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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A Letter to our Heroes


We are 8th graders at River Road Middle School in Amarillo, Texas. We just wanted to write to you and say that we appreciate all you are doing. We know you must be suffering greatly; we pray for you every day. We have many people who are affected because they have dads and uncles and cousins in Iraq.

We hope it will all be over soon. THANK YOU for your sacrifice so that we may live in freedom.


Reese, Austin, Tara, Ray, Robbie, Sarah, Wendi, Karly, Zak, John, Vanessa, Shawn, Colby, Allyson, Shelbie, Dusty, Cody, Trent, Bobby, Randall, Desiree, Serena, Tasha, Sasha, Cheyenne, Jordan, James, Nathan, Michael, Brad, Billy, Aaron, Jace, Austin, Yvonne, Bethani, Mindy, Nick, Chris, Chance, Raynea, Emily, Lundy, Russell, Samantha, NathanC., Estella, Ashley B., Chad, Miranda, Stephen, Luke, Bethany, Destiney, Stephanie, Tyrell, Billy Y., Brittany Goodan, Kandi, Ethan, Larissa, Sarah, Haley, Jeremy, Fabian, Patrick, Robbie, John Baland, Nicole, Rhiannon, Steven W., Arian, John Boatman, Kirstie, Destiny, Ray, Mica, Katie, Skyler, Tessa, Tesla, Shelby C, Brittani, Sean, Chace, Drustin, Mitchell, John Campbell, Lacey, Shann, Chelsie, Meredith, Tori, Brittani C., Nicole, Brittnie, Shaley, Jessica, Angela, Kortney, Haley M., and Mrs. Bontrager

My Two Cents - Doomed to Repetition

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
-- George Santayana, in The Life of Reason, Volume I, 1905

All over the news this week is the word that the U.S. is being accused of intentionally targeting Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena’s convoy as it rolled towards Baghdad International Airport, the incident that resulted in the death of Nicola Calipari, now immortalized as an Italian hero.
Intentionally targeting a freed hostage. The United States has called the accusation “absurd.” I don’t know if “absurd” is the right word, but I’m not sure they make one to describe how completely far out in left field that is.

Although you won’t find this splashed around as prevalently as the stories of the Italian negotiator’s funeral (the wailing, the accusations, the demands for explanation - take a look at the news post from today for
Calipari and Sgrena), the U.S. has stated that the convoy failed to notify U.S. troops that it was coming. An important detail. It was nighttime. U.S. troops on that road have suffered numerous casualties. They are under orders to shoot any cars coming at them that do so after curfew, without a known reason to be on that road. They followed those orders.

And let’s take a look at Ms. Sgrena for just a moment. I was inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt initially, figuring that it was just the knee-jerk reaction of someone who’d undergone a terrible ordeal. After all, she’d been held hostage for days, threatened with impending murder, etc., and then her trip after being freed ended in the death of her rescuer. Who wouldn’t be rattled? But there are a few other details that don’t appear to be as prominent in the public eye that warrant a good hard look.

"My name is Giuliana Sgrena. For my whole life, I have fought and written on behalf of the weakest. I know the suffering of the Iraqi people." This was part of the voiceover on the tape her captors released. Her father entreated her captors to free her, citing that she hated the war. Ms. Sgrena wrote for the Communist newspaper Il Manifesto. She did, indeed, hate the war. And U.S. troops. She reported on house raids, citing the plight of the poor people who our troops barged in on to search for weapons – the same weapons maiming and killing troops, as well as innocent Iraqi citizens, nearly every day.

So does this provide a motive for an intentional attack by U.S. troops? Give me a break. You’ve seen the mainstream media at work – if our troops intentionally targeted every journalist that said something negative about them, how would they ever get anything else done??? And while we’re on the subject, if our guys were intentionally targeting her, how is it that she’s still alive? They’ve got to be better than that.

What it does, in my mind, is provide evidence of a pervasive bias, an agenda. Ms. Sgrena has a tragic opportunity to take advantage of a great deal of publicity, and the unfortunate death of one man, to get on her platform and become the “Evita” of trashing U.S. troops.
Italy wants a sacrificial lamb for the incident on that treacherous Baghdad road. Fine. Find the idiot who failed to notify U.S. troops of their convoy, arriving past curfew, and there’s your sacrificial lamb. But keep away from our American heroes.

More disturbing to me than her statements and the collective Italian leap on the bandwagon is the lack of outcry by Americans. The reason I put that quote at the top of this post is that I’m noticing a distinct lack of reaction from the average Joe. Sure, talk show hosts are on it, as are bloggers (see
BlackFive). But what about your basic, average, American citizen?

The media is fond of the far-too-often repeated comparison of the Viet Nam War and Iraq. If there is one similarity, it’s the media. Viet Nam marked the beginning of a marked cooling of the media’s perspective on the military, and a definite betrayal of the troops on the part of the American people. The troops were turned from heroes to villains.

And it can happen again. Viet Nam had Mai Lai, touted as a senseless massacre significantly before any legitimate investigation of the circumstances. We have Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, Marines in Fallujah, and Lt. Pantano (see a story about him in today’s news posts - Murder or self-defense? N.C. Marine faces charge in Iraq killings); a wealth of opportunities to skewer the people defending our freedom. Yes, U.S. troops occasionally cross the line. They’re human. But they do a job that requires split-second decisions, constant alertness, and killing. I don’t want them second-guessing what they do. I want them home. For my money, it’s better to take a shot in a questionable situation. You don’t get to do it all over again if you don’t take the shot and should have.
And it’s about time we let the world know, as Americans, that we back our people. You don’t want to be shot by U.S. troops? Then don’t push the envelope in an area they patrol. Don’t drive down a road at night without telling them you’re coming when it’s common knowledge they’ve been given orders to fire on unknown vehicles. Don’t advance on an armed Marine when you’ve been given orders to stay where you are. You don’t want your house searched? Then take every opportunity to turn in terrorists so that the troops don’t have to come looking for them.

My loyalty lies with our troops. You want to blame someone for friendly-fire incidents? Blame the psychopathic dictator whose power hunger, efforts to amass weaponry, and outright, blatant defiance of the world led to our presence there in the first place! There would be no friendly fire if there was no reason to go to Iraq. And there were abundant reasons, but that’s a subject for another day.

Bottom line is, if we are not careful to back up our troops in harm’s way, we run the risk of repeating one of the most reprehensible events in American history – the way our troops were treated when they returned from Vietnam. War is not pretty. Never has been, never will be. But those men and women are doing the jobs they do so that you and I don’t have to, and so that we can live free. We owe them more than betrayal…or silence.

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A Hero Heals - Joey's Update, 3-08-05

Joey is back at Walter Reed after having 6 wonderful days at home for the first time since the accident in Iraq to meet his family and friends. Several events were crowded into this short time and Joey was kept very busy. First, the airport arrival on Monday, Feb. 28th,05 was spectacular; he was greet by 150 people and much local press. We got to bed around 2 a.m. and slept till noon the next day. Then we prepared and left on Tuesday at 3 p.m. for Ft. Bragg. We arrived at 7 p.m. and waited until the soldiers arrived at 1 a.m. at Green Ramp. All 161 marched inside and when released rushed to Joey's side. It was a very moving moment. We got to bed at 4 a. m. at a local hotel and slept till noon (Wednesday). We met Joey's army buddy, Josh Moran, and his parents for lunch; then we returned to Hampstead arriving at 6 p.m. Joey's two brothers came over at 7 p.m. so that MTV could film them chatting about childhood memories. Next day, Thursday, Joey needed to take care of business at DMV, bank, storage unit, etc. At 7 p.m. extended family, pastor and close friends were invited to my house to see Joey. We got to bed early as we had to arrive at the radio station for interview the next morning, Friday, at 7:00 a.m. Joey talked for 3 hrs. to people calling into the station. He really enjoyed this part of his trip. We then went to the American Legion, Post 10 from 10:30 till 2 p.m. for a fish fry benefit for Joey. Upon arriving home at 2:30, Joey and I both needed a nap. Jayme arrived at 9 p.m. Friday night from DC, driving the new station wagon, all alone and brave. She had to remain in DC to attend her schooling at Bethesda. She is a remarkable young lady and I am so glad to have her as my daughter in law. The local politicians gave a great ceremony on Saturday (about 200 attended) and awarded Joey the highest honor in NC with the Long Leaf Pine Award from the Governor Mike Easley. Lots of local veterans attended and presented memberships, caps, pins, etc. Joey's platoon attended the ceremony surprising everyone and then accompanied Joey to dinner in Wilmington. Sunday, Joey and Jayme attended church with the family and left at 12:30 p.m. to drive to DC so that he could be in therapy on Monday and also prepare this week for his hand surgery on Friday, 11th of March. Please continue to pray for his ability to walk. Again, thank you for your love and support.
I have attached 2 pictures; one of Joey during the ceremony and one of with family after church. His grandmother turned 90 on Monday, 7th.
Gail, Joey and Jayme

Then Corporal, now Sergeant, Aaron Gilbert, is the subject of this email I received recently. After checking it out, Sgt. Gilbert is a real person, and a real poet. Here is the entirety of the email floating about.


This is a poem being sent from a Marine to his Dad.
For those who take the time to read it, you'll see a letter from him to his
Dad at the bottom. It makes you truly be thankful for not only
the Marines, but ALL of our troops.


We all came together,
Both young and old
To fight for our freedom,
To stand and be bold.

In the midst of all evil,
We stand our ground,
And we protect our country
From all terror around.

Peace and not war,
Is what some people say.
But I'll give my life,
So you can live the American way.

I give you the right
To talk of your peace.
To stand in your groups,
and protest in our streets.

But still I fight on,
I don't bitch, I don't whine.
I'm just one of the people
Who is doing your time.

I'm harder than nails,
Stronger than any machine.
I'm the immortal soldier,

So stand in my shoes,
And leave from your home.
Fight for the people who hate you,
With the protests they've shown.

Fight for the stranger,
Fight for the young.
So they all may have,
The greatest freedom you've won.

Fight for the sick,
Fight for the poor.
Fight for the cripple,
Who lives next door.

But when your time comes,
Do what I've done.
For if you stand up for freedom,
You'll stand when the fight's done.

Do me a favor and label this “THE MARINE” and send it to everybody on your distribution list. Even leave this paragraph in it. I want this rolling all over the U.S. I want every home reading it, every eye to see it, and every heart to feel it. So can you please send this out for me? I would but I am sorta on the USS SAIPAN and my e-mail time isn’t that long.

You know what Dad, I wondered what it would be like to truly understand what JFK said in his inaugural speech, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it.”

Well, now I know. And I do, Dad, I welcome the opportunity to do what I do. Even though I have left behind a beautiful wife, and I will miss the birth of our first born child, I would do it 70 times over to fight for the place that God has made for my home.

I love you all and I miss you very much. I wish I could be there when my wife has our child, but tell her that I love her, and Lord willing, I will be coming home soon.

Semper Fi,

You can find out more about Aaron and his poetry at the International War Veterans' Poetry Archives.

Alpha Task Force

Members of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, hand out candy while providing security for the 155th Brigade Combat Team Psychological Operations team after conducting raids of multiple targets located in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

A member of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, applies gauze to an Iraqi woman injured by a door during raids of multiple targets located in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. This was a joint mission with the Iraqi National Guard and Hilla Swat teams that resulted in the capture of more than 60 suspected insurgent participants. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

Members of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, assist an Iraqi woman injured by a door during raids of multiple targets located in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. The 155th Brigade Combat Team Psychological Operations team conducted a propaganda campaign following the raid that distributed information to the Hashwah residents stating that coalition forces were making strides to make Iraq a terrorist-free country. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

A young Iraqi girl looks on with anticipation as members of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, hand out candy while providing security for the 155th Brigade Combat Team Psychological Operations team after conducting raids of multiple targets located in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

Members of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, talk with locals after conducting raids of multiple targets located in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

A young Iraqi girl watches as members of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, hand out candy in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

Members of Alpha Task Force, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Unit, hand out flyers while providing security for the 155th Brigade Combat Team Psychological Operations unit after conducting raids of multiple targets located in the city of Hashwah, Iraq, on March 5, 2005. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brien Aho

In Today's News - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Quote of the Day
"The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies - they are offended by our existence as free nations. "
-- George W. Bush Associated Press
Pro-Syria demonstrators gather in Lebanon
U.S. military may abandon Abu Ghraib
China steps up pressure on Taiwan

The US News: Iraq News
Insurgents step up attacks against Iraqi forces
Bolivia's political tug of war
Shooting of Italians Rattles U.S. Coalition in Iraq
Insurgent Attacks in Iraq Leave 33 Dead
Murder or self-defense? N.C. Marine faces charge in Iraq killings
Insurgents Launch Attacks North of Iraqi Capital, Killing 12
Cell phones are key Iraqi terror tool
Bush Lunches With King and Queen of Norway, Says He's Satisfied With Norway Role in Iraq
Saudis tout campaign to combat terrorism
White House rejects suggestion that Italian journalist targeted by U.S. forces

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq
Rabin's killer denied conjugal visits
Militants in Jordan refuse to plead

San Diego Union-Tribune
Friendly fire in Iraq takes toll on U.S.-led coalition – and Iraqis
State funeral held for Italian agent shot dead in Iraq hostage liberation
Judge refuses to dismiss charges against Abu Ghraib defendant
Servicemen killed in Iraq are honored in Hawaii
Gonzales says U-S can't control torture of detainees by foreign governments

Ananova: War In Iraq
Peers urge action over terrorism

Yahoo! News: War with Iraq
U.S.-Syrian Tussle Harks Back to Iraq
Britain says sabotage did not cause plane crash in Iraq
Insurgent Attacks in Iraq Leave 31 Dead

Calipari and Sgrena

CENTCOM: News Release

CENTCOM: News Release
Huge crowds at pro-Syria rally in Beirut
Bush to keep up pressure for Mideast reform
Beijing: Force an option in Taiwan dispute

Fox News
GIs Battle Iraqi Insurgents; Officials Gunned Down
U.S. May Leave Abu Ghraib
Court Retries 9/11 Hijacker
Army: Blacks Staying Away Because of Iraq War
Briton Shot Dead in Kabul
Settlement Scandal in Israel
Kosovo PM Will Resign
Blogger Gets White House Press Pass
Hawaii-Based Marines Killed in Iraq Honored
Iran Admits Nuclear Facility Is Underground
Man Dies After Winning Tequila Shot Contest
Charges Stand Against Abu Ghraib Guard
Hezbollah organizes Beirut protest

Department of Defense
Iraqis Assume Increased Responsibility — Story
Iraqi Troops Flush Samarra of Insurgents
Challenges Face Anti-Drug Cooperation — Story
Violent Contacts Down in Afghanistan
Detainee Cases Make Way Through Courts — Story

Fort Campbell Troops Work to Save Lives — Story
Donations Help Students Continue Education — Story
'Can Do' Infantrymen Distribute Shoes to Sadr Kids
Team Helps Restore Afghan Cultural Art Form — Story
Coalition Aid Effort Honors Afghan Women — Story

Contractor Conferences Help with Rebuilding
Conference Encourages Private Agency Help for Iraqis
Deployed Seabees Mark 63rd Birthday in Iraq
Texas Soldiers Patrol Iraq’s Mean Streets
Airmen Track Terrorists Off Base
Physical, Occupational Therapy Fixes Strains, Sprains
Corpsmen Serve as First Responders in Iraq

Helicopters Move Operation Enduring Freedom

Military Police Protect Outpost in Uzbekistan

Service Members, School Donate Funds to Orphans

Dream of Opportunity Leads to Duty in Iraq — Story

Girl Scouts Sell Cookies for Troops — Story

Officials Provide Rebuilding Update
Soldiers Capture Bomb Maker
Iraq Daily Update
Iraq Reconstruction
Weekly Progress Report (pdf)

Coalition Outlines Relief Efforts
Citizens Turn In Weapons
Afghanistan Daily Update

Detainee Transfer Announced
Detainees Not Entitled to Privileges
Detainees Still Provide Intel
Special Ops Vital to Terror War
Special Ops Goal: Retain Personnel
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Mich. Marines Train for Iraq Duty
Sailors Pass Torch Aboard Raven
Army Secretary Vow: Fix Pay Woes
National Guard, Reserve Update

Weather information from The Weather Channel

Al Azamiyah Al Basrah Al Hillah Al Karkh Al Kazimiyah Al Kut An Nasiriyah Baghdad Baqubah Mosul Najaf Nineveh Tall Kayf

Bost/Laskar Ghurian Herat Kabul Qandahar

Al Jahrah As Sulaybiyah Kuwait City

Today in History
1702 - Queen Ann becomes monarch following the death of William III of England.

1790 - The first State of the Union address is delivered by George Washington.

1801 - British troops invade, defeating the French at the Second Battle of Abukir, in Egypt.

1862 - Day 2 of the Battle of Pea Ridge. Confederate troops, including Indian troops, surprise Union forces.

1862 - The Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack) launches. In the Battle of Hampton Roads, she destroys two Federal ships, driving a third ashore. She will be met by the Monitor the following day.

1865 - At Appomatox Court House, Virginia, General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending the U.S. Civil War. The surrender takes place in the home of Wilmer McLean, who has relocated from Manassas in order to avoid the fighting. McLean later remarks that the war started in his front yard, and ended in his back parlor.

1880 - President Rutherford B. Hays declares that the U.S. has jurisdiction over any canal to be built across the Panamanian isthmus.

1908 - The House of Commons in London kills the women's suffrage bill.

1916 - Pancho Villa leads a night raid against Columbus, New Mexico. They begin the raid with 500 men, and are driven off the next day with only 310 remaining.

1921 - Spanish Premier Eduardo Dato is assassinated while leaving Madrid's Parliament.

1921- Dusseldorf occupied by French troops.

1941 - In order to squelch anti-Nazi demonstrations, martial law is proclaimed in Holland.

1942 - The Japanese capture Rangoon, Burma.
The Dutch surrender on Java, after two months of fighting.

1943 - The Japanese attack Bougainville's Hill 700, starting a five-day battle with U.S. troops.

1945 - Phyllis Mae Daley is commissioned in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. She is the first African-American nurse serving in World War II.

1954 - In Paris, France and Vietnam open talks on a treaty to form Indochina.

1957 - Egypt opens the Suez Canal.

1965 - 4,000+ Marines, the first U.S. Combat troops in Vietnam, land at Da Nang.

1966 - Australia announces that it is tripling its forces in Vietnam.

1970 - Nixon discloses the deaths of 27 Americans in Laos.

1973 - In Great Britain, two bombs explode near Trafalgar Square. 234 people are injured.

1982 - The U.S. accuses the Soviet Union of using poison gas to kill 3,000 Afghans.

- Hannah Hoes Van Buren, wife of Martin Van Buren

1841 - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice

1879 - Otto Hahn, co-discoverer of nuclear fission