June 30, 2004

PROUD

Reason Number Six Billion Why I Love Soldiers:

Specialist Rodriguez is one example. He broke his leg some months ago. He was offered the chance to deploy out of Iraq. He chose to stay. When his unit was deployed to Karbala, he cut off his cast. A person told him today that "we aren't paid enough to do that." Immediately, he and the other soldiers responded that it isn't about the money; that we do this for much more important reasons.

(Thanks, Tim.)

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June 28, 2004

PRICE

From Band of Brothers, Part 8: The Last Patrol:

I wondered if people back home would ever know what it cost the soldiers to win this war. In America things were already beginning to look like peacetime: the standard of living was on the rise, racetracks and nightclubs were booming, you couldn't get a hotel room in Miami Beach it was so crowded. How could anyone ever know of the price paid by soldiers in terror, agony, and bloodshed if they'd never been to places like Normandy, Bastogne, and Haguenau?

The more things change...

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FORGET

I forget that not everyone gets to spend every day surrounded by Soldiers. That's why stories like Lunch with the Soldiers and Email from Dave are good to read.

Oh yeah, and BOO-YAH.

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June 25, 2004

SWEET!

Red 6, otherwise known as Best Friend, made it into this BBC slideshow yesterday!

Neil in Iraq.jpg

Hooah!

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REALIGNMENT

This has been a concern of mine as well...

Hefley said he was particularly concerned about the realignment’s potential effect on military families, since Pentagon leaders have sketched a scenario in which most families are based in the United States while their sponsors are sent periodically sent overseas for several months at a time for training exercises or missions.

Although extended separations are understandable in wartime, in times of peace, “I would be very reluctant to separate military families more than they already are,” Hefley said.

Feith said that the administration’s plans “should actually contribute to a better situation for families than currently exists.”

He described instances in which families move with their sponsor overseas, only to have the servicemember deploy to yet another place, leaving his dependents alone in a foreign country.

Why couldn't he have left me at Fort Hood? Bunker could be teaching me to play golf!

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HELL

War may be hell, but we here in the rear live our own sort of personal hell.

For every soldier and Marine in Iraq, there are days of fierce battle, but there are also long stretches of calm and nothing. For every firefight they're in, they spend many more days standing around on guard or sandbagging. When that firefight comes, it's pivotal, but not every day is a raging battle.

For us in the rear, every day the news brings us another conflict. Monday it's Fallujah, Tuesday it's Najaf, Wednesday it's Baghdad, Thursday it's Baqubah, and by Friday we're back to Fallujah. For us in the rear, there are no calms in Iraq's storm. There's no time to catch your breath, no respite from the chain of casualties, no days of just standing on guard.

I try not to hang on the news out of Iraq, but yesterday was rough on me. Even my students noticed I was a quieter than usual. If I were self-absorbed, I would have been content with the email from my husband saying that he had made it to his destination and was shocked at how calm things were there. But once he was accounted for, my attention shifted back to all the other soldiers from his battalion who were waging war yesterday. Best Friend was still back there, and I was in knots all day thinking about him. Blue 6 was safe, but Red 6 was in the thick of it, and over the past year and a half I've grown to love Red 6 almost as much as I love my own husband. I'm just as invested in him as I am in my own family.

He responded to my frantic email this morning, breathless from his ordeal but in one piece. He said the insurgents are getting better at aiming...

If you've got one family member in Iraq, you can concentrate your anguish on one city. When you have friends all over the country -- one in Mosul, two in Tikrit, one in Baghdad, one at Anaconda, several god-knows-where, a whole battalion in Baqubah, and the most important platoon out on a mission -- you're never insulated from the danger.

You've always got one eye at the top of the casualty list, praying that "name not released yet" doesn't turn into someone you know.


MORE TO GROK:

Yesterday I had a bad feeling. I don't believe in premonitions, but it was the first time I really felt sick to my stomach thinking about my boys down there. I'll thank my lucky stars that I don't have THE POWER that Tim has!

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June 23, 2004

VICTORY

My husband went to Najaf a few months ago to keep an eye on things until 1AD got repositioned. At the time, I couldn't understand why they didn't just go in and kill al-Sadr and get it over with. But that's why I don't make the tough decisions.

Army unit claims victory over sheik (via Andrew Sullivan)

To quote Xrlq, "It’s a good thing I’m not the President because if I were, we’d be carpet bombing the area until the survivors begged for mercy and admitted out loud that their allahu isn’t so damned akbar after all."

Yessir, that's why he and I are not in charge.

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CONVICTION

I started watching Band of Brothers this week. I watched Parts I and II, and the thing that stuck with me most was the interview with the veterans at the beginning of each episode, especially the veteran who said that four young men from his hometown committed suicide when they were declared 4-F. They committed suicide because they weren't allowed to serve their country. Would that I had an ounce of their conviction...

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June 22, 2004

OURS

(Via Blackfive) Troops kill 13 in fierce 12-hour firefight near Baqubah

Sources in the governor’s office claim that rebels who fought in Najaf and Fallujah during the insurgency uprising there in April and May are paid to travel to Baqubah to kill Americans and to undermine efforts by coalition forces to establish a new Iraqi government.

In my loudest roar: BRING IT ON!

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June 18, 2004

ABUSE

An interesting letter from a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve:

The analogy is simple. For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused — but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

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June 17, 2004

PACING

I've received input from several people lately about the War in Iraq vs. the War on Terror. The common sentiment was that the War on Terror is good and necessary but that Iraq didn't figure into it. They said that we should have focused on areas of terrorism other than Iraq, such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran. They believe that taking the war to Iraq was a waste of time and energy and had no real connection to the War on Terror.

I was reminded of their common idea when I read this post today, where David quotes Nelson Ascher:

There were many reasons to invade Iraq, from the WMDs that are being slowly found to Saddam’s links to Al Qaeda, links about which what we know is already enough to be considered a casus belli. Obviously, with time we’ll know more about both things. But the geo-strategic reasons were even more important: after all Iraq has borders with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, none of which could have been invaded as easily, quickly and legitimately. Besides, Iraq was a good place from were to scare other governments in the region, that is, the pour encourager les autres factor.

Yes, Iraq is strategic. It gets us a lot closer to other terror-supporting states, and a democracy in the middle of these other states will make a big difference. But there are many reasons for extending the War on Terror to Iraq. Let's not ever forget that part of the reason for invading Iraq was because Hussein had not done what he was supposed to do after the Gulf War, as QandO has laid out in detail in Justification: A Post-War Review. The fact that large quantities of WMDs have not been found (nevermind that we found sarin-filled IEDs or that the UN admits Hussein shipped weapons out on the eve of war) cannot possibly rewrite history enough to hide the fact that everyone thought Iraq had WMDs. Iraq seemed to be a bigger threat than perhaps she turned out to be, but that's hindsight we didn't have before.

Yes, I do think we need to continue to focus on Afghanistan, and we are: many of my students are already slated to head to Afghanistan at the end of the year. I do think that Iran and Syria are in the plans for the future, that is if President Bush is re-elected and continues to take the War on Terror seriously. Their uppance will come. As Instapundit said, "this is a marathon, not a sprint, and pacing is required."

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we went to war against Germany. They seem unrelated when you put it that way, right? Was WWII Also Unjustified? Military strategy is a complicated process, and this War on Terror will take years. Many people seem to think that they could do a better job of leading the troops and our government, but I am not one of those people. For all the mocking he endures, the President is not stupid. In no way do I think I'm smarter than he, or Rice or Rumsfeld; they know far more about the intricacies of the War on Terror than I ever will. I think it's a tad arrogant of these people who have voiced their opinions to me lately to think that they know better than our leaders which countries warrant our attention over others. Just because we read a few articles doesn't mean we are privy to everything our leaders know.

I have faith that our leaders have spent far more hours than I have studying our options, and I trust that this War will be fought on several fronts for years to come. Pacing is required.

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June 15, 2004

BIRTHDAY

I was so busy with that damn poll stuff yesterday that I missed the Army's birthday. You can't imagine how horrible that makes me feel.

Happy Birthday to the greatest institution I've ever had the privilege of being a part of.

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BDU

So here's what I think about the new BDUs:

1. The boots are a great idea. No polishing. That means no more shoe polish on my bedspread, kitchen floors, recliner, and anywhere else my husband polishes. More comfortable boots is a definite improvement.

2. One uniform for both woodland and desert is also a good idea. We've spent quite a bit of money making sure he has enough of each, with everything sewn on all of them. Genius development.

3. Only summer weight -- good. Friendly fire refector -- good. Maximum comfort under the IBA -- excellent. Zippers instead of buttons -- smart. Pen and paper pocket -- cool.

4. Velcro-on name tapes and rank. Hallelujah, hallelujah. (See sewing disaster from 13 February.)

5. I see the soft cap. Are we getting rid of the goofy beret?

6. Centered rank. Gonna have to get used to that...took me a while to train myself to go to the right lapel instead of looking someone in the eye when we passed.

7. Getting rid of the branch insignia? I don't really like that one because I like to see where everyone's coming from. I'm nosy that way. But maybe my husband will get to wear the diamond for a little while before the uniforms change over.

Overall, as someone who will never actually wear the darn thing but who will spend a lot of time gazing lovingly at one who does, I approve.

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June 08, 2004

PARALLEL

I got home and got my slip of paper with the blog idea. It wasn't much after all; I just thought of a parallel last night. I watched The Longest Day on Sunday because, well, that's the least I can do. I can't be sure what was hard fact and what was "dramatic effect", but the Germans in the movie kept insisting that the invasion would never be at Normandy and it would never be at night or in the rain. They insisted that the Americans were predictable and that invading Normandy was illogical. It reminded me of the Shock and Awe Campaign, where everyone insisted that Iraq would start with heavy aerial bombing and then ground troops would move in much later. The whole world was shocked and awed when the Marines rolled in earlier than expected.

Pundits all over like to predict what our military will do and pronounce certain events as catastrophic or quagmirish before they have all the pieces of the puzzle. I'm sure that there are things that the military could work on, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they often are planning moves we could never predict.

That's what makes them the best, I guess.

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June 06, 2004

JOE AND TOMMY

On Thursday I read an article in the Stars and Stripes that unfortunately was only in the dead-tree version of the paper. The article was called "German pupils have different view of war" and began:

Young Germans say they weren't taught that D-Day and the ensuing battles brought the defeat of Germany in World War II.

The reporter talked to students at the University of Heidelberg and found that many of them have never heard of Joe and Tommy:

Some of the Heidelberg students hadn't even heard of D-Day. "'Saving Private Ryan?'" said Anna Fischer, 19, of Karlsruhe. "Oh, that's D-Day."

Merde in France found that young people in France have also forgotten about Joe and Tommy:

Most French high school history textbooks are skimpy on the details of D-Day. They tend to focus closely on the challenges and dilemmas of living in occupied France. In a leading text, the Normandy invasion is described in just two paragraphs.

The young people in France and Germany have forgotten, but the Dissident Frogman has not. Last year he wrote Consecration:

To the eye, Bloody Omaha is just a sandy beach.

No white crosses, no huge memorial, no visible signs of those who sacrificed themselves and fought for freedom. No sign of those who fell for it.

Yet I remember "Joe" and "Tommy", heroes with no names but so many faces, who came here one day, fighters for a just cause, in a liberation army.

I was told about them, I read books about them, I saw pictures of them, and I watched interviews and movies. I heard their stories. The Joe and Tommy who got through this, told me about their brothers who didn't.

And they show me why they didn't fall in vain.

I have not forgotten either, though I know no one who was personally there. But I know who Joe and Tommy are, and I felt them with me when I took these pictures five years ago.

normandy.jpg

crosses.jpg

We must do what we can to keep Joe and Tommy alive. Read Consecration today. Visit Blackfive and get the history lesson that students in Germany and France are no longer receiving. Or simply take a moment to look at those white crosses -- and note the Star of David too -- and silently thank Joe and Tommy for what they did 60 years ago today.

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June 04, 2004

ACCURATE

Kevin Sites' post seems to be an accurate picture of what life is like for the combat arms Soldiers: laughter, anger, death, superstition, homesickness, and a maturity that far surpasses their tender ages.

(Thanks, Beth.)

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MOVING

I thought this was only news on the German radio -- where they're talking about the loss of 40,000 jobs -- but Bunker pointed out that the details are in this New York Times article called A Pentagon Plan Would Cut Back G.I.'s in Germany. It requires registration, so I will highlight the important bits.

First there are details of the plans, which won't be officially announced for another two months.

Under the Pentagon plan, the Germany-based First Armored Division and First Infantry Division would be returned to the United States. A brigade equipped with Stryker light armored vehicles would be deployed in Germany. A typical division consists of three brigades and can number 20,000 troops if logistical units are included, though these two divisions have only two brigades each in Germany, with the other brigade in the United States.

In addition, a wing of F-16 fighters may be shifted from their base in Spangdahlem, Germany, to the Incirlik base in Turkey, which would move the aircraft closer to the volatile Middle East; a wing generally consists of 72 aircraft. Under the Pentagon plan, the shift would be carried out only if the Turks gave the United States broad latitude for using them, something that some officials see as unlikely.

The Navy's headquarters in Europe would be transferred from Britain to Italy. Administration officials are also discussing plans to remove some F-15 fighters from Britain and to withdraw the handful of F-15 fighters that are normally deployed in Iceland, though final decisions have not been made.

Then there's the snide commentary from the Lefties:

But some experts and allied officials are concerned that a substantial reduction in the United States military presence in Europe would reduce American influence there, reinforce the notion that the Bush administration prefers to act unilaterally and inadvertently lend support to the French contention that Europe must rely on itself for its security.

...

Other specialists have warned that the greatest risk is the possible damage to allied relations.

"The most serious potential consequences of the contemplated shifts would not be military but political and diplomatic," Kurt Campbell and Celeste Johnson Ward of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in an article published last year in the journal Foreign Affairs, well before the extent of the changes now planned became known."Unless the changes are paired with a sustained and effective diplomatic campaign, therefore, they could well increase foreign anxiety about and distrust of the United States."

My thoughts: tough. Germany and France are not our allies anymore.

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June 02, 2004

HERO

CavX wrote about three military heroes. I had read the first two stories, but I had not yet read the last one. I'm completely overwhelmed by CPL Dunham...

None of the other Marines saw exactly what Cpl. Dunham did, or even saw the grenade. But they believe Cpl. Dunham spotted the grenade — prompting his warning cry — and, when it rolled loose, placed his helmet and body on top of it to protect his squadmates.

salute.jpg

I can't even think of anything to say.

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