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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Nuclear submarine runs aground near Guam

Several sailors injured; no damage to reactor plant reported


My Two Cents..Why I Love a Man in Uniform

Why I love a Man in Uniform

From the way people say it, you’d think it was just one of those guaranteed things in life. The sun comes up in the morning, grass is green, and women love a man in uniform. Somewhere along the line, women just developed this affinity for fighting men. I don’t profess to know what lies in the depths of our evolutionary process, but I do know why I love them. And of course now, like never before, there are women in uniform. And I love them too. The reasons seem obvious to me, but, sadly are so often overlooked as to leave me dumbfounded. Allow me to explain…

I love them because they are brave.

They stand in front of enemies I will never have to face, and say “This is the line. You go no further than here.” They face untold challenges and trials, and keep doing their jobs. They face gunfire, and mortars, and minefields, and RPG fire, and IEDs, and still they are there.

I love them because they have honor.

They say “Ma’am” and “Sir.” They salute their superiors. Even in the horror of war, they do not sink to the level of the enemy. They do not drive bombs loaded with explosives into crowded markets. They do not fly planes full of innocent people into buildings. They do not drag bodies through the streets. In fact, they try to save a wounded enemy’s life as zealously as they would a comrade’s. They wear the flag of the United States of America with pride, and take seriously their status as representatives and protectors of our country.

I love them because they are ordinary, and yet so extraordinary; they are heroes. They are the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers of everyday people like me. And yet, they charge up hills, single-handedly killing snipers, silencing machine gun nests, and capturing enemy positions (2nd Lt. Ernest Childers, US Army, Oliveto, Italy, 1943). They voluntarily go into almost certain death to protect wounded comrades (Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, and Sgt. First Class Randall Shughart, US Army, Mogadishu, Somalia 1993). They show the enemy that they would rather die than give in, thereby inspiring other POW’s, and convincing their captors to become more civilized in their treatment (Then-Captain James B. Stockdale, US Navy, Vietnam, 1969). They steer vulnerable boats through blistering enemy fire to rescue Marines pinned down on a beach (Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, USCG, Guadalcanal, 1942). They race through enemy terrain to save a wounded fellow soldier, shield him from grenades, and literally take a bullet for him (Pvt. 1st Class Oscar P. Austin, USMC, Vietnam, 1969). They make me believe that even I could make a difference.

There is something that happens to an ordinary person when they become a member of our Armed forces. They become a protector, a role model, a hero. And yes, there are occasions when that mortality, that inherent weakness of all humans, is visible. There are unpleasant incidents that occur so rarely as to be shocking, judged through the lens of haughty superiority so unfortunately common to those of us who will never understand what it means to be in the middle of combat. They are vilified for occasionally reacting to what the critics will never have to face, and yet, almost universally, they say nothing. Despite the cries of “baby killer” and “criminal,” and all the other darts thrown, they say nothing to return the enmity, nothing to return the caustic criticism of their outraged countrymen. Inexplicably, they continue to fight for our right to greet their efforts with disdain and hatred. I love them because even in the worst of circumstances, they remain Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

I believe that they deserve gratitude, as well as latitude. I believe that they deserve our love, and the good judgment to keep our mouths firmly clamped shut when there is opportunity to give harsh commentary on something we will never understand. I believe that when they cross the line, they deserve to be judged by those who do understand, not taunted and demonized by those who never will. I believe that they deserve parades and celebration when they return from war, and when they return from peacetime activity. I believe they deserve yellow ribbons carefully tied around trees, letters and packages sent from people they don’t know through groups formed solely to support them. I believe they deserve signs in windows, on cars, on billboards, proclaiming our pride in each and every one of them. I believe that they have bought this with their blood, the sacrifice of life, and limb, the forfeiture of years meant to be spent watching children grow up and holidays meant to be spent with family. I believe we owe them more than we will ever be able to repay, but that we all have a duty to try. I believe we have an obligation to say “Thank You,” at least once, in whatever way we choose.

And whatever branch they are in, wherever they serve, whoever they are, I love them. They are the best of us. They are the reason we remain free, the reason we sleep without fear of invasion. They are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

And let’s face it; they do look darned good in those uniforms…

You're welcome to reprint or repost this; please just credit it as mine. PCK

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Saying goodbye with dignity, respect, pride

From the October 2, 2004 issue of The Scimitar

Commentary by Master Sgt. Robert Branham
BALAD, Iraq – Somewhere in America a family member was waiting for a relative who was returning home. He was returning early, having served his profession with pride and excellence.

We wouldn’t be there to honor his arrival, but we were here to see him off with respect and dignity. His title and the title of thousands of his like-minded brothers and sisters, was specialist. For their profession is to defend the United States of America.

The Soldiers of his unit and the Airmen of ours stood at attention, in a cordon of desert camouflage uniforms, as six of his unit’s young men stood ready to carry their brother to his place on the start of his journey home. Just before they began their solemn march, we were ordered to present arms, and for three seconds our right arms were slowly raised to touch the corner of our eyes. As the detail passed we held our salute, honoring our comrade in arms and the Stars and Stripes. We held our salute until he was secured in his place of honor, then after the first sergeant’s command, we slowly brought our arms to our side.

Still at attention, with eyes straight ahead, I could observe several faces with trails of tears, men and women alike, young and old. For we had lost one of our own, one who put service before self.

Next, the Army chaplain marched between our columns to join his troop on the plane. Only then were we released from formation, but were told we could march onto the plane for the chaplain’s comments. No one walked away. Every member of the formation joined together, side by side, until there was no room to stand inside the plane. The others stood respectfully just outside the plane’s rear entrance, as the chaplain recited the 23rd Psalm before he said a prayer for our departing brother and for his family.

Slowly we left the plane so the specialist could begin the journey home. As I looked back into the cargo bay, I saw something I will never forget. Members of his unit saluted the flag on their own; some touched it respectfully. One soldier leaned over and put his forehead briefly next to the stars, as if putting his forehead on his brother’s forehead.

As our Air force members slowly left the area, the Army again fell into formation. They stood at attention as the plane rolled away.

Yes, somewhere someone was waiting for this loved one’s final journey home. We wish he hadn’t left early. We gave him a final salute with heartfelt pride and professional excellence. His sacrifice to duty, honor, and country demanded we offer no less. We are the profession of arms. All of us made a commitment to serve. Most of us make some sacrifice while in service. Some make the ultimate sacrifice.

Editor’s note: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Branham is assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron in Balad, Iraq.

San Marino Tribune - serving San Marino, CA

San Marino Area News & Information

Pasadena Resident Honored for “Soldiers’ Angels”

By Alex Burrola, Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES - At this week’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Patty Patton-Bader was honored by Fifth District Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich for her work in bringing some relief and a little bit of home to U.S. troops serving overseas in places like Afghanistan.

Patton-Bader knows firsthand the trials of American servicemen and women, her son Brandon is a sergeant in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq, as is her brother who saw action in Afghanistan before also being deployed to Iraq. Her sister is also in Germany along with her Army husband.

And, as her name might hint at, Patton-Bader is a descendant of famed World War II figure General George S. Patton, Jr. Her father, retired Lieutenant Colonel David Patton, is a nephew of the legendary Third Army commander.

Explaining the genesis of the group, Patton-Bader explains “I was sending six or seven care packages over there a week, and my son called and said to me, ‘It’s great mom, but you know, there are a lot of guys here who don’t get mail’, and that started it all”.

She got the ball rolling with her website, and with the help of her father and others, began a massive effort for sending care packages and other necessities.

“We were sending backpacks and handmade blankets to wounded servicemen with tags on them that said ‘Dear Wounded Hero” and had a little note. Those were greatly received. It’s all to tell them that we care”.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting in Downtown Los Angeles, Supervisor Antonovich praised Patton-Bader and her fellow volunteers for their “mission to provide aide and comfort to any of the Armed Forces and their families who are in need”.

“The Soldiers’ Angels slogan, ‘May No Soldier Go Unloved’ describes the motivation behind the organization - to bring home healthy soldiers. Many thanks to Soldiers’ Angels for its committment and dedication to our troops”.

“It felt good to be recognized like that”, Patton-Bader said of the presentation. “We were so excited we couldn’t stand it. Great experience”.

Patton-Bader hopes anyone who can will help out by “adopting a soldier to write letters to and send care packages, sewing blankets, helping out families here at home”, she suggests.

To learn more about Soldiers’ Angels, call them at 626-398-3131, or go to on the Internet.

San Marino Tribune - serving San Marino, CA

An Angel Reflects on the Tsunami

Anger at the Sea

Ah, Little Boy
so all alone,
no more parents,
no more home.........
lost at the edge
of the roiling sea
throwing stones
as mad as can be
Oh, little Boy
in your anger and pain
you punish the ocean
again and again
You hate the sea
that you used to adore
It won't be the same
no, not any more.
Christina 1-6-05
For the Victims of the Tsunami
Lieutenant Shawn Harris of USS Shoup from San Diego, California carries an injured tsunami victim as they arrive at the Banda Aceh airport January 6, 2005. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

In Today's News - Saturday, January 8, 2005 Associated Press
Tsunami death toll rises above 150,000
Two weeks after a tsunami slammed into coastlines around the Indian Ocean, thousands of bodies were still being pulled out of the mud in remote villages, as the official death toll from the catastrophe rose above 150,000.

Militants kidnap 3 senior Iraqi officials
Militants abducted three senior Iraqi officials, beheaded a man who worked for the U.S. military and killed at least four others, officials said Saturday, a day after a U.S. general warned that insurgents may be planning "horrific" attacks ahead of Jan. 30 elections.

Army sergeant acquitted of manslaughter
An Army sergeant was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in the alleged drowning of Iraqi civilian, but convicted of assault for forcing the man and his cousin into the Tigris River for violating curfew.

Int'l observers tour Mideast roadblocks
International observers toured army roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Saturday, and Palestinian officials complained Israel wasn't fully complying with promises to ease travel restrictions ahead of presidential elections to replace the late Yasser Arafat.

U.S. nuclear submarine runs aground
A nuclear submarine ran aground about 350 miles south of Guam, injuring several sailors, one of them critically, the Navy said.

Weather information provided by HamWeather

Iraq, Baghdad

Ananova: War In Iraq
Militants Kidnap 3 Senior Iraqi Officials
Militants abducted three senior Iraqi officials, beheaded a man who worked for the U.S. military and killed at least four others, officials said Saturday, a day after a U.S. general warned that insurgents may be planning "horrific" attacks ahead of Jan. 30 elections. Iraq

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq
Sudan hopes peace deal ends Darfur crisis
Sudan officially ends its two-decade southern civil war on Sunday with the signing of a peace deal. Amid the jubilation lies the hope that ending one war may spark a solution to the country's second - in western Darfur, where an equally brutal conflict has led to a massive humanitarian crisis. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq

Tsunami donation scam warning
People donating to the Tsunami relief effort are being targeted by bogus collectors trying to cash in on the disaster or spread computer viruses, crime experts have warned.

Disaster aid held up by VIP visits
The steady stream of dignitaries flying in to visit the tsunami-devastated coast of Indonesia's Aceh province is clogging the region's tiny main airport and slowing down critical aid deliveries, say humanitarian workers.

BBC: Conflict with Iraq
US hails arrest of Iraq militant
US forces announce the arrest in Mosul of a militant allegedly linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. BBC: Conflict with Iraq

Yahoo! News: War with Iraq
Army selects jury for GI's abuse trial
A jury of 10 soldiers was seated Friday to hear the court-martial of Army Spec. Charles Graner, the accused ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal who contends he was only following orders when he allegedly mistreated Iraqi detainees. Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Army Sergeant Acquitted of Manslaughter
An Army sergeant was acquitted Friday of involuntary manslaughter in the alleged drowning of an Iraqi civilian who was forced into the Tigris River by U.S. soldiers for violating curfew. The jury, however, convicted Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Perkins, 33, of assault in the January 2004 incident. Yahoo! News: War with Iraq

Militants kidnap three Iraq officials
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Militants abducted three senior Iraqi officials, beheaded a man who worked for the U.S. military and killed at least four others, officials said Saturday, a day after a U.S. general warned that insurgents may be planning "horrific" attacks ahead of Jan. 30 elections.Meanwhile, Shiite and Sunni religious leaders voiced sharply divergent views on whether the vote should be held at all. Fresno Bee: Iraq

Jury weighs Iraq punishment...Tsunami relief...More bad weather hits West Iraq & Terror

U.S. Soldiers, Marines Provide Humanitarian Assistance

American Forces Press Service

CAMP RAMADI, Iraq, Jan. 5, 2005 -- Marines and soldiers started the new year distributing humanitarian supplies to needy residents of a local community, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported today.

The troops were from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, serving under the command of the 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

The 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, along with Detachment 3, 4th Civil Affairs Group, delivered blankets, food and shoes to residents of the small Kurdish town of Taash, southwest of Ramadi, Jan. 2.

"This is an important mission for our soldiers and the Iraqi people," said Col. Gary S. Patton, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "We are in Iraq to not only secure the area from hostile, violent insurgents, but also to try to make innocent Iraqi lives better."

During the operation, members of the brigade passed out more than 9,500 humanitarian daily rations, 4,500 blankets and more than 3,000 pairs of shoes to more than 400 households. In all, the daylong mission served to improve the lives of more than 4,000 people.

"Where we see a need, we try to fill that need," said Marine Lt. Col. Daniel Murner, commander of Detachment 3. "Here we saw some people who definitely needed some food and blankets over the winter months.

"Each family received two boxes of rations and five to 10 blankets, Murner said. Shoes were left behind for the residents to sort through and find pairs that fit them. Children also received hundreds of soccer balls, candy and other items during the mission.

Village leaders were pleased, Murner said, noting that gaining and maintaining positive relationships with the local populace is key to establishing a more safe and secure environment in Iraq.

"They were very happy we came down there to help these people," he said. "Village leaders were helpful to the mission because they were quickly enlisted to help organize the residents and help establish order."

Taash is an Iranian Kurd refugee camp built by the United Nations in 1982. Refugees are mostly political refugees who are unemployed. There is no industry in the area, so the community relies on humanitarian aid for its survival.

In addition to the humanitarian supply mission, the units are working on longer-term community improvement projects, such as a local health clinic and an improvement on the local water pumping station.

"(We want to show the local population that) multinational forces are not here to impose our will on them," Murner said. "We are here to improve their living conditions." from

Rescue Unit Puts Training to Work in Iraq

By Jason Chudy, Stars and StripesMideast edition, Thursday, January 6, 2005

BAGHDAD — Soldiers of the Camp Liberty-based 458th Engineer Battalion’s Heavy Rescue One were recently called on to dig out survivors from collapsed buildings after insurgents ambushed Iraqi police in a western Baghdad neighborhood.This was the first time that the 85-member Heavy Rescue One, which is the only military unit in Iraq trained for this mission, has been used in a rescue operation.

About 55 members of the unit deployed to the neighborhood hours after insurgents used about 1,700 pounds of explosives to blow up the raided building on the evening of Dec. 28.The resulting explosion killed seven police officers and about two dozen area residents, according to media reports, and collapsed 10 nearby homes.

Sgt. Joseph Taylor, a medic with the unit, was patrolling in the area at the time. When he arrived on the scene, he led in the rescue of four Iraqis from a collapsed building.

“Typically in situations like this there is a lot of chaos and panic until someone with some type of emergency management training and skills arrives and can begin to manage the event,” wrote Staff Sgt. Michael Medellin in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “Having one of our officers on scene from the beginning put us a step ahead of the game.”

Once the rest of the unit arrived, Sgt. Greg Renko and Medellin were told that a woman was trapped deep in the rubble.

The two soldiers surveyed the scene and led teams in the dig for the woman. After entering one of the holes, Renko found the woman pinned under the rubble. It took about 30 minutes to free her.

She was then taken for further medical treatment by Iraqi medical personnel.“Without the specialized equipment, training and rapid response that these soldiers offered I think this would have been a body recovery and not a rescue,” wrote Lt. Col. Dave Chesser, battalion commander.

Medellin said the unit’s personnel performed exactly as they had hoped they would.

“Just like with Army training, things just started to kick in and you began to perform almost automatically,” he wrote.

“We saved lives that morning. You can’t put a price on that. The training, practice, and sweat … it was all worth it, even if this is the only time we go out.”

The heavy rescue capability was created from scratch in December 2003 while the unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq from Fort McCoy, Wis.

Heavy Rescue One’s members have held a number of training exercises since their arrival in Iraq, but this was their first rescue mission.

The 458th will be replaced by another Army unit with similar training, said Maj. Adam Roth, battalion executive officer and rescue unit leader. The unit has also trained three KBR fire departments on heavy rescue techniques.

story and photos at:

National Guardsmen Reenlist at Historic Site

Nine West Virginia National Guardsmen from Battery C, 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Brigade, III Corps, reenlist on New Year’s Day at the Ziggurat of Ur, a famous archaeological site in Iraq, built around 2100 BC to honor the moon god Nanna. Photo by Maj. Gary Coffey.