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September 2009

National Security Adviser playing politics?

Gen. Jones has made some statements during his tenure that lead to questions about whether he serves to provide formerly-uniformed cover when the administration makes politically driven decisions. He threw out a perfect example of this recently.

Asked why al-Qaeda, which is comparatively safe in its current sanctuaries in Pakistan, would want to return to Afghanistan, where more than 100,000 U.S. and NATO troops are stationed, Jones said, "That's a good question. . . . This is certainly one of the questions that we will be discussing. This is one of the questions, for example, that one could come back at with General McChrystal."

The answer to this question is patently obvious to anyone who is conscious.

Because they always do.

You don't even have to get to the why, the fact is that they recruit, refit and then re-infiltrate. Period. The why isn't rocket science either, they want to rule the roost in Afghanistan. But when you are willing to actually pose a question as stunningly dense as the one he wants to go back at McChrystal with, you have to wonder why? Is he really that ignorant? I kinda doubt it, so that leaves other explanations and providing cover for the shameful delay in dealing with Afghanistan and the increasing possibility that some version of cut and run is about to be put in play is a reasonable deduction.

I didn't think that with all the posturing and big talk there was any chance they would start the bailout this early, but I have to say it sure looks like it. If so then I would love to hear what Obama will say when the families of those killed under his command ask why he sent their loved ones there this year. He sent 22,000 troops there by his decision and some of them have been killed. It looks like that was simply to fulfill campaign promises, not because of the grand strategy he announced earlier this year. This would be a huge betrayal and I hope this is not the case.

"Spy" agencies collectively have no clue

The NY Times notes that the agencies responsible for telling us (the West) what is going on in Iran really don't know. There is a shocker.

The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike, say they believe that Iran has restarted these “weaponization” efforts, which would mark a final step in building a nuclear weapon. The Germans say they believe that the weapons work was never halted. The French have strongly suggested that independent international inspectors have more information about the weapons work than they have made public.

Meanwhile, in closed-door discussions, American spy agencies have stood firm in their conclusion that while Iran may ultimately want a bomb, the country halted work on weapons design in 2003 and probably has not restarted that effort — a judgment first made public in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.

I can't imagine what would make any sentient being think they were not working on weapons. There is no punishment for doing so, and once they have them they completely change the balance of power in the region in their favor. Of course they are building them, and the fact that our own "intelligence" agencies say they are not makes it virtually certain they are. They released that 2007 NIE with full knowledge of the recently publicized secret facility and likely several others. It seems that the CIA is mostly a foreign policy justifying organ and they don't want any action taken against Iran. I would have trouble believing anything with their name on it.

Omaha: 65 Years


It's been 65 years, and a few months, since our troops went ashore at bloody Bloody Omaha. 


Far too many never made it fully onto the beach, much less off of it. 


Today, the view from the top of the bluffs is far different than it was on that miserable June day.  Trees and brush have grown up, dunes have been allowed to pile up, and time has marched on.  Yet, for all that time has marched, some things have stood still. 


The beach is still there, at the foot of the bluffs, seen here looking WNW towards Pointe-du-Hoc.  Then, only patrols walked the beach and the area was thick with anti-landing obstacles.  Along the bluffs were a network of fortifications:  trenches, mortar pits, machine gun emplacements, and -- as seen above, the embrasures for larger guns. 

Continue reading "Omaha: 65 Years" »

Want to Attend Milblog Track at Blogworld?

Posted this this weekend, but it deserves a repeat.  Also, please help spread the word to all current and former serving members of the Armed Forces as we really want to make it possible for them to attend. 

Rick Calvert, founder and head of Blog World and New Media Expo, has issued a challenge not just to me, but to you too.  It seems Rick is convinced we can get 200 people to the milblog track on 15 October, quite a good number of people.  So, he has challenged me to make it happen, and he has challenged you, our readers, to make it happen as well.  Now, I'm not saying he said anything about us, SO's or anything like that, or that he will call us things if we don't, but I don't plan on giving him any opportunity.  Especially as this is at his generosity, which is greatly appreciated.  So, here's the deal:

1.  If you are currently serving in the Armed Forces, or are a veteran of same (discharged or retired) and want to attend, drop me a line at blake at blakepowers dot n with BWE09 Free Registration in the subject line and a short note introducing yourself within, and you will get a code that gives you a free registration for the milblog track on 15 October, and access to the exhibit hall (and the Milblog Lounge) on the 16th & 17th.

2.  If you are a military spouse, spouse blogger, military supporter, or reader of the milblogs, the same applies. 

3.  If you have a blog or other outlets of your own (Twitter, Facebook, newsgroups, e-mail groups, etc.), please spread the word. 

4.  If you happen to have contacts in blogging or old media in California, Nevada, or Arizona, please reach out to them as well, as we would very much like to be sure that we reach all the different bases in those regions.

I will also note that if you are interested in attending, there are some excellent deals on rooms and such through the Blog World site once you are registered. 

While the registration only covers the milblog track and exhibit hall, if you want to attend parties, other sessions, etc., you can contact BWE after you register and see about the costs of upgrades.  Also, a reminder to those already speaking and attending:  if your spouse, SO, or other is coming with you and you want them to get in, be sure they register with one of the free codes so they can be badged. 

Keep an eye on the grid at Blog World, as we are updating as needed and are still working on trying to make a surprise or two happen. 



The Capstone Concept and Situational Awareness

The Army has released a draft version of its capstone concept, as most of you know from reading Small Wars Journal.  The biggest change for my money has to do with the approach to "situational awareness" (SA) -- that is, how do you know what is really going on? 

Clausewitz's concept of friction engages every area of war, but no area more clearly than this.  One of the reasons that "rear-echelon" commanders enjoy such a stable level of respect from front-line forces, year after year and war after war, is that friction means they are always writing orders based on incomplete information that is old by the time the orders come down. 

Front-line forces suffer from an incomplete awareness, too, though:  consider the soldier who notices a guy in his town that he's not seen before.  He stops him, questions him, and now has to decide what to do with him -- without benefit of knowing exactly who may have dealt with him before, or what they knew.  He can get that information if he detains the guy and takes him back for processing, but (a) if the guy is innocent, he's freaking out the guy's family and friends about 'evil occupiers arresting people for no reason'; and (b) as a COIN campaign becomes more successful, as in Iraq, warrants have to be issued before detentions can be an option.  

The Future Combat System (FCS) intended to address this set of problems via its integral computer network.  There are already a large number of battlefield networks in operation, though a quick Googling indicates that little is known in public about them.  Google "Combined Information Network Data Exchange", or CIDNE, and you'll find that the internet knows it's a DOD acronym, but not much more; another of the major systems, when Googled, only turns up a reference to a popular college website.  Since our OPSEC is being so effective, I won't describe these systems -- good or bad -- but to say that there is not a single, fully-integrated platform, and that there may be room for improvement in certain areas.  I had hoped the the FCS might bring a lot more of the weight of real-time information to every solider in theater:  to the platoon sergeant or lieutenant making the detention-call on the street, and to the Division Commander in his headquarters pondering how to deploy his forces.

Inside Defense (subscribers only) notes that the new capstone concept moves away from the network idea as a model.  It's not that the new doctrine fails to appreciate SA:

The new draft document takes aim at many of the assumptions behind the
thinking in the 2005 version.

"These assumptions were based on a belief that technology would change the
conduct of war from uncertainty toward a high degree of certainty," reads
the document. "This, in turn, would allow future forces to achieve
information superiority, which would lead to decision superiority. A key
benefit of decision superiority would be that the force could economize on
manpower, and trade off protection and firepower for speed and precision."...

This evolving attitude toward situational awareness and its power on the
battlefield was discussed last week at a counterinsurgency conference in

Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who is leading the revision of the capstone
concept, spoke about the importance of situational understanding and listed
it as one of five key aspects to effective operations.

"What we have to do is strive for situational understanding, fight for it,
literally and figuratively," he said.

However, situational awareness must go beyond what soldiers learn from
sensors and advanced information technology, he said. The wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan have made clear that cultural and political understanding can be
just as, if not more, important, he said.

That's absolutely correct, and it's not something a battlefield network is well placed to address.  A network would not be useless, mind you:  if you could put your soldiers on the ground in touch with the Human Terrain Team (HTT) social scientist, so they could ping him with a real-time question about a cultural issue, that would be a force-multiplier for HTT and the soldier both.  If you could also level the echelon issue somewhat, so a platoon sergeant would actually feel the freedom to contact directly-on-the-instant a brigade asset like the HTT scientist (or the battalion S2, or any other staff officer or enabler with expertise), that would be a great step forward:  but it's a leap that will encounter more, ah, friction from some quarters.  Nevertheless, if I were making suggestions on the capstone concept, grinding down that barrier and encouraging that direct communication across echelons would be on my list.

The idea of networking expertise to the warfighter on the ground remains something with a lot of potential, but general McMaster is also right to stress investment in building cultural and political expertise across the force.  But which culture, and whose politics?  The FCS -- or a similar, smaller-scale network -- is portable, so if we're in Africa next year instead of Afghanistan, we can take it with us; if we end up in Thailand, it'll work there too.  Cultural expertise is less portable, and political expertise even less than that:  our expertise in the governing system of Iraq will shortly, with any luck, be of interest only to the State Department.  It won't do much for us in Afghanistan, Africa, or Thailand.

Currently the Army addresses the issue by use of civilian experts in culture and politics, as with the HTT program and the various cultural advisors (CULADs) and other advisors usually attached to division-level commands in Iraq.  These are usually contractors, who can be replaced with other experts at any time, providing great flexibility. 

It also acts in cooperation with the State Department (who provides political advisors, POLADs, also at the division level; but more more useful is their integrated ePRT program at brigade level).  These programs can draw on the larger civilian community, pulling in experts on whatever the individual culture or system happens to be.  They can also create training programs for soldiers once we get to the on-the-ground situation, like the Counterinsurgency Centers for Excellence in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These can be stood up or down fairly quickly by comparison to an internal program designed to build expertise across the force. 

The Army's long-term planning may be better spent on the things it can take with it, rather than the things it has to leave behind.  Building better communications across levels of command, whether with better networks or through cultural changes to reduce the barrier to cross-talk, may go farther in the long term than trying to train the force as cultural and political experts in advance of the game.  The reality for the force, subject as it is to civilian political authority, is that it can't know where it will be sent, or why, or for how long.  It has to remain flexible enough to go wherever it is sent, for any lawful cause, for as long as the Congress and the President care to continue the effort.

Godspeed Navy SEAL Ryan Job

RE: Ryan and Kelly Job - Someone You Should Know

This is just horrible news that we lost Ryan.  He was one of the best human beings on the planet.

Iraq vet, spokesman for wounded, dies at 28
Sunday, September 27 | 2:00 p.m.

Blinded by a sniper's bullet in Iraq, Ryan Job retained his characteristic determination and persistence. He climbed Mount Rainier, trained for a triathlon and became a spokesman for an organization that helps wounded veterans transition to civilian life.

"He didn't back down from any challenge," said a friend, Tyler Lein, of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Mr. Job, who grew up in Issaquah, died Thursday morning after major reconstructive surgery at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix. He was 28...

For those of you who didn't know of Ryan, Froggy wrote here on Blackfive about Marc Lee and Ryan Job:

Ryan was the SEAL who was critically wounded preceeding Marc Lee's death in Ramadi on 2 August 06.  Ryan was shot in the face and he has completely lost his right eye and may very well lose his left.  He is recovering at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland right now.  I had the privilege of speaking with Ryan this afternoon on the phone, and I was struck by the courage and committment of this young man even at what must be his darkest hour. 

Ryan was very grateful for Marc, "shooting for me," while his platoon tried to casevac him from the Ramadi rooftop where he was hit.  Ryan was also grateful that an M1 tank put two 120mm rounds into the building from which he was shot.  He told me that he takes great comfort in the fact that the terrorist who took his right eye won't be around to enjoy it, and I heartily agree with him.  Though he certainly knows that he won't have the chance, he emphasized repeatedly to me that all he wanted to do was to get back into the fight with his platoonmates and that he'd gladly give his left eye for the opportunity.

Where do we get such men?   

Ryan Job was also a recipient of a Valour-IT laptop thanks to Blackfive readers donations.

Words just fail me so prayers are on the way for Kelly and Ryan's family, friends and brother SEALs.

Godspeed, Ryan Job. 

Update:  RichardUSA posts valuable info in the Comments of where you can send a condolence card to Ryan's family or a donation:

Thank you for posting this Matt. Below are links to three charitable entities which the family has indicated as recipients for donations if anyone desires to make such a donation in memory of Ryan.




Ryan had climbed Mount Rainier with the Camp Patriot organization after recovering from many of his injuries. He was their national spokesman. If anyone wishes to send a condolence card to his family, you may send it to me at the following address and I will see that they receive them. Please note that all cards will be opened before I send them to his family to insure that no one sends anything offensive. That is an unfortunate necessity on a public site.

The family of Ryan Job
C/O Patriot Support
716 Centre of New England Blvd. #173
Coventry, RI 02816

Today's unclenched fist- Solid fuel missiles

Another day, another proof the Iranians are not playing nice.

State television said the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran's missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance.


Here is the really juicy part.

The Sajjil-2 missile is Iran's most advanced two-stage surface-to-surface missile and is powered entirely by solid-fuel while the older Shahab-3 uses a combination of solid and liquid fuel in its most advanced form, which is also known as the Qadr-F1.

Solid fuel is seen as a technological breakthrough for any missile program as solid fuel increases the accuracy of missiles in reaching targets.....Tehran said the two-stage surface-to-surface missile has a range of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) — capable of striking Israel, U.S. Mideast bases and southeastern Europe.

Longer range, solid fuel.....Hmmm all you really need is something nasty for a payload. I wonder if they have any plans for that? The The window dressing for the cave in to Putin on missile defense was that the Iranians medium range missiles were more dangerous. OK, so what is the cunning plan to stop them from finishing up their nukes and picking a target.....ohh let's say Tel Aviv? Does anyone really think that even if the UN passed real sanctions i.e. a gasoline embargo (which they won't China would veto for sure and if they didn't Russia would) that would stop the Mullahs? All they have to do is finish a bomb and the whole game changes and they get sanctions lifted. Regime change or the Israelis, the only hope left to stop this.

Why We Fight - Viet Nam Veteran's Perspective

Via retired Marine Colonel Joel Leson and BG Howard Prince at the University of Texas:

Truman Library
12 September 2009

Speech by Major General Robert Scales USA (Ret) at Truman Library

Mr. Skelton, Mr Cleaver, distinguished guests and, most importantly, fellow veterans. What a great thrill it is see my comrades in arms assembled here so many years after we shared our experiences in war.

Let me give you the bottom line up front: I'm proud I served in Vietnam. Like you I didn't kill innocents, I killed the enemy; I didn't fight for big oil or for some lame conspiracy. I fought for a country I believed in and for the buddies who kept me alive. Like you I was troubled that, unlike my father, I didn't come back to a grateful nation. It took a generation and another war, Desert Storm, for the nation to come back to me.

Also like you I remember the war being 99 percent boredom and one percent pure abject terror. But not all my memories of Vietnam are terrible. There were times when I enjoyed my service in combat. Such sentiment must seem strange to a society today that has, thanks to our superb volunteer military, been completely insulated from war. If they thought about Vietnam at all our fellow citizens would imagine that fifty years would have been sufficient to erase this unpleasant war from our conscientiousness. Looking over this assembly it's obvious that the memory lingers, and those of us who fought in that war remember.

The question is why? If this war was so terrible why are we here? It's my privilege today to try to answer that question not only for you, brother veterans, but maybe for a wider audience for whom, fifty years on, Vietnam is as strangely distant as World War One was to our generation.

Scales viet nam2

Vietnam is seared in our memory for the same reason that wars have lingered in the minds of soldiers for as long as wars have been fought. From Marathon to Mosul young men and now women have marched off to war to learn that the cold fear of violent death and the prospects of killing another human being heighten the senses and sear these experiences deeply and irrevocably into our souls and linger in the back recesses of our minds.

After Vietnam we may have gone on to thrilling lives or dull; we might have found love or loneliness, success or failure. But our experiences have stayed with us in brilliant Technicolor and with a clarity undiminished by time. For what ever primal reason war heightens the senses. When in combat we see sharper, hear more clearly and develop a sixth sense about everything around us.

Remember the sights? I recall sitting in the jungle one bright moonlit night marveling on the beauty of Vietnam. How lush and green it was; how attractive and gentle the people, how stoic and unmoved they were amid the chaos that surrounded them.

Do you remember the sounds? Where else could you stand outside a bunker and listen to the cacophonous mix of Jimmy Hendrix, Merle Haggard and Jefferson Airplane? Or how about the sounds of incoming? Remember it wasn't a boom like in the movies but a horrifying noise like a passing train followed by a crack and the whistle of flying fragments.

Remember the smells? The sharpness of cordite, the choking stench of rotting jungle and the tragic sweet smell of enemy dead.

I remember the touch, the wet, sticky sensation when I touched one of my wounded soldiers one last time before the medevac rushed him forever from our presence but not from my memory, and the guilt I felt realizing that his pain was caused by my inattention and my lack of experience. Even taste is a sense that brings back memories. Remember the end of the day after the log bird flew away leaving mail, C rations and warm beer? Only the first sergeant had sufficient gravitas to be allowed to turn the C ration cases over so that all of us could reach in and pull out a box on the unlabeled side hoping that it wasn't going to be ham and lima beans again.

Look, forty years on I can forgive the guy who put powder in our ammunition so foul that it caused our M-16s to jam. I'm OK with helicopters that arrived late. I'm over artillery landing too close and the occasional canceled air strike. But I will never forgive the Pentagon bureaucrat who in an incredibly lame moment thought that a soldier would open a can of that green, greasy, gelatinous goo called ham and lima beans and actually eat it.

But to paraphrase that iconic war hero of our generation, Forrest Gump, life is like a case of C Rations, you never know what you're going to get because for every box of ham and lima beans there was that rapturous moment when you would turn over the box and discover the bacchanalian joy of peaches and pound cake. It's all a metaphor for the surreal nature of that war and its small pleasures... .those who have never known war cannot believe that anyone can find joy in hot beer and cold pound cake. But we can.

Another reason why Vietnam remains in our consciousness is that the experience has made us better. Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing for war as a self improvement course. And I realize that war's trauma has damaged many of our fellow veterans physically, psychologically and morally. But recent research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by behavioral scientists has unearthed a
phenomenon familiar to most veterans: that the trauma of war strengthens rather than weakens us (They call it Post Traumatic Growth). We know that a near death experience makes us better leaders by increasing our self reliance, resilience, self image, confidence and ability to deal with adversity. Combat veterans tend to approach the future wiser, more spiritual and content with an amplified appreciation for life. We know this is true. It's nice to see that the human scientists now agree.

I'm proud that our service left a legacy that has made today's military better. Sadly Americans too often prefer to fight wars with technology. Our experience in Vietnam taught the nation the lesson that war is inherently a human not a technological endeavor. Our experience is a distant whisper in the ear of today's technology wizards that firepower is not sufficient to win, that the enemy has a vote, that the object of war should not be to kill the enemy but to win the trust and allegiance of the people and that the ultimate weapon in this kind or war is a superbly trained, motivated, and equipped soldier who is tightly bonded to his buddies and who trusts his leaders.

I've visited our young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan several times. On each visit I've seen first hand the strong connection between our war and theirs. These are worthy warriors who operate in a manner remarkably reminiscent of the way we fought so many years ago. The similarities are surreal. Close your eyes for a moment and it all comes rushing back. In Afghanistan I watched soldiers from my old unit, the 101st Airborne Division, as they conducted daily patrols from firebases constructed and manned in a manner virtually the same as those we occupied and fought from so many years ago. Every day these sky soldiers trudge outside the wire and climb across impossible terrain with the purpose as one sergeant put it - to kill the bad guys, protect the good guys and bring home as many of my soldiers as I can.. You legacy is alive and well. You should be proud.

The timeless connection between our generation and theirs can be seen in the unity and fighting spirit of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again and again, I get asked the same old question from folks who watch soldiers in action on television: why is their morale so high? Don't they know the American people are getting fed up with these wars? Don't they know Afghanistan is going badly? Often they come to me incredulous about what they perceive as a misspent sense of patriotism and loyalty.

I tell them time and again what every one of you sitting here today, those of you who have seen the face of war, understand: it's not really about loyalty. It's not about a belief in some abstract notion concerning war aims or national strategy. It's not even about winning or losing. On those lonely firebases as we dug through C ration boxes and drank hot beer we didn't argue the righteousness of our cause or ponder the latest pronouncements from McNamara or Nixon or Ho Chi Minh for that matter. Some of us might have trusted our leaders or maybe not. We might have been well informed and passionate about the protests at home or maybe not. We might have groused about the rich and privileged who found a way to avoid service but we probably didn't. We might have volunteered for the war to stop the spread of global communism or maybe we just had a failing semester and got swept up in the draft.

In war young soldiers think about their buddies. They talk about families, wives and girlfriends and relate to each other through very personal confessions. For the most part the military we served with in Vietnam did not come from the social elite. We didn't have Harvard degrees or the pedigree of political bluebloods. We were in large measure volunteers and draftees from middle and lower class America. Just as in Iraq today we came from every corner of our country to meet in a beautiful yet harsh and forbidding place, a place that we've seen and experienced but can never explain adequately to those who were never there.

Soldiers suffer, fight and occasionally die for each other. It's as simple as that. What brought us to fight in the jungle was no different than the motive force that compels young soldiers today to kick open a door in Ramadi with the expectation that what lies on the other side is either an innocent huddling with a child in her arms or a fanatic insurgent yearning to buy his ticket to eternity by killing the infidel. No difference. Patriotism and a paycheck may get a soldier into the military but fear of letting his buddies down gets a soldier to do something that might just as well get him killed.

What makes a person successful in America today is a far cry from what would have made him a success in the minds of those assembled here today. Big bucks gained in law or real estate, or big deals closed on the stock market made some of our countrymen rich. But as they have grown older they now realize that they have no buddies. There is no one who they are willing to die for or who
is willing to die for them. William Manchester served as a Marine in the Pacific during World War II and put the sentiment precisely right when he wrote: "Any man in combat who lacks comrades who will die for him, or for whom he is willing to die is not a man at all. He is truly damned."

The Anglo Saxon heritage of buddy loyalty is long and frightfully won. Almost six hundred years ago the English king, Henry V, waited on a cold and muddy battlefield to face a French army many times his size. Shakespeare captured the ethos of that moment in his play Henry V. To be sure Shakespeare wasn't there but he was there in spirit because he understood the emotions that gripped and the bonds that brought together both king and soldier. Henry didn't talk about national strategy. He didn't try to justify faulty intelligence or ill formed command decisions that put his soldiers at such a terrible disadvantage. Instead, he talked about what made English soldiers fight and what in all probably would allow them to prevail the next day against terrible odds. Remember this is a monarch talking to his men:

This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

You all here assembled inherit the spirit of St Crispin's day. You know and understand the strength of comfort that those whom you protect, those in America now abed, will never know. You have lived a life of self awareness and personal satisfaction that those who watched you from afar in this country who hold their manhood cheap can only envy.

I don't care whether America honors or even remembers the good service we performed in Vietnam. It doesn't bother me that war is an image that America would rather ignore. It's enough for me to have the privilege to be among you. It's sufficient to talk to each of you about things we have seen and kinships we have shared in the tough and heartless crucible of war.

Some day we will all join those who are serving so gallantly now and have preceded us on battlefields from Gettysburg to Wanat. We will gather inside a firebase to open a case of C rations with every box peaches and pound cake. We will join with a band of brothers to recount the experience of serving something greater than ourselves. I believe in my very soul that the almightily reserves a corner of heaven, probably around a perpetual campfire where some day we can meet and embrace all of the band of brothers throughout the ages to tell our stories while envious standers-by watch and wonder how horrific and incendiary the crucible of violence must have
been to bring such a disparate assemblage so close to the hand of God.

Scales viet nam

Standing at a Viet Nam veteran's funeral at Arlinton last week, while some of his buddies had to salute with their left arms as the flag was folded and presented to his widow, this was never more apparent to me. 

It might have been the weight of all those souls on that sacred ground simultaneously driving emotions through us - not just grief, but gratitude too. 

That we, the lucky ones, are borne by them.