Saturday, October 21, 2006

U. S. Marines' Prayer

U.S. Marines' Prayer
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Marine's Prayer
Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family.
Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm. Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my Country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me. Help me to wear my uniform with dignity, and let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold.
If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.
Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.
We will always be there for
A Time Set Aside

The 1990 Austin's

De'on, Doug & Aaron. This was taken in about 1990-91 while I was stationed in Panama. Doug & Aaron were there with me at Ft. Kobbe from about May 1990 to May 1992.

The Walk-Part III

This is the third and final part of The Walk-Part I and The Walk-Part II .

Where we left off in Part II

I called Doug right after Captain Teague and I finished our phone conversation. Then, as I was seated there on the closed lid of the toilet, I gazed up at the white rose wrapped in a layer of waxed paper, its frail color barely faded, its perfume now only imagined. It stands at attention, pressed between two layers of glass. It is a rose separated from the rest of its family. One tiny part of my memories, those blessed memories of mother and son.

This much is all very clear to me.

The Walk – Part III

I don’t remember now what time the arrival of this important flight was to be, but the plane would land in Oklahoma City, several hours from my home. I remember feeling hurried. But mostly I remember Doug’s words to me, “De’on, I just want to walk with him one more time.”

I think my response must have sounded something like “Okay, Doug, I’ll be there. We’ll have to get all our stuff together because we won’t have to come back here. We’ll meet you in Amarillo.”

It must have been something like that because we gathered our stuff, and Greg drove us to Amarillo. I sat and I listened to the chain beat against the flagpole and a bird sing. It was such an odd mixture of tones to me at the time, while we waited for Doug and his middle son to arrive. To meet us there at the funeral home, just off of I-40.

Dad. Mom. Eric. The three of us close together. For Aaron, we made the long drive.

Hours later, in Oklahoma City, it was hard to miss hearing the heavy dragging and pushing of such a burden, from rear to front, of wood over steel, over and over and over, as those Marines, just as strong as their load, escorted and lowered the crate that held the casket. The flag-draped casket of Lance Corporal Aaron Cole Austin, United States Marine Corps, Killed In Action on April 26, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq.

And the three of us walked those few steps with others. Not a long distance at all. In fact, it was only a short walk from the commercial cargo jet door to the door of the hearse. And we all walked together, together and beside this final armor. Our own.

We walked.

The local newspaper in Amarillo reported that over three hundred cars drove behind us in the long and slow drive that day. To lay him to rest, dressed in his Blues, ornamented in brass. I remember people standing out in the fields, fields of plowed dirt. Some of them surely must have been poor souls out there that day, without some temporary home. Perhaps they felt as lost as we did on that third of May. They spoke to us in a symbolic language: beating their chests with their fists, then holding their palms open and up, emulating our pain, touching their hearts as well as our own, saluting my son’s final ride and those who followed.

And we follow.

I remember our families turning into a family. And I think that surely Aaron must have been smiling up there with Jesus, watching Mom and Dad, step-dad and grandmother, brother, uncles, cousins and aunties, all holding and helping and leaning.


Now he is waiting for us in that big, happy house.

Yes, Roy and Doug are friends. As they hugged.

As we hugged.

As we walked.

As we talk even now. And all of us are “to gather.”

As we heal.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Time Set Aside

Beginning tomorrow, October 21, 2006, at 11:09 CST, please join us in praying for our troops' protection, the civilians in the Middle East, and for those Iraqi people who are willing to fight for freedom--die for freedom.

Also, please pray for the families of the troops. They are going through their "own War", I assure you.

Troops: Think on the U.S. Marines' Prayer

This will only take a moment and can be very powerful.

People, they need us, as we need them.

God bless you all .

** Aaron became a recruit in the Corps on October 21, 2001.

Diana's Comment-This will be Powerful!

The following comments were on Gunz Up today. When a time zone to follow is established, I will post it here and on
Thank you & God Bless
Thanks, Diana. You are a great asset to this blog. Just imagine. Thank you so much!

howell said...
the situation is pretty rough over right now. please keep us in your prayers.
12:00 PM
De'on Miller said...
12:46 PM

Diana said...
If it's possible, we should schedule a time when all of us stop for just a minute to offer a prayer for the Marines and soldiers. It just has to be a minute, but if we coordinate it so that we all do it at the same time, I think that would be powerful. For example, let's say we decide that at 10 a.m. each morning, we stop and offer a prayer. We'd have to pick a time zone to follow, but we could turn this into something big where we get as many people as possible to pray. Maybe it could be nine minutes after 11 in honor of 9/11. What do you think? I want the guys to know we're praying hard for them.

To Howell & All of Our Warriors

Aaron's back...about 2002 or 2003. Austin tat. Dogtags? No. A pose, I'd say. He really hated the camera, can't you tell?

Me and Abe. See how he's looking at me? This was taken in May 2006 while Greg and I were in D. C. for A Time of Remembrance for the families who has lost someone in Iraq or Afghanistan. Howell--I emailed everyone on my contact list. We are going to get a daily time of prayer established for all of you Warriors. It's in the works as I write this. Please know that prayers are going up for you and yours.

Semper Fi,
Mom De'on

P.S. Thank you for writing in. The armor is on. We'll all fight this battle together. You mean very much to me, to US!

Echo Company

Navy Corpsmen Deramichaeleous Daniels, 21, left, from Chicago, and Marine Jerod Brown, 19, from Charlston, W.V., have fun sharing wallet pictures with an Iraqi man and children during a patrol by Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, of a small village next to the Euphrates River on Thursday, March 25, 2004. Aaron was assigned to Echo Company, and he was killed April 26, 2004. Hayne Palmour, a photographer with the North County Times took the picture. The North County Times serves San Diego and Riverside counties in California. Palmour was accompanied by reporter Darrin Mortenson. This is an excerpt of Mortenson's coverage of Camp Pendleton's I Expeditionary Force.

"When Echo Company tried to emulate Fox's success two days later, they suffered a defeat that sent them and the brass reeling. After Marines sneaked about 300 yards into the city, rebels slipped in between Echo's troops and attacked them at close range, tossing grenades through the windows and firing on them from the roof next door. One Marine was killed (it was Aaron) and about 15 were wounded in two hours of brutal fighting.

Survivors told tales of Marines who fought fearlessly to regain the upper hand and Navy corpsmen who braved the fire to pull the wounded men back to safety.

It was the 'belly of the beast,' said Navy Corpsman Jason Duty hours after the fight, his beige boots still covered in black blood.

Men recounted how Duty fought his way into the house to evacuate the wounded and then tried desperately to pound life back into a dying Marine as they rushed him down bumpy roads in the open back of a Humvee."

That dying Marine was Aaron.

Beneath That Great Big sky

I know Iraq's ambassador to Kuwait has more important issues on his desk than my visa application, and he probably thinks I'm worse than the plagues of Egypt. But I've learned that if you want something from a government official, you have to keep knocking on his door. So I'm knocking. Everyday. Still, though, no visa to Iraq. I've been told it can take up to a month, but I'm one of those guys who likes to move at the speed of sound once I've made a decision to do something. The Iraqi ambassador doesn't care how fast I like to move. I think he's worried about just staying alive.

I haven't posted much lately because I'm in a Kurdish village in Turkey where electricty and running water exist only in the stories the villagers tell of their trips to bigger towns. They don't take those trips often. I'm from Texas where we think nothing of driving 50 miles to have dinner in another town. We take so much for granted in the United States.

I'm treated like an honored guest here. They don't have much in material possessions, but they offer their hospitality in generous amounts. It's their hope that the they will have their own place in northern Iraq where they can live with a diminshed threat from the murderous oppression they've faced from the Turks and Saddam.

A couple of the men in the village told me they will take me to Iraq. Who needs a visa, they ask? Well, uh, I do. The last thing I need is to be caught in a warring country without permission to be there. Also, I want the visa so that the United States will know I'm in Iraq so that if I disappear they'll at least know I disappeared in Iraq. The Kurds don't understand my determination to get the visa. Just go, they advise me. Oh, OK. I'll catch the 4:30 Greyhound and buy postcards along the way to send back.

I walk five miles to recharge my laptop and satellite phone. Sometimes, kids go with me -- both the human and goat variety. It's great. One little girl showed me a Tshirt that I haven't figured out yet how it came to be in her possession. It's an adult shirt with a huge Denver Broncos logo on the front. I can tell that she never wears it, and she pulled it out of a trunk that would make an antique dealer salivate. I laugh to myself because the little girl thinks the Tshirt is the article of worth when it's really the trunk that, if sold in the United States, could feed this family for two years. They think I'm nuts when I tell them that, looking at the trunk and then at me, proof of American stupidity. The little girl folds the Tshirt as if it were the flag that Betsy Ross made, and she carefully returns it to the exquisite trunk. As far as I can tell, an American soldier or Marine gave it to one of her relatives during Desert Storm. I doubt it has ever been worn since it changed hands.

I'm staying in a house with six other people. At night the house's population is increased by the addition of the family's eight goats. They're too valuable to be left outside during the night. I agree. Bring them all in, I say. After all, I'm the one who would rather sleep with my dogs than another human, so who am I to say anything about bringing in the goats. They sleep peacefully, and make little noise. It all reminds me of my grandmother who always had chicks in her kitchen to protect them from predators and to keep them warm by the stove. She was forever fussing over those chicks. Funny thing tough. It never bothered her to wring their necks several months later and toss them into a pot.

I'll sign off by telling you about the incredible night sky. I've never seen anything like it. Once the sun sets, it is pitch black here, and the stars are dazzling. It's mesmerizing. I've never seen a night sky so inky black and adorned with a million diamonds thrown haphazardly about. And the silence. In Spanish we have a saying about sleeping soundly that translates something like "a rock in a hole." It means that deep in the hole, the rock hears nothing. That's how it is here. No cars, no trains, no sirens.

It's difficult to believe that just across the border, Iraqis are murdering one another under that same sky.

America In My Heart

I was recently working as the editor of a newspaper in Texas, and the staff was blessed with the talents of Thomas Peipert, a gifted photographer and reporter. Today I was missing seeing the U.S. flag, and I remembered a photo Thomas took. I went to his Web site, and it was there. There was another pic, my favorite that he took while at the paper, but I couldn't find it on his site. Thomas' father worked for the Associated Press in Africa or the Soviet Union, I can't remember which, and Thomas also is now working for the Associated Press. He's a great guy with enormous talent who will go far. Anyway, I thought I'd share this pic of a uniqe representation of our flag.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Father and Son

Dad and Aaron at the pool close to Aaron's Grandma's house in Yorba Linda, California. Aaron was probably 4 years old here (we'll just guess at Doug's age!). At age 3, Aaron always asked Doug, "We go to walk now, Daddy?"

The Walk-Part II

Part 2 of 3 parts. The continuation of The Walk-Part I

The Walk – Part II

It must have been the twenty-eighth of April when Captain Teague called to tell me the time and place Doug and I could meet the arrival of the plane. It had to have been this date, because despite all the noise in my home, with everyone’s cell phone ringing at once, friends and relatives talking in every corner, delivery people bearing flowers too sweet, despite all this commotion and upset, I can still remember sitting there in my bathroom, and out of desperation, ripping off that page of the pink inspirational calendar that constantly had to be re-bent, re-folded—something, anything—to prop it back up on the back of the uninspirational toilet.

The date of this page is the twenty-eighth of April. That day I kept those words close to my heart. Today, these words rest in a small trunk, ornamented in brass and hand-painted in hues of antique white, stenciled with roses. That pink page I take out from time to time gently reminds me:

Let us live in the blessing of Today…
Cherishing our memories, but not holding them too tightly...
Treasuring our dreams, but not building our future on them.
Let us live in the present, rejoicing in the gifts
God lends to every moment of Today.

I called Doug right after Captain Teague and I finished our phone conversation. Then, as I was seated there on the closed lid of the toilet, I gazed up at the white rose wrapped in a layer of waxed paper, its frail color barely faded, its perfume now only imagined. It stands at attention, pressed between two layers of glass. It is a rose separated from the rest of its family. One tiny part of my memories, those blessed memories of mother and son.

This much is all very clear to me.

The Walk-Part I

This posting is dedicated to the families of Wednesday’s Loss.
God keep their families.

This is Part 1 of 3 Parts. I wrote this late summer/early fall of 2004. “The Walk” was originally published in God Answers Prayers-Military Edition © 2005. The anthology is edited by Allison Bottke, and published by Harvest House Publishers.

The Walk

After he could walk well on his own, my three-year-old son would invite his father for a walk. “We go to walk now, Daddy?”

I used to stand and watch them from our living room window. It would break my heart to watch them walk. I can’t say exactly why it hurt so much. After all, they looked so beautiful, the two of them lost in a world of their own. The small left hand of a little boy, cupped and held up by the big right hand of the daddy. The younger walked on the outside, for his dad must have known that the path was much smoother for him there, though it appeared as if the younger led the elder. It was a slow walk, not very far, through clots of red dirt alongside the plowed field of a local farmer.

We lived in a small town in Texas. Several mobile homes surrounded our own. We were a small group of people, centered between a lonesome highway and a field of dirt—this field of dirt where Aaron would take his daddy to walk.

I never knew exactly what they talked about on these walks. It was their time, and I was never given a clue from either of them as to the words that flowed back and forth between father and son. Perhaps, for Aaron, it was like a sweet secret, and for Doug…well, Doug and I didn’t talk much back then. When we spoke, it was usually to argue. Our marriage was ending, and it was a slow and painful demise.

For a while, each day was always the same. “We go to walk now, Daddy?”

“Come on, Little Man,” his dad would say.

Off they’d go, and I’d stand at the window, looking and wishing. Now I can’t even remember what my heart must have wished for.

Things changed, and we divorced. Now when Doug called, Aaron asked his dad, “We go to walk?” But during these times, his little voice quivered and then broke.

Doug and I both loved him so much. At one point, Aaron went to live with daddy. Then, finally, it was back and forth. Perhaps he was too young to voice his feelings to me about all of this then, but I know he must have voiced them to someone else, for I’ve been granted the privilege of reading at least a part of these conversations, rendered in Aaron’s own young hand.

I don’t know when the prayers of my son were written. I found them several years ago. By his penmanship, it’s evident Aaron was just learning to write in cursive. I remember all the practice hours he spent back then. Cursive writing covered our phone books and used pieces of mail. His wobbly words were everywhere. He must have been in the third grade when he wrote the first three prayers.

Aaron would watch me read, then mark and write in this blue book, and at some point, he must have felt inclined to do the same. For on a particular page, there are the numbers from one to sixteen, with each number being circled. Circle number one: Help me learn about God. Circle number two: Help dad with taxes. Circle number three: Help mom and dad stay to gather.

The first three prayers are written in blue ink, circle number four is skipped and beside circle number five, written with a pink felt-tip pen are these words: Help Roy and Doug be friends. Circle number six is skipped and circle number seven is in the same pink ink: June 15, Thur. 1993, help Greg and De’on be happy. So, these last two prayers were written at a later date than the first three. Circles number eight through sixteen are empty, without written words.

Aaron used to say, “I wish my whole family could all just live together in one big, happy house.”

So much to ask.

Calendar Parts & Pieces

This calendar page has not been changed since April 26, 2004, the day Aaron was KIA. It's hard to read here, but what it says is...There is nothing but God's grace. We walk upon it; we breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles of the universe. Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the calendar page I tore off on April 28, 2004 after Captain Teague called me that day. The story to this piece is titled: The Walk-Part I

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Mandy, 1979. The mother of over 100 puppies. See link for narrative on this amazing Mom. She is also featured in Spilling Song, Spilling Blood. Isn't she a beauty? Watch out, now! These two little hulligans below were Mandy's 1st real babies. Then they became mine. Left to right: Rebel & Ruckus. Note their sweet shirts. Their story is in the link.

Mandy, 1979

from the titles...

Stealing Puppies


Spilling Song, Spilling Blood

Stealing Puppies

This post has been rated SL for sort of lengthy, but if you have a few minutes to spare, you might like it. If rushed, skip to the photo of Mandy and/or the continued (short) final saga Spilling Song, Spilling Blood

This is a personal narrative about Mandy, a dog that my sister, Lisa, and her family (her husband, Roy; and son, Zach) had for many years.

Mandy nursed over 100 babies in her lifetime and today's post is in honor of Mandy.

FYI: Eddy is the son of Becky,a friend we lost in 2001 to ovarian cancer. Eddy lived with us a while, but has since moved on. Kaika is my step-son who lived with us last year. He too, has moved on.

This is a lead-in to Stealing Puppies. You might like it.

When I told my sister over the phone that I’d invited Eddy to live with us, she kind of laughed. I’d already taken in Kaika, I’d offered to adopt a child that was to be aborted, and now, I was inviting Eddy to stay in Aaron’s room.

She asked, “Why, honey? You don’t really even know him.”

“Well, I know. But I really enjoyed him on the Six Flags trip.” Eddy had been on the youth trip I’d attended with Kaika. “And he needs a place to stay.”

“And he’s Becky’s son.”

“Yes!” I seized her comprehension of the connection.

“And I think Aaron would like that Eddy’s in his room.”

“And. . . .”

“And what, De’on?”

“And I’m kind of beginning to feel like Mandy.”


“I feel like I’m trying to steal puppies.”

Stealing Puppies

Only once did my sister’s dog actually steal puppies.

Nearly thirty years ago, Lisa took in a dog she named Mandy, a sprightly mix of cocker, her coat the color of an Irish setter. She liked to carry rocks in her mouth or if Lisa’s husband had any old work gloves thrown about, she’d tote those in her mouth instead. She performed these strange feats when someone she loved drove up in the graveled driveway of their mobile home. Prancing to their car, picking up the rock or the glove, then setting down beside her visitor, wagging her tail, cocking her head back and forth, her eyes shining, initiating dialogue with her guest. What do you think of this rock I brought you? There were only a determinate number of people she trusted. Possessing a strong sense that our dad was not a dog person, she always made it a point to try and bite him after he’d managed the six hour drive to our homes. . It was preferable if Lisa knew in advance the time that Dad was to be expected; this way, she could run interference between the two. Small dogs have powerful bites.

Mandy must have been “in-between” puppies and lovers the day she ran the litter’s real mother off from a neighbor’s yard. She brought the five or six puppies to her own yard and tried to nurse them.

Oddly enough, the stolen puppies thrived.

She also produced great litters from her petite body. It wouldn’t be accurate to say she reproduced. Her babies varied as much as her lovers. When she was in season, the strumpet vaulted on top of Lisa’s chain link fence and strutted and pirouetted for any male dog she lusted after. She reminded Lisa of an acrobat or perhaps a gold medal gymnast. She defied the laws of physics as she pranced upon a fence about the same width as the tail she fanned in the air, arrayed for the entire male-dog world to see and to sniff.

Lisa whispered to her during these episodes, “You little bitch.”

More than one hundred times in her life, she nurtured, she nursed, she wagged that sassy tail and eagerly solicited warm compliments concerning her stash. Her brown eyes twinkled; she danced a four-footed jig. It was as if she bragged, Come see what I’ve done!”

She was a mother.

Lisa mastered the art of giving away puppies. Same now as then, Chaparral Park on Sundays in this small town is family day for birthdays and barbecues and volleyball games. Family reunions in which a small population sport shirts of introduction: Ramirez Family Reunion. Children of all ages pour into the park on Sundays. It’s a good day to visit the park with batches of puppies, yelping and looking up all eager or sad-eyed, depending on their disposition. What kid could resist? How many parents say no to a crying kid?

Too, Fridays at the Lovington Auction Barn fared positive results. Friday auctions drew people of all ages; old men flocked to buy boots for two dollars, and others, in sweat-stained cowboy hats and dusty, worn boots rode horses and herded up beef for the show ring. Their silver spurs flashed, found their mark, then dug their steed into motion. Old women, lined deep and well-rouged, drank hot coffee, as black as it was steamed. They dragged on Camel cigarettes, talked between stained teeth, spoke in low tones to others as their penciled eyebrows rose in question or in disbelief. The middle-aged women, decked-out for the mix, their golden or red hair, dark from a bottle, stood high and stiff. Their great bosoms napped and breathed, choked within bright polyester. The women’s printed blouses held up squash blossoms of silver and turquoise, as heavy and proud as their cleavage. The women guarded silver-haired and slicked men; these men smelled loud and spiced, wore watches of gold, diamond rings cut deep into their fingers. Their own, as well as their women’s.

It’s truly amazing how many parents, lovers and courtiers will give a puppy to someone they love.

Lisa was able to give away all one hundred and five or six puppies.

And when all else failed, Lisa talked me into taking one, “If I take one, too?” her voice pleaded. The negotiation was always the same. And I could never say no.

We split Mandy’s first litter because she only produced two at the time. A neighbor’s black poodle was the obvious father, for the brothers looked just like him—only with their mother’s fanned tail.

The first night they were separated, the puppies cried all night. Not even the trick of putting a ticking clock in their bed would appease them. After two nights of puppy cries, I drove to Lisa’s and picked up the brother. I named the twins Ruckus and Rebel. They chewed my rocking chair, strung out a roll of toilet paper that may have been my last, and shredded a letter, one that took me months to develop the courage to write, to spill my heart.

I purchased chains for the black brothers and put them outside. They tried to hang themselves around the tires of my station wagon. The next day the chains were exchanged for little shirts. Ruckus and Rebel looked so cute in white T-shirts that stated something charming. They fit well.
The brothers inspected the town at their leisure. Chased the squirrels at the courthouse and sunned on the bank secretary’s car. If you love something, let it run free all over the place, all day long or whenever they want to. My motto back then, I guess. It worked for a long while, but finally the dogcatcher spoiled the act.

The dogcatcher strived in vain to capture my dogs. He promised me he’d try to give them away, keep them together, if I’d help him secure the two.
“Here, Ruckus! Here, Rebel!” I called. Trustingly, they emerged from under my sister’s mobile home.

Then later, their chocolate eyes conveyed the hurt, the shock of their betrayal, as I slipped the brothers into separate cages of the large white truck. I can picture those eyes today, four large and dark question marks.

This wasn’t their first capture, but this time, the fine was too high. And this was the only time I’d deceived them.

I’d expected leniency due to compliance. Mercy rather that judgment.

I never saw or heard of them again.

I began to take in strays. Orphans.

**hopefully the link to the continuation/end works. we'll know shortly.

Spilling Song, Spilling Blood

This is a continuation of the narrative, Stealing Puppies, linked at the end.

This post is rated S for short. Bet you didn't think I had any short ones, huh?

Spilling Song

She Would Sing
by Eddy Burkett

I can still remember when I was just a child
My mom would sing
I would awaken from a dream
She sang rise and shine
Gave God the glory, glory
Just to get me out of bed each and every morning
And off to school I went
Her song I can’t forget

She sang hallelujah
I lift my hands up to you
She sang hallelujah
I give my praise up to you

She sang unending hymns
And praises to the Lord
Even on vacations
In our old Ford
Her life was a song
And forever will be
Away at college she would call
Happy birthday she would sing

Written in love for his mother. Shared with me much later.

Spilling Blood

Mandy censored all other dogs save her own, or as in the one case, stolen puppies. Lisa’s son, six then, asked her, “Mom, when is Mandy going to die so that I can have a puppy?”

Mandy lived twelve years. She was born with distemper, but my sister, by nursing her through the debilitating disease, setting an alarm clock for every two hours, nighttime same as day, changing and washing Mandy’s bed, feeding her chicken broth through a syringe, medicating and soothing the young pup—thwarting death—and snatching life—love and time handed Mandy’s life back to us.

Mandy survived labor and nursing over one hundred puppies. She survived a run-in with a pit bull that tore off a tit. Then finally, a veterinarian told Lisa that Mandy had to be spayed. Without the procedure Mandy would ultimately die in giving birth.
Her demise came in a different form. One day, someone—some jerk—popped-off a target shot at Mandy. She suffered all night. When Lisa’s husband found the wounded pet, he had to put her down. Mandy watched as Roy shot her. Then he buried her.

He hasn’t been able to put a dog down since, but he’s buried many.
Lisa’s son eventually got a puppy; they’ve raised puppies since, and each time they swear, never again. But they always do.

Mandy's Parents

Mandy's parents, Roy and Lisa Jewell, 1977. Lisa is my sister. We were all so darn cute then.


NOW ...well, November 2004 anyway. Roy and Lisa outside of Pechanga Casino & Resort. The Marines 229th Birthday was held here after Aaron was killed in April.

There's a link! Spilling Song, Spilling Blood

Monday, October 16, 2006

Even Still, No Regrets

Here is the latest e-mail from Ramos that I wanted to share with you, especially since I tried to pull all the troops out last night on his behalf.

Steve writes:

I'm in a little town, a village really, near the Iraqi border. I e-mailed the Iraqi ambassador about the visa, but he hasn't responded yet. I asked if he had received it. I'll probably hear from him tomorrow. I feel safe here. The Kurds live here, and they hate Saddam with all their energy. I believe they are our closest allies in Iraq. So many of the Kurds are Christian. I think the majority of them are. I try to stay away from discussing politics and religion here.

It's safe here, and it's a lot cheaper than Kuwait. I'm paying this family almost nothing to stay in a room in their small house. I'm embarrassed to pay them so little, but they think it's a fortune. It's only $10 a day, and I had to push that on them. They told me they didn't want anything, but I insisted so they said OK, how about a dollar a day. I about cried. I said no that's not enough. I tried to give them more, but they wouldn't take it, and they need it desperately. All they would take is $10. It's so much money to them. Their goats stay in the house at night! Well, you know how much I love animals, so I don't care. I told them that I love animals, I don't eat them!! They speak broken English, but we get by.”


Last night, after I received the first "scary" e-mail from Steve, I sat on my couch for about two hours before I pasted the e-mail into the blog. At first, I thought, oh, don’t do that, De’on. Don't worry anyone. But then I thought, no, we've brought readers and friends and family into this, they need all the news, good or bad. We need their prayers and maybe someone can help.

It’s strange to explain, but I knew going into this that it was going to be scary for me and possibly dreadful (if not fatal) for Steve. We’ve discussed these possibilities, and with everything there is going against this, somehow, we still feel the desire to push forward. So, God willing, Steve will make it into Iraq to gather some of the “unheard news” of our troops. If he doesn’t, I still have to believe that some small part of the mission we want to accomplish will at least be started. I know Steve feels the same way.

Before Steve left, I asked him, “So, do you have all your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed?”

He nodded at me. He knew what I was speaking of.

Without going into our whole conversation on his last night in the USA, Steve assured me that his faith in God’s protection would bring him home, and that if he died doing this, well then, it simply meant that his purpose on this earth had been accomplished. We discussed this at length for sometime. I had no trouble at all comprehending this line of thought. After all, it is my belief in “purpose” that comforts me about my loss and heaven’s gain. And in the end, even though I’m not in danger, I do know that death can come for all of us at anytime. I told Steve that night, and my husband later, “If something happens to me before Steve makes it back, then I want to ensure that he is supported from the rear to see this thing through."

My husband said he can’t guarantee about the writing part, but every other base would be covered. What a man.

But even with purpose and faith and hope, I have to tell you that I cratered at my computer last night. Even though Steve had told me he would still do this without me, I suddenly felt very selfish and irresponsible. After I sat in front of the screen waiting for that contact name of Steve Ramos to show up on my message screen just one more time, one more word, and when no further word came, I stretched out on the couch closest to my computer, my ears tuned for the sound of a new message.

I listened to the wind chimes and of course, all the horrible days of April 2004 pushed into my head. I heard nothing, and finally, I don’t know how much time had passed, I fell asleep on the couch with Sarah (my cat) on my stomach.

Sometime, early morning, I made it to my bed and slept until 8:12 (CST, even though I'm on MST, which is one hour behind). My Internet radio interview had been slotted for 8:05, so I was a little late, but that's okay; I didn't have time to get nervous--and the guys over there, Russ and Dave, well they were great to me, in spite of my tardiness. If you'd like, you can listen to it over on the Corps Blogger (their site is linked below). You'll have to get about 10 or 11 minutes into the half-hour slot before you hear my drawl. But all in all, I think it went well, and I owe a huge debt to these guys for giving me the opportunity to spread the word of what we're doing. Somehow, this is one of those things that if no one knows, who does it help?

So guys, we are still standing strong. I want you all to read that, hear that, believe that. We never know when the end will come, but this I do know, as God’s grace allows, we are in this to the end. We have no regrets and we have mighty expectations.

Well, I guess I’m writing another book. I don’t mean to do that, but when I start “talking” to you, like with Steve, I don’t want to quit.

So, all “my guys” out there: “Report.”

I realize you may be a little busy with death squads and injuries and, and, and…but just as soon as you can, I’m ready to hear, “All present or accounted for.”

Sweet dreams.


P. S. Should anyone ever need to contact me personally, my e-mail is: Please be sure to put something in the subject area that lets me know you're not trying to sell me Viagra. :)

Why We Write About Aaron

De'on sent me an e-mail last night, and I want to respond to it here on the blog. She is concerned that she might be beating people up with Aaron's death.

"I can write it over and over, but I wonder if people want to hear it over and over," De'on said in her e-mail.

De'on's son, Aaron, as you know, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, on April 26, 2004. If you're new to our blog, this will be only one of the million times we talk about Aaron, the Marines, the military or that horrible day on a rooftop in Fallujah when Aaron sacrificed his life to save his fellow Marines. If you've been reading our blog, then please forgive one more mention of Aaron and his heroism. I might warn you to brace yourself, though. There will be many more posts about Aaron.

De'on, you're not beating anyone up with Aaron's death. We're not focusing on his death here on Gunz Up. Our focus is on his life, his energy and his heroism. His death is a part of his life, and it must be discussed sometimes. Aaron lived life at the speed of light in a vacuum. His energy was like an IV to the people around him, injecting them with vigor they didn't possess until he came around. How can that not be celebrated? How can that passion for life be allowed to dissipate until it no longer can be recalled by anyone?

De'on and I started this blog for several reasons. We wanted to support our military, we wanted to chronicle my wanderings in the Middle East, and we wanted to share Aaron's life with the world. Why shouldn't he be shared with everyone? He gave his life for everyone. You write about Aaron as often as you like because I know his passion for life, his love for family and country and his devotion to duty can still inspire people to take that extra step and to relish their lives. Forget him? Never. Allow him to fade into a bunch of pictures that people will look at 50 years from now and wonder who he is? Not gonna happen. His sacrifice deserves better from us.

What we do here for Aaron is our way of remembering the hundreds of thousands of other American men and women who have fought and died for their country. It's not that De'on can't let go or accept her son's death. She has accepted it, and her courage in doing so also is a heroic act. No mother should have to bury her son. De'on has buried two, and there are no more. With Aaron's death, De'on also buried the hopes of any grandchildren.

So, you write about Aaron. You write about his life so that it will always be remembered and honored. Aaron was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery in Fallujah. If our nation's military leaders saw fit to honor Aaron why should anyone expect his family and friends to do any less?

In one of De'ons writings titled "Cosas" she says this: "Someone asked me once, 'What was your son’s name?' And I thought to myself, his name is Aaron. It will always be. I still have a future with him. That future is everything to me. It means more than even the past."

His name is Aaron, and we are all lucky to share that future with De'on.

A Marine Memorial to Aaron

Aaron's Marine brothers honored him in several ways after he was killed in Fallujah. There was a simple memorial fashioned from cardboard and candles shortly after the battle, poignant in its simplicity. The picture above is a collage of three pictures. In the middle, Aaron's brothers-in-arms pose with a bench in Iraq inscribed with "Aaron Cole Austin Memorial" in script. I added Aaron's image from two other pictures and then sent the final product to De'on. As a newspaper editor, I had access to fancy-smancy photo editing software, so I took advantage of it and fixed some pictures of Aaron for De'on. I especially like this picture because it reminds us that Aaron is everywhere. He was there when those Marines fashioned that bench into a memorial for him. His energy is still felt by those who knew and couldn't help love him.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Important Email from Ramos

Please don't forget to pray for Steve as you pray for the troops. If any of you have any advice, please feel free to comment. The comments come to my e-mail.
Thank you,

Email 1

That radio show sounds cool. Look at you go!! I'm in a small village near the Turkey/Iraqi border. I'm trying to make these forays onto the internet short because I'm using the satellite phone to do it, and it's expensive. It's pretty cold here at night, and it's desolate. I mean as far as people. Just small villages. I'm realizing that this whole part of the world is a tenderbox just simmering over varying degrees of heat. It's going to blow huge soon. You know, even though most people were friendly in Kuwait, you could feel their dislike for Americans. There was a front desk clerk at the hotel who was a little shit to me. He's about 20 or so, and talked to me with such frickin arrogance. On the day I left, I let him have it. He was being a shit, so I said "you really hate Americans, don't you?" I'll write more about that exchange later. The Arabs have a way of injecting a lot of sarcasm when they address you as "sir." And they say it a lot. I've run into Kurds here, and I expect to run into a whole lot more the closer I get to the Iraqi border. The ones I met I felt genuinely feel like they are our allies. They do have some hesitation in trusting us though. The ones I spoke to said it's not easy for them to take our word because they feel we betrayed them in the early 90s. They were told to rebel against Saddam, and when they did, they said the Americans stood by and watched Saddam kill them. They said they were told we would support them if they rebelled. But they said they are hopeful that we will fight with them this time and support them. I listen and don't offer any opinions, only that world politics are difficult for us peons to understand. I created this little pictorial tribute to Aaron. I don't need the internet to do it, and it needs a lot of fine-tuning. I think I'll change the music to it. I've attached it to this e-mail, so let me know what you think. It's pretty basic, so I want to fix it up before I put it on the blog. You're doing great on the blog. I'm sorry that it's been dumped on you. I'll try to pick up more of the slack. Americans have no idea how much violence there is over here. It blows my mind. Also, please don't worry about me. I say that because of what I'm going to tell you next. The group of people I came to Turkey with aren't doing humanitarian work. I'm so naive, and it's a huge lesson for me. This is a dangerous part of the world, and I have to consider that some people aren't what they say they are. I took them for their word and just jumped on board. These people, I found out, support the insurgents. They didn't know that I speak Spanish, and two of them were speaking Italian, which is so similar to Spanish that I can follow it pretty well. I don't know what they're plans were for me, but I separated from them in Istanbul. I know it sounds crazy. But it is crazy!!! Gosh, I can't believe I just went along when they told me they were humanitarian workers. As far as I can figure they are people of Arab descent who lived or spent a great deal of their growing up years in Europe. I'm guessing because they were fluent in other languages besides Arabic. So, don't worry about me. I'm kind of on my own right now, interviewing people. I had a chance to walk away from that group of "humanitarian workers" so I took it. Unfortunately, my camera was in a small bag close to a few of them, so I had to leave it. But that's OK. I'd rather lose a camera than stick with them and find out they had "plans" for me. I told you that Aaron and angels are watching over me. I must be the only American traipsing around this part of Turkey!! Well, God is with me. _________________________________________________________________
Email 2

I'm thinking I'll head back to Istanbul in a day or two. I feel really stupid about what happened because I was so naive about those people. I didn't even think about checking on them to see if they really were with a legitimate organization. I just invited myself. But I realize now, they were making it possible for me to invite myself. They were talking to me in a way that I would ask if I could go with them and possibly write a story. I'm embarrassed that I did such a stupid thing. I guess the scales are falling from my eyes about the violence here. It's smoldering. After awhile, you become sensitive to the currents. Even Kuwait. It seems safe, but I was beginning to see behavior that was odd. It's a place, at least I believe it is, where dangerous people go to do business. There they can get supplies, meet with contacts from other countries, etc. I wonder how many Arab companies are funding the insurgents. I mean, come on. The insurgents have to be supplied with huge sums of money to do what they do. Where do they get it? Where do they get their supplies? I'm shocked to know that the insurgents have so many supporters from people who seem ordinary. I know now that I was set up to meet those "humanitarian workers." It won't happen again. Please don't worry about me. I'm feeling pretty good, and maybe I'm just stupid beyond belief, but I trust that God is protecting me. And Aaron. And angels. So I'm good. It doesn't mean that I should go looking for insurgents to interview. I'm going to get off here for a bit cause it's expensive. I plan to get out of here tomorrow probably.

Marching On

Homeward Bound

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red.
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming,
When the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning, I’ll be homeward bound in time.

Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.

If you find it’s me you're missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return.
To your thoughts I’ll soon be list’ning, and in the road I’ll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end.
And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again.

Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.

In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing,

I’ll be homeward bound again.

--Marta Keen

A Tribute

This is one of the most poignant tributes to the American military I have seen.

New News, Thoughts and Questions

Is this blogger thing insanity or what? It’s probably just me. OCB is an exhausting and debilitating disease. I guess that’s what it is. The Pickrell genes I possess would just call it an addictive personality. Whatever.

When they really do make blogging “live”—or “we can see you,” I’ll be glad to quit. I would die if people all over the world could see how I look and how my house looks. I’m certain my husband would be most appreciative if I’d feel an inkling of panic about it for his sake (and I do, but notice where I’m at right now!).

I’m not a tech person at all. Is there someone out there that I could just give my user name and password to and you set our spot up? I wouldn’t have to mess with pings and ads and templates and how to increase our traffic. I could just write. Also I could cook, dust the furniture, and clean the nasty bathroom early in the day. This would leave plenty of time to do a little De’on Maintenance before Greg walked in the door at the end of his day. The fragrance of …(my gosh, I’ve forgotten the name of the perfume I wear. I’ll look that up later.) But he’d whiff the air and instead of the tang of four packs of cigarettes glued to my fingers and hair, reeking from my pores; not to mention what was once called air, and hey, I can't even see my computer screen anymore, the resonance of the woman he thought he knew: the one before Gunz Up.

Steve asked me to research blogging so that we could get our word and expedition out to as many military personnel as possible. Oh, what a thing that has turned out to be. But through it all, I came across and an announcement for writers there. I'll be joining their group, too, though this one is and will be, My Baby now. If you haven’t already, you might want to check this site out, especially the Marines or readers/writers of deep opinion, though I don’t think there are any rules on this there. The only rule is: no disrespect toward the men and women in uniform. I don’t want that here either, but I imagine anyone reading Gunz Up cares deeply for those who serve.

I haven’t heard back from Tony anymore. I want everyone to feel free to post any comment they may have here. I haven’t brought up too much to do with political issues and our take on them. I know from the anthology, Operation Homecoming, that views on the war and the politics of it are as varied within the military as they are in the general public. But I want everyone to feel free to write whatever is on their mind. Our comments are not moderated on this site. And don’t be afraid to ask me what I think. “Writings and Musings” is a broad category, and I don’t mind discussing most anything. Better yet, examining in depth the inner workings and machinations of the stereotypes, liberal and conservative.

I could share satire with nearly anyone in the world on the possibilities of these stereotypes. After all, I live with a man who was born with a flag pin on his lapel. One can spot his views from far away, if by nothing else, this “pin” that sticks out. Don’t get me wrong, we’re both conservative, but Greg gives “Right” a whole new meaning. Sometimes I feel quite bruised by it all. He reminds me of a dentist I once used who learned dentistry through the army. He was a deep Republican and one had to be tough to sit in his chair during times of political turmoil. I wonder how he’d be now. I didn’t quit him. He’s retired.

I'm considering the possiblity that Greg may belong to my mother. I could be married to a relative! They're all about the sport of it all. The Kill. One expects their name to be listed on the next election ballot. Their names won't appear under Democrat or Republican or Green Party. Look under Regimes. They make Hitler look soft spoken.

But I can write in the genre you're most ready to read.

Due to geographical differences, my topics must be poles apart from Steve’s. Since I know you’re reading, tell me what you want. Look at me as Morale. Do you like the mix of literature, humor, satire, grief, photos and family? Do the stories of Aaron upset you? I know he wouldn’t want that. I once viewed this as mine and Steve’s blog. Now, it is Yours and Steve’s. I can “write grief” on my own time and stick it in My Documents without hurt feelings. Aaron wouldn’t want anyone to hurt, I know. And I don’t either. But if you have a desire to know, then I want to share it with you.

I want to provide you guys out in the field something to think about, (when you’re not scanning your sector anyway) laugh about, cry about, or sometimes, just test my writing skills out on. (Selfish wench, you must be thinking.) My family has read (more than once) the earlier pieces I’ve written about Aaron. Sometimes I worry that I’m going to beat them up by pasting them in. And I am better now, so I don’t want anyone thinking I’m whining, oh, whoa is me on Gunz Up. I’d viewed it as a way of sharing grief, sort of an outlet for others who may read and appreciate the means with which to share grief. We all have it. But I certainly don’t want to depress anyone. So let me know. To “touch or move to emotion” is fine. But depression, no. I don’t want that for you. I’ll go a long way for you guys, but I won’t share my Zoloft.

Personally, I like the mix. I’ve even been thinking of mixing it up a little more. I could feed you some history and then in a few days, give you a pop quiz. Maybe some short Bible studies, games, and contests. We’d have to think of some good prizes. Heck, I’ll even try to figure out the audio portion of this rig in order to link you to some of Aaron's last music. Quotes of the day, poetry (not poetry I’ve written—though I wish I could. Mom and Kayla write poetry).

But yes, I’ve been busy trying to learn to blog, which has in turn opened up another door. Tomorrow morning at 8 AM CST, I will be on the Common Sense Approach Internet radio program with the guys from corpsblog. I’m not sure what all we’ll be discussing, but I’m risking life and limb. I’m speaking. Not something I enjoy. Think of me as the Mel Tillis of writing/talking. As soon as anyone hears me speak, they surely think I have climbed up on a telephone pole deep in the country somewhere,with pigs and chickens twelve-foot below, to talk to them. Immediately, I lose credibility. Even at the Sonic, here where others like me live, they have to get me to say “pepper” over and over. They think I’m asking for paper.

But I want people to know what Steve is doing, and I certainly don’t mind bragging about Aaron and all the heroes out fighting for us, just like the poem that Steve must have posted (notice how he just snuck in that way?) Good, I know he's well and alive. No terrorist is holding a gun to his head to make him post that incredible poem.

Consider this. You might be a new blogger if:

You’re still in your jammies at 2:43 PM one 24-hour stretch later
Your pets begin to realize breakfast is at 1:30 PM. Supper at 1:30 AM
Your plants that you once turned a quarter-turn each day have suddenly developed a huge eastern side to them
The plants you had in mind for fall could possibly still be planted on your furniture. No pots needed.
Spinach is the only food item left in your house and rolls of toilet paper really can replace Kleenex and paper towels or vice versa

But I am thankful for the blog for so many reasons. Most of them have names like The Mushrooms, 5 Marines from Iraq, others have their real names or they sign anonymously. And others have names I know, family and those Marines who knew my son.

Well, better go. I still have to figure out that ping thing.

Love to all of you!

P.S. I’m sure most of you know about the SEAL who threw himself on the grenade. I’ll link it at the bottom of this post. Are you aware that Hawaii had an earthquake? It’s breaking news right now.

And how about the whole UN agreement? Now there’s an oxymoron for sure. It’s like Jumbo Shrimp and Easy Tax Return.

Well, I’m really going to go. Bye.

Marine Sniper In Iraq


The soldier whispered softly,
I barely heard him speak.
"We are all that stands between
these monsters and the weak."

The sun beat down like hammers,
not a cloud was in the sky.
The air ran thick with dust,
my throat was parched and dry.

With microphone clutched tight
and a cameraman in tow,
I ducked beneath a fallen roof,
surprised to hear "stay low."

My eyes blinked several times
but in shadows I could see
the figure stretched near rubble
just steps away from me.

He wore a cloak of burlap strips,
all shades of grey and brown
that hung in tatters till he seemed
to melt into the ground.

He never turned his head or
took his eye from off the scope,
but pointed through the broken wall
and down the rocky slope.

"About eight hundred yards,"
he said in whispered words concise,
"beneath the baggy jacket
he's wearing a bomb device."

A chill ran up my spine
despite the sweltering heat,
"You think he's gonna set it off
along that crowded street?"

The sniper gave a weary sigh
and said, "I wouldn't doubt it,
unless there's something this
old gun and I can do about it."

A thunderclap, a tongue of flame
the stillness abruptly shattered
while citizens who walked the street
were just as quickly scattered.

Only one remained. Dead!
He lay crumpled on the ground;
A threat to those nearby
was ended in a single round.

And yet the sniper had
no cheer nor hint of any gloat,
instead he pulled a logbook out
and quietly he wrote.

I said, "I could put you on TV.
That shot would make a story!"
But he surprised me once again,
"I got no wish for glory."

"Are you for real?" I asked in awe,
"You don't want fame or credit?"
He looked at me with saddened eyes
and said, "I don't think you get it."

"You see that shot-up length of wall,
the one without a door?
Before a mortar hit,
it was a grocery store."

"Don't be thinking that bombing
a store is the only thing that's cruel;
See the rubble across the street,
it used to be a school."

"Little kids played soccer
in the field beyond that road;
They never gave a single thought
that a car would just explode."

"As bad as all this is, though,
it could be a whole lot worse,"
Shaking his head, he swallowed
and his words became a curse.

"We fight this war on foreign land
on streets that aren't our own.
I'm here, today, 'cause if I fail,
the next fight's back at home."

"I will not let my Safeway burn,
my neighbors dead inside;
Don't wanna get a call from school
that says my daughter died."

"I pray that not a single child
will know the things I see
nor have this kind of slaughter
etched in memory."

"So put away your trophies
with their words of fleeting fame,
I don't care to make the news
or hear them say my name."

He glanced at the camera,
and his brow began to knot.
"If you're looking for a story,
just give this one a shot."

"Why not tell our folks at home
about the good we've done,
how when they see Americans,
Iraqi kids come at the run."

"Tell 'em what it means to folks
right here to speak their mind
without the fear that tyranny
might be a step behind."

"Describe the miles they walked
to have a chance to vote
or ask a soldier if he's proud;
I'm sure you'll get a quote."

He turned and slid the rifle
into a drag bag thickly padded,
then sadly looked at me again
and with these words, he added.

"Maybe just remind the few
to whom they all may speak,
that we are all that stands between
these monsters and the weak."

By Michael Marks