Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Statistics & Percents

According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, the estimated population of the United States (in July 2007) is going to be around 301,139,947. Of that entire number, some three million (3,000,000) men and women comprise the active, reserve and National Guard units that serve in our military and our country. That’s all five branches- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. These are the men and women that are at both deployed and serving at home. That’s roughly about one percent (1%) of our population dedicated to protecting our way of life.

We must often endure long periods of separation from our loved ones and are called upon to put ourselves at risk of serious injury or death in order to protect the rest of America. Rest assured, we are an ALL volunteer force and none of us were pressed to join or drafted.

It would be very naïve to believe that all of us are angels. From time to time, we are informed of allegations of wrongdoing and criminal acts committed by our fellow military members. In such cases, we always owe them the benefit of the doubt due to the nature of the job and what the demands are of you. If America owes the presumption of innocence to anyone, they owe it to us.

While I don’t support censorship to the level that it had been taken to by other countries, like Iraq where the wrong word would get you & your family jailed, tortured and executed, I definitely don’t support the “watchdog” role that the media has taken “for the greater good”. I do, however, believe it is exceedingly detrimental to allow isolated incidents to cast a wider suspicion on America’s military members through the sensational media coverage such cases frequently receive. This type of “reporting” quickly chips away at America’s confidence in the institutions and people that protect it. It is also very demoralizing to us!

Wrongdoing by our fellow military members is very serious, is not tolerated and is treated as such. But instead of so much focus on the specific incidents, the media should be watching and reporting on the effectiveness of the internal systems we use to bring our own to justice.

The two prime examples include the prisoner abuse at Abu-Gharib and the marines accused of murdering civilians in different parts of the country. I am certain that all of you readers have at least a vague familiarity on both topics. Unlike America’s “Justice System”, our system is one that should be studied and used as the standard. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is respected, feared, and taught to us from day one in the military. It can be something handles at a level of administrative counseling, on the spot corrections/actions (push ups), demotions, extra duty, loss of pay, and (in severe cases) jail or executions.

The punishments here fit the crime. Did you also know that “A jury of your peers” is exactly that? The jury isn’t chosen base upon how little they know through the media, how neutral they are on a topic, or how much the book rights will sell for (OJ jurors). They are chosen based upon the experiences, careers and similarities of both the prosecution and the defendant’s background. For example, if one of my soldiers were to be brought up for a court marshal (UCMJ speak for trial or pre-trial) the juries would likely consist of males between the ages of 19 to 35, combat MOS (Military Occupational Skill-your job in the military), combat veteran, have been deployed to the same theater my Joes have, and have been in the military at least seven years. If it was me, my jury would have different parameters to match my jury as “my peers”. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Did you also know that the UCMJ has the death penalty for certain cases of rape? And the media calls our justice system “outdated”.

We do have problem soldiers and criminals in the military. I would be lying to you if I said different. We have our own justice system for dealing with them. Remember that we make up about 1% of America’s population. Soldiers that commit crimes while in the military make up an even less percentage than that. What’s a small percent of 1%? I’m not sure, but you get the idea. It’s a pity that all of this is overshadowed by the sensationalism that the media presents.

Unfortunately, reporting the sensational brings in the ratings and is better for business. I have witnessed a reporter here stating, “My editor taught me that if it bleeds, it leads”. The funny irony is that I wonder if he would like to make the headlines for being punched in the mouth for saying something stupid like that. I didn’t do it but, I really fought the urge to. I don’t think that all reporters believe the same way but sometimes you wonder.

We have accomplished so much good in this country that it would make your head spin if you were to compare the numbers and actions from before Saddam and after. We will continue to do good things here to the best of our ability. All that we ask is that, in the future, you hold the media accountable for their “Leading Stories” and don’t judge us by the few rotten apples we have in the batch. Remember, there were more murders in New York during the last few months than there were GI deaths in Iraq (cheap shot on Sen. Clinton but you get the point). We will handle our own criminals, keep the media out of it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Remember Memorial Day

As many of you know, this is another Memorial Day away from home but closer to the real meaning of the holiday than most will ever know. We had a break in that we were able to stop for about two hours to remember our fallen brothers and sisters that aren’t here with us any longer. They are the ones that have joined the ranks of many that came before them. Last night (or rather EARLY) Memorial Day, we were greeted with 95˚ temperatures at 0100 hours and a sandstorm with hurricane (Category 1) strength winds. Once the sun was up, we dug out and repaired the damage all the while keeping an eye out for those that are trying to kill us at every opportunity. This is just a fact of life here. For me, one day is exactly like the rest. After being gone so long, it just gets that way. At times I can tell you what the date is but still have no clue as to what day of the week it is.

Across America, different celebrations will kick off with family gatherings, meals spent together and (my personal favorite) everything on sale because the sole purpose of veterans dying in combat is for people to save a buck on a new mattress or refrigerator. As the celebrations are starting, we’ll continue to aggressively search for our four MIA (Missing in Action) soldiers that have been lost to us. As we search, I find myself praying for them, their families, and the others soldiers here that are not giving up hope of finding them.

Despite the horror of the recent kidnappings, there is a lot of good coming out of Iraq. You won’t see it or know about it back home because it doesn’t get ratings. Al Qaeda is having very hard times lately as the locals have grown increasingly tired of the bombings and have now begun to openly hunt Al Qaeda in multiple areas of Iraq. Iraqis are standing up in defiance of this extremism and beginning to fight back and kick Al Qaeda’s a** from town to town, literally putting them on the run. The news seems very reluctant to report on this progress, and those “supportive” politicians running for office are conveniently oblivious to any shred of truth going on in Iraq. As we remain vigilant and aware of the big picture here, we place our real focus on our piece of the pie and count down the days until our time here is done.

As I finish this posting, I can tell you that we've had a total of twenty (20)soldiers that have sacrificed their lives that others may live. Please take the time to stop and remember, pray for and thank those that have given all for your freedom. Don’t let their lives, their sacrifices and their families be replaced with a “Four-day holiday weekend and sales”.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two-dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead".

While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order Number 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields”, Moina Michael replied with her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red that grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3-cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."

The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day”. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced bill S 189 to the Senate, which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of "the last Monday in May". On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House (H.R. 1474). The bills were referred the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform. To date, there have been no further developments on the bill.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Interesting Survey Questions

Dear Readers,

One of our soldiers has a cousin that is involved with an online discussion group about the war here -- she (the soldier’s cousin) asked for feedback on the questions below. After it was mentioned to a few of us, I thought it would be interesting to see what my readers think, so I'm posting the questions with my answers for all of you to read. If you have the time (and interest) please feel free to answer the questions and sent your responses to me. I am very interested in your feedback and thoughts on this one.

1.) After having been there now for a while, why do you think we are there? And has your feeling/understanding changed at all about why we are there?
If nothing else, to help the Iraqi people move forward in order for them to insure a positive solid future for themselves, their families and their countries. This will insure at least one more ally in the Middle East for future joint endeavors. My feelings on the reason why I was deployed have not changed one bit.

2.) Do most of your comrades want to be there?
Yes and no, "Yes" for the same reason stated in question number one and no because none of us enjoy being away from our families. But we do the job anyway because we are compelled to do so.

3.) Do most of you think you are doing a good thing there?
Yes! Since we (Coalition Forces) have been here, they have had democratic free elections, appointed a mixed governing body, been allowed to freely express their thoughts and ideas through television, radio & newspapers, have started to genuinely rebuild their infrastructure (water, electricity, health care, etc) and the first generation of "Free Iraqis" has been born. These are things that a lot of Americans have taken for granted.

4.) Do you think people can support the troops, but not the war? Do you find it contradictory?
People can support the troops but not the war is the same asinine ideology of "I smoked but didn't inhale". How can you support me but not what I do? My job is not one that many people can (or won't) do. I do my job to the best of my abilities and the people here that have experienced the suffering from Saddam's regime see us as their liberators. They also understand that it took decades for the country to get to this state and the recovery is not going to be overnight. The American public (as a whole) enjoys instant gratification and this is something that is being sold to them by politicians. Now that the war hasn't been "short", they are all jumping on the bandwagon in order to insure their future reelection employment while under the guise of "support the troops". It would be the same if I were to say that I support firemen but not what they do because they speed through traffic and break things to get the job done. Or I support the police but not the fact that they will arrest me when I break the law. You can't have it both ways.

5.) What would you tell someone who thinks it is ONLY about oil?
Give up your life in comfort, time with your family, civilian career, freedom and sanity. Enlist, then do a year-long tour over here, then come and talk to me about the oil. Or stay faithfully married to one of our soldiers, raise the children while we're gone, take care of everything at home for us, and pray every night that we've survived to see another sunrise. Until you've done all of that, you haven't EARNED the right to express any opinion on what is going on over here.

6.) If you had ten minutes on CNN, what would you find most important to convey to the American people about Iraq?
I wouldn't trust CNN to get me a slurpee at 7-11, much less with anything as important as reliable news. They tote themselves as being "The Most Trusted News Source" on the air. If you believe that, send me all of your money now so I can invest it on beachfront property for you here. If you want the truth, talk face to face with a veteran that has just returned from here.

7.) Do you feel you have the support of most Americans?
Yes I do, I just feel sorry for all of the Americans that are following the "Sheep" mentality and believing the politicians who haven't bothered to change their course of idealism (bordering on fantasy) about what being at war means or to fight for the principles and freedoms they wield without any forethought to the outcome as long as they remain elected. As you're reading my answers, stop and think to yourself, "What did I feel on September 11th as we were being attacked?" Always remember this because politicians seem to have forgotten it in favor of popularity and election results.

The additional questions I have for all of you are these:

1)Do you honestly think that we are “losing” the war as politicians say?

2)Do you think that a complete American troop withdrawal is the solution to what is going on here?

3)What do you propose as a reliable plan for “ending” the war?

4)Do you think that the US should put pressure on other coalition forces and the UN to “step up” and be more proactive about their roles here?

5)Do you support us (the troops) but not the war, and why?

6)Should reporters be embedded or allowed access to soldiers and operations as they are now, or should they be “reigned in” like in WWII and other wars? Why?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

No More Blogging For The Commando?

I received an interesting question from Conservative Beach Girl, whose web blog can be reached at-

“I just heard Army has said no more blogging from Iraq. Is it true or false?”

Currently, that I’m aware of, the Army has not instituted a “no-blogging policy” for us (at least here). If they have, we haven’t gotten it through distribution, yet. We do have to submit all of our future postings for screening to our local IMO (Information Management Officer) in order for him to advise us of any OPSEC (Operational Security) violations, comments aimed at specific personnel in order to undermine their authority, or any other issues with the posting that would reflect negatively on me as a soldier. We, as leaders also remain proactive in assisting the IMO if he’s not sure or he needs help screening postings and blogs in general. Now I feel this doesn’t limit me in any way because of the topics I post about but it does provide me with a challenge in order to inform the general public about things that are going on here without giving away things that my readers simply just don’t need to know. And as much as certain politicians, policies, media, and other topics tend to get under my skin, I make it a point to wait a few days in order to calm down and generate a posting that remains clear, informative, funny, and entertaining to all of my readers.

With that being said, I will admit to you that some of the people I’ve been stationed with in the past haven’t seen eye to eye with me over different issues ranging from books, cars, fishing, surfing, art, history, leadership styles, mission parameters and specifics. But that’s not a license for me to “drop the dime” over something trivial which can potentially cost lives here and at home. Remember, TERRORISTS HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET TOO!!!! Besides, the same terrorists have cells and sympathizers in the states too which would allow them to target you while we’re here. Yes, this is true so don’t go fooling yourself into thinking different.

I’ve listed some of the excerpts from the MNC-I (Multi National Corps-Iraq) policy covering web sites, blogs, and blogging. Here are the two key policies that jump out and we stress on our soldiers:

MNC-I personnel who post web logs must register the URL at which the blog is posted with their unit.

Service members in violation to this policy may be subject to adverse administrative action or punishment under the UCMJ. DoD civilians and DoD contractor personnel may be subject to adverse administrative action.

In short, it means that you need to register your web site and/or blog with the IMO for approval and subsequent monitoring for any violations. The second one lets you know that if you don’t follow the first rule, you’ll be held accountable.

This is a link to the Military Information Technology web site that covers an article on this topic published in September of 2005 (the most recent one I could find). I think you should read it to gain a better insight as to the reasons why the Army pushes this policy. It’s not because of being an “Overlord” army; it’s for the safety, concern for the soldier and the CYA factor.

As much as I've enjoyed blogging in order to share a majority of the experience, I agree very much with the policy for several reasons. First, security, if the general public reads blogs for their own information, so does the media, and so do terrorist. It’s an easy venue for gathering information. Two, it teaches and instills the discipline and self-responsibility for the soldiers that have never been deployed to a combat zone before to think before they speak/write. Three, it also allows for the IMO (Information Management Officer) to not only insure that the OPSEC (Operational Security) protocols are being adhered to, and he will also “advertise” your blog as a safe blog to visit within the network of web sites that apply to your unit. For example, my blog is listed as a link on several different military, family and troop support blogs and web sites.

As I am a big supporter of freedom of speech and expression, I (and my brothers & sisters in arms) gave that up when we swore in. That in itself has taught me self control and clear focus when I speak verbally and write letters, blog postings and memos. I hope this will grant you a bit of insight form a Joe on the ground. I hope this note finds you and yours doing well.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Politicians Just Don’t Get It

So I’ve been stewing for a while about all of the asinine politics and downright ignorant behavior being displayed by the democratic congress in Washington versus President Bush. We were watching a documentary today titled “Obsession-Radical Islam’s War against the West”. This particular documentary focused on radical Islam, its ideologies, and effects worldwide. It did make it a point to inform that not all Muslims believe in this type of Islam and its “encouraged” behavior. As we’re watching the documentary, it shows how much they hate us, the idea of us, and how they will NEVER stop until all infidels are dead. I understand the mechanics and the behavior being taught and encouraged as the right thing to do in the name of the Muslim religion.

But let’s look at a different issue that runs parallel to radical Islam. Our media tends to cover the death of US soldiers and the situation here in such a manner as to paint a picture that all of Iraq hates us and wants us out of the country. This skewed vision is made more powerful by the visual clips from “archive footage”, hired “Military Experts”, and politicians screaming about how we’re losing the war. Michael Moore stated, “There are no terrorists and no terrorist threat”. I wonder if he was at ground zero in New York when the planes hit. I highly doubt that New Yorkers would agree with him or would allow him into their homes after a statement like that. While I’ve only visited New York and been through the JFK Airport, I can tell you that they LOVE the military and what they do as they have welcomed us with standing ovations and hugs. Imagine that, a predominately democratic state being guilty of such behavior. Why, because New Yorkers remember being attacked.

What a good amount of the rest of Americans either fail to realize or acknowledge is that by repeatedly airing such nonsense, the media and politicians are as equally dangerous as the insurgents we face everyday. Freedom of the press is a powerful weapon that the media wields with little to no forethought of the effects just for the ratings alone. I truly wonder how New Yorkers feel when they watch or hear all of this going on and being treated as if their state wasn’t involved in the September 11th attacks.

Military “experts”, analysts, and politicians use reports of VBIEDs (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosives) laced with chlorine, suicide bombers, and sectarian violence as evidence that Iraq is in a civil war. Yes, all three (and more) do occur here and I would be a liar to tell you different. But why only tell one side of the story? In the Iraqi culture as a whole, they have never been into suicide bombing, killing of innocent women and children who were at the market, or sectarian violence on a grand scale. Exceptions to the rule include Saddam Hussein’s purging of the Kurds and the Shia. Your average Iraqi Muslim values life, family, and peace.

A majority of the instigating violence here is carried out by foreign fighters from the Stans (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and the other Stans), Iran, and other countries that have no true interest in helping the Iraqi people move forward. It is all about control. They are raising and training several generations of children to believe in this as a way of life in order for Islam to dominate the world. If you think this idealism sounds familiar then you must have either read or heard about Adolph Hitler’s idealism and goals for a pure Germany and a new world order. I find it very shocking that the children of the great generation of WWII veterans have forgotten, ignored and turned their backs on what their fathers fought and died for. These children are now in control of Washington and have abandoned the ideals that WWII Americans fought so hard to defend in favor of looking good for the media and insuring their future employment in politics. They will brag about a Democratic or Republican controlled house or senate. What happened to ONE nation? Have they forgotten that they were elected to represent the people of the UNITED States and not their party affiliations? But what do I know; I’m just a grunt over here with a hodge podge of other American grunts that are truly united. We have and will always throw our differences aside in an instant the very second that lives are in danger; ours or the Iraqi’s.

Now the Iraqis will fire off a clip out of an AK-47, they’ll yell at each other, and yes, they have and will kill each other but not in the methods described above. However, the majority of the violence against the civilian population and coalition forces has and is carried out by foreign fighters recruited by Al-Qaeda. They recruit young men and now women & children to join the Jihad against the “Great Satan” (you & I) with the promise of becoming martyrs in the name of Allah. That’s why we call them insurgents. You see by definition, a civil war would mean Iraqi versus Iraqi exclusively-which is not the case in Iraq. Rwanda, America and the Balkans are examples of civil war with the bonus of genocide, or ethnic cleansing, as the media states it. I’m not sure if it’s to soften the blow on the American public to the fact that they kill large numbers of people based off of a race, religion, class, or color.

But Commando, you stated America!! Yes, we’ve had a civil war (North vs South/Union vs Rebels) with genocide on both sides and the genocide of the slaves. The descendants of that civil war continued to pass on the ideals that defined that war. “All men are created equal”- in the north, and “niggers need to know their place” in the south. Yes, I am quoting from several different sources and am not using the PC terms as it would lose the impact of my point. Yep, we’re guilty or our own sins like this but we’re making an attempt to learn and correct those mistakes from the past. But unlike us, it is still going on here everyday with the same intensity.

Al Qaeda’s greatest fear here is that the Iraqi people will get seriously pissed and unite against them and their version of Islam. They are desperate to drive this nation into civil war because they know it is their only way to stop the very idea of a united Iraq that is free from their oppression. The irony is that their most prized ally now is the American media and a majority of the democratic national party.

Bottom line, if the democrats really want to “support the soldier” as they claim, the best way to do so is to STOP HELPING!