Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Midnight Hour

A penetrating darkness covered the countryside while a lonely half-moon hung low in the sky shedding just enough illumination for me to barely discern the HMMWV in front of us. To our front and rear were vehicles carrying Navy Seals, some of the best door-kickers in Al-Anbar province. In the wee hours of this morning (more like late at night by my standards) we were on our way to an appointment with an insurgent. Unfortunately, no one told him about it. He didn’t get the memo.

The engine of the HMMWV roared as we sped down the road towards our target, making talk between passengers almost impossible. Our PRRs handily overcame this problem, communicating my instructions and updates to my team at the push of a button. My left hand found the cigarette-box sized radio attached to my flak jacket and depressed the top button.

“Left turn, 200 meters,” came through my driver’s headset as we barreled down the highway. An eerie green glow hovered over his right eye as his night vision monocular projected a clear image of the road to come.

The isolated house presented a melancholy scene against a backdrop of Iraqi farmland. As our vehicles stopped along the road the gunners of each turret pointed their weapons at likely enemy avenues of approach, ensuring security as the hit went down. As the Seals dismounted I thought to myself “This guy’s world is about to get turned upside down, and he has no clue.” My team remained at the road. We weren’t trained infantry Marines, and we didn’t pretend to be. As basically trained Marines we were certainly qualified to conduct a raid, but these guys were the experts, and we weren’t going to get in their way.

The stack moved towards the house with speed and accuracy, breaking off near the end of the driveway to surround the building. I peered through the darkness and saw a silhouette hovering about on the roof. “How did they get someone on the roof that fast?” I thought in disbelief. I could communicate with the team during the raid via my other radio, a brick-sized encrypted communications device attached to the right side of my flak. I heard their instructions to set, and then the real fun began. A thunderous boom and brilliant flash of light erupted from inside the house. It was a flashbang grenade, made to temporarily deafen and blind anyone unfortunate enough to be in the same room. The team breached the front door as the sound of splintering wood echoed through the night. Before he understood what was happening our target had a muzzle in his face and was being blindfolded and flexcuffed. As usual, he had a few friends with him, but the team was happy to oblige them just the same.

As the mission commander called the target “all secure” my team moved in to help conduct sensitive site exploitation (SSE), the process of methodically searching a site of intelligence value. The on-the-spot interrogation was already underway in the receiving room as the SSE began. The interpreter calmly explained the interrogator’s instructions as the men leaned against the wall in a sitting position with their hands immobilized and their eyes covered. As the questioning began the men would often talk at the same time, possibly to collaborate stories. The interrogator sternly reminded the others to be quiet as the questioning continued. Still, one of the men kept talking. I happened to be standing closest to him, so I asserted “No talking!” in crude Arabic as my left hand grabbed a handful of hair and pulled his head back to look at my face through his blindfold. Our noses were only inches apart, and whether through my words or actions he clearly understood.

Dawn was breaking as we loaded the detainees into the HMMWVs outside. Iraqi Army soldiers provided security as the Seals collapsed their cordon from the house back to the road. We had our target, and we weren’t waiting around to find out what might happen after daybreak. We launched down the highway in the opposite manner we had moved in. We used the wrong side of the road for part of the egress until we were able to cross the median into the right lane. This wasn’t really a big deal, as Iraqi citizens are conditioned to pull over, stop, and put on their hazard lights as we come by. They did the same in the right lane as we passed them and moved back to our camp. One car didn’t pull over, and the lead vehicle executed their SOP of dropping a flashbang grenade to the side of the road behind the car. This didn’t impair the driver, but the boom quickly got his attention, and he pulled over in kind.

After returning to the camp we processed the detainees, took the above photo to celebrate our first mission together, and finished just in time for morning chow. I sat in the chow hall with my team and reflected on the morning’s events. We were all exhausted, as we had worked normal hours the day before, and were all approaching being awake for 25 hours. After tossing my plastic tray in the garbage I made my way back to my trailer. I thanked God for another safe and successful mission and crawled into my sleeping bag for some desperately needed rest. I fell asleep and didn’t move until afternoon.

About the author: I am a US Marine who just returned from a deployment to Fallujah, Iraq, from February to August 2006. I am a part of 1st Radio Battalion from Camp Pendleton, California. I graduated cum laude from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in August 2003 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering.


Gunz Up salutes
December's Fallen.

at least to pray
is left
is left
O Jesus
in the air
I know not which
thy chamber is
I'm knocking

emily dickinson

Copyright 1978 by David Redding from Prayers I Love

Click here for your choice of music. It is absolutely beautiful. God keep your shattered loved ones and bring them in and around to comfort one another.

We will have funerals at this site for as long as we have fallen. It is the very least we can do, and Gunz Up thanks you all for doing the most anyone could ever do.

The Proud Mom of LCpl. Aaron C. Austin, USMC
KIA Fallujah, Iraq
April 26, 2004
Posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal for his actions that day.

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program was founded by Major Bill Hendricks with the support of the Marine Corps Reserve Unit in Los Angeles in 1947. At that time, they collected 5,000 toys for needy children. It was so successful that in 1948 the Marine Corps adopted it and expanded it nationwide as the U.S. MARINE CORPS RESERVE TOYS FOR TOTS PROGRAM. The Toys For Tots program is the Marine Corps' premier community action program. Click on the link below to learn how you can help in your area or to make a donation.

What Do You Do When You Come Across A Marine?

The picture above, created by Marines is an example of the Corps sense of humor. It reads:

U.S. Marines
* Do Not Feed
* Avoid Eye Contact
* Do Not Provoke
* No Flash Photography
* No French Reporters

Sleep in Heavenly peace, brave Marine.

No Marine Left Behind

With more than half his blood draining onto an Iraqi battleground, a bullet-riddled Brad Kasal feared he might never again see his family in Afton, Iowa. But the first sergeant's resolve to save a younger Marine lying next to him pushed aside such thoughts.

"I was losing consciousness," a recuperating Kasal recalled last week. "I forced myself to stay awake. I was worried about saving him and keeping the enemy at bay."

Both Kasal, 38, and Pfc. Alexander Nicoll survived that Nov. 13 Fallujah firefight, albeit with life-altering injuries. Nicoll lost part of a leg; Kasal is fighting to save his. Kasal's heroics have been memorialized by a journalist's photograph that's quickly spreading over the Internet.

The powerful image shows the bloodied warrior with his arms wrapped around the necks of two comrades pulling him to safety. By then, Kasal, leader of 170 Marines, had absorbed seven rounds from a fully-automatic rifle and up to 40 pieces of grenade shrapnel. Still clenched in Kasal's right hand is his 9 mm Beretta.

What happened during the hour or so leading up to that moment is a story of wartime loyalty, bravery, brotherhood. The events highlighted a bond among three Marines: Kasal, Nicoll and 24-year-old R.J. Mitchell of Omaha. They earlier had served together in the same Marine company.

As with any photograph, there is more than meets the eye. In interviews, Kasal, Mitchell and others recounted the deeper story behind the picture.

They were five days into Operation Phantom Fury, the American assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah. Troops were clearing buildings of terrorists when Kasal spotted a wounded American who said at least three Marines were trapped in a nearby house filled with "bad guys."

Kasal rounded up a crew and led the way.

"I knew it was the toughest fighting we were doing," he would recall.

He entered first to give the Marines more confidence. He noticed several dead Iraqis on the floor. He pointed two of his men toward a wounded American, then took Nicoll with him to check an "uncleared" room. Shots burst from an AK-47 assault rifle 2 feet from Kasal. He backed up, then returned fire.

"I stuck my barrel right in his chest, we were that close," said Kasal. "I kept pulling the trigger until he went down ... then I shot him two more times in the forehead to make sure he was dead."

From a staircase behind him came another barrage. "I never even saw it coming," Kasal said. Round after round after round, nearly cutting his leg in half. He watched Nicoll get sprayed, too, and saw him bleeding from the midsection. In spite of his own wounds, Kasal crawled back to help his comrade.

Sliding on his belly, Kasal kicked away the insurgent he had killed and pulled Nicoll into a tiny adjoining room for cover. On the way, he was shot in the buttocks. Both men were bleeding profusely but protected by a wall. Kasal wrapped a field dressing around Nicoll's leg.

Then came the grenade-exploding just 4 feet away.

Kasal rolled on top of Nicoll, trying to protect him from the blast. Omahan Mitchell came running into the room to help. He, too, was hit by grenade shrapnel. At Kasal's behest, Mitchell tended to Nicoll's injuries. Kasal laid his rifle in the doorway -- a sign to other Marines that friendly forces were inside -- then pulled out his 9 mm for protection.

Mitchell radioed other troops, who came later to pull the wounded Marines out. The dire circumstances brought together three Marines who had served together in Kilo Company before Kasal shifted to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines.

Mitchell calls Kasal the epitome of a Marine. Kasal says he was honored to fight beside a trusted comrade like Mitchell. Both praised the younger Nicoll's courage. And they did not forget other Marines, who ultimately collapsed the house on remaining insurgents. Mitchell said the two lance corporals shown in the photo pulling Kasal to safety are heroes, too.

"It's crazy what a human body is capable of doing when you actually have meaning to do something," Mitchell said. "You're completely willing to put your life on the line for your fellow Marine."

Shot multiple times in the firefight was yet another Marine with Midlands ties, Cpl. Ryan Weemer. The Fremont, Neb., native had hobbled out to seek help, passing Kasal and Mitchell on their way in.

The final rescue phase of the battle claimed the life of Sgt. Byron Norwood, whose parents were spotlighted during President Bush's State of the Union address. Joseph H. Alexander, a retired Marine colonel who is now a military historian, said the photo of Kasal's rescue is making the rounds in the tight-knit Marine community.

"He's badly shot up, but he's still got his weapons and he's not quitting," Alexander said of the photograph. "That's the kind of men you want fighting for your country."

Alexander, who saw his share of bravery in the Vietnam War, said he wouldn't be surprised to see high military honors bestowed on Kasal.

"He was conspicuously brave at the risk of his own life, took care of his troops and was such a warrior. That's not going to escape the attention of any of his superiors," Alexander said.

Sixty percent of Kasal's blood was shed that day.

"I'll be honest. A couple of times I didn't think I was going to make it out," he said. "I thought I was going to bleed to death."

Separation from his unit during recovery ached more than the wounds, he said. "It's hard to explain -- just that bond."

The hospital stay, however, did produce lasting memories. Kasal's father, Gerald, beams over a photo of a special December visitor, President Bush, who met with his son at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

"It ain't every day an Iowa boy gets to meet the president and talk to him one on one," his dad said.

More surgeries are ahead as doctors try to stretch Kasal's lower leg, which lost 4 inches of bone in the firefight. Time will tell whether it can be saved.

His days now are divided between military hospitals and his home in Oceanside, Calif. Nicoll is on the mend, and Mitchell is heading home to Omaha later this month. Mitchell's wound on Nov. 13 was his fourth injury since enlisting in 2001. He is processing out as his contract ends in March. He was promoted to sergeant after the battle. He'll leave with at least two Purple Hearts.

Kasal plans to retire in 2006, capping two decades of active duty. He wants to get into real estate and settle in Iowa, near the farm where he and four brothers, all of whom served in the military, grew up. Retirement will wait, though, until Kasal gets better.

"I want to go out as I came in - healthy and in uniform, with pride."

From the Omaha World Herald, Feb. 13,2005

Light of The World

"Moment of Inspiration" by Duke Duvall. I get these every day. They're good. I need to get back to listening every day. It just takes a few moments. I think I'll start putting them up every day in case anyone needs a spiritual pick-me-up.

Click here for today's message.


All The Way from Mississippi! Thanks, Marilyn!

I've had the pleasure of getting to know Marilyn Harrell via e-mail. Her son, John Harrell was one of Aaron's best friends at Pendleton. They were together from Boot Camp on. I remember seeing Marilyn in San Diego at their graduation from Boot Camp.
She came into my life for real the week that Aaron was killed. Called me, and is faithful to still keep in touch.
Marilyn writes an essay each month and has graciously agreed to share this one with our readers.
Thanks, Marilyn. And I know you and your family will have a great deal of joy this Christmas with John and Irene's little bundle of joy.
Joy to the World

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.”
-Isaac Watts-

Once again it’s December and people everywhere are thinking about Christmas. Or are they? Are they offended when we offer them a cheery “Merry Christmas!” when we see them at the mall? Or does it bring a smile and a “Merry Christmas to you, too!” in reply? A lot of people want to take the “Christ” out of Christmas and make it just a “winter holiday”. We’re told that is so that other faiths won’t be offended. But Christ’s coming was a joyful thing, not a fearful. He came to bring great joy to ALL people. And ALL who have received Him as Saviour have received this joy in their hearts.

Can our friends and acquaintances look at us and see JOY in our hearts because we have Jesus as our Saviour? Jesus’ coming to earth was a joyful thing! When the angel appeared to the shepherds to announce His birth he said he brought “good tidings of great joy”. (And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2: 10-11 )

During Christ’s years of earthly ministry he told people that he wanted them to have JOY. ( These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. John 15: 11)

Even when Jesus came to the cross to fulfill the reason for His coming to earth, He had JOY. ( Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 2)

This Christmas season I want to have JOY in my heart because Christ lives in me. Enough JOY that others may see that He is enough to satisfy all our needs. When I look at a Nativity scene, I want to remember that Jesus left Glory to come and be born into a poor family here on earth so that He could pay for my sins. ( And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2: 7 ) When I see a Christmas tree I want it to remind me of the cross on which Jesus died. ( The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Acts 5: 30) When I see the lights decorating that tree, I want to be reminded that Jesus is the Light of the World. ( That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. John 1: 9 ) When I see gifts placed under the tree I want to be reminded of the greatest gift ever given…eternal life. ( For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6: 23)
Let’s remember that, truly,

Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

OK, How About A Little Humor

... Just one of the hundreds of columns I had to write as a newspaper editor.

I’m confused. Again. I just don’t understand how a nation such as ours, a nation whose technological and engineering capabilities have produced such wonders as the Slinky and Silly Putty can be so lacking in common sense. We can produce products that when attached to a vacuum cleaner will cut your hair and slice tomatoes, but we just don’t have any street savvy.

I’m talking about the licensing procedures in this country. Why is it that in order to get a driver’s license, an applicant has to submit to a driving test, a written test and an eye test, but any ninny tall enough to see over the county clerk’s desk can get a marriage license? There should be a test designed to weed out those people who simply don’t have the skills to cope with the formidable task of living with a mate. A simple eye test would probably be enough. Applicants should have to prove they really do see whatever it is they claim to see in their partners. Half of them would flunk it.

Also, the applicants should have to pass something like a road test to prove they are up to the sanity-zapping responsibilities that come with marriage. Those who are eager to tie the knot would have to spend two weeks together in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with a 2-year-old and an 8-month old with a cold.

Heck, let’s make it interesting. In addition, the toilet isn’t working because the 2-year-old flushed the cat, and the wife has turned into a she-devil because she can’t lose any weight after having the baby. Mommy isn’t happy.

Now for the written test. The men would have to answer a few questions regarding the usual events common to all marriages. Women wouldn’t have to take the test because they already know everything. It would be a multiple-choice test, and the men would have to score 50 percent or better to pass. Here are a few samples.

Your wife pulls out a dress and asks, "Honey, do you think I’ll ever be a size five again? Your response:
A. You fall to the floor in a fit of laughter and say, "The only way you’ll EVER get into a size five again is if someone holds it on the ground while you drop from an airplane into it."
B. "Anything is possible."
C. "Honey, I thought you were still a size five. You look great to me."

Your wife tells you she is too tired to cook dinner and would like to go out. Your response.
A. You hug her and say, "Let’s go to your favorite restaurant. You really deserve a trip to the Caribbean, but this is all I can swing on short notice."
B. You do cartwheels and backflips across the living room and swing on the ceiling fan because you’ve been delivered from one of her meals.
C. You throw your hands in the air and scream, "Tired? You’re tired? What’s so hard about opening a TV dinner? That’s all I ever get anyway?

Your wife tells you she’s enrolling your son in ballet classes. Your response.
A. "Over my dead body."
B. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Good grief, woman. Would you get out of the way. Dallas is fixin’ to score."
C. "We have a son?"

It’s your 10th wedding anniversary. You buy her:
A. A Veg-O-Matic.
B. A trip to the Bahamas.
C. A trip to the Bahamas alone.

Your mother-in-law is spending a week at your house. Your response:
A. You draw a white line down the middle of the house and dare her to cross it.
B. You take her and your wife to restaurants, the theater and anywhere else you have to wear a clean shirt.
C. You tell your boss you’ve thought it over and you will take that assignment in Death Valley.

Now anyone who can pass this test has 1. cheated; 2. watched way too many Richard Simmons’ tapes; or 3. taken ballet lessons. Here’s your license.

Virgie Bell's View

Editor's Note: We asked Virgie to write a piece about her experiences as a child during World War II.

OK, De'on, here’s the story. It's not an unusual story at all – if you were a Gypsy and a child during World War II.

It was a time when the country was just coming out of a depression that was earth-shattering. The rich ones who couldn't face it dove off the highest buildings, ending the faceless emptiness that had become their future. Aunt Dell and I talked a lot when I lived in Littlefield, Texas. She said Mother would have followed my daddy to the jumping-off place, the end of the world as it were. Us kids were three little stair steps, and we could just about be tucked into anyplace, a couch for a year, a fold-down kitchen bed in a tiny trailer house at a secretive atomic project facility.

We were the babies who were dragged around to various sites as part of the workforce of the slumbering giant that had been awakened by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I think that because my parents' generation survived the Great Depression, anything was doable for them. Survival, developed to an art form, was a way of life.

I was only 10 years old by the time I arrived back in Texas to help my brothers hoe my daddy’s cotton on my granddad’s land. There was never a time my grandparents lived as Gypsies. That trait was reserved for my dad, who was my hero. I’ve heard my mother say that my dad's family never had to face the struggles that other people had to face. It was a choice, therefore, on both of their parts.

Before my tenth birthday, I had spent a summer at Hanford Site, Washington, living on a reservation set aside for work on the Manhattan Project – the atomic bomb. We didn't even know what we were working on.

We had a big shelter that was used for a half-day of school and then as a picture show at night. The facility was surrounded by a high fence, and we were occupied by the United States military. They lived in barracks on the camp and stakes were driven in the ground with ribbon around a perimeter. The color of the ribbon matched the arm band of the military that patrolled that little patch of ground. Think of the guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in D.C., and you’ll have an accurate picture.

Our military was busy trying to save our nation from total destruction. Everyone participated in the war effort in some way. It was expected, and, most of all, it was respected. Mother had a difficult pregnancy with Linda Gay, my little sister who is nine years younger than me, so Mother's health was the only reason we left Hanford, Washington and moved to California. We later found out that the project my dad had worked on collapsed and killed the crew he was working with.

If my mother or daddy knew about the displacement of the Japanese during the war, I never heard anything about it. When we left the Hanford Atomic Site, we moved to the beach and back to the three-room apartment in a small suburb of Los Angeles. Across the street was the little school us three older kids attended. My part of the bed was at the foot of a pull-out couch, as Mickey and Bennie had the head.

Linda was born while we lived here. We three older ones went to the show, a double feature Western was the usual order of the day. Maybe Hollywood was always weird, but Shirley Temple, Roy Rodgers and Gene Autry were the stars of our generation. The glamor part of the movie industry was working at canteens and fundraisers, and many of he Hollywood hunks fought in actual battles, and some of the military hunks became actors. Audie Murphy comes to mind.

What really impressed me was that Uncle Lonnie, serving in a command position in the Philippines, had a part in "An American Gorilla In The Philippines." It might as well have been the lead as far as I was concerned. I was no different than most of the girls my age, and I had tap, ballet, flute and voice lessons before living at the atomic facility and right up until I moved to Texas to become a field hand.

I also learned a lot of art and acting in school plays. I sang in the school choir and played in the intermediate orchestra of Los Angeles. Later in my life I asked Mother where the money came from to pay for those activities, and it was made very clear to me that it was from my dad’s wages and from the family budget. Those two gypsies who were my parents did without in order that I could have those lessons.

There were signs everywhere, on billboards on buildings, depicting some branch of the military as the most glamorous and exciting thing you could ever hope be a part of. There were the handsome soldiers, and as far as I was concerned, the most beautiful girls in the world were in love with them. All my friends had someone in the war and had lost someone in the war or missing in the war.

Every weekend on the movie screen, we saw a running series of the war effort – the battles, the victories and defeats of that week. The movies were all about the war. There may have been protestors somewhere, but they weren’t in my world or in my parents world. They wouldn't have lasted in my world. My parents would not have stood for it nor any of the other parents of my friends.

Uncle Gene died sometime in the midst of all of this, and I do remember the rush trying to get tire and gas rations in order to attend his funeral, but in my world, the rationing of those things wasn’t something I noticed, just as I didn’t pay attention to my mother coloring her own margarine with yellow dye. It just was one of the things that was a part of everyday living.

Oh, I heard about the shortage of silk stockings, and that interested me, but those women were so glamorous to me – the friends, girlfriends, and the wives left behind by our heroes who fought for our country. They had long hair styled into page boys, pompadours and upswept hairdos that were the epitome of beauty as far as I was concerned. They were the sweater girls, slack suit girls and halter girls. The Army, Navy and the Marines were everywhere, for this was a shipping-out point for them, or else they were there on leave.

The songs of the era such as "The Halls of Montezuma, "Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer" were as familiar to me as "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree." Graffiti that said "Kilroy was here" was everywhere.

Daddy worked on the ships as a welder. Mother cooked wonderful meals in spite of all the shortages. We played cowboys and soldiers, went to movies. Mickey ran a paper route, and when he could talk my cousin, Billie, and me into running it, then we did it. She pedaled the bicycle and I rode on the bar, trying to land the newspaper on the porch.

Most of all I remember being a happy, healthy little girl with a wonderful family and trips to the beach or to Knott’s Berry Farm. I saw the floats for the Rose Bowl Parade, and I know that I was able to enjoy that life only because of the military, just as I know it’s because of them I can enjoy my life now.

I found out that my country cousins rolled bandages and knitted mufflers for the troops, just as I painted posters and collected scrap metal. I learned how to conduct myself during a bombing raid drill with all the other big-city kids. Everyone did whatever he possibly could so that the American lifestyle within the greatest country on earth could survive.

I wish we could all do that today, and I will tell you this much. My little mother, that beauty, would have slapped Cindy Sheehan into next week, and Daddy would have kicked Michael Moore into the next century. That is what my handsome dad would have done because they knew what it was to SUPPORT THE TROOPS.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Virgie Bell's View

Our military men and women make me so proud. There’s a story on the Internet about Marines who are working to save an Iraqi baby. It seems the mother of the child ran to the Marines while they were on maneuvers, begging for help for a very sick baby. The Marines risked their lives so that this baby might live, and that is one of the reasons it makes me so angry to hear those in power – Murtha and Kerry – run them down.

It is also an insult to hear Dennis Konsini, however you spell it – it is not worth the effort to look it up since my knowledge has always been on a need-to-know basis, and he is right up there with a Britney Spears fan letter.

He is such a loathsome little man, and he seems so totally lacking in anything like leadership qualities. Of course, he is the darling of the Hollywood set, wouldn't you just know. Anything that flies in the face of the American public and their opinions.

I see the Dixie Chicks are up for something or other with the upcoming Grammy Awards, just as Mel Gibson's new movie looks like it might be Oscar material. If we the people who buy their records and tickets to see their movies disapprove, the awards and accolades from their peers can't pile up fast enough.

We, the public, who support their ridiculous lifestyles are looked upon with such contempt. It was reported that Natalie Maines was born with her middle finger extended to the world. She was born in Lubbock, Texas, and by her own admission, played hooky about once a week just to prove that Lubbock was a racist city – a true political activist.

You know what? I don't care what Streisand, the Dixie Chicks or Willy Nelson think politically. Streisand and Willy are getting a little too old for this. The future generation is into rap and rock. Streisand, while having incredible talent, is and has always been one of the most unattractive women in the world. Her private live is pathetic joke, one child by another actor who was a victim of AIDS. She has more money than she knows what to do with and no one of her own blood to leave it to, and the ever-inspiring Willy – I hate to break it to you folks, but this man is a songwriter of simple verse.

I’ve had enough voice lessons to know that the Dixie Chicks and Willy are no great shakes in the voice department, and simple verse I can write – anyone can. I realize it might sound as if I'm some big fan of entertainment, but to get the news in any form, they are there in all their glory. Being so hard of hearing for so long I had to access visual quality pleasure. Believe me, it is not there.

I am sorry things are not going well in Iraq, but hey, folks, that is war. I bet you could have talked to my Uncle Lonnie, and he could have said the same thing about Japan. Being alive on Iwo Jima at the end of that battle was one of the greatest breaks in the history of the USA, and that is why it makes me so angry to see the Murthas and Kerrys pop off as experts in anything. Because they served in the Band of Others. I despise that kind behavior.

I despise them and call them traitors and cowards. They are to the Marine Corps what the Dixie Chicks are to social reform. They are the ones who prostitute themselves. Leave the Corps out of it. You do it for fame and fortune. John Kerry will never figure out that no one who is the least bit sane would ever mistake him for smart. He is, in a word, so clueless that he thinks he is presidential material.

I just recently found out that Iran is of the Persian race. In the Bible, these are the people known as the Medes. There is much about them, and a lot of prophecy about them. The one that really hit me between the eyes is that the FINAL ANTICHRIST will be of that descent. The bear mentioned in Revelation 13 and Daniel 7:5 are the same bear.

I don't mean to put anyone off, but if you are like me, these are things you wonder about all you life.

But no matter what I do for the rest of my life, I will SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.

Gift Giving Ideas for Christmas

Tom, Dick, and Harry have probbies it seems.
Life November 30, 1942

Cute, huh?

The Inside of the Cute Santa

Aaron was stumped on the Christmas he made me this card. I don't know what year it was, there were so many stumped or broke years for Aaron. :)

Whispers of Happiness to Come

Lane Cedar Chests are a great idea for Christmas. The one on the bottom, one exactly like my mom's, is only $29.75!

Life November 30, 1942

Christmas With Freedom

Last but not least.

World War II Veterans Remembered

Gunz Up will be featuring World War II veterans, their stories, their pictures, their era through December 7, 2006.

If you have a WWII story you want to share, email it to me.

Thank you World War II veterans for your service. Your sacrifice will NEVER be forgotten!

Never Quit.

... and we'll Never Forget.

Six Surprised Strongholds

A smoke tower rises from blazing storage tanks on Wotje atoll in Marshall Islands. This picture was taken from U.S. cruiser participating in the attack.

The pattern of attack was similar to that pursued by other sqadrons which beseiged Kwajalein, Jaluit, Makin, Mili and Tarawa.

Life February 23, 1942

Newsreel Shots by Pathe Photographer Mervyn Freeman

Scout bomber swoops in to land on carrier. Another has just rolled to a stop aft. Others on forward deck are being refueled & readied for further action when six Japanese bases by the Pacific Fleet's highly succesful raid on Jan. 31, 1942.

Freeman was with the unit delegated to blast the strong hold on Wotje atoll.

Life February 23, 1942

Raid in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands: Jan 31, 1942

"Helmeted crews fire 5-in. anti-aircraft guns at Jap installations. Bothered not at all by inaccurate Jap fire from shore, U.S. ships threw everything they had."

Life February 23, 1942

"We gave the Japanese cause to remember Pearl Harbor too."

(L) A turret of 8-inchers hurls 300 lb. of steel and explosive at Jap's island base.

(R) Heavy cruiser spits smoke and flame as nine 8-in. guns go off in mighty Salvo.

Life February 23, 1942

Thursday, December 07, 2006

War Calls Come First

Bell Telephone System writes: "We can't get materials to build enough of them. And those we have now are crowded with war calls.

So please do not make Long Distance calls to centers of war activity.

These girls are at battle stations on the telephone front. They have as much as they can do to get the war calls through.

The National Geographic Magazine. November, 1942
Made You Look.

Virgie Bell's View

I was to write my childhood growing up in the shadow of World War 11, and I will try to do that, but being an American child, my perspective would be much different than that of children from other parts of the world. My perspective is different as an adult also.

I was neither in the World Trade Center nor in the other two places attacked: the Pentagon and that lonely field where with dying breaths fellow citizens foiled the attempted target to wherever the enemy had in mind. We do know that those passengers had cell phones and did know of the success of the other two planes. We do know they gave up their lives rather than let another target be hit. We also know that the American people woke up to the fact that we are despised by forces they cannot hope to understand...Assuming that my parents were not idiots. I understand the steel used for the bombs that dropped on Pearl Harbor was furnished by us. We did not mean to furnish the steel for any purpose other than peace. In fact, Japan, at the time of the bombing, had an envoy signing a peace treaty. War had been declared on America on our soil then, just as it was on Sept.11. The difference being that the guilty had a homeland, a place to aim our military, crippled as it was. We were not then a superpower. But we were a people. The American People.

We have always been in wars because we fight principalities and the source of evil itself...our only hope with this enemy is that they would love their children more than they hate us, even though we know for a fact that they will hold them within a mothers arms and blow herself and her child up just to kill a few of us. Just as it always has been just as it always will be, as long as we exist...period.

Like everyone else with half a brain I watched as Colin Powell pointed out chemical and biological facilities in Iraq. They did exist just as they did when we saw the same thing in Cuba. No matter what else I believe about this war, the very most I can hope for is that George Bush is not an evil man, and that the God he prays to is truly the one in whom I believe. I have to believe that the God I pray to is God. I have no other hope than that, a faith in something not seen, a hope in hope, or I am left with nothing. My God is not a practical joker. That is blasphemy and neither is God mocked, nor is He divided. Everything that God said is true. Or it is not. Not being a brilliant person, sometimes I have to look at the simplest things in the simplest terms.

Lisa, my daughter came by today in tears, afraid that she in her ignorance had prayed for her country, that she was somehow responsible...and in her ignorance she helped to kill Aaron with her prayers. So I will say this if her working every day to care for her family, her aging parents, every stray animal that comes along, if that is then evil, we are evil. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and we live in hope, and believe. It’s all we ever had in the past, all we have in the future. We will either win this war or any war by the grace of God.

Yes, I was a child during World War 11. I remember scrap metal drives, rations for gas, bomb drills at my school and search lights in the sky. But most of all, I remember the soldiers who fought so that I have the freedom to express myself. The Marines who bravely fought and all of those who died for our country and on this day, Pearl Harbor Day, I want to thank you from the depth of my heart for the sacrifice and for all of those spending this day away from home so that I can be safe in my home, God bless each and everyone of you.


Our House

December 7, 2006
Thursday 2:42 PM CST

Gary, my brother, has just called to tell me that he and Karen will be here in about an hour and a half. I felt pretty sure they would be back this afternoon, so I have my stuff loaded in the car, ready to go home and see my own four-legged children and the man I love whose been feeding and appeasing them for a couple of days while I’ve sat with Gary and Karen’s four-legged babies, Sadie and Bonray.

I cried a little bit when it got time to leave just now. Not because I don't want to go home, but because I’ve put it off since I got here on Tuesday. The cry, I mean. The past two days have been my first time alone in this house in a long while, and I used to stay here alone (with the babies, of course) often.

Before I leave this home, one first opened up to me in 2001, I had to sit down and write. This very moment, I’m perched in the same chair I used to sit in, hunched over a-just-my-size-kitchen-bar, where I once wore out erasers on fifteen various No. 2 pencils I perpetually lined up, first sharpened on the pencil sharpener my brother had screwed into a wall of his garage for me; before hitting the hour long two lane highway waiting on me, I had to sit once again, sans pointy pencils, three page equations, and ten Spanish verbs, finally, conjugated, memorized and shortly, forgotten.

When I enrolled in Texas Tech University in the fall of 2001, Gary and Karen offered me a place to stay during the week while I attended classes. Their home in Brownfield is less than forty miles from Lubbock, while mine is about one ten.

There's a lot of history here in this house I once visited more than my own. It became our house. I was part of Sadie and Bonray's family. I'm Auntie to them like I am to Kayla.

When the Twin Towers burst into a death sentence for countless lives and untold future decisions, I was in an early morning Algebra class. After the class was over, I overheard a young guy who was sprawled out in the buffed tile hallway, waiting his turn for math punishment, I heard him say to the girl next to him, "They," he said, lifting his brow and cocking his head toward the file of wanna be mathematicians, "don’t know yet.”

I didn’t give his statement much thought (though now, I'll never forget his words), and walked marathon miles to the parking lot, got into my truck, a truck that once belonged to Aaron, and behind the steering wheel, books to my right side, I kept my head down, hunched over some book for the next hour while much of America riveted. It wasn’t until my 12:30 British Lit class that I learned of the morning's surreal events. The attacks of terror.

When I got home to Brownfield that evening, Karen was in the den. She’d been home ill from work and had remained parked before the jet and mortar images on a Sanyo screen all day. We looked at each other for a full minute, then quietly sat together in disbelief, in horror really, watched and listened, numbed. Later, we forecasted and conjured. We grew into generals with clear plans, then went to bed and woke up with the same disbelief in the reality of it all.

From the vantage point of Gary and Karen’s house, I watched as our nation united. I listened to a determined Commander In Chief. I studied God’s Word in a novel way. I fought with tests from school, tests from home. I waited for Recruit Austin’s letters from San Diego, and then from here, I flew to witness my son graduate from USMC Boot Camp on 18 Jan 2002. I bid my son farewell as he left for war, and here I fell apart on the Day from Hell. Day five of the war, the day when our first soldiers were captured and paraded on TV.

Since that time, I’ve been with Aaron here in my brother’s back yard, swimming, dancing, laughing. Gary and Karen loved it when Aaron was home on leave. Together, Aaron and I would always spend a day or two here with them. Christmases too, with Aaron and the rest of the family, here at our home away from home.

It was here Aaron told me, “Mom, I’ve got about five things I want to confess in my life. I’m going to tell you three tonight.”

No. Don’t ask.

I’ve worried and prayed a lot from this spot I’m about to depart.

The wind chimes here sing in a deeper tone than mine. Still, beautiful in a lonely sort of way.

It saddens me to see the gray in Sadie’s and Bonray’s muzzle. But it’s been good being here. Alone for the first time in this house since I lost Aaron.

Different concerns now, prayers rearranged somewhat.

Perhaps it’s the day. Pearl Harbor. Their 9/11.

I don’t know why Aaron had to leave. I’m just glad he was here.

Black Heroes of Pearl Harbor

The battle at Pearl Harbor had its own heroes. One of them was Doris (Dorrie) Miller, the USS West Virginia’s heavyweight boxing champion. Dorrie carried his wounded captain to safety, then manned a sub-machine gun and shot down three enemy planes.

What makes his courage even more extraordinary is that Dorrie had never handled a machine gun before.

He was black, and like all African-Americans in the Navy at the time, he was assigned to menial tasks. In his case, as a mess attendant. Fourteen men received America’s highest military award for heroism on that day, but not Dorrie. He received the Navy Cross instead. He was the first black to receive that medal, but he was passed over for the highest honor.

Dr. Stephen Ambrose, historian and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, says in "Legacy of Attack:" "The beginning of the breakdown of racial segregation in the United States started here in Pearl Harbor. Black men, just like everybody else, saw a buddy down there in that oil-covered water with fire going on … and he dove in to save him. That happened again and again. White America began to learn that there’s an awful lot of bravery, skill, endurance and character in black America."

Dorrie Miller was killed two years after Pearl Harbor, when his ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

I'll Be Seeing You

My love affair with the era we call the Greatest Generation began in high school. I picked up "The Longest Day," the classic telling of D-Day by Cornelius Ryan, and read about the courage and determination of American warriors who began the war with one leg kicked out from under them at Pearl Harbor.

I was hooked, and I began reading book after book about World War II. I bought Big Band music, listening to Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade." When I listened to the music from that era, I could feel the will of America pounding with the beat of "In The Mood," and I could sense the longing for loved ones in the words of "I'll Be Seeing You."

Americans were relieved to be done with the Great Depression. Prosperity energized a country that was emerging from a national financial disaster, and men and women were eager and proud to do whatever was necessary to defend their country after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. That fervor, that pride in country, was new to a boy who grew up in the divisive years of the Vietnam War.

While I read book after book about World War II, my awe increased. The country was united, determined to destroy Germany, Japan and Italy. Civilians rationed and did without so that resources could be diverted to the military. I have some of the ration books my grandparents used during the war to buy butter, shoes, sugar, gasoline and other commodities. None of that spirit seemed to exist during Vietnam. If it did, I missed it.

Instead, I saw the My Lai Massacre, as historians call it, screaming from the magazines and newspapers. The campus riots, especially Kent State, were foreign demonstrations to a boy growing up in the conservative Texas Panhandle. The evening news rarely failed to report on Johnson's withering administration, and the chants from the protestors outside the White House gates still echo in my mind.

That was the war I grew up with, and the Watergate scandal, arriving on the heels of our pullout from Vietnam made me more weary of an era plagued with assassinations, riots and an unpopular conflict. I escaped into my books about World War II, where the vision of a country flush with prosperity and love of country soothed me. I admit that I romanticized the military, and I did join the Air Force a few years later. It wasn't the escapade-loving military I had read about in the books on World War II. Instead, it was an organization that was largely populated by cynical and usually bitter veterans of Vietnam. Some of them made my life hell. But overall, I liked the Air Force.

I know the United States wasn't perfect during the years of World War II. We were segregated, and no black Americans received a Medal of Honor during the war, although I'm certain, some of them displayed the heroism deserving of one. We weren't a perfect nation, but we were a patriotic one.

It's that feeling I long for and wish we could capture again on this anniversay of Pearl Harbor.

The USS Arizona Memorial

Today the battle-scarred, submerged remains of the battleship USS Arizona rest on the silt of Pearl Harbor, just as they settled on December 7, 1941. The ship was one of many casualties from the deadly attack by the Japanese on a quiet Sunday that President Franklin Roosevelt called "a date which will live in infamy."

The Arizona's burning bridge and listing mast and superstructure were photographed in the aftermath of the Japanese attack, and news of her sinking was emblazoned on the front page of newspapers across the land. The photograph symbolized the destruction of the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the start of a war that was to take many thousands of American lives. Indelibly impressed into the national memory, the image could be recalled by most Americans when they heard the battle cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor."

More than a million people visit the USS Arizona Memorial each year. They file quietly through the building and toss flower wreaths and leis into the water. They watch the iridescent slick of oil that still leaks, a drop at a time, from ruptured bunkers after more than 50 years at the bottom of the sea, and they read the names of the dead carved in marble on the Memorial's walls.

The Declaration Of War

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Franklin D. Roosevelt - December 8, 1941

The West Virginia Sinks

The sunken battleship USS West Virginia in the foreground with the heavily damaged USS Tennessee seen behind.

The Japanese Attack

A Japanese photo taken during the aerial torpedo attack on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor on the far side of Ford Island. A torpedo has just struck the USS West Virginia (center). Also seen are (from left) Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland and California.

At 7:53 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, the first assault wave of Japanese fighter planes attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, taking the Americans completely by surprise.

The first attack wave targeted airfields and battleships. The second wave targeted other ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasted until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships were damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels were lost along with 188 aircraft. The Japanese lost 27 planes and five midget submarines which attempted to penetrate the inner harbor and launch torpedoes.

Three prime targets: the U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga, were not in the harbor and thus escaped damage.

The casualty list at Pearl Harbor included 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians killed, and 1,178 wounded. Over 1,000 crewmen aboard the USS Arizona battleship were killed after a 1,760-lb. aerial bomb penetrated the forward magazine causing catastrophic explosions.

The USS West Virginia

The USS West Virginia aflame after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Arizona

The USS Arizona burns after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Charles Coulson, USN

Charles Coulson was the baby brother of MaMa, my maternal grandmother, who was the eldest of four living children.

Uncle Charles enlisted in the Navy right out of high school, but not before he gave Jane (his future wife) her first kiss when she was fifteen. "It was just a peck, but on the lips," Aunt Jane told me over the phone today. And when I asked her if he talked about the war any, she answered, "No, he never said much at all. I'm sure he wanted to forget a lot of it."

Jane was living in Abilene, TX when Pearl Harbor was bombed. She remembers feeling "devastated" when she first heard. She had every reason to fear for her boyfriend's life, for Petty Officer Third Class Coulson was aboard the USS Detroit docked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

As fate would have it, the USS Detroit escaped without casualty, save a few superficial wounds which are noted in the following report:



WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

USS Detroit, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack
U.S.S. Detroit

Serial 1471

December 10, 1941.

From:The Commanding Officer.
To:Commander-in-Chief, U.S. PACIFIC FLEET.

Subject:URDIS 102102 December 1941.

1. Set Condition Zed throughout ship.

2. Manned and fired all A.A. Guns, both 3" and .50 calibre machine guns. Round fired: 422 3"; 10,000 .50 calibre.
3. Two planes were brought down by joint fire of this vessel and Curtiss.
4. Two men received superficial wounds.
5. No damage to ship, Motor boat sunk by explosion alongside Nevada.
6.No case of distinguished conduct.
7. One aerial torpedo passed about ten yards astern of Detroit at Berth F-8. Believe this torpedo buried in mud or coral between Berths F-12 and F-13.
[signed]L.J. WILTSE.
Copies to:





Enclosure (E) to CINCPAC action report Serial 0479 of 15 February 1942, World War II action reports,the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740.


***A fortunate crew indeed. Or so it would seem. The ship departed and spent much of her time near Alaska. Petty Officer Third Class Coulson returned home for leave and married the girl who'd feared for his life on that December Day, 65 years ago.

Charles and Jane repeated their vows on July 31, 1942. The sailor was medically discharged with stomach problems right before his hitch was up.

About a week ago, I'd asked my dad if he thought it had affected Uncle Charles in any visible way. "I think so. He never said much, except once he told me that for three days no one could choke any food down ...arms and legs were everywhere."

For many years, Uncle Charles drove a truck OTR. Eventually, he and Jane divorced and he is now deceased.

Aunt Jane is 82 and resides in Lubbock, Texas.

Thank you for your service and sacrifice, dear Sailor. RIP

Pearl Harbor Action Reports 7 Dec 1941

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

To Aunty

Make sure God blesses her, Aaron.
Take one step at a time, Aunty.
Feel his spirit ignite your heart
into emotional outbursts.
Notice his freedom came after death.
He didn’t die. He lived again.
He’s seen our Creator; his Creator.
Feel bright billowy grass bury
your petite feet into ground comfort.
Rest there in a magical garden
where you are cooled
with kaleidoscope clouds, a refreshed
breeze brushes your brow,
your tired fingers too.
Drop to your knees, lean
back and lie in wait as a buttery
sun melts green eyes
into a relaxed pose. Heartbeat
of the earth pumps rest,
then life
into your free body, no,
it’s not your heart
to beat into the earth.
It is hers and the God
who formed you both. Hard
ground from which The Potter
cast you; or could it be His
knocking, tapping. Talking.

Dear child, I am here. Dry
your worldly wings fly
free of cringing worry.
Let the mountains say,
You are here now, stay
as long as you want. Your son
will see you when you live
again, but for now, landscape
with Nature. Escape. Nothing
can harm you.
Enter this world until
your spirit is free, for now
take control of your life. Rest
now until you live again in the arms
of your son. I love you.

P.S. Aunty, it is okay to enter your kind world
and if you think people think you are crazy,
forget the world and God
will lift you in flight through skies'
crisp air. And I am always here.

Steve In Iraq: The Interview Continues

This show has been cancelled until Monday night, Dec. 11th

Steve will wrap up his interview tonight about his trip to Iraq. He'll be continuing his talk with Dave and Jenn at 6:00 PM CST. I plan on calling in for just a bit, and if you’d like to, the number is 347-996-5948. (Long distance charges will apply, so use your cell if it fits your plan.)

If you missed his interview on December 4th, you can still hear it. Ninety minutes of such an eloquent voice, Steve! Tell me, how do you do it?

Tune in if you can at My Point Blog Radio. No charge for listening!

Specialist Eric Vizcaino, USA and NM Loses A Soldier

New Mexico has lost another service member.

Spec. Eric Vizcaino

Hometown: , New Mexico, U.S.
Age: 21 years old
Died: November 21, 2006 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Unit: Army, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C
Incident: Died in a non-combat related incident in Balad.

Salute to Captain Kermit Evans

Captain returning to Cannon killed in Iraq
Source: AP

HOLLANDALE, Miss. -- Family members said an Air Force captain from Mississippi was among four U.S. military service members killed when their helicopter went down in Iraq.

Margaret Evans of Hollandale, Miss.i, said her son, Kermit Evans, died Sunday when the Sea Knight helicopter plunged into Lake Qadisiyah in Anbar province.

He was a native of Hollandale and a graduate of Mississippi State University.

Evans, 31, was serving his second tour in Iraq.

His mother said he enlisted in the Air Force in August 2001 and was promoted to captain in November 2005.

She also said he had received orders about three weeks ago that he was going back to Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Salute To The Fallen And Their Survivors

Gunz Up salutes Those who've given their all for our freedoms. God keep their survivors forever. We will never forget your loved ones' service and sacrifice.

Survivors of Pearl Harbor

The Fallen of November 2006

The Fallen of December 2006

Click here for some beautiful music that does take a while to load, but is really beautiful. The taps duet with a 21-gun salute reminded me so much of May 3, 2004, the day we buried Aaron.

And now I'm listening to Amazing Grace on bagpipes. It's beautiful.

To Steve From Turkey!

This photo was taken by National Geographic in Turkey.

Christi Costello sent it to me in an email, and I've lost the text, but anyway, in this photo taken directly overhead, the white marks are the actual camels, the black, their shadows.

Killing Is All That Matters

Ernie Pyle was the most famos and loved columnist during World War II. His devotion to American fighting men endeared him to readers and the military. In this column, Plyle explains how servicemen going into battle will be changed by the experience.

WITH THE AMERICAN FORCES IN ALGIERS, Dec.1, 1942 - From now onward, stretching for months and months into the future, life is completely changed for thousands of American boys on this side of the earth. For at last they are in there fighting.

The jump from camp life into front-line living is just as great as the original jump from civilian life into the Army. Only those who served in the last war can conceive of the makeshift, deadly urgent, always-moving-onward complexion of front-line existence. And existence is exactly the word: it is nothing more.

The last of the comforts are gone. From now on you sleep in bedrolls under little tents. You wash whenever and wherever you can. You carry your food on your back when you are fighting.

You dig ditches for protection from bullets and from the chill north wind off the Mediterranean. There are no more hot-water taps. There are no post exchanges where you can buy cigarets. There are no movies.

When you speak to a civilian you have to wrestle with a foreign language. You carry just enough clothing to cover you, and no more. You don't lug any knickknacks at all.

When our troops made their first landings in North Africa they went four days without even blankets, just catching a few hours sleep on the ground.

Everybody either lost or chucked aside some of his equipment. Like most troops going into battle for the first time, they all carried too much at first. Gradually they shed it. The boys tossed out personal gear from their musette bags and filled them with ammunition. The countryside for twenty miles around Oran was strewn with overcoats, field jackets and mess kits as the soldiers moved on the city.

Arabs will be going around for a whole generation clad in odd pieces of American Army uniforms.

At the moment our troops are bivouacked for miles around each of three large centers of occupation - Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. They are consolidating, fitting in replacements, making repairs - spending a few days taking a deep breath before moving on to other theaters of action.

They are camped in every conceivable way. In the city of Oran some are billeted in office buildings, hotels and garages. Some are camping in parks and big vacant lots on the edge of town. Some are miles away, out in the country, living on treeless stretches of prairie. They are in tiny groups and in huge batches.

Some of the officers live in tents and sleep on the ground. Others have been lucky enough to commandeer a farmhouse or a barn, sometimes even a modern villa.

The tent camps look odd. The little low tents hold two men apiece and stretch as far as you can see.

There are Negro camps as well as white.

You see men washing mess kits and clothing in five-gallon gasoline cans, heated over an open fire made from sticks and pieces of packing cases. They strip naked and take sponge baths in the heat of the day. In the quick cold of night they cuddle up in their bedrolls.

You see Negroes playing baseball under the bright African sun during their spare hours of an afternoon.

The American soldier is quick in adapting himself to a new mode of living. Outfits which have been here only three days have dug vast networks of ditches three feet deep in the bare brown earth. They have rigged up a light here and there with a storage battery. They have gathered boards and made floors and sideboards for their tents to keep out the wind and sand. They have hung out their washing, and painted their names over the tent flaps. You even see a soldier sitting on his "front step" of an evening playing a violin.

They've been here only three days and they know they're unlikely to be here three days more, but they patch up some kind of home nevertheless.

Even in this short waiting period life is far from static. Motor convoys roar along the highways. Everything is on a basis of "not a minute to spare." There is a new spirit among the troops - a spirit of haste.

Planes pass constantly, eastbound. New detachments of troops wait for orders to move on. Old detachments tell you the stories of their first battle, and conjecture about the next one. People you've only recently met hand you slips of paper with their home addresses and say, "You know, in case something happens, would you mind writing..."

At last we are in it up to our necks, and everything is changed, even your outlook on life.

Swinging first and swinging to kill is all that matters now.

The town as a whole has been turned back to the French, but the Army keeps a hand raised and there will be no miscues.

My MeMa (maternal grandmother) and her first little brother, Lonnie Dean McCurry. My grandmother was about 4.
Made You Look.

2LT. Lonnie D. McCurry, 1941
Made You Look.

Lonnie D. "Primo" McCurry

Uncle Lonnie and his unit's battles will continue with more in-depth coverage in "Blood Is Thicker Than Water."

He was born as the second of four children to my MaMa and PaPa Curry (the names I called my great-grandparents on my mother’s side) on March 7, 1919 in Claypool, Oklahoma as Lonnie Dean McCurry (and the only one of the four not born in Texas). While in high school, Lonnie was nicknamed “Primo” after an Italian Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Primo Carnera. Lubbock High counted my uncle as a valuable athlete and boxer.

Primo (a name that has stuck with him throughout his life) enlisted as a PFC in the United States Marine Corps through the Reserve Officers Corps while in his senior year at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. He was called to active duty after graduation in May 1941.

McCurry began his training in Quantico, Virginia and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in September 1941. His training was cut short due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and after two months training at “Arty” school, 2LT McCurry transferred to the West Coast to join 2nd Marine Division before it was split to form 3rd Marine Division.

The LT, who was now a part of 3rd Marine Division, was then sent to New Zealand for further training before his first combat action in Bougainville. The 2nd Marine Division had been sent to Guadalcanal.

2LT McCurry served as Battery Commander for a 105MM Howitzer battery with Mike Battery, 4th Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division in Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. He received the Purple Heart in Guam for his injuries sustained on 21 July 1944 after receiving mine fragments to his left arm. Other decorations include the Navy Unit Commendation with 1 star, the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Victory Medal WWII, National Defense Service Medal, Korea Service Medal with 2 stars, and the United Defense Service Medal.

McCurry retired as a Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1961. He was selected for Texas Tech’s Football Hall of Honor in 2000. His selection for this honor is noted:

Lonnie "Primo" McCurry (2000)
Hometown: Lubbock
Football - 1938-40
*Little All-American in 1940 as guard
*Helped 1938 team to 10-1 mark and Cotton Bowl appearance
*Captained Pete Cawthon's final team to 9-1-1 record
*Drafted by Brooklyn, but entered military service instead
*Awarded Purple Heart for service during invasion of Guam during World War II

I think I've mentioned before that Aaron and Uncle Lonnie met one time in their lives at Aaron's Homecoming Party given in celebration of my son's return from OIF 1, which was held in Lubbock, Texas on August 2, 2003.

It will always amaze me the tight bond that was experienced by all of us with three Marines from three different generations in our large family's midst, and I will never be able to keep myself from grinning when I think of Uncle Lonnie's words to Aaron as Aaron struggled for an answer to give the reporter from ABC News when she asked my son, the leader of a 240 M Machine gun team,"And what was your job while you were in Iraq?"

As Aaron looked around for magical politically correct words with which to answer the reporter, our very distinguished Uncle Lonnie offered out, "You killed people. Isn't that what you did?"

Even the reporter had to grin. And of course, the video was well edited before the ten o'clock news that night!

The Three Marines on August 2, 2003. From left to right is Lonnie D. McCurry, Aaron C. Austin, and Bennie L. Pickrell.
Made You Look.