Friday, December 30, 2005

It's Called Commitment

I suppose there is a time where every warfighter is afraid. The soldier storming the beach at Normandy, the trooper crawling into a tunnel in the jungles of Vietnam, the Marine patroling the streets of Iraq...fear on the battlefield is nothing new. And truth be told, I am certain that I am not the only one who has, at one time or another, been afraid over here. But I want to share with you something that America knows of her Marines, but is sometimes at best taken for granted and at worst forgotten alltogether; the commitment of your Marines when faced with fear.

For the past 230 years, Marines have answered America's call to duty. Today's Marines fight with the same sense of commitment that our brothers fought with in 1775. From the first day of boot camp, our Drill Instructors taught us that regardless of the circumstances in which we may find ourselves, our bodies are much stronger than our minds and the mission must be exceptions! And trust me, we are on a mission and we are committed to the success of our mission; regardless of our fears, surroundings or circumstances. Because we know our enemy, his mentality and his tactics, we have the ability to constantly be one step ahead. The only thing that our enemy knows of us is that to engage in a direct confrontation will result in a very bad day for him; so they have resigned themselves to dying. In their minds, they have already lost. Their ship is sinking and the only thing that they can do is try to take as many of us down with them as is possible. Our enemies are extremely one-dimensional. Their minds are as rudimentary as their tactics. We have shown, and continue to show our enemies the commitment required to win a war. We have shown them our ruthlessness in combat, our expertise is all things soldierly and our compassion when it is called for. They are fighting a war of attrition and their only hope is that we quit; a word not found in any Marine's vocabulary.

America, your Marines will not stop taking this fight to the enemies of our country. I wish that everyone could see just a fraction of what I see here everyday. I wish that you could hear the conversations between Marines that I hear. For if you did, you would understand why we are going to win this war and it would give you an understanding of the commitment that has made our Corps the most feared fighting force on the face of the planet. And while this may not be possible, take my word for it...we are committed to you, we are committed to this cause and we are committed to seeing that when America calls on us, we will always be ready to answer her call. Semper Fidelis...Always Faithful.

(Linked at The Mudville Gazette)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bingo's Pal

I thought I'd show you Bingo's newest buddy, Dita. She is a three year old German Shepherd and much to Bingo's delight, loves to run. She is however, much faster than my "bull in a china shop", but he loves the chase none the less.
I think I have finally discovered the secret to calming him down...a few minutes running after her.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Night

Well, Christmas has come and gone...or is it came and went? At any rate, my brothers and I here had a wonderful day...capped of by a "fireside chat" on our back porch. By "porch" I mean of course a few fold-up chairs from our local Wal-Mart with some strategically placed sandbags and our burn barrel. What is it about fire that elicits conversation? I have no idea, but our rendezvous on Christmas night was no exception. If you are hoping to read about daring missions, feats of heroism and overcoming overwhelming odds in the read on.

There are so many experiences that we all have had here. Many of which we keep repressed in that little place in the mind behind the door labeled "Off Limits". I however, was content to just sit back and listen. The conversation, as it often does, gravitated toward family and home. And as I stared at the glow of the fire, all I could think of was my Father. He and I used to sit our back yard during the cold months and have a fire very similar to the ones that my brothers and I had on Christmas night. "It's not cold enough son." As a boy, I remember these words from my Father would take the wind out of my sails. Because, you see, it was during those times sitting beside a fire with my Father that I felt like he would open his "Off Limits" door to me and teach me so much about becoming a man; a lesson which I am fairly certain he never knew he was teaching. I am reasonably sure that if you asked him, he would tell you that it was a insignificant event, but it is without a doubt, one that I will never forget. My Father was sitting there with me on Christmas night, and in my silence, he was teaching me just as he did when I was a boy.

You know, - and this is my own personal opinion which you are free to disagree with if you so choose -, but I think at times I get more credit than I deserve. People thank me for fighting this war, when the people they need to thank are my parents for instilling in me a love and appreciation for our freedom, for our country, for our fellow man and for our God. They were the brave ones who went against the tide of parenting "experts" who preached the sermon of first and foremost, being your children's friend. They were the ones who made more sacrifices for their children than I could even begin to write about. Yes, they are the ones who deserve the thanks and admiration for without them, I would not be the man whom I've become...and the man who is now fighting on behalf of his fellow man.

America owes a hearty thanks to the parents of her sons and daughters. The men who made our country great would undoubtedly agree.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

In the Quiet Place

For some, these days are the worst. The quiet days. Days when you run out of things to do to occupy your mind. There is no one shooting at you. You've read until your eyes hurt. Your weapon can't get any cleaner. You can almost feel it coming on. It starts with a stare at a wall, or a picture. You fight it because you've been there so many times before and you know exactly where it is going to take you. But for some reason, there are times when you just don't want to fight it. You want to lose yourself in those sweet memories of home, family and friends.

I have fought this battle more times than I can remember. I have quit fighting it because I have learned over time, that this intraspection reminds me what I am fighting for. We all surround ourselves here with as many of these memories as is possible. So much so, that it is difficult to avoid them. I keep pictures of my wife and my daughters in my helmet so that at every moment, they are there with me. I sleep surrounded by pictures of my family. When I go to sleep, it is my wife and children's faces that I see. When I wake up, they are there to smile at me and say "Good morning Daddy", and indeed every morning is just that.

It is a tough job that we do, but one that is not without reward. During these quiet moments, I am reminded of home and it has become my motivation. It has become my ally. My reward will be when I return to my family knowing that our world is safer now because of me and men like me. Men who recognized how much our country and families are depending on us to fulfill our responsibilities to them. Men who say to their families and countrymen, "No one will hurt you on my watch." I am fighting this war for many reasons. I fight for my country, let there be no doubt. But more importantly, I am fighting for my family. I fight for the world which my children will inherit from me. I fight so that one day, they will not have to. And I have become grateful for these times of relative quiet; because it is in this quiet that I can hear my wife and children thanking me. It is when I can see myself giving my daughters away in marriage. It is when I see my wife and I growing old together. Yes, it is a tough job but it is in the quiet that I am reminded of why I am here and where I find my reward...And it keeps me going.

I have no idea what this world will be like after I am gone. There will probably be many more "Iraq's" in our future. But each one that I fight, is potentially one less that I will be leaving for my children and grandchildren to fight. My parents, without a doubt, gave me a better world than the one that they were given and I will go to my grave knowing that I have done the same for my children and for theirs.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Timid Soul

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...Who knows the great enthusiams, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.

- Teddy Roosevelt

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. For many reasons, but foremost because it reminds me that my life was meant to be lived with a purpose; engaged in noble causes which life presents. What a waste it is to live and never feel that you have made a difference. One of my greatest personal fears is that I will leave this earth and not have somehow accomplished something meaningful. That when my time here is finished, I will have been one of the "cold and timid" souls.

I fear that this is what is happening is our society today. So many are afraid of the possibility of defeat when faced with a challenge, that the are compelled to inaction; or even worse, inaction coupled with criticism of those who tackle the challenge head-on. I don't know about you, but I would rather fail while attempting great things, than to succeed in all things mediocre. And I believe our present situation in Iraq is a great example of this. We are helping to create a democracy. Do you realize how significant this is? America is passing on a legacy (to a willing people) left to us by great men; which I believe is our responsibility. Yet as we strive in our attempt, as we taste the sweetness of success, we are constantly reminded of that imobilizing fear...the fear of failure.

Failure to us on the ground here, is not even a remote possibility. We do not fear failure, because we are not going to fail. What we do fear however, is inaction brought about by the timid soul. We fear that America will fall prey to those who would rather risk nothing and as a result, accomplish nothing. My brothers and I fear that America will one day no longer be seen as a country of pioneers and patriots, but a nation who is no longer willing to walk to the edge and take the leap; to be willing to risk failure in search of greatness. In Iraq, America has walked to the edge. We looked down and we saw the possibility of failure in every direction. And then, with a gentle nudge and whisper from our forefathers, we jumped and began to soar. Others,(insert appropriate country's name here), froze and faced about. And you know what? That's alright. Because I believe that history will show them to be exactly what they are, timid souls. No, we don't fear failure. We fear becoming that timid soul.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Operation Moonlight

It's 1815, Tuesday evening. Bingo and I have just returned from assisting the Iraqi Army in Operation Moonlight; a "cordon and knock" mission along the Euphrates river. There were three Iraqi battalions from the 1st Iraqi Brigade involved in the operation which covered a large swath of desert on either side of the river just East of the city of Ubaydi (See picture).

I was greatly impressed with the performance of the Iraqi soldiers who bring a much needed local face to the coalition's operations. Many of the soldiers whom I served with brought a wealth of combat experience to the fight from previous operations in Fallujah, Najaf, and most recently Operation Steel Curtain within the cities of Husaybah and Karibala. Most importantly, the Iraqi soldiers fight with passion fueled by a their desire to take the torch and defend their homeland unassisted. While they are willing to serve beside coalition forces, each soldier that I spoke to about their progress told me (in broken English) how much pride they take in the defense of their country. They are also quick to tell you how thankful they are for "Ameriki's" assistance. Also worthy of note, is that Operation Moonlight was a milestone for the Iraqi army as it was the first ever brigade size operation conducted by the newly created army.

Although the soldier's tactics could use a bit of refining, they have something that you cannot teach a warrior...heart. Every one of these men would walk the four corners of the earth to defend their country. On the eve of my indoc (try-out) for the Military Police Special Reaction Team, the team's chief, a Gunnery Sergeant whom I respect greatly, told us that he could teach tactics to a monkey, but something that he couldn't teach anybody was how to have heart and determination and how to keep your body going when your mind tells it to quit. I will never forget his words..."Gents, you've either got it, or you don't", the Gunny told us bluntly. "And starting tomorrow, my job is to see who has it, and wave bye-bye to those who don't. Your mind will give up long before your body will." I did not see a single soldier during the operation who didn't have "it". They caused me to dig a bit deeper as we went tromping along across the desert.

The operation started at dawn. I was one of several Marines participating in the operation aimed at locating any anti-coalition materials or fighters within the villages and farmlands along the Euphrates. The topography of the land was mostly wide-open desert with small villages scattered throughout. The villages resembled petting zoos and had a variety of wildlife that would have made your local zoo green with jealousy. I now know why they call it the "fertile crescent" as the wildlife is without a doubt, fertile. To my dismay and much to Bingo's pleasure, they also had more wild dogs than I could count. Three-legged dogs, dogs missing ears, furless dogs...we saw them all and Bingo was determined to greet each one. It made life very interesting for me. As I have stated in earlier posts, Bingo is three going on one and taking him into this kind of environment is like taking your toddler to Chuck-E-Cheese's and making him bring his homework with him. Oil and water. He was especially fond of the lambs and baby goats, totally convinced that their retreat was an invitation to go frolic on the river's bank. But we trodded along, Bingo did in fact work and in the end, I was confident that what he and I searched was void of explosives.

The sun set on a bunch of worn out and sore-footed troops. It took some convincing on our parts to dissuade the Iraqi soldiers from lighting bonfires amidst our bivouac site. "Trust us guys, you'd rather be cold, than have mortars raining down on your heads". At times I thought that they would rather have mortars fall on their heads than be cold. But in the end, common sense prevailed and we kept warm by laughing at each other's pronunciation of English and Arabic phrases. I woke up (many times) throughout the night, sleeping only long enough for one side of my body to go numb and remind me that it was time to flip and pay the other side some attention. It was during one of these moments of reveille, that I realized why they named the operation as they did. The moon was shining low in the sky and completely illuminated the desert landscape. Had it not been so cold, I may have emerged from my cocoon long enough to take a picture, but as it is, my inadequate description will have to suffice. The morning, as it so often does, came much too early and wouldn't you know it...I forgot my snooze button!

The dawn brought little warmth, and we stepped off this day the same as we had yesterday. As we made our way through the villages, it was readily apparent that we were a novelty to the children. It did however, take some goading on out part to get them to come close enough to hand them some skittles or other trinkets. On one particular occassion, Bingo was sitting down next to me with his leash connected to a tree. A throng of children looked, pointed and laughed in our general direction...albeit at a very safe distance. Bingo was a hit and he had the children enthralled (I think it's because he had two ears). They looked, pointed and repeated "chelub", Arabic guessed it, dog. Well, I thought it would be a hoot if I got him and showed them some stupid pet tricks in Bingo's not-so-expansive dead, etc. I was wrong...very wrong. I have never seen kids run away so fast. I turned around and just like that, they were all gone. I was politely counseled by my Iraqi counterparts and it was a lesson well-learned...Iraqi children are afraid of dogs with two ears and four legs.

The operation ended with a great sense of accomplishment. The Iraqi soldiers rode back to camp singing as they often do, and also with the knowledge that they do in fact have "it" and are well on their way to defending their country solo. It was a good day for them, and it was a good day for the whole of the country.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Back To the Basics

Folks, it's time for a change. As I was reading over some of my earlier posts I made a realization. I started this blog in the hopes that it would be a avenue for me to A) keep family and friends informed on how/what I am doing in Iraq, and B) as a release of sorts for myself; which in the beginning, it was both. I have noticed however, that as of late my postings have gravitated toward venting frustration on the liberal media's campaign of misinformation. And while this is without a doubt a noble and much-needed cause, I have realized that at least for the present, it is not my cause.

Another reason for this is because I have noticed myself becoming frustrated. I remember when I was a boy, my Father used to engage in a heated debate with...the television; the "Crossfire" of the bullets was not just happening on the TV, it was occurring in our living room as well! Although at the time I thought he was off his rocker, I have found myself at times wanting to toss this computer out into the sand as I read some of the reports coming from this region. It has been extremely disheartening for me to hear/read about all things negative concerning our mission here in Iraq. I am a firm believer that negativity only breeds more negativity and I will not be its catalyst. I simply will not allow myself to be distracted or disenchanted by some of the garbage coming from the reporters here. If they are comfortable allowing their minds to be consumed with ruminations of negativity in search of ratings, so be it. But I am not, and will not be in their camp. There are many good people who are committed to the truth and also committed to seeing the web of lies being spun by the liberal media destroyed. So as for me and my postings, I intend to return to my roots and once again get back to the basics.

I received an email from my Mother the other day. In it, she told me how much she enjoys hearing what I am doing here and I realized that I haven't given her much to read about as far as that is concerned. So Mom, I guess at least in part, I have you to thank for this realization. Well, my brothers and I have a war to go win. With that, more reports from the front lines to come. Stay the course and fight the good fight guys, and rest assured your Marines will be doing the same.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

America "Lucky" in Iraq?

It appears ladies and gentlemen, that some of our friends within the main-stream media are scratching their collective heads. Their journalistic ship is sinking and like rats, they are scurrying to avoid going under into the abyss. Overheard at the local MSM watercooler:

TOM - "Bob, we've got to rethink our approach to this whole Iraq thing. It looks like it may just work. We've got to save face somehow. What can we do?"

BOB - "I've got it Tom! We'll just say they got lucky and that it was nothing that the Bush administration or the troops did to bring about this success, but that it was just a plain and simple case of blind luck."

TOM - "Brilliant!"

Sound far-fetched? Guess again. In the desperate attempt to discredit President Bush and the coalition forces, there are some who are actually trying to credit our successes to blind luck.

Tucker Carlson (TOM), in his op-ed piece Untied, sided with his anonymous friend (BOB) who appears to be the lead rat in the race to abandon the "Iraq is doomed to fail" ship. "If Bush ends up being right about Iraq", BOB...I mean anynomous stated, "it will be through luck and accident and God's grace, not through any skillful calculation of his own."

So let me get this straight, stating in your piece that you feel your friend is right, honestly believe that we are getting lucky in Iraq? Of course! I see it and your kind have left yourselves no other alternatives. Admiting that you underestimated America and her allie's resolve would be nothing less than devestating. Not an option...So luck, yes luck is what it must have been right? Well friends, allow me to shed some light into your otherwise darkened minds; luck has had about as much involvement in our successes here, as intelligence has had in the development of your careers! Our successes here are the result of blood, sweat and good ol' American determination; nothing else. And I along with many others, take your atrribution as a slap in our faces. We came over here with one win this war against terrorists. And to have some desk-jockey say that we got lucky is detestable. Yes, gentlemen, your ship is indeed sinking and I and my fellow warriors will take great satisfaction in watching it go down. I just hope that you are lucky enough to abandon ship before she takes you with her.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rock the Vote

It seemed like a city-wide block party. Iraqis came to the polls chanting, waving flags and singing. Bingo and I have been in the city of Ubadie for the past few days conducting explosive sweeps through the girl's school where the voting will take place. Since I have been here in Iraq, I have not heard celebration such as what I witnessed yesterday. It was a surreal atmosphere. At one time, I looked at one of the Iraqi soldiers and asked him "Are they happy?", as a flag waving throng made their way down one of the streets of the city. "Yes. They say 'Long live Iraq' and 'Today is a great day for all Iraq', he responded as he thrust his ink stained finger in the air. It was indeed a great day for all of us.

There was never a break in the voting line which snaked through razor wire and checkpoints. As it has been reported elsewhere, the Iraqi people exited the school waving their ink-stained finger and singing in Arabic. There would be no cowering to insurgents on this day as entire families either walked or took the bus shuttle service to the polls. Yesterday's voting was the greatest blow to the insurgency to date. I say this for two reasons. First, the Iraqi people, through their overwhelming display of national solidarity and determination, have told the insurgency that they are no longer afraid. Second, yesterday's voting told the coalition forces that we are doing things as they should be done and it strengthened our commitment and resolve. In addition, I think that the Iraqi's understand and appreciate the fact that they are choosing the leaders of their country. More and more everyday, they are realizing that America is not attempting to establish a puppet government here in their country, but we are giving the Iraqi nationals the opportunity to establish a legitimate ruling body for themselves.

As I have said all along, we are doing the right things here in Iraq and yesterday's voter turnout was yet another indication of this fact. "American Success In Iraq"...stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr. Kerry, Mr. Murtha, Mr. Dean. Get used to the headline gentlemen, because I guarantee you it won't be the last time you see it!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Are We the Enemy?

I am disgusted. I am disheartened. I am ashamed. I am angry. According to Senator John Kerry, I am a terrorist. According to him, I bust into Iraqi houses in the middle of the night and terrorize women and children. I am not making this up. So as not to be accused of misquoting or misrepresenting his words, I will include them:

KERRY: "And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night , terrorizing kids and children, you know women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not."
(read the full transcript)

So apparently now to some, we are the bad guys here. Are we now the infidels Mr. Kerry? The defenders of your freedoms...are we now no better than those who would kill you and your family were it not for us? Let us not forget who the enemy is here, Mr. Kerry. Our enemy is the the radical Islamic militants. And their customs which you seem determined to defend, are killing your countrymen.

We do in fact raid houses. We raid houses with the intent of capturing, killing or otherwise neutralizing insurgents and confiscating any anti-coalition materials. During these raids, we often encounter women, children and innocents who are in no way involved with the insurgency. When they see us and the tools of our trade, they are understandably afraid which is exactly what we want. Because you see, it's that split second of fear that may save my life or the life of another Patriot. As soon as it is determined that there is no terroristic activity being conducted in these houses, we leave. It's that simple. We do not desecrate their homes, cause them undue hardship or otherwise harm them. This is pathetic...I am having to defend myself and my brothers against an elected official of our nation who would have Americans believe that we are warmongers. Disgusting. Some people, Mr. Kerry included, are so far removed from the realities of war that their voice has become irrevelant. Sure, there isn't a single Marine over here who would not rather knock on the door of these houses and sit down for tea and a biscuit and talk about religious customs and courtesies. But as I have written in an earlier post, wars are violent and are won by violent men. This is just the way it is. We are compassionate to those who mean us no harm, and are devastating to those who choose to fight. We are your military force Mr. Kerry, and whether you choose to admit it or not, we are conducting ourselves with the utmost professionalism, proficiency and when it is required of us, compassion. Terrorists? No Mr. Kerry, my brothers and I are not terrorists. We are compassionate warriors, patriots and Americans. I challenge you Mr. Kerry, to take a short walk down the street to Arlington and visit the graves of those warriors who have died during this war. Were they terrorists as well? Were they the enemy?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Let Freedom Ring

Well, it's almost game time. In days, the Iraqi citizens will elect a 275 member parliament. We are promised that the insurgents will step up their efforts to derail the democratic process here in Iraq. Our response? "Not on our watch". We simply will not lose this battle. While we fight for the Iraqi people, we also fight for our brothers who have given their lives for this cause. We will not dishonor the memories of these warriors by cowering to fanatics. Let it be heard from the mountaintops, "WE WILL NOT LOSE! Brothers, we will continue your fight and we will NOT let you down."

A democratic Iraq is no longer a vision. It is a reality; a result of bravery, heroism and dedication which our enemies cannot even begin to fathom. The cowards whom we fight are heartless and are blinded by their fanaticism and false hopes. They have no concept of soldiery, bravery or virtue; they are the infidels. Many people are not aware of the tactics that these fools use on the battlefield. Allow me if you will, to share a few. They (the insurgents) blindly and cowardly shoot from behind buildings, giving no thought for the lives of children, women or non-combatants in the path of their bullets. They rig mosques with explosives and fire upon coalition troops from within these mosques. Why? It is in the hopes that their foolhardy companions (or a CNN cameraman) will capture coalition troops firing on the mosque as they detonate their explosives giving the appearance that WE destroyed the structure. The enemy's "leaders" flee when the first shot is fired and tell their minions that they must be brave for allah. What kind of bunk is that? Does allah not require bravery from them as well? They hold families hostage in their own homes to use them as a platform for their insurgency. These are the imbeciles whom we fight and who would run this country should we leave and not destroy them and their network.

But again we say, send us your best Al Zarqawi. We are committed to this fight and if need be, we are committed to destroying all who stand in our way, in the way of freedom and in the way of the virtues and character which you and your kind detest. Preach from your cave and sleep with one eye open, for that next bump in the night which you hear, may not be your equally innate and cowardly compadres. It may be a United States Marine who will unfortunately treat you (somewhat) humanly and afford you rights which you have for so long denied others. And when you do wake up and see (and possibly feel) the muzzle of that M-16, please don't try to run or fight; but if you choose to fight, so be will be your last.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Footprints of Heroes

Her name in the native tongue is Puu Hawaii Loa. Her story is seldom told anymore, but her history will live forever within the hearts and minds of the Hawaiian Kama`aina as well as the American service members surrounding her. Puu Hawaii Loa is known today as Kansas Tower; a towering mountain on the Windward side of the island of Oahu. KT, as she is called by her Marines, was once the site of American radar towers and on December 7, 1941 it was also the post of several Naval radio operators who died while manning their radar stations. It is situated directly in the center of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, which has been my home for the past three years.

I have ran up her steep slopes. I have crawled into the machine gun nests still carved into her sides. I have many times stood on her summit and visioned the Imperial Japanese zeros coming over the Ko`olau Mountains to begin their strafing runs on what was then NAS, Kaneohe Bay. I pictured the plumes of black smoke billowing from the hangars that housed their aircraft. I envisioned the quiet Sunday morning in paradise being shattered by machinegun fire, bombs and the screams of terror. Standing on top of KT, I felt a closeness with those heroes who stood then, where I was standing now. The pain that I felt that day as I stood upon her peak, paled in comparison to the pride that I had...for I knew that I was standing in the footprints of heroes.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Military Working Dog Saves Handler's Life

Cpl Hamma is a dog handler and a very good friend of mine. As I type this, he is back in the US recovering from a gunshot wound sustained while fighting in Ramadi early last month. Please read the story and pray for his safe and quick recovery.

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion"-Unknown

Christian Science Monitor Article

I was directed to an article in the CSM which highlites some of the work that we are doing here. I have worked beside the Marines mentioned in the article and I must say, they are some of the brightest and bravest young men that America has to offer. Be proud that they are on the job! There is also a paragraph in the article about a special and very furry 110lb Marine.

On Polls, Presidents and Passions

I have never been a big fan of polls. Polls are a mechanism used by politicians to cater to the majority and used by the media to influence the mindless. "Polls show 32% of American's agree with the President's handeling of the War on Terror...down sharply from 80% a year ago." Well folks, let me tell you something...being a President and a leader is not a popularity contest! I did not vote for the president based on how well he caters to the majority regardless if I am a part of it or not. Like many others, I voted for him because he is a man of passion, character and most important of all, a man of steadfastness. I do not lead Marines in the hopes that they will be my friends. I lead with one aim in keep them alive! Our president's leadership is not based on polls, but rather conviction. I think that I speak accuratly is saying that the president is as concerned with his approval ratings in the polls about as much as he is concerned with what he will have for supper. And for that, I am thankful. Say what you will about the man, but to say that he is whimiscal is absurd.

America, if you don't agree with the predsident's handeling of the war on terror, that is your right that I am fighting to defend. But ask yourselves this: What are you doing to help the situation other than shaking your collective heads at the television set, convinced by the latest poll numbers that we are off the mark? I would rather that we have thousands of informed citizens peacefully demonstrating on the lawns of the White House protesting the war, than a country full of mindless zombies sitting in their lazy-boys being fed their daily dose of opinion from the talking head. Get up, get out and get informed and if in the end, you still feel that we are off the mark and following a whimiscal leader, better luck to you in '08. One last thankful that you have the liberty to have any personal opinion at all. I see people everyday who do not understand what that's like.

Pat Buchannan summed up nicely the schism that is present between the president and other political "leaders" in his piece Bush Raises and Calls on Chris Matthew's blog. And if you've never read anything that I've suggested before, please read this.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Bit of Justice...Iraqi Style.

As some of you may have heard or read, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark (under Lyndon Johnson's admin.) has traveled to Iraq to assist Saddam Hussein's legal defense team. "Our plan is to go to court in Baghdad on Monday morning representing the defense counsel as defense support. A fair trial in this case is absolutely imperative for historical truth to justice obviously," Clark told the Reuters news agency before trodding off to Baghdad on his crusade for international justice. Clark, who opposed the Iraq war and who also met with Saddam in 2003 prior to the American led invasion, was introduced to a bit of legal decorum Monday morning...Iraqi style.

Before stomping out of the courtroom, where he was reportedly seen crying into his blankey, Clark was informed by Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin that according to the court which Amin noted was established by an elected Iraqi government, only Hussein's chief counsel was authroized to address the court. Clark was not to be disuaded. He futily attempted to address the court for some fifteen minutes only to be informed by Judge Amin that Arabic was the only recognized language of the court. "Thanks for your sit down!" (author's note). Welcome to the beginnings of a democratic Iraq, Mr. Clark!

Mr. Clark, who undoubtedly opposed the Iraq invansion as an attempt by imperialistic America to impose her democratic ideals on the country, is now attempting to do the same thing that he once derided America for doing. Mr Clark, may I remind you that you are no longer in America. This is not an American court. This is Iraqi judicial precedent. I apologize to you if you feel that your legal cause would be better served under the brutal hand of him whom you seek to so nobly defend. Fortunalty for the sake of justice, the new Iraq that I and so many others have helped establish, does not ascribe to the winings of American attorneys.

The basis for Mr. Clark's argument is that the tribunal is not a legal judicial body, but rather one created under a country who is currently occupied by a foreign body. Once again Mr. Clark, America did not establish this court. The court and its chief justice was appointed by a leader who was elected by the people of Iraq not one who was placed on the bench by any American. Nice try though.

To no one's surprise, Saddam, aided by his equally innate half-brother Barazan Ibrahim, continued their preemptive strike for an insanity plea, by shouting, "Why don't you just execute us?", and "Long live Iraq!". Well, gentlemen, I echo your sentiments and hope that both your wishes are wrapped nicely, tied with a bow and left under your CHRISTmas tree. (For an explanation to the Christmas debate, visit Capt. B's blog).

One last suggestion if I may Mr. Clark...As soon as you learn to speak Arabic and the Iraqi court decides to allow you to speak, dry your tears and and make a motion for a change of venue to the New York Supreme Court, you know...just down the street from ground zero? Maybe there, you will find your idea of how a court should be conducted and who knows, the Hussein's might see their holiday wishes come true as well! Isn't democracy simply grand?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Must Read

I came along this story, Steel Curtain Unmasked; The Story Behind the Battle for the Western Euphrates, written by Bill Roggio at He goes into great detail describing Operation Steel Curtain in the Al Anbar province of Western Iraq, and because I was there, I can vouch for its accuracy. You can read the entire article here and I encourage you to do so.

Not long after I returned from Operation Steel Curtain, I wrote several pages...mostly as a release of emotion and stress. I thought I would include exerpts here as it seems fitting...

Walking down the narrow streets of the city, put us at great risk. There were choke points at every intersection. I was not afraid of a head-to-head shootout. Our enemies were not inclined to engage in a direct firefight with the Marines as the odds were severely not in their favor. It was the invisible fighter that we all feared. The IEDs. You cannot fight several hundred pounds of explosives hidden in a wall connected to a pressure plate beckoning your foot to cross its path. You simply do not have a chance against this invisible enemy. If I was going to die during this battle, I prayed that at least I would be able to fight those who would try and kill me. Even after I returned from the operation, I found myself avoiding any gravel, freshly unearthed dirt or anything that looked out of place within my path. It became instinct; a mechanism of survival.
Personally, this operation was a real eye opener for me. It was the first time I witnessed men being shot, shooting at men myself and being exposed to the sights and sounds of warfare. Much of what I feel and will eventually write, might sound very foreign to the outsider. The story of war is best told by the war fighter and his story is often either not understood or misinterpreted by those who were not on the battlefield with him. I believe that this is why so many people are reluctant to speak of their wartime experiences…it is a foreign language to those who have not been there. This next thought may prove to be hard for some to understand. I feel that to be successful in combat, you have to lose or at least be able to subdue your fear of dying. I don’t know if I made a conscious effort or if my fear of death just naturally subsided.
“When it’s your time…“ . I heard the grunts say this more times than I can remember. To them, it was a trite statement; a mantra that they claimed kept their head in the game. I of course knew that my fate was not in the hands of some cosmic clock absent of any plan. As they did, I understood that my life may end on this battlefield. Unlike many of them however, I understood that if I were to die there, it would be because my life was taken by my God and that I would spend eternity with Him. I did not completely lose my fear of death, but I had an understanding of death that many of my brothers-in-arms could not understand.
There were many times during this battle where I honestly believed that I could quite literally be walking into my grave. Bingo and I were called upon to search cars, potholes and crawl spaces; all of which could have very easily been our last. I was afraid. I was very afraid. I was afraid that my wife and children may never see me again. I was afraid that my remains would be flown home to my grieving family in a flag draped casket. I did not have a selfish fear of my death. I feared death for the grief that would undoubtedly follow. I feared death for the sake of my wife and the sake of our children. I am perfectly at peace within myself if my life is required for the cause of freedom for I know my fate. I know what lies in store for me after I am dead. I am not eager to die but I know where I am going when I do die. This is what kept my head in the game

What It's All About

A young Iraqi boy holding a MRE (Meal, Ready To Eat) that I gave him while on a patrol through a city. Many of these children will soon be able to return to school; something that they have not been able to do in a very long time due to the insurgent activity in their cities. This is what it's all about.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Nights in Iraq

There is much that I have written concerning the operations that I have been on since I arrived in Iraq. I wish that I could share some of the stories with you all but I am understandably reluctant to out of concerns for operational security. The internet is a wide-open arena and there are many people I am told, who purposely read sites such as mine in an attempt to gain knowledge concerning our techniques, tactics and procedures. But I will not be the one to jeopardize my life or the lives of my brothers out of negligence. I am reminded of Geraldo Rivera and his now infamous drawing in the sand on CNN detailing the location of the Army unit whom he was imbedded with and as a result of his journalistic negligence, his expedited exodus out of Iraq. So when you read what I have written and will eventually write, please understand my reticence to share certain operational details as I do not want to end up with a one way ticket back to the States before my job here is finished. I do however, want to share with you all what it was like at night during a particular operation that Bingo and I were involved in. If there is something that “just doesn’t seem right” about what I have written and you are left scratching your head, please understand there are some details which I have purposely omitted. But I trust that you will be able to get a sense of how I have spent many of my nights in Iraq which is my intent and desire…

During the operation, I prayed for the darkness. The fighting was fierce in the daylight hours and night was the only time that you could forget to a certain extent, that you were in a combat zone. Except for the occasional burst of gunfire and the ever-present humm of aircraft overhead, it was relatively quiet. We would sleep in a house that we cleared and had long-since been abandoned by its inhabitants (willingly or otherwise). Occasionally we would get lucky and end up in a house with small mattresses used by the Iraqis to sleep on. These proved to be fairly comfortable. What I really prayed for even more than the mattresses, was a source of running water. We didn’t dare drink the water as it is filled with bacteria and promised to leave the poor once thirsty Marine and his bowels wishing that he had remained thirsty and never drank it. It was however, a perfect solution to prickly-heat on our backs and for washing our screaming feet. It was very comical when the word was passed that we would be stopping for the night. As soon as it was passed, Marines began laying stake to whatever real estate looked promising within the house. Mattresses seemed to come from out of nowhere and our cumbersome gear was shed at an alarming pace.
I began to establish a routine. So as not to imposition others, I purposely looked for the unwanted piece of real estate as Bingo would take up his share of space and the share of at least three other Marines. As a result, this often landed me mattress-less and near a window…both less than ideal. I would feed Bingo from the food supply that I carried around with me in my patrol pack and begin my hunt for a water source. Bottled water was a precious commodity and no one dared even begin to consider using it for anything other than drinking. More times than not, the houses either had a sink, some form of a shower or a water hose. Also more times than not, there was no water running to these houses. When I did find water, I would wash my feet often two or three times. Every third day, I would change my underclothes which left me to some extent, feeling like a new man. There is no worse and futile feeling than putting sweat-drenched socks on clean feet or a sweat stained shirt on your back, but you do whatever you can. So with somewhat clean feet and the ever-present itchy back, I returned to Bingo to eat my dinner.
We would stage our day packs containing sleeping bags and other non-essential items on a high-back humvee which would follow us throughout the city albeit at a very safe distance. Also in this humvee was our daily resupply of chow, water , ammunition and in my case, extra dog food. Most nights our humvee would catch up with us. There were however, a few nights when it did not. The temperatures were in the low forties at night and without our sleeping bags, the cold was bitter. You would be hard pressed to find an unhappier group of people than the Marines after they are told that they will not be resupplied until the next morning. If the rush to find adequate sleeping positions was chaotic when the word was passed to go firm (Marine-speak meaning stop for the night), the melee accompanying the word that the resupply humvee was not going to make it to our position was horrifying. Now you not only wanted a good sleeping position and a mattress, but you absolutely had to have some sort of blanket. It was not uncommon for Marines to leave an absolute perfect sleeping position in search of a blanket, only to return to find their position re-acquired by another Marine. I however, had a wonderful one hundred pound fur blanket that absolutely loved to sleep as close to me as possible. Many nights, I would fall asleep fully on a mattress only to wake up on the cold concrete of the floor with Bingo sleeping soundly on what was once my bed. To be honest, more times than not, I would allow him to use the mattress as he was working as hard if not harder than I during the day. I could only hope that he was willing to share. Here in our hooch, I cannot allow him to sleep with me in my bed as he constantly wants to play, lick my face or otherwise interrupt my much hallowed slumber. During the operation however, he slept harder than I. It was not unusual for me to wake up in the morning to find him in the same position he was in when he fell asleep. There were several times that I had to ensure he was still breathing. He proved himself worthy in combat which is what every Marine desires to be told.
No one wanted to get out from under their sleeping bag or blanket as the mornings were frigid. Mornings were always an interesting time. Most mornings, the expletives would only be outnumbered by moans and complaints about sore backs, knees and feet. Most Marines would put their boots on, pack everything except their sleeping bags and try and sneak in another 20 minutes of much needed sleep. To the outsider, we received more than enough time for sleep. If you played your cards right, you could easily get 8-10 hours a night. Our bodies and minds were so taxed throughout the day however, that 8 hours of sleep seemed like 5 minutes in the morning. It was amazing to see the transformation that occurred as soon as we began to once again push forward through the city. There was no loss of tactical intensity with any of the Marines that I was with. It was as if our minds picked up right where we left off the previous day. We knew that we had a job to do and were determined that no one was going to slow our progress. I was thankful and proud that I was fighting beside these men and not against them.

America's Unsung Heroes

I am very grateful for all the words of encouragement and support that I have received since I deployed…we all are. I want something be known though. Without the love and support of my wife, I would be unable to do what I am doing. I shudder at the thought of being here with anyone other than my wife manning the front lines of our home. So while we may be deserving of the thanks of our nation, I feel that the husbands and wives of your service members are deserving of so much more. For without them, many of us would not be able to accomplish the mission that has been set before us. They are the unsung heroes of our country and the bravest of hearts and strongest of souls. They are the ones making the true sacrifices and being left to accomplish a mission by themselves that was not meant to be done alone. It is my hope that when Americans feel a debt of gratitude for the men and women fighting to protect their freedom, that they also feel indebted to the ones fighting to protect America’s families in our absence.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Uninvited Guest

This guy thought he'd drop in for a visit. It was
however, a shorter visit than he had planned.

Introducing Bingo

This handsome fellow deserves a post dedicated to him. Allow me if you will, to now introduce Bingo, my overly rambunctious and eager partner. I have never worked with a dog like him and as a result, I have no comparative equal. Let me say without reservation however, that if Bingo were a human, he would undoubtedly be overly-medicated on Ridlin. He is incredibly adept at finding explosives, but when stillness and passivity are required, he is found lacking. He is the proverbial child who is absolutely certain that if he is not at the center of activity, he will be left out of the festivities and forever forgotten. He is three, going on one. In an otherwise calm, quiet and relaxed environment, he is the ideal companion. One problem…combat is none of these. Prior to making entry into a house, where in his mind we are in the rear of all the “activity”, his impatience and constant jockeying for position had me at wits end. Exiting the amtracks during the operations was no different. I had to be the first to exit the vehicle as Bingo would have either dragged me over everyone else, or injured himself in the attempt. On foot patrols, the only reprieve I found was when he would tire himself out to the point where he was content to simply walk along beside me. To this day, I have not been able to find a solution to his incessant longing to be at the forefront of everything but I trust six months in a combat zone may slow him down a bit. If not... ridlin may do the trick. Regardless of his over-zealous nature, I would not trade him for any other explosive detection device ever created. In this area, his equal cannot be found. He has potentially saved the lives of many Marines here and for that, he will always have a place with us...even if it is at the front of everything!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bingo and I getting a much needed breather
in a house in the City of Saddah during
Operation Ironfist.
Bingo and I on a very chilly morning on Market Street in the city of Husaybah during Operation Steel Curtain.

A Few Thoughts

I often find myself lying in bed awake at night. I am surrounded by war and the tools of its trade. I am required to sleep with my rifle at an arms reach away. There are tanks parked yards away from where I live. Attack helicopters are constantly flying over my head. Every night, I hear about troops in contact, casualty updates and a host of other issues relating to war. I cannot escape the sights and sounds of destruction and I would be lying if I said that this has not aaffected me. It has. I lie awake at night and ask myself what brought us to this? As a civilization of human beings, what kind of lunacy causes one people to reach a point where the death of another is the only solution to conflict? We as Americans believe that democracy and liberty is a gift from God bestowed to every man regardless of his socioeconomic status, religious affiliation or ethnicity. Our enemies disagree. They hold that democracy has led to the moral decline of this planet and will eventually result in its demise. And because of this, at this very moment, our country is at war with terrorists and we are killing each other.
There are thousands of Americans fighting this war for almost as many different reasons. Some see it as retribution for the September 11th attacks on our country. Some want to finish a job that they believe was not finished during Desert Storm. Others are fighting to help establish a democratic way of life for a people whose majority longs for it. The list goes on and on. I honestly believe however, that there are those who have never really given their involvement in this war serious thought and have never questioned their motivation for fighting; they are simply following orders. They are here because they were told to. They fight because they were told to. They kill because they were told to. This is very frustrating for me. Robots act without thought because they are told to. Humans should act because they believe in a cause. Without an understanding and a personal commitment to this cause for which we are fighting, you are nothing but a robot receiving orders and acting as programmed. As a responsible adult and human being who is quite engaged in this war, I have to ask myself some very important questions. Why am I here? Why am I willing to take a human life to defend this war? And most importantly, do I believe in this cause for which we are fighting…a cause for which I am fighting. More on that later.
Political pundits have spun this war out of control. They would have us believe that its pretenses were diabolical and purposely misleading to the American people. They cite the lack the proverbial smoking gun…weapons of mass destruction and a lack of evidence linking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to the attacks on America. Because of these they argue, America has waged an unjust war. George Bush, they cry, has led our country into a quagmire akin to Vietnam and that our presence in Iraq has diminished our global credibility. What has been forgotten among this smokescreen of partisanship, is in my opinion the most important reason for the necessity of this war…to free a country from the tyrannical grips of a fanatical lunatic.
Why all of a sudden, have people forgotten that Saddam Hussein was not going to voluntarily relinquish his grasp on Iraq and that military action was the only solution? Why don’t we hear politicians reminding us that we as the lone superpower in this world, had an obligation to enforce sanctions imposed by the United Nations ignored by Hussein’s Baath Party? We are bombarded by the politicians and media as to the lack of evidence of WMD and Hussein’s alleged link to the 9/11 attacks. Both of which were fundamental reasons for declaring this war by the Bush administration, and a declaration may I remind you, which was approved by America‘s elected, representative Congress. We are inundated with all the reasons why now, in retrospect, this was an illegitimate war. The question to ponder is this: Why don’t we hear any of the reasons reminding of us why we needed to go to war and should go to war? This is my answer…That Saddam Hussein was a despot cannot be argued. Along with this, is the fact that he would mercilessly murder his own family and countrymen if he felt threatened by them. For years, he scoffed at the United Nations and their sanctions because he could. Three presidential administrations recognized him as a major threat to national security and to various extents flexed America’s military muscle against his country. In short, he was a threat to his country and a threat to global security. These are the facts and are without refutation. Based on these, I can think of no better support for a declaration of war and at one time, our Congress thought so as well. But in an attempt to sway public opinion in our mindless society, politicians have chosen to replace these legitimate reasons for this war that can be proven, with the legitimate reasons that cannot be proven. And Americans are taking the bait; hook, line and sinker. They are in a forest without a single tree.
I mean, at some point in time, at least 2/3 of the Congress believed that a declaration of war was justified. But now I hear Congressmen who voted for a war declaration saying that we should immediately remove all American presence from Iraq. How irresponsible some of this countries leaders, and I use that term very loosely, are to suggest that America should no longer have a presence in Iraq. Regardless of the perceived errors in post-war planning that some believe the Bush administration has made in Iraq, to completely pull American forces out of Iraq at this moment, would only then cause a bad situation to become worse. It hurts me deeply to say this, but if we left Iraq in its current state, I would be ashamed of the country whose flag I followed into combat. How American would it be for us to abandon a people who have become dependent on our assistance as a result of a war which we declared? Since when do we turn our backs on a nation in need once we have committed ourselves to their care? We are so quick to pour billions of dollars in aid to countries in need as all this takes is a few signatures. But when the stakes are raised and the sacrifice to help a nation heal becomes American lives instead of American dollars, all of a sudden it is no longer worth the effort. This is not the ideals of my America. My America commits itself to a cause it deems worthy and if necessary, she is willing to send her sons and daughters to sacrifice their lives in defense of this cause. I can picture it:

Dear Iraq,
America is very sorry. We know that we have disbanded your entire military, nearly disrupted your countries entire infrastructure and abolished your former ruling political party. Know that we had the best of intentions when we first started. We now regret to inform you that we made a mistake and that your country’s rebuilding is going to take longer than we had initially anticipated. It is also resulting in more American deaths than we can handle. So it is with regretful hearts and deep pockets that we must abandon your country. We are however, a caring people. So as not to leave you entirely on your own, we proudly present you with this check for eighty billion dollars. Best of luck with the Syrians.

I am reminded of another group of people who were put to a similar test. This is what their apology letter may have read:

Dear Colonies,
Your forefathers are very sorry. We know that we have encouraged you to leave your homes in England, caused the death of many of your family members and placed you at the mercy of the most powerful military in existence. Know that we had the best of intentions when we first started. We now regret to inform you that we made a mistake and our country’s building is going to take longer than we had initially anticipated. It is also resulting in more colonialist’s deaths than we can handle. So it is with regretful hearts that we must abandon our plans to establish a free and democratic country. We are however, a caring people. Take as much of the new land as you wish. Best of luck with the red man.
Your Forefathers

How absurd. Come on America…wake up and think! Never in our history have we quit fighting for a cause that we have deemed worthy simply because its achievement was too difficult or costly. What a sad state of affairs we are in when now we question our resolve and look for the fastest and most cost-effective way out of a difficult situation. Maybe our country is traveling down the path of self-ruin. Maybe this is how our nation will create its own demise…through a lack of commitment and the message that this sends to the rest of the world. When we become a nation that seeks the path of least resistance, our time is fast coming to its end.
“We are involved in another Vietnam.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this war compared to the Vietnam conflict. Why is this? Is it because we naively anticipated a two week campaign and now we are going on the third year of this battle? If so, I say, “Who cares!” Who cares how long it takes to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves in Iraq. My America neglects her goals and ideals for no man and especially not for a imaginary, unrealistic and most importantly, an unstated timetable. America’s resolve has been put to a test and to think that we may fail this test because it was not done as fast as some think it should have been deeply angers me. We have placed an entire country in a state of almost total dependence on us and now we are being urged to leave them to fend for themselves because it is taking too long? I would submit to you that to establish a timetable for our withdrawal from Iraq would be grievously irresponsible. You want a timetable? I echo my President when he says that our timetable is when our mission is accomplished and we have created an independent Iraq capable of self-rule, self-defense and self sustainment. Surly the comparison to Vietnam has not been made because we have not been making progress and are not holding ground as we win it. I cannot speak for the whole of the country, but I can speak for the area of operations in which I am currently serving. We have rid four major cities of hundreds of insurgents. And guess what, weeks after the offensives, we are still in these cities and have committed ourselves to the residents of these cities for months to come.
I do not know what the end-game will be in Iraq. I have no idea how much longer we will be here. I do know that I am thankful that our nation has been blessed with a president who is a man of commitment and I am honored to serve under him and with him. And take it from a man who has been on the front lines of the battle against terrorism, it is a war that we are more than capable of winning if we commit ourselves to finishing what we have started. I am honored to be an American, and I hope, regardless of what the Monday morning quarterbacks may say from the sidelines, that America will remain as steadfast as the men who gave America her freedom. Freedom was not free for them, nor is it now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

America's Son

A picture of Bingo and I at one of the Battle Positions that was under construction.