i get back. The first few days were pretty ruff cause we really didnt sleep and we didnt have any food. By the time i got my first mre it was the greatest meal i had ever had. well at least i thought it was. Pretty much we just stormed through the city and searched every house one by one. We found tons of weapons and ied making materials. I got to blow a alot of it up. Also we ended up in the building were they have been doing those executions over the internet, it was weird that we ended up in that same building. I'm attached to 3/5 Lima Co. 3rd plt. So if you here anything about 3rd plt or lima co. im probalby right there. our path was threw what was supposed to be the hardest area but i dont think it was that bad. I was the only engineer with my squad. i had alot of weight on my shoulders but when all was said and done they were very happy wih all i did. Except one of the first things i blew up was a safe. I was just supposed to blow the door off the safe so they could see what was in it. Well i got a little into the moment and used 4 times the amount of c4 i should of used and ended up blowing the whole house up. They gave me a hard time about it but luckily they laughed it off. There was alot of things i did that i could of been hurt really bad but thanks to everyones prayers back home i made it out ok. i need to go but ill try to write again when i can.
Joel Yeager      

If for some reason you didn't visit the Greenside to read LtCol Bellon's description of Fallujah (linked to it a few days ago), LtCol Bellon mentions the heroics of Corporal Yeager:

...I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet.  I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred.  No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5.  His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson).  As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door.  As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out.  The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg.  He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway.  Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover.  As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway.  Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety.  The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in.  He immediately entered the room following the second explosion.  He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine.  You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled.  Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in.   Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds...

Of course, Corporal Yeager doesn't mention that except that he has lots of stories to share once he gets home. He also requested candles that smell like the holidays (ie Thanksgiving) to remind him of home.  Don't worry about sending him candles, his family is already handling that request. 

The next email is from Marine Sergeant Jason Talmadge:

Family and friends, I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm alive and doing well. The past 2 weeks has been very challenging and nerve racking as we attacked the city of Fallujah. I am back at the base right now for a couple days of R and R. I don't know how long I will be back out there for so that's why I am writing one big letter. I want to thank everyone for their prayers as God truly seemed to be with us out there. Out of my platoon we only had one Marine go down with multiple gun shot wounds. He is doing well and already back in the states. He took one shot to the arm and one to the leg while being ambushed by six insurgents. I say that because there is no way he should be alive and to only get hit twice and where they landed was a true blessing. He was a part of my team so we were down to only 3 men. My men rose to the occassion and picked up the load and performed beautifully in combat. Again, God is good and he takes care of his own. I know it's not over and we have a long way to go until March, but it was a great step for americans as the total number we killed was around 1800 insurgents and muslim radicals. Thank you for your continued support and prayers for myself and the rest of the Marines and soldiers, fighting on little rest and food, to make America a safer place. For the people who don't think we should be here, I would rather fight and destroy them and their cities here than allow them to penetrate American soil and do it on our homeland. Take care everyone I Iove you all - Jason Talmadge/ Sgt USMC

So there you have two emails from extraordinary Americans who just survived one of the toughest battles anyone will ever face.  I won't draw conclusions for you about them - if you read the emails, you can do that for yourself.  Be thankful for Marines like Yeager and Talmadge.

Petty Officer Jose Ramirez - Someone You Should Know

    "I will shoot if I have to. I have shot at people, but that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to save lives." - Petty Officer Third Class Jose Ramirez

I've featured Corpsmen (Navy medics assigned to Marine units) before in the Showdown (Battle for Fallujah) posts.  Now, Tom D. sends this article from the Washington Post about a Corpsman's duties during the assault on Fallujah.

Medics Testify to Fallujah's Horrors

Navy Corpsmen Treated Unusually Devastating Injuries at Field Hospital

By Jackie Spinner

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2004; Page A15

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The first time Jose Ramirez saw a human body ripped apart by a rocket, it took hours for him to regain his composure. Nothing in his training as a Navy medical corpsman had prepared him for the sight of the dead Marine brought in September to the military field hospital outside Fallujah.

"I walked around in shock," said Ramirez, 26, of San Antonio, a Navy petty officer third class attached to Bravo Surgical Company. "I've seen people die before on the emergency room table. But what I was trying not to do, what I was trained not to do, is look at the patient with tunnel vision. It reminded me that I had to get prepared."

Two months later, when the first wounded American and Iraqi troops arrived at the hospital after storming Fallujah, Ramirez had braced for the worst

"It doesn't hit me when I'm working on a patient. But after we're cleaning up, and I see the blood on the floor or I see someone bagging a piece of arm or leg, I know it's going to be in my mind for the rest of my life," Ramirez said.

Fifty-one U.S. troops have been killed and 425 wounded since the ground assault on this insurgent stronghold began on Nov. 8. Although U.S. commanders say they control the city, Marine units are still going door to door to root out the remaining fighters, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Continue reading "Petty Officer Jose Ramirez - Someone You Should Know" »

Mosque Shooting - Defense Fund for Marine

I have received many, MANY emails with requests for me to set up a fund for the defense of the Marine involved in the shooting.

Right now, as I understand it, the Marine has NOT BEEN CHARGED with any crime.  The Mosque Shooting is under INVESTIGATION.  The investigation will determine whether the Marine will be prosecuted or not.

If charges are filed, the name of the Marine should be released, and then we can talk about helping him.  And help him, we will!

I appreciate everyone's concern.  Right now, that Marine needs prayers and support.  The two things that you could do right now is pray and write a letter to your editor (of your local paper).

Intelligence Reform Bill

I've had quite a few emails asking for a comment on this topic.  Right now, according to the Main Stream Media, the bill was quashed by Senators with a concern for the intelligence needed for war fighters.  The bill will be looked at again in a few weeks.

General Richard Myers sent a letter to Congressman Hunter opposing some of the bill's reforms.  I doubt that the letter sent by General Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, would have been crafted without Rummy's approval, knowledge or influence. 

First, Intelligence is expensive.  Those in control of the budgets for intelligence don't want to relinquish their authority.  In Washington, money equals power. 

Second, the military looks at Imagery Intelligence differently than other Civilian agencies.  I was an Intelligence Officer working for the Defense Intelligence Agency so I'm a bit biased.  I spent some time with the NSA and NIMA (the mapping agency) and even the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  I'm limited in what I can discuss because I signed many agreements that I would never discuss any information regarding my missions - the new agreements are for 70 years or your lifetime (whichever is longer).  I know that sounds funny, but that's the deal.

What I can say is this:

1.  I led teams of imagery analysts (called Squints) that looked at information gathered from various means - but mostly from satellites. 

2.  I spent a lot of time fixing errors made by a certain sister civilian agencies in this area.  In fact, once we began working, we were given more things to fix.  For example, certain landmarks may be important to the DIA but not the CIA.  When Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady was shot down over the Balkans, his handlers tried to use intel based on information garnered from satellites to guide him out ("follow the power lines to the main road then turn east").  The landmarks were all wrong, and O'Grady almost paid the price for it.

3.  Getting a "tasker" - a DOD satellite on target to see what is happening - basically takes an act of god (or the SecDef).  It's difficult enough to change satellite trajectories.  But try getting a tasker from a sister agency, no matter what the mission, and you will get nowhere.  The different agencies may seem to play nice, but their priorities are not the same.  If the estimates or intelligence have already been created, they might be shared. But if you are talking about giving up a resource to help a sister agency, forget it.  They are not motivated to really share new intelligence capabilities and resources. 

Therefore, the warfighters do need to have some automony when building intelligence estimates (what we believe) and prioritizing intelligence requirements (what we need to know).  The guidance for these elements needs to come from the SecDef.  The Intelligence Reform Bill proposes that the new Director of National Intelligence would be responsible for combining both resources.

Bottom Line:  Reform is needed.  People need to be held accountable for bad intelligence.  Priorities for intelligence - both Civilian and Military - need to be sorted out and supported.  The White House version of the Intelligence Reform Bill addresses this issue.  While I worry about the support the warfighters will get, I think that, overall, the bill is a great idea and should be enacted as received from the White House - that version included a "guidance" role for the SecDef in establishing priorities.

And while you may find the above interesting, the real reason that the bill was killed was because of it's immigration policy changes - not because of General Myers' opposition.  Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) opposed the bill for two days because of immigration issues.  As a country, we need to determine:  (1) do we need a National ID, (2) should illegal aliens should be able to get Driver's Licenses (because some states give them to illegal aliens and, having a Driver's License grants citizens rights that non-citizens should not have - buying firearms being just one issue), and (3) should we REALLY address our borders and port security more seriously?  All have costs and benefits, and all will cost enormous sums of money in one way or another.

Ohio Patriot Plan - Update 5

This is a request from LtCol (ret.) Steve Lynch who is assisting the effort in taking care of our deployed military from Ohio.  Many of you have made a difference, but now we need more help.  Here's what Steve is asking for:

This is an update on the Ohio Patriot Plan and a request for some additional help.  Back in February & March, you were kind enough to post info re the Ohio Patriot Plan (aka House Bill (HB) 426) - www.blackfive.net/main/2004/02/help_protect_ve.html.

The posts generated lots of supportive e-mails, phone calls and letters - all of which led to the legislation passing its first stage - the Ohio House of Representatives gave it a unanimous vote of support.  Now we are at Stage Two - the Ohio Senate.

I just learned that the Ohio Patriot Plan (aka HB 426) will be considered by the Ohio Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on November 30th of this year.  If it doesn't get out of committee, it has no chance of becoming law anytime soon, if at all.  On the other hand, if it is endorsed by the committee, it has a great chance of becoming law - soon.

I am writing to see if you could get the word out (again) about the upcoming hearing, and urge posters, bloggers and readers to voice their support for the bill to the Ohio State Senators on the committee (listed below).

The bill sponsor (Rep Peter Ujvagi, 614-644-6017, POC: [email protected].us) has asked that we get as many e-mails, letters and faxes as we can to the Senator's on the committee BEFORE the hearing.  I've included committee member names, mailing addresses and e-mail addresses below.  I've also attached a petition for folks to sign and a summary of the bill.   If we can do the same thing with the Senate, that we did with the House in the spring, we have a good chance to get a law in place soon that can help thousands of military personnel from Ohio and their family members.

With this being Thanksgiving week, one great way to ay "thank you" to those from Ohio serving in uniform, is to help gain passage of the bill.

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I am a retired AF Lt Col now living in Ohio (near Cleveland) who believes strongly in what you are doing. 

Please let me know, if you need more info from me.  Many many thanks.


Steve Lynch, Lt Col, USAF (ret)
C: 216-214-4545

Members of the Ohio Senate Committee on State and Local Government and Veteran's Affairs

Sen. Dan Brady, Senate Building, Room #056, Ground Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215 614/466-5123, Senate District 23 (Cleveland) [email protected]

Chairman Kevin Coughlin, Senate Building, Room #137, First Floor, Columbus,Ohio 43215, 614/466-4823, Senate District 27 (Cuyahoga Falls)kcoughli@mailr.sen.state.oh.us

Sen. Bob Gardner, Senate Building, Room #042, Ground Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215, 614/644-7718, Senate District 18 (Madison) [email protected]

Sen. Larry Mumper, Senate Building, Room #039, Ground Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215. 614/466-8049, Senate District 26 (Marion) [email protected]

Sen. Robert Schuler, Statehouse, Room #221, Second Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215, 614/466-9737, Senate District 7 (Cincinnati), [email protected]

Sen. Kimberly Zurz, Senate BuildingRoom #057, Ground Floor, Columbus, Ohio, 43215, 614/466-7041, Senate District 28 (Kent) [email protected].us

Sen. Tom Roberts, Senate Building, Room #048, Ground Floor, Columbus, Ohio, 43215 614/466-6247, Senate District 5 (Dayton), [email protected]

I'll repost the Ohio Patriot Plan in the Extended Section.  For those of you who live in Ohio, here is the petition form that you can save and print to gather signatures to help push this bill out of committee: Download Ohio Patriot Plan petition.doc

Continue reading "Ohio Patriot Plan - Update 5" »

Finally! Silent America Is Published!

Bill Whittle has his book - Silent America - for sale.  It includes fourteen of his amazing essays.

For those of you not familiar with Eject! Eject! Eject!, Bill's writings over the last few years were partly responsible for getting me into this new fangled blogosphere thing.  I still remember about two years ago when a co-worker asked me if I had read Eject! Eject! Eject! (I think it was the essay Freedom that he was referring to).  After reading everything that I could find there, I found other blogs (via the blog roll) like the Rottweiler, Lileks, Den Beste, Rachel Lucas, IMAO, and Cold Fury.  And then I was hooked.  Absolutely hooked.

History is (and always has been) my favorite.  All of Bill Whittle's essays are some of the finest writing you'll ever read.  Period.

Another Way to Help

Brian, a Naval Officer, sends this first hand report. If you do buy some service member dinner, try to do it anonymously as you might embarrass them otherwise.

Matt, I live in suburban Washington, DC. I’ve been in the Navy 29 years; 12 enlisted (hospital corpsman), 17 commissioned (Medical Service Corps). Got a few more to go…

But anyway, I’m up at the National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda) yesterday for a post-op check on some back surgery I had on Monday. My sister, who’s a State Farm agent in the Midwest, has sent me a few hundred phone cards to pass out to the Marines and sailors in the hospital, so I’m making rounds on all the wards, giving them to the nurses to pass around. There’s some great work getting done there (and at every other military hospital), but that’s for another story.

<...> As we’re having dinner at a nice little eatery up the street, I spot a young Marine I’d seen at the hospital a little earlier. He’s an inpatient, just back from the shit; still sporting the wristband and wearing his hospital pajamas under a windbreaker. He’s lost an eye, a good-sized patch of his cheek and who knows what else. My guess was that the couple he’s eating dinner with are his folks, but I’m wrong.

I pop over to check on him, thank him for his service and subsequently find out the following. They aren’t his parents. His parents live in California and wouldn’t be getting in until tonight. These folks had driven down from Philadelphia for a week, on their vacation time, to visit the troops in Walter Reed and Bethesda. Every night, they’re taking a troop out for dinner, someone who’s able to ambulate and who doesn’t have family in the area. You could tell this meant everything in the world to the Marine, and, to them.

They have 7 of their own children, 2 still at home. The two at home are staying with friends. I got it immediately (I have a flair for the obvious)—they had taken vacation time from their jobs, farmed the kids out with friends, just to drive 300 miles on their own dime, to visit wounded American troops.

Jeez, I could hardly make it back to my table without spilling tears.

It gets better. I decide a good idea would be to pick up their check, so I call over the waitress. “Too late,” she says, “somebody else already has, but you’re the fourth person who’s offered.”

That, my friend, sounded pretty good to me. In fact, I hadn’t heard anything like it in 29 years in the Navy.

Listen, since you’re in a position to do so, how about encouraging your readers in the Metro DC area to call Walter Reed and Bethesda to see what they can do to help out this holiday season? I’m opening my home to any family member who needs a place to stay while in town. The Navy Lodge and the Fisher House are full up through the New Year, so this might be well-received.

Thanks for all you do.


Brian makes an excellent point. My wife and I recently bought four Marines lunch at PJ Clarke's (after a parade here in Chicago) and talked them into a beer - they were in uniform and drinking "adult beverages" while in uniform is a BIG no-no; however, one of them was Irish and had parachutist wings (like another paratrooper that I happen to know very well...) - I knew I could wear that guy down. We tried to buy their lunch anonymously, but they were insistent on knowing who we were.  It actually embarrassed the waitress as she went back and forth between our tables making it obvious to the Marines who their friend was...I finally just got up and went over to their table.

If any family member of someone at a military hospital in the DC area would like to take Brian up on his offer, please email me.