Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gone But Never Forgotten

My sister-in-law, Karen, left this poem for Aaron. I think it's beautiful and I want to share it with those who have their home with him now. And for their families.

"For Aaron,

The shadows of his fellows ring him round
In the high night, the summer breathes for them
It's fragrance, a heavy somnolence, and for him,
For the soldier of time, it breathes a summer sleep,
In which his wound is good because life was.
No part of him was ever part of death.
Surely the virtues embodied by these heroes are timeless.

by Wallace Stevens"
Your Aunt Karen of Brownfield, Texas USA
Posted by Picasa

Baghdad Ready To Blow

Forgive me for reguritating my words, but I'm posting part of an e-mail I wrote to De'on. I'm strapped for time because the city is preparing itself for the verdict in Saddam's trial.

Baghdad is on extremely tight security as the country waits on Saddam's verdict. The death penalty is expected by many, and most people fear if that's the case, then Baghdad will erupt. The fear and tension is palpable. I went out of the Green Zone for about an hour today. Some of the journalists have threatened to handcuff me to a piece of furniture if I don't stop that, but I have to get out there. That's where the stories are. But it is dangerous, and I don't discount the threats. I'm just careful and prayerful.

You're right. WWIII will have a different face, and I hate to say it, De'on, but this time America will see war on its streets. The talk here is that it won't be long before suicide car bombers are functioning in the United States. It won't be long before the insurgents are doing there what they are doing here. People here believe they are planning it now, and they say Americans need to get more aggressive about destroying the insurgents. But back home, I know everyone is pretty much still operating under the belief that the insurgents are an Iraqi problem. They believe, incorrectly, that they will stay in Iraq. They won't. You, Greg and I know they will go to the states at some point.

I saw that some of the Marines are back and left a message for you. That's so awesome. I know how much they mean to you. You really are a great morale booster. They're pretty busy right now because of the increased violence and the tightened security before Saddam's sentencing. If you're not hearing from them a lot right now, it's because they all have their hands full. I hear it everywhere. They are stretched thin. We need more troops over here. These guys are working so hard, De'on. So hard. I worry for them. When is Rumsfeld going to get it? When is Bush going to get that Rumsfeld doesn't get it? We need more troops over here. You see the weariness in their faces. I want to explode with pride when I see them. Awesome and brave Marines and soldiers doing their absolute best.
Keep your television on when they announce Saddam's verdict. This city is going to explode like it never has. I'm trying now to find a cheap camera since I lost mine in Turkey. I wonder if the insurgents won't try an attack on America after the verdict is announced. They're waiting for something. That might be the catalyst. I don't mean to sound pessimistic. But they are going to do something. It's crazy here. The sounds of gunfire, explosions and the smoke. It's a big city and at any given time, something is going on somewhere in Baghdad. There is never peace. I think it's possible that the Green Zone might come under attack after Saddam's verdict. They've done it before, and this is where all the government offices are located. This will be a target.

But even with all the danger, I wouldn't be anywhere else right now. I'm supposed to be here.
You're all in my prayers.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6- Shock & Awe Intro

Today's "Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6 - "Shock and Awe" is respectfully dedicated to:

"DA" First Sergeant John Ploskonka, at one time known as "DA" Gunny, and soon to be known as "DA" Sergeant Major.

Congratulations, First Sergeant. You are truly a Marine's Marine.

Semper Fi,

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6 - "SHOCK"


April 13, 2003 The date of Aaron’s letter to me that is a part of part 6- "AWE"

Navy Cmdr. Joseph Acevedo, 46, of New York, New York.
Acevedo died in Manama, Bahrain. He was assigned to the Naval Forces Central Command, Tampa, Florida. Died on April 13, 2003.

Army Spc. Gil Mercado, 25, of Paterson, New Jersey.
Killed by a non-combat weapon discharge in Iraq. Mercado was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Died on April 13, 2003.

The Marine That Was Lost in Aaron’s unit during OIF 1

Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, 22, of Los Angeles, California.
Killed in action in southern Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California. Died on March 21, 2003.

On April 13th in other war news: Ari Fleischer, press secretary to U.S. President George W. Bush, gives credit to The Pentagon for the apparent victory in the 2003 Iraq war. [1]
According to the Washington Times, the objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom have shifted from victory in Iraq to "destroying remnants of Fedayeen Saddam and other paramilitaries, and rebuilding Iraq to nurture a new democracy." The Times also suggests that the Operation is hunting for evidence of weapons of mass destruction and for members of the former regime. [2]
Seven U.S. Prisoners of War are released to Coalition troops approaching Tikrit in Northern Iraq. The POWs included two Apache helicopter pilots, Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr. and Chief Warrant Officer David S. Williams, and five members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company; Spc. Shoshana Johnson, Sgt. James Riley, Spc. Joseph Hudson, Pfc. Patrick Miller and Spc. Edgar Hernandez. All seven POWs had previously been shown held captive by Iraqi state television and Al Jazeera. [3]

Sunday, April 13, 2003
Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum of Its Treasure

Many years ago I was a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley, and not having a strong sense of what I wanted to study, I spent a year studying ancient Middle Eastern Art History. I remember spending hours pouring over wildly expensive books full of beautiful photographs of statues, jewelry, and other artifacts. We had to know the name of each one, who it represented and where it was found. Today, reading this article in the New York Times, I can see that many of the pieces I studied in awe so many years ago are now lost, mostly due to the irresponsibility of men who go in to wage a "war" in which they face little or no opposition and who don't stop to think about the consequences of destroying the local legal forces. Again, the Americans show themselves to be so utterly ignorant of other countries and cultures.
posted by Maryanne 1:51 PM

Editor’s Note: Maryanne is Canadian—moved to Egypt—blogged a bunch !! (Lord! I didn’t even know yet what they were. Wonder if she still blogs?)
I pinked Berkeley.
I removed her link to the NY Times. ..You’re on your own there!!

And I think this is enough SHOCK for one night!!

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6- "SHOCK" Twin Towers

Pre-War Photo Perhaps? Twin Towers on a Wall--OIF 1 2003 Posted by Picasa

Blood Is Thicker Than Water- Part 6- "SHOCK" Sadaam's Henched-up Army

Aaron, who knows who, and their children. Aaron taught the children a lot of hand signs. Posted by Picasa

Blood Is Thicker Than Water- Part 6 - "SHOCK" Diary

I recorded in a factual diary a few days before "Shock & Awe" started. I chose April 13, 2003 because that's the date of his letter to me under "AWE" Posted by Picasa YOU MIGHT NEED A MAGNIFYING GLASS, BUT THE DATE APRIL 13th IN THE FIRST POST OF "SHOCK" SAYS A LOT OF THE SAME THING.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6 -"AWE" DA First Sergeant


A good friend will come and bail you out of jail. but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying Damn that was fun were the first words I read on First Sergeant Ploskonka's email today. What an awesome man. Marine.

I first met 'DA First Sergeant' the same way I met Steve. Through Aaron's message board which is somewhere around 100 pages in length now. Through this board, Marines that fought next to Aaron have been able to link up with each other and to share a little bit of their love for Aaron with MOM.

Gabriel Morales, who was with Aaron during OIF 1 (and who named his son after Aaron) and 'DA First Sergeant' were able to connect. I emailed Morales and asked him to email the First Sergeant for me. Greg and I were planning on being in D.C. and wanted to meet him. The First Sergeant in turn, invited us to The Evening Parade on May 19, 2006--hosted by: General Robert Magnus, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Probably most of you know what The Evening Parade and Marine Barracks are about. I did not and it was a delight from start to finish. I've linked at the bottom and I know you'll enjoy this exciting Corps history . The sight is breathtaking.

First Sergeant Ploskonka works for D.C. Habitat for Humanities on Saturdays and visits the Wounded Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital on Sundays. He has one beautiful daughter. He doesn't smoke or drink, and like Steve, he's a vegetarian, thus killing any thoughts of care packages. I remember him saying he had to finally eat some meat in Iraq because he was losing too much weight.

First Sergeant Ploskonka was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries received in Iraq. I'm assuming this is the injury he speaks of in his message to Aaron. He doesn't mention anything about the Purple Heart. I found that out from Morales. I've asked Morales for a picture of him receiving his Purple Heart, but I'm not going to have it in time for this posting. If I get it, I'll be sure to share it.

What's more: The First Sergeant will soon be promoted to Sergeant Major! AAARRRHHH

Oh yeah, and at the banquet, I got to meet Chesty Puller (the 13th) I think. Yes, the mascot of the Marines. He was about 2 and I think might have had a thing for cheese, but his Handler made sure Chesty stayed in top form and urged Chesty back from the buffet.

The best way I know to introduce you to this incredible Marine, is by letting him introduce himself as he did on Aaron's message board. His incredible message (that still brings tears to my eyes) is a part of Part 6 of tonight's Shock & Awe series. Be sure to read it. He could be YOURS!!

In the meantime, here is another email from him:

Thank you very much. I was thinking about yourself and of course Aaron the other day. We had some Marines doing what we call Warrior Studies for their Green Belt Martial Arts Instructors Course and one of my Sergeants used Aaron as their case study to share with the rest in the class. It was pretty awesome to see and hear. Other than that I do not know where the road is going to take me now that I have been selected but, as long as it is in the Corps there are no worries.

Take care ! and best wishes !

1stSgt Ploskonka

Go to this site for the incredible history and photos on Marine Barracks 8th and I

First Sergeant: I will always hold you in the highest regard. Thank you and God bless you for loving my son and sharing a little glimpse of one of THE Corps' LEADERS that my son loved. Take care and as always,

Semper Fi,


Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6 -AWE-valor photo


This is the e-mail First Sergeant Ploskonka sent me today. He KNOWS what I like!

Pearl Harbor survivor Huston James of Dallas embraced Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke, Jr.during a Veterans Day commemoration yesterday. Graunke lost a leg, a hand, and an eye when he diffused a bomb in Iraq last year. This week's images of U. S. troops in combat in Fallujah deepened the day's significance for many who attended tributes held in San Diego and across the nation. Associated Press

Blood Is Thicker Than Water- Part 6- "AWE" DA 1st Sgt.'s Message

"To everyone especially Aaron,This is the first time I have been on this site. I am very glad to have found it after a long reading session and alot of tears. Don't dare tell anyone! I will deny it. Just kidding. I have shed many tears for you Aaron. So now I get to babble as usual. I was remembering a young PFC Austin back in 2002 checking into Echo Company. As I recall a loud mouth and no bearing.....just the observation of an old Gunny. I soon learned that behind that was a Marine with an infectious spirit and appetite for honor, courage and committment. Oh, and the infectious smile made me lose my bearing a couple times to! Of course you still "owe me for that to Austin". Aaron will know what that means. I also recall many of my walks up and down the catwalks of the barracks that Sgt Rettenberger spoke of on the second floor after liberty call to check on the Marines. Of course Austin and Koci would be drinking there "Power Shakes" before heading to the gym to get there lift on. The motivation and enthusiasm that exuded from that one room (this will blow your mind....I remember it well as room 211) inspired even myself to give more. Thanks very much to both of you!!! SNCO's do not hang out with junior Marines and we probably do not let them know enough how great they truly are but, Echo Company has ranked very high in my best company I was in stories. That is because of Marines like Aaron. So on those walks I would stop and chat and learn more from them than they would learn from me. Even though it is supposed to be the other way around. I also remember during many gun drills and field evolutions that Aaron never slacked off. It did not matter the temperature, day of week, number of times or the attitude of the Marines around him he always smiled and gave an oorah and went about doing it the Marine way. At this point I will mention I miss you very much Aaron. So during OIF I knew that we were in good hands. I remember trooping the line during a rain storm (mom close your ears) passing out cigarettes to the young Marines that ran out of them due to lack of inbound mail. Aaron smiled and said something about doing some pushups for more smokes. Let me say he did many pushups. Many of them. Then as I walked away he yelled out "got cake". This was in reference to cake that I also passed out during my trooping the line. This soon became the communication between myself and him. It went on so much that it became a mutual challenge and password between us. I then remember getting a wound in our defensive position up north and when I returned to the Company from medical Austin had the gun position to our north and looked back at the Company CP saw me and yelled "Oorah Gunny" "got cake". What a big mouth. We were in the defense at sunset. I told him to shut up and put his helmet on. He replied with that smile, turned around and put his helmet on. As this deployment came to a close I was transfered due to a promotion to another unit. I would stop by every now and then to check on these hoodlems that I left behind and could never miss Aarons smile from across the parade deck at Horno and his yelling out "got cake". Did I mention that I miss you Aaron. So then it was time to go to OIF II. My unit left just before 2/1 but, I did get the chance to see Echo in Kuwait do to my units convoy being delayed for a day. I remember being outside the tents of the camp and walking up to the Company that was outside. All the smiles and handshakes reminded me of awesome times with incredible Marines and even better human beings! I started feeling the butterflies in the stomach as I chatted with them and vividly remember wishing that I was going with them. Not because my current unit was bad but because I knew these guys longer and better. I knew what they were capable of achieving. I am very very happy that I had the chance to see them before heading north. The Company had to go to a class in the tent and I had to get back to my unit in the convoy staging area. So why am I going on and on about this? Well as I walked away while the company went into the tent I looked at the ground with a very heavy heart listening to the crunch of sand and pebbles under my feet. Then I heard Austin yell "First Sergeant" I turned around and saw his smile from ear to ear and he yelled "got cake". I said I wish I did and told him to be safe. Of course the rest is in all the messages below. I have been back to Camp Pendleton a few times and one of the last times I got to see Harrell at Camp Margerita where I took a photo of the building dedicated to Aaron. I have that photo on the wall beside my desk to remind me of an incredible man and Marine. I am very glad to have known Aaron and all of the Marines of Echo Company. I think of you all often and especially Aaron. raised a wonderful human being and should be very proud of the man that he became. I am a better person for having known him! Best of luck to all andSEMPER FI"Cheese and Rice""DA FIRST SERGEANT""1stSgt John P. Ploskonka, AKA "DA GUNNY" of Bravo Co. Mar Bks Wash DC

Blood Is Thicker Than Water-Part 6 "AWE" squad and shower and camel

Right front: Aaron Austin, Right back, Jose Cruz; Center Front, Michael Payne;Center Rear, Derrick Garcia; Left front, Josh Sandlin; Left rear, David Bryant.

Bottom photo: After Aaron's first shower (about one month in Iraq had passed.) I'm not sure who the other gentlemen are. And this may be the camel Aaron adopted. Not sure. We have a bunch of camel pictures.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6 - "AWE" Austin & Koci

Austin & Koci OIF 1 2003. If you're out there Koci...we love you and will always appreciate and be very thankful for who you were in our Aaron's life. I hope you're well. Posted by Picasa

Blood Is Thicker Than Water- Part 6- "AWE" Chess

A little bored in Kuwait? Aaron got Cruz, his gunner, and Garcia, his squad leader to help him make a chess set out of sand. He'd hollered, "I'm bored!" (Ohh, those words used to worry me!) Posted by Picasa

Blood Is Thicker Than Water-Part 6 "AWE" Working Out

Well, not exactly Room 211, but Aaron worked out consistently until about mid-April 2004 when things got bad in Fallujah. This is from OIF 1 2003 Posted by Picasa In the top photo is Garcia. He's from Hobbs (20miles from where I live! Isn't that crazy that he was Aaron's squad leader for a while.)

Derrick has been here twice. Once right after Aaron was killed and then on the anniversary date April 26, 2006. Derrick is precious. The last time I heard, he was thinking of going back in. He said he made Aaron Team Leader on the 240 because he knew Aaron would take care of his men.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water -Part 6- Letter "AWE"

I had to edit some here. It's understood, don't you think? Of course, this is a copy of the original. It will be mine and Aaron's little secret...and whoever else he told! Posted by Picasa

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 6 -"AWE" Marines Thank you

A Thank you from some of the Marines that Aaron included with his April 13, 2003 letter. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 03, 2006

Interview on My Point

I am working on a special edition of Shock & Awe for the series: "Blood Is Thicker Than Water."

While I'm working on it, I'd ask that you go to My Point for an interview with 'Sixty-Six' who is currently in Iraq. It's very good.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

After the intolerance was removed

If you're interested in reading this article, please go to archives. The article was written by Nina Shea on May 21, 2006. (I read it in D.C. the last time I was there). You will have to pay a small fee; I can't reproduce it without permission and the URL is FAR too long to put in the blog system. It is very informative.

And to the Living

And a tribute to those who still walk this earth.

Tribute for Our Fallen

Here is a nice and informative tribute to our fallen at

A Final Lesson From A Fallen Hero

My Aunt Linda Dale sent this to me. I wanted to share it with you. If you click on her name, it will take you to her main page, not this particular blast. I've taken the liberty of copying it so that you can read about one of our fallen.
Laura's E-Blast
October 31, 2006


I took time out from politics today to attend the funeral of Eric Herzberg, Jr., of Severna Park, Maryland. Herzberg, 20, a proud Marine, was killed in Iraq 10 days ago. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. It was a glorious fall day, perhaps the last warm day of the season. It was a privilege to be present as this young Marine was laid to rest.

I asked his grandfather how long Eric had wanted to be a Marine. "Ten, fifteen years-since he was a little boy," he said. One of Eric's high school friends, riding on the bus to the gravesite remarked, "Man, that boy loved this country and died doing what he believed was right." Others, clutching their Kleenex, nodded.

As we think about our country's future and the challenges ahead, I think of people like Eric. Most of our fallen heroes may not have gone to Harvard or Yale, but I would bet that they had a greater sense of professionalism and dedication to principle than most politicians in Washington.

Eric's father shared this tribute to his son with me. He gave me permission to share it with you:

"I'm Eric Herzberg, Lance Corporal Eric Herzberg's father. Thank you all for coming here to honor Eric, especially those of you who traveled great distances. We are humbled by the show of support and love for our son.

I would especially like to thank Kevin Kavanagh for being here today. Kevin's son, also named Eric, also 20 years old and also from Severna Park, was also killed in Iraq last month. Kevin has been a tremendous source of support this week.

We are here to pay our last respects and to honor Eric. The word "honorable" has at least 10 different meanings in the dictionary. I think almost all of them fit Eric but this one is my favorite:

A keen sense of ethical conduct: INTEGRITY. Describing one whose word, once given, is a guarantee of performance.

We received the news of our sons' death with shock and then uncontrollable grief. We've cried for him many times each day, at the most unexpected thoughts or memories. Eric, when I think of why we cry so hard for you--

It's not because you are in pain. We know that now you are at peace now.
It's not because you were unprotected and alone when you died. Not only were you with your friends, your brothers, but you had legions from across America praying for you.

We cry for you not because you were unprepared. You had the best training in the world, the best equipment, and the best leadership. And you prepared yourself by deepening your relationship with the Lord who made you. I believe you knew how temporary this world is and you prepared yourself for the next world by reading His word every night.

And we certainly don't cry because we think of you as a victim. The victims right at this moment are us--your friends and family, particularly your mother Gina, your sister Katie and your brother and best friend Matthew. We feel almost immobilized with grief right now - but we know you would not want us to remain in this state too long. We know that you want us to continue to serve others as you did.

No, we don't cry for you because of those things.

We cry for you because of the huge sense of loss we feel, which is also felt by our community of family and friends. And we grieve because of all those whose lives you now won't touch here on earth. Eric, we all needed your presence here. Today we feel that sense of loss for what you won't accomplish on this earth.

Yet still, through all this, we remember the Marine with compassion who turned thoughts of hate and division into love, affection and unity--one Iraqi at a time.

We remember the son who always spoke the truth, and can help heal wounds--even those within his own family.

We remember the friend who is always loyal and faithful.
And the spiritual warrior who never shied away from necessary battles but always brought his faith and humanity with him.

Eric, we cry because we know you would have been a dad who would have raised kids just like you.

Yes, we came here to honor you, Eric, but we had it all backwards. It is you who have honored us. We feel honored just to have known you as long as we did, and to have seen the example of your life. You were tested under the most trying of circumstances and your character, integrity and never went unnoticed.

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him." James 1:12

I know you are wearing it well son. Goodbye for now. We love you."

There is nothing I can add to the words of a grieving father, except to say that we owe it to these young men and women and their families to accept nothing less than victory against the dark, evil forces the rejoice every time a young Marine is killed.

What I Am

This blog was originally constructed to journalize a journey. Steve’s journey to Iraq. My journey…well, I believe both Steve and I, without really defining it, established in our hearts and minds that my journey would include at the very least, much the same journey I’ve been on since we went to war.

My journey added a new dimension to me the day I lost Aaron.

I hurt today.

I’ve wondered if I hurt today because it is an anniversary date in a way. On this day, in 1971, I drank castor oil and orange juice. I remember looking at those rings of oil; no matter how many times I stirred, they still were ringy puddles of oil, blotted and swollen on top of the orange juice.

It was hard to tip that glass up, but I did. Then I went and walked a mile, returned to my mother’s house, held my head over the toilet and puked my guts out. I was pregnant and I wasn’t quite seventeen years old. In 1971, if one married, one left school. Daycares were not provided at the school, and in fact, if one were married, that one must ask permission from the school board to even attend school at all. If one received permission from the sitting board to finish high school, then that one understood that attendance at school did not include membership in any club or activity.

Shane was born on November 7, 1971.

I don’t know if they had a policy for wedded pregnant mothers. I just quit and waited until my class graduated, (as were the rules) and took my GED. By this time, I’d already buried Shane on April 4, 1973. My class would graduate in May.

The school systems have both added and subtracted to their resumes since this time. But today’s post really has nothing to do with the state of our schools.

Fast forward to November 2, 1992: I said goodbye to Greg in Panama. As I departed for Howard Air Force Base, only three blocks away, Greg, who is now my husband, departed for a company formation; the precedent to a Change of Command ceremony that would be taking place for 536th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy). More than with excitement, I departed with a heavy heart. After nearly five years in the Army, three years in Panama, I was ETS-ing. I was leaving five years behind me. I was leaving my home. And I was thirty-seven years old.

But it’s not these things that hurt me today. I hurt because I fear I may have hurt others within the last few days. I hurt because I am afraid for our country. I worry and wonder about the current administration while I tremble at the thought of the current state of the Democratic party being in control of our troops and our foreign policies.

I was “born” a Democrat. My grandparents on both sides were Democrat. They farmed; they were very moral, very family-oriented people. They taught us: if a yellow dog Democrat runs for President, vote that yellow dog—don’t vote Republican.

I was also taught: no matter who the President is, we should pray for our leaders.

I am a registered Republican. I have been since 2000. I didn’t quit the Clinton administration over the whole sordid Lewinsky business; in fact, I cried when everyone wanted to impeach the President. It was an ugly time in our history.

As a third-grader, I prayed for Lyndon Johnson to get President. I will never forget the day JFK was assassinated. As a third-grader, I read about it in my Weekly Reader, out on the playground. I watched at home as tears ran down my mother’s face.

Today, nearly every member in my family is Republican. My husband was born Republican like I was born Democrat. I can tell you he will most certainly die a Republican.

My mother began to vote Republican as she watched the moral values she’d been raised with rupture in the hands of the liberals.

This all is a lengthy background to what I want to say.

I’m sorry.

If I’ve brought offense to one person, one family, anyone outside of the evil that I know exists in all politics, and most certainly exists within the Islamic Radical Terrorist’ Organizations, then I am deeply sorry.

I believe Steve is a registered Democrat. Though we’ve gone deep into political and historical discussions, we’ve not vented on one party or the other. I know we’re both “conservative” and I know beyond any shadow of doubt that we both love our country and we are deeply burdened for what we know our troops hear, from yes, a very liberal media.

Our blog is not a political blog. The “journey” now includes others we’ve met along the way: the troops and their families. It’s you we write for, and it’s you we journey for. I am serious. Very serious. I spent three years talking to a Marine. I’ve missed that.

While the troops are out fighting for their lives as well as our own, Steve and I will be here fighting as best we can for them.

Aaron was not even registered to vote. He cared not one iota for politics. He cared for his brothers. And he was deeply conservative.

I know that both parties have things to be proud of and things to be ashamed of. I am moved by President Bush even though I swore I would never vote for him when Carla Fay Tucker was executed.

I may veer off from time to time into politics. I’d enjoy it more if we could take cracks at both sides.

Maybe in a different time. There is nothing to laugh about today.

One thing that never changes in me: I love. I mourn. And I would never want to bring harm to any of the troops or their families with the words I write.

Thank you. And I try to be, Always Faithful.

Forgive me when I am not.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Dear Jon Letter

Too good...

Banner By Our Troops In Iraq

I would love to get one of these images; for now, please go to Corps Blogger to see the banner that our troops in Iraq are holding up. We love you, troops! Not only are you MIGHTY; you are FUNNY.

Much thanks to the troops for handling this the only way that makes sense. We can't be hurt over someone so silly, though I know many are. And I will take this opportunity to apologize to our fighting forces, our Blue Star Moms, our Gold Star Moms and the thousands of family members affected by such comments such as "mr. cArRy's"

I've put some new links in. Check them out. Pretty cool.

I'll be glad to hear from OUR TROOPS again. Also Diana and Julia: I miss you ladies!

I'll be taking Kayla to ballet this evening. My husband is finally with 1-1/2 days off, so, I will check for comments and reports, and will get back to writing tomorrow.

I do love you all!

In Baghdad

Hey folks. Thank you for the prayers and good thoughts. I appreciate them deeply. I'm in Baghdad, running around trying to establish a network of sources and contacts. Of course, they all think I'm crazy because I don't have the entourage of security people guarding me. I told De'on that they don't see the thousands of angels who surround me. Call me naive. I don't care.

It's a bad situation here, people. I know you hear some of it on the news, but I have to tell you that we are in danger of losing the peace. I remember reading a comment from an American military officer who was speaking to a North Vietnamese colonel in 1975. The American told him that they had never defeated us in a battle. The colonel thought for a minute then said, "That's irrelevant."

My point is that eve though they didn't beat us on the field, we didn't win the peace. We are in danger of that again. We must never, never assume anything. We assumed that the Iraqis would transition to a democracy easily after Saddam's removal. We assumed they would be elated to have freedom. Our plan didn't provide for the religious rivalry that would lead to murder and for the rise of the insurgency.

I don't say all of this to be a negative nelly. I say it because I want everyone to get serious about this war and demand that our country deal with the insurgents and those who supply them with the only means they know. Force. I know it's not PC, but the hell with that. You think they care about PC? You think they care how they look when they kill children in American cities? They laugh at our sensitivities and think we're weak. I say bomb the hell out of them until they cry for mercy. It's all they understand. When are we going to have enough of the insurgents and their murder?

I'm all for an exit strategy. Of course we need one. We need a plan for victory. But I want that plan to include smoking ruins and dead insurgents. I'm not a jerk. I'm just an American who doesn't want a repeat of 9/11. Let's quit being "sensitive" and PC. I want our country to deliver a message to the countries who support the insurgents. Tell them that if they don't deliver the murderers by such and such a time, then we're going to level their cities. Then show them we mean it. These are people who dance in the street when Americans are killed.

Yeah, yeah. I know I sound crazy, but you should see the chaos in Baghdad. You should see what "sensitivity" and being PC has done. We want to live in a safe United States. People, there's only one way to accomplish that. Show the murderers and their supporters (Iran, Syria) that if they dare to attack us, we will wipe them off the map.

I probably shouldn't say all this here, but I'm tired of those people who hate us screaming their filth and lies. I hate it that we try to respond with reason when we're dealing with sociopaths who don't understand reason. And in the process, more Americans are killed. Respond to their actions with the means they understand. Force.

I apologize for not being "sensitive" and PC. But if being a loudmouth will save an American life, then I'm going to scream even louder.

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 5 Life cover

All images with Part 5 are taken from the February 22, 1942 edition of Life Magazine

Blood IsThicker Than Water - Part 5

During World War II, the United States Merchant Marine provided the greatest sealift in history between the production army at home and the fighting forces scattered around the globe in World War II.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt praised them as the “Fourth Arm of Defense." During times of peace, they were civilians. During war, these civilians answered a new call.

In fact: “The U.S. wartime merchant fleet . . . constituted one of the most significant contributions made by any nation to the eventual winning of the Second World War....”

A new Merchant Marine Act from 1936 was already in place. This act provided a new Maritime Commission the empowerment which granted mariners the means to plot the lanes American ships would travel. Too, they were granted the power to build and operate their own ships should private enterprise fail to meet the demand.

Through U.S. Maritime training programs, a prewar total of 55,000 experienced mariners exploded into a force of 215,000 during World War II.

Merchant ships faced all the dangers of war and “thirty-one ships vanished without a trace to a watery grave.” Total human loss is estimated at 9,300; one in twenty-six died in the line of duty, thus suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. Casualties were kept secret during the War to keep information about their success from the enemy and to attract and keep mariners at sea. (Source is cited above).

Government displays of bright colored posters urged the merchants to war; Uncle Sam implored and advertised a nation’s need without fear of reprisal from its citizens. Military and civilian alike joined together to keep together all that was theirs. They stood alongside their brothers and sisters; apprehended the gift bequeathed to them through the blood of their forbearers, and ensured that the nation’s titanic necessities were fulfilled.

Some of the photos with this edition serve to illustrate just a portion of the requirements of a nation at war. It is thought that each soldier required between seven to fifteen tons of supplies for one years’ support.

For a look at some of these posters, please visit

blood Is Thicker Than Water -Part 5-Photos

Life Magazine, Feb. 23, 1942

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 5 - Photos

Bags of flour are stacked in one of the yard's depots, awaiting transfer of ships to war. The supply department handles 2,200 tons of ships' stores daily, regularly stocks 75,000 items ranging from shoelaces to signal flags. Without these vast storehouses of supply no fleet could operate. To keep stores moving, yard has eleven locomotives, 199 rail cars, 115 trucks and vans. Life Magazine, Feb. 23, 1942

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 5 photos

Captions read: Sugar is taken out of freight car and placed in warehouse. This is a very important part of ship's stores because sailors like cake and pastry, lavishly sweeten their inmumerable daily cups of coffee. ;) and also, Delicate gyrocompasses, which keep ships on true courses, are ranged in another supply depot. Each one is worth about $20,000. Yard stores more than a million dollar's worth. Life Magazine, Feb. 23, 1942

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blood Is Thicker Than Water-Part 4-Angel

My Angel OIF 1

Blood Is Thicker Than Water--Part 4 SHOCK

Situation Report: A New Millennium. An Old War.


January 1, 2000:
A new millennium comes to age. Nobody really needed all that hoarded water after all.

March 25, 2002: New Yorker
In northern Iraq, there is new evidence of Saddam Hussein's genocidal war on the Kurds—and of his possible ties to Al Qaeda.

Issue of 2002-03-25Posted 2002-03-25

In the late morning of March 16, 1988, an Iraqi Air Force helicopter appeared over the city of Halabja, which is about fifteen miles from the border with Iran. The Iran-Iraq War was then in its eighth year, and Halabja was near the front lines. At the time, the city was home to roughly eighty thousand Kurds, who were well accustomed to the proximity of violence to ordinary life. Like most of Iraqi Kurdistan, Halabja was in perpetual revolt against the regime of Saddam Hussein, and its inhabitants were supporters of the peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters whose name ...
content/articles/020325fa_FACT1?020325fa_FACT1 (if you are interested in this article, please type this into your address bar. It gives an error when you click on it and the URL is probably too long for my blog.)

The Sixteenth Annual Awards for theYear’s Worst Reporting

bestof/2003/bestquote.asp (Ditto--as before...address bar...)

Sorry, I guess they are all so old...

Blood Is Thicker Than Water - Part 4-AWE


January 1, 2000: Good, we have water.
November 8, 2000: Bill Clinton on sanctions against Iraq


Blood Is Thicker Than Water-Part 4-AWE 2

January 2003: Press Briefing (under “Possible War with Iraq”) And with that, I'm more than happy to take your questions. Helen.
Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up...

My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --
Q They're not attacking you

Blood Is Thicker Than Water-Part 4-AWE 3

January 21, 2003: Rushmore Sailors make quick stop for amphibious shipsJournalist 2nd Class Brandon L. Raile, USS Rushmore public affairsPosted 01/21/2003

Shopping Spree! Of course, the ship
Aaron the Shopper would be on!

January 8, 2003: TIME Magazine/ A Viewpoint


Sorry--start typing...

Personnel Aboard: Sailors and Marines—15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Mission: Operation Enduring Freedom
Particulars: Private First Class Aaron C. Austin

End of Report

Blood Is Thicker Than Water-Part 4-Letter

This wasn't my first letter from Aaron when he left aboard the USS Rushmore on January 6, 2003. The first,written on an MRE cardboard piece had these words on the backside:Sending Love & Freedom . This well-fashioned-duct-taped-enveloped-letter is glued into Aaron's scrapbook from OIF 1. I received my first letter on March 18, 2003. I remember because it was Kayla's birthday. Jes deciphered the word "cameras" for me out of his list of asap-ees. Aaron always had a shopping list for me.

Monday, October 30, 2006


I've just been alerted that you had to be a member to comment here.


I inadvertently changed the settings by not tabbing over! Too much happy clicking in the middle of the night.

Now, I know. I must have missed 3 million comments!!!

Baghdad Beware

He’s In!!

Here is an email I just got within the last hour. The time on the message shows 9:18, so I don’t know if it took that long for hotmail to get it to me or what?

But: here it is. YEAH!!

Please keep Steve in your prayers!

This is a good thing. Yes, yes, oh yes, I’m dancing.

Nothing wrong with me that a virtual trip to Iraq can’t cure!

I'm so sorry that I haven't been in touch, but I'm in Baghdad now. It took awhile to get here, and it was hard going, but I made it. Light up a couple of cigarettes cause I want you to be calm!! I couldn't get the security firm to come down on the price. They know people have to pay it, so they don't negotiate. There was no way I was going to pay $2,000 because it's more than I have and then I'd be broke when I got to Baghdad. So, I started asking around. I found a guy who would drive me for $500. He spoke a little English, but the guy who was the middle man spoke good English. We made a deal, and I told the guy to tell the driver that if he even thought about dumping me on the road to Baghdad or if he had any ideas about doing anything to me that I'd flat out kill him. I said I'm tired of the bullshit and I need to get to Baghdad. I told him to tell the driver exactly what I said. I told him to make sure that the driver understood that if he even acted like he was thinking about doing something to me on the road, I was going to take him out first. I'm no badass, but enough is enough. I told him to tell the driver that all I wanted was to get to Baghdad and no trouble. I bought a big knife. So, I'm here finally. I checked into a hotel in the Green Zone, and wow are they expensive here. I searched around, and $70 a night was the cheapest. I'll go ahead and stay the night, but I'm going to have to find cheaper accomodations after this. Well, I'm beat, so I'm going to get a few hours of sleep and hit the ground running in the morning. But I'm finally here. I tell you. That drive from Kuwait to Baghdad was scary. Iraq is plunging into civil war, and southern Iraq is in horrible chaos. It was a bad drive. Baghdad is going nuts, too. The Shiites and Sunnis are determined to eradicate each other, and the government is on shaky ground. We've got to get more troops here. I'll write more after I get a little sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open! But it's a good thing. I'm really excited.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Princess Ya Ya

BlockquoteThese small photos shown below sit in a frame in my back "girls' bathroom" Left to right: Aaron at age 16, and in a separate photo, Tonya (My Ya Ya cousin). And me.

Tonya is "wanding me" with her Princess wand that she got at one of her Princess Birthdays. This photo was taken of us during OIF 1. Tonya gave me an apartment to stay in during my last year at Tech. She too, is a warrior. Diagnosed with breast cancer right before our 40th birthdays (our birthdays are only 5 days apart), Tonya, though she's had a double mastectomy, is an eleven year cancer survivor.

Tonya is the mother of Allie...some of you Marines may remember Allie as Aaron's date at the 2003 Marine Ball (a story all its own, I assure you!)

Currently, Tonya is helping her mother, Aunt Shirley, to fight for her life. The culprit--heart. But Aunt Shirley has a strong one...and she has a strong daughter!

You're in our prayers, Ya Ya...

Tonya is the Tech fan I refer to (besides Greg) in War Stories. You can click on the underline for that story. I am a big girl and have it all figured out now, thus the links this past hour!

Love to all!

The Quiet Warrior

My precious Dad...Aaron's Grandpa who was diagnosed with Stage 4 sqameous cell carcenoma 4 days before Aaron was killed. Sometimes, it's as if the cure has been worse than the disease. He fights multiple battles...the most current is shingles. This is the first time he's been out of his house in months because he's so weak and it hurts so badly for him to wear a shirt. He slipped up and buttoned his shirt for this photo.

I showed him our blog while he was over here. He liked it. I read the story about Grandpa's birthday to him. It made him feel good that The Mushrooms said Happy Birthday.

It was good to have him here. This is love. This too, is a Quiet Warrior. I love you, Dad!

A Reminder

If you have some time, I'd direct you to a video on "My Point". While I'm sitting here griping about loading pictures, this kind of hate is happening all over the world.

It's already shot life as we once knew it. It's nearly impossible to fathom, and we want it to go away, but it's not. It's been there and its fighting with everything within its darkness to destroy all that we hold dear.

Just about Battle Weary

Some photos loaded (it's hit & miss around here lately)...2 more that I'll post when Blogspot gets their battles worked out...geez....

Down With Anorexia

In this snapshot, Roy is saying,"Down with Anorexia!" The story behind this is that about a month ago, Roy and Zach (his son) spent a weekend in Austin, TX taking golf lessons there. (My Roy & my Zach are avid golf freaks). At the lesson, one of the pros told them, "It looks like you guys have been in a battle with Anorexia and you guys won!"
Oh well, another Atkins' Diet Story. Roy, you should try to take better care of yourself, after all, look who YOU'VE got to take care of...

Dressed the Part

Roy, Lisa & Kayla ready for Cyndi's Fall Festival. That's me in the background with my Tech shirt on and my Longhorns' cap that Steve gave me. See War Stories for more on this conflict.

The Frazzled Housewife & Little Pretty

Lisa & Kayla dressed up for a costume party. Well, Kayla is dressed up. Lisa is dressed down.

Photo Failure

Well, I'll try to put the photos on tomorrow. It seems the photo page is unavailable.

Darn. They're good ones too.