Freedom Isn't Free

Freedom Isn't Free

22 October 2014

A call for reveille

   First and foremost, my prayers go out to the families of the Canadian Army soldiers killed murdered in the past few days first in Quebec and now in Ottawa.  While the politicians wait to figure out what is going on, I am issuing a warning to members of the Military in ALL Western nations: Prepare to defend yourself. 
   These cowardly acts of murder and terror are a warning for all Military members; active duty, reserves, national guard.  ISIS has said they want to attack Military members in their homes.  It is now coming to fruition.  And, it has happened in both Britain and the U.S.  It is disgusting.  One of the things that makes it disgusting is that our country's leaders refuse to admit it is happening in the U.S.A.  Its always workplace violence or just a random act of crime.  Bull.  The reason why it isn't happening more frequently in the U.S. is because of our 2nd Amendment.  Nations like the U.K. and Canada, where gun ownership is either illegal or virtually impossible, are virtually painting targets on the backs of their Military members.  I have had the pleasure to serve with members of the Canadian Military and the U.K. Military (Staffordshire Regiment blokes) and I hope that all of them stay safe.  I know from statistics that this blog is read in many different countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, and the Ukraine, among others.  This is your call to awaken, your reveille if you will.  Protect your six and your battle buddies six.  The "radicalized" terrorists may be home grown now.  And your street may become a battleground.  Vary your travel routines. Stay alert.


   Silhouette yourself.  Members of combat arms units are taught not to silhouette yourself.  Not to get yourself noticed on the battlefield.  But, it seems, the media is taking this to the nth level (surprise, surprise).  A well known Vietnam Veteran from Pennsylvania recently attended and spoke at a dedication in Washington, D.C. for a monument for Veterans who are totally disabled.  What, you didn't hear about it?  That's the problem.  The New York Times didn't cover it.  Almost no one did.  This Veteran lost two legs and an arm serving his country.  This monument is dedicated to the selfless sacrifice he and others have given for this country, and more people know about Renee Zellweiger's plastic surgery than a monument that is dedicated to men and women who have sacrificed everything but their life for this country!  It is time to silhouette what Veterans do.  We have to be the media.  We have to be our own public relations.  Stand up on that hilltop and shout "Hey look at what is going on here!"  I will gladly give any Veterans group publicity here.  Just give me an email at  This Veterans Day let us be outspoken.  This is a Fire For Effect mission.  For those of you who don't know what I mean, when artillery or mortars hit their target, the forward observer calls fire for effect.  All rounds you have from all your guns go to those coordinates.  Blast it to bits, so to say.  Well, we Veterans should Fire For effect with publicity for this coming Veterans Day.  And every single day after that. HOOAH!

   Hey did you hear that the Mexican judicial system has said they can't take care of SGT Andrew Tahmooressi's PTSD?  Yeah, two weeks ago.  What's happened since then?  Absolutely nothing.  If the Mexican government is going to act and free SGT Tahmooressi then justice travels very, very slowly in Mexico.  If they wanted to get a message about SGT Tahmooressi to the White House, they should probably strap it to the back of an illegal immigrant crossing the border.  Wanna talk about record time?  That would be it.
   So what is being done onthis side of the border?  Here is a list of the cosponsors for House Resolution 620, which asks the government of Mexico to release SGT Tahmooressi.  So far it has been to three different committees in the House of Representatives.  So far as I know, the Senate doesn't want to touch it.  That would mean they would actually have to pass something on to the White House.  Hell, President Obama has a pen and a phone.  Why does he need the Senate to do anything?  He can just call up the Mexican president and ask him to have SGT Tahmooressi released.  He has called the Mexican government.  While other officials in the White House and the Obama administration has talked to the Mexican government, he (Pres. Obama) has NEVER mentioned SGT Tahmooressi.  Silence speaks volumes at times.
   Officially, here is the latest news on SGT Andrew Tahmooressi.  We all can only hope he will be released soon.

That is all. 

13 October 2014

Remember the Barrycades

    13 October 2013. It was a Sunday and I wasn't anywhere near a church.  Early that morning I was heading down to Washington, D.C. with a fellow Veteran.  He was a Veteran of Vietnam and all of the horrors that war was and, in some ways, still is.  I was going to the Million Veteran March.  Upset about National Parks, including every single Veterans Memorial this great country has, being closed down and barricaded off.  The Honor Flights were still going on and hundreds of World War II Veterans were being denied seeing the monuments dedicated to their selfless service.  It was said numerous times that day that our President was doing more to keep Veterans away from the war memorials than his administration did to help them (and this was before the VA Scandal broke in early 2014).  It could be said today that Obama did more to keep Veterans away from the memorials and monuments that they sacrificed for than he is doing to keep ebola victims out of this country. 
   I hate mixing politics with this blog because, in essence, I don't believe any one political party is solely to blame for the plight of our nation's Veterans.  They all are.  Truthfully, some can point fingers at the Republicans who shut down the government, which was the cause of the shut down of the U.S. National Parks and Monuments.  Of course, it really did seem like the Obama administration was going out of their way to closedown the monuments and National Parks.  The Header photo is a pic I took while at the Veterans March on D.C.  Two presumed Veterans carrying off what became known as "barrycades" named after Pres. Barack "Barry" Obama.  In truth, a U.S. Park Ranger doesn't have to be at the World War II Memorial, or the Vietnam Wall, or any other memorial I visited a year ago, so there was no reason to "close them down" or barricade them.   Truthfully, the Park Rangers and the politicians should have read the first line of the sign below.

   Indeed everyone should Honor Our Veterans.  Truthfully, very few really do.  Some Veterans have given their lives.  Most Combat Veterans have given blood and sweat and have injuries that are not always visible or physical. 
   The politicians should also listen to the last line of the sign.  Just as coins may damage the fountain, throwing money at a problem doesn't solve it.  The VA Scandal is an example of that because, as I have said and will tell you again, the VA Scandal isn't over.   So, one year away from the Veterans March on D.C., let us remember to Honor The Veterans.   Stay aware and keep on the politicians to always Honor Our Veterans.  The problem is, you may have to tell them how to honor them. 
  In the you gotta be kidding me dept.  I am continually amazed at how gullible people can be.  Take, for example, the current scare of ebola.  Is it a very serious threat?  Hell yeah.  Any disease with over 75% kill rate is very serious.  I just don't understand why, as I alluded to above, we are letting people flying from the countries affected to come to our country without the needed precautions.  As I said above, this president's administration did more to stop World War II Veterans from going to memorials than they are doing to stop people possibly afflicted with ebola from coming to this country. 
   Another Veteran who blogs (and has mentored me in my blogging career, whether he knows it or not) had a post about a photojournalist who has launched a crowd funding campaign to pay for his medical bills, because he may have ebola.  I, like A Vet With PTSD find it hard to believe that people are actually donating to his crowd funding plea when there are hundreds if not thousands of Veterans who have to beg and plead to get the funding for service animals or other treatments for their injuries.  This is just another example of how our government is failing U.S. Veterans.  Please, take some time and read Blowing off steam by A Vet With PTSD.  Check out his blog, it is a work of therapy for him and he is also a very good writer.  I also am going to ask everyone, including myself, to take The Veteran Video Challenge it is something we all should do and that A Vet with PTSD has started to raise awareness of the help our Veterans need.  Once again, I too need to heed this call myself.
   Marine Still Held in Mexico.  Once again, I write this blog and, once again, SGT Andrew Tahmooressi is still in a prison in Mexico.  Mexico themselves have said they cant treat Tahmooressi for his PTSD.  Still he sits.  The judge in charge of the case may call for final arguments any day now.  Still he sits in a cell in Mexico.  Our President is fundraising for democratic candidates, some of whom want only the money he brings, not any allegiance to his presidency.  He,President Obama, claims to have a pen and a phone.  Still, SGT Tahmooressi sits in Mexico against his will.  This is a disgrace and I hope all who read this post will call their elected officials and demand the freedom of SGT Tahmooressi.  I also ask that we all keep SGT Tahmooressi and his family in our prayers and our thoughts.  One of the good things that has happened is that Honor Air has donated 20 grand to Tahmooressi's fund for legal obligations and those of his family as they travel to Mexico (remember flights and hotels are pricey--its a tourist destination for crying out loud) to support SGT Tahmooressi.  We can only hope he will soon be free.
   Once again, if you or someone you know is a Veteran who is in a dark place, please call the Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255.  We all have to stop the madness that is Veteran Suicide.  If it will help, please check out my post on Veteran suicide here.
That is all.

04 October 2014

Remember The Heroes

   First, I must apologize for the length between my posts.  A very dear friend of mine has told me to make sure I post every week, at least once.  I've had internet problems (basically a dinosaur dsl modem).  Yeah, I still had the internet on my phone but I must admit part of the problem is my subject for this post.  We all have Heroes.  Mine, for the most part, are dead.  This post is about friends that I lost in the course of 10 days.  I knew them when they were alive.  I drank with most of them.  I ate, slept and lived with them at least once a month, usually more than that. I served with them in Charlie Company of the 1/109 Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), 55th Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division. Before deploying overseas the company would change to Bravo Company but whatever the designation, I remember my Brothers-In-Arms. Remember The Heroes.
   Nine years ago on 28 September 2005, the stay back members of my unit were gathering for a viewing.  The "stay backs" are soldiers who didn't deploy.  In my case my diabetes kept me home. I tried to go.  I was (am) Infantry.  But, regardless, I had to stay back.  Spc Will Evans died in Iraq on 19 September 2005. He was a driver and an IED triggered by another vehicle in a convoy detonated. It took them 9 days to bring back his body.  The stay backs were Honor Guard. At the armory in New Milford we learned from our assistant Bn (Battalion) Commander that the crew (a driver, gunner and Bradley Commander) & two dismounts (Ground Infantrymen) were killed in another IED explosion. The men were all close to me.  They should be, they were all in my Platoon.  The dismounts were my my squad.  As a SGT I was a dismount team leader.  SSG Dan Arnold was my squad leader.  Now, he was dead. SSG George Pugliese (Bradley Commander), SGT Erik Slebodnik (Gunner), SPC Lee Wiegand (Driver), and SPC Oliver Brown (Dismount Team Member) were also dead.
   Shocked. Devastated.  I still can't put into words how I felt, or how I feel to this day, about that moment.  Men that I had known were dead.  Father. Sons. Brothers.  Gone.  Coupled with another death earlier that year, 2005 was not a friend to the 109th (The Regiment). 
   I served as Honor Guard for almost all of them, except for SPC Oliver's viewing and funeral, which was held the same day as my Squad Leader's viewing and funeral. 
   I remember George Pugliese.  During his viewing (I remember all of them but his stands out.)  A lot of the other Honor Guards for his viewing were not from our company.  Since I knew his family, I told the rest of the guards that when I left for my "shift" to stand by his urn and his burial flag "I'm the last one to stand by him.  He was  my Section Leader and I owe him that much.  To stand by him for one last time."  The "shifts" were supposed to be a half hour.  It was 30 minutes until the viewing was supposed to end.  Little did I know the doors weren't closing.  So many people had come to pay their respects to SSG Pugliese, I was out there, at Parade Rest, for over any hour.  I still remember SSG Earl Toy and another soldier came out.  At first I tried to figure out how to tell them I wasn't leaving.  George left 3 kids and a wonderful wife (along with a very spirited mother) behind.  I owed him a lot.  He had taught me so much about leadership and what it is to be an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) and a soldier.  In the end, though, SSG Toy had a very different message.  As he came to attention in front of me, I came to attention.  We saluted that long, formal last salute with white gloved hands.  Then, Earl said matter of factly, "John, don't move.  You've been out here for over an hour and a half.  If you move you may collapse from being at Parade Rest for so long.  We are going to take the urn and the flag.  Only move after we have left the room."  So, they ceremoniously picked up the urn and the flag and left the drill floor. (The viewing was at the Carbondale Armory).  As people followed them I came to attention again and started to march.  Some of the other Honor Guards rushed over to me, helping to support me if I needed it.  It was my honor to spend those last moments with George, if only in spirit, before his funeral.  It was my honor to serve with all of those men.  To this day, I wish I was there in Ar Ramadi with them. 
   I remember Erik Slebodnik.  I had always said that whenever I went to a review board (for rank or soldier of month, etc.) that I would have wanted to have Erik with me.  He was studious.  He knew weapons ranges and tactics.  He was a soldier's soldier.  Did he drink?  No, he was also one of the most religious men I have ever known.  He was one of the best Men I have ever known.  Period.
   I remember Lee Wiegand.  He always had a smile on his face.  Nothing ever seemed to bring him down.  He came to me before deploying and asked me about getting married.  I told him that, if he was sure it was love, to do it.
   I remember Dan Arnold.  Dan was one of the best mechanics we ever had for the Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  Then, he transitioned over to the Infantry.  For the short period of time that I served as one of his team leaders, he was a stand up NCO.  And he was a very good man.
   I remember Billy Evans.  He was a rascal.  Unbreakable.  He had mischief on his mind almost all the time.  He reminded me of myself, although I think he would have won if you counted the number of article 15s we each had.  He was one of the best drivers in our company.
    I remember Oliver Brown.  He was always the quiet one.  One of the Bradford County boys.  It was rare that one of our soldiers was  quiet and from Bradford County.  A good soldier.  Dependable.  A good kid.
   There are so many memories.  There were so many funerals.  Due to the circumstances of their deaths (an IED blast that totally burnt up their Bradley) it took a long time for their bodies (or as much of their DNA that could be identified) to come back home.  It was like torture for the families and all of us that were back home.    I remember my friends.  I remember my Brothers-In-Arms.  I Remember The Heroes.