Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

23 September 2014

In line at the chow hall

   I would like to apologize for the lateness of this post.  I was going to post it last weekend but I had internet problems.  Combined with two children who were, for pretty much the first time, deprived of the internet (think of all the online games that are played real time, plus youtube, et al) and you have a situation.  So I took the approach of dealing with it like I was standing in line at the chow hall.  NCOs (Noncommissioned officers) usually let the lower ranks eat first, especially during field meals, because you don't know if they brought out enough rations.  More than a couple times during an FTX (field training exercise) did the NCOs in my mortar platoon have to take half a ration or (in the case of green egg T-Rats) just skip that meal in favor of any poogie bait they brought with them. 
   That's how I dealt with the internet problem.  I let the kids have their share of playing minecraft, halo or whatever else they wanted to do.  Now, I'm back for the attack, as I'm often fond of saying.  Let's see what our targets are looking like today.
   Marine held in Mexico.  That didn't take long.  Yes, SGT Andrew Tahmooressi is still in a freaking jail in Mexico.  It is absolutely despicable that he is still in a jail cell, and even more reprehensible that he is being held in Mexico.  The country where a lot of drugs and weapons come out of (just stating facts) is holding a U.S. Marine for bringing in legal (in the U.S.A.) firearms.  Firearms that he declared he had when he made that wrong turn.  I know that unless you've been living outside the thunder of the media for the past 6 months, you know exactly what the deal is for SGT Tahmooressi, but I believe in restating the facts, as outlandish as they are. 
   But now we have something else to keep the spotlight on our beloved Devil Dog.  Remember the lesson of the Veterans Admin scandal.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  The VA has been broken for decades, yet recently we have gotten some action on making the VA (and the politicians & bureaucrats) make good on their mission of taking care of this country's Veterans.  Well, the same will hopefully be said of keeping SGT Tahmooressi's plight in the public eye.  Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) & Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) have set up a Congressional hearing on SGT Tahmooressi's imprisonment.   SGT Tahmooressi's mother, Jill, will testify art the hearing as to what her son has gone through since he was taken into Mexican custody in March.  LCDR Montel Williams (ret) will also testify at the hearing.  
   The hearing is being touted as a PTSD hearing.  SGT Tahmooressi suffers from PTSD and the hearing attests to the fact that he is not being treated for his PTSD while in Mexican confinement.  The hearing is set for 1 October at 1000 hrs. (yes, 10 a.m. civilian time.  My wife does remind me I am not in the military, but old habits die hard.)

   Treating the devil.  PTSD is another one of those tough subjects.  It affects many of our Military.  I have friends who need two hands to count the number of times they've been "blown up" while on patrol over in Iraq.  Many of our returning Veterans also have physical injuries.  PTSD is an injury you can't see.  It's also an injury which needs to be treated better by the aforementioned VA.  There are numerous private groups that help with PTSD treatment.  From groups like K9s for Warriors that help with hooking up Veterans with specially trained dogs that can help the Veteran overcome bouts of PTSD to other groups like Chili's Off the Grid  that help by providing therapy in the form of hunting and a sense of camaraderie that Veterans need.  Treatment for PTSD is more than just medication and counseling by some doctor who has probably never even been in "combat boots".  It is a group effort, so to say.  More ways of treatment are being developed and the VA and it's political handlers in Congress, must remember that.  The VA should be among the leaders in the treatment of PTSD and, in my opinion, it isn't.  That has to change.  Far more has to be said about PTSD.  And, yes, there are numerous groups that help Veterans with different types of therapy, whether its dogs or whatever.  I will mention more groups as I can.
   I am also not an expert on PTSD, but I want to help my Brothers & Sisters who know all too well what it is like living with this devil every day.  Please, let me know where I can get information or talk to groups who deal with PTSD. 

   Platoon, Fall In!  There seems to be some infighting among some of the Veterans advocates on social media.  Let me fire a warning shot and say THIS HAS TO STOP!  I don't want to mention some members that have been attacked but I will say this, we all need to stand together.  It's the United We Stand thing.  We have to leave our differences at the door of twitter or facebook or whatever social media we are using because we are heard and seen better when we stand together.  We are Veterans.  We served in the Military.  We need to stay in formation, no matter what.  It is kinda like being in line for the chow hall.  Some of us go first.  Others go last.  But we all are here for the same reason.  To make sure Veterans get the care, respect and recognition that they are due.
   That is all.

10 September 2014

Home of the Brave

   America.  The Home of the Brave.  The Land of the Free.  That's what I think of when someone mentions our country.  It truly is the Land of the Free because it is the Home of the Brave.  And the Brave are our nation's Veterans.  Every Veteran, in my opinion, is brave.  Yet, do you have to be a Vet to be brave? 
   Pardon my wandering mind in the opening section, but it's a question that I have in my mind.  There are so many memories that swirl around this time of year.  Tomorrow is the 13th anniversary of the attacks on NYC, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania.  All of The United States of America really.  I've also lost 9 Brothers-In-Arms in August  and September over the past 9 years.  Two others  have been horrifically wounded in that time span.  And I have still have Brothers (&Sisters) in-Arms still serving.  One just joined the military in the past year.  That's Bravery for you.
   And, at times that are troubling, bravery is carrying on.  I remember the attacks on September 11th vividly.  I was in the PA Army National Guard at the time.  My civilian job was working for a telecommunications company doing telecom relay, a service for deaf and hard of hearing people.  I was working a split shift that day in 2001.  I would work 4 hours in the morning, have four hours off, and then come back in to work for another 4 hours.  Well, my shift that day started at 9 a.m.  Before going on the "call floor" I saw the news reports of the planes hitting the World Trade Center Towers.  I was so shocked that I unconsciously dropped a bottle of Mountain Dew I had just bought out of a vending machine.  The next few hours were chaotic evil.  No one knew what the hell was happening.  Operators on the floor were trying to piece together what was happening.  We didn't have a t.v. to watch for news updates.  All phone lines to NYC and the surrounding area were down.  As relay operators we had to type verbatim what we heard.  So, when an error message said that a tornado had hit New York City, we had to type that.  Of course that didn't make sense to our customers but you weren't supposed to interject anything.  Federal rules.  Rules which I and others broke that day as we explained that phone lines were down because of an attack on New York City. 
   The calls were numerous that day.  And not all of it was for New York.  Georgia was a state that we had the contract for to provide relay services.  Lots of people in the state were worried that Atlanta might be the next target. 
   When it did come time for me to leave after my 4 hours, I at first took my backpack which contained my headset and other stuff for the job with me.  When I walked back onto the call floor and left it near a wall, one of my friends said "Good, that's positive thinking."  Myself and others were wondering if I would return to work that day.  After leaving the building I saw my wife pushing my then not quite 3-year-old daughter in a stroller.  She was hurrying and when we saw each other we both dashed into the street to hold each other.  It sounds like almost suicide, but it wasn't.  The streets were practically empty.  The local mall was closing early.  It was deserted.  People were glued to their televisions.  And they were afraid.  When I held my wife, it was then that I learned (this was almost 1 p.m. Eastern time) that the Towers had collapsed.  I couldn't believe it when I was on the call floor and heard it.  Later I would see the awful pictures that are forever in my memory.  For the record, yes, I do think we should show those images.  Not just once a year either.  You can't remember something if you've never seen it.  For my son's generation, I hope they will never forget what happened on that September morning.  And what has happened in the years that have passed since then.
   Later on, I would report to my unit.  I wasn't needed and we weren't going to deploy (at least not at that time).  I donated blood.  I watched in disbelief and horror.  Later, I went back to work.  It was more chaotic times, but, that's bravery for you.
   Now, it's 13 years later.  It seems like some people are still afraid.  They don't want to do too much on September 11, 2014.  Well, I have to ask the question why?  We are the Home of the Brave, after all.  And, we cannot be afraid to do something on the anniversary of the terror attacks that struck home all those years ago.  Like a character says (and I am not quoting here) in the movie series Harry Potter, "fear of (a thing) only increases its power."
   Well, as my Dad would say, To hell with that."  My son's Boy Scout Troop is holding their regular meeting tomorrow night.  He wasn't even alive in 2001.  His generation will never know what it was like to see the Twin Towers in the skyline over New York City.  They have never known what it is like to not live in a world threatened by terror attacks.  To me, every single kid his age is brave.  I never even knew what a terrorist was when I was born in 1967.  Now, every single day, that word is mentioned at least once on the nightly news.  But these kids are going out and doing something on September 11, 2014.  That is bravery for you.
   So let's prove this is the Home of the Brave by doing something tomorrow.  Anything really.  Play outside.  Go for a walk.  Anything.  Because my friends who have died because of the 9/11 attacks didn't die in vain.  Tomorrow, and everyday, I work, play and live to honor their sacrifice.  HOOAH!


   Brave in Mexico.  Another example of bravery is Sgt Andrew Tahmooressi.  Still in jail in Mexico, he is a Combat Veteran who is still putting in his time in hell.  As of yesterday, he had another hearing.  His lawyer seems optimistic.  We can only hope and pray for the best.  Like I said, he's already served his time in hell in combat.  He doesn't need to spend any more time there.  Please continue to call your Representatives to voice your concerns about Tahmooressi's confinement and to ask them tell them to support House Resolution 620 and to help make it a bill by passing it.  As to whether or not that will do any good, I don't know, but it's the best thing we can do to show our support for a Brave Marine.
   That is all.

05 September 2014

A foxhole is never done

   I know it's been longer than usual for this post.  With the kids going back to school it has been a rather active week.  It's kind of like a foxhole, the work is never done.  For those of you who either weren't in the military or were in a non land based branch of the military, let me explain.
   Once you make your defensive position foxhole, you are never done making it better.  There is the constant camouflage replacement (can't have dead leaves giving it away), along with improving your position.  Adding grenade sumps, left & right limits for your areas of fire, etc.  It's kinda like your house.  You improve things as you get time and resources to add different things. 
   Of course, one thing that Veterans deal with could use a lot of improving.  You guessed it, I'm talking about the Veterans Administration.  I've been saying (and I will keep on bringing it up) that the VA Scandal is not over.  Since he has taken over, Sec. McDonald has been making improvements.  There is now a pilot program for rural Veterans who live far away from VA Medical Centers.  Yes, this is only in five different areas, but it is a start.  Two of the programs are run by state entities (Maine and New Mexico) while the other three (Westcare Washington which includes Washington state and Oregon, Volunteers of America of Northern Louisiana which includes areas of Arkansas and Texas as well as Louisiana, and the Nebraska Association of Healthcare Directors for Nebraska) are all non profit organizations.  It's also interesting to note that Maine's pilot program is being run by the state's department of labor.  This will be a test to see if non profit organizations can handle Veterans' healthcare better than governmental organizations, to say the least.
   In addition to the rural pilot program, other larger hospitals are also taking care of VA medical benefits as well.  And Sec. McDonald has also created a push to hire more medical professionals for the VAMCs.  And then, there are VA town hall meetings.
   As I am sure you've all heard by now, the VA wanted to train their members on how to deal with Veterans during the town hall meetings in my native Pennsylvania.  The above image of Oscar the Grouch was supposed to represent Veterans and how they can be "grouchy".  While the VA publicity officials have tried to say Oscar was supposed to represent the VA officials themselves, most other stories by the media have mentioned that the title of the slideshow was "Dealing with Veterans during town hall meetings." 
   I also want to point out something I haven't seen mentioned in reports of the slideshow.  Look at Oscar's garbage can.  It's gold.  Normally, his garbage can is the normal steel type color.  Could it be that the VA is trying to "paint" Veterans as having a lot?  Like they have it all and want more.  I would hope that that isn't what was meant but, we are dealing with bureaucrats in the VA. 
   And all I've talked about is the VAMCs.  We haven't even touched the other parts of the VA Scandal.  I'm sure, however, that we can all agree on two things.  The VA Scandal isn't over and Sec. McDonald needs to realize just how alike the VA Scandal and a foxhole really are. 
   To borrow a cable news network's slogan, I'm trying to be fair and balanced with the VA.  Sometimes, however, it just comes down to the fact that a massive overhaul has to be undertaken.  That's why I am constantly saying the VA Scandal isn't over.  It didn't just get broken overnight during the Obama administration.  It's been broken a long, long time.  For the VA to be fixed new approaches like the rural Veteran care program have to be tried out.  But changes will have to be made to the entire VA.  And that includes the ability for Sec. McDonald to be able to fire people and make changes as needed.  And that is where the politicians come into play.  And that, dear reader, is where you come into play as well.  We have to keep the their feet to the proverbial fire.  It's the only way the VA Scandal will ever truly be over.
   That is all.

The 7th Annual Jan Argonish Ride will be held Sunday September 7th. Registration is from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.   For more information please click here.
Rockin Fest will be held Sunday, September 13th in Newton, NJ from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  For more information on this event please check out their website.
If you have an event that benefits Veterans or Active duty Military, please let me know about it and I'll post it in upcoming editions of the Citizen-Soldier Blog.  Just email me at