I Read Today …

The newspaper carried a short obituary about a young Marine who died recently in the Middle East. It didn’t say where he died. Nor did it mention how he died. Just that he had been serving in a combat zone.

The article mentioned the town he came from and he had graduated from the local high school.

The same high school where he’d lettered in football and track. The coach said he was a good team player. He thought it might be a good idea to see if the town might consider naming the stadium after him. He thought he might have liked that.

It went on to mention how his Mother and Father talked about the future plans their young Marine had. How he wanted to go to the Community college and then on to university to get finish getting his degree. He was going to be the first one in the family to graduate from college.

His younger sister said she was going to miss him terribly. He had been her big brother and always looked after her. She talked about the day before he deployed when he borrowed the family van. Said he wanted to show off his Dress Blues to all his friends.

The notice went on to say there was going to be a service at the church he attended on Main St. starting at 10 A.M. In lieu of flowers the family asked that contributions be made to a scholarship fund being established in his name.

It was at this point I realized I had served with this young Marine. Not this particular Marine. But, Marines that were just like him. In fact, I think we all had served with him. You see he was that young man, like we all once had been, who stood ten feet tall when he was in uniform. You could see his pride of country and service every time he walked into a room. He knew whom he was and what he was being sent to accomplish when he deployed. And if you were to have asked him, he would have told you the same thing others before him would have said, “I’m fighting for freedom. Not just for our country. But for the people we’re being sent to defend.” For that, like so many before him, he had sacrificed his life.

The notice ended up saying he’d be laid to rest in the family plot following the ceremony. Everyone was invited to join the family at their home afterwards. My prayers will be with the family.

by Ed Creamer

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Women in Combat?

In my philosophy class, the discussion of women in combat is on the agenda this week. So many people believe that if a woman wants to serve on the front lines, in a combat situation, why not? Women serve proudly and honorably in many disciplines in all branches of the Armed Forces today, but not specifically in infantry combat units. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to?

I found this posting (below) which included a response to that question from a combat Marine in Iraq. In my opinion, he summed it up pretty good.

— response from a combat Marine in Iraq —
Look. Whoever said this is a pogue and has never been in the field. Yes, it’s about the 120+ temperatures – it’s almost impossible to operate. Yes, it’s about the heavy body armor, and in full gear with backpack, hydration, weapon and ammunition, it’s more than 120 pounds for as long as the hump, 15 or 20 miles. But it’s really about more than that. It’s even more than about the ability to carry heavy weight for long distances in high temperatures. We don’t bathe for a month at a time. If we are doing MCMAP quals, we beat the hell out of each other, continually – every day, all of the time. Literally. Men beat the hell out of men, and get it back too.

Remember when I was in Fallujah and I had to jump off of the roof of the house? I was under fire, my unit was leaving and I had to catch the HMMWV, and I had on full body armor with hydration, SAW drums and SAW. And I had to jump from the roof of a house to the ground. I have had to tackle men in Fallujah who were assaulting us. Full grown men, attacking us by hand. Football style tackle with holds and moves on the dude while in full body armor.

Remember when I trained the SAW gunners before ___________? I would make them hit the road for a four or five mile run in the morning, full armor, to the range. Range all day, then four or five miles back. Screw PTs. Can you run and live all day in full armor?

You want to know what it’s like, physically, to be an infantry Marine in the field? Strap 120 pounds on your body and play men’s football for a season, and do it while being sleep deprived with guys dropping around you from heat stroke. Do squad rushes with full weight. And when you hit the ground, don’t pretend. Hit the ground.

Whoever said this is a f****** pogue. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he’s trying to impress the women around him. He’s listened to what they’ve said for too long. Tell him I said that he’s a pogue and sits behind a desk. Time to get his ass up and hit the field with the infantry Marines. Then he’ll understand.”

What are your thoughts?

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Thank You to all Vietnam Vets from a Marine in Iraq

A guy gets time to think over here and I was thinking about all the support we get from home. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. We get care packages at times faster than we can use them. There are boxes and boxes of toiletries and snacks lining the center of every tent; the generosity has been amazing. So, I was pondering the question: “Why do we have so much support?”

In my opinion, it all came down to one thing: Vietnam Veterans.

I think we learned a lesson, as a nation, that no matter what, you have to support the troops who are on the line, who are risking everything. We treated them so poorly back then. When they returned was even worse. The stories are nightmarish of what our returning warriors were subjected to. It is a national scar, a blemish on our country, an embarrassment to all of us. After Vietnam, it had time to sink in. The guilt in our collective consciousness grew. It shamed us. However, we learned from our mistake. Somewhere during the late 1970’s and on into the 80’s, we realized that we can’t treat our warriors that way. So … starting during the Gulf War, when the first real opportunity arose to stand up and support the troops, we did. We did it to support our friends and family going off to war. But we also did it to right the wrongs from the Vietnam era. We treat our troops of today like the heroes they were, and are, acknowledge and celebrate their sacrifice, and rejoice at their homecoming … instead of spitting on them. And that support continues today for those of us in Iraq. Our country knows that it must support us and it does. The lesson was learned in Vietnam and we are all better because of it.

Everyone who has gone before is a hero. They are celebrated in my heart. I think admirably of all those who have gone before me. From those who fought to establish this country in the late 1770’s to those I serve with here in Iraq. They have all sacrificed to ensure our freedom. But when I get back home, I’m going to make it a personal mission to specifically thank every Vietnam Vet I encounter for THEIR sacrifice. Because if nothing else good came from that terrible war, one thing did. It was the lesson learned on how we treat our warriors. We as a country learned from our mistake and now we treat our warriors as heroes, as we should have all along. I am the beneficiary of their sacrifice. Not only for the freedom they, like veterans from other wars, ensured, but for how well our country now treats my fellow Marines and I. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice.

Semper Fidelis,

Major Brian P. Bresnahan
United States Marine Corps

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Memorial Day — Day of Remembrance

By Rod Powers , About.com 20 May 2009

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime.

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Local Observances Claim To Be First
Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy.

Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well. Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866.

Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared
In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War.

Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Some States Have Confederate Observances Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day.

Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day. Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave – a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

National Moment of Remembrance
To ensure the sacrifices of America ‘s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

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Reprinted with my good friend Marion Sturkey’s permission.

A high school senior in Ohio, Adrienne, got an English class assignment. She had to research and write a thesis. And, she could pick her topic.

Adrienne dipped back into our Nation’s history. She reached back to a time before she was born, back to a time of national turmoil, back to the time of the war in Vietnam. Today, that long-ago conflict is a mere footnote in her history books. Who fought? Why? Who survived? Who died? Who were the heroes?

From her Nation’s long struggle during the war in Vietnam, Adrienne picked her topic: WHO ARE THE HEROES?

An exhaustive search began. As part of her research, young Adrienne posted a notice on the web-site of the USMC Vietnam Helicopter Association. For the Marine Corps helicopter crews who flew and fought in Vietnam, she asked: “Who are the heroes?”

The many responses included an e-mail reply from Marion Sturkey, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He wrote not of glory and valor. He never mentioned anything he did, or tried to do. Instead, he wrote of basic human virtues: commitment, loyalty, brotherly love, and a cause greater than self. His reply to a young American schoolgirl is quoted below, verbatim:

March 6, 2001


I understand you are researching a project about heroism during the war in Vietnam. I commend you for the extent of your research.

“Who are the heroes?” you ask. I had the privilege of knowing many heroes during my time in Vietnam in 1966-1967. But, I doubt they are the type of men you would recognize as such. They were simply common men. Actually, “boys” would be more accurate with regard to many of them. They were not the “Follow Me!” type you may have seen in the movies. I have never heard any of them call themselves brave, although I witnessed what you would call bravery on a daily basis.

So, who are the heroes? They were the men (or “boys,” many just a year or so older than yourself) who believed in each other, who relied on each other, and who sacrificed for each other. They were bound together by simple loyalty to their fellow Marines, their friends. They shared an unspoken trust and responsibility. Each knew that no matter how grave his peril, his friends would try to save him. They might fail and lose their own lives in the attempt. But, we all knew that they would try. We each had the same obligation. When one of our friends was in peril, we had to try, despite the danger. We had no choice. That was the pact we made. That was our code.

Heroes were soft-spoken men like Jim McKay, a helicopter gunner. Jim had survived his scheduled time in combat and was scheduled to fly home on the night of August 8, 1966. But, that night he learned that four of his friends were cut off, surrounded, fighting for their lives in the dark. Jim refused to leave Vietnam. He volunteered to fly on a rescue mission. His helicopter was shot down.

Heroes were men like Joe Roman, a helicopter pilot. On January 26, 1967, he answered the plea for help from Marines trapped on a ridge in Laos. They warned him of the danger, but he disregarded the warning and flew down to attempt a rescue. He, too, got shot down. Wounded in the head and buttocks, he survived. But, he never talked about it afterwards. When questioned, he would shrug and say that it was “nothing anyone else wouldn’t do.” He was right. Incidentally, Joe died last year. I attended his internment in Arlington National Cemetery.

There were thousands of such heroes. I am honored to have had the privilege to have served with them. Simply stated, they believed in a cause greater than themselves. They believed in each other. They knew the danger, but they also knew their responsibility and their code. They shared a brotherly love that no earthly circumstance can shatter. They, along with the 58,000-plus names on The Wall in Washington, DC, are true heroes.

The heroes who survived are now in their fifties or sixties. You know them as fathers, uncles, neighbors, maybe teachers. They have jobs and families. They pay taxes and make our society function. They don’t label themselves as heroes. Yet, they are American Patriots in every sense of the words. And, deep down inside, they still maintain that undying brotherly love for the men with whom they served in Vietnam, thirty years or so ago. Without question, they are your heroes.

I hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Warmest regards,

Marion Sturkey

Adrienne got many such responses. In appreciation, she titled her thesis with the motto of the USMC Vietnam Helicopter Association: “Saepe Expertus, Semper Fidelis, Fratres Aeterni” (Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever). In her thesis she quoted text from the book, “BONNIE-SUE: A Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron in Vietnam.” She noted that, even today, “Marines religiously state ‘Semper Fidelis’ at the closing of letters and e-mails” sent to each other. As Adrienne now knows, the code is still alive and well.

Adrienne submitted her thesis. On May 1, 2001, she got the verdict. She joyfully posted another notice on the helicopter association web-site. Her notice begins: “Hey, Y’all . . . it received an ‘A’ with flying colors!”

Adrienne, who plans to attend the University of Akron, added: “This has been the most beneficial project of my high school career. I learned the most I ever could have, and will take so much with me for the rest of my life.”

PHOTO: Sturkey stands by his waiting H-46 helicopter at Marble Mountain [ Vietnam ] in the summer of 1966.


Be sure to check out some of Sturk’s books, must reads!

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