Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

27 August 2014

Hitting the SP

   First of all, thank you to everyone that has not only read or shared my last blog post on Veterans suicide, but to all of those who have emailed, tweeted or even called me to say thank you for the post.  The attention and page views that this post has garnered is a sign, I hope, that I am reaching Veterans and their family members about this tragedy.  As a result, I will continue to call for Veterans to help Veterans, as I did in my first post of The Citizen-Soldier Blog.  It's kind of like hitting the SP of a military convoy.  SP means Starting Point.  It all begins with Vets helping Vets.
   I am also giving the link to the Spartan Pledge from  No matter what service you were in, or where you served, you had a battle buddy.  The guy who was in front of you when you did a room entry.  If you were a driver, the gunner who did PMCS with you (anyone who was/is Mech or Armor knows what I'm talking about).  Every man and woman who has served has a battle buddy.  They had your back then, so call them up and have them take the Spartan Pledge with you.  22 of our Brothers and Sisters are taking their own lives every single day!  We Veterans have to take care each other.  It could be the guy you throw darts with at the Legion Post who is a Vietnam Vet.  It could be the Coast Guard Veteran who has become a good friend.  Take the Pledge and always remember: You cannot make someone commit suicide by talking about it.
    VA scandal.  The President recently addressed the American Legion Convention being held in Charlotte, Virginia.  His reception wasn't especially warm.  And, just to be apolitical about it, here is another link, from a media source not right leaning, about his muted reception. The truth of the matter is the VA scandal isn't owned by any one president.   This mismanagement/corruption of the Veterans Administration goes back not just years or decades but generations. For a very thorough history of problems with the VA please check out this post from a fellow Veteran blogger.  I hope he doesn't mind that I am linking to his post but, once again, we Veterans have to stick together.
   The main message I am trying to get across is simply, if the Betrayal (because that is what it is...not a scandal, but a betrayal) of the VA is going to stop then the politicians and bureaucrats are going to have to help in that process.  For some of those groups, I fear it is going to be help facilitated by a stick not a carrot.  I will make as much of a ruckus as I can to help Secretary McDonald in cleaning up the mess in the VA.  I ask all of you to sound the alarm as well.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The VA scandal is not over.  Not by a long shot.
   Back to square one.  I started this post off by talking again about Veteran suicide and I'm going to end this post with a link to a story published recently by USA Today.  Written by Dennis Wagner, who write for the Arizona Republic and USA Today, the article shows how the VA, even since Congress passed and the President signed a bill to "take care of" the VA scandal, is still betraying the Veterans of the United States of America. 
That is all.


If you know of a Veteran who may be thinking about suicide, or you are a Veteran who is contemplating it, please call the Veterans Crisisline at 1800 273 8255.
The 7th Annual SGT Jan Argonish Ride will be held Sunday, September 7th.  For more information please click here.
Sources used include: USA Today,, The Triad Business Journal, Scream in the Wilderness by @OldMarine1 and The Daily Caller.  

19 August 2014

A Tough Post

   I've wanted to write this blog for some time now.  In reality, I've wanted to write this post for years.  Also in reality, I've dreaded writing this post.  It's a tough one to write.  It's a tough post to deal with the subject.  The subject is Veteran suicide and I know a Veteran who committed suicide.  That's why it's hard to write this post.  It's not like I was best friends with him, but that doesn't matter.  Suicide, by it's nature, is somewhat taboo in normal everyday society.  It's not really reported on in the media.  Most newspapers won't run a story about an individual committing suicide.  The only exceptions are murder suicides (which are increasing) and suicide by cop (doing something to harm someone else so a police officer will kill you). 
   As I said above, suicide is somewhat taboo in normal civilian society.  In the Veteran society it's safe to say talking about is taboo.  Thinking about it is more common than you would think in the Veteran community.  That's two things that should change.  We Veterans should talk about suicide.  We should talk to someone if we ever think about committing suicide.  That's one of the missions of  It's called the Spartan Pledge and the basic gist of the pledge is to call your battle buddy first before you try to commit suicide.  Talking about it to someone else can help you see through the dark spot you are in and help you realize that suicide is never the answer

   22 Everyday.  Despite it not being a good answer EVER, approximately 22 Veterans commit suicide everyday.  Think about that for a moment.  within one week more than 100 Veterans end their own lives.  That number is horrendous.  Last week, Robin Williams committed suicide.  He was a tremendous supporter of the USO and, of course, he was very big celebrity.  Think about if 22 celebrities committed suicide in just one week.  There would be a lot more news coverage of it, and that is part of the problem.  Pop culture celebrates those who sing or swing a baseball bat well.  What about the Veteran who has just come back from Afghanistan?  He survived a war zone.  To me, that's an achievement beyond a .374 batting average or being able to have a top 40 chart topping song. 
   OK, I know I can't change how everyone feels about A-Rod(who had to take drugs to perform better than other baseball players) or Kanye West (who is famous for what I am still trying to figure out), but I hope I can help change the way people look and act and deal with suicide, especially as it pertains to Veterans.  I teach suicide prevention where I work and I want to dispel one major myth.  You cannot talk someone into committing suicide.  There.  I said it.  If you mention suicide it will not make someone do it.  It can only help someone not do it. 
   While there are no definite symptoms of suicide, here is a list of warning signs for Veterans (taken from the Veterans Crisis line website):

·        Appearing sad or depressed most of the time

·        Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse

·        Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep

·        Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance

·        Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time

·        Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about

·        Frequent and dramatic mood changes

·        Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame

·        Feelings of failure or decreased performance

·        Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life

·        Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation

·        Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems
Their behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:
·        Performing poorly at work or school
·        Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
·        Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
·        Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
·        Giving away prized possessions
·        Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
·        Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
      The Veterans Crisis Line can be accessed here or you can call 1800 273 8255 and press 1.  You can also text them at 838255.  If you go to their website you can even chat with someone. 
   And don't think that there is an age where a Veteran might be contemplating suicide.  According to a news article in Stripes ( more and more younger Veterans are contemplating it as well as older Veterans.  You can check out that article here. 
   In closing, I want to thank and one of my friends on twitter @chilioffthegrid in helping me write this post.  This won't be the last time I broach this topic, and I hope that I can help even if it's just one life saved.  Because every Veteran's life is a life that deserves to be lived to the fullest.
That is all.


The 7th Annual SGT Jan Argonish Ride is going to be held on 7 September 2014.  For more information please visit the website.

11 August 2014

Living (and Dying) by the Code

   The U.S. Military lives by a code. All of us. Army, Marines, Navy Air Force & Coast Guard.  It's kinda unwritten, but it is written down in a lot of places, especially Washington, D.C.  You see, when that code is written down it is on monuments and a very long (too long) Wall.  It is written in the names of those who have died defending this country.  When those names are etched into the Vietnam Memorial, or any memorial anywhere in the U.S., the code that those men and women lived by is how they chose to live their lives.  When you join the U.S. Armed Forces you take an Oath to protect the United States.  That is part of the code of the U.S. Military.  Loyalty.  Bravery.  Courage.  Those are just some of the words that mean everything to the men and women of the U.S. Military.  Unfortunately, most of those words mean nothing to politicians and bureaucrats.
   Take Loyalty, for example.  It means nothing what-so-ever to most politicians & bureaucrats.  The bureaucrats in the Veterans Administration don't feel loyalty toward our Veterans.  That's why we have the VA Scandal.  I didn't say "had" because, until the VA is changed, it is still a scandal.  The bureaucrats misreported numbers of those Veterans who died waiting for medical care.  A recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner by Concerned Veterans of America CEO Pete Hegseth points out how both politicians & bureaucrats have led to problems which are now the hallmark of the VA.  The politicians have passed the VA Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, including the President's signing the bill into law.  Make no mistake, we have to hold the politicians, and those who come in their footsteps in the coming years, to this law.  VA Secretary McDonald will need our help if he is to change the culture of corruption, dishonesty, cowardice, and greed (the list of words can go on and on)once and for all.  The President and Congress will need to help McDonald in the future.  I don't think its a distant future either.  That is where we will play our part.  As the electorate, we have to let our representatives and senators know that we want the VA (in essence the U.S. itself) to live by the same code our Military Veterans live and die by.  That's the same code that is embodied in every Veterans memorial in the U.S.

   Mail Call
   So far, I've talked about words that our Military Veterans live by.  One Marine that is exemplifying the word perseverance is SGT Andrew Tahmooressi.  Still being held in prison in Mexico.  Please check my previous blog about how you can help Tahmooressi and his family financially during his confinement and courtroom delays.  Here is a way that you can maybe help to cheer up the Devil Dog SGT himself.  It's something that cheers up almost any service member.  It's mail call.  Here is the address where you can write SGT Tahmooressi:

SGT Andrew Tahmooressi
Carretera LibreRumorasa Tecate
SN Francisco Villa, El Hongo 2’ 21452
Tecate’ Baja California Norte, Mexico
   There are some rules both official and unofficial.  The official rules are that letters may not be more than 3 pages in length.  They need to be on white paper.  They will also be read by prison staff prior to Andrew receiving them(Reading inmate mail is standard practice in almost any jail in the U.S. also).  The unofficial rules I am asking of you is to keep the badmouthing of the Mexican legal system to a minimum.  It won't really help anything.  Please keep the letters positive, just as you would when writing a soldier overseas. 
   The Marine Corps League of Scranton PA will host an Open Pit Beef BBQ on 16 August 2014 from 1300-1700 (1p.m.-5p.m. for civilian folks).  It is being held at the Marine Corps Detachment at Alder St & Bloucher St in Scranton PA.  Tickets are on sale the day of the BBQ and are $9.
   If you know of an upcoming events that will benefit Veterans and their organizations please let me know.  It doesn't have to be a National event, statewide and local events are accepted as well.  Please send them to me at  I will publish them as I have room and time.  Thank you!
   That is all.

04 August 2014

No Marine left behind

   It's Military Monday.  Unfortunately, It's another day in court for USMC SGT Andrew Tahmooressi.  And, unfortunately, its going to be another night in jail for him as well.  Although its difficult to hear (military personnel are used to that), it may be some time for Tahmooressi is freed from a Mexican jail.  I don't like hearing it either, but its the truth.  The case is in the hands of the Mexican judicial system.  Like any judicial system (any government system really) time seems to slow down.  Call it red tape or whatever you want, that is the unfortunate way it is.  Tahmooressi's current lawyer, Fernando Benitez, was highly recommended to him & his family for this case. For a report from Fox News on the case please click here. It is the most comprehensive report that is available right now. 
   One of the most important things now is supporting Tahmooressi here on the home front.  His mother Jill Tahmooressi, was again at the Mexican court house today, as almost any mother would be.  Her trips to Mexico, lodging, etc., don't come cheap.   Bills are piling up.  Plus the previously mentioned attorney isn't working for free.  Lawyers are the same anywhere you go as long as you're not in a third world country ruled by sharia law. 
   All of this adds up to a lot of money.  Not enough for sergents' pay.  In this regard, someone has stepped in to help Tahmooressi and his family.  Honor Air, the organization that created the Honor Flights for Veterans of past wars to visit war memorials, has launched an appeal to help defray the costs Tahmooressi and his family are incurring. The appeal can be found at According to one estimate the expenses for his trial could reach $100,000.  If you don't know why Honor Air is getting involved, Tahmooressi's sister lives in North Carolina, where Honor Air and its founder Jeff Miller are based out of.
  Am I asking you to donate?  Hell yeah.  This is a very unfortunate circumstance.  Tahmooressi is suffering from PTSD and made, literally, a wrong turn.  There are 911 tapes that show he actually called a California 911 center and said he wasn't sure of his location.  Benitez has said his original lawyers could've gotten him out in the first 90 days but they were apparently too inept to do that.  We can only hope and pray that soon he will be freed.  The Honor Air site has a donate button you can click which will take you to a paypal account where you can donate with any major credit card.  There is also an address where you can send checks to help the Tahmooressi's cause.  Times are tough, I know.  It's tougher when your civil rights are being trampled on and you're jailed in a foreign country.
   As I said before, I also hope all of us can pray for Andrew to have strength while he is incarcerated, and to pray for his family which has to endure along with SGT Tahmooressi. 
   That is all.

01 August 2014

R and R

   R&R.  Rest and Relaxation is what it usually means and its important to all of us.  We all have to kick back and take it easy.  In this blog we're going to talk about R&R, in some different ways.
   First, lets talk about all of the politicians in Congress.  They passed the joint house bill on "fixing" the VA Scandal.  Soon, those politicians will be enjoying some R&R of their own.  The question of how well deserved it is may depend on your view of the American government. They, however, will pend their 5 week vacation either campaigning for re-election or kicking back somewhere.  No doubt when they come back to Washington, D.C. they will have forgotten (like the media and probably a lot of the American people) about the Veterans Administration. After all, its fixed, right?
   No way.  Although former P&G exec Robert McDonald has also been confirmed to be the next Secretary for the VA (see, I told ya Congress was busy!) I am sure it will take him longer than 5 weeks to "fix" the VA Scandal.  A lot longer.  The VA has been broken longer than some of the Veterans who are now using it have been alive.  We will keep an eye on McDonald's progress.  Ansd we will keep an eye on those who obstruct his progress. 

   Unfortunately, I know of one service member who isn't on R&R.  That is USMC SGT Andrew Tahmooressi.  He's still locked up in a Mexican jail.  According to his current lawyer, the previous lawyers he had missed a window of opportunity for his freedom.  You can check out that story, and catch up on what is going on in his case, here.
   Efforts continue to help secure his release.  This ordeal has been tremendous for the Marine and his family, as you can imagine.  There have been various rallies and shows of support all across America.  Jill Tahmooressi, the mother of SGT Andrew Tahmooressi, will be at once such rally today in Omaha, NE at 6p.m.  For more details, check this news article. Honor Air, the creator of the Honor Flights to our nation's War Memorials, has gotten involved in Tahmooressi's cause as well.  I hope to have more about their involvement soon.


   Carpe Diem.  That Latin phrase is the inspiration for many.  Take life and live it to the max.  Literally it means to seize the day, and that is what one group is doing for our Veterans, although maybe not grammatically. 
   The group is called Operation SEAS The Day.  The SEAS part is very important here.  Its not just a play on words but a reference to what the group does.  In September of 2013 they brought 25 wounded Veterans’ and their families to a beach front area in Delaware in order to show support for the returning wounded servicemen/women for their service to our country and the sacrifice each of them had made during that service.  It was a tremendous success.  Some of the Veterans, who were selected for the experience by the Wounded Warrior Project, the USO & the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, called the week at Bethany Beach “magical” and “life-changing” according to the group’s website. 
   This year 30 wounded Veterans and their families will spend the week of September 2-7 at Bethany Beach, DE in homes & condos  donated by local residents and homeowners.  Local businesses have also jumped onboard to donate services/goods for the families who will get a chance to SEAS the Day!  Once again, 25 Veterans and their families have been selected and 5 families have been picked to from the inaugural beach week event to come back as “alumni”. 
   Please check out the group and, if you can, show your appreciation for what they are doing to help our wounded Heroes.
   That is all.
This blog is about Veteran Issues and I hope to cover not just the problems that our Veterans have, but the good things as well.  If you or someone you know is involved in an organization that is hosting an event for our Veterans (a motorcycle ride for homeless Veterans, your American Legion is hosting a crisis center for the VA, etc.) I'd love to hear about it and possibly interview your organization for the Citizen-Soldier Blog.  Please feel free to email me at