28 June 2007

Cuppa Joe


I wanted to send a thank you to “Solders’ Angels” for the steel coffee cup.

I guess I should start over and explain this note (sorry been deployed too long). In 05 I was in Bagdad and then to Afghanistan in 06 and I am still going here in Afghanistan till the spring of next year.

A couple weeks ago our truck got a blast from a bomb, by GOD'S GRACE NO ONE WAS KILLED. But me and one of my other Sergeants had to go to the Med Station to be checked out. Nothing significant wrong with either of us, so back to work.

But while I was at the Med Station someone gave me a cup from your outfit with some coffee – I swear that “Angel” on the side of the cup was the greatest thing after a “bad day at the office”.

I am back at my FOB and I can’t find the cup but the thought someone cared enough to send those cups sure made this old Sergeant's day.

Thank You from one Infantry Sergeant here in Afghanistan.


27 June 2007

A Study in Contrasts

Someone concerned about national security and familiar with military operations:
It is clear from recent major offensive operations in Diyala and the other provinces surrounding Baghdad that Gen. David A. Petraeus now has the wherewithal not only to clear areas in Baghdad but to seal off those parts of the provinces where al Qaeda and the insurgents have fled to corner and kill them.

In Baqubah, Coalition forces killed at least 58 al Qaeda terrorists and detained scores of others, discovered 16 weapons caches, destroyed 28 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and blew up 12 booby-trapped structures in the first five days of Operation Arrowhead Ripper. Local residents, who had just received 20,000 pounds of rice and flower and 300 cases of water, pointed troops to al Qaeda safe houses and torture chambers.

Someone concerned about their political career:
After four years of combat and more than 3,560 U.S. deaths, two Republican senators previously reluctant to challenge President Bush on the war announced they could no longer support the deployment of 157,000 troops and asked the president to begin bringing them home.

Voinovich, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released his letter Tuesday — one day after Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the panel's top Republican, said in a floor speech that Bush's strategy was not working.

Someone concerned about national security and familiar with military operations:
The success the Marines have achieved in Anbar Province also took an innovative approach. This involved not only gaining the confidence of the various clans' leading sheiks but also flattening the Marine command structure and making Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his representatives irrelevant.

The strategy of Maj. Gen. W.E. Gaskin, commander of the Multinational Force/West and his Ground Combat Element commander, Brig. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, was to go proactive, exactly the strategy of Gen. Petraeus in the other surrounding provinces. If Marine convoys are challenged or ambushed, their orders are to immediately pursue their attackers and kill them all.

Someone concerned about their political career:
Lugar told reporters Tuesday that he does not expect the fall assessment [of the "surge"] to be conclusive and would only fuel sentiment among lawmakers that Congress should intervene with legislation to end the war....

The White House on Tuesday appealed to members for more patience on the war in Iraq.

"We hope that members of the House and Senate will give the Baghdad security plan a chance to unfold," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Earlier this year, Voinovich and Lugar said they doubted the troop buildup in Iraq would work.

Someone concerned about national security and familiar with military operations:
You will not find reports on the success our forces are now achieving on the major TV news networks. The only thing they tell us is how many U.S. forces were killed in the last 24 hours.

In fact, NBC, CBS and CNN are probably the sole source of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's daily intelligence briefs. It is ironic that al Qaeda and the Sunni and Shia terrorists need no propaganda czar like the Nazis' Joseph Goebbels as a spokesman because our TV networks and even certain members of Congress provide that service for them.

Someone concerned about their political career:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Lugar's speech "brilliant" and "courageous" and said it would later be noted in the history books as a turning point in the war.

See how this works?
Republican support for the war has declined steadily since last year's elections, mirroring public poll numbers. In an AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month, 28 percent said they were satisfied with President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, down 5 percentage points in a month.

Meanwhile, at the Gallup "Confidence in Institutions" survey:
Congress leads the way with the lowest level ever in the history of this poll, and at 14% now has the lowest confidence ratings for any institution tested over the last three decades.

The military has been near or at the top of the list of institutions tested in each Gallup survey since 1987.

Thanks for the link to the Washington Times article, Carrie.

26 June 2007

The Passing of the Sword

CSM Mellinger, right, passes the sword symobolizing the change of responsibility for Multi-National Force-Iraq to CSM Hill, opposite, at Al Faw Palace on May 5. For the past month the two CSMs have been working side by side on the handover.

Gen. David Petraeus was the presiding officer of the ceremony and recognized Mellinger's dedicated efforts as the senior enlisted advisor on the ground in Iraq. Mellinger's responsibilities included four Corps headquarters, over 13 division and Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, over 68 brigade and regimental combat teams, and countless brigades and battalions of combat support and service support elements as well as the important contributions of coalition forces.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Beatrice Florescu-Vila Verde, MNC-I PAO.

This past Saturday we were in one of the dayrooms at the Landstuhl outpatient facility unpacking the groceries we had just purchased at the Commissary. Soldiers' Angels provides fruit, cereal, microwave meals and other late-night snacks for the patients arriving after regular meal hours.

I'd been told there were some VIPs scheduled to come through but didn't think much of it because that happens all the time. So when First Sergeant Lowe came in the room and said, "MaryAnn, I'd like you to meet CSM Mellinger", I was speechless.

Well, not exactly. In fact, I blurted out, "I know all about you from Michael Yon!" (Ok, I might have said, "OMFG, I know all about you from Michael Yon!", but I'm not sure.) He replied that I "shouldn't believe everything Yon writes" but that's just because of the type of guy he is.

Anyway, we spoke for a few minutes and since he's pretty chatty I don't think I did all the talking. We talked about the MSM's war coverage, how some politicians are too impatient with Iraq, noting that Germany didn't have a post-WWII government until 1955 or an Army until 1956. I mentioned the latest Gallup poll showing that the American people have 5 times more confidence in the military than they do in Congress, but how at the same time it was a damn shame that more people know Anna Nicole Smith than Paul Ray Smith. From there the conversation devolved into why some women would want their chests to look like somebody's butt, which in retrospect was probably not an appropriate topic of conversation but which was pretty funny at the time.

When I asked what he's going to do now, he replied "go home and practice being Kim's husband."

After 34 months in Iraq, I think that's a wonderful idea.

If you didn't click on the link above to Michael Yon's post above, do it now. CSM Mellinger also contributed an article to Michael's Frontline Forum, and here's the transcript of a great interview with TroopTalk Radio.

25 June 2007

"We the soldiers love and appreciate you too... "


Greetings from Baghdad, Iraq.

I just want to thank those Angels assigned to me who have wrote me a letter or sent me a card. I appreciate your love and support. It's an honor and privilage to serve this great nation we live in and to fight for our freedoms. I also appreciate your prayers.

I know I have seen your mail going out to many of our troops. Thank you so much, we love all of that love and support we're getting from you Angels. It really boosts our morale when we receive some love from people back home and it makes our jobs easier knowing we are being supported by our people back home in America - people like you.

I've said it before and I say it again: Thank You Soldiers Angels, we the soldiers love and appreciate you too.

I just finished writing and addressing Iraqi post cards, and I wanted to let you know that I'm well and staying safe.



DJ Emery Update

Jamie's daughter Allysan with her "best bud" DJ at the Malogne House. Photo courtesy Jamie Jones.

Family friend Jamie sent me the link to a great article about DJ in yesterday's CentreDaily.com.

Some quotes from DJ, the first about the "encounters that really matter" - those with other veterans:

"When a doctor tells you that you'll walk one day, and he has two real legs, you're like, 'whatever,' " Emery said. "But when a guy comes in on two prosthetic legs, and they're standing there, it makes everything possible."

Hard, painful work: DJ grimaces during physical therapy. He's doing "really incredible", according to therapists. Photo Chuck Kennedy/MCT.

...and my personal favorite, on the visit from President Bush:
"I dunno; he's just another person, you know?" Emery recalled from his bed. "He invited me to the White House. Hopefully I can get some running legs and go running with him and smoke his ass."

DJ holding little Carlee in his room at Walter Reed. He's vowed to walk before she does. The flag on the wall is from the Marines of his unit, recently returned home from Iraq. Photo Chuck Kennedy/MCT.

Make sure to read the whole thing... about waking up over 2 months after the bomb blast ("What the f*ck happened to my legs?") and how from that moment on, the fight was his...

Rock on, Devil Dog. Can't wait to see you smoke the CINC's ass.

Click to read more stories about DJ here at SAG.

22 June 2007

Who we trust

Results of the latest Gallup poll show that Americans' confidence in most institutions has dropped somewhat since the post-9/11 all-time highs.

Congress leads the way (sorry, Rangers) with the lowest level ever in the history of this poll, and at 14% now has the lowest confidence ratings for any institution tested over the last three decades.

The military has been near or at the top of the list of institutions tested in each Gallup survey since 1987.

Something you may want to pass along in your next letter or email to a deployed service member.

h/t Best of the Web Today

19 June 2007


Michael Yon:

They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers—real snipers—have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.

We will go in on foot and fight from house to house if needed. We will shoot rockets into their hiding spaces, and our snipers will shoot them in their heads and chests. This is where all that talk of cancer and big ideas of what should be or could be done will smash head on against the searing reality of combat.

May God be with our warriors.

18 June 2007

Someone You Should Know at Pundit Review Radio - SFC Jared C. Monti

This week Bruce McQuain from QandO talks with Kevin about Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti. SFC Monti was killed in action while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.

Bruce compiled this Someone You Snould Know segment using moving tributes contributed by SFC Monti's fellow soldiers.

Kevin, Gregg, and Bruce were then joined by Paul Monti, Jared’s father. Paul spoke with his son for the last time on Father's Day 2006. Jared was killed three days later.

SFC Jared Monti and his father Paul Monti are both Someone You Should Know.

Help our Soldiers help Iraqi children - Shoes Needed

From SA contact LtCol Eric in Mosul:

I am writing to you today because of the sad and destitute situation that the children of Mosul, Iraq find themselves in on a daily basis. After seeing these unfortunate children in the urban battlefield everyday for six months, I can assure you that their difficulties are very real and beyond the power of their parents to fix. These children, in many cases, lack some of the most basic necessities that you and I take for granted and that we would never let our own children go without.

A great deal of media coverage has been devoted to the efforts of our Army today and humanitarian groups to bring comfort items like new backpacks and soccer balls to Iraqi children. This battalion has even aided those initiatives on several occasions and, although I know they enjoyed their toys, I had to watch these same five and six year old children run outside to play with their new soccer balls in the sewage and filth of the city without any shoes. I know that there is no parent among us who would ever let their children play in such an environment at all, much less without attending to their most basic clothing and sanitary needs.

As I am sure you know, this war is not a war of battles won, regiments destroyed, and cities captured. Rather, this is a war fought on the "human terrain" of the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people; a war for the very soul of a nation where single gestures and one time events can be as profound and far reaching as a hundred Gettysburgs or D-Days. If we can just provide shoes for these children we stand poised to win a major victory indeed.

Therefore, I am asking your help in turning this goal into a reality, and play a vital role in bringing comfort to the local Iraqi children and in striking a victory against a cold and murderous insurgency. Given the unique nature the conflict we are embroiled in, sending something as simple as shoes to local children will aid your Soldiers in this fight just as surely as a shipment of bullets or bombs.

I feel I must warn you that these people will probably never know who you are, or recognize the role you played, but I can assure you that little boys and girls like the one pictured in this letter will be profoundly grateful for even the smallest bit of help from you. Please take a moment to clean out a closet or visit a shoe store and do your part for our cause. Any and all donations are welcome. Please send them to:

Operation Good Shoes
HHC, 2-7 Cav
FOB Marez
APO, AE 09334

On behalf of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and the citizens of Mosul, I thank you for any help you can provide. A single pair of shoes may not win a war, but the difference it will make to the one child who receives them just might help push us in that direction.

Feel free to forward this email to any family, friend, church, classroom, or civic group who might have asked you how they can help a Soldier in Iraq. Rest assured, helping these people helps us Soldiers a great deal.

LtCol Eric

15 June 2007

My buddy Rog, SA's Tactical Medical Support Director

Photo Kendra Helmer / Kane County Chronicle

Roger Godskesen is Tactical Medical Support Director of Soldiers' Angels - he works with the Combat Support Hospitals and other medical personnel downrange. We compare notes a lot ;-)

From his blog earlier this week:

Just before Memorial Day a few weeks ago, I was headed into the post office. A reporter from the local paper: the Kane County Chronicle - was doing man in the street interviews on "what does Memorial Day mean to you". Well, they picked the right guy for that! I also gave him my Soldiers' Angels business card and suggested that if they ever have a slow news day over at the paper, to call me up.

Sure enough, last week he called and wanted to do a story on Soldiers' Angels. The reporter was very thorough - he even tracked down Patti and talked to her by phone. He asked for one of my medical contacts and emailed him some questions, too. I thought he did a nice job of the article - made it about Soldiers' Angels and what we're doing, rather than just focus on one person's role.

Read the rest at Roger's blog and make sure to click through to the interview which starts, "Geneva resident Roger Godskesen is an Angel, but he doesn’t have wings or dance on the head of a pin."

He doesn't? ;-)

Oh, and you absolutely must check out his Vagisil story...

Blankets of Hope

Would you like to make Blankets of Hope for our wounded warriors? Email me for information.

14 June 2007

Happy Birthday, US Army

The US Army was founded on June 14, 1775 as the Continental Army to fight the British. Later, the Continental Army was replaced by the United States Army under the newly-established War Department. The US Army was a volunteer army until the first conscriptions took place during the Civil War. After the Vietnam War the US Army once again became an all-volunteer force.

Many units active today can trace their roots to the orginal colonial army, such as parts of the 5th Field Artillery, the 112th Field Artillery ("NJ Guns"), Pennsylvania's 111th Infantry (Stryker), and Rhode Island's 705th AAA Gun Battalion, as well as the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Quartermaster Corps.

Happy Birthday and HOOAH!

Los Alamos Middle School Helps Wounded Warriors Phone Home

MaryAnn -

These phone cards were collected by Rita Sánchez's Spanish classes at Los Alamos Middle School in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Thank you to our Troops :-)

(One of my former students is in Iraq now.)

Rita Sánchez
Los Alamos Middle School

Thank you Rita and your students at the Los Alamos Middle School!

If you would like to help our wounded warriors call home while hospitalized in Germany see the information here.

The mother of a wounded Soldier emailed me earlier today saying, "We just need to hear our son's voice... " I can't think of anything more important than that, can you?

Flag Day

Rockerfeller Center, October 2001

13 June 2007

Where Angels Walk

To Everyone at Soldiers' Angels,

Thank you very much. All of you at Soldiers' Angels are amazing. I really don't know what else to say except thank you.

I first received your help when I was medevaced to Germany. It seemed that every time I turned a corner you were there. From the time I got to the CSH and throughout my stay in Germany. So many things donated by all of you helped me out in transit and during my time at Germany.

One thing that I got, I carry it with me everywhere I go, is your gold pin. I have attached a picture of me and the pin while out on a 2 day sniper mission.

Thank you all.

I walked today where angels walk;
A stranger smiled when I was down.
A kind word spoken to my need;
I look to see; no one's around.

- Linda S. Van Fleet

12 June 2007

The Astronaut Prayer

Photo courtesy of Nikon/Scott Andrews

Awesome God, you created the heavens and earth for wonder and purpose. We thank you for the successful launch of Atlantis this morning - and its achieving orbit without incident.

May the Commander of the mission Col. Rick Sturckow, USMC, and his Army, Air Force and civilian crew enjoy your presence and achieve mission accomplishment on the International Space Station.

Bless us in our mission on the troubled avenues of Iraq. May we be faithful, honorable, vigilant, and good neighbors to friendly forces and the law abiding people of Iraq. Grant us similar understanding of our mission’s importance as the astronauts have in orbit above us.

In the name of God who lifts us up. Amen.

The Astronaut Prayer from Marines in Iraq via "Space Angel" Joan Kranz who left this comment on yesterday's post about her Dad and the wounded Veterans at Friday's shuttle launch:

As for me, I was supporting this Shuttle Flight from my desk here at JSC (Johnson Space Center). ...

The Marines in Iraq found out that the Commander for this shuttle crew is a Marine ! so they were watching the launch over in Iraq.

One of the Marine Chaplains wrote an "astronaut prayer" for the astronaut crew, and I forwarded it to the Lead Flight Director of this mission.

They are excited that a Marine is in charge of the Space shuttle crew and in Command up in space!

STS-117 Commander Rick Sturckow trains inside a shuttle simulator at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Credit: NASA

Sturckow has logged more than 4,790 hours in over 50 different aircraft and flew 41 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in 1990. Sturckow joined NASA's astronaut ranks in 1994 and has spent about 24 days working in space.

11 June 2007

Two Heroes who understand that "failure is not an option"

From Soldiers' Angel Sara Ehrlich.

I have told some of you that we have an Angel who is fondly known as "the Space Angel" by many of our SA heroes. Her name is Joan Kranz and she works at NASA Flight Training Division, Shuttle Training Operations and Planning. She often sends our heroes NASA memorabilia, decals and even signed autographed pictures from the astronauts. That is pretty neat in itself, but Joan has a very special Dad as was well.

Her father is Eugene Kranz, who was NASA's mission control commander when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. Kranz was known for his "failure is not an option" motto. He led the team that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts after an explosion crippled their ship in space.

Joan received the following email from her sister Jeannie this weekend.

Dad's ability to motivate others continues in such an amazing way. What he did on Friday during the Shuttle launch literally brought tears to my eyes every time I thought about it.

Earlier in the week the NASA White House liaison, who I have become friends with, and had sent one of Dad's books late last year, knew Mom and Dad were in town and asked me if I wanted to have them [at the VVIP viewing location].

I declined at first, but then when I heard the [Iraq War] vets were coming again, thought it would be nice to have Dad meet with them.

So, I went to the store and bought 50 FINAO ("Failure Is Not An Option") hats and other stuff for signature. Lots of people were getting signatures and taking photos with Dad but once everything settled down, Dad sat down with one particular Soldier. He was wheelchair bound, almost half his head was pretty much missing and he had some braces and scars on his arms and legs - clearly LOTS of surgery - and the worst off in the group.

The count was going well and it looked like we were "go" for launch. Everyone moved out to the massive viewing deck. Dad was still talking with the vet and we were about 3 minutes out.

I really wanted Dad to experience this with Mom, so I asked the nurse if the vet was coming out. She said he was going to view from inside the conference room where there are massive screens as well as large windows. She explained that many with head trauma experience various pains from the brightness and sound of the launch (it's pretty stunning) so they watch from inside.

Well, this large room had now emptied, everyone was out on the viewing deck but this one Soldier and Dad, still sitting inside. Dad was talking him through the countdown and he was asking questions. Mom was already stationed in her place, and I walked in and asked if he was going to come out and join us.

He said, "No, Jeannie, I think I'm going to stay here with this gentleman and enjoy from inside" - I knew he just wanted to keep him company. The whole situation was pretty gut wrenching. I went out and joined Mom and we watched an amazing launch.

Afterward, the other vets came in and surrounded Dad and they sat there just swapping stories - lots of smiling. They got stuff signed and took pictures. I was tremendously moved, and still tear up when I think about it. It clearly meant the world to this guy and Dad told me afterward in the car ride back to his hotel that the Soldier had his feet on the floor and could feel the rumble and got a huge smile on his face.

It was amazing and made me so, so proud, again...


Update: The Astronaut Prayer sent by a Marine Chaplain in Iraq for Marine Col. Sturckow, Commander of the current shuttle mission.

‘‘Proud to be Partners’’

President Bush is greeted Sunday by crowds of Albanians in Fushe Kruje, Albania. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

...just because you probably won't see this anywhere else.

George Bush Albania mania

PRESIDENT Bush got a hero’s welcome in the mainly-Muslim state of Albania yesterday, on the first visit there by a US leader.

Thousands of people — many wearing top hats designed to look like the US flag — cheered him in the capital Tirana.

Some even tried to grab him and hug him, leaving him with ruffled hair.

Buildings in the former Communist state were draped in US flags and a 21-gun salute was fired.

A set of commemorative stamps was issued and a street in front of the Parliament was renamed in Mr Bush’s honour.

Albania was ruled for 40 years after the end of World War II by paranoid dictator Enver Hoxha, who banned private cars, telephones and religion, and operated a terrifying secret police.

Today, Tirana booms with new apartments, stylish bars and cafes — but the country remains one of the poorest in Europe.

Albania backs the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and has sent several hundred of its own troops in support. It wants to join Nato and the EU.

Yesterday, huge banners proclaimed “Proud to be Partners” and billboards pronounced “President Bush Making History”.

h/t Mom :-)

Update: I lied! There is other coverage of this... Mrs. Greyhawk has a great video of Bush being mobbed in today's Dawn Patrol (scroll down to the "Politics" section) and also links to Curt's post at Flopping Aces.

Jeff Bader on Pundit Review Radio

Jeff Bader is married to Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels. Jeff joined Kevin and Gregg last night to discuss how SA got started, how it's grown and what he’s learned from the experience.

Jeff has also just completed a book about Soldiers' Angels called May No Soldier Go Unloved, now available for presale at the Angel Store. The first 1000 copies are signed by Jeff and Patti and a portion of book sale proceeds will go to Welcome Packs for our deployed heroes.

Listen to Jeff's interview here.

07 June 2007

The Battle of Midway June 4 - 7, 1942

Veterans commemorate Battle of Midway

MIDWAY ATOLL - Holding their hands over their hearts, six veterans of the Battle of Midway stood as a Navy band played the national anthem to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the fight that marked a turning point in World War II.

About 1,800 people ventured to this remote atoll Monday to honor those who served in the U.S. victory on the atoll 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu, including other veterans and relatives of those who died.

"We salute the fallen warriors of the Battle of Midway. We remember their great victory and tremendous sacrifice," said Adm. Robert F. Willard, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander. "We honor them with our eternal vigilance and combat readiness."

William Tunstall, 87, an aviation machinist mate 2nd class on the USS Hornet on June 4, 1942, said he felt lonesome as he remembered those who died.

"I lost a lot of good friends," said Tunstall, of Portland, Ore. (...)

Tunstall recalled helping the pilot and gunner of the torpedo plane he maintained climb aboard for their mission to bomb Japanese carriers approaching Midway.

But neither the pilot, Bill Abercrombie, nor the gunner, Bernie Phelps, ever returned. Of the 30 men in Torpedo Squadron 8 who took off on June 4, only one survived.

"From the time they left the carrier to today, I have no way of knowing what happened to them," Tunstall said.

SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers from USS Hornet approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the early afternoon of 6 June 1942. Mikuma had been hit earlier by strikes from Hornet and USS Enterprise, leaving her dead in the water and fatally damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of World War II.

The Japanese plan of attack was to lure America's few remaining carriers into a trap and sink them. They would then occupy Midway Atoll, extending Japan's defensive perimeter, and launch further attacks against Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii. Had the Japanese captured Midway, the northeastern Pacific Rim would have been essentially defenseless.

The intended surprise attack was uncovered by Navy communications intelligence, allowing Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Pacific Fleet commander, to establish an ambush by having his carriers ready and waiting.

Adm Nimitz's plan, together with the perserverance, sacrifice and skill of U.S. Navy aviators, led to the Japanese defeat at Midway Atoll. 307 men, one aircraft carrier, and 145 planes were lost. Japan's casualties were much higher, at 4,800. All four of the aircraft carriers Tokyo sent to Midway were destroyed, along with a heavy cruiser, three destroyers, and 291 planes.

The battle permanently weakened the Japanese Navy, particularly through the loss of over 200 naval aviators. Strategically, the U.S. Navy was able to seize the initiative in the Pacific and go on the offensive.

06 June 2007

The Final Countdown - Outlaw Platoon nears end of 22-month deployment

Members of the Outlaw Platoon joke with each other after finishing up a patrol. Some say they aren’t burned out, but they are anxious about returning to their families and homes after leaving in October 2005. “You don’t really miss home anymore,” said Spc. Christopher Timp, 21, of Freeport, Minn. “It’s just second nature to be here. I don’t know how I could go back to how I lived.” - Teri Weaver / S&S

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq — As Pfc. Andrew Waldron would say — or, rather, as he would sing — it’s “The Final Countdown.”

Waldron, 26, of Richfield, Minn., has sung the song by the Swedish band Europe to amuse and annoy his friends on every patrol they’ve done in the farmlands on the western edge of Baghdad. As of the end of April, that was 425 patrols and counting.

Waldron and the soldiers with Outlaw Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 136th Minnesota National Guard are nearing the end of a 22-month deployment. From six months of training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi to an extended 15-month tour in Iraq, they’ve been away from home since October 2005. They are supposed to head home late this summer.

Overall, the Minnesota National Guard has been deployed to Iraq longer than any other military unit — active, Guard or Reserves, The New York Times reported last month.

“If you’re going to be here a long time, you might as well be here the longest,” said 1st Lt. Stewart Whitson, 26, of Minneapolis, the platoon’s commander.

They’ve been away so long that life in Iraq and at Camp Liberty has become home, the only routine they can remember. Their normalcy is war: patrolling through muck and sweat, working unending weeks, watching newly deployed soldiers get lost in the chow hall. Their commanding unit has switched three times during their stint in Iraq. Other soldiers have come and gone, and the Outlaws are still here.

As their time ends, they face a mission just as complicated — going home.

“You don’t really miss home anymore,” said Spc. Christopher Timp, 21, of Freeport, Minn. “It’s just second nature to be here. I don’t know how I could go back to how I lived.”

Spc. Travis Caven, 26, of Mankato, Minn., sits in a Humvee turret while on patrol. The Minnesota National Guard has been deployed more than any other unit – active, guard or reserves – in the military. Caven, a member of the Outlaw Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 136th Minnesota National Guard, are nearing the end of a 22-month deployment. - Teri Weaver / S&S

As a unit, they have been back to Minnesota only once — two weeks at Christmas in 2005. Before deploying in March 2006, they got a four-day pass. Since then, they’ve each taken their two weeks’ leave from Iraq. All that happened months ago, well before the Army extended deployments to 15 months.

“To think of home, you have to think of 2005,” said Spc. Brandon Pajari, 21, of Alexandria, Minn.

Some have to think of 2003, when the platoon was called up for a year to serve in Kosovo. That stretch should have given them a reprieve from this Iraq deployment. But many in the Guard, a group whose hometowns and memories weave together outside of war, refused to stay behind.

“It’s hard to sit at home and watch everybody else come over here,” said Sgt. Aaron Rousselange, 22, of Long Prairie, Minn., who served in Kosovo and has been gone from home the past three out of four years.

“You’d feel like a [expletive]-bag if you were sitting at home playing PlayStation and somebody over here got killed," he said.

Read the whole article at Stars & Stripes.

Guys, this is for you...

Update, 10 June: Soldier's Dad - who always knows best on stuff like this - points out in comments that there are reserve units which have served longer than the 34th in Iraq. Those units include Cival/Affairs units which have served 2 years. Impressive. Thanks, SD.

The Longest Day

Shortly after dawn on June 7, Lt. Horace Henderson of the Sixth Engineer Special Brigade landed on Omaha Beach.

Going in on his Higgens boat, "I noticed that nothing moved on the beach except one bulldozer. The beach was covered with debris, sunken craft and wrecked vehicles. We saw many bodies in the water...

We jumped into chest high water and waded ashore.

Then we saw that the beach was literally covered with the bodies of American soldiers wearing the blue and grey patches of the 29th Infantry Division."

- From the opening pages of Stephen E. Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers.

05 June 2007

Is Mookie morphing?

I don't like the sound of this:

...the meeting sets a dangerous precedent. Sadr is presenting himself as a head of state, leading senior state officials to his meeting like sheep, and challenging the power of the legitimate leaders of the country.

Which reminds me of something Bill Roggio observed on 27 May:

Sadr met with his senior lieutenants on Sunday to "discuss a new direction for his movement after his return to public life ," AFP reported. "The Sadr movement is going to appear in a new form and with a new style on the Iraqi scene," according to Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for the Sadrist movement. "We intend to establish a mechanism to escape from the routines that we used to work with and that were imposed on us by the circumstances in the country."

They haven't been able to "escape from the routines" yet though, with seventeen members of the network killed and 41 captured over the past three weeks. But if Mookie morphs into a seemingly legitimate political force, time may start to run out on that type of activity.

Prayer Request

For the husband of fellow Angel and Milblogger Kat Orr, who is currently in the ICU after collapsing from heat stroke. Kat is one of those rare selfless individuals who has devoted a good portion of her life to helping others. Please go over and leave a message of support.

President Bush in Prague

U.S. President George W. Bush reviews an honor guard as he is escorted by Czech President Vaclav Klaus (L) during an arrival ceremony at Prague Castle in the Czech Republic June 5, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The President is in Europe ahead of the upcoming G8 Summit in Germany. Over the weekend, 1000 demonstrators and police were injured in the "peaceful" protests leading up to the summit.

Update: See Gateway Pundit's coverage of Bush's speech at the Democracy & Security Conference, an event conceived by Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel, and Natan Sharansky. The conference agenda was "designed to explore the proposition that there exists a direct linkage between the promotion of democracy and the strengthening of security."

03 June 2007

Would you... ?

Don't watch the video; just listen to the music and look at the photos.