Fallen But Never Forgotten

Marine Sniper - Rob Richards Laid to Rest

Article here by Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post...

His three combat tours in Afghanistan had been boiled down to a 38-second video clip, played and replayed on YouTube more than a million times. In it, Rob Richards and three other Marine Corps snipers are seen urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters they had just killed.

“Total dismay” were the words then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton used to describe the video when it surfaced on the Internet in January 2012. “Utterly deplorable,” agreed then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Richards’s career in the military was finished.

More than two years later — long after the rest of the country had moved on to other scandals — Richards, 28, died at home and alone from an accidental painkiller overdose...

Now an ammunition can carrying his cremated remains sat on the table of a hotel bar in Arlington, Va., as his family, friends and fellow Marines swirled around it....

Read the whole thing.  


The 8th of November, 1965

[Annual repost]


The Fallen Angel remembers the 173rd Airborne today...on the 8th of November in 1965, one of the toughest Airborne battles was fought in the jungles of Viet Nam.

At about 0600 on the morning of 8 November C Company began a move northwest toward Hill 65, while B Company moved northeast toward Hill 78. Shortly before 0800, C Company was engaged by a sizable enemy force well dug in to the southern face of Hill 65. At 0845, B Company was directed to wheel in place and proceed toward Hill 65 with the intention of relieving C Company.

B Company reached the foot of Hill 65 at about 0930 and moved up the hill. It became obvious that there was a very large enemy force in place on the hill,C Company was getting hammered, and by chance, B Company was forcing the enemy's right flank.

Under pressure from B Company's flanking attack the enemy force—most of a Viet Cong regiment—moved to the northwest, whereupon the B Company commander called in air and artillery fires on the retreating troops. B Company halted in place in an effort to locate and consolidate with C Company's platoons, managing to establish a coherent defensive line running around the hilltop from southeast to northwest, but with little cover on the southern side.

Meanwhile, the VC commander realized that his best chance was to close with the US soldiers so that the 173rd's air and artillery fire could not be effectively employed. He attempted to out-flank the US position atop the hill from both the east and the southwest, moving his troops closer to the Americans. The result was shoulder-to-shoulder attacks up the hillside, hand-to-hand fighting, and isolation of parts of B and C Companies but the Americans held against two such attacks. Although the fighting continued after the second massed attack, it reduced in intensity as the VC commander again attempted to disengage and withdraw. By late afternoon it seemed that contact had been broken off, allowing the two companies to prepare a night defensive position while collecting their dead and wounded in the center of the position. Although a few of the most seriously wounded were extracted by USAF helicopters using Stokes litters, the triple-canopy jungle prevented the majority from being evacuated until the morning of 9 November.

The result of the battle was heavy losses on both sides—48 Paratroopers dead, many more wounded, and 403 dead VC troops.

Here is the link to the tribute video by Big and Rich:  



If you get a chance, raise a glass to the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd tonight ("Airborne!").  Many of the Viet Nam vets that trained me and my generation of paratroopers wore the 173rd patch on their right shoulder.

Thank you.

Update: In the Company of Soldiers has more on Lawrence Joel who saved a lot of lives on the 8th of November in 1965 and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

9/11: Lt. David Halderman Jr.

A post I did in September of 2006, originally entitled “September 11th, 2001 – “We Lost David”.  It is the ongoing fulfillment of a promise made in the last sentence of the post.  This is what 9/11 should be about.

September 11, 2006:

Each week I do a tribute on Boston’s WRKO 680am called “Someone You Should Know” about a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman who’s been awarded a medal for valor in combat. Those medals represent their actions above and beyond the call of duty. But, as we all know, valor and courage aren’t exclusive to the military or combat. And no better example of that is what the courageous men and women of fire, rescue and police did that awful day in September of 2001 when terrorists attacked our country by flying commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

A few weeks ago I signed on to an effort called the “2996 Project” organized by a blog to do a tribute to each and every one of those who died on that day. Three thousand bloggers are participating. The names were assigned randomly. When you signed up, you got whoever was next.

I was honored to draw the name of David Halderman Jr.

Of course, I never knew David Halderman. I’d never previously seen his name or if I had, it never registered beyond that of a person who’d died that day in those barbaric attacks. But when I began to research David, I found a man for whom my admiration and respect knew no bounds.

You see, David Halderman was a firefighter with Squad 18 of FDNY.

On that grim day in September, FDNY lost 343 of its finest who, disregarding their own safety, rushed toward the scene of the disaster while others were running away. It is estimated they saved over 20,000 souls that day. In the finest tradition of firefighters everywhere, they never hesitated. David Halderman, Jr. was among them.

Squad 18 is located in Greenwich Village. When the towers were hit, Squad 18 responded immediately. All seven firefighters on duty that morning were lost.

A visitor to New York just prior to 9/11 happened to remember Squad 18 for a particular reason:

This past Labor Day weekend, one of the youngest attendees, my nephew Beau, was walking with his mom and aunt past Firehouse #18 in Greenwich Village. Beau asked if they could stop. Three firefighters took the time to show Beau and his sister the fire truck and posed for some pictures.

Among the three firefighters who so made those visitors feel so welcome was David.

After returning home to Alaska, and following the terrible events of 9/11, Beau asked his mom if the guys in the picture were OK. After checking back with Squad #18, and showing them the picture, my sister in New York learned that “Chris and Harry made it. We lost David.” The photograph was the last picture taken of him.

As I looked further and further into the life of David Halderman, I found a man who was worthy of love, admiration and respect. He was a 2nd generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father and namesake who had very recently died. His brother also was with FDNY.

The fact that he’d taken time out of his day to spend with a young visitor from Alaska seemed something completely in character for him. The fact he’d responded immediately to the disaster of the World Trade Center came as no surprise either. His mother remembers the night before:

On Monday night, David Halderman called his mother in Brentwood to comfort her, as he has done regularly since his father died on Aug. 8.

“I asked him to have a good night, to be careful, to be safe, and I told him I loved him,” his mother, Geraldine Halderman, said. “That was the last time I spoke to him.”

“I love you, take care of yourself.” That was how David Halderman always ended his telephone conversations with his mother.

The next day fate and tragedy took David Halderman while performing the duty to which he’d dedicated his life:

On Tuesday morning, Halderman, a firefighter with Engine-Squad 18 in the West Village, entered the World Trade Center to help victims escape. He is now among the missing city firefighters.

“He was in the building when it collapsed,” Geraldine Halderman said. “They found his helmet. That’s all they found.”

The helmet was identified by its badge – No. 10652, the same badge number used by Halderman’s late father.

Where do we get such men? In the face of every human instinct which tells us to flee, they resist that and walk into danger, risking their lives to help others escape and live. Courage and valor are rare commodities. That’s why we revere and reward them. Those attributes were displayed by hundreds of the fire and rescue people who responded with David Halderman Jr. on that grim and horrid day in September of 2001. As a nation watched in stunned horror, men like David were saving lives.

A few days ago, David’s mother left this message on his memorial site:

Dear David, Five Years! My son you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I have moved from the house where you grew up,it was too much for me alone. I carry all my memories in my heart. I know you are with me always, you are the voice within me that says “don’t be afraid” when I am sad or anxious. The ache in my heart remains, dulled with time but always present even through the laughter and happy times. There have been weddings and a birth since you left us,and you have been missed so much and remembered at those times. I love you forever.

Life goes on but the hurt never goes away, and mothers suffer a special agony which comes with losing their children. But we are all poorer for the loss of David and those like him. It is they who define what is good and right about us. It is they who show us what man can be. It is they who give us hope for the future.

September 11th is the day to remember those, who like David Halderman Jr., gave their lives in the service of others. I didn’t know David Halderman before this year. But I do now. He was a man to both admire and respect. And every subsequent September 11th I will remember and honor his name. It is the least we can do for the heros among us.


Godspeed Robin Williams

The news tonight is sad, as it appears that Robin Williams is dead via his own hand.  The man was a comedic genius who also had a gift for making people think as well as laugh.  He was a friend to the troops in public and in private, and made multiple trips downrange to entertain as far foward as he was allowed, with one proviso -- he wanted no publicity for doing so.  He's one of a handful of entertainers in this category, and whatever his politics he made a clear distinction between what he thought of policy versus what he thought of the troops.  The latter he respected and did what he could for them, and at the least went to places unexpected to give a gift of laughter and a moment of respite.  

My thoughts, our thoughts, go out to his family and those he leaves behind.  

Godspeed sir. 

For those that struggle with depression, and especially for those who serve/have serve who fight this fight, I ask you to accept that you are not alone and to reach out.  There is good food for thought here that I commend to you. 

Adding this clip, that is a favorite of mine (and Col. Kratman's as it turns out).  There's been some discussion of if he truly was as clueless as he makes himself out to be (I'm inclined to think he's not, but playing to the story), but it really doesn't matter.  What does matter is how fast he stopped, became respectful, and even remembered (eventually) to take his hat off.  


And Now They Got a General

As Jimbo said, this is a big deal BTW...

Several news organizations, citing anonymous military sources, report that an American two-star major general was killed in the assassination-style attack. If confirmed, it would be the highest ranking military official to be killed in the Afghanistan war.

Awesome.  The dou'che's (the French pronunciation I believe) are getting within rifle range of the important folks.  These guys are important pieces of the battlefield, regardless of what the E-4 mafia says.

Major generals serve as commanders of divisions, which consist of 10,000 to 16,000 soldiers. They perform major tactical operations and conduct sustained battles and engagements. There are 10 divisions in the active Army and eight in the Reserves/National Guard. Two-star generals also serve as high-level officers at major commands and the Pentagon.

There are 99 major generals on active duty in the U.S. Army.

Now don't get me wrong, One of the tenets of leadership I admire most is "lead from as far forward as you can" and "lead from a position where your troops can see you."  Division Commanders don't show up in groups, unless it is at a meeting somewhere in the bowels of the Puzzle Palace; and they are hard to replace.  Some notable examples of these individuals (some on their way to greater fame) are General Matthew Ridgeway and General George Patton.

But this wasn't "killed in action leading his troops in clearing a village" or killed in action while preventing his command post from being over run."  This was while in the school house.  The equivalent of the USMA and the War College all rolled together.  Not an accident, not a mistake, killed by an assassin who once again slipped past the crack team of Afghan Security folks milling about  smartly.

"Blue on Green" is a misnomer and it in no way accurately captures exactly what is actually going on.  When the enemy starts working their way into positions under the guise of being on the side of good where they can later activate and go Terminator on command elements while in garrison; you know you have a problem.  You have a problem with security, you have a problem with INFO-OPS, PSYOPS, perception and most of all, you have a problem of leadership.  Top Leadership.

Yes Mr. PINO empty suit "I'll just be back here leading from behind," I am looking at you.

PSD is important, even on the battlefield.  Am I an ass for asking where his PSD was?  I don't know how important the General was considered to be or whether he would have rated a PSD, but every 2 star I have been around has had various hangers on and camp followers, enough that it drew attention and enough that it made sense to put about 5 trained and dedicated US Army CID agents from the PSD folks at Fort Belvoir around them.

But now that they have killed a decision maker, and we look unable to protect even our generals, how do you think this makes us look in the world Mr. PINO?

Oh, never mind.  I know Mr. PINO.  You are in a hurry; headed out to another fundraiser so you can seize and occupy objectives and high ground dominated by straw men followed quickly by another round of golf and then on to another vacation.

Cuz' Leadership is Hard Work Ya Know....

UPDATE:  The General is identified.

Book Review - "The Magical Stranger: A Son's Journey into His Father's Life" by Stephen Rodrick

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780062004772_p0_v2_s260x420The Magical Stranger: a Son’s Journey into His Father’s Life by reporter Stephen Rodrick explores many issues military families must go through. It is a story about love and sacrifice and what a family must endure after the death of a loved one. This book takes the reader on the same journey as Stephen, struggling to fully grasp the reality of his father’s life and death.

There are four distinct parts to this book: His father’s story, the story of how Stephen grew up, a comparison of the author’s life with Commander James Hunter “Tupper” Ware III, and what it was like to be a part of a military family.  The book begins with a description of the commander of the Black Ravens, Peter Rodrick, who died in a Navy plane crash on November 28th, 1979.  While on the homestretch of a mission that had been extended because of the Iran hostage situation, Rodrick Sr. crashed his Prowler into the Indian Ocean, taking three younger crewmembers with him. The author's mother, newly widowed, packed up the family and moved from Whidbey Island to Detroit, where the author bumbled through junior high and high school as a bit of a sports-nerd misfit, quoting baseball statistics but working far below his potential. After escaping to Chicago for college, the author's real talent as a writer began to surface. The book follows Rodrick’s search for a father he barely knew, to figure out just who was his father.

A powerful part of the book is when Rodrick met with members of his father’s former squadron, the "World-Famous Black Ravens." As he learns about his father, he uncovers the layers of these sailors’ lives: their loves, friendships, dreams, disappointments, and the consequences of their choices. It is here that the reader is introduced to Commander Ware who is struggling to balance his military career with his family obligations.  Getting to know the Black Ravens’ newly commissioned commander, James Hunter Ware III, would help Stephen better understand his own father. The author noted to blackfive.net that his father was a ghost, a parent in absentia that sometimes he saw his father as a stranger in his home.  “I was really sad and lonely while my dad was gone.  I think the resentment and anger came later, after he died.  What I would like any reader to do is sit down with their dad to discuss life, something I did not have an opportunity to do with my dad.”

This leads into a discussion about the other casualties of war, not just the victim, but also the family members, the sacrifices the Navy wife and children made in service to our country. It is a stark reminder that in addition to praising those who serve there are tremendous contributions of the families that must be acknowledged. Rodrick stated to blackfive.net, “As a little boy I was euphoric that my dad flew jets off carriers.  But then after he crashed I always wondered if one or two things had gone another way he might still be with us. One of the great advantages of being a part of a military family is you have such a large extended family.  One of the great memories of my childhood is that we were all tight knit. What was really magical was that my own son was born on November 28th, 2013, thirty-four years almost to the hour of my dad’s accident.  It is nice to have something to celebrate on that day and not associate it with a day of sorrow.”

The Magical Stranger: a Son’s Journey into His Father’s Life mixes the past with the present.  Regarding military families it shows that not much has changed over the decades.  This book is a thoughtful reflection on the meaning of service and the realistic legacy of his father. Readers will understand that the author wrote the book to obtain closure as Stephen struggled to fully grasp the reality of his father’s death and the effect it had on everyone in his family.

Photo Essay: 70th Anniversary of D-Day Remembrance


A Douglas C-47 Skytrain, known as Whiskey 7, flies alongside a C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron over Ramstein Air Base, Germany, May 30, 2014. The C-47 is participating in base activities with its legacy unit, the 37th Airlift Squadron, before returning to Normandy, France, to recreate its World War II role, dropping paratroopers over the original drop zone in Sainte-Mere Eglise, France. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sara Keller





 A U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft drops U.S. and international paratroopers to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 8, 2014. More than 700 paratroopers from the United States, France, Germany, England and the Netherlands re-enacted the historic airdrop over the town of Chef-du-Pont, France. DOD photos by Marvin Lynchard

Veterans from several nations board the train on their way to the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, June 6, 2014. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler 


Bill Prindible, a veteran U.S. Army pilot who flew on D-Day, takes the controls of a C-47 Skytrain during a commemorative flight over Normandy, France, June 5, 2014, as part of a series of D-Day 70th anniversary activities. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordan Castelan


A headstone with a photo of a loved one is displayed in the Normandy American Cemetery during the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 2014. DOD photo by Marvin Lynchard


A U.S. paratrooper presents flowers to Ellan Levitsky-Orkin served as a U.S. Army nurse in Normandy during World War II, at a ceremony honoring the service of U.S. Army nurses during World War II, in Bolleville, France, June 4, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sara Keller


A French paratrooper donning a vintage American World War II paratrooper uniform celebrates after jumping from a DC-3 aircraft over the Normandy region of France, June 8, 2014, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. DOD photo by Marvin Lynchard

Five S.O.F. Soldiers Killed By Friendly Fire in Afghanistan

While there isn't much official information about the incident, our thoughts and prayers are with their families.  From FoxNews:

...A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News early Tuesday that the troops were killed when they requested air support from a B-1 bomber after coming in contact with enemy forces...