Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
©Eddy Perez, LSU University Relations
In Remembrance of Those Who Have Given All.
[photo courtesy of The Patriot Post]
City Skyline by United States Marine Corps Official Page on Flickr.
Members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard performed a drill routine Thursday (3/8/12) on the Parade Ground.
This marks the first time the 16-man honor guard drill team visited the campus. The team is led by 1st Lt. Alexander Stanton, an LSU alumnus.
By Tyler Daniel, The Daily Reveille
Once upon a time, that was almost me. I served two years in LSU’s Pershing Rifles, the combined honor guard component of LSU’s ROTC programs. We never did anything as fancy as these moves, however. Nor did we get to mount bayonets.
This is radically cool.
“Western Afghanistan is Purple and Gold.”
“Representing even in Afghanistan… GEAUX LSU BEAT BAMA!”
Lord, but the Apache remains a badass piece of hardware.
Hunting With SEALs | Karl Rove
“Some warn that America’s freedom, like all things human, may crumble into dust. The reason it doesn’t is because in times of trial our country produces men and women of courage and fortitude, honor and sacrifice. Which is another way of saying America produces self-effacing heroes like last weekend’s hunting companions.”
Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden’s handpicked deputy in Iraq, had killed thousands of people in an attempt to send the world back to the sixth century. In a fitting bit of irony, two operators from SEAL Team Six had killed him with an invisible laser beam and a flying robot.
SEAL’s best friend.
Turns out just when we thought there was nothing cooler than a Navy SEAL we were proved wrong. Meet the Navy SEAL dog. Sure by now you have seen them jumping out of planes or on the battle field, but tonight on World News we will show you the training that makes these dogs one of the military’s strongest weapons.
U.S. Navy SEAL, Mike Forsythe, and his dog, Cara — pictured above — recently broke the world record for “highest man/dog parachute deployment” by jumping from 30,100 feet.
Courtesy: US Navy / K9 Storm
This is really freaking amazing.
It's a good thing, I believe, to remember the dead -- especially in a culture that trivializes death. We shunt it aside to the fantastic realms of video games and movies, and call it by other names when we do it to old people and unborn infants, and all of this is a way, I think, of grasping life in the wrong way, in a way that reveals the underlying belief, for many of us, that our lives are about our gratification.
That's such a big word for an experience that is so very small. Gratification is as far removed from joy as hunger is from a great feast, and yet we forsake the latter in pursuit of the former because joy, like a feast, requires sacrifice.
So it's a good thing to remember those who gave their lives in sacrifice for others. Think on them, and if you like you can light a candle or mutter a prayer, a prayer that you and I and the rest of the world will, if only for a slender day, give ourselves over to loving someone other than ourselves, which means the great sacrifice of setting down our hurts and lusts and grievances and entitlements, all of which are chains with heavy anchors, but which we gather to us like treasures. But today, if only for today, what say we lay them down?
Our armed forces have become exquisitely sensitive--toward Nidal Malik Hasan and Ahmed Hashim Abed, and one wonders who else. Such sensitivity comes at a price, of course. But for now, at least, that price won't be paid by those who set the policy. The SEALs would've been better off if they'd just shot the guy dead.
This looks good.
"Brothers at War is an intimate portrait of an American family during a turbulent time. Jake Rademacher sets out to understand the experience, sacrifice, and motivation of his two brothers serving in Iraq. The film follows Jake's exploits as he risks everything--including his life--to tell his brothers' story. "Often humorous, but sometimes downright lethal, Brothers at War is a remarkable journey where Jake embeds with four combat units in Iraq. Unprecedented access to US and Iraqi combat units take him behind the camouflage curtain with secret reconnaissance troops on the Syrian border, into sniper 'hide sites' in the Sunni Triangle, through raging machine gun battles with the Iraqi Army. "Ultimately, the film follows his brothers home where separations and life-threatening work ripple through their parents, siblings, wives, and children. Brothers at War is a rare look at the bonds and service of our soldiers on the frontlines and the profound effects their service has on the loved ones they leave behind. For more information please visit - www.brothersatwarmovie.com." The film is executive produced by Gary Sinise (CSI: New York, "Lt. Dan" in Forrest Gump), who said, "The media took the 15 people of Abu Ghraib and made them the face of the military. This [movie] is a true portrait of our military and their families."
Thanks to the best wife in the world, my Valentine’s Day gift arrived three days early. Last night I was privileged, along with a couple hundred others, to spend some time with General Charles “Chuck” Yeager.
General Yeager has long been a hero of mine. He was one of many reasons I entered Air Force ROTC in college. His exploits, as portrayed in The Right Stuff, kept my friend Matt and I up late into the night on more than one occasion. When she learned he was going to be in town as part of a fundraiser for the C.R. Smith Museum, my wife thought I would enjoy attending, and oh, was she ever right.
We watched a 20-minute clip from a DVD about the general, and then he spoke for about an hour and a half, discussing his experiences from World War II onward, and taking questions from the audience.
Some of his recollections and observations that I can remember, in no particular order:
Given that General Yeager’s 86th birthday will be on Friday, the 13th, a cake was brought out and the entire audience sang “Happy Birthday” to him. He thought it was a kick. He mingled briefly afterward, and had a slice of cake. There was no official signing or greeting line; the general either hadn’t planned to, or was too tired, to sign books and other items. All perfectly understandable.
It was disappointing to not be able to greet General Yeager personally, shake his hand, and thank him for his decades of service. But I am not disappointed in the overall experience. It was fantastic! If you ever have the chance to meet with General Yeager or hear him speak, do not miss such an opportunity with an authentic American hero.
Much love and thanks to Kelly for making last night possible for me! I love you, sweetheart!
Obama’s busy expanding all of the rest of the government except for its primary, Constitutional mission: defending the nation. With several friends serving our country in the armed forces, I can only pray they continue to have jobs until they are ready to leave the service.
General Jack Keane (USA, Ret.), Frederick W. Kagan, and Kimberly Kagan:
Reducing our troop strength solely on the basis of trends in violence also misses the critical point that the mission of American forces in Iraq is shifting rapidly from counterinsurgency to peace enforcement. The counter-insurgency fight that characterized 2007 continues mainly in areas of northern Iraq. The ability of organized enemy groups, either Sunni or Shia, to conduct large-scale military or terrorist operations and to threaten the existence of the Iraqi government is gone for now. No area of Iraq today requires the massive, violent, and dangerous military operations that American and Iraqi forces had to conduct over the last 18 months in order to pacify various places or restore them to government control. Although enemy networks and organizations have survived and are regrouping, they will likely need considerable time to rebuild their capabilities to levels that pose more than a local challenge--and intelligent political, economic, military, and police efforts can prevent them from rebuilding at all.
American troops continue to conduct counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has not given up, and against Iranian-backed Special Groups, which are also reconstituting. U.S. forces support Iraqi forces conducting counterinsurgency operations in the handful of areas where any significant insurgent capability remains. But mostly our troops are enforcing the peace.
In ethnically mixed areas, American troops are seen as impartial arbiters and mediators. In predominantly Shia or Sunni areas, they are seen as guarantors of continued safety, destroying the justification for illegal militias. American brigades also play critical roles in economic reconstruction, not by spending American money but by helping Iraqis spend their own money. American staffs help local Iraqi leaders develop prioritized lists of their needs, budgets to match those priorities, and plans for executing those budgets. American troops support the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that mentor Iraqi provincial leaders and help local communities communicate their needs to the central government. American soldiers provide essential support to Iraqi soldiers and police working hard to develop their ability to function on their own.
Indeed, American combat brigades have become the principal enablers of economic and political development in Iraq. When an American brigade is withdrawn from an area, there is nothing to take its place--all of these functions go unperformed. Clearly, then, the number of brigades needed in Iraq should be tied not to the level of violence but to the roles the Americans perform and the importance of those roles to the further development of Iraq as a stable and peaceful state. [Emphasis added. --R]
"[L]et us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain." --Dwight Eisenhower
It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators -- on both sides of the aisle -- who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.
I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war -- and our part in it -- at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.
The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers.
We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can't do it from inside a jet or a tank.
Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory -- and a democracy in the Arab world -- is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.
The following landed in ye olde e-mail inbox earlier today, penned by talk radio host Laura Ingraham: Megan pulled a three-ring binder out of her bag and showed me a photograph of herself and her husband. Young--they're both 21--with big smiles on their faces and obviously wildly in love. "That's what he looked like," she said with a somber face, "He was such a cutie-pie, always buying me little stuffed animals and writing the most thoughtful notes the entire time he was in Iraq." Then she showed me the photo of her husband receiving the Purple Heart on Wednesday from President Bush at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. As President Bush pinned the medal on Mike, he lay unconscious in the ICU, having suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a piece of shrapnel that pierced his temple. "This is my Mike now," she said, rubbing her eyes. He is completely blind and to alleviate a terrible cranial pressure build-up, doctors had to remove the front of his skull. Since being wounded several months ago, Mike has never regained consciousness and suffers from terrible seizures. "That's my guy," she repeated, before she went on to tell me about how they met and fell in love. For whatever reason, I kept thinking about the fact that some person somewhere carefully assembled the IED that would eventually maim Mike and many others. They are often packed with nails, hunks of lead and screws to cause maxim human suffering. When they explode, the contents rip through flesh and bones, shattering countless dreams in the process. How to comprehend this level of evil and the physical and emotional agony it causes? This young woman and her husband should be out buying their first Christmas tree together, going to parties, raising a glass to their future. When I asked what she was doing for the holiday she said, "I'll be here with Mike. I would never want him to be alone on Christmas." They had been married for about three months when Mike was wounded. In these days before Christmas, Megan and other military wives and moms gave me a precious gift. They reminded me that true love requires sacrifice--sometimes seemingly unbearable, heart-wrenching sacrifice. They are living out their love in big and small ways. Many have moved thousands of miles to relocate to the hospitals where their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are being treated. This takes an enormous emotional and financial toll, yet they do it for love. When they are not at the hospital bedsides of their wounded warriors, they sit for hours a day in waiting rooms across the United States, hoping for good news--or at least no more bad news. They pray with each other, cry with each other, and yes, even manage to laugh with each other as they hope for a day when they can return to "normal life." Yet for the families of our most seriously injured troops, they know they will have to get used to a "new normal," much different from the life they knew before. As we are about to celebrate Christmas spending time with our families and friends, let us all do our best to live up to the true spirit of this season--and make it a time filled with love, faith, gratitude, hope, charity, and, yes, let's try for some peace on earth. Let us remember the military families and our wounded heroes who will spend this Christmas at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center and other medical facilities across the nation. As we rush around stressed out because we "haven't found the perfect gift" for so-and-so, these families hope and pray for gifts that cannot be wrapped up: a hand that squeezes back, a smile, the first step on a new prosthesis, or a positive medical report. They need our prayers and support at Christmas and every day. Please give what you can to any of the wonderful organizations that support our bravest and their families. Merry Christmas.
So, what am I thankful for this year....? My wife. Those who know me know that she has to put up with a lot on a regular basis. However, when I injured my left foot earlier this year, a ton of extra stuff fell to her to take care of, and she's been absolutely wonderful. I love you, sweetheart. The little phisch. Our little man is a never-ending source of joy--and frustration, but that's just part of parenting. That smile of his just lights me up any time, and his laugh is the best sound I've ever heard. He's a gas to play with, and it never ceases to amaze me when I see his mind at work on something. Being his dad is the greatest job I could ever have, and has given me a larger appreciation of the love my own parents have for me. My folks. I had a perfectly normal childhood. My parents, while strict at times, were never abusive in any manner, and I always knew I was loved. I grew up in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, with lots of other kids my age. My folks provided everything I needed, and more. They made sure I went to college without incurring a large financial debt. Since I've left the nest, they've been a source of encouragement and help in ways I never imagined. My family. My sister, my grandmothers, my aunts, uncles, and cousins whom I'm lucky to see even once a year. We may not all talk often, and see one another even less, but it's nice to know that when we do get together, after a few minutes of catching up, it's pretty much just picking up from wherever we last left off. My life would be more shallow without them. My friends. I have friends in this nation from coast to coast, and from the far north of the 48 states down to their southernmost. I am blessed to have quite a few right here in my little corner of the world, and more in many other corners. You have all enriched me in some way, and I'm thankful to know you. The men and women of the United States armed forces. I'm proud to count members from the prior category in this one as well. Thank you all for your tireless sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us. You are never far from our thoughts and prayers. May those of you in the line of fire return home safely upon the successful completion of your mission. In the mean time, watch your six, and God bless. God. You have made all things possible. You have blessed me in ways far beyond my understanding and worth. You offered Your own Son in my place, so that I might have a place in Your kingdom forever. I am humbled that You, the Creator of all things, would deign to know the number of hairs on my head, much less want to be my friend. All of the above things for which I am thankful are gifts from You, and I am eternally grateful.
Today we stopped by a local mall. The missus needed to make a return of some merchandise to Nordstrom, and we took in lunch as well. While waiting for a table at our eatery of choice, I caught the end of a conversation where an unidentified woman told her equally unidentifiable conversation partner, "Happy Memorial Day." in closing.
Happy Memorial Day?
Are you serious?
There was a time in this country when Memorial Day was treated with the solemn respect it deserves. When businesses actually closed for the day (as was Costco, we learned, when we stopped to fill up the gas tank), instead of having Memorial Day Weekend Sales™. (The irony of my making this statement while having engaged in a small bit of consumerism on this day is not lost on me.)
People made efforts to remember those who have fallen in service to our nation, for this is not a "holiday", but rather a day of mourning. It is sad that so many have had to give their lives in the cause of freedom, and we should be graciously thankful those who have died were willing to make the sacrifice in our stead. They deserve our utmost respect, which does not translate to saving a few bucks on jeans and cosmetics.
Notably, they are not deserving of someone wishing another a "Happy" Memorial Day, for the occasion is not one of happiness but remembrance. How many of us even pause for a moment's reflection today? How many of us participate in any sort of remembrance ceremony, rain or shine, today? How many of us set aside time to go to a local cemetery and clean the grave sites of fallen servicemen, to lay flowers and plant flags?
We, fellow countrymen, owe a debt that we can never repay, yet it is a debt we should nonetheless honor. You may feel otherwise, but I can't help but feel that said honor does not come from shopping and failing to acknowledge, even in passing, what this day truly is about. It comes from remembering the fallen, honoring their memories, praying for their families and sharing in their grief at having lost their beloved so young. Because so many of those lost are young. Such has it always been, and such it is likely to always be.
War is a terrible, terrible thing. Yet it is often a necessary thing, and we should be thankful there are those willing to fight, and to die. Remember our men and women who have given their lives. Offer a prayer of thanks, if you are the praying sort. Treat this day with the solemnness it deserves.
The Chance To Say Goodbye
I did not get the chance to say goodbye
To shake his hand, look him in the eye
To offer for his service my thanks
For what he did on the Rhine's banks Or in Hue city, Berlin, or Khe Sanh
Paris, Baghdad, Iwo Jima, Okinawa
Tripoli, Italy, the Belleau Wood
Croatia, Chosin, or the skies above Or in the waters deep, or atop the oceans' waves
Slinging missiles, marking the Unknowns' graves
Delivering the mail to a far-out firebase
Medevacing out those with injuries of the worst case I did not get the chance to say goodbye
To shake his hand, look him in the eye
To offer for his service my thanks
For now all I have are these words in this place --Christopher Turner, 27 March 2007
Dear American Soldier in Iraq:
There are a few things you should know about how tens of millions of us back home feel about you and the fight you are waging. These things need to be said...
What has happened is that many Americans, for all sorts of reasons--some out of simple fatigue, some because they do not believe that war solves anything, some out of deep loathing for the present administration--do not believe that what you are doing is worth doing. You know that what you are doing is worth continuing...
You know that you are fighting the most vicious and primitive ideology in the world today. It is the belief that one's God wants his followers to maim, torture and murder in order to spread a system of laws that sends societies back to a moral and intellectual state that is pre-civilization. You know that the war you wage against these people and their totalitarian ideology is also necessary because a society unwilling to fight for its values does not have values worth sustaining...
We see you as the best and brightest of our society. Even The New York Times, one of the mainstream media publications that do not understand the epic battle you are waging, acknowledged in an article by one of its embedded correspondents that few Americans of your age can come close to you in maturity, wisdom or leadership abilities. It is unfortunate that the battle for moral clarity and moral courage in America is as divisive as the battle for freedom is in Iraq. But that is the nature of the world we live in. And it has ever been so...
You probably knew all this. But you need to hear it anyway.
That, and thank you. Thank you very much.
Silly String for the Troops. Apparently, there's a great need. Seriously, if you give to any of our deployed service personnel who regularly find themselves in such situations, maybe including a can of Silly String in the next goodie box would be a good idea. It's a brilliant low-tech solution to a common problem they face.