May 31, 2004

MOMENTS

Every little thing you can do to remember those who have fallen helps today. Via Grim's Hall I see that there's a moment of silence at 1500 (no matter your time zone) and a candle ceremony at 2000 Iraq time (adjust for time zone). If you're interested in sharing in these moments -- so that Memorial Day is more than just "the day the pools open" -- follow the link to the details.

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MEMORIAL

This morning I went to the Memorial Day ceremony on post. The turnout was smaller than I wanted, but bigger than I'd hoped. I was fortunate to talk to a WWII and Korean War vet who had many interesting stories to tell from what he called "ancient history" and who had no idea that he was a hero. There was also a handful of elderly German soldiers there, which was really touching.

Time for a round-up of good stories to read today:
Veteran recalls horrors of Bataan Death March
World War II memorial prompts veterans to recall days of fear, heroism
'Greatest Generation' gets its due as World War II Memorial is dedicated
Dedication a reunion for veterans
Teen's efforts ID vets' graves

Plus the wonderful Mark Steyn, via Hud:
Recalling a time when setbacks didn't deter us
And one by Jack Neely, via Instapundit:
The Other World War

Please remember that today isn't just about picnics. We do need to rejoice and be thankful for the freedom and life that we have, but we should always remember the price that was paid.

James Hudnall has posted photos of his grandfather and uncles, who were veterans. I have a similar photo that I would like to post. I have relatives who were veterans -- my great uncle, and two of my great-great uncles -- but they passed away long before I knew of them. I'm very grateful that I don't actually know any veterans who have passed away, but I do know one very special vet whom I'm fortunate enough to still have in my life. The more I educated I become about the military and history, the more pride I feel for my grandfather's service. In fact, I was in his home last spring when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, and I felt the amazing juxtaposition between the war being fought on the TV and the war that he had fought so long ago. I'm so proud to call him grandfather, and I hope my grandchildren are half as proud of my husband someday.

I hope my grandfather knows how important he is to me, today and every day.
Meet my grandfather, the most handsome airman in WWII.

poppop.JPG

MORE TO GROK:

If you have the time, peruse all of the Milblogs links today. They're all unique, but they all share the common thread of Memorials.

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May 25, 2004

BAYONETS

That guy from El Salvador has some kindred warriors in the south of Iraq: the Scots who fixed bayonets! Wow.

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May 20, 2004

PRESTIGE

I very much disagree with the wording in Andrew Sullivan's newest post:

It's very hard to know the facts about the carnage on the Iraq-Syria border, but whatever the occasion, it appears that the U.S. military was responsible for the deaths of several Iraqi women and children. It was almost certainly a mistake - either of target or of provocation. But it's another blow to the prestige of the U.S. military and their ability to avoid the kind of action which will, in fact, make their mission harder rather than easier. There are now many reports of U.S. soldiers feeling so beleaguered and jumpy that their first instinct is to fire, capture or mistreat captives. And so the cycle of distrust in some areas appears to deepen. [emphasis mine]

Blaming the military for events that make life harder for the military is a big mistake, in my opinion. They are well aware that what happened near Syria is going to be a huge problem. They are well aware that prison scandels and imprecise bombing will cause the anti-war faction to shriek. They are well aware that their every action is watched under a microscope. They don't need Andrew Sullivan to point out the blow to their prestige.

When soldiers feel that the media and the world are watching their every move, they will indeed get jumpy and nervous. The last thing we need are jumpy and nervous soldiers. If you put a basketball team out on the court and then fill the stands with hecklers and let the announcer use the mic to point out every little mistake they make, don't you think that might start to affect the team's performance at some point? That's what we do to our soldiers, only this is life-and-death, not a game of hoops.

Our soldiers know they've potentially made a huge error near Syria. Do we need to rub their faces in it over and over and point out that it's their inabilities that make the war worse?

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May 19, 2004

WATCHERS

Belmont Club wrote something that really hit home for me in his post News Coverage as a Weapon:

During the Civil War 15 percent of the total white population took the field, a staggering 75% of military age white males. During the Great War the major combatants put even higher proportions of their men on the line. Even after World War 2 it was still natural for children to ask, 'Daddy what did you do in the War?' and expect an answer. Reality affected everybody. But beginning with the Vietnam War and continuing into the current Iraqi campaign, the numbers of those actually engaged on the battlefield as a proportion of the population became increasingly small. Just how small is illustrated by comparing a major battle in the Civil War, Gettysburg, which inflicted over 50,000 casualties on a nation of 31.5 million to a "major" battle in Iraq, Fallujah, in which 10 Marines died in the fighting itself, on a population of 300 million. A war in which the watchers vastly outnumbered the fighters was bound to be different from when the reverse was true. A reality experienced by the few could be overridden by a fantasy sold to the many.

This war doesn't affect everybody and to say that the watchers outnumber the fighters implies that the watchers are actully watching. There are thousands out there who don't think the war on terror affects them at all, and they are quick to accept the "fantasy sold to the many" and then switch the channel to the last episode of Friends. In my parents' and grandparents' generations, everyone knew someone who went to war; these days the service flags are few and far between. We can't fathom the sacrifice previous generations endured because we rarely are affected by today's sacrifices.

Someday my children will ask "Daddy, what did you do in the war?" and he will have an answer that will make them proud. When they ask what Mommy did, I'll say I was proud to be a chickenhawk.

MORE TO GROK:

Strategy Page talks about how everyone is involved in a war.

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FIGURES

The Congressional Budget Office has been examining figures on how the military should be redistributed. They have figures for all different scenarios, but the one that struck me was the most drastic one:

PLAN 3B: Eliminate nearly all forces from Germany and South Korea

Upfront cost: $6.8 billion to $7.4 billion

Annual cost compared with status quo: -$1.2 billion

CBO analysis: Large cost savings. Cuts family separation time by 22 percent. Substantial increase in deployment time to South Korea. Removal of U.S. forces might increase likelihood of war.

Why are we spending $1.2 billion to maintain bases in countries that don't appreciate us?

I think about our military spending here all the time. We pay the German government to dispose of our refuse, so I recycle every little piece of trash that I can. Our neighbors leave their porchlight on day and night, and every time I look at it I think about how our government has to pay the Germans to leave that light on. Any time someone buys gas on the economy and pays with gas vouchers, the government picks up the remainder. I absolutely hate thinking about all of the revenue we generate for Germany, since they repay us with anti-war demonstrations and anti-American rhetoric. It makes me sick.

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May 17, 2004

SUPPORT

Den Beste received an email from a German friend who said

Your impression of Fischer is correct regarding his absolute position on the issue, but I believe you have no idea how much more dishonest and anti-American most German politicians (and the voters) are. Fischer and other right-wing Greens are among the most militant, pro-American, pro-Israel politicians we have.

Den Beste points out that though Fischer may in fact be the least anti-American apple in the bunch, he's still seems pretty darn anti-American. He then went on to stress the importance of one of our Amercan values: actions speak louder than words.

His post patterned what I've been trying to say for months about the we-support-the-troops platitude. Back in February I said

I'm often irritated by the but that follows that phrase (as in I support our troops, but...). I appreciate that people don't think my own husband as an individual is a baby killer or a monster, which is usually what they mean when they start that sentence, but I can't help but think they use it as a buffer just so they don't sound heartless. I'm against the war sounds much softer when you preface it with I support our troops, but.

I got some guff for coming down on the support-the-troops types. LT Smash got barrels of guff when he expressed the same sentiment. Smash said

Your definition would appear to be "wish them good health and hope they come home safe." My definition of "support" is a bit more robust than that. In my world, "supporting the troops" also means letting them know that you appreciate the sacrifices they are making, and believe in the cause they're fighting for.

I too see these two distinct definitions within the one phrase; I said:

I tend to think that the first definition should be an understood, that no human would wish that soldiers should be injured or die (though some of the posts on Democratic Underground might suggest otherwise). Therefore, it's not worth broadcasting, just as I support cancer patients or I support the disabled seem inane. I'd agree with Smash that the second definition is the one I see in that phrase, and I believe that definition is much more important and the one that makes a difference. Unfortunately, it's probably not the most common definition intended when people use the phrase I support our troops.

The British use the verb "support" to talk about sports teams. We don't use it here in the US, but if we did, my husband would say he supports the Cardinals. When the Brits use this word, they obviously are implying that they want their team to win, not that they're simply supporting their existance and hoping their players don't get broken legs during they game. "Supporting" a team means hoping they go all the way. When we talk about our troops, I often don't think people mean it that way. Often they mean they don't long for all of our troops to die, but they don't necessarily want them to win, nor do they think they should be there in the first place. To me, that does not follow the definition of "support".

The claim that Joschka Fischer is pro-American is meaningless because it's only in contrast to rabidly anti-American Europeans that Fischer looks remotely pro-. Ted Bundy didn't kill as many people as Pol Pot, but I'd hardly say that the comparison makes him an upstanding citizen. In the same way, there are Americans who aren't actively working against the troops, but you can't always claim that they support our military simply by comparison.

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May 15, 2004

HOLIDAY

Today is Armed Forces Day.

I'll remember these four today.

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May 10, 2004

DUTY

Bunker met some servicemembers who follow orders to the letter over the weekend. And Birdie found some WMDs.

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TARGETS

Apparently our servicemembers who have recently returned from Iraq should not breathe a sigh of relief that they're back in the good ol' USA.

Military Targets in the USA must be Attacked
by al-masakin — Thursday, May. 06, 2004 at 7:13 PM

The torture of Muslim prisoners in Iraq in the “rape rooms” at the American Abu Ghraib prison confirms that the so-called American war on terror is really a war on Islam. George Bush has created a global gulag network of extra-legal and secret US prisons with thousands of inmates. This Gulag stretches from Afghanistan to Iraq, to Guantanamo and secret CIA prisons around the world. This Gulag exclusively holds Muslim prisoners.

In light of these revelations, Al-Masakin would like to take this opportunity to remind the American Muslim Mujahedin, and our allies in the revolutionary and anti-Imperialist left, that ROTC buildings, armed service recruiting centers, individual military personnel, and police officers are “military targets”. These institutions must be violently and covertly attacked.

In fact, there are thousands of unarmed military targets walking around all over the United States. Outraged American citizens and American Muslims should have little difficulty making violent contact with recruits, cadets, marines, etc.

We strongly recommend that such contact be made with a very sharp knife, pepper spray, brass knuckles, baseball bats, firearms, explosives, or the bumper of a full sized automobile, truck or SUV.

This was written by Americans in San Francisco. What is the world coming to?

It's been a struggle this weekend to keep my chin up. The news has gotten me down, so low that I sat on the phone with my mom on Saturday and wept. I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to wade through articles about quagmires and liars. I don't want to hear the words Abu or Ghraib ever again. I don't want to have to keep forcing myself to stay positive in the face of all the heinous junk that's published out there.

Every time a soldier dies, a little piece of me dies too.

I'm having visitors from the US on Tuesday, so blogging will be light as I prepare for their visit. I'm starting to think it's a well-timed break from the internet.

I'll be back. I just need to get rejuvenated first.

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May 09, 2004

WINDOW

For a while now, I've wanted to describe our post chapel's stained glass window to my mom. Today Stars and Stripes has an article about SPC Kondor's memorial here on post, and there's a photo of our touching stained glass windows.

Right before the guys left, we attended our neighbor's baptism. At the end of the mass, the priest called up all of the soldiers who would be leaving for Iraq that week. He blessed them all and gave them an Army coin to keep with them.

I don't think I'll ever forget that long row of men standing under the stained glass window.

For so long, I've been really strong. I have statistics on my side, I support the mission, and I know that thousands of soldiers come home just fine. But lately I can't seem to shake the feeling of fear. We lost SPC Kondor two weeks ago. We lost four more soldiers on Wednesday. If our post is losing at least one soldier per week, I fear that it's only a matter of time before it catches up to me, in one way or another.

I just feel really uneasy lately.

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May 07, 2004

SPOUSES

Got the following email yesterday. Seems we've got our own day...

1. In 1984, President Ronald Regan proclaimed 23 May as the first Military Spouse Day to recognize the important role military spouses play in the readiness and well-being of our nation's armed forces. The Secretary of Defense standardized the day as the Friday preceding Mother's Day in 1985. This year we will honor our Military Spouses on 7 May.

2. We are an Army at war, currently engaged in our nation's global war on terrorism. During the past yer, our soldiers have once again been asked to defend our freedom and the privileges we all enjoy. While our soldiers face increased deployments and longer separations, our spouses remain the consistent, predictable cornerstone of the well-being of our Army family. Army spouses continue to step up to meet the unique challenges Army life brings, as has been the case throughout the Army's nearly 229-year history.

3. Army spouses have played an instrumental role in the preparedness and success of our forces. The contributions of the first spouses who followed their soldiers to Valley Forge in 1777 set the standard for all military spouses who followed. These brave women nursed the wounded and laundered soldiers' uniforms, at times dodging bullets and even taking up arms when needed. They provided un-ending support and served as the Army's first force multipliers, but never received official recognition from the Army. Their immeasurable contributions to the ideals of family, patriotism, service and freedom, and their distinctive sacrifices continue to endure today as our Army and our nation face new threats.

4. Much has changed for Army spouses in the years since Valley Forge. Today's Army spouses received well-deserved recognition for their role in the defense of our nation. Support programs, systems and services allow for a level of well-being not necessarily available in the past. However, in a world where change is the norm, Army spouses remain the constant. They continue to be the homefront mainstay of moral support and encouragement for our soldiers and the workforce that supports them. They are the driving force and energy that make our Army strong. Today, as in the days of old, through great personal sacrifice the Army spouse is a solid key component in keeping the Army relevant and ready.

5. Military Spouse Day, celebrated on 7 May this year, affords us the opportunity to publicy acknowledge the commitment of our Army spouses across all components, Active, National Guard and Army Reserve, and to pay tribute to their critical role in the strength of our nation and the success of our Army in accomplishing the mission. So, to the many Army spouses who support their soldiers, thank you for your courage and patriotism and the love and commitment to your soldiers and to the Army family. Furthermore, I would like to thank you for your generosity and your devoted service. Many blessings to you and your families, the Army and our nation today and throughout the year.

-- Announcement from the Honorable Brownlee, CSA Schoomaker, and SMA Preston

My favorite nickname from the husband is Combat Multiplier...I love when he calls me that.

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May 06, 2004

IMMUNE

(via LGF) The El Salvadorians are apparently immune to the vaginitis plaguing the Spanish-speaking members of the coalition.

After several hours of combat, the besieged unit ran out of ammunition, having come with only 300 rounds for each of their M-16 rifles. Pvt. Natividad Mendez, Cpl. Toloza's friend for three years, lay dead, shot twice probably by a sniper. Two more were wounded as the close-quarters fighting intensified.
"I thought, 'This is the end.' But, at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me," Cpl. Toloza recalled.
The wounded were placed on a truck while Cpl. Toloza and the three other soldiers moved on the ground, trying to make their way back to the base. They were soon confronted with Sheik al-Sadr's fighters, about 10 of whom tried to seize one of the soldiers.
"My immediate reaction was that I had to defend my friend, and the only thing I had in my hands was a knife," Cpl. Toloza said.

So he charged the Iraqis and fought them with his knife. And won.

There's a photo of him with his knife, which I assume will offend people and might disappear soon. I'll keep a copy here. If the anti-war crowd wants to show us photos of coffins and read lists of the deceased as a way to inspire us to give up, then I'll show a photo of a man with more courage than most of us could ever imagine, as a way to inspire us to never give up.

elsalvador.jpg

It's real easy for us, thousands of miles away, to pretend that no one has to see the whites of their eyes. Every day the headlines tell us of another casualty, but rarely do you hear of the military triumphs, of the missions that wiped out the bad guys. What we need to remember -- what we need this gruesome photo for -- is that for every coalition soldier who dies, roughly 70 insurgents have been killed. Our servicemembers are brave, they are tough, and they will never give up.

And they're not just Americans; there are some hardcore El Salvadorians too.

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May 04, 2004

FLAG

Snopes says that this email forward I just received is true.
No matter what Senator McCain's political views are, I completely respect his pride and dedication for his country.

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SGT CAMPBELL

I found out today SGT Ryan Campbell, one of the 1AD soldiers killed last week, went to Truman with my husband and me. I didn't know him, and I haven't talked to my husband so I don't know if he knew him or not, but the ROTC cadre there at Truman remember him and are attending his memorial. While searching for information about him, I came across an article written less than a month ago in the Truman paper on SGT Campbell. The headline quote they attribute to him:

Every day is lived with the continuous strain of wondering whether you will make it to the next.

salute.jpg

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May 01, 2004

ANGUISH

Remember those parents of kids in your high school who were totally oblivious to what their kids were doing? My kid would never do drugs / binge drink / sleep around / do anything remotely bad. And we kids and the other parents who had a clue never knew how to point out to the parents that Susie was a slut or Bobby was a stoner. They were going to believe whatever they wanted to believe, despite any evidence to the contrary.

I don't want to be in denial like one of those parents.
But I also don't even want to think about this.

The soldiers in my Army, in the America I live in, would never do something like that. My soldiers don't think humiliation and torture is funny or a joke to take photos of and send home to your high school buddies. My soldiers know that our situation in Iraq is already precarious enough without fuel like this to add to the fire.

Not my solders. Oh god, why did they have to do this?

Deskmerc expressed enough anger for both of us, but what I'm left feeling is sadness. I just feel so utterly let down and betrayed by the handful of soldiers who have put an ugly, ugly dent in our nation's reputation.


Dear soldiers of Abu Ghraib prison,

I am an Army wife who values soldiers over just about anyone else. I jump to your defense against all complaints, emphasize your strengths over your weaknesses, and would defend your honor until the day I died.

And you repay me with this?

We have a job to do in Iraq, one that is hard and time-consuming and must be done center stage in front of the whole world. Do you understand that? The whole world is watching us, waiting for us to mess up so they can release the triumphant I told you so! they've been sitting on. No one is watching the insurgents, making sure they follow the rules and play nice; they're watching you. And you gave them exactly what they were hoping for.

You gave them a spectacle.

See, your stupid prank, your treating POWs like frat pledges, is going to have major repercussions. We're already feeling them here in Germany, when a German wife last night expressed her dismay at knowing she'll have to now work twice as hard to convince her family and neighbors that the Americans are working for good in Iraq. You see, the Germans love this story. I'm sure the French are thrilled as well. And the Arabs -- those backwards folks that we've insisted we're better than -- now have one up on us.

"This will increase the hatred of America, not just in Iraq but abroad. Even those who sympathized with the Americans before will stop. It is not just a picture of torture, it is degrading. It touches on morals and religion."

"Abu Ghraib prison was used for torture in Saddam's time. People will ask now what's the difference between Saddam and Bush. Nothing!," added Saudi commentator Dawoud al-Shiryan.

Do you see what you've done? I'm forced to agree with a Saudi that you are no better than Saddam. Do you understand how that makes me feel? Do you understand how badly you have let me down, let all Americans down?

In a just world you'd be made to make your own little naked pyramid, but instead you'll all go to jail to sit and think for a long time. In the meantime, the rest of our Army's soldiers -- those whose reputation you've sullied -- will have to work twice as hard to make up for the damage you've done. You betrayed your fellow soldiers and your country when you put fun and games ahead of your Army Values. And you betrayed this one Army wife, who might think twice next time before jumping to all solders' defense.

I hate you for that.

Sarah

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