27 October 2014

Leaving Helmand


U.S. Marines and sailors load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province the day prior, and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom also withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan. The U.S. troops are assigned to Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson.

Marines Hand Over Camp Leatherneck


Camp Leatherneck , the Corps' last remaining base in Afghanistan, was transferred to the Afghan National Army on Sunday. (Cpl. Meredith Brown / Marine Corps)

From the Marine Corps Times:

Marines in Afghanistan handed over the Corps’ last remaining base there to Afghan National Army troops Sunday, marking the official end of the service’s primary work in support of the war.

Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province and the adjacent British airfield, Camp Bastion, were both transferred from International Security Assistance Force control to Afghan authority in a ceremony attended by Marine, U.K., and Afghan military leaders.

The transferr marks the close of the NATO and allied war mission in Regional Command Southwest, overseeing Helmand and Nimroz provinces. It also represent the start of a more rapid withdrawal for the Marines remaining in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, Marines and British troops remaining in Helmand are tasked with maintaining security for Leatherneck and Bastion until they return to their home stations.
...

Helmand province has been the location of some of the most costly battlegrounds of the war in Afghanistan, including Marjah and Sangin district. The latter region alone saw the deaths of 50 Marines and 100 British troops as they fought to weaken an insurgency fueled by a thriving drug trade from Sangin’s opium-producing poppy plants.

Over the course of the 13-year war, 458 Marines died supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, according to data from the Defense Casualty Analysis System.

We are deeply proud and grateful for every single Marine who served in Afghanistan over the past 13 years, and we honor the sacrifices of the many fallen and wounded. God bless and Semper Fi.

24 October 2014

Marine Lance Cpl. Richard P. Slocum, 2/2/85 - 10/24/04





This is Kay Slocum’s favorite picture of her son Ricky, taken the last time they saw each other before he deployed to Iraq with the 1/3 Marines out of Hawaii.

Always a "tough guy," Ricky viewed the military as a way to serve his country while gaining new skills and discipline, his father, Robert, said after his death.

"Ricky felt the Marines would make a man of him," he said. "It definitely did."

Ricky was just 19 when he was killed ten years ago today.


Marine LCpl Ricky Slocum
2/2/85 - 10/24/04


My thoughts and prayers are with Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends as they celebrate his life today during the annual candlelight vigil at their home. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

23 October 2014

They Came in Peace

This is an annual post.

Beirut, 23 October 1983


"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers-in-arms"


From Brothers-in-arms: 'They came in peace' by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola.

Originally posted 23 October, 2005.


Update 23 October 2012, from Jeremy in comments.



Update 23 October 2013, from Stars & Stripes: Beirut bombing survivor: 'The worst part for me is that nobody remembers'

22 October 2014

Ultimate Men's Health Guy: Wounded Warrior Noah Galloway



From Men's Health magazine:

The last night Noah Galloway's body was whole, he was behind the wheel of a Humvee in Iraq. His night-vision goggles didn't reveal the trip wire. "The roadside bomb was big enough to send our 10,000-pound Humvee flying through the air," he says in his Alabama drawl. "We landed wheels down in a canal."
...

Back in the States a disabled vet, he stopped going out. "I'd sit at home and drink and smoke and sleep. That's all I did."

But one day in 2010, he finally saw it: what was left of him.

He remembers the night vividly. He was standing at the mirror. The remnant of a man looking back at him was dirty, flabby, sallow, beer-soaked. He'd been so consumed with what he had lost that he couldn't see what he was doing to the remainder.

But there it was: the mirror moment of clarity.

Read the rest of this great story at Men's Health, and watch the interview below.



06 October 2014

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial dedicated



A disabled veteran takes in the quotes and pictures on glass panels at the new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated in Washington D.C. on Oct. 5, 2014. The memorial includes a black granite reflecting pool and perpetual flame burning in the middle of a star-shaped fountain. Each of the star's points represents a branch of the military. Photo: C.J. LIN/STARS AND STRIPES.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which honors disabled veterans both living and deceased from conflicts throughout the nation's history, was dedicated yesterday in Washington, DC.

The memorial was organized by philanthropist Lois Pope, former Veterans Affairs secretary Jesse Brown, and Art Wilson, who retired as CEO and national adjutant of the Disabled American Veterans organization in 2013. The group first started work on creating the memorial in the late 1990s and raised more than $80 million for its construction.

The monument features a star-shaped fountain and ceremonial flame surrounded by a grove of trees. It is located behind the U.S. Botanic Garden near the Rayburn House Office Building.

Read more at Stars and Stripes.

30 September 2014

A Monument to Wounded Warriors




Our nation's wounded warriors need time to heal; and the rest of us need a place in which to reflect upon their sacrifice.

CBS News:

It's a thing of beauty designed to honor an ugly fact: the wounds of war. The name of Washington's newest memorial -- American Veterans Disabled for Life -- makes the point.

Project director Barry Owenby gave Martin an advance look at the memorial, which opens next Sunday. It's for disabled veterans of all wars, of whom an estimated three million are alive today.

"It doesn't end with the war; they live with it forever," Owenby said.

"They have a trauma of injury, a healing process, and then their rediscovery of purpose. So that's the story that we're trying to tell here."

A view of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. CBS NEWS

Joe Bacani, shot through the pelvis by a sniper in Iraq in 2007, is pictured above receiving his Purple Heart ceremony at Walter Reed. He said, "I hope people can see beyond the wheelchair -- that there's still a young man in there with many more years left to live, to make something out of himself."


Much more at the link.

28 September 2014

Gold Star Mother's Day


”The service rendered the United States by the American mother is the greatest source of the Country’s strength and inspiration.

We honor ourselves and the mothers of America when we revere and give emphasis to the home as the fountainhead of the State.

The American mother is doing so much for the home and for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people of the United States and hence so much for good government and humanity.”

Whereas the American Gold Star Mothers suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters in World Wars, Public Resolution 12 provides: the last Sunday in September shall hereafter be designated and known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day”.



- The preamble to Public Resolution 123, approved June 23, 1936, the first legislation to provide recognition for Gold Star Mother’s Day.

Words cannot express how much we love and honor our Gold Star Mothers.


13 September 2014

"...our Flag was still there."




200 years ago today, The Battle at Fort McHenry (9/13-9/14 1814) – Perhaps the greatest moment in our flag's history is the one which inspired our national anthem. After witnessing Fort McHenry being attacked by British warships the night of Sept.13, 1814, from a neighboring ship, Francis Scott Key woke up the next morning to see through "the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” - intact and waving proudly.




In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill (1776–1857) was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The one that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag. After the Battle of Fort McHenry, the flag became a keepsake of the family of Lieutenant Colonel George Armistead, Fort McHenry's commander.

The flag remained the private property of Lieutenant Colonel Armistead's widow, Louisa Armistead, his daughter Georgiana Armistead Appleton, and his grandson Eben Appleton for 90 years. The publicity that it had received in the 1870s had transformed it into a national treasure, and Appleton received many requests to lend it for patriotic occasions. He permitted it to go to Baltimore for that city's sesquicentennial celebration in 1880. After that his concern for the flag's deteriorating condition led him to keep it in a safe-deposit vault in New York.

In 1907 he lent the Star-Spangled Banner to the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1912 he converted the loan to a gift.

Source: Smithsonian.

11 September 2014

Sorrow and Resolve




Like all Americans, my memories of that day are vivid: The unbelievable sight of the burning towers, the horror and despair of the jumpers, the shock of realization when the Pentagon was hit: America is under attack.

And as the towers fell – first one, then the other – time seemed to stop as I slumped forward in my chair and felt the cries of a thousand souls from a black void.

Then something else swelled up: Fury. They finally got what they wanted; what they've wanted since 1993.

Over time, it became clear to me that until then I’d been living in what now seems like my own little world, concerned with my own petty little problems. I’d taken so much for granted. In particular, I realized I’d never fully understood what it meant to be an American. I had no personal experience with the concept that our country was something worth living – and dying – for. It was a kind of Pinocchio moment: "Now I know I'm a real boy, because I can feel my heart breaking."

What I didn't know then is that a heart can break a thousand times.

Although 9/11 is often called ‘the day the world changed’, the fact is that for most Americans, our lives since then have changed in what are essentially inconsequential ways. But for almost 3,000 families – killed in an act of terror simply because they went to work that day, or because they responded to help their fellow citizens – every minute of every day for the past 13 years has been lived with the painful loss of a loved one.

And as the global war on terror that began as a result of 9/11 started, brave men and women stepped up to risk their lives to protect America and prevent future acts of terrorism. Their families stepped up with them, enduring long, multiple deployments filled with challenges, loneliness, and worry.

Over 45,000 warriors have sustained life-altering physical injuries, and many more suffer from invisible wounds. Close to 7,000 made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and another 7000 more families joined the original 3,000 in suffering every day from their indescribable loss.

For all of them, the world truly did change after 9/11.

It is said there is no greater love than that of someone who is willing to lay down his life for another. As a volunteer at Landstuhl, I have had the privilege to be in the company of Heroes, for whom the words Duty, Honor, Country are a way of life.

Thirteen years later, each and every time I see a Wounded Warrior, my heart still breaks with sorrow - and swells with pride and resolve.

“Today is a day to be proud to be American!” cried a warrior from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

September 11, 2014 is a an even prouder day to be American.



"Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."
- Ronald Reagan