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November 2009

Donald R. McGlothlin

Thanks to Matt's post about Corporal Javier Perez, and the magic of the Google machine, I learned a bit more about one of the Marines who died that day, and who Corporal Perez was trying to reach when he was injured.  His name is Donald R. McGlothlin and he had given up a scholarship to study Chemistry at Stanford in order to serve.  You can find more about him here.  And here's the transcript of a Wolf Blitzer program, starting with a few remarks by President Bush back in 2005 before moving onto an interview of McGlothlin's parents, that I'm putting up because I want to make sure it doesn't get lost.  The last comment by Mr. McGlothlin quite touching and apropos:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: : One of these men was a marine lieutenant named Ryan McGlothlin from Lebanon, Virginia. Ryan was a bright young man who had everything going for him. And he always wanted to serve our nation.

He was a valedictorian of his high school class. He graduated from William and Mary with near perfect grade averages. And he was on a full scholarship at Stanford where he was working toward a doctorate in chemistry.

Two years after the attack on September 11, the young man had the world at his feet came home from Stanford for a visit. He told his dad, I just don't feel like I'm doing something that matters. I want to serve my country. I want to protect our land from terrorists so I joined the marines.

When his father asked him if there's some other way to serve, Ryan replied that he felt a special obligation to step up because he had been given so much.

Ryan didn't support me in the last election. But he supported our mission in Iraq. And he supported his fellow marines.

Ryan was killed last month fighting terrorists in Iraq's Syrian border. In his pocket was a poem that Ryan read at his high school graduation. It represented the spirit of this fine marine. The poem was called "Don't Quit."


BLITZER: Donald McGlothlin is Ryan's father, Ruth McGlothlin is Ryan's mother. They are joining us now from Bristol, Virginia. Our deepest condolences to both of you on the tragic loss of your son. Don, let me start with you.

Did you know the president was going to single him out today?

DONALD MCGLOTHLIN, RYAN'S FATHER: Yes, sir. We found out on Monday that his speech writers were considering using Ryan's story, and they first contacted Ruth, Ryan's mother, and then she and I discussed it. But we were fully apprised of not only the fact the president wished to use the story of what they expected the president to say in his speech.

BLITZER: Was that okay with you, Don?

D. MCGLOTHLIN: Well, we first had misgivings. We did not want our son's story to be used lightly or in a way that would be unseemly. But we discussed, in light of some recent correspondence that Ruth had received from our son, we actually received it after his death, we felt that it was important and that Ryan would want the American public to know what he told us in the letter.

It was pretty much what the president was saying here today, that we can't quit. And that we're doing -- that the marines over there and the Iraqi security forces are doing an excellent job. And that they are being well received by the Iraqi population.

As a matter of fact, our son said that they were very thankful when The Marines came to these cities. They were clearing out of the terrorists. They were not just terrorizing our troops, but also the Iraqi population.

BLITZER: Ruth, tell us a little bit about your son, Ryan.

RUTH MCGLOTHLIN, RYAN'S MOTHER: Ryan was wonderful young man. I think when I think of Ryan I see his smile. He had a smile that would light up the room. He had an incredible work ethic. He applied that to everything he ever did, which is why he did so well in high school. He did well in college.

He was Phi Beta Kappa at William and Mary. He then went on get his Phd at Stanford, but since his senior year at William and Mary he had been working to try to overcome a medical disqualification he had received in an ROTC program because he wanted to serve in the armed forces, And, in particular, he wanted to be a Marine.

So beginning with his senior year at William and Mary he spent the next three years getting that waiver taken care of so that he could be in the Marine Corps. And that's where he found what he loved.

BLITZER: Don, did you try to talk him out of this decision to leave Stanford and join the Marine Corps?

DONALD MCGLOTHLIN, RYAN'S FATHER: Well, you had to know Ryan, there wasn't -- once he made up his mind it was pretty well made up. And he had years of thought that he had given to being a military service member.

I did express my concerns about the fact he might be doing something that could get him killed or wounded in a way that would change his life. And he was fully aware of that.

So I asked him if there was some other way, some other way that he might be able to serve the country because that was what he wanted to do. And Ryan said, you know, that basically that he had been born into privilege, and that he felt that it was as much his burden being a privileged citizen to carry the burden of protecting our land and his fellow countrymen, as it was for anyone else who might be in the Marine Corps or in the military.

So he felt a special duty to go and help protect this country.

BLITZER: Even though, Ruth, he didn't -- the president said he didn't vote for the president in the last election. He did believe in this operation in Iraq, I take it. Tell us some of the things he said to you.

R. MCGLOTHLIN: Actually, I don't feel Ryan felt that when we first went to war that was the right place or the right time. And that's why we wanted to make sure that the White House understood that. He felt if we were going to go to war we should have been in Afghanistan, and I think he felt war should have been the last resort or last possible resort. And I'm not sure he felt that it was.

What he did feel that once we went there, and we tore down the government they did know, and disrupted their country, we had an obligation to fix what we had destroyed. And he very strongly believed in that.

D. MCGLOTHLIN: Wolf, in the letter that he wrote to his mother and asked her to give a copy to me, once he got there on the ground and was actually engaged in the clearing of these cities up in the Euphrates Valley near the Syrian border he also found another reason to be there. It wasn't just to protect his fellow countrymen.

And that was the fact he said that you had to see, in the letter he says, you just have to see these poor terrorized Iraqi citizens and how grateful they were when the Marines finally came to their cities to get rid of the terrorists.

And he said that the Iraqi citizens deserve to be free of the terrorists. And he talked about the hideous actions that they had taken against the Iraqi population.

So in his letter he said that his convictions were reaffirmed, and he believed more than ever that we needed to be there. And he also said that it would be -- that anyone who had seen what his Marines had seen and he had seen would never think of leaving the job left partly done. That we needed to be there until the Iraqi Army was able to take care of the security for their own population.

Not to do that was to ensure the persistence of terrorism and the fear that population and then later us would have.

BLITZER: Donald McGlothlin and Ruth McGlothlin, our deepest condolences. What a remarkable son you had. What a heroic patriot and good luck to both of you down the road.

D. MCGLOTHLIN: Could I say one last thing?

BLITZER: Of course.

D. MCGLOTHLIN: Could I say one last thing please? We would be remiss in not saying that Ryan would not want the attention that he is getting by the press. He was devoted to the Marines and there were four other Marines that died the day that Ryan died and 11 in his platoon that were wounded. Some of them very seriously. One lost a leg and lost a thumb.

Every man that was over there was there with the conviction that they were doing the right thing for our country. And those Marines and all their families need to be remembered, as well.

-- Uber Pig

Thanksgiving in West "By God" Virginia

We had a great family feast out at my brother's farm house just over the line in West Virginia. The Misty Mountains you see there are the Blue Ridge ones and they mark the line between WV and VA. Great time for all.

  There was a magnificent experiment conducted w/ the turkey and I have documented it here.

Actual cooking time 2 hrs. 45 min. for 14 lb. bird.

No one more deserving...

Sinese hires_226867B

Army Sgt. Maj. Robert Prosser, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team sergeant major, shakes actor Gary Sinise's hand after presenting him with the American flag and a special unit coin on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2009. Sinise visited wounded soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after performing with his band, "The Lt. Dan Band." U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chris Florence

You also might recognize CSM Prosser (must read - I am sure that Gary Sinise knows exactly who he is)...then come back and read his citation for the Silver Star after the Jump.

Continue reading "No one more deserving..." »

Thanksgiving 2009: This Time At Home!

I've spent the last two Thanksgivings in Iraq, but not this year. It will be interesting to see how a real Thanksgiving dinner compares to the Army's! 

It's good to be home this year, but I hope you'll keep the deployed in your thoughts at times today. For some of you that will be all too easy, as someone you cannot help but think of is absent from your table today; for others, please make a moment or two.  I have several friends still there, and I know many of us do.

By the way, LTC Allen West turns out to be a friend of reader Soldier's Mom.  She told him about the post yesterday, and he wrote back:  "I send my Thanksgiving regards and best wishes to Blackfive and everyone."  Best to you too, sir.

A Time for Giving Thanks

[This is a repost from 2005.  It's still appropriate...Corporal Javier Alvarez is Someone You Should Know, and Captain James Eadie, a Harvard University Medical School grad, is too.]

RudeOne (USAF Call Sign) sends this email, a must read if ever there was one, that he received from Captain James Eadie today:

A Time for Thanksgiving
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I eagerly anticipate the plates of turkey and stuffing, the moments of camaraderie around the TV watching football and the sharing of stories amongst friends, but it is the soldiers’ stories of bravery and courage that should be shared on this day of Thanksgiving.

I had the rare chance to talk in depth with one of my CCATT patients on our last flight, a young 24 year old Marine from Camp Pendleton, California. It is Javier’s story hangs with me this day. Javier gave me permission to share his story with you, a true story of heroism, and sacrifice that deserves to be told on Thanksgiving.

On the morning of 16 November 2005, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were taking part in operations along the Iraq-Syrian board to clear the towns of insurgents.   

Javier [Alvarez], a strong and sturdy looking square jawed Marine Corporal was on his third deployment to Iraq. He had seen heavy combat in his previous two deployments, and had been injured once before earning him a Purple Heart. On this day he was in command of a Squad of fourteen men. I knew just by talking to him that his men were fortunate to have him leading them into battle. He spoke with clarity and confidence of a man twice his age. In the truest essence, he was a Marine.

Taking point, Javier led his five man team towards the house. Shots rang out around them as they advanced. They could see the downed Marines ahead. A young Lieutenant lay face down outside the house. Javier did not know if he was still alive. They would have to act quickly if they were to save him and the others.

As they approached the house the enemy fire intensified and Javier felt a sudden sting and burning in his right leg. He looked down at his leg. Damn, he thought, “I’ve been shot.” He indeed had taken two bullets to his thigh, but he pushed on.

Undeterred, Javier continued to lead his men towards the house. With increasing fire, they took up a defensive posture against the house wall. Slightly protected there, he began tending his wounds with direct pressure as the others returned fire. He could see several downed Marines only arm lengths away, but they could not be reached safely.  Gun fire continued to rain down on them. Another member of the squad was hit. They were in a bad position.

What happened next was recalled to me by the Medic that they called Doc. During the barrage of fire, with their backs literally up against a wall an enemy grenade was thrown out of a window landing in the middle of the five men. Doc told me “It was amazing. I was applying pressure to one of the injured soldiers when someone yelled out GRENADE. Javier just dove at the grenade.  I have never seen anything like it.” 

Javier grabbed the grenade with his right hand. He told me “I knew I only had three to five seconds before it would go off.” With his body shielding his men from the grenade, he made a valiant effort to heave the grenade away. As the grenade left his hand it exploded.

Javier’s right hand was immediately amputated at the wrist. Shrapnel from the grenade penetrated his left thigh. Others in his group took shrapnel to their arms and legs, but no one lost their life.

Doc told me on the plane that he was convinced that they all would have died if it were not for Javier’s heroic actions.

The fighting continued. As more Marines approached the house to provide covering fire, Javier now with two gun shot wounds to his right leg, shrapnel to his left leg and an amputated right hand worked to get his injured men clear. With the aid of his Platoon Sergeant, Javier and his men walked out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point away from the fighting.

Doc stayed in the fight for a while despite being hit with shrapnel from the grenade. He tended to the downed Marines and at one point crawled into the house to pull out the Marine who lay inside. Unfortunately, most of the Marines they came to help had been fatally injured. There was little that could be done. Doc continued to care for the downed soldiers until others noted his wounds. Doc was finally escorted out of the fight to attend to his injuries.

In all told, Javier’s Squad took heavy injuries. We air lifted out 6 members who had sustained shrapnel injuries and one who lost his leg. Javier clearly took the brunt of the injuries, but miraculously no one lost their life. Javier’s selfless action had saved the lives of many men.

I spoke at length with Javier on the flight to Germany. Perhaps it was the awe that I felt talking with him that kept me coming back, or maybe the fact that his men admired him so much. In the end, I think I was drawn in by him because he was just like you and me. He was real. A soldier who had done everything asked of him by his country. He fought with honor and dignity, and led his men with courage. Above all, he put his men’s life above his and protected them from harm.

He didn’t ask for honors or special treatment. His biggest concern when we were loading him onto the plane was his fellow soldiers. He would not lie down until he had visualized and spoken with all of his troops on the plane.

When I arrived home from the mission, I opened the paper. There before me in simple bullet format read the names of the most recent US deaths in Iraq. I generally do not look at these lists. They are just names with no personal connection. But this day, halfway down there were five Marines listed including a young Second Lieutenant all from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Pendleton, California who had died on 16 November, 2005. These were the men that Javier and his Squad gave everything to try to save.

I stared at the paper for many minutes, recalling the story Javier and his men had told me. I marveled at the sacrifices they made and felt a tremendous sense of loss for these men whose names now stood out from the paper as not mere records, but as living, breathing men who gave everything their country asked of them.

As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Iraq, I have so much to be thankful for. My wife is amazing, we have been blessed with a child on the way, and I feel like I have the greatest family and friends that one could ever wish for, but there is more. I see around me everyday soldiers giving everything they have with the full belief that their actions do make a difference. That their sacrifices are for freedom and will one day improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

When I sit down on Thursday to my thanksgiving meal, I will be holding these soldiers and their families close. We as a country have so much to be thankful for.

For me, on this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for Javier. He has given the gift of life to his men and their families. I often ask myself if I was in his position, what would I have done?  I don’t know, but I certainly hope that I could be like Javier.

My warmest wishes to you all for a wonderful Thanksgiving, we truly have a great deal to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving,

James S Eadie, Capt USAF MC

332 Expeditionary Air Evacuation Squadron

Balad, Iraq

Critical Care Air Transport Physician

The men who died that day were Lance Corporal Roger Deeds, Lance Corporal John Lucente, Corporal Jeffrey Rogers, Corporal Joshua Ware, and 2nd Lieutenant Donald McGlothin - all from the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 13th MEU, 1st Marine Division.

Concrete Bob Update -- An Additional Reason For Thanks Tomorrow

Just got off the phone with Tanker Babe, and the surgery is over and Bob is on his way to recovery. They did do five bypasses, and while there is a long ways to go, this part of the journey is off to a pretty good start.

Liz, his better half, has not seen him yet but was headed to recovery to be with him.  She has been overwhelmed by the support and love that has poured in -- including from you.  I've been asked to pass along how grateful she (and Bob) are for it.  

Please continue to pour on the thoughts and prayers.