I've been maintaining an ongoing skirmish of words with with a small segment of the population of Glenwood Springs, CO and the encompassing Roaring Fork Valley through the editorial pages of the local newspaper there, Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
The entire Roaring Fork Valley has become decidedly more liberal in it's political views since since my upbringing there and while there is no intent or desire to sway that through my prosiac jousts, it does make for good debate from time to time and I mainly continue the sparring because my mother likes to occasionally see my name in the paper.
There was a recent letter that I think deserves a bit more widespread scrutiny though, that from the mother of a new soldier apparently in or on his way to Iraq. Among other things, Ms. Nicholls states that sustaining casualties from IEDs in Iraq is preventable. All we need to do is provide up-armored HUMMWVs to every soldier in Iraq.
What concerns me about this is that the letter was published on the 8th of May and there have been no rebuttals. Is this the generally accepted point of view in America, that is is all just a matter of money and the only reason troops are dying from IEDs is that we don't care enough to simply provide them with up-armored hummers?
The reality is that the Army hasn't been allowed to send unarmored hummers to Iraq (or Afghanistan for that matter) for more than 2 years and any unarmored vehicle already there is certainly not taken off the FOBs. The sad fact is that the lethality of IEDs has increased far faster than armor technology and it always will (see Michael Yon's "Jungle Law" dispatch).
Deaths of American troops by roadside bombs may very well be preventable but when we are seeing IEDs in Iraq with enough lethality to detstroy Stryker vehicles and M1 tanks, conventional wisdom tells us that throwing more armor on a Hummer isn't the method that is going to achieve those ends. Adding more armor to HUMMWVs has a diminishing marginal utility. More armor is not only expensive but the additional weight reduces the performance and handling of the vehicle which plays its own factor in endangering troops. Additionally, adding more armor requires upgrades to not only the electrical system and air conditioning (putting the windows down on an armored vehicle pretty much defeats the purpose) but significant upgrades to the suspension, all of which gets vaporized when the bad guys simply wire one more artillery shell into their IED.
Militarily, we can't stop the lethality of IEDs from increasing, nor can we achieve a high rate of success in preventing those intent on emplacing them from doing so (see Michael Yon's "Rattlesnake" dispatch). The solution lies in removing the desire to emplace them and that solution is not, primarily a military one, but a political one.
So after arriving back in Germany following our whirwind tour of the US, I find myself once agina counting days until I leave a country. I began the process of clearing the military installations as soon as we arrived back and also started trying to squeeze in all those things that we said we would have to do before we left Europe. Good luck with that.
One thing that we did manage to do was finally get to a home game of 1FCK, who are trying to work theur way back into the top flight of the Bundes Liga after gettign bumped out last year. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, the bear was cold, and the fans were boisterous, and although the game ended in a tie, the experience couldn't have been any better. The game did coincidentally fall on my birthday and the C-17s that frequently whined over Fritz-Walter Stadion on their approach to Ramstein were a constant reminder of a birthday recent past where I endured incessant harassment from my staff in FOB Salerno, and reminded us also of those still spending important occasions far from home and in harm's way.
Friday night found us at the opening night of the Lauter Kerwe, the annual spring festival in Kaiserslautern. I paid 3 Euro for ten chances to bounce a ping-pong ball towards a large display of beer steins and much to the proprieter's chagrin, ball #10 rattled home into a stein in the back of the top row. Now the proud owner of a limited edition Zoller & Born beer stein, the next logical step was to try it out. So after shouldering our way to a table near the band in the fest tent, Pam promptly received lessons for the proper hand and arm gestures for the music, something to do with cowboys, a lasso, and totem poles (hard to believe that its a German folk song).
We have had BBqs and dinners with friends, CPT Parrish, whose departure coincides with ours, will be having multiple parties before she leaves the active Army in favor of grad school at Georgetown, and we will be able to squeeze in Memorial day weekend at the Bodensee on the German, Austrian, Swiss border.
So while we may not complete the "Everything We Wanted to do in Europe" list, I'm sure that by the time we are wheels up for JFK we will have completed enough items to be satisfied with tucking the list away and calling it a win.
There was a lot of furor two weeks ago when a sucide bomber struck the front gate of Bagram Airbase while Vice-President Cheney was visiting. Most of the uproar was predictable about a resurgence of the Taliban, security lapses and so on. The truth about this incident is that it was an anomally. The Taliban do not have a base of support in the Bagram area and it is more likely than not a mere coincidence that the Vice-president happened to be there when the attack occured. Mr. Cheney was never in any danger and security was not breached, but what is being lost here as everyone grasps at straws as they attempt to validate their own point, is the sacrifices of those who perished.
PFC Daniel Zuzumbo was the U.S. soldier that was killed in this attack. He was a member of the 251st Cargo Transfer Company, a subordinate entity of my old unit, the 191st Ordnance Battalion.
I didn't know Daniel, he rotated to Afghanistan after I had returned to Germany and given the XO position. I didn't know Daniel, but I know that after serving 4 years in the Marines he struggled with civilian life in Chicago before joining the Army. I know that he was aware of the risks associated with his job and he accepted them. I know the job that he was doing in Afghanistan, and I have walked the ground where his life was taken from him, here where these children gather every day to talk to soldiers. I know that more than 20 other people died along with Daniel that day.
I know that Daniel was honered by thousands in Afghanistan as he began his final trip home. I know that he was honored by hundreds here in Germany in the chapel right across the road from where I work. I know that he was honored by thousands at home in Chicago.
I know that he was a hero. I know that he will be missed.
I would truly like to believe that our judicial system has not completely collapsed. I write this because it is one of the branches of government that is established in our constitution, the document that I have taken an oath to support and defend. If we were to judge solely on the basis of the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, I think we should be seriously concerned about the fairness and equitability that can be expected from juries of our peers.
I wasn't so much surprised that Mr. Libby was found guilty, I hadn't really followed the trial and I surmised that there were any number of facts that could have come out during its conduct that could point to his incontrovertible guilt but I was stunned at what I saw in the post trial press conference. Not the press conference by the defense attorney or even the prosecuting attorney but rather a juror. Did you get that? A press conference from a juror.
Mr. Denis Collins, juror #9 was apparently so overwhelmed by his sense of civic duty and sympathy for those in the press (his own former profession), that he took it upon himself to explain in nauseating detail the deliberative process of the jury.
I use the word nauseating here because this was such blatant display of pandering to the public eye by someone so desperate for their 15 minutes that you half-expected him to be accompanied by his publicist and agent.
There was feigned sympathy, a stated vow of the entire jury's political ambivalence, and a step-by-step account of the deliberative process that was supposed to lend credibility to the findings. In the midst of all this it seems that only two things were forgotten; facts and the law.
Mr. Collins stated that there were some very good managerial types on the jury who broke the whole process down into building blocks so that in the end all they had to do was look at a monstrous pile of Post-it notes and say "Hey, there it is." Of course at the same time he mentioned that the categories they used in evaluating Mr. Libby's guilt or innocence were "motivation to lie", "motivation to tell the truth", "believability", and "state of mind".
I would hate to think that if I were to find myself in a similar situation as Mr.Libby, the only thing that could separate me from a federal penitentiary would be the ability of 12 people who don't know me to subjectively determine what my frame of mind was 3 1/2 years prior. Here's a radical idea Denis; how about deciding guilt or innocence by facts?
I also understand that during the deliberations, the jury sent a note to the judge asking if one of the charges against Mr. Libby was "lying to a reporter". Talk about "believability". I wonder which one of the "really good managerial types" on the jury asked that brilliant question or even allowed it to be asked. What confidence it must give the new convicted felon that he now knows that his fate was decided by people who, a) weren't absolutely crystal clear on the crimes he was charged with and, b) possessed a collective mental capacity that believed lying to a reporter is even a crime, let alone a felony to be tried in federal court.
The whole thing comes together though when you learn that in spite of the jury's stated political ambivalence, Mr. Collins provided a 7,500 word account of the entire deliberation process within hours exclusively to "The Huffington Post".
So in the end, we have really good apolitical managerial types building a mountain of Post-it notes, idiotic questions being asked of the judge, a person spending the entire deliberation writing memoirs for instant publication by a liberal columnist, Mr. Libby apparently headed for federal prison, and the rest of us wondering what has truly happened to justice in our nation as it is provided for by the constitution.
After a 42 year wait, LTC(R) Bruce Crandall received the nation's highest honor last week when he was awardeed the Medal Of Honor for actions as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Then-Major Crandall's heroism was immortalized in the LTG(R) "Hal" Moore's classic book "We Were Solidiers Once...and Young" and later in the Mel Gibson movie of the same name.
I had the opportunity to see this ceremony broadcast live and it was moving to say the least. The tragedy is not so much that this took 42 years to accompllish, but that so few people even know that it occured. We have been able to see almost live updates of the Anna Nicole debacle and we are promptly informed every time Britanny Spears checks into and out of rehab, shaves her head, or "forgets" to don underwear, but Mention the name "Bruce Crandall" and you will get stares like you were doing card tricks for a dog.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised to find this article in the Wall Street Journal:
The Real American Idol
March 1, 2007; Page A12
Amid the mad jumble that makes the news in our time, the White House on Monday held a ceremony for a Medal of Honor recipient. His name is Bruce Crandall. Mr. Crandall is 74 now, and earned his medal as a major, flying a Huey helicopter in 1965 in the Vietnam War.
The Medal of Honor is conferred only for bravery in combat. It is a military medal, and it is still generally regarded as the highest public tribute this nation can bestow. It is also very rare.
Still, the Medal of Honor does not occupy the place in the nation's cultural life that it once did. This has much to do with the ambivalent place of the military in our angry politics.
In the House debate just ended on a "non-binding" resolution to thwart the sending of more troops to Iraq, its most noted element was the Democratic formulation to "support the troops" but oppose the war. We will hear more of this when the members of the Senate debate their own symbolic resolution.
In last November's congressional election, the Democrats picked several military veterans as candidates to mitigate the notion, a burden since Vietnam, that an endemic hostility toward things military runs through the party's veins. Those Democratic veterans won. Notwithstanding the bitter divide over Iraq, the presence of these veterans in Congress should be a good thing, if one thinks that the oft-publicized "divide" between the professional military and American civilians is not in this country's interest. It surely cannot be in the country's interest if over time more Americans come to regard the life of U.S. soldiers at war and in combat as an abstraction -- as say, mainly Oscar nominees or as newspaper photographs of scenes of utter loss at arms.
Two men have received the Medal of Honor for service in Iraq: Army Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, who died defending some 100 fellow soldiers, allowing their withdrawal; and Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who died after he dove atop a live grenade to protect his squad. (Cpl. Dunham's act was the subject of a 2004 Wall Street Journal story by reporter Michael M. Phillips and later a book, "The Gift of Valor.")
Bruce Crandall's Medal of Honor, at an emotional remove of 42 years, offers a chance to ponder just where the military stands now in the nation's life. The particulars of Lt. Col. Crandall's act of heroism, and what others said of it at the awarding of the medal on Monday, offers we civilians a chance to understand not merely the risks of combat but what animates those who embrace those risks.
Mr. Crandall, then a major, commanded a company with the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, carrying soldiers to a landing zone, called X-ray, in the la Drang Valley. An assault from the North Vietnamese army erupted, as described at the White House ceremony Monday. Three soldiers on Maj. Crandall's helicopter were killed. He kept it on the ground while four wounded were taken aboard. Back at base, he asked for a volunteer to return with him to X-ray. Capt. Ed Freeman came forward. Through smoke and bullets, they flew in and out 14 times, spent 14 hours in the air and used three helicopters. They evacuated 70 wounded. The battalion survived.
A Medal of Honor requires eyewitness accounts, and an officer there attested, "Maj. Crandall's actions were without question the most valorous I've observed of any helicopter pilot in Vietnam.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, spoke at the ceremony of what he called "the warrior ethos." Look at his words and consider whether they still stand today, or whether as a matter of the nation's broader ethos of commonly accepted beliefs, they are under challenge. Gen. Schoomaker said: "The words of the warrior ethos that we have today -- I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; and I will never leave a fallen comrade -- were made real that day in the la Drang Valley.
At issue today is the question: Is that ethos worth it, worth the inevitable sacrifice? And not only in Iraq but in whatever may lie beyond Iraq.
The secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, went on in this vein: "The courage and fortitude of America's soldiers in combat exemplified by these individuals is, without question, the highest level of human behavior. It demonstrates the basic goodness of mankind as well as the inherent kindness and patriotism of American soldiers."
An American soldier in combat demonstrates "the basic goodness of mankind"? And the highest level of human behavior? This was not thought to be true at the moment Maj. Crandall was flying those choppers in Vietnam. Nor is it now.
To embrace the thoughts of Gen. Schoomaker and of Secretary Harvey is to risk being accused of defending notions of American triumphalism and an overly strong martial spirit thought inappropriate to the realities of a multilateral world. This is a debate worth having. But we are not having it. We are hiding from it.
In a less doubtful culture, Maj. Crandall's magnificent medal would have been on every front page, if only a photograph. It was on no one's front page Tuesday. The New York Times, the culture's lodestar, had a photograph on its front page of President Bush addressing governors about an insurance plan. Maj. Crandall's Medal of Honor was on page 15, in a round-up, three lines from the bottom. Other big-city dailies also ran it in their news summaries; some -- the Washington Post, USA Today -- ran full accounts inside.
Most school children once knew the names of the nation's heroes in war -- Ethan Allen, John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, the Swamp Fox Francis Marion, Ulysses S. Grant, Clara Barton, Billy Mitchell, Alvin York, Lee Ann Hester. Lee Ann who? She's the first woman to win a Silver Star for direct combat with the enemy. Did it in a trench in Iraq. Her story should be in schools, but it won't be.
All nations celebrate personal icons, and ours now tend to be doers of good. That's fine. But if we suppress the martial feats of a Bruce Crandall, we distance ourselves further from our military. And in time, we will change. At some risk.
While it is impossible to do now because of the ongoing Congessional debacle over the President's troop surge, I hope that at somepoint in the not to distant future we can begin to embrace our soldiers and all those who have placed them selves in harms way at the call of our nation. I hope that we can collectively honor them for their bravery and sacrfice without worrying that we are sending the wrong message to a politically correct world. I hope that we stop running from the debate.
Okay, so I know I've been AWOL from the blogosphere for an intolerable amount of time but I 've had good reason...really...okay not so good, and not really "reason" as much as "excuse" and since it's not so good, I won't insult you by giving you a bad one.
My duties in Germany are, for all intents and purposes, complete. I have orders to Saint John's University in my hot little hands and we are busily preparing to (in Army slang) un-ass the AO. We will take off for Colorado on leave next week where we will help Mollie and Al clean out the house in Springs as they head for the Azores, then we drive to NY. After spending a few weeks house hunting and familiarizing we're off to Virgina for a couple weeks of school then back to Germany at the end or April. We'll be back here just long enough to see all our stuff get packed up, sweep out the house and say "Auf Wiedersen" before landing back in NY to report by the 1st of June.
Most people refer to leaving an assignment as "bittersweet" and while that may just be pandering to political correctness for the sake of those assembled, I have to honestly say that our leaving Deutschland will be much more sweet than bitter. There are certainly things that we love about Germany and a lot of great people that we've known here, but the last 3 1/2 years have been so turbulent and demanding that we will be glad to see it in the proverbial rear-view mirror.
To put things in perspective; during the first 14 years of my Army career, my most exotic TDY locations were Fort Chaffe, Arkansas; Fort Monmouth, NJ; and Fort Lewis, Washington. I never once left the country.
During the last 1,200 days I have been through 17 countries on 3 different continents, been shot at 6 different times, earned 1 badge and 4 different medals, celebrated Christmas mass in 4 different countries and been separated from Pam for 425 days.
Enough. It's time to trade the solitude and silence of the German village for the hustle and bustle of New York, the surliness of soldiers for the enthusiasim of cadets, and the suffocating bureaucracy of a command headquarters for the enlightened elitism of academia.
With that in mind, it is time to start closing down this blog. I still have a few more posts that I will make here regarding recent happenings, but I have opened a new blog, Red Storm Rising, (St. John's "mascot" is the Red Storm...see...it's a blatant rip-off of Tom Clancy for sake of a cute little play on words there) which will be more appropriate for our continued adventures in the Big Apple.
Thank you all for your support over these past many months and I hope to hear from you there.
After two weeks in Germany completing the mandatory reintegration tasks and various administrative functions I found myself at Frankfurt International Airport waiting for the 10 hour non-stop flight that would take me to Denver and finally re-unify me with the other half of my soul.
Scanning the departure board for my flight I was suddenly struck by one of the many stark differences between the civilized world and the war zone. In contrast to the past 14 months of fighting, bartering with, and coniving the Air Force for rare seats on flights from Purgatory to Hades which may or may not depart at the whim of the flight crew, I was overwhlemed by the steadily clicking board indicating dozens of flights departing frequently and punctually to Rome, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, and other destinations all over the world. I thought about how I had whisked over the 100 or so kilometers of autobahn to the airport in a under an hour and recalled how we had waited days for Jingle trucks to struggle over Afghan roads for the same distance. It occured to me that it hadn't been so much a geographical move of a few thousand miles that I had undertaken in early February as an advancement through time of a few centuries.
Even in the 21st century world of civilian aviation, our Lufthansa 747 didn't depart as scheduled, but the time was made up enroute and we slid on to the DIA's runway as scheduled 9 hours later. After waiting what seemed a veritable eternity for my lone checked bag to materialize, I made my way to the customs agent.
"What countries have you visited since leaving the U.S. on this trip?" asked the agent without looking up.
I wanted to laugh.
"Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, and Germany."
The agent peered up at me over her glasses
I displayed my ID card.
"Welcome Home." she said with a smile handing back my passport.
When I finally stepped through the doors to the terminal, I was promptly charged by Max with Pam only a step behind where hugs, kisses and tears that had been reserved for 7 months finally poured out.
When we could finally move again, we walked only a few feet more into the terminal where cheers erupted from my immediate and extended family who had seemingly occupied the entire north end of DIA by force with flags and banners. Two Denver PD officers were drawn by the commotion and started asking a couple of questions only to find that one of these men in blue had been one of my instructors while I was a ROTC cadet back in college. The retirement lifestyle had not agreed with the old Master Sergeant and after a short stint with the Sheriff's department had convinced DPD that his talents were being wasted and has been wearing that uniform ever since. Quite a feat seeing that I graduated college in the 80's.
There was a quick dinner with the family at the Cherry Cricket so I could remember what a smothered green chile burrito is supposed to taste like, then finally back home.
The days since have been filled with wedding plans, train rides to and from Glenwood Springs, hockey games, and a lot of doing nothing.
During one of these moments of doing nothing when Pam and I were sitting on the front porch watching the sun set over Pikes Peak she suddenly asked me if I had ever been afraid. The answer; the honest answer; was 'yes', but not when someone looking from the outside might have thought. The fear hadn't come when riding in Blackhawks or Chinooks over inhospitable terrain, or when crouched in concrete bunkers with rockets exploding around us. I remember that I genuinely felt the cold touch of fear on my heart while staring into the absolute blackness of a Salerno night and realizing that that darkness held people close at hand that wanted to kill me. Having grown up in the security of America's borders, this thought had been only an abstraction to me as I'm sure it is to most Americans.
I had thought back to another night nearly 4 years earlier when I had felt fear of what the darkness held. I had watched the horrific events of September 11th on the large screen TVs at the Merrill Lynch Campus in South Denver and had felt the same shock, horror, and disbelief that each of us did. Driving home that night though, I had crested the top of an exit ramp on the far eastern edge of the Denver metropolitan sprawl when I had been struck by the absoluteness of the dark. From where I sat that night, I should have seen the lights of dozens of planes either landing or departing from DIA but instead there was just the suffocating blackness of an empty sky. It was the first tangible evidence that I had seen of that day's events and I had been horrified at what the darkness held.
So now as I find myself in a supermarket aisle standing in awe of the hundreds of choices of deodorant or cereal that I have, my mind drifts back to thoughts of Afghan children selling trinkets outside the Bagram gate or of throwing bundles of supplies to beleagured families in the mountains of Pakistan and I realize how fortunate I am.
It is not though, until I think of the my comrades still half a world away standing in an absolute blackness that holds people close at hand who wish them harm; knowing that they continue to stand there so that you and I may never again share that feeling here at home, that I realize how truly blessed I am.
Finally back in Germany. After loading the plane, which the Air Force made a 6 hour process of, we flew for 7 hours finally hitting the ground at 8:30 P.M. German time on Monday. The obligatory handshake with the General getting off the plane was followed by the customs inspection then meeting with the unit reps where after a year of carrying it around, I was disencumbered of my 9mm. There was a reception at Rhine Ordnance Barracks where the families would finally get to see their long lost spouses and parents, but with Pam still waiting for me in Colorado for a couple of weeks, I opted to secure a ride straight from Ramstein to the house where, God bless them, our landlords had turned on the heat, and stocked the fridge with a few morsels and some beer.
Recently CNN showed an insurgent video of the sniper killing of an American soldier in Iraq. The decision by CNN to air the film on national television was beyond bad judgement. Our anger turned to outrage when we found out the victim was 2nd Lt. Joshua Booth from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines. Not only are his pregnant wife, child, and parents forced to come to terms with the death of this twenty-three year old Marine, but they now know his final moments and violent death has been gratuitously aired for the world to witness. Bobbye and I know the video could easily have been of Daniel or any number of Marines we have come to know, since the killing took place in Haditha, Iraq.
I found CNN's explanation proved to be bland and devoid of substance. There are any number of guesses as to why CNN chose to air the insurgent video; however, in my judgement, none are of overriding value. I am further distressed the video has not been discussed and editorialized to any degree in the mainstream press.
I cannot imagine the WWII press airing footage sent to them by Nazi Germany or the Imperial Japanese Army depicting the killing of American soldiers in Europe or Marines on Iwo Jima. I've always believed the media's support for the troops never went much beyond ratings and their financial bottom line. 2nd Lieutenant Booth's killing, now aired on a world stage, reinforces my opinion.
I would ask everyone to consider making a conscious decision to boycott CNN in protest and avail yourselves of another national news source. Further, I would ask you to forward this email to friends and relatives for their consideration.
I thought of calling this post "Farewell to the Trinity" but I realized I already have a post by that name when 3/3 Marines left Salerno in June last year.
This is not about that Trinity, or even the Holy trinity, but of the other Trinity, Captains Burt, Giera, and Parrish who were 3 of my staff officers throughout the Afghanistan deployment. The other major component of the staff was Captain Mahoney who was the S-3 or simply the "3". SInce Tucker has already left Germany and is currently making his way through the Career Course in Ft. Lee, VA; this is not about the "3" but the "Three"
Two of the "Three" are making their way out of Germany in search of new adventures and I can't help feeling that we have reached the end of an era. Captain Burt will join Tucker at the Career Course before going to better things, maybe in the Army, maybe not. Captain Giera is leaving the Army in favor of a law enforcement job in North Carolina but with one foot inthe Army through the Reserves, we probably haven't heard the last of her either.
What follows is something I threw together for their farewell luncheon the other day:
Unsure of what I’d hear when I stepped through the door
Of my new BC’s office on this eve of war.
Said Langowski to the XO here is your team.
Please don’t worry, they’re not as surly as they seem.
A Captain as a 3 was not meant to be for he was now a Major
And can be of more use in counting containers
A Lieutenant as a 3? How will we get on?
Ah, no worries Ferris Beuhler is made of Teflon.
But this ode is not of that 3 but of those 3
It makes a more interesting story you see.
Your 1 is a star, he said, she smiles all the time,
And assumes all the taskings without whimper or whine.
She’s my number 2 Lieutenant, who could ask for more?
In fact she’s so good, she’s also your 4
Your 2 has potential, for excellence she’ll strive
Given the time she may even learn how to drive.
I fret for the rear so PBUSE must stay
Lest MAJ Roose give all my property away
So downrange for property who else could it be,
Only the third member of the Lieutenant Trinity.
She need only learn PBUSE and the property book ways
She has plenty of time, an entire 3 days.
So off they fly with a mighty whoosh
To transform the land of the Hindu-Kush
Salerno’s not nearly as bad as it seems,
There’s always the bazaar and espresso at the Green Bean
Then the rockets explode with a thunderous roar
So we grab our gear and head for the door
We must have our people we lack only three
Damn those Lieutenants, where the hell could they be?
“We were on a mission of great importance it seems
Swirling green tea with our friend Noor Amin.”
3 months in Salerno and their mission is done
So it’s off to Bagram in search of more fun.
Much of that year now is now lost in a haze
Wondering how those 3 passed their days
The PBO says sir my 1 block you must erase
Though I have not failed my mission, I’ve signed for half the base.
My judgment has been questioned and my career now doomed
For my poor choice in clothing for my Halloween costume.
The S2 says these MP’s are incompetent you see,
Armed only with my knives, I’ll find the detainees
And the 1 keeps smiling irregardless of what’s said
And boldly wades in where Angel fears to tread.
After only a year the Trinity is done
We must go back home for BAF has no more fun.
We came and we worked and have been all we could be
Suffering under TJ, and Dad, and of course STG.
So back to Germany the Triplets fly
Where they meet their friends and all hug and cry
While all good things must end, and these things must be,
Though two are now leaving they are forever the Trinity.
Best of Luck to Kristin and Trish, they will be stars in whatever they decide to do.
So we've known for a while that I was going to get promoted, but it's always a long, painful, drawn-out process. First you get selected, then you get a sequence number. Then every month the Army announces what sequence numbers will be promoted. Then you have to actually do the promotion ceremony.
First it was announced that there would be no promotions until October 1st, the beginning of the new fiscal year. Then in September, it was announced that there would be no promotions in October since the list hadn't been confirmed by senate.
Then suddenly on Monday, it was announced that senate had confirmed the promotions as of last Friday and that I was effectively a Lieutenant Colonel as of the 30th of September. Then we had to wait on orders which finally came this morning, then you have to round everyone up and do the actual ceeremony.
At last, all is complete. at 3:00 P.M. this afternoon, Pam ripped the gold oak leaf off my uniform puncehd me in the chest pinning the black leaf on.
And the winner is........St. John's University!!!!
We received word today that I have been selected as the new Professor of Military Science for St. John's University in (wait for it).....Queens, New York.
Considering that the selection rate to become a Professor of Military Science at all was 15% (51 selected out of more than 300 applicants) we are very excited to know that we will be coming to America in true Eddie Murphy fashion.
More to follow.....
In our constant effort to keep our minds averted from the fact that our fate, future assignment, and our location for the next 3 years is dangling tediously with the Army's Professor of Military Science board in Washington, we decided to vacate the area and occupy our minds elsewhere.
As we are entering the wine fest season here in Germany, we took a look a the local paper and found all the villages that were showing wine fests this weekend, plotted them on the GPS and did our best imitation of the movie "Sideways" travelling from winerey to winery along the Deutsch Wein Strasse.
Starting in the south and moving north along the Rhein river, we stopped at no less than 6 wineries tasting their various offering and buying the ones that tickled our fancy. By 3 P.M. we had enough bottles to fill our new winerack but that didn't keep us from stopping at the vineyard owner who was plying his wares in front of his neatly ordered rows of grapes in a stand next to the road.
Brian and Pam: Guten Tag
Herr Boos (I swear that's his name): Guten tag
Brian and Pam: Ich Sprechen Kein Deutsch (I speak no German)
Herr Boos: Nicht? (None?)
Brian and Pam: Nicht.
Herr Boos gesturing to his wares: Probe? (taste)
Brian and Pam pointing to a particular bottle: Ja Bidde (Yes Please)
Herr Boos continuing to speak in German: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Kaisersluatern, blah, blah, blah. (This is a particularly vile wine that we just we just squished with our dirty feet this morning. It contains leaves, stems, seeds, and a few rat turds, but you will taste it and buy a few bottle, take it back to Kaiserslautern and drink it because you know less than my dog about choosing wine.)
Brian and Pam: Ja, Ja. Is Gut. Ich Mochte Zwei das, und Zwei das, und Eins das. (Yes, Yes, it's good. I'd like two of these, two of these, and one of these.)
And off we go further down the wine strasse.
Ok, that might not be exactly what Herr Boos said, in fact the wine was very good.
So we eventually found ourselves at a wine fest in Bad Durkheim linked arm in arm with more Germans that spoke no English, weaving back and forth to the soudn of German folksongs.
All in all, it was a good trip "Sideways" through Deutschland.
Well, I suppose it's time that I startied writing again.
Pam and I have been back in Germany since April now, and it's been an experience of extremes. This seems to be a place that you alternately love and hate or even sometime simultaneously. There seems to be no middle ground. We love our house, but the neighbors are psychotic. The weather went from 2 solid weeks of rain to 3 solid weeks of intense heat then back to rain. We're ready to leave, but we want to stay.
We did get to experience the World Cup here in Germany, an experience to remember, culminated by a trip downtown where we joined tens of thousands of fans watching Germany take on Portugal for 3rd place. Truly an experience to remember.
We have a number of things we are looking forward to in the next few months:
- I have submitted all the applications to compete for a Professor of Military Science position beginning next summer. The board meets near the end of this month with the results expected by the 1st of September. We're waiting on pins and needles for this one as it will hopefully tell us where we will be for the next 3 years.
- Simon and Schuster is set to release "The Blog of War" on September 5th. Several of the posts from this blog are included in that book and we are looking forward to seeing them in print. More importantly, most of the proceeds are being donated to the Fisher House. Please take a few few minutes to order your copies. They are very compelling stories, the nature of which you will not find in any other format and the proceeds will be doing worlds of good.
- We received word last month that I had been selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and with any luck should be able to pin on the silver oak leaves by October.
So now I find myself back at the 21st Theater Support Command working the same job I was before my diversion to the 191st and Afghanistan. it seems a little surreal now to think of all that has happened over the past 18 months and while the memories and heartache fade with time, I find myself making a concerted effort to keep them as a constant companion and reminder of our other comrades who are still there or headed that way. Our Son in Law Alan is toughing out his last couple of months in Baghdad, as is Brian Moore who I worked with at 21st before. My buddy Scott from the unit in Colorado Springs is set to head back that way soon, and Lance Corporal Daniel Wiesen who was with us in Salerno last year is now finishing up a subsequent tour to Haditha, Iraq.
These are just the ones that spring to mind immediately, but the chartered DC-10s that regularly fly overhead on their way in and out of Ramstein serve as constant reminders that there are still many of our comrades far from home and in harm's way who require our daily prayers.
This is a comment that was posted to the other Firepower Forward blog by Rev.(???) Dean Berry
BE A MAN AND LEAVE THIS POST INTACT.JESUS CHRIST HAS REMOVED HIS BLESSING FROM AMERICA BECAUSE OF YOU AMERINAZIS. YOU CAN’T MURDER PEOPLE TO STEAL THEIR OIL, THEN LIE ABOUT IT! YOU DON’T THINK YOU’RE GOING TO HELL FOR THAT?http://www.deanberryministries.org/index3.html
Well, God Bless Dean Berry and his demonstrative abilities in showing that the 1st amendment applies to all Americans regardless of political viewpoint, Messianic Complex, historical ignorance, or mental capacity.
Rest assured Mr. Berry that I would never remove your comment from my blog. This is not because I have any concerns about my manhood. Nor is it only because I truly do believe in free speech and consequently have never removed any comments (spammers withstanding). It is also because I find it entertaining to know that your lunatical ravings do more to promote a conservative agenda than I ever could.
There are not enough hours in the day to point out all the falsehoods, misinterpretations, and misguided points of view in the website that you referred my readers to, nor would I care to attempt to engage you in a battle of wits since I do not believe in fighting the unarmed.
I will leave you with this though, and I write this only because I care, but your repeated questioning of the manhoods of those who may disagree with you leads readers to believe that it's a reflective behavior masking your own insecurities. There are prescriptions and therapies that can help.
P.S. There's no oil in Afghanistan
I had a little while to work on this toast that I gave at Mollie and Al's wedding.
"First, I'd like to thank everyone for coming today, I know it means a lot to Mollie and Al, and it certainly means a lot to us that you would take the time and effort to be here to share this occasion with us today.
I don't want to steal any of the best man's thunder here but I've got a couple of things to say. I asked Mollie and she said it would be okay so..well I didn't really ask her, I just told her I was going to do it and she was alright with it..which was kind of a moot point because I was going to do it anyway.
A couple of months ago when Mollie asked me if I would walk her down the aisle along with her father I said 'Sure, I'd be honered.', and I didn't give it a second thought. A little while later though, I mentioned it to one of my staff officers and she said 'I don't know Sir, that sounds a little, well, gay.'
I said 'Gay, what are you talking about?'
She said 'Well, think about it Sir, 'My name's Mollie, and these are my two dads. This is my biological dad, and this is my other dad.'
Well thank you so much for that image, but when you put it that way it does sound a little gay. So, Gary, if you're getting any strange looks around here Big Guy, that's probably why. But, I said I would do it so at the risk of having my hetrosexuality called into question, I did this for you.
Seriously, I was honered to walk Mollie down the Aisle today along with her father, and I'll tell you why. You see, about ten years ago, I found myself in what Dante described as the 'dark wood, the true path having been lost.' Regardless of anything else I had done, I had been an absolute failure as both a husband and a father. I was making my way through life day to day without any inspiration or motivation. Then one day, I came home, and there sitting on the front porch was my redemption.
That's been 10 years Pam. It's been a long road from there to here, and that journey has brought us so many wonderful times that we have been ecstatic to share with those around us, like today. It has also brought us some extremely difficult times that we have had to lean on each other very heavily to get through, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I call Pam my redemption because she gave me the second opportunity to be a good husband, and I tahnk God every day for that and for her.
Now Mollie knew this, and she was determined to make me earn this title of "Good Parent". She managed to squeeze enough parent/child anxiety and drama to last a lifetime into a few short years. Now I know that all of you are looking at her right now and thinking 'She looks like a princess, what kind of drama could she possibly cause?' I knew that you would think that, so I brought along these index cards with some examples. Here's the time that Mollie wrecked her car on the way to work. Here's the time that she wrecked her car on the way home from work, quite a feat since she only lived two blocks from work. Here's something about a rocking chair, and...this is going to take too long so I'll just leave these cards up here and you can go through them on your own.
Seriously, I was honered to do this for her today because I know that when Mollie asked me, she was telling me that I had indeed earned that title of 'good parent'.
Now I would like to stand here and wish for Mollie and Al that all good things in life fall at your feet and that joy and happiness folow you for the rest of your days, but I'm not going to because it doesn't happen that way. It's work, a lot of hard work, and it's even harder when your in the military which as of today, you both are.
What I will wish for you though is the challenge to grow a little closer together each day, and to find new ways to love each other every day. I will wish you the opportunity to one day, years from now, look at each other and realize that when you first saw each other you were looking at true love.
So if you will raise your glasses with me, to Mollie and Al, to challenges and opportunities, and to true love."
So where were we before being so rudely interrupted? It seems for the first time that we have changed while the world around us has remained relatively the same instead of the other way around. While a few new stores and restaurants have popped up around our home in Colorado Springs since I was last here, the place still looks virtually as I remembered it over the past year in Purgatory. While the environment has remained constant my perspective seems to have changed. It doesn't seem to bother me when someone cuts me off in traffic or the overworked and underpaid waitress forgets to bring the hash browns. There are more important things in life worthy of indignation. Even the simple treat of being able to look at the mountains through clear air rather than the dust and smoke of Bagram is enough to bring a smile.
Today is our last day in Colorado for a while as we will soon be headed to DIA for a non-stop to Frankfurt this afternoon. The month has gone by so fast. There have been days and evenings with the neighbors and family, trips to the mountains, Colorado Avalanche game, and hundreds of other normal activities that I just can't take for granted any longer. The highlight of the trip though was the wedding.
On Friday, March 17th, St. Patrick'sricks Day, our daughter Mollie married her fiance Alan at the Peterson Air Force Base Chapel. It was a fairy tale wedding that seemed to go Without flaw with my father conducting the ceremony and friends and family from all over the country in attendance. The reception at the Officer's Club was then followed by a Hooley (a loud and boisterous Irish party) at the house which was an overwhelming success. While there was a decidedly unfortunate turn of events a few days later, it was a flawless day that was the crown jewel of our time at home.
So soon it will be back to work and all the routine tasks that we seem to fill our days with, but while the train of life keeps rolling down the track with unvarying speed, we certainly seem to be enjoying the view more.