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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Meet David. Meet a Warrior.

Read “House to House: A Epic Memoir of War” and meet author, David Bellavia, former Staff Sergeant in the United States Army, veteran of the second Battle of Fallujah, citizen, husband, and father of two.

While extremely read-able, this is not an easy story to decide to read. I may never have gotten around to reading it myself if I hadn’t met and chatted for just a couple of minutes with the author earlier this year. Missing out on this man’s story would have been a real shame, too. Why? Because as much as reviewers are correct that this book provides a front row seat on a tour through urban combat, an important audience is the average civilian. The book highlights the choices and sacrifices of someone who serves in our armed forces and how those choices might be viewed by his family, colleagues, battle-buddies, neighbors, the American public, and his God.

I’d read excerpts of SSG David Bellavia’s book online last year. One of the milblogs had linked to it, I’m sure, though I don’t remember which. I do remember the description of him and his guys walking neck-deep in a sewage trench. That made an impression. I’d also read at least one article that he wrote when he returned to Iraq in 2006 to do some reporting as a civilian.

I encourage you to read David’s book. But I also encourage you to follow links to some of the video of interviews with David that can be found online. (HT: Dawn Patrol)

Why? Because I think his book is that much more meaningful when you’ve seen him looking like a regular guy. No uniform, no helmet, no gun. Just the guy who coaches his son’s soccer team, but a guy who is also trying to talk to Americans about war from a warrior’s perspective. Specifically, the Iraq War and the Long War and as a veteran of the same.

Perhaps the best recommendation is to see if you can catch David at one of the stops along the Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour so that you can say hi and chat with him for a moment yourself. Why? Because I think you’ll walk away with the same sense that I did: this is a guy that you’d invite to your house for dinner and who’d have you rolling with laughter. This is a guy who you’d be pleased to have coaching your kids’ pee-wee soccer team, though apparently some weren’t. Those who miss seeing the guy behind the uniform, the man behind the war stories, the husband and father behind the warrior, are in my opinion quite simply missing the message in his book. And it’s a message that civilians like you and me need to understand. That’s easier I think when your first impression and images of David are of him as a civilian.

Again, why? Because the images that his book will conjure in your mind are powerful, grim, scary, and horrific. David is among those who have looked our fanatical and murderous enemy in the eye and realized that there are and will continue to be times when it is truly “kill or be killed” and that we should not think less of him for having shouldered that task for a time.


And I just realized that I’d marked a quote in David’s book that gets to the heart of what I hope you’ll see:

“These men look like average guys. On November 12, I saw the greatness of their spirits. They rose to the challenge and they fought selflessly for one another. Despite the terror of those long hours trapped on that building, I have never felt closer to a group of human beings. We stood together, and we shined.”
Order your copy here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Credit Where Credit is Due

HT: Vets for Freedom

Added emphasis (in bold) is mine:

"Within a year, our forces went from imminent defeat to creating the prospect of success, using a great deal of firepower, killing and capturing many enemies, but binding the local population to us at the same time. The intellectual framework came from Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno and their advisers. But the deep understanding, skill and compassion that made it work came from service members and the many civilians who put their lives at risk for the benefit of their country and Iraq."

The rest is here.

My thanks to each and every one of them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Support for Veterans... of Wars Past and Present

In the last year or so, the Soldiers' Angels organization has added a new mission: providing support to our Veterans. It's not that we didn't support veterans before - after all, everyone we support in theater comes home a veteran of war.

However, the newer efforts focus on those veterans, young or old, who receive care in our veterans hospitals or through other VA programs. Especially for these folks, Soldiers' Angels' introduced the "Veterans Pack". Similar to the "First Response Backpack" provided to our wounded in our Combat Support Hospitals (CSHs), the Veteran's Pack includes personal care items, some basic clothing items, and - most importantly - embody the simple message that "we're thinking of you and truly appreciate your service to our country".

You can make a donation for a Veteran's Pack for a specific veteran or just donate one for "any veteran". Either way, you have the option to add cool things like a phone card, snacks, or a Soldiers' Angels blanket or sweatsuit. The Angel Team will make sure your gift goes to a deserving veteran.

The Angel Team championing this effort has a new webpage:


Go HERE to read more details about what the Angel Veteran Support Team does - it's more than Vet Packs!

For that reason, they've also asked us to spread the word on the need for fundraising for their efforts. We have LOTS of veterans that the team would like to support, so your donations are needed. See the special Paypal donation button at the top of my blog.

And as always, donations to the general fund to support all the programs sponsored by the Soldiers' Angel Foundation are VERY welcome and always put to good use!

Thanks in advance.

Funding for MIA/POW Missions - NOT a Waste

(HT: Blackfive)

Okay, no login or password required. Vote "no" here to ensure the majority is heard.

I've always thought The Bachelor was a pretty silly, worthless use of television broadcast time, but if it does nothing else besides bring a little attention to this, IMO, very important mission, well fine. Just don't ask me to watch the show.

Hats off to those laboring away. And to those reminding us of the importance of the mission.

Til they all come home.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mission Accomplished! Now It's Your Turn.

They made it! And I'm so pleased that I was in time to walk the last 1/2 mile with the Resolve to Win marchers.

After 16 days and 383.2 miles, they arrived at the Lincoln Memorial. I can't imagine how they must have felt (tho, this picture on their most recent web post may give you some idea!), but I was so VERY proud to be standing with them.

Each of the three core marchers (wearing grey Army jackets in the picture) said a few words at the end, and I think the message was: please use our efforts to explain to other Americans how serious our troops are about wanting to finish their mission in Iraq and the rest of the War on Terror successfully. They want to win.

A few more pictures are below, but a few final thoughts...

I love the Lincoln Memorial, partially because I think it is our most visually moving presidential memorial (what a fantastic sculpture), but even more because of the words that are etched on its inside walls: the text of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. I walk by the Lincoln Memorial on average 5 or 6 times a month. I don't actually climb the steps each time, but when I do, I always pause to read both speeeches again. They are not long, but oh my are they dense. Pithy. Important.

Dennis McCool's words today - the man who conceived of the Resolve to Win march - made me think of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. You can read it in its entirety here, but these are the words that rang in my head as I listened to Dennis:

"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It's not a civil war this time, it's a Global War, but the words have no less meaning.

Our men and women in uniform and many others have stepped up again. Do we have their backs or not?

As Dennis told me today, he feels that their efforts have common cause with Soldiers' Angels. Go read Dennis' finish line web post and see if you don't agree. I hope you'll honor his request and accept the baton for the next leg of the Resolve to Win effort: support our troops and their families - active duty, reserve, or retired.

My gratitude to these guys for their original service, their return to duty to serve in Iraq, and now for making such a dramatic and awesome statement on behalf of our other boots on the ground.

Safe travels.




Resolve to Win paparazzi

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Your Mom Will Understand. Really.

Vote for some other mom as America's Favorite Mom?

Personally, I know that MY mom is the best ever, but I can't vote for her every day until March 31st to try to get $5000 for Soldiers' Angels.

But we CAN cast votes for Patti Patton-Bader as America's Most Inspiring Mom at http://www.americasfavoritemom.com/ in hopes to win her the big prize.

Yes, you have to register. Yes, you have to remember another password, but that's not too hard, right?

Put a daily reminder on your calendar or pda to vote every day, too.

Still here? GO VOTE! *** CLICK HERE ***

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Y'all, this is cool: The Resolve to Win March from SC to DC

Four more veterans to make you proud: Dennis McCool, Marc Breslow, Carl Herrup and Gerry McCool. (HT: Hugh Hewitt and Bonnie at Soldiers' Angels who sent us a "heads up" email!)

Check out their "Resolve to Win" March that is taking them from South Carolina to Washington, DC. A sixteen day trek. Why are they doing this? Here's the blog post from Dennis McCool just before he returned from Iraq earlier this year:

As a soldier leaving Iraq after a one year tour of duty I have very mixed emotions about leaving here. I think all of us who volunteered to come here had hoped to see this situation in the Middle East resolved satisfactorily during our period of service. Now there is such a turbulent political climate in the US, the future is totally uncertain. What can we do now?

Out of desperation and an intense desire for the American people to understand the perspective of those who have served here, I have an idea, perhaps as drastic as volunteering to come out of retirement to do a tour in a combat zone. So, maybe if you are a Patriot, this idea will appeal to you as well.

Read the rest here.

If you live along or near their route, you can join them or cheer them on. Tomorrow will be Day 7, but if you live between Rocky Mount, NC and DC, you've still got time to wish them well or join them for a little exercise. Links along the left side of their website show you the exact route planned for each day (and note, Day 1 = March 1, Day 2 = March 2, etc.)

I have a Soldiers' Angels committment through lunchtime on Day 16, but I hope to join them on the final stretch to the Lincoln Memorial as that bit is right near my front door.

In the meantime, best wishes, Gentlemen! And well done.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Doubt. Question. Suspend Judgment.

Those are three things you can do when you see negative stories in the press about our men and women in uniform.

This was sort of my informal New Year’s resolution. Not that I didn’t do it before, but it seemed as if it was becoming more important.

When I first joined Soldiers’ Angels, I often felt that my role was partially to reassure someone who had volunteered to wear one of our nation’s uniforms that someone, like me, who hasn’t volunteered for that job, is still steadfast in my support of the job they have offered and trained to do.

Does my resolution seem a little over the top? Maybe giving too much benefit of the doubt? Maybe. But just maybe, our men and women in uniform and all those that have served before them are due a little more than the average benefit of the doubt. More questioning of stereotypes. More presumption of innocence.

Anyone deserves it. They have done plenty more to earn it. We, as a nation, have let them down in the past, so I think going a little overboard is okay. Especially as many others are still singing the same baseless tune that condemned or diminished our Vietnam vets for decades.

So, I will follow the lead of Mrs.G over at Mudville and offer you some contrast to any shock story you might see…

Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble, USA
Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, USN
Major Bruce P. Crandall, USA
Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC (and here)
Corporal Tibor Rubin, USA
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, USA

Those are the six most recent recipients of our nation’s Medal of Honor. Three received the award based on actions in our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans of Korea and Vietnam received the other three. Read the citations. Visit the Jason Dunham memorial website.

As a reminder, Mrs G. does you a favor on a routine basis by doing her “Dawn Patrol” round-up of web/blog reporting on the military and the GWOT. Check it out.

Want to read more? Go back and read here, here, or here.

Remember, bad apples aside, we should never be anything less than proud to call them “ours”.