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Justice – Grinding Slow, Yet Grinding Fine

Today, the Army announced that it was charging Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.  If convicted, he faces life in prison, reduction in rank, and a dishonorable discharge.  At first, I was going to rail about how I feel about his guilt in these crimes and the punishment I believe he deserves, but that puts the spotlight right back on Bergdahl.  I was going to shout to the mountain tops about the role politics played in his release, but that also detracts from what should be remembered in all this.

This is what we should remember:

SSG Clayton Bowen
PFC Morris Walker
SSG Kurt Curtis
2LT Darryn Andrews
SSG Michael Murphrey
PFC Matthew Martinek

These are the six soldiers who died during the operations that were launched to search for Bergdahl.  Can I guarantee that they wouldn’t have been killed had he not walked away from his unit?  No, of course not.  But he did, and they were killed looking for him.

These are the people I want to hear about.  These are the men who deserve the spotlight in all this.  These are the soldiers who deserve our attention, not Bergdahl.

Let justice grind him beneath its wheels.  I wish him a fair trial and all the justice he can handle.  I also hope that he is forgotten, but these men never are.

Boosting the Signal

If you were stationed at Fort McClellan in the past half century or so, you might want to check this out.

The Environmental Protection Agency shuttered the base in 1999 and declared it a high-priority Superfund cleanup site because its operations “generated solid and liquid wastes that contaminated soil and ground water,” according to EPA documents from the time. A flyover of former base grounds also identified a hot spot where radiological materials had been buried in what became a city park.

Anniston, Alabama, which abuts the post, has also been declared a hazardous waste site.  Even if you lived off post, you probably have reason to worry.

Please pass this information along to any veterans or military family members who might be impacted.  It appears that the Army would rather not spend the money to get the word out, so it’s up to others to carry the load.

OPSEC Is Your Friend

Fox News has announced that it will air a special report, in which a person who claims to have been the Navy SEAL who shot Usama bin Laden will be interviewed.  I have lost count of the number of special operations members who have made movies, written books, or been interviewed about their experiences in the military.  I guess the advice I got when I signed my disclosure agreement didn’t filter up to their level:  Keep your mouth shut.

Look, I never did anything approaching either high speed or low drag.  I did some things that I really enjoyed and I’m still geeking out about after almost two decades, but nobody’s going to make a movie about a plucky, humorless linguist.  But the things I did do were secret for good reason.  So, yeah, there are places I’ve been that I don’t talk about, and there are things I did in places I can talk about that will earn you a blank stare if you ask me about them.

Basically, I’ve always thought that the PR machine around the UBL raid was an embarrassment.  Here’s what should have happened:  The night of the raid, all Pakistani intelligence and Al Qaeda should have found was a bunch of spent brass, dead bodies, and footprints.  The helicopter that crashed should have been a pile of ash and rubble after air support for the mission blew it to kingdom come.  Bin Laden himself should be missing.  Nobody left alive on the target should have known enough to help tell the tale.  A shiver runs down the backs of our enemies because nobody knows what happened or how to prevent it from happening again.  A few weeks earlier, the White House press secretary denies knowing anything when asked about rumors that UBL is dead.  End of story.

Giving interviews on national TV or in a book gets other people killed.  If your face is known, then someone who has seen that face will put together two and two and figure out that anyone who had anything to do with you was working with the United States and deserves a little alone time with Abdul “The Nailpuller” Aziz.  Discussing technology and methods points toward ways to defend against the methods and defeat the technology, which in turn puts the people who are still doing the job at risk.

Guys and gals, save the war stories for the VFW or the reunions.  I don’t want to know how the bad guys get killed, and it’s scarier for them if nobody can even confirm it was us who did it.

Deja Vu

My father served in Vietnam. Through him, I met men who were exposed to defoliants, and were fighting against cancers and other problems. I have many friends who served in the First Gulf War.  A lot of them had odd illnesses that were lumped under the rubric “Gulf War Disease”.

Veterans from both of those conflicts had to work for years, sometimes decades, to have their maladies recognized as being real, much less service related.  Administrations from both parties, along with a military establishment more worried about bad publicity and dwindling budgets than rewarding those who served, stonewalled them.  I’ve watched strong, proud men cry out in pain and frustration as they try to deal with the issues caused by living and working in a contaminated environment.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that a new generation of fighters is getting the same treatment:

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

Servicemembers, from EOD technicians to just the poor, unlucky men and women who stumbled across the infernal things, are dealing with the aftermath of exposure to chemical weapons.  This isn’t residue, nor is it a trace amount.  This is people, as part of their job, accidentally picking up a leaking artillery shell and getting bathed in the stuff.  At least two were hit with sarin, and are still dealing with the damage that caused.

A lot is being said about how this either justifies the 2003 invasion of Iraq because the weapons were there or how it proves it was unjustified because the weapons were years old.

I don’t care about that.

What I care about is that right now, as we sit here, there are at least dozens of men and women out there who have had the fact that they were even exposed to chemical weapons branded a state secret.  It appears that most of them did not receive the care they needed when they were hurt, and now they are fighting to get the care that they still need.

This has to stop.  I do not want another generation of veterans to go without because it’s inconvenient or embarrassing.  The Department of Defense and the VA need to do an exhaustive search for people who were injured by these poisons and make sure that they are OK.  If they’re not, they need to get all the support that the most powerful nation in the world can give.

We sent them there.  They did their job.  It’s time we paid up.

Laugh for the Day

My platoon sergeant had this one under the plexiglass on his desk when I was a private.  It still makes me giggle.


Heads Up

If you’re in the Detroit area or can get there on Thursday, do me a favor and pay some respect to the 13 veterans who are going to be buried at the Great Lakes National Cemetery.  This group of forgotten warriors includes Korea and Vietnam War veterans.  It seems that these 13 men and women died, but their bodies were never claimed at the morgue in Detroit.  Businesses, charities, and other groups have stood up and are making sure they get a casket and a decent burial, but no servicemember should be buried without at least a few of their brothers and sisters present.

It looks like the state police will be escorting their procession from the morgue to Holly Township.  If you can’t get to the cemetery, then hopefully some can pay their respects as the hearses go past.  If anyone up there gets information on the route and planned times, please either post it in comments or hit my email link and I’ll broadcast here.  If you’re a blogger from up in the Detroit area, please pass the word on so that we can get as many people out to pay respect to these men and women as possible.

We serve together.  We deserve to be honored as we pass.  Be there if you can.

Lessons From A Former Life (Repost)

I originally posted this in 2010.  It’s appropriate for today, which would have been my 25th anniversary in the Army.


I came up with these shortly after I left the military.  I was thinking recently about how much I’ve changed since I joined up, and since I left the Army.  But these still hold true for me.  Enjoy.

  • Even when you rest, scan the horizon.
  • You only truly appreciate sunrise if you’ve endured the cold night.
  • It only takes a few grains of carbon to turn a sophisticated weapon system into a club.
  • It doesn’t matter how good the truck looks if it breaks down constantly.
  • You are never given a promotion or award that matters. You earn the ones that count.
  • No job operates independently. The Intel weenie doesn’t directly engage the enemy, but the infantryman can’t be utilized effectively if he doesn’t know where the enemy is.
  • A march is only long if you haven’t done it before.
  • Sometimes it’s a blast, sometimes it’s just a paycheck. If you can’t remember the last time it was a blast, get another job.
  • It doesn’t matter how heavy a load you carry at the beginning of the march.
  • Any moron can shoot. It takes skill to hit.
  • If you’re not willing to maintain and fix it, you don’t get to drive it.
  • Take pleasure from the small things. They may be all you get.
  • Leadership is more than giving orders.
  • Sometimes you have to be at the bottom of a well to see the light.
  • Genetics doesn’t make a family.
  • Say hello as if you haven’t seen them in years.
  • Say good-bye as if you’ll never see them again.
  • Cherish the ones that are there, honor the ones that came before, and train the ones that are new.

This We’ll Defend

When someone wants to protest the government, whether we agree with them or not, this we’ll defend.

When a citizen wants to vote, no matter for whom or what, this we’ll defend.

When a mother wants to buy a gun to protect her children, this we’ll defend.

When someone wants to worship, or chooses not to, this we’ll defend.

When someone wants to write, or sing, or draw, or paint, or dance, whether it be for the joy of it or to send a message to the rest of us, this we’ll defend.

When our people want to live in peace, in security, in freedom, this we’ll defend.

Today is the 239th anniversary of the establishment of the United States Army.   It’s been made up of larger than life heroes and ordinary folk.  Our ranks have included Douglas MacArthur, Andrew Jackson, Audie Murphy, and Nathan Hale.  They have also included the quiet men and women who go to do their duty and then come back to build up that which they have defended.  Our places have names like Valley Forge, Omaha Beach, Pusan, Ia Drang, and Antietam.  They also have names like Grafenwohr, Camp Red Cloud, Hood, Riley, Carson, and Lewis, and all the other cold, hot, dusty, wet, and whatever-else they-can-throw-at-us places around the world where quiet professionals train and prepare.

To my brothers and sisters around the world, I’ll be raising a toast tonight.  If you can, please join me.




Climb To Glory

Iron Soldiers!

Toujours Pret

Always Out Front

This We’ll Defend

A Modest Proposal

I’m sure that most of you are aware of the ongoing scandal centered around the Veteran’s Administration healthcare system.  Allegations that VA staff have faked records to hide long waits for care, waits so long that some veterans have died while waiting to be seen, are coming from all corners of the system.  Veterans, from World War II to Afghanistan, are suffering, and it is a national shame.

VA Secretary Shinseki seems to be unable to deal with the problem, and the dispatching of a couple of White House flunkies to ‘investigate’ the issue isn’t going to cut it.  Something radical has to happen, and here’s my idea.

Currently, the VA is a cabinet level agency, run mostly by civilian bureaucrats.  Accountability, indeed the sense of honor that an organization entrusted with the care of those who have earned it with their blood requires, has been watered down and seems to have disappeared.  That has to change.

I propose the formation of a Joint Veteran’s Services Command, composed of military officers and NCO’s from all of the uniformed services.  This new command would be a major command under the Department of Defense, like the Joint Special Operations Command.  All current VA facilities and responsibilities should be moved under this new organization, but not all of the personnel.

The civilian management and ‘leadership’ of the current VA would be pretty much flushed out like the waste that it is.  They can be paid off and shown the door, or they can be thoroughly investigated and then shown the door, whichever is quicker.  They would be replaced with military leadership, from NCO’s and junior officers providing supervision in clinics and offices, to a general officer heading up the new organization.  The actual medical providers, case managers, and such could still be civilian employees, but their leadership, and therefore their direction, would come from military servicemembers.  Let today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines make sure that our veterans get the care they deserve.  I would love to be a fly on the wall when a VA case manager near Fort Bragg tries to give a World War II or Vietnam veteran the runaround when her supervisor is a paratrooper who fought in Afghanistan.

Would it be perfect?  Absolutely not.  Anyone who’s worn a uniform knows that military bureaucracies can be as infuriating and inefficient as those in the civilian world.   The difference here, from my point of view, would be that military leadership of VA facilities would have a dog in the fight and they would know that they will be held accountable for failure.  Someday, they will leave the service and become veterans, and they will want the facilities and services they will need to be top-notch.  Additionally, a servicemember who is derelict in her duty can be relieved for cause, or even prosecuted, a much different situation than we find with the unionized federal civilians who are neglecting our veterans today.

Doing this might not solve all the problems, but it would be an improvement.

Attention to Orders

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Specialist Kyle J. White, United States Army.

Specialist Kyle J. White distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a radio telephone operator with Company C, 2nd Battalion Airborne, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on November 9, 2007.

On that day, Specialist White and his comrades were returning to Bella Outpost from a shura with Aranas village elders.  As the soldiers traversed a narrow path surrounded by mountainous, rocky terrain, they were ambushed by enemy forces from elevated positions.  Pinned against a steep mountain face, Specialist White and his fellow soldiers were completely exposed to enemy fire.  Specialist White returned fire and was briefly knocked unconscious when a rocket-propelled grenade impacted near him.

When he regained consciousness, another round impacted near him, embedding small pieces of shrapnel in his face.  Shaking off his wounds, Specialist White noticed one of his comrades lying wounded nearby.  Without hesitation, Specialist White exposed himself to enemy fire in order to reach the soldier and provide medical aid.

After applying a tourniquet, Specialist White moved to an injured Marine, providing aid and comfort until the Marine succumbed to his wounds.  Specialist White then returned to the soldier and discovered that he had been wounded again.  Applying his own belt as an additional tourniquet, Specialist White was able to stem the flow of blood and save the soldier’s life.

Noticing that his and the other soldiers’ radios were inoperative, Specialist White exposed himself to enemy fire yet again in order to secure a radio from a deceased comrade.  He then provided information and updates to friendly forces, allowing precision airstrikes to stifle the enemy’s attack and ultimately permitting medical evacuation aircraft to rescue him, his fellow soldiers, Marines, and Afghan army soldiers.

Specialist Kyle J. White.  Extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Company C, 2nd Battalion Airborne, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the United States Army.

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