December 15, 2004

The Last Request - Reminder

Tune in to your radio stations at 1pm (EST).

Thanks for your help in making Specialist David Mahlenbrock's last request come true.  I think that he'd be very surprised with the response his letter has had...

Godspeed, David, we will always remember you.

Posted by Blackfive on December 15, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 14, 2004

Warrior's Last Request - Update

Thanks to many of you, but especially those amazing people at Soldiers' Angels, things are rolling in order to fulfill Specialist Mahlenbrock's last request.

Apparently, there are two months per year when Toby Keith spends all of his time with his family.  He never violates this rule.  So, he won't appear at the funeral to play "American Soldier".

However, he is going to cut a special CD from his home today dedicating the song to Mahlenbrock!  He said that he was touched by the Soldier's request.

He's going to get the CD with the dedication cut in time to send to the funeral.

    I'm just trying to be a father
    Raise a daughter and a son
    Be a lover to their mother
    Everything to everyone
    Up and at 'em, bright and early
    I'm all business in my suit
    Yeah, I'm dressed up for success
    From my head down to my boots

    I don't do it for the money
    There's bills that I can't pay
    I don't do it for the glory
    I just do it anyway
    Providing for our future's my responsibility
    Yeah I'm real good under pressure
    Being all that I can be

    And I can't call in sick on Mondays
    when the weekends been too strong
    I just work straight through the holidays
    And sometimes all night long
    You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door
    Hey, I'm solid, hey I'm steady, hey, I'm true down to the core

    And I will always do my duty no matter what the price
    I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice
    Oh, and I don't want to die for you
    but if dyin's asked of me
    I'll bear that cross with honor
    'cause freedom don't come free

    I'm an American soldier, an American
    beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
    When Liberty's in jeopardy, I will always do what's right
    I'm out here on the front line
    Sleep in peace tonight
    American soldier, I'm an American soldier

    Yeah, an American soldier, an American
    Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
    When Liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right
    I'm out here on the front line
    So Sleep in peace tonight
    American soldier, I'm an American
    An American, an American soldier

And a hearty thank you to G. Gordon Liddy for helping us fulfill the last request of this American Soldier.

And to Diane K., THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Keep calling and emailing radio stations - David's family and friends are asking radio stations to play Toby Keith's "American Soldier" on the 15th at 1pm EST with a dedication to Specialist David Mahlenbrock.

Your attention to this request is acheiving amazing results.  YOU PEOPLE ROCK!!!

Thank you.

Posted by Blackfive on December 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

Godspeed, Lance Corporal Renehan

On Thursday, December 9th, Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Renehan died in Iraq due to complications from a mortar attack that occurred on November 29th.

Beth at YeahRightWhatever post this - she knows him and his brother, SadLonelyGeek, who comments on the VRWC ring.

Bill Faith has been following the story of Lance Corporal Kyle Renehan and has more information (including links to many other bloggers writing about Kyle).

And Mamamontezz, one of the poet laureates of the blogosphere, writes Sweet Warrior in honor of Kyle.

Godspeed, Marine, you will not be forgotten.

Posted by Blackfive on December 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 09, 2004

Warrior's Last Request - We Need Your Help!

Please help with this one.

Damn, just damn.  Specialist David Mahlenbrock was killed by an IED on December 3rd in Kirkuk, Iraq.

I received this email via Soldier's Angels.  It's from David's Squad in Bravo, 65th Engineers and they are forwarding a request from David.  It appears that David had a special letter sent to his squad in the event of his death.  Hold on to your seats, folks:

Dear 1st Squad,

    If you’re reading this, then I’ve died for our country.  I just hope it wasn’t for nothing.

     After the IED went off yesterday, I wanted to write this in case something happens to me.  There are a few more letters that I’d like you to give my wife and family.

     I’d like to have a military funeral, but, if you can work please make sure that Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” is played at the ceremony in addition to the bagpipes. If they won’t let it happen, that’s ok, thanks for trying…...

     I know that all the belongings I have here will go to Melissa, but there are a few more things I’d like for you guys to make sure she gets.  I have a dog tag w/ our picture on it along w/ some pictures and an American flag in my left breast pocket.  There is also a can that says “Son” on it that Melissa’s parents gave me that I’d like for them to have, and that angel stone should go to her grandma and grandpa Snow.

     Now if I died w/ blue eyes (one blew that way and one blew the other way) and there’s nothing really left of me, that’s ok, I know you meant well.

     Alright, enough with the dead guy’s last request, there’s a lot of thank you’s I wanna say to you fellas……

Specialist David Mahlenbrock will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary on Wednesday, December 15th at 10AM EST.  David's family and friends are asking radio stations to play Toby Keith's "American Soldier" on the 15th at 1pm EST with a dedication to Specialist David Mahlenbrock.

Let's see what we can do.  Email or call the radio stations in your area and ask them to play this dedication to David.  Feel free to copy this post to send to them.

The biggest and best country music station in the world is here in Chicago (US 99).  I'm calling them and others right now.

(Smash provides a link to find country radio stations in your area)

Update:  Here's an article from David's hometown newspaper - there's funeral and donation information, as well as a part about Soldiers Angels efforts to get radio stations to play "American Soldier" for David.

You can send condolences to David's family at:

Inglesby-Givnish Funeral Home

600 E. Main St.

Maple Shade, NJ 08052

Update December 14:  We have an answer from Toby Keith.

Posted by Blackfive on December 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (52) | TrackBack

December 07, 2004

Tribute To A Marine - Corporal Bobby Warns

Cpl. Robert P. Warns II, 23, of Waukesha, Wis., died Nov. 8 as a result of enemy action in Babil Province, Iraq.  He was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Chicago, Ill.

Andrew J. sends this link to a Tribute for Fallen Marine Bobby Warns.  The site is extremely well done and you can leave a message for the family. 

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the site is the 5 minute (24MB) tribute video.  Please download it first if you have a faster connection.

Words cannot describe how fitting the Tribute is well worth your time.  It. Is. Amazing.

Godspeed, Corporal Warns.

Posted by Blackfive on December 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

MilBlogger Loses A Friend - Godspeed LTC McMahon

    "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me; As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on." - Julie Ward Howe, the last verse of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

MilBlogger MajorDad says goodbye to Lieutenant Colonel Mike McMahon who died in Afghanistan.

Godspeed Colonel.  Until then...

(thanks to Smash for pointing me to MajorDad's blog and thanks to Sus for the link to Until Then *hanky alert*)

Posted by Blackfive on December 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Rifleman First - Godspeed Marine Sergeant Benjamin Edinger

I receive more than a few of these applications for awards for heroism.  This one stands out for many, many reasons, but mainly because Sergeant Edinger embodies one of the Marine Corps' traditions - "Every Marine a Rifleman".   This award was approved.  First you'll read the statement by his commanding officer (basically, an affadavit).  Then, you can read the citation.

Although a computer technician by trade, Sergeant Edinger was recruited to come to 2d platoon as a radio operator after his noteworthy service with 2d Force Reconnaissance Company, Task Force Tarawa during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He immediately made an impact on his team by mastering the difficult communication systems required of his job and applying this mastery during a shortened unit training phase and MEU Pre-Deployment Training Phase.  His mastery of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force SIDS (MSIDS) data system allowed his team to provide Reconnaissance and Surveillance to 2d Bn, 5th Special Forces Group during their pre-deployment training for OIF II, thus marking a new relationship between these two units.

Upon deployment to Iraq for OIF II, Sergeant Edinger was designated a heavy machine gunner for his team due to the expertise he displayed on the weapon system during pre-deployment training.  In 11 engagements with the enemy, Sergeant Edinger demonstrated his acumen with the machine gun by providing accurate, suppressive fires when warranted.  His personal discipline was on display most in this capacity, as he never failed to cover his sectors of fire and provide security for his team.  During a combined direct action raid with Hillah SWAT in the town of Lutafiyah, Northern Babil province, on 11 October, Sergeant Edinger's team was attacked with an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) along Alternate Supply Route (ASR) Jackson, and then immediately engaged with small arms fire from an adjacent palm grove.  Sergeant Edinger provided accurate suppressive fires on the enemy, allowing the platoon corpsman to render medical attention to a wounded Marine, and the rest of the platoon to sweep through in the direction of the enemy.  As a result of these suppressive fires, the platoon was able to close with and destroy the trigger man and an enemy observer and thus disable the threat and exfiltrate the contact area.

During a combined direct action raid with Hillah SWAT in Haswah, Northern Babil province, Sergeant Edinger's team was again the subject of a complex enemy attack.  While providing security for the raid force, Sergeant Edinger's stack was attacked with an IED mixed with homemade napalm, and small arms fire from two men in a truck in the area.  Sergeant Edinger along with his team returned fire, destroying the truck and the two terrorists inside.  His immediate action, and the actions of the Marines around him, allowed the platoon to continue their raid unabated.  During the same raid, Sergeant Edinger again showed significant physical courage, when his position was probed by a white Bongo truck forced into the area by the local terrorists.  A red Opal followed the truck as it charged through Bravo Stack's trigger lines, and gained speed even after warned.  Suspecting the truck to be a Vehicle Borne IED, Sergeant Edinger and his team engaged the truck, halting it's advance.  Due in large parts to his diligence, seven enemy detainees were captured.

On 14 November, during a mission to extract from an Observation Post (OP), Sergeant Edinger's team was again engaged by an IED ambush.  Although mortally wounded, Sergeant Edinger continued to man his gun, fighting for air, until he was relieved of it in order to receive medical attention.  Sergeant Edinger was an inspiration to those around him with his physical courage, buoyant fighting spirit, and "never quit" attitude.  He will be sorely missed by his platoon, and the Reconnaissance Brotherhood.


Above summary of action reflects eyewitness account of Capt. T.A. Douglas

The above statement is true to the best of my recollection. Sgt. Edinger was an outstanding young Marine who's toughness and physical courage will be sorely missed. GySgt. BR Reid

Recommended Citation:

Heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as Radio Operator and Machine Gunner, Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Special Purpose Force, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Division in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II from 15 July to 14 November 2004.  During this period, Sergeant Edinger demonstrated exceptional personal courage over the course of 61 combat missions, which included 41 direct action precision raids.  He aquitted himself with coolness and clarity under fire in each engagement.  On 11 October, during a combined direct action raid with Hillah SWAT in Lutifiyah located in the Northern Babil Province, Sergeant Edinger's team was attacked with an improvised explosive device along alternate supply route Jackson, and then immediately engaged with small arms fire from an adjacent palm grove.  He provided accurate suppressive fires on the enemy, allowing the wounded to receive medical care, and a sweep conducted which fatally wounded the triggerman and observer.  This is just one example of his overall performance throughout this period as he served as an example for seniors and subordinates to emulate from. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions and exceptional dedication to duty Sergeant Edinger reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Combat distinguishing device is authorized.

Posted by Blackfive on December 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 22, 2004

Godspeed Sergeant Peralta - Marine Deserves Medal of Honor

John R. sends this story from the Seattle Times (written by an Army Times staffer).  I'll post the whole article in case it disappears into the archives. 

This is the story of a Marine, Sergeant Rafael Peralta, who sacrificed himself so his Marines would live...

Marine sacrifices his life for others in grenade blast

By Gordon Trowbridge
The Army Times

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Sgt. Rafael Peralta built a reputation as a man who always put his Marines' interests ahead of his own.

He showed that again, when he made the ultimate sacrifice of his life Tuesday, by shielding his fellow Marines from a grenade blast. "It's stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor," said Lance Cpl. Rob Rogers, 22, of Tallahassee, Fla., one of Peralta's platoon mates in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Peralta, 25, as platoon scout, wasn't even assigned to the assault team that entered the insurgent safe house in northern Fallujah, Marines said. Despite an assignment that would have allowed him to avoid such dangerous duty, he regularly asked squad leaders if he could join their assault teams, they said.

One of the first Marines to enter the house, Peralta was wounded in the face by rifle fire from a room near the entry door, said Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, 20, of Tacoma, who was in the house when Peralta was first wounded.

Moments later, an insurgent rolled a fragmentation grenade into the area where a wounded Peralta and the other Marines were seeking cover.

As Morrison and another Marine scrambled to escape the blast, pounding against a locked door, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it into his body, Morrison said. While one Marine was badly wounded by shrapnel from the blast, the Marines said they believe more lives would have been lost if not for Peralta's selfless act.

"He saved half my fire team," said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Ga. The Marines said such a sacrifice would be perfectly in character for Peralta, a Mexico native who lived in San Diego and gained U.S. citizenship after joining the Marines.

"He'd stand up for his Marines to an insane point," Rogers said.

Rogers and others remembered Peralta as a squared-away Marine, so meticulous about uniform standards that he sent his camouflage uniform to be pressed while training in Kuwait before entering Iraq.

But mostly they remembered acts of selflessness: offering career advice, giving a buddy a ride home from the bar, teaching salsa dance steps in the barracks.

While Alpha Company was still gathering information, and a formal finding on Peralta's death is likely months away, not a single Marine in Alpha Company doubted the account of Peralta's act of sacrifice.

"I believe it," said Alpha's commander, Capt. Lee Johnson. "He was that kind of Marine."

Posted by Blackfive on November 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

November 19, 2004

Godspeed Marine Corporal Marc Ryan

You might have read about Marine Corporal Marc Ryan here before.

Ryan, a third generation Marine and member of the Warrior Caste, was killed in Iraq last week.  This was his FOURTH combat tour - two in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.

From the Camden Courier-Post (November 17):

Marc did two tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He could have returned home after his second Iraq tour, but instead, he volunteered for a third.

"We asked him `Why did you do it?' and he said `My brothers are dying out there, I gotta do something,' " Chris Ryan said. "He would do anything for anybody."

"He fought for his country, he fought a hard fight, and he died doing what he loved," Lauren Ryan said. "Marc, I love you and I will miss you forever and I know you're up there right now saying, `Stop crying.' "

Phil Cohen, of the Camden, NJ, American Legion Post, has set up a site in honor of Corporal Ryan.

Posted by Blackfive on November 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

Godspeed Captain Sims

I had read about Captain Sean Sims and how his men openly wept for him in front of a reporter when he had been killed in Fallujah.  Here is the story that I saw about him.  I'll post the complete story in the Extended Section in case it disappears into the news archives.

TexasBug has a lot of information about Captain Sims - a Company Commander who was killed in Fallujah two days ago - from the media and his mother.  TB also includes funeral information.


Infantry company loses esteemed leader
Capt. Sean Sims, who commanded Alpha Company and was respected and liked by his soldiers, died after a confrontation with rebels in Fallujah.

Knight Ridder News Service

Capt. Sean Sims was up early Saturday, looking at maps of Fallujah and thinking of the day's battle. His fingers, dirty and cracked, traced a route that snaked down the city's southern corridor.

''We've killed a lot of bad guys,'' he said. ``But there's always going to be some guys left. They'll hide out and snipe at us for two months. I hope we've gotten the organized resistance.''

Sims, a 32-year-old from Eddy, Texas, commanded his Alpha Company without raising his voice. His men liked and respected him. When faced with a broken down vehicle or rocket-propelled grenades exploding outside, he'd shake his head a little and say, in his mellow drawl, ``We'll be OK. This'll work out.''

When he noticed that one of his soldiers, 22-year-old Arthur Wright, wasn't getting any care packages from home, Sims arranged for his wife, a teacher, to have her students send cards and presents.

Sitting in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that was pocked by shrapnel from five days of heavy fighting, Sims figured he and his men -- of the 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2 -- had three or four days left before returning to base.

They were in southwest Fallujah, where hard-core gunmen were still shooting from houses connected by labyrinths of covered trench lines and low roofs.


A CNN crew came by, and Sims' men led them around the ruins, showing them the bombed-out buildings and bodies of insurgents that had been gnawed on by neighborhood dogs and cats.

The father of an infant son, Sims was still trying to get over the death of his company's executive officer, Lt. Edward Iwan, a 28-year-old from Albion, Neb., who'd been shot through the torso the night before with an RPG.

''It's tough. I don't know what to think about it yet,'' he said slowly, searching for words. ``All of this will be forever tainted because we lost him.''

Shaking off the thought, he threw on his gear and went looking for houses to clear.

A group of rebels was waiting. They spied on soldiers who occupied nearby houses without knowing the enemy was so close.

When Sims and his men came through the front door, gunfire raged for a few minutes. Two soldiers were hit near the shoulder and rushed out by the man next to them.

Crouching by a wall outside, Sgt. Randy Laird screamed into his radio, ``Negative, I cannot move, we're pinned down right now! We have friendlies down! Friendlies down!''


The 24-year-old from Lake Charles, La., crouched down on a knee waiting for help.

A line of troops ran up, taking cover from the bullets. They shot their way into the house.

Sims lay on a kitchen floor, his blood pouring across dirty tile.

His men gasped. There was no life in his eyes.

The men sprinted to a house to get a medic.

When the troops rushed back, they lifted Sims' body into a pile of blankets and carried it into the closest Bradley.

Six soldiers piled in after, trying not to step on the body.

In the back of the Bradley with Sims' body, no one spoke.

The only sound was Wright sobbing in the darkness.

Posted by Blackfive on November 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

They're Not Just Numbers!

I received this email this morning.

Tonight, when the talking heads give out the number of men and women killed in Iraq, I want you to remember this:

So what's new around the country? Things here in Iraq continue along. We had a great deal of fighting the other day, just lots of gunfire then quiet. Usual stuff.

Some time ago we had a farewell for our Brigade Executive Officer, who left to take command of a battalion in the Fourth Infantry Division. We all did skits lampooning him; some guys could not get their video to play on the video player, so a panic ensued while we transferred digital to video and back trying to get it together. We ended up with a US video player and needed a US video, so we took my buddy Dennis Pintor's home video and recorded the skit on the end of the recording of his daughter Rhea collecting Easter eggs around the house.

When it came time to show the video, we had re-wound it too far, so we had the entire Brigade of officers watching Dennis Pintor's cute little daughter run around looking for Easter eggs and waving at her father far away. It was actually pretty cute, because Dennis narrated the whole time, and because everyone with kids missed theirs too. "There she is, ladies and gentlemen, Rhea Pintor, waving at her daddy," he said.

You would be surprised at how seriously people around here take these farewells. This could have actually been a disaster, but Dennis chiming in with his commentary on his daughter toddling along kept everyone smiling; even I was laughing. The home video had the usual terrible, home video, yellow-green quality, but it was easy to get passed it for the brief moment he transported us all back home to our own loved ones.

Captain Dennis Pintor was killed with his entire vehicle crew a few nights ago, just a kilometer from the base camp at 10:52 PM. You guys will miss him even though you never knew him, because he believed in defending his country, and he knew that a lot of the bad guys he captured here were out to kill Americans wherever they could find them, and he therefore believed in this mission.

As an engineer, Dennis spent a lot of time rebuilding, and in many ways he was very lucky to be able to help the Iraqi people directly, with concrete missions fixing roads (ha ha) and repairing bridges he could look at later to know he had accomplished something. He even went out of his way to help the Palestinians in his sector.

Because of the nature of my job, I always try to remember that the people we kill on the other side are also humans, that they also have families and brothers and sisters and wives and children. Some of them, I have seen, did not even have shoes on when they died. It is an almost forgivable poverty they fight from.

What makes a difference to me is that their goals are to turn this country into one with fewer freedoms than before we came, to enforce an extreme religious government that suppresses liberty and worse, exports their intolerance. It makes a difference to me that when we raided the Kufa and Imam Ali Mosque we found hundreds of bodies that had been tortured and executed. Some had had their eyes drilled out; others - men, women, and children - their genitals mutilated; almost all – men, women, and children - had been sexually assaulted. Holy warriors indeed.

Dennis knew this too. For the life of me I cannot get the memory of his little daughter out of my mind; I can't forget Dennis narrating her laughter and her toddler's speech. He was, of course, a great guy. He and his driver and gunner will be 1067, 1068, and 1069 on a list somewhere. To me three of them were the best of friends, and they were Americans dedicated to defending and sharing freedom.

The men and women doing the fighting and dying know what is at stake, and they know how the media portrays the sacrifices. Don't allow them to become statistics for Peter Jennings or Dan Rather.

Remember what the number means.

Posted by Blackfive on October 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

The Men of Echo Company

If you haven't seen the Echo site before, you should pay a visit. Jay B. sends this link to the KnightRidder presentation of one of the toughest fights in Iraq. The Marines of Echo 2/4, who fought and died in Ramadi, Iraq, in April, have their stories told by David Swanson and Joe Galloway. Because it focuses on all, the Marines you should know and the Marines that should never be forgotten, I've categorized it in both Someone You Should Know and Bonds.

The site is content rich - with news articles, interviews, profiles, photos and videos.

And reporter David Swanson was hit during the fighting as he attempted to capture what was happening...

...As illumination flares popped overhead, the two dozen Marines went house to house, interrogating and detaining men.

We heard a distant burst of gunfire and knelt against a wall surrounding a house. I raised my camera and photographed Echo Company's Iraqi translator, nicknamed "007," who was behind me.

There was another distant burst and something yanked at my right arm. I looked around to see why 007 had tugged at me, but he was too far away. I rolled up my sleeve and with my left hand felt a divot in the underside of my biceps, near my elbow, where blood was seeping out. I realized I'd been shot...

So, grab a cup of coffee and spend some time meeting these American heroes.

Posted by Blackfive on September 03, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

US Marine Brad Shuder - In God's Care

Charlie, the Kimchee GI, sends this article about Marine Brad Shuder. Lance Corporal Brad Shuder was killed in action last April during his second tour in Iraq.

During the invasion of Iraq, he was one of the first to cross into enemy territory. He also took part in the raid to rescue Army Private Jessica Lynch.

The Korean American Experience has an excellent piece about this American hero who will not be forgotten.

Read the K-A Experience article. Here are some other words about Brad:

Bugarin was Shuder's cousin and godfather, and the priest who officiated the service. Bugarin recalled some of the details from his cousin's death.

When Marines in Iraq pulled back Shuder's flak jacket, they found a small plastic pouch with pictures of his family.

The Marines put up a small memorial for Shuder and another Marine who died during the same battle. The piece of cardboard serving as a tribute read, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Bugarin said that this is the kind of person Brad was.

"Brad was one of those good men," Bugarin said. "Brad was one of those heroes. Brad's sacrifice for you, for me and for the country is something we should not forget."

Bugarin mentioned a quote from Shuder that his parents had discovered following their son's death. It is a quote that sums up everything about Shuder's service and leaves his family with the knowledge that he did not die in vain.

"I joined because it was my dream," Shuder wrote. "I wanted to protect my loved ones. I wanted to protect the United States."

You did, Marine, you did...

Posted by Blackfive on September 02, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2004

Promises Kept - Diana Herbert and Rayshawn Johnson - Americans You Should Know

Diana Herbert grew up in the New York Foster Care System with her two brothers, Rayshawn and Michael Johnson. Rayshawn, the eldest of the children, enlisted in the US Army as a Combat Engineer. Rayshawn had found a new family - the military. Here's a few excerpts from stories about him:

    Her brother had spoken with her about how the Army had changed his life and how it could change hers. It would be a change that would take her from the foster family system in New York that she, Johnson, and their younger brother, Michael Johnson, had known for years.
    "When he returned to the neighborhood, he refused to come out of his greens," his aunt, Rosalyn Winter, told mourners at his funeral. "He wanted everyone to know this was a foster child who became a member of another family. The U.S. Army made a man of him.’’
    The military changed Pfc. Rayshawn Johnson, on the inside and on the outside.

    “He used to dress like he was born on the street, but when he came back, he was in his uniform,” said his brother, Michael Johnson, 16. “He called once at the airport and he said the respect he got from people made him feel so good,” his foster mother, Deborah Wynter, recalled. “He said they were coming up to him and saying ‘God bless you,’ ‘Good luck,’ ‘We’re proud of you.’”

Rayshawn asked his sister and brother, when they were old enough, to serve their country. They promised that they would...


Army Specialist Rayshawn Johnson was killed by an IED in Tikrit, Iraq, on November 3rd, 2003.

Services Held For Third Brooklyn Soldier Killed In Iraq
By Neil S. Friedman

Rayshawn Johnson, a 20-year-old soldier from Brooklyn who was killed when his vehicle hit a landmine in Iraq earlier this month, was buried last Fri-day with military honors and remembered as a proud young man who loved his uniform and country.

Pfc. Johnson was eulogized at a two-hour service attended by his biological mother, the adoptive mother who raised him and scores of relatives, friends and public officials.

"I never thought it would be like this,’’ said Patty Johnson, the soldier’s biological mother. "It makes me so proud that people love him. I always wanted him to be a good person at heart, and actually it came true for me."

Johnson had been in the Army for one year and had been assigned to the 299th Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, in Fort Hood, Texas before his unit was shipped to Iraq to build bridges. He was killed on November 3 when his Humvee hit a landmine near Tikrit.

At his funeral at the Vanderveer Park United Methodist Church in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, Deborah Winter, who adopted Johnson when he was 7 and raised him along with eight other children, wept as Ma-jor Gen. Ronald Johnson pinned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star on her lapel...

His sister, Diana Herbert, recently completed training as Air Force Refueling Specialist. The youngest, Michael Johnson, is enlisting in the Marines. They are following through on their promises to Rayshawn.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Powell
Airman Makes Good on Promise
By John Ingle / 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Aug. 5, 2004 — Airman Diana Herbert's reason for serving in the Air Force is simple. She made a promise.

She did not seek or want the attention she is getting, but that does not change the enormity of her promise to her brother, Army Pfc. Rayshawn Johnson.

Herbert, 18, fulfilled her pledge July 28 when she graduated from the aircraft fuels systems apprentice course here.

Johnson was not at the graduation ceremony. He was killed Nov. 3 in Tikrit, Iraq, when his Humvee hit a land mine. He was a combat engineer in the 299th Engineering Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.

"This was to fulfill a promise to my brother," she said.

Herbert said she had visited with a recruiter in Brooklyn, N.Y., weeks before her brother's death. She had even taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and was waiting to learn when she would enter.

Her brother had spoken with her about how the Army had changed his life and how it could change hers. It would be a change that would take her from the foster family system in New York that she, Johnson, and their younger brother, Michael Johnson, had known for years.

She was returning from a movie when she saw Michael outside their home, crying.

"He never cries," she said, sensing something was not right.

That's when she heard about her brother's death.

"My first reaction was 'it's not true. Maybe it was someone else,'" she said. "He always protected me. I always relied on him."

Herbert said the news of her brother's death did not really hit home until about a week afterward when she and Michael received a letter from him.

"When my letter came ... my younger brother thought he was alive," she said.

Herbert struggled through the first weeks of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, particularly when Taps would play. Her thoughts would immediately go to the day her family buried her brother.

As the days passed and she continued on to technical training here, she looked to her brother for strength and encouragement. "Anytime I feel I can't do anything, I think about him," she said. "It reminds me why I'm here, and makes me want to try harder."

The airman's next assignment is at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where she will work on A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and C-130 Hercules.

There could be a sequel to this story of triumph over tragedy. Younger brother, Michael, is planning to join the Marines; another testament to the impact one person, one soldier, can have on someone else.

Diana and Michael, from your fellow brothers and sisters, Welcome to the family!

[read about other heroes that you should know - here!]

Posted by Blackfive on August 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Godspeed, Rhino!

Unfortunately, LtCol David "Rhino" Greene was killed while providing cover for the 2/4 Marines. Below is the article about his memorial ceremony in Iraq on August 2nd:

Deployed Marines say goodbye to fallen HMLA-775 pilot
Story by Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink

Al Taqqadum, Iraq- (Aug. 6, 2004) -- “…If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”

These words from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” greeted hundreds of Marines, Sailors and Soldiers as they gathered at the chapel here Aug. 2 to pay homage to Lt. Col. David S. “Rhino” Greene, an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot and aviation maintenance officer with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Greene was killed July 28 while providing cover for casualty evacuation of critically injured Marines and close air support to his fellow Marines on the ground.

The blow to this close-knit Marine aviation community was evident, though there were few outward displays during the service.

“The squadron’s stoic acceptance of a loss of a fellow warrior is indicative of her drive to complete a righteous and important mission,” said Col. Guy M. Close, commanding officer, MAG-16, under whom HMLA-775 falls while deployed to Iraq. “They’re well-led, once again demonstrating that they are among the best America has to offer.”

A platoon of Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, the infantry unit Greene was providing air support to when he was killed, were also on hand to pay their respect during the memorial ceremony.

Greene was a Marine reservist, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1986. A native of Illion, N.Y., he lived with his wife and two children in Shelburne, Vt., while assigned to Detachment A, HMLA-775, a reserve squadron based in Johnstown, Pa. He was known for his down-to-earth personality, good humor and judicious, well-considered counsel.

Lt. Col. Karl F. Frost, executive officer, HMLA-775, spoke of Greene’s “unassuming nobility.”

Voice cracking with emotion, he said, “If I could say one thing right now, it would be ‘thank you.’”

Greene, a project manager for B.F. Goodrich Aerospace in Vermont, was scheduled to return to the United States in just a few weeks.

“He had humor, wit and a perpetual smile for all around him,” said Lt. Col. Bruce S. Orner, commanding officer, HMLA-775. “He effortlessly enriched the lives of all with whom he came in contact.

“Our prayers go out to his family,” he added. “His ‘final’ mission was complete, and it was his time to go home.”

He is survived by his wife, Sarah, and children, Wesley and Jena.

More on LtCol Greene here and here. Please keep the Greene family in your thoughts and prayers.

Posted by Blackfive on August 09, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 06, 2004

Tribute - Marine Corporal Erik Silva

The following is a tribute to the memory of Marine Corporal Erik Silva. Not only is this an amazing article about Corporal Silva, you'll see that his family is also part of the American Warrior Caste and you'll find a special Marine Corps Mom to be very, very proud of...

A Tribute to a Fallen Hero

By Tom Marnell
Erik Silva
Born September 10, 1980, Killed in Action April 4, 2003

On May 28th of this year my wife Charlotte and I had the privilege of visiting the Healing Field, which was erected for the public at Kirby Park, Wilkes-Barre, PA. This tribute to both the heroes and victims of the War on Terror was on display from May 15th thru May 31, 2004.

For those of you who have not heard of the "Healing Field", I could only describe it as follows: A large field divided by a long path. On one side of the path were approximately three thousand American Flags, and on each of these flags was the name of an individual who died as a result of the 9/11 tragedies. The number of flags represented the number of people whose lives were sacrificed on that dreadful day. On the other side of the path, there were flags placed in memory of each Allied Soldier who lost his or her life while serving in either Afghanistan or Iraq since 09/11/01. On each flag that represented a fallen Allied Soldier there was a yellow ribbon attached to the flagpole. Attached to the yellow ribbon there was a card and on each card there was the name of a soldier, the individual's age, hometown, branch of service and where and on what date he or she died.

For Charlotte and I, it was a very emotional experience. I cannot even begin to count how many times I wiped the tears from my eyes. But then, I was not alone. There were many people who walked among those many flags at Kirby Park that evening. I would venture to guess that few if any knew anyone represented by those flags. However, we were all struck with the same emotion for we all realized their tragedy and sacrifice.

For this past Fathers Day my family presented me with a flag that had been purchased at the Healing Field. The flag was in memory of Corporal Erik H. Silva. Erik was a Marine from Chula Vista, Calif. He was 22 years old when he died in Baghdad, Iraq on 04/04/03. Though I was struck with many emotions when I first was given the flag, my thoughts almost immediately turned to Erik. Who was Erik Silva? What was he doing in Baghdad? Was he truly a hero? The journey to answer these questions was much more difficult then I originally thought. The main obstacle was the fact that since 9/11, the military no longer will provide any information on a soldier or the soldier's family and though the justification for this policy is obvious, the policy still made my goal a lot more difficult.

In order to accomplish my goal I made contact with Senator Santorum's Office and also with Marine Recruiters Jim Seymour and John Winterstein. All provided invaluable assistance. John Winterstein, who originally recruited Erik, made arrangements for Erik's mother, Gloria, to contact me.

The following is an introduction to Erik H. Silva:

Erik was born on September 10, 1980. As a very young man he always wanted to follow in his uncle Sergio Hernandez' shoes. Sergio was a Corporal in the Marines who served in Operation Desert Storm. So it was only natural that Erik also wanted to be a Marine. From age three Erik would wear his camouflage fatigues and march around the house carrying his toy rifle. Erik also had a distinguished high school career and had been highlighted by the Holtville newspaper, which is also the name of the community where Erik was raised. At Holtville High he was drum major for the school band, played first trumpet, received the U.S. Marines Semper Fidelis award for musical excellence and also received the national John Philip Sousa Award as did his three siblings. Erik also played golf and soccer for his high school. Yet none of this could keep him from his dream and shortly after High School Erik finally joined the Marines. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Division based at Camp Pendleton, California. This was no surprise to anyone who knew Erik for he came from a military family. Besides his Uncle Sergio, Erik's older brother Isaac was in the Air Force and is presently in the National Guard and his younger sister Gloria is in the Navy and is stationed in Tennessee.

On February 6, 2003 shortly after the 1st Division received orders transferring the division to Camp Doha, Qatar as a staging area before being sent to Iraq, Gloria Silva went to Camp Pendleton to say good-by to her son. She squeezed him and sobbed uncontrollably. She couldn't let him go. She told me that she felt at the time that if she let him go, she would never get him back. This is the last time Mrs. Silva would see Erik alive.

On March 9, 2003 Mrs. Silva would hear from Erik for the last time. His Division was now in Kuwait. Erik's knee was bothering him. He wanted it to heel before they moved out. Erik knew that the battle was within a matter of days. Gloria again began to cry. She pleaded with Erik to be careful. Erik told her to be calm and not to be afraid. He reminded his mother that he is a Marine. He has prepared for this day his entire life; from when he was three years old he was preparing to serve his country as a Marine. In closing the conversation he told his mother, "you must be strong, you must also be a Marine."

On April 4, 2003 Gloria Silva was taking her daughter to the bus station. The daughter had just completed military leave and was in the process of returning to Tennessee where she was stationed. On the way back from the bus station Gloria received a call from her mother, Mrs. Hernandez, who was crying. Mrs. Hernandez had received a call from the police department asking for Erik's mother and father. A short time later Gloria received a second call. This time it was from a neighbor who was also crying. She advised Gloria that she was needed home as soon as possible. Gloria immediately knew there was something wrong in that the neighbor had never before called her. Gloria then called her son Jay and began to cry. She told Jay she felt that something had happened to Erik. Jay assured her that nothing had happened. He informed his mother that arrangements were made for him to be contacted first in case something were to happen to Erik. He assured Gloria that everything was OK. A short while later Gloria approached her home and the unthinkable was before her. In front of the house was parked a government vehicle and inside the house waited two Marines and two Chaplains. Erik Silva had been killed during an ambush of his unit after it entered Iraq and approached Baghdad.

On the first anniversary of Erik's death, Erik's family gathered and was visited by approximately fifteen soldiers who served with Erik. Though there were some tears, there were also some stories and some laughter. You see, Erik's family was determined to celebrate Erik's life rather than mourn his death. A number of the soldiers that served with Erik in Iraq had Erik's name tattooed on their shoulder to insure that they never forget. Neither does Gloria Silva forget what Erik told her. Whenever tragedy befalls the 1st Division, Gloria returns to Camp Pendleton to offer support to the families. She also offers support to the families of any fallen soldiers within driving distance of her home. After all, Gloria is strong and if being a Marine is synonymous with commitment, sense of duty and putting the mission above self, then Gloria is a Marine too.

We often read of the number of soldiers that have made the ultimate sacrifice during this war on terror. Today the number of American soldiers killed is in excess of 900. Recently, Night Line televised the names of every soldier killed up to that date. Their effort was viewed with skepticism as to their motives. Regardless of the efforts or motives, neither the number nor the names tell us anything about our fallen soldiers or their families. So, this article is intended to place a face on a single hero and his family.

This article is not intended to impose my opinion of this war on anyone. However, I do believe it is important to recognize our soldiers and their families for the sacrifices they make for us. If you see a soldier in uniform at an airport or bus terminal, please take the time to thank him. He may very well be traveling to or from harm's way.

For those interested, John Winterstein, who was mentioned as the recruiter in the article is actively involved in shipping hundreds of care packages to the Marines in Iraq. Below is where you can send a check or money order:

    Marine Corps League Det 942
    John Wintersteen
    945 Sycamore Circle
    Danville CA 94526

If anyone (especially if you a Soldier or Marine "in country") wants John's email address, send me a request for it via email (the Marine Corps League is a non-profit 501(c) organization).

Posted by Blackfive on August 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

What We Believe

I was forwarded an email from John Speer. His son, Lance Corporal Joshua Speer, was part of the Marine force that invaded Iraq in 2003. Two weeks after he came home, Corporal Speer was killed in a car accident. That was July 6th, 2003.

When his father went through Joshua's belongings after laying him to rest, he found his journal. On the anniversary of Joshua's death, Mr. Speer wanted to share something...

Two weeks after the invasion, Corporal Speer wrote the following in his journal:

I live and I fight! "for what?" sometimes I don't even know. But one thing that I do know is that the principles and the standards for which the United States stands for must always be preserved for future generations. I am prepared to sacrifice my life, and will do so willingly.

(Signed) Lcpl. Speer
May 2003

Please keep the Speer family in your thoughts and prayers today and remember what we fight for...

Posted by Blackfive on July 06, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 02, 2004

The Meaning of Semper Fi - Rest Well Sergeant Conde

    "Some People Spend An Entire Lifetime Wondering If They Made A Difference...Marines Don't Have That Problem" - President Ronald Reagan, 1985

Marine Sergeant Kenneth Conde, a Marine who I described as one tough SOB, a Marine who was wounded and fought on to save his men, a Marine who refused to leave the battlefield, has fallen.

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr., 23, of Orlando, Fla., died July 1 due to injuries received from enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

This is from his Blackfive profile as Someone You Should Know:

...The corpsman treated Conde, who only wanted to get his gear and get back to the fight. Conde's Marines were out there and he knew his place was alongside them.

"We stayed and fought until every one of the insurgents was dead," Conde said. Before the day was through, 3rd MAP also raided the house of a former Baath Party member and seized a large weapons cache.

Over the next few days, Conde's unit participated in several other firefights until the violence died down. All the while, he nursed his wound, not giving into the pain and refusing to leave his Marines.

Only when his arm went numb, making it difficult to hold his rifle steady, did he finally give in and step out of the fight.

Back at the camp here, Marines asked Conde why he chose to stay and fight even after being shot.

"I told them that I couldn't just leave the fight when I still could keep going," he told them.

But it his actions didn't surprise his fellow Marines.

"He always told us that he would lead us from the front, and that we would never do anything if he wasn't doing it too," Cox explained. "After being in that firefight with him, I will always know that he is true to his word."

And here is today's story from the Orlando Sentinel:

Marine killed in action had chance to leave
The Orlando resident, wounded in April, chose to stay and fight on
By Pamela J. Johnson | Sentinel Staff Writer

Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr. could have had a safe trip home in April after he was wounded in a gunbattle with Iraqi insurgents, winning praise for his bravery.

Instead, the 22-year-old Orlando Marine chose to complete his mission.

On Thursday, his parents learned that Conde would never return. He had been killed in action.

Theresa Conde was too traumatized to talk about her only son Thursday night, said a friend who answered the door of the family home.

Kenneth Conde Sr., himself a former Marine, was in Atlanta on business when he heard of his son's death and was flying back to Orlando.

The younger Conde's mother had said earlier that she hoped her son's wound in April would be his ticket home.

She wished that her son, who kept fighting despite a bullet piercing his shoulder, would collect his Purple Heart and get out of Iraq.

"That's my baby," Theresa Conde, 44, said in April. "I thought this was my chance to get him back. I thought, 'OK, you're a hero. Now come home.' "

But deep inside, she knew.

"He's not the type to quit," she said then. "He's looking out for his platoon. And he was angry that he was shot. It didn't surprise me that he stayed."

In April, Conde was shot in the left shoulder as he ran down a street in Ramadi, shooting at insurgents who were firing at his platoon from rooftops.

Conde's platoon was in the Sunni Triangle to retrieve wounded soldiers.

The Triangle is an area stretching from Baghdad north to Tikrit and west to Ramadi known as the "killing zone" because 80 percent of guerrilla attacks take place there.

The 27-man platoon came under fire, and Conde and the others kept firing until all of the insurgents were killed.

When Conde was shot and fell to the ground, he heard Iraqi insurgents cheering, he told his father. He became enraged.

"He had to get back up," Conde Sr., 43, recounted in April.

Bleeding profusely, Conde rose to his feet with a burst of adrenaline.

"Come on, let's get 'em!" Conde said, recounting the story to his father. He fired more rounds before falling to the ground a second time.

Then, after being treated by a corpsman, he grabbed a gun and returned to battle.

The young Marine kept fighting despite his badly injured left arm, stopping only when it became so numb he could no longer hold a rifle.

"I couldn't just leave the fight when I still could keep going," Conde told his fellow Marines.

His parents said that they had been told their son would be nominated for a Bronze Star for heroism.

"He always has to be the best at anything he does," his father said. "I told him, 'You're a better Marine than I ever was.' "

Conde's platoon, part of Mobile Assault Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, is scheduled to return home in September.

Upon his return, he had planned to marry a woman he met while based in Japan...

There aren't any details, yet, as to how Sergeant Conde died. Rest assured, he was faithful to his God, his Country, his Corps.

He will never be forgotten.

Semper Fi, Sergeant Conde, Semper Fi

Posted by Blackfive on July 02, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

June 16, 2004

Terror In The Skies Nineteen Years Ago


Jennifer Martinez has a post remembering Flight 847 - the anniversary was the 14th of June. The flight, flying from Athens to Rome, was hijacked by Hezbollah thugs and redirected to Beriut. The Islamic jihadis searched the plane for Jewish passengers and US military servicemen. They found five US Navy Divers and one Army Reserve Major. All military men were savagely beaten and tortured.

One diver, Robert D. Stethem was chosen to be executed. The Hezbollah chief put his pistol up against the diver's temple, fired one bullet and dumped Stethem's body on the tarmac.

Stethem was murdered because he was an American Sailor. His memory lives on as the Navy Commissioned the USS Stethem - one of the most formidable ships in the world.

The Army Reserve Major's name was Kurt Carlson. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Lieutenant Colonel Carlson. I was performing a surprise training inspection of Carlson's Engineer Battalion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Turns out, Carlson was one of the best Battalion Commanders - active or reserves - that I have ever evaluated. When I reported at Oh-Dark-Thirty to find the commander and inform him of the surprise inspection, he wasn't in his office. He was out in the motor pool in January (in Wisconsin) turning wrenches with one of his Company Commanders during PMCS (a time period set aside to perform routine maintenance on vehicles and equipment). His troops took good care of him, too - that's the primary indication of a fine Officer.

I'll put Kurt Carlson's story in the Extended Section. Read it, but also remember Robert Stethem and the others murdered by terrorist thugs in the name of their obscene god deity. Kurt Carlson wouldn't want his story to take attention away from their sacrifices.

by JEFFREY GOLDBERG - The New Yorker (October 28, 2002)
In 1985, two of Mugniyah's men hijacked a T.W.A. airplane, a Boeing 727, on a scheduled run between Athens and Rome. Almost immediately after seizing control, the hijackers, Hassan Izz-al-Din and Muhammad Ali Hamadi, began searching the plane for American servicemen. They soon discovered a group of Navy divers and a thirty-eight-year-old Army Reserve major named Kurt Carlson.

The hijackers were demanding the release of Shiite prisoners in Kuwait and more than seven hundred Shiite prisoners in Israel. Their behavior was erratic; they forced the plane to land in Beirut, then go to Algiers, and then fly back to Beirut. In Beirut, Izz-al-Din and Hamadi executed one of the divers, Robert Stethem, and dumped his body on the airport tarmac.

Carlson today lives in Rockford, Illinois; he is a builder, a friendly, small-boned man, who talks easily about his experience. On the tarmac in Algiers, Carlson said, Hamadi would preach the virtues of the Shiite revolution in Iran from the cockpit window to whoever happened to be listening below. "Every time Hamadi said the name Khomeini, Izz-al-Din would kick me in the back," Carlson said. Carlson was beaten steadily for several days, and his beatings intensified when the hijackers' demands for fuel weren't met. "They kept yelling, 'One American must die, one American must die,' " he said.

At one point, Carlson was dragged into the cockpit. "All of a sudden, I felt a blow, and I heard the captain yelling, 'They're beating and killing Americans! I need fuel!' Meanwhile, Hamadi was screaming in Arabic. He was hitting me with a steel pipe. When he got tired of hitting me with a pipe, he would drop-kick me two or three times. I wasn't making any sound, but I realized that the captain had kept the mike open, and that he wanted me to make sounds, to convince the tower to get us fuel. So I started grunting."

After the plane flew to Beirut the second time, American intelligence officials believe, Mugniyah boarded it; his fingerprints were reportedly identified in one of the bathrooms. American hostages were taken from the plane and dispersed around Beirut. Carlson, along with four of the surviving Navy divers, was put in the custody of the Shiite Amal militia, a less extreme radical group. The hostages were held in a basement, where they were subjected to mock executions and were fed intermittently.

"One day, we were told we had to speak to a visitor from Hezbollah," Carlson recalled. "They took us into another room. There was a bunch of guys there. One was a short guy with a beard. He just looked at us. The Amal guys who were our guards kept close to us. I felt like they were trying to protect us. This guy started asking us questions. Where we're from, what unit. All of a sudden, he let loose with a tirade. He spoke some English. I remember that his eyes were like glass. You could feel the hate coming out of him. He started screaming about the Israelis, how they're supported by the U.S. The Israelis were so bad they wouldn't consent to Red Cross visits to the Shiite prisoners. He was just screaming.

"One of the divers, Stuart Dahl, answered him," Carlson went on. "He said, 'If you believe in the rights of prisoners, you'll let the Red Cross see us.' This guy, the one who was screaming, just about fell over. He didn't expect anyone to answer him. They started talking among themselves, the Hezbollah guys. Now, there was the guy just behind the one who was screaming. I hadn't noticed him before. All of the Hezbollah guys turned to him. They spoke, and then he led them out of the room. I believe that that man was Imad Mugniyah." After seventeen days, Carlson and the remaining four Americans were freed.

If anyone knows of Stuart Dahl's whereabouts, please send me an email. I'd like to buy that Sailor a bottle of scotch.

[tombstone photo by Ron Williams]

[read about other heroes that you should know - here!]

Posted by Blackfive on June 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 10, 2004


Bryan sent this link to a great story. It provides some counter-weight to the negativity of the last post.

Reagan, the Marines, and a Boy
On a spring day in 1983, Marine Staff Sergeant Robert Menke was waiting for a hot enlistment prospect he had talked to on the phone. Hunched over paperwork in the Corps' Huntington Beach California recruiting station, Menke heard the front door open and looked up. In came a boy in a motorized wheelchair, followed by his father. Menke noted the boy's frail body and thin arms. "Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yes," the boy answered firmly. "My name is John Zimmerman."

It took the startled Marine a moment to realize that this was indeed his prospect. "I'm Staff Sergeant Menke," he said, shaking his visitor's small hand. "Come on in."

Menke, a shy man, uncomfortable with recruiting, quickly found himself captured by the articulate thirteen year old youth with an easy, gap-toothed grin. For more than an hour they spoke -of training and overseas assignments and facing danger. The kid loved the Marine Corps. Not a word was exchanged about the younger Zimmerman's condition or the wheelchair...

You can read the rest of this amazing story here.

Posted by Blackfive on June 10, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 01, 2004

TRIBUTE - Marines In Iraq on Memorial Day

Amy K. sends this speech (complete with photos of the memorial) given by Colonel Craig A. Tucker, USMC, Commander of RCT-7, gave to the Marines at Al Asad, Iraq, honoring Memorial Day. Amy's husband is a Marine Corps Officer with RCT-7.

31 May 2004 - Memorial Day RCT-7 Memorial Day Service - Al Asad, Iraq
Americans across the globe pause today to remember and honor our nation’s war dead. Back home, in cities, county parks, farming towns, and backyards amidst parades, picnics and speeches our country remembers millions. We gather here today, in a dusty courtyard on an airbase in Iraq, to remember 23.
Many have told me over these last few days that this short talk should reverberate with words linking those we remember today to great causes and purposes. I do not have those kinds of words in me today. I don’t need them. The truth has nobility enough.
Our families and friends assemble today at their picnics and parades free of fear and terror. They assemble as the normal commerce of life in the U.S. proceeds apace, their children safe from the terror that stalks this globe. That sense of security and freedom from fear does not, however, make this enemy any less dangerous or any less real.
This is a war against terror, fighting an enemy whose strategy is to focus his death and destruction on our families, our neighbors, and our citizens; an enemy whose tactics are designed to instill fear by killing our children in their homes as we stand helplessly by. That horror has moved away from our shores because men like you, and those men we remember today, are willing to endure the sacrifices required to engage this enemy here.
Each man we honor today paid the ultimate sacrifice, and when that moment of sacrifice alighted upon each Marine’s personal battlefield, his feet stood fast, he stood to his duty, and he honored the loyalty of his friends and his fellow Marines. They were worthy of their country, of their forefathers, and of their buddies.
We can pay them no greater honor than to paint each of them into our memory and to promise, each in our own way and each to our own thoughts, that we will never forget them. And for as long as any here live, their memorial day will not be the last Monday in May; their memorial is their lives sculpted into the hearts of their friends, a memorial enduring for the generations all of you have left to live, a memorial that comes to life when we speak of them, laugh over their antics, cry over them, talk to our family and friends about them, or sit quietly and feel the pain of their loss to our fellowship.
As for me, I knew few of them personally, but I remember all of their names; I remember the hour and date of their death, I remember how and where they died, I know the names of those they left behind. And for the remainder of my days their memorial will be that remembering: that these young men I counted as my sons have far exceeded the honors of their fathers. “

In Memoriam

2ND Bn, 7TH Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Hit, Iraq
On 3 March 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received Husaybah, Iraq
On 17 March 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received Husaybah, Iraq
On 18 March 2004

2ND Bn, 7TH Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Hit, Iraq
On 19 March 2004

2ND Bn, 7TH Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Al Anbar Province, Iraq On 1 April 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 8 April 2004

1st LAR Bn
Died as a result of wounds received in Al Bu Jardin, Iraq
On 8 April 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Sa’dah, Iraq
On 9 April 2004

3RD Bn, 4th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Fallujah, Iraq
On 11 April 2004

3RD Bn, 4th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Fallujah, Iraq
On 11 April 2004

3RD Bn, 4th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Fallujah, Iraq
On 11 April 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 14 April 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 18 April 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 18 April 2004

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 18 April

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 18 April

3rd Bn, 7th Marines
Died as a result of wounds received in Husaybah, Iraq
On 18 April 2004

C Co, 1st CEB
Died as a result of wounds received in Al Asad, Iraq
On 17 May 2004

1st LAR Bn
Died as a result of wounds received on MSR Tin, Iraq
On 20 May 2004

1st LAR Bn
Died as a result of wounds received in Al Anbar Province, Iraq
On 23 May 2004

C Co, 1st CEB
Died as a result of wounds received in Hit, Iraq
On 26 May 2004

C Co, 1st CEB
Died as a result of wounds received in Hit, Iraq
On 26 May 2004

Share Your Courage!

Source: Pericles Funeral Oration

Posted by Blackfive on June 01, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

Second Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd

John Donovan at Castle Argghhh! has a post that you should all read about Second Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd.

Friends---below are a series of emails,edited only to delete all the headings, from my good friend LTC(R) Tony Cerri...His son in law 2LT Leonard Cowherd was killed last week in Iraq. Leonard's death puts a face on the growing list of young men killed in Iraq. I think you will find these emails will touch your hearts....

Posted by Blackfive on May 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Memorial Day - Marine Lance Corporal Andrew Zabierek - Never Forgotten

I get a lot of emails from the Marines in Fallujah. Some are about Chance Phelps and I haven't posted them in order to respect his family - I don't want them to see new information here first. Suffice it to say that there are Marines on patrol in Iraq with pictures of Chance on the dashboards of vehicles or taped inside their wallets. Even in death, he is an inspiration to them.

I posted a recent email from Marine LtCol. Kyser, Warlord Six, and it was originally posted at a private site for Marine families of his battalion. LtCol Kyser just sent another email and I will post it below. It'll both make you so damn proud of our Marines and it'll also rip your heart out.

I now know several people who are friends of LtCol. Kyser and, to a man, they all think the world of him. No one better could be leading our young Marines. Here's the message from Warlord Six:

Since the letter's mailing we unfortunately lost another of our fine young men. Another amazing story in and of itself. He was a Marine from Chelmsford Massachusetts, a LCpl, with a four year degree who enlisted as a grunt because of his dedication to our great country and because he wanted to make a difference in the war on terror following September 11th.

He considered officer programs, but wanted to be led first and be where the action was. Older than most, he became known as "Uncle Zip(pity)" to his platoon mates because he was so committed that even when he had literally walked the skin off of the bottom of his feet, he never complained and continued to press on.

He was at once courageous, funny and compassionate. His intellect and easy way with people made him one of our first choices to send to additional language training and accordingly, he became one of the platoon's keys to interacting with the locals...especially the children. So as you see, he was a grievous loss not only to his fellow Warlords, but to the people here in Iraq who look to us for hope of a better future.

Andrew J. Zabierek was a young man who had all the advantages of a loving home, the benefits of a four year degree and a comfortable lifestyle, but he chose to serve. He chose to stand when many others remained seated. He died unhesitatingly responding to a mortar attack in order to protect the lives of his fellow Marines. The measure of a man is not just how he dies, but how he lives...and as you can see, this young man made a difference in both ways, and in two languages with two peoples left a legacy in the finest traditions of our Corps and our Country.

As I have said before, I and we as a nation are so incredibly blessed that young men like this answered the call to duty. He represents the best of America's youth. We will miss him, and we will not forget him.

Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

LtCol Kyser

As LtCol Kyser said, please keep the Zabierek family and friends in your prayers as well as all of those who have lost loved ones fighting for us.

This weekend, while you have your BBQs and picnics and parades, please take a moment remember our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen that are still out there fighting the war on terror.

And if any of you are Clemson grads, you could organize something to remember Andrew Zabierek.

From the Chelmsford Independent.

From the Boston Globe - 'True Hero' was committed to service.

Posted by Blackfive on May 28, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

Major Mathew Schram's Memorial Day

Memorial Day is like any other day when you're in an Army at War.

On Memorial Day, May 26th, 2003 at approximately 7:00AM, Major Mathew E. Schram was leading a resupply convoy in Western Iraq near the Syrian border. Major Schram was the Support Operations Officer for the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (out of Ft. Carson, Colorado). He had responsibility for organizing the logistical arm of the regiment - ensuring that the Cavalrymen never ran out of food, fuel or ammo.

Normally, Major Schram would not accompany the convoys as his responsibilities kept him at the main resupply point. However, due to the problems with attacks on supply convoys (i.e. Jessica Lynch's 507th Maintenance Company ambush), he decided to lead this one. He also decided that there was a side benefit to the ride - he would be able to talk with the field commanders and troops that he supported. Major Schram wanted to make sure that his "customers" were happy. Anyone who knew Mat Schram knew that he was obsessive-compulsive about making sure "his soldiers" were taken care of...that's why he was one of the top logistical officers in the US Army.

Major Schram's convoy consisted of eight vehicles - one 5,000 gallon water tanker, two 3,000 gallon water trucks, one water pump truck, two 5,000 gallon fuel tankers, one truck with MREs and bottled water, and Major Schram's command Humvee (bumper numbers: S&T 323, 344, 350, 237, 210, 204, 219, and HQ12).

The convoy was headed North from Al Asad Airbase - Foward Operating Base (FOB) Webster (grid coordinate KC 640 430) along Route 12 to FOB Jenna (KC 360 748). After delivering supplies at Jenna, the convoy would continue on to Al Qaim - FOB Tiger (GT 146 911) which had the 1/3 Armored Cavalry.

At 7:15AM, vicinity KC 6514 6181, Major Schram's convoy approached a ravine where the bridge crossing the ravine had been destroyed. The convoy had to go down the embankment, into the ravine, and back up the other side to get back onto the highway.

Once the lead vehicle started up the far bank of the ravine, the convoy came under intense fire from Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs), machine guns, and small arms fire. It was an ambush. Fifteen Iraqi insurgents had been waiting by the ravine.

An RPG hit the lead tanker vehicle, disabling it in the kill zone. It was a perfect ambush set up. If the insurgents could knock out the first and last vehicles, then the entire convoy would be stuck in the kill zone. Bullets flew from insurgents on both sides of the ravine. The insurgent grenadiers were trying to concentrate fire on the last American vehicle to bottle Major Schram's convoy in the ravine. The attackers would then be able to kill the Americans at will.

Major Schram ordered his driver, Specialist Chris Van Dyke, to accelerate from their position in the convoy into the insurgents' positions. Major Schram sent a message to Headquarters for help and began returning fire out of the Humvee. The Iraqi grenadiers recognized the threat and shifted their fire from the rear truck to Schram's Humvee, HQ-12.

Multiple grenades exploded at the front and rear of HQ-12. Specialist Van Dyke was blown out of the vehicle. Once he stopped rolling on the ground, he got up and ran back to HQ-12. He got back in and drove the Humvee out of the Kill Zone.

When he turned to get orders from Major Schram, Van Dyke realized that his Major had been killed. Even though he wore body armor, two 7.62 rounds had gone through his armpit (where there is no body armor coverage) and struck his heart, killing him instantly.

The Iraqi insurgents had fled after they fired their grenades at HQ-12 which was heading for them at full throttle.

Immediately, from a nearby FOB, two Apache helicopter gunships were launched along with a MedEvac helicopter. A Quick Reaction Force from FOB Webster was on the scene in less than ten minutes. Aside from the death of Mathew Schram, the convoy suffered only two wounded. Specialist Van Dyke was wounded in his hand and was able to continue his mission. One other soldier in the lead vehicle suffered a broken femur from the initial grenade attack.

The MedEvac brought Major Schram's body and the injured soldier back to the hospital at FOB Webster. The military conducted a funeral for Major Schram in Iraq. Two hundred soldiers were present. Everyone that knew Mat loved him.


The military said it would take ten days to get Mat Schram's body to his family in Wisconsin. It took less than a few days. Also, in a few days after the ambush, the Army had rounded up all of the attackers and put them in prison.

I was at my desk at work on Tuesday, June 3rd. The phone rang. I looked at the caller ID to see that it was a call from Ft. Leavenworth. I picked it up.

It was John, a friend of mine and Mat Schram's. We had all served together years ago and had stayed in touch. He told me to sit down. I did. He told me that Mat had been killed in Iraq.

After composing myself, we finished our conversation and I promised to see John's wife, Patti, at the funeral. John had to be at Special Operations Command and couldn't make it.

I shut the door to my office, sat back down at my desk and wept for a long time.

At the funeral, Mat's family displayed his last letters and emails that he sent. All were strong, positive messages (sooo very Schrambo-like). Here's an example of the kinds of things that Mat told his family (from the Green Bay Gazette):

Phil Schram of Hartland said his brother had visited Wisconsin over Christmas. The family knew then war was likely. Mathew Schram had been involved in the first Persian Gulf War and, later, in Somalia.

“He was anxious to get over there and get to work. He loved the military. He loved the structure. He loved serving under George W. (Bush),” Phil Schram said.

The one part that I left out of this post is that Major Schram's convoy was followed by a car with a Newsweek reporter in it. Once the action began, the reporter and his driver turned and got the hell out of there. If it wasn't for Mat's charge up into the ambushers, they never would have made it out of there alive.

Newsweek never ran a story about my good friend, Mat.

It took a few weeks for me to decide what to do.

I had been reading Stephen Den Beste, Bill Whittle, Frank J.'s IMAO, and Misha for awhile at that point.

I started Blackfive and decided to write about Mat and other Americans like him - people that Newsweek would never tell you about.

It's Mat Schram's blog as much as it is mine.

So, today, on the anniversary of the sacrifice of my friend, please take a moment to pray for the families who have lost their loved ones in our fight against terror. Mat would have liked that.

One last note, there is a way to contribute to help Mat's fellow Officers attend graduate school. Some of Mat's family and friends got together to create:

The Major Mathew Earl Schram ALMC-LEDC/FT Endowed Fellowship

The fellowship, for Florida Institute of Technology's School of Extended Graduate Studies ' (SEGS) Ft. Lee, Va. center, will support U.S. military officers enrolled in the SEGS Logistics Executive Development Course (LEDC)-Florida Tech (FT) cooperative graduate degree program. The program is at the Army Logistics Management College at Fort Lee. Major Mathew Schram graduated from this school in 2001. This is the first fellowship established for a Florida Tech SEGS center.

The endowment will support one or more annual fellowships for military officers. The first fellowship will be awarded for the fall 2004 semester. To make a contribution to the fellowship, call the Florida Tech Office of Development at (321) 674-8962.

Posted by Blackfive on May 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004


I received a lot of emails today about the story about Marine Corporal Jason Dunham from the Wall Street Journal. Cassandra at I Love Jet Noise posted a copy of it. Go there and read it. It's a must read.

Paul sent me an email link to the story with the below message:

...Cpl. Jason Dunham, USMC who, by his actions saved the lives of at least two of his comrades. Basically he jumped on a grenade, covering it with his Kevlar helmet. He has been recommended for the Medal of Honor by his Battalion CO, Lt Col. Matthew Lopez. Unfortunately, Cpl. Dunham died on April 22nd. What's important to note is that he extended his enlistment, which was due to end in July, so that he could stay on with his squad throughout its tour in Iraq. When asked why he planned to extend his enlistment and stay in Iraq for the battalion's entire tour, he responded "I want to make sure that everyone makes it home alive......." Personal sacrifices such as this need to be known about by the public, and these individuals should be remembered and honored.
Damn, right, Paul.

Posted by Blackfive on May 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

Pat Tillman

You may have noticed that I remained silent on the blog over the death of Pat Tillman. I was at a wedding rehearsal when we found out. At the dinner we toasted and roasted (about medium-well) the groom and enjoyed the night. I think Specialist Tillman was fighting so that we could do those things without being worried about an attack.

We moved back to our hotel bar where we sang our Division fight songs, we raised our glasses to "Absent Companions", and toasted the Rangers and the sacrifice of Specialist Pat Tillman.

Half of us had been Rangers. Most of us know soldiers who have fallen. All of us wept.

Hugh Hewitt mentions these two blogs - Bill Hobbs and Jackalope Purifuiuant - that have a great idea - perhaps a BRILLIANT idea.

Rename the Arizona Cardinals - "The Arizona Rangers".

They would have one more fan in Chicago.

Posted by Blackfive on April 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

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 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.

Before leaving for Dover I called the major who had the task of informing Phelps’s parents of his death. The major said the funeral was going to be in Dubois, Wyoming. (It turned out that PFC Phelps only lived in my hometown for his senior year of high school.) I had never been to Wyoming and had never heard of Dubois.

With two other escorts from Quantico, I got to Dover AFB at 2330 on Tuesday night. First thing on Wednesday we reported to the mortuary at the base. In the escort lounge there were about half a dozen Army soldiers and about an equal number of Marines waiting to meet up with “their” remains for departure. PFC Phelps was not ready, however, and I was told to come back on Thursday. Now, at Dover with nothing to do and a solemn mission ahead, I began to get depressed.

I was wondering about Chance Phelps. I didn’t know anything about him; not even what he looked like. I wondered about his family and what it would be like to meet them. I did pushups in my room until I couldn’t do any more.

On Thursday morning I reported back to the mortuary. This time there was a new group of Army escorts and a couple of the Marines who had been there Wednesday. There was also an Air Force captain there to escort his brother home to San Diego.

We received a brief covering our duties, the proper handling of the remains, the procedures for draping a flag over a casket, and of course, the paperwork attendant to our task. We were shown pictures of the shipping container and told that each one contained, in addition to the casket, a flag. I was given an extra flag since Phelps’s parents were divorced. This way they would each get one. I didn’t like the idea of stuffing the flag into my luggage but I couldn’t see carrying a large flag, folded for presentation to the next of kin, through an airport while in my Alpha uniform. It barely fit into my suitcase.

It turned out that I was the last escort to leave on Thursday. This meant that I repeatedly got to participate in the small ceremonies that mark all departures from the Dover AFB mortuary.

Most of the remains are taken from Dover AFB by hearse to the airport in Philadelphia for air transport to their final destination. When the remains of a service member are loaded onto a hearse and ready to leave the Dover mortuary, there is an announcement made over the building’s intercom system. With the announcement, all service members working at the mortuary, regardless of service branch, stop work and form up along the driveway to render a slow ceremonial salute as the hearse departs. Escorts also participated in each formation until it was their time to leave.

On this day there were some civilian workers doing construction on the mortuary grounds. As each hearse passed, they would stop working and place their hard hats over their hearts. This was my first sign that my mission with PFC Phelps was larger than the Marine Corps and that his family and friends were not grieving alone.

Eventually I was the last escort remaining in the lounge. The Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the Marine liaison there came to see me. He had Chance Phelps’s personal effects. He removed each item; a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain, and a Saint Christopher medal on a silver chain. Although we had been briefed that we might be carrying some personal effects of the deceased, this set me aback. Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps.

Finally we were ready. I grabbed my bags and went outside. I was somewhat startled when I saw the shipping container, loaded three-quarters of the way in to the back of a black Chevy Suburban that had been modified to carry such cargo. This was the first time I saw my “cargo” and I was surprised at how large the shipping container was. The Master Gunnery Sergeant and I verified that the name on the container was Phelps’s then they pushed him the rest of the way in and we left. Now it was PFC Chance Phelps’s turn to receive the military—and construction workers’—honors. He was finally moving towards home.

As I chatted with the driver on the hour-long trip to Philadelphia, it became clear that he considered it an honor to be able to contribute in getting Chance home. He offered his sympathy to the family. I was glad to finally be moving yet apprehensive about what things would be like at the airport. I didn’t want this package to be treated like ordinary cargo, but I knew that the simple logistics of moving around a box this large would have to overrule my preferences.

When we got to the Northwest Airlines cargo terminal at the Philadelphia airport, the cargo handler and hearse driver pulled the shipping container onto a loading bay while I stood to the side and executed a slow salute. Once Chance was safely in the cargo area, and I was satisfied that he would be treated with due care and respect, the hearse driver drove me over to the passenger terminal and dropped me off.

As I walked up to the ticketing counter in my uniform, a Northwest employee started to ask me if I knew how to use the automated boarding pass dispenser. Before she could finish another ticketing agent interrupted her. He told me to go straight to the counter then explained to the woman that I was a military escort. She seemed embarrassed. The woman behind the counter already had tears in her eyes as I was pulling out my government travel voucher. She struggled to find words but managed to express her sympathy for the family and thank me for my service. She upgraded my ticket to first class.

After clearing security, I was met by another Northwest Airline employee at the gate. She told me a representative from cargo would be up to take me down to the tarmac to observe the movement and loading of PFC Phelps. I hadn’t really told any of them what my mission was but they all knew.

When the man from the cargo crew met me, he, too, struggled for words. On the tarmac, he told me stories of his childhood as a military brat and repeatedly told me that he was sorry for my loss. I was starting to understand that, even here in Philadelphia, far away from Chance’s hometown, people were mourning with his family.

On the tarmac, the cargo crew was silent except for occasional instructions to each other. I stood to the side and saluted as the conveyor moved Chance to the aircraft. I was relieved when he was finally settled into place. The rest of the bags were loaded and I watched them shut the cargo bay door before heading back up to board the aircraft.

One of the pilots had taken my carry-on bag himself and had it stored next to the cockpit door so he could watch it while I was on the tarmac. As I boarded the plane, I could tell immediately that the flight attendants had already been informed of my mission. They seemed a little choked up as they led me to my seat.

About 45 minutes into our flight I still hadn’t spoken to anyone except to tell the first class flight attendant that I would prefer water. I was surprised when the flight attendant from the back of the plane suddenly appeared and leaned down to grab my hands. She said, “I want you to have this” as she pushed a small gold crucifix, with a relief of Jesus, into my hand. It was her lapel pin and it looked somewhat worn. I suspected it had been hers for quite some time. That was the only thing she said to me the entire flight.

When we landed in Minneapolis, I was the first one off the plane. The pilot himself escorted me straight down the side stairs of the exit tunnel to the tarmac. The cargo crew there already knew what was on this plane. They were unloading some of the luggage when an Army sergeant, a fellow escort who had left Dover earlier that day, appeared next to me. His “cargo” was going to be loaded onto my plane for its continuing leg. We stood side by side in the dark and executed a slow salute as Chance was removed from the plane. The cargo crew at Minneapolis kept Phelps’s shipping case separate from all the other luggage as they waited to take us to the cargo area. I waited with the soldier and we saluted together as his fallen comrade was loaded onto the plane.

My trip with Chance was going to be somewhat unusual in that we were going to have an overnight stopover. We had a late start out of Dover and there was just too much traveling ahead of us to continue on that day. (We still had a flight from Minneapolis to Billings, Montana, then a five-hour drive to the funeral home. That was to be followed by a 90-minute drive to Chance’s hometown.)

I was concerned about leaving him overnight in the Minneapolis cargo area. My ten-minute ride from the tarmac to the cargo holding area eased my apprehension. Just as in Philadelphia, the cargo guys in Minneapolis were extremely respectful and seemed honored to do their part. While talking with them, I learned that the cargo supervisor for Northwest Airlines at the Minneapolis airport is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves. They called him for me and let me talk to him.

Once I was satisfied that all would be okay for the night, I asked one of the cargo crew if he would take me back to the terminal so that I could catch my hotel’s shuttle. Instead, he drove me straight to the hotel himself. At the hotel, the Lieutenant Colonel called me and said he would personally pick me up in the morning and bring me back to the cargo area.

Before leaving the airport, I had told the cargo crew that I wanted to come back to the cargo area in the morning rather than go straight to the passenger terminal. I felt bad for leaving Chance overnight and wanted to see the shipping container where I had left it for the night. It was fine.

The Lieutenant Colonel made a few phone calls then drove me around to the passenger terminal. I was met again by a man from the cargo crew and escorted down to the tarmac. The pilot of the plane joined me as I waited for them to bring Chance from the cargo area. The pilot and I talked of his service in the Air Force and how he missed it.

I saluted as Chance was moved up the conveyor and onto the plane. It was to be a while before the luggage was to be loaded so the pilot took me up to the board the plane where I could watch the tarmac from a window. With no other passengers yet on board, I talked with the flight attendants and one of the cargo guys. He had been in the Navy and one of the attendants had been in the Air Force. Everywhere I went, people were continuing to tell me their relationship to the military. After all the baggage was aboard, I went back down to the tarmac, inspected the cargo bay, and watched them secure the door.

When we arrived at Billings, I was again the first off the plane. This time Chance’s shipping container was the first item out of the cargo hold. The funeral director had driven five hours up from Riverton, Wyoming to meet us. He shook my hand as if I had personally lost a brother.

We moved Chance to a secluded cargo area. Now it was time for me to remove the shipping container and drape the flag over the casket. I had predicted that this would choke me up but I found I was more concerned with proper flag etiquette than the solemnity of the moment. Once the flag was in place, I stood by and saluted as Chance was loaded onto the van from the funeral home. I was thankful that we were in a small airport and the event seemed to go mostly unnoticed. I picked up my rental car and followed Chance for five hours until we reached Riverton. During the long trip I imagined how my meeting with Chance’s parents would go. I was very nervous about that.

When we finally arrived at the funeral home, I had my first face to face meeting with the Casualty Assistance Call Officer. It had been his duty to inform the family of Chance’s death. He was on the Inspector/Instructor staff of an infantry company in Salt Lake City, Utah and I knew he had had a difficult week.

Inside I gave the funeral director some of the paperwork from Dover and discussed the plan for the next day. The service was to be at 1400 in the high school gymnasium up in Dubois, population about 900, some 90 miles away. Eventually, we had covered everything. The CACO had some items that the family wanted to be inserted into the casket and I felt I needed to inspect Chance’s uniform to ensure everything was proper. Although it was going to be a closed casket funeral, I still wanted to ensure his uniform was squared away.

Earlier in the day I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this moment. Suddenly, the casket was open and I got my first look at Chance Phelps. His uniform was immaculate—a tribute to the professionalism of the Marines at Dover. I noticed that he wore six ribbons over his marksmanship badge; the senior one was his Purple Heart. I had been in the Corps for over 17 years, including a combat tour, and was wearing eight ribbons. This Private First Class, with less than a year in the Corps, had already earned six.

The next morning, I wore my dress blues and followed the hearse for the trip up to Dubois. This was the most difficult leg of our trip for me. I was bracing for the moment when I would meet his parents and hoping I would find the right words as I presented them with Chance’s personal effects.

We got to the high school gym about four hours before the service was to begin. The gym floor was covered with folding chairs neatly lined in rows. There were a few townspeople making final preparations when I stood next to the hearse and saluted as Chance was moved out of the hearse. The sight of a flag-draped coffin was overwhelming to some of the ladies.

We moved Chance into the gym to the place of honor. A Marine sergeant, the command representative from Chance’s battalion, met me at the gym. His eyes were watery as he relieved me of watching Chance so that I could go eat lunch and find my hotel.

At the restaurant, the table had a flier announcing Chance’s service. Dubois High School gym; two o’ clock. It also said that the family would be accepting donations so that they could buy flak vests to send to troops in Iraq.

I drove back to the gym at a quarter after one. I could’ve walked—you could walk to just about anywhere in Dubois in ten minutes. I had planned to find a quiet room where I could take his things out of their pouch and untangle the chain of the Saint Christopher medal from the dog tag chains and arrange everything before his parents came in. I had twice before removed the items from the pouch to ensure they were all there—even though there was no chance anything could’ve fallen out. Each time, the two chains had been quite tangled. I didn’t want to be fumbling around trying to untangle them in front of his parents. Our meeting, however, didn’t go as expected.

I practically bumped into Chance’s step-mom accidentally and our introductions began in the noisy hallway outside the gym. In short order I had met Chance’s step-mom and father followed by his step-dad and, at last, his mom. I didn’t know how to express to these people my sympathy for their loss and my gratitude for their sacrifice. Now, however, they were repeatedly thanking me for bringing their son home and for my service. I was humbled beyond words.

I told them that I had some of Chance’s things and asked if we could try to find a quiet place. The five of us ended up in what appeared to be a computer lab—not what I had envisioned for this occasion.

After we had arranged five chairs around a small table, I told them about our trip. I told them how, at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I told them about the staff at Dover and all the folks at Northwest Airlines. I tried to convey how the entire Nation, from Dover to Philadelphia, to Minneapolis, to Billings, and Riverton expressed grief and sympathy over their loss.

Finally, it was time to open the pouch. The first item I happened to pull out was Chance’s large watch. It was still set to Baghdad time. Next were the lanyard and the wooden cross. Then the dog tags and the Saint Christopher medal. This time the chains were not tangled. Once all of his items were laid out on the table, I told his mom that I had one other item to give them. I retrieved the flight attendant’s crucifix from my pocket and told its story. I set that on the table and excused myself. When I next saw Chance’s mom, she was wearing the crucifix on her lapel.

By 1400 most of the seats on the gym floor were filled and people were finding seats in the fixed bleachers high above the gym floor. There were a surprising number of people in military uniform. Many Marines had come up from Salt Lake City. Men from various VFW posts and the Marine Corps League occupied multiple rows of folding chairs. We all stood as Chance’s family took their seats in the front.

It turned out that Chance’s sister, a Petty Officer in the Navy, worked for a Rear Admiral—the Chief of Naval Intelligence—at the Pentagon. The Admiral had brought many of the sailors on his staff with him to Dubois pay respects to Chance and support his sister. After a few songs and some words from a Navy Chaplain, the Admiral took the microphone and told us how Chance had died.

Chance was an artillery cannoneer and his unit was acting as provisional military police outside of Baghdad. Chance had volunteered to man a .50 caliber machine gun in the turret of the leading vehicle in a convoy. The convoy came under intense fire but Chance stayed true to his post and returned fire with the big gun, covering the rest of the convoy, until he was fatally wounded.

Then the commander of the local VFW post read some of the letters Chance had written home. In letters to his mom he talked of the mosquitoes and the heat. In letters to his stepfather he told of the dangers of convoy operations and of receiving fire.

The service was a fitting tribute to this hero. When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school. I found my car and joined Chance’s convoy.

The town seemingly went from the gym to the street. All along the route, the people had lined the street and were waving small American flags. The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about 20 feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see the enormity of our procession. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles—probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.

The carriage stopped about 15 yards from the grave and the military pall bearers and the family waited until the men of the VFW and Marine Corps league were formed up and school busses had arrived carrying many of the people from the procession route. Once the entire crowd was in place, the pallbearers came to attention and began to remove the casket from the caisson. As I had done all week, I came to attention and executed a slow ceremonial salute as Chance was being transferred from one mode of transport to another.

From Dover to Philadelphia; Philadelphia to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Billings; Billings to Riverton; and Riverton to Dubois we had been together. Now, as I watched them carry him the final 15 yards, I was choking up. I felt that, as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive.

Then they put him down above his grave. He had stopped moving.

Although my mission had been officially complete once I turned him over to the funeral director at the Billings airport, it was his placement at his grave that really concluded it in my mind. Now, he was home to stay and I suddenly felt at once sad, relieved, and useless.

The chaplain said some words that I couldn’t hear and two Marines removed the flag from the casket and slowly folded it for presentation to his mother. When the ceremony was over, Chance’s father placed a ribbon from his service in Vietnam on Chance’s casket. His mother approached the casket and took something from her blouse and put it on the casket. I later saw that it was the flight attendant’s crucifix. Eventually friends of Chance’s moved closer to the grave. A young man put a can of Copenhagen on the casket and many others left flowers.

Finally, we all went back to the gym for a reception. There was enough food to feed the entire population for a few days. In one corner of the gym there was a table set up with lots of pictures of Chance and some of his sports awards. People were continually approaching me and the other Marines to thank us for our service. Almost all of them had some story to tell about their connection to the military. About an hour into the reception, I had the impression that every man in Wyoming had, at one time or another, been in the service.

It seemed like every time I saw Chance’s mom she was hugging a different well wisher. As time passed, I began to hear people laughing. We were starting to heal.

After a few hours at the gym, I went back to the hotel to change out of my dress blues. The local VFW post had invited everyone over to “celebrate Chance’s life.” The Post was on the other end of town from my hotel and the drive took less than two minutes. The crowd was somewhat smaller than what had been at the gym but the Post was packed.

Marines were playing pool at the two tables near the entrance and most of the VFW members were at the bar or around the tables in the bar area. The largest room in the Post was a banquet/dinning/dancing area and it was now called “The Chance Phelps Room.” Above the entry were two items: a large portrait of Chance in his dress blues and the Eagle, Globe, & Anchor. In one corner of the room there was another memorial to Chance. There were candles burning around another picture of him in his blues. On the table surrounding his photo were his Purple Heart citation and his Purple Heart medal. There was also a framed copy of an excerpt from the Congressional Record. This was an elegant tribute to Chance Phelps delivered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Scott McInnis of Colorado. Above it all was a television that was playing a photo montage of Chance’s life from small boy to proud Marine.

I did not buy a drink that night. As had been happening all day, indeed all week, people were thanking me for my service and for bringing Chance home. Now, in addition to words and handshakes, they were thanking me with beer. I fell in with the men who had handled the horses and horse-drawn carriage. I learned that they had worked through the night to groom and prepare the horses for Chance’s last ride. They were all very grateful that they were able to contribute.

After a while we all gathered in the Chance Phelps room for the formal dedication. The Post commander told us of how Chance had been so looking forward to becoming a Life Member of the VFW. Now, in the Chance Phelps Room of the Dubois, Wyoming post, he would be an eternal member. We all raised our beers and the Chance Phelps room was christened.

Later, as I was walking toward the pool tables, a Staff Sergeant from the Reserve unit in Salt Lake grabbed me and said, “Sir, you gotta hear this.” There were two other Marines with him and he told the younger one, a Lance Corporal, to tell me his story. The Staff Sergeant said the Lance Corporal was normally too shy and modest to tell it but now he’d had enough beer to overcome his usual tendencies.

As the Lance Corporal started to talk, an older man joined our circle. He wore a baseball cap that indicated he had been with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. Earlier in the evening he had told me about one of his former commanding officers; a Colonel Puller.

So, there I was, standing in a circle with three Marines recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq and one not so recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. I, who had fought with the 1st Marine Division in Kuwait, was about to gain a new insight into our Corps.

The young Lance Corporal began to tell us his story. At that moment, in this circle of current and former Marines, the differences in our ages and ranks dissipated—we were all simply Marines.

His squad had been on a patrol through a city street. They had taken small arms fire and had literally dodged an RPG round that sailed between two Marines. At one point they received fire from behind a wall and had neutralized the sniper with a SMAW round. The back blast of the SMAW, however, kicked up a substantial rock that hammered the Lance Corporal in the thigh; only missing his groin because he had reflexively turned his body sideways at the shot.

Their squad had suffered some wounded and was receiving more sniper fire when suddenly he was hit in the head by an AK-47 round. I was stunned as he told us how he felt like a baseball bat had been slammed into his head. He had spun around and fell unconscious. When he came to, he had a severe scalp wound but his Kevlar helmet had saved his life. He continued with his unit for a few days before realizing he was suffering the effects of a severe concussion.

As I stood there in the circle with the old man and the other Marines, the Staff Sergeant finished the story. He told of how this Lance Corporal had begged and pleaded with the Battalion surgeon to let him stay with his unit. In the end, the doctor said there was just no way—he had suffered a severe and traumatic head wound and would have to be med’evaced.

The Marine Corps is a special fraternity. There are moments when we are reminded of this. Interestingly, those moments don’t always happen at awards ceremonies or in dress blues at Birthday Balls. I have found, rather, that they occur at unexpected times and places: next to a loaded moving van at Camp Lejeune’s base housing, in a dirty CP tent in northern Saudi Arabia, and in a smoky VFW post in western Wyoming.

After the story was done, the Lance Corporal stepped over to the old man, put his arm over the man’s shoulder and told him that he, the Korean War vet, was his hero. The two of them stood there with their arms over each other’s shoulders and we were all silent for a moment. When they let go, I told the Lance Corporal that there were recruits down on the yellow footprints tonight that would soon be learning his story.

I was finished drinking beer and telling stories. I found Chance’s father and shook his hand one more time. Chance’s mom had already left and I deeply regretted not being able to tell her goodbye.

I left Dubois in the morning before sunrise for my long drive back to Billings. It had been my honor to take Chance Phelps to his final post. Now he was on the high ground overlooking his town.

I miss him.

LtCol Strobl

Like I said, it's a story about Valor, Honor and Respect. The town of Dubois, Northwestern Airlines, and LTC Strobl deserve our thanks, too.

Semper Fi, Corporal Phelps.

Update: Many have emailed me and asked what they can do to help our soldiers fighting this war. Here is an explanation of a current operation that I am a part of to support the Marines in Fallujah. You can make a difference in this war!

Posted by Blackfive on April 27, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (116) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

An American Marine - Geoffrey Morris

    "Where did we find such men? They are typical of this land as the Founding Fathers were typical. We found them in our streets, in the offices, the shops and the working places of our country and on the farms." - President Ronald Reagan, January 25, 1974

Marine Geoffrey Morris was killed in action in Fallujah. Just seven hours after his death, the doorbell to his father's home rang with the arrival of a notification team from Great Lakes Naval Base.

Private First Class Morris was a 19 year old man from suburban Chicago (Gurnee) and was a machine gunner with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Expeditionary Force.

You need to hear what his father has to say:

Marine killed in Iraq believed in cause, says his dad

''As I understand it, he was protecting his comrades, doing his duty,'' Morris said. He said three other troops also in the Humvee were not injured. Officials have not released details about Geoffrey Morris' death.

Morris said his son firmly believed in his mission. ''It meant a lot to him to be a defender of his country, but also the defender of the right of the Iraqi people to choose their government and how they want to live,'' he said.

When the two last talked about a week ago, the younger Morris once again told his father about his duty. ''He said, 'As soon as they stop killing each other, stop killing us, we're out of here. But we're not leaving until the job is done.'

''He did not want to die but he said many times and in letters . . . 'If I do die, Dad, I want you to know that I am right with God and everything will be OK.' ''...

Semper Fi, Marine, Semper Fi...

Posted by Blackfive on April 07, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Godspeed, Colonel Bank

    An American Soldier Died Today
    An American flag at half-mast will fly,
    For the American solider who has died.
    Another lay adorned on the coffin made of wood,
    Where will lay a soldier who once proudly stood.
    Tears of pride and sadness will be shed,
    For the American soldier who is now dead.
    Fellow soldier will stand to honor his death,
    And comfort the family that he has left
    Somewhere softly taps will play,
    For an American Soldier died today.

    - Katie Morris

Colonel (ret.) Aaron Bank died of natural causes Thursday afternoon.

The leader of the special operation wing of the OSS in WWII and the father of the Special Forces, Colonel Bank is revered amonst the Special Operations community. The below via the Indianapolis Star:

"Colonel Aaron Bank is a legend within the Special Forces community," Maj. Robert Gowan, spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, said Thursday. "His commitment and service to our country is unsurpassed. He was a man far ahead of his time. His vision and initiative allowed the Army to create Special Forces as we know them today."

Born in New York City, Bank began working summers in his teens as a lifeguard and swimming teacher. He liked the work so much, he later said, that by the late 1920s it had become something of a career.

He was in and out of Europe over the next decade and learned to speak French and German fluently. In the late 1930s, sensing the inevitability of war, he returned home and joined the Army. By the time the United States entered the war, Bank had been commissioned a second lieutenant.

In 1943, Bank was serving as a tactical training officer for a railroad battalion stationed at Camp Polk, La., when he saw a bulletin announcing that volunteers with foreign-language capabilities would be interviewed for "special assignments."

Once in the OSS, he said, he began a long training course that taught him "to do all the things that regular branches of the service frowned on" -- guerrilla warfare, sabotage, espionage, escape and evasion tactics.

He also learned parachuting. As commander of one of the three-man teams that dropped into southern France before the Allied Mediterranean invasion in August 1944, he and his men posed as civilians and helped French Resistance leaders organize a guerrilla force that blew up bridges, power lines and railroad tracks, and ambushed German columns.

In December 1944, Bank received what he considered the most extraordinary assignment of his career: to recruit and train 170 anti-Nazi German prisoners of war and defectors who would parachute with him into the Austrian Alps, where they would pose as a German mountain-infantry company.

In April 1945 -- after three months of training in France -- the mission was scrubbed.

"I never cried in my life, but I damn near cried when they told me it was aborted," Bank said in a 1993 Times interview.

After the aborted mission, Bank was parachuted into the jungles of Indochina to search for Japanese POW camps. His team located 165 French internees at three locations in Laos.

Bank, who also served in the Korean War, retired from the Army in 1958.

A funeral service, with full military and Special Forces honors, will be held Monday at Riverside National Cemetery. I expect there to be many, many Special Forces soldiers in attendence.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, P.O. Box 14385, Tampa, FL 33690.

Posted by Blackfive on April 03, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

The Fighting President

I live in a Democrat Town. I vote for Democrats and Republicans, but mostly Democrats because there just aren't any local Republican politicians. Republicans just can't seem to get enough dead people to vote for them here.

Anyway, with the above being said, I have quite a few VERY left wing Dem acquaintences. Last Friday, at lunch with a few of them, I came to a conclusion over the discussion of the War on Terror.

One of my friends remarked how she thought how horrific it would be to be a Palestinian and have a missle blow up the house next door to yours. She couldn't imagine how those poor people could stand it. She sympathized with the Palestinian plight. She is also Jewish.

I mentioned the fact that there was a big difference between taking out murderers like Hamas (and possibly killing a few innocent bystanders) or sending a psychopath with a bomb full of nails strapped to his midsection into a Bat Mitzvah full of teenage girls.

We couldn't agree on anything. She thought I was a neocon and I thought that she was seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. I said to her, "You know, Hamas would kill your daughter and celebrate it."

Then, the topic turned to Bush and Kerry. One of my acquaintence's father was a Vietnam vet from the 173rd Airborne. My friend was going to vote for Kerry and his father for Bush. They aren't talking anymore. The son doesn't understand why his father would hate Kerry.

We finally got around to the War on Terror. Most seemed to think that Bush was doing a lousy job, and they all could not believe that, as a vet, I could support him.

I asked them how many vets that they knew were supporting Kerry. No one spoke.

I asked them if they thought Kerry would do a better job on the war. Only one spoke up about Kerry bringing America back into the world community.

I asked them if they hated Bush more than Osama. No one spoke. Nobody said a word.

They hate President Bush so much that they would believe anything, do anything, but support the one man who has done ANYTHING about terrorism, about peace in Israel, about the economy.

Finally, one said to me that I was being emotional. That, as a soldier, I supported a President that was a "Fighting President". That I saw the President who told the firefighters at Ground Zero, "I hear you! The whole world hears you!". That I kept thinking of the President that secretly flew into Baghdad to have Thanksgiving dinner with the troops.

At least they got that part right!

This is just the beginning of one of the nastiest and most divisive elections in our history. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, this ride is going to make the 2000 Election look like a Church picnic.

Posted by Blackfive on March 04, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 04, 2004

Follow Up - Chief Aaron Weaver - An American Fighting Man

In a follow up to the post - Chief Aaron Weaver - An American Fighting Man: Aaron's Aunt, Kristy Weaver Patterson, has created a site in his honor.

You should read the comments from Aaron's cousin and aunt.

Posted by Blackfive on February 04, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Weaver - An American Fighting Man

One of the victims of the downing of a medevac helicopter was Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Weaver. Weaver was Ranger Sergeant in Somalia and was one of the men who volunteered to lead a unit towards the downed Black Hawk helicopters. He was briefly in the film and book "Black Hawk Down".

Later, he became a OH-58 (Kiowa) pilot. Recently, he had testicular cancer and experienced complications from it, and had convinced his doctors to let him go to Iraq with his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division. The medevac helicopter was taking him back to Baghdad for a check to ensure his cancer remained in remission.

Even if you didn't know this information, but you knew his family (members of the Warrior Caste), you wouldn't be surprised that he would have done everything in his power to be with his soldiers when they needed him. His father was a Marine. His sister is in the Air Force. His two brothers are pilots in the Army, too. One, Ryan Weaver, is in Baghdad, and the other, Steven Weaver, is in Hawaii preparing to depart for Iraq or Afghanistan.

You can read more about Chief Aaron Weaver here, here, and here.

Please keep the Weaver family in your thoughts and prayers.

Thank you.

Posted by Blackfive on January 11, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

An American Marine

During a time when we give a deceased civilian military honors because his brother is Howard Dean, this story is a much needed boost.

Via the Chicago Tribune: U.S. gives fallen Marine `special gift'--citizenship

Danuta Kowalik clutched a framed certificate that officially granted her son, Lance Cpl. Jakub Kowalik, something that, in her eyes, he had already earned--American citizenship.

"Citizenship for Jakub was a special thing because he dreamed of it," Danuta Kowalik of Schaumburg said Tuesday, on what would have been her son's 22nd birthday. "It was like a special gift I got for my son today. I'm sure he's smiling now."

Jakub Kowalik, who immigrated with his family to Chicago in 1992 from Poland, had planned to obtain his American citizenship as soon as he got back from fighting in Iraq.

The 21-year-old Marine never returned.

He was killed May 12 in Iraq when ordnance he was handling exploded.

In a ceremony Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services completed Kowalik's last mission by granting him American citizenship posthumously.

"I think that when someone gives their life for our country, they certainly should be citizens," said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who attended the ceremony. "I think Jakub is in that great tradition of patriots who believed in liberty, freedom and democracy."

President Bush signed an executive order to the Immigration and Nationality Act on July 3, 2002, that expedites the posthumous citizenship process for military personnel. About 3 percent of all U.S. troops are not citizens, and the posthumous granting of American citizenship is rare, said Donald Monica, interim director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Chicago.

Moving to Chicago at age 10 wasn't easy for Kowalik. His father died a few years after the family arrived, leaving his mother to care for him and his older brother, Paul.

Mastering English proved to be the most difficult.

"He almost cried coming home from school every day because he said, `I don't know what they're saying,'" his mother recalled.

But Danuta Kowalik, who has obtained her citizenship, said her son grew to love everything about America.

Shortly after graduating from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Jakub told his mother he planned to join the Marines, partly to help pay for college.

"I was furious," she said of her son's decision. "I was very unhappy. It took me a long time. ... I couldn't accept it.

"Always I was scared," she said.

Kowalik said she tried to persuade her son to leave the military when there was talk of a war after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"I never supported the war. War is the worst thing," she said.

"I don't think he considered war a reality. Like most of us, we ... don't think about war. We think about happiness. We think about having a good life."

Jakub Kowalik, a member of the 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, was based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., before being deployed to Iraq in February. Only once did he mention what might happen if he were killed, his mother said.

"He said, `Mom, they will come to your door if something bad happens to me,'" Danuta Kowalik said. "When the war started, people would ask me, `How do you feel? How can you handle it? And I would say, `Since I don't see Marines by my door, I'm fine.' And one day it happened. They came. I didn't believe it. I think I still have a hard time believing it happened."

But on Tuesday, she stood up straight displaying the certificate of American citizenship that she knew her son would have held dear.

"This is special," she said choking back tears, "a very special day."

Rest In Peace and Semper Fi, my American brother, Semper Fi...

Posted by Blackfive on December 03, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Bet You Didn't Hear About This On CNN

This just in . . .It's a letter about the burial of LTC Orlando, a military police battalion commander in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) who was killed in Iraq. Please read the whole letter.


* * * * * * * *

LTC Kim Orlando was laid to rest Friday where he had told his wife he always wanted to be buried among the rows and rows of soldiers interred at the Veterans National Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

In typical 101st Airborne Division fashion, the "Screaming Eagles" pulled out all the plugs to honor a great soldier, leader, husband and 43 year old father of two. As a military Police Battalion Commander, he understood the dangers of Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT). He knew where the most danger potentially would be on the night of 16 October, and that was where he was. As ground forces often have to do, he was eyeball-to-eyeball with bad people, displaying the unrelenting determination and absolute resolve of the American Soldier and this countries' commitment to the Global War on Terrorism. The firefight was brutal and intense. The results are now history. The 716th MP Battalion recovered their dead, evacuated the wounded, accounted for sensitive items of equipment, redistributed ammo and continue with the mission.

Friday, I was present for this outstanding American's memorial ceremony at Fort Campbell Kentucky and burial in Nashville, Tennessee. What happened on the approximately fifty-mile funeral procession from Ft Campbell to the Cemetery is something I want to share with everyone, and something I'll never forget. I wish everyone who wears a uniform, or has ever worn a uniform, could have seen this.

Thanks to the Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs Association several law enforcement agencies quickly volunteered to assist with the funeral as it would proceed down I-24 South to metropolitan Nashville. Two other great MP noncommissioned officers, SSG Bellavia and SGT Grilley died in the firefight with their commander. SSG Bellavia has a brother on the Hendersonville, KY police department. In an effort to alert motorists and share the information with more local law enforcement, the plan was apparently announced via the NCIC computer system for general knowledge of police and emergency responders.

I haven't seen as many Fire Department, Police, Sheriff, State Trooper cars and motorcycles since the Watts riots. The show of support for our fallen soldiers was overwhelming. And it was a good thing, since the procession was at least two miles long. But the story doesn't end here. Kay and I were in the back of the procession on I-24 watching the myriad light show disappear forward over the horizon southbound. A news helicopter was paralleling the convoy. Then we noticed the first exit/on ramp was blocked with a law enforcement vehicle, driver standing outside and saluting as the vehicles passed. What a class act and great show of support. But then, the next ramp had a similar sight...and the next, and the next. And there were fire, EMT vehicles and emergency responders of all sorts. Lights flashing, people standing outside, lined up, with headgear removed or saluting. The Kentucky troopers and law enforcement stopped at the state line, and Tennessee showed how much their native son's sacrifice meant to them. More vehicles on the overpasses, waiving American Flags, displaying the POW/MIA Flag. These were units from small towns along the route, coming out to the interstate to show their support to a fallen soldier who was at the tip of the spear in the GWOT. To them, he and his troops had gone after the people who had inflicted such tremendous losses on our police, firemen, EMTs and civilians in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. It went on and was about an hour drive. Then, we saw a sight that knocked our socks off. In the distance we could see two large hook and ladder type fire trucks on an overpass, literally spanning the south-bound lanes. One had the ladder extended straight up...and waiving in the wind from it as the hearse and procession went under was an American flag that had to measure at least 30 feet by 50 feet. Enough said....that message was loud and clear. A big "thank you" to each and every one of them for their show of support to our soldiers and the armed forces of this nation. One Team, One Fight.

In loving memory, respect and eternal gratitude for their devotion to duty and ultimate sacrifice to their country: LTC Kim S. Orlando, SSG Joseph P. Bellavia, SGT Sean R. Grilley. National treasure of the United States; soldiers that saw their duty and did it.

Very Respectfully,

Rex Forney

Colonel, Military Police Corps
Chief, Army Advisory Group
325 Chennault Circle
Maxwell Air Force Base, AL 36112-6427

Posted by Blackfive on November 06, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 14, 2003

Honor Personified

For all of the satisfaction and acheivements that can be the result of a military life, there exists a brace of difficulties tht every man and woman in uniform must overcome, one way or another. These difficulties cannot be out-maneuvered, ignored, or destroyed. They manifest themselves in the forms of Hurry Up and Wait, mind numbing tasks broken down into 32 steps, cleaning everything many times whether it is dirty or not, packing-then unpacking-then packing again, etc.

Then, after all of this B.S. are the formal ceremonies, the close order drills, the parade ground performances, briefings on drugs, alcohol, sexual diseases, and sensitivity to others, physical fitness training - and then you get to concentrate on training that will hopefully prepare you to perform your job and stay alive when the enemy decides to shoot at you.

If all of the inane tasks and moments of drudgery in the military life could smother the ideals and dedication that make outstanding men and women want to serve their country, America would have been put out of business before it ever got started.

Instead, we have been more than blessed with the kind of men and women that, having taken an oath, find a way to soldier on through whatever difficulties stand between them and performing their missions effectively.

By the evidence of millions of citizens before them, American military men and women are not easily stopped by enemy fire, red tape, bureaucratic B.S., idiot officer and non-coms that somehow were promoted, or bad weather.

Very few people in civilian life have been so committed.

I am writing this to celebrate the accomplishments of a fellow blogger and patriot. She served her country for 21 years, 13 years on active duty and recently retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve. She had many different responsibilities in munitions maintenance, intelligence, and as an EMT. Through all of the crap the military can throw at you, she soldiered on through it, became a successful Non-Commissioned Officer, and reached the finish-line of a proud military career. Please join me in congratulating her for making an awesome acheivement.

Her name is Staff Sergeant (ret.) Juliette Ochieng.

You know her as Baldilocks.

Posted by Blackfive on October 14, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003


A man o' words, but no o' deeds, is like a garden full o' weeds. - Scottish Proverb (my grandfather's favorite)
Alzheimer’s took my grandfather from me years ago. It was tough. Man, it was so very tough. While I often try to “do” something about Alzheimer’s (donations or volunteering), I rarely speak of it.

My grandfather was the one who taught me about being a gentleman - that a real man holds the door open for a lady - that a real man takes responsibility for his actions and his family - that honor is not just a word. – and that, sometimes, a real man must fight for what he believes in. He was probably a lot like your grandfathers. He taught me how to fish and took me for rides in his boat or tractor (he lived on the Rock river in northern Illinois). He was a farmer. He taught me about the simple pleasures in life.

When I was eleven, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was one of the hardest things to endure - to see him deteriorate over the years. He was my greatest hero.

By the time I was fourteen, our family was debating moving him to a geriatric center. He rarely knew who I was anymore. He once threw a tape recorder through a glass window of his house, pulled me to the ground and yelled, “grenade!”. He thought he was saving my life. When I asked one of his friends about it, he said that my grandfather had done such a thing in WWII. Memories of the past were beginning to bleed through into his perception of the present.

But it was through this awful disease that I saw the real man behind my idol worship.

Herosm.jpgOn one Sunday afternoon, he pulled me out of the living room where everyone else in the family was sitting after dinner. He looked me in the eye and called me by my father’s name.

“Bill, now you know I don’t have much to give you on your way to college, but I want to give you everything that I can. Here.” He took his watch off of his wrist and handed it to me. “Take this. Sell it when you get to Boston or wait until you need it in an emergency. It’s not worth much but it might help.”

I thought, Oh my god, he thinks that I’m dad and going to Boston U. He thinks this is 1963.

His voice grew more forceful. “Take it, son.” I took the watch. “You’re the first one to go to college. I am so very, very proud of you. Your mother and I…Your mother and I just wish we could give you more.” He gave me a hug and there were tears in his eyes.

At that point, I lost it and tears streamed down my cheeks.

After we went home, I told my dad about it. He was stunned and told me it all had happened exactly that way.

And while Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, it gave me a chance to see my grandfather in a different light - and made him even more of a hero in my eyes than ever before.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa. I miss you.

Posted by Blackfive on October 01, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

Rick Rescorla - An American Hero

If you read anything today, read this post from Greyhawk via Misha.

On another note related note, I met another Congressional Medal of Honor awardee yesterday - Al Lynch. Al Lynch was a Cavalry soldier. On one day in 1967, he took care of three wounded comrades during a battle in Viet Nam, and, then, when his company pulled back, stayed with the wounded and fought off the Viet Cong, alone, for hours until they could be rescued.

I have met about 20 of these guys over the last few years. To a man, they are the most humble, nicest human beings you would ever have met.

Posted by Blackfive on September 09, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2003

Major Mathew Schram - An American Fighting Man - will be missed

"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me; As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on." - Julie Ward Howe, the last verse of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"


I have been mulling this one over for awhile now....words are so very inadequate to express the immense sorrow of the loss of an American hero, patriot, and friend.

Major Mathew Schram was killed in an ambush in Iraq on Memorial Day. He was a good man, from Brookfield, Wisconsin, who always believed the best about everyone. I worked closely with him, trained with him, and lived next door to him - we were friends. I am going to include some quotes from various articles and family members, then talk about Mat.

    From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
    Phil Schram of Hartland said his brother had visited Wisconsin over Christmas. The family knew then war was likely. Mathew Schram had been involved in the first Persian Gulf War and, later, in Somalia.

    “He was anxious to get over there and get to work. He loved the military. He loved the structure. He loved serving under George W. (Bush),” Phil Schram said.

    “We got an e-mail from him last Saturday. He would tell us, not about where he was, but about his concern for the men he led. He assured us everything was OK and he was fine.”

    “He wanted to help people as best he could, and he did that by bettering himself and serving his country,” Phil Schram said. “He wanted to liberate (Iraq). He was proud of what he did, and naturally we’re all very proud of him.”

    From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
    Father Daniel Pakenham called Schram a man of "great eloquence" and fellow soldiers described him as a "man of character" and a perfect soldier.

    "Today, we remember that the death of one we love is an incredible personal loss. But Mat's death reminds us, too, that there are bigger things in the world we live in and there are things we are willing to give our lives for," Pakenham said.

    He described Schram as a man who "lived by his values - with fidelity, with strength, with perseverance - to the extent that he would give his life."

    In one letter to a nephew dated May 15, Schram said he had been in Iraq since April 25 after spending three weeks in Kuwait.

    "When we crossed the border of Kuwait into Iraq, starving children put their hands up to their mouths begging for food," Schram wrote. "We didn't throw them food or else they'll run in the street - we might run them over. Most of the kids give us the thumbs-up as we drive by."

    Schram, who was with the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, also told of how at one point "hostile Iraqis" had fired shots near him and his fellow soldiers.

    When Schram was killed in an attack on Memorial Day, he was out front with his convoy, a position that he could have delegated to someone else.

    But Army Maj. Casimir Carey, who was in the ROTC with Schram and his roommate at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, said he wasn't surprised Schram was out front.

    "He would never ask his soldiers to do anything he would not do," said Carey, now an instructor at West Point. "He loved leading soldiers. He is probably the best officer I've met in my career."

    "Major Mathew Schram, you are now a part of our heritage," said Lt. Col. James Ellison, chaplain at Fort Carson. "You are what America is, a great nation freely giving of itself for others. We respect you. We salute you."

    Earl Schram said the service and the words from Pakenham and Army officials helped console his family.

    But he said, "Mat might have been a little embarrassed at all the attention he got. He's kind of a modest man."

    From the Colodrado Springs Gazette:
    Spc. Amanda O’Brien said she lost a great friend and mentor.

    "It’s still shocking that a man I admire so much, I won’t be able to see again," she said.

    O’Brien worked as Schram’s assistant for about a year. She said she remembers his generosity the most. Before he left for Iraq, Schram gave her a basket of baby supplies for her newborn son.

    In honor of him, O’Brien plans to make a scrapbook filled with newspaper articles and photos for Schram’s family and for her 4-month-old son.

    "I don’t ever want his memory to be forgotten," she said.

The above says it all about Mat who was also our "Schrambo". He definitely would be embarassed by the attention of this and would not want me to write about him. At the time I was with him, he was the best of the soldiers, the validictorian of our training class, and he was the most approachable and genuinely humble man I have ever met - a rare combination of traits for a soldier.

We were as close as a Green Bay Packers Fan and Chicago Bears Fan could possibly be...meaning that we were friends as long as we didn't talk about football! In an Army largely dominated by southerners, we midwesterners tended to stick together. In the military, growing up 90 miles apart meant that we were neighbors. For instance, I would understand and commiserate with Mat about the lack of (good) bratwurst in Virginia - good thing we both eventually ended up in Germany!

Over the last few weeks, when I talked with the other guys that knew Mat, one thing always was said. "Oh no, not him, not Mat." Major Mat Schram was the BEST that this country has to offer. He always wanted to contribute, to help, to do his part, to save the world. And our world most desperately needs people like Mat Schram. He made us want to be better people, better soldiers, better men. He didn't just set the example - Mathew Schram was the example. It is difficult for me even to continue to write about him but, suffice it to say, Mat was a very positive influence on me, and I will never forget him. Nor will any who knew him...

He more than lived up to the title "American Fighting Man".

Please, keep your thoughts and prayers with the Schram family. We will never be able to repay our debt to them.

Thank you.

Posted by Blackfive on June 23, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack