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May 2008

Promises to Keep


While Jonn is doing great work covering the Rolling Thunder in DC, I thought I would pen a poignant and thought provoking post for memorial Day.

At first I thought I would dedicate the post to someone I knew personally who is among those fallen warriors thant we should be thinking of this weekend.

This was no easy task as I thought of men like Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart; then I recalled Jonn's close friend Griz Martin.  Perhaps I would go even further back to guys like Randy Cline or Mark Rademacher?  The I considered someone more contemporary like Tom Echols who was my son's best friend through high school and gave his life in Fallujah.

Tough decision indeed.  So, I grabbed a beer and sat down and started a list.  I was surprised at how rapidly I recalled the names and saddened as the list grew longer…and longer.  Then something happened.

No, that’s just smoke in my eyes.

Please enjoy your weekend but please take a moment to reflect why we have a Memorial Day.

I watched a widow sit and weep,
But I came to kneel where warriors sleep.
I planted a flag beside the stone
And thought of glory far long gone.
I did not sit where she was weeping,
For we each have promises worth keeping.

Memorial Day: Remembering The Wounded

Given that we are at war, those wounded in this fight tend to be most on our minds. They deserve our thoughts, our efforts, and all we can give them. That said, as you travel around this weekend, look at that older gentleman with the hook on his harm, the one with the glass eye, and the one with the obvious false leg. Those might not have come from an industrial or other accident; but, rather, from service in liberating Europe or parts of the Pacific and Asia. Those older ones deserve no less thanks and it is more important than ever to give it to them now for they are -- alas -- a dying breed. My father and his brothers who fought in WWII are gone, and their fellows are now few and far between. This year especially, make the time to search them out, and thank them. Do for them all as you would do for any one.


The Tanker Babe Rib Challenge

The Tanker Babe fancies herself quite the BBQ chef and while I believe her I have to be me. So I challenge her to a rib cook-off. I will cook these today and then she can cook me a slab and I will make a fair decision as to which were most heavenly. Sounds fair eh? Actually Kev has been helping some friends remodel one of Madison's cooler bars, the Vintage, and they are opening tonight so I am bringing some smoky goodness for them. Here is the rib prep and the grilled sliders for last night's party.

Roundtables: Memorial Day Edition

We had two significant roundtables in preparation for Memorial Day.  The first is about a ceremony for Medal of Honor recipients at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.  If you might be in the area, read the transcript and see if you would like to get by.  Likewise, if you're just interested in what sounds like a fine museum about an interesting carrier -- the Midway served from the end of WWII until the Gulf War -- and an epoch in naval aviation.

We also spoke with Navy Captain Peter K. Dallman, commodore of the USS Boxer.  He gave us an update on Continuing Promise 2008, in which we are helping our neighbors in South America, including El Salvador.

You may remember this touching letter from a Salvadoran officer who served with us in Iraq.  Many of his brethren are currently out at FOB Delta in Al Kut, not far from the Iranian border.  He wrote:

The reason I volunteered is simple: there is a country in need. These people are going through a terrible burden. As you probably know, my country suffered for 12 years, going through that terrible cycle in our history. My country needed a helping hand, and your country, the United States, gave us that helping hand.

I think that if we can give just a small token of that solidarity back to that friend, it is so very worth it. So I know the feeling and if I can heal some of that, then count me in. If I had to come again, I surely would.

The Salvadoran soldiers are good people who want to 'pay it forward,' and to offer Iraq the same chance they have received.  Just as Iraqi soldiers may someday help to stabilize some future conflict, and help that country's people find their way out of war, so the Salvadorans are today ready to stand with us. 

And we with them, as brothers:

We're working side by side with the El Salvadorians. They have lots of docks and dentists right there in our clinics. And we're working side by side with the engineers at the site. And we're working very closely with their army to effect ground transportation and, you know, standard force-protection measures.... We've been very warmly received by both Guatemala and El Salvador. I think there certainly is a need here. And we also have learned much from the folks that we've been working with and treating. I would say there's been an overwhelming, sincere appreciation for our efforts and -- you know, our commitment to their countries and to their people. And that's been very gratifying and it's been constant and very visible that they've been very thankful for what we're trying to do here. We have been seeing on average 6 (hundred) or 700 patients a day total between dental, optometry and primary care. We saw over -- you know, close to five-and-a-half thousand primary care patients in Guatemala. We did -- we're up to 67 total surgeries for the deployment, handed out close to 1,000 glasses in Guatemala; over 2,000 optometry patients seen; close to 1,500 animals have been treated. So the work has been good. The Seabees have been busy. We worked on -- they worked on three schools, two culverts -- drainage ditches -- and then they re-route the church in Guatemala. And here in El Salvador, they're working on two schools, essentially, to basically get the school back up to where it can function in terms of running water, flushing toilets, working kitchen, a roof that's not going to leak and screens on the windows; lights and electricity standardized throughout the whole compound, things like that.

Just as in Thailand, where we were training to do good for people in future combined COIN operations by actually doing good for the citizens of an ally nation, so in El Salvador.  At peace, we train by helping our friends help their own.  At war, we join together to help the people among whom terrorists and murderers try to hide. 

There are worse ways to run a nation, and for a nation to engage the world.  This Memorial Day, we remember those who have paid the highest price for that mission, and honor all who have paid any price for it.

Memorial Day Book Suggestion


JOHN 15:13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

No Greater Love - Major General (Retired) Alfred Valenzuela

In March 2003, Major General Freddie Valenzuela presided over the funeral of Specialist Rodrigo Gonzalez-Garza, the first casualty of the Iraq War.  The young soldier was not yet a citizen of the United States and General Valenzuela wondered what motivated him and many others like him to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  No Greater Love answers this question and many more concerning the dedication of our servicemen and women, specifically Hispanic soldiers in the US military.

I have an interview scheduled with MG Valenzuela next week so check back in for a personal look into the heart of a great soldier and American.

Marines cleared regarding Afghanistan shooting

Last year on the first deployment of Marine Corps Special Ops overseas, a MARSOC unit was hit by an ambush  in Afghanistan. They returned fire and broke contact just as they are trained to. Afghani civilians were killed in the incident and local pressure on the command was high. They responded by empaneling a special tribunal to investigate and after reviewing the findings the command decided not to charge the men.

“Obviously, I am delighted about the findings,” said civilian attorney Knox Nunnally, who represented Noble before the Court of Inquiry. “From a legal standpoint, it was overwhelming that this was going to be the result.”

Update: Rej in forms me this lawyer is Knox pere' not the Knox I know. Good on ya' anyway sir.

The lawyer's name may be familiar to some of you, as Knox is a founding member of Vets for Freedom and was a tremendous host for us on the Heroe's Tour while we were in San Antonio and Austin this Spring. Congrats on a job well done Knox.

Memorial Day: Honoring The Fallen

He scarce had need to doff his pride or slough the dross of Earth -- E'en as he trod that day to God so walked he from his birth, In simpleness and gentleness and honor and clean mirth.

So cup to lip in fellowship they gave him welcome high
And made place at the banquet board -- the Strong Men ranged thereby,
Who had done his work and held his peace and had no fear to die.

Rudyard Kipling

This day, I choose to honor those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. We have highlighted some here, and as always we honor Major Mathew Schram. I have written before of my Uncle Foster who's body lies in the ocean off Japan, and others of my family for generations back lie also in graves unmarked and marked near battles at home and abroad.

I also want to honor Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris, USMC. No, I can't say I knew him much at all, for fate had other plans. I give thanks that Matt Maupin is home at last. I wish I could have met these men in the flesh, and that I had gotten to shake this man's hand.

For all those known and unknown, take a moment this day to remember them, to give thanks for them, and to reflect on what their service means to us all. Remember what will, choice comes to us all and service in many forms be paid.


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

Memorial Day - Thank You From Those Left Behind

Perhaps one of the most amazing things about our Fallen, But Never Forgotten series is that soldiers and family members leave messages about those who've given all.

From SSG Buehler about SPC Ross McGinnis (who saved his life):

SPC McGinnis was a great soldier and I am alive due to his sacrifice. I was the driver of the vehicle the day we lost Ross to a cowardly enemy. I thank God everyday for blessing me with the opportunity to serve with such a brave man. For those of you that think the award process is moving to slow just know that it is seen and evaluated by many people in our chain of command. I as well would like to see it ASAP. The award requires alot of diagrams, witness statements from all who were there, and those that approve and later send to congress need to see what happened in detail otherwise they would be giving awards based on word of mouth.

I agree with SSG Troy Smith, it is carefully looked over so that no fraudelant cases arise. I have no doubt in my mind that he will receive the nation's highest honor for his heroism. God bless his family and parents for raising such a wonderful person, soldier, friend, and brother!
Rest in Peace Ross.  Gone, but never forgotten!
I love you little brother.  Thank you for my continued life here on earth and I look forward to seeing you in heaven.

SPC Ross McGinnis will receive the Medal of Honor.

From Ken Hayes about Marine Major Doug Zembiec:

It was my honor and privilege to serve with you Sir you were the best leader any one could have ever had, with tears in my eyes I remember seeing tears in yours as we all mourned the losses of E co 2/1. in fallujah of 04 I will never forget those days Sir. with tears in my eyes now I mourn the loss of you, my Skipper, a man among men. our heart have suffered a great loss, I wished every one knew you. I dont know if I can make it to your procession but my heart cries out and goes to you your wife, daughter and family. As your Marine and brother I will always remember what you told us when we suffered a loss "we must keep fighting, we must keep going on, cause thats what they would do for us they would want us to keep fighting" I will keep fighting Sir. You will always be in my heart Skipper I love you brother. I am so sorry for your loss and words cannot express my pain Mrs Zembiec He was a Father to me in the most darkest times of my life he was the figure of hope for Echo company, My utmost resepct and Love goes to your Husband, you and your daughter, I will always be praying for you. It just breaks my heart so much.

From a post honoring SFC Callahan:

SFC Callahan, all i can say is that you will be missed. you lead me through the first invation into iraq and was my unwavering squad leader through good times and bad. your leadership helped make me the NCO that i am today. you tought me how to be a paratrooper and a professional. theres not a day that i don't think back to the Battle for Al Samawa and i can still hear you yelling at us in your squad "GET UP THERE" with you thick Boston accent.

you will be missed by all.


There's more in the series than I can post.

And, at Pundit Review Radio, our SYSK list includes comments from love ones.  I'll close with this one from Jason Cunningham's sister.  Jason made a decision on the side of a mountain that cost him his life, but saved many others, just like a PJ would:

My name is Lori Marquis I am the sister of Jason Cunningham who was recently featured on your show as ”Someone you should know” I have to say I am incredibly proud of Matt he really did his research on my brother and he got everything right and for that I truly Thank him. One of the classroom’s at Lackland AFB was recently named after Jason and that in itself meant so much to his family since the loss of him there have been many memorial’s and sites named after him and each time it is a truly amazing honor but I can not tell how much it meant to and sit and listen to your broadcast and share with the world what a great hero he was. I also think it is so awesome what you do with this segment everyday I watch the news and see a small bleep about a fallen solider my heart sinks for there family for I know the long road they face. So this broadcast is an amazing way to tell people that there son,husband,father or brother will not be forgotten Thank You so much for the comfort you bring to other’s this experinece with be with me forever…
Thank You
Lori (Cunningham) Marquis

Big changes here at Blackfive

I don't even know where to start, but maybe with the fact that my full time job is now Executive Producer of Blackfive TV. Now that over-blown title I gave myself means we have some video projects on the way that are quantum leaps from what we've done before. We have sponsors coming on board next month and the Op Red Wing tribute just keeps getting bigger. I will put together a list of all the things we have going on this summer, but it looks like we will be kicking off in Denver for the 4th of July. The Traveling Vietnam Wall will be there and our own Wolf is part of the planning for the combined event.  Me and Kev will be there with a Blackfive booth playing Dead Tangos videos and a B5 celebrity chef will be cooking some BBQ.  Then we head West to Portland and then up the coast to my old stomping grounds Ft. Lewis Washington, where a certain Chuck Z will be putting our next generation of LTs through the grinder. Sound interesting yet? Then we backtrack down the coast toward Cali and SEAL country for more Red Wing stuff and then I feel certain a trip to Texas is on the agenda. Much more to follow, this is gonna be a wild ride.