"These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation
who has a long history of patriotism and honor -
and a nation who has fought many battles
to keep our country free from threats of terror."

-- Michael N. Castle

Friday, May 01, 2009

Unseen future

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A lot has happened since the war began. We still deploy on a rapid cycle. Always training, always preparing for the next call to leave families behind and spend another 12 to 18 months in a place that has become our home away from home. The relationships we build amoungst ourselves in the thick of battle is an indistructable bond. So much has happened. So much has been gained. So much has been lost. This was another battle provoked by tyrants that think freedom is a joke.

I am honored and humbled to have been an important part in defending our freedoms and the American way of life. The Fallen Soldier bike is a symbol for all to see that people do care and choose to remember. Todays economy makes it even harder to raise the funds to complete this project. I am thankful for all who have donated to the Soldier's Angels and the Fallen Soldier Bike project.

I am stepping down. The project will continue. I have been through many things that haunt me and scare me. I have done my part. It has been hard. I am going to leave the military. I am going to go home. I will survive the best I can and in the end I hope it is enough for my children. I hope they learn to be proud of their father. It is time for me to go. I will forever remember the soldiers I have served with. I will never forget those I have lost. I am thankful for the friends that have supported me. Bless all of you and may all your lives be filled with the hopes and joys you so rightly deserve. This is Sketch saying goodbye for the last time. God Bless America.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

The Things They Carried

They carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages, ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, sterno, LRRP-rations, and C-rations stuffed in socks. They carried standard fatigues, jungle boots, bush hats, flak jackets, and steel pots. They carried the M-16 assault rifle. They carried trip flares and Claymore mines, M-60 machine guns, the M-70 grenade launcher, M-14's, CR-15s, Stoners, Swedish K's, 66 mm Laws, shotguns, 45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets, rockets, and choppers, and sometimes the sound of silence. They carried C-4 plastic explosives, an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25 radios, knives and machetes.

Some carried napalm, CBU's, and large bombs; some risked their lives to rescue others. Some escaped the fear, but dealt with the death and damages. Some made very hard decisions, and some just tried to survive.

They carried malaria, dysentery, ringworms, and leaches. They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots. They carried stationery, pencils, and pictures of their loved ones real and imagined. They carried love for people in the real world, and love for one another. And sometimes they disguised that love: "Don't mean nothin'!"

They carried memories!

For the most part, they carried themselves with poise and a kind of dignity. Now and then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed, or wanted to, but couldn't; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said, "Dear God," and hugged the earth and fired their weapons blindly, and cringed and begged for the noise to stop, and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping not to die. They carried the traditions of the United States military, and memories and images of those who served before them. They carried grief, terror, longing, and their reputations.

They carried the soldier's greatest fear, the embarrassment of dishonor. They crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced or flew into fire, so as not to die of embarrassment.

They were afraid of dying, but too afraid to show it. They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world, and the weight of every free citizen of America .


Sent by Major Ross W., via Seamus

Labels: , ,

Remembering PFC Gunnar Becker

On Memorial Day, I always pause to remember PFC. Gunnar Becker, who was killed in Iraq in January, 2005.

You can learn more about Gunnar here, here, here, and here.

And if you have a moment today, please stop by and let Debey - Gunnar's Mom - know we will never forget.

We are soldiers.
We are soldiers in the United States Army.
We are trained to be all we can be.

We fight for the freedom of many citizens of the United States.
We are all ready to meet our fates.

We all volunteer to defend the red, white and blue.
Not only the flag, but for the citizens of our great country too.

Since our country's birth for all these years,
we have been trained to be the best on Earth.

Many times we have went to war.
We will be involved in many more.

Generation by generation soldiers continue to enlist.
Some of us will go to war and definitely be missed.

Some soldiers will return and some won't.
Those who do not, we won't forget and we hope you don't.

Many of us are going to Iraq.
Some of us won't be coming back.

We have loved ones we are leaving behind.
They will always be in our prayers, hearts and mind.

If we don't make it home safely at the end of the war,
just remember we died defending the beliefs of those of many more.

-- PFC Gunnar Becker, November, 23, 2003

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

New Names Etched Into Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

Visitors pay tribute to the wall’s 58,260 etched names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which bear testament to the ultimate sacrifice made by U.S. troops. Defense Dept. photo by Sebastian J. Sciotti, Jr.

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2008 – The names of four U.S. servicemembers were etched into the glossy black walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial this week alongside more than 58,000 of their fallen comrades.

Finishing the addition today was the name of Raymond C. Mason, a Marine lance corporal who died a year ago as a result of ailing health stemming from a bullet wound that paralyzed him in February 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

In a ceremony at the wall here, Mason’s widow, Priscilla Mason, watched as an engraver inched a sandblaster over the Marine’s stenciled name with surgeonlike precision.

Priscilla got on bended knee, held a sheet of paper up to the bright, new inscription, and rubbed a crayon in diagonal strokes until “RAYMOND C MASON” was embossed against the white paper. She said she plans to have the outline tattooed onto her skin, and she has promised to make dozens of rubbings for friends back home in Riverside, R.I., when she returns here on Memorial Day.

“This is wonderful. He’s finally home,” she said when asked how she felt upon seeing the finished product on Panel 41E, Line 64 of the memorial.

The names of Richard M. Goosens, a Marine lance corporal, and Dennis O. Hargrove and Darrell J. Naylor, both Army specialists fourth class, were inscribed here yesterday. The Defense Department determined that their deaths, which occurred years after the end of U.S. operations in Vietnam, resulted from wounds suffered in a combat zone there.

The wall’s 58,260 etched names bear testament to the ultimate sacrifice paid by those U.S. troops, said R. James Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“It’s also a tangible expression of the gratitude of the American people for those who served and died there,” he said in an interview today. “The hope is that more and more Americans will learn and grow to appreciate the sacrifice and the price that was paid to perpetuate our freedom.”

Designed by architect Maya Lin and built in 1982, the memorial consists of two black walls sunken into the ground, with a rolling mound of earth behind it sloping toward a heavily trafficked street.

“It was Maya’s vision for the memorial that it appear as a rift in the earth,” said J.C. Cummings, architect of record for the memorial. “At the same time, the wall serves a practical purpose of separating the visitor from the noise and the traffic of Constitution Avenue and the noise of the city.”

As a result, the architecture creates a quiet and contemplative atmosphere, he said, a design that allows visitors to have a respectful experience.

Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said adding the names this week completes the healing process for surviving friends and family members. The additions also reflect America’s solidarity with its servicemembers of past and present, he said.

“When you join the service, you can feel comfortable that the service is going to stand behind you,” Scruggs said in an interview today. “Especially the people who are serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan in combat, they need to know that we’re behind them and we appreciate what they’re doing.”

Related Sites:
Vietnam Veterans Memorial

More Photos

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bush Marks 25th Anniversary of Terror Attack on U.S. Embassy in Beirut

From DefenseLink:

President and Nancy Reagan file by the flag-draped caskets of victims of the April 18, 1983, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in an April 23, 1983 file photo. Photo courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2008 – Twenty-five years after terrorists detonated a massive car bomb, killing 52 people at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, President Bush urged unity in condemning terrorism he said continues to threaten the United States.

The Islamic Jihad Organization, today known as the terrorist group Hizballah, launched the April 18, 1983, attack that left 17 Americans and 35 Lebanese citizens dead. Those killed included Marine Cpl. Robert V. McMaugh, an embassy guard, and Army trainers Sgt. 1st Class Richard Twine, Staff Sgt. Ben H. Maxwell and Staff Sgt. Mark E. Salazar.

Employees of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development and members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Middle East contingent were also killed.

President Ronald Reagan quickly denounced the “vicious terrorist bombing” as a “cowardly act” that would not deter U.S. goals of peace in the region.

Bush marked the anniversary of the Beirut embassy bombing in a statement released yesterday remembering those killed and honoring the sacrifice of their family and friends and those wounded in the attack. He called the anniversary “a timely reminder of the danger U.S. diplomats, military personnel and locally employed staff bear in their service to the the United States.”

“Since the Beirut attack, we and citizens of many countries have suffered more attacks at the hands of Hizballah and other terrorists, backed by the regimes in Tehran and Damascus, which use terror and violence against innocent civilians,” Bush said. “All nations should condemn such brutal attacks and recognize that the purposeful targeting of civilians is immoral and unjustifiable.”

The bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack the United States had ever faced in its history, although more attacks were to follow.

The Beirut embassy bombing opened a new chapter in attacks against Americans overseas. Six months later, on Oct. 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck barracks in Beirut that houses U.S. and French members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. The attacks, which occurred 20 seconds apart, killed 241 U.S. Marines, as well as 58 French servicemen and six civilians.

Other embassy attacks were to follow: in 1998 on the embassies in Dar es Salaam,Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya; and in 2002 on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.

Bush noted that the people of Lebanon have remained resilient despite living the better part of three decades living under the threat of violence, assassinations and other forms of intimidation.

“They and their leaders continue to work for a peaceful and democratic future, even as Syria, Iran, and their Lebanese proxies seek to undermine Lebanese democracy and institutions,” he said.

“The United States will continue to stand with the Lebanese people and their government as they struggle to preserve their sovereignty and independence, seek to bring justice to victims of terrorism and political violence, and seek election of a president committed to those values,” Bush said.

Related Sites:
White House Statement

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Fallen Soldier’s Family Continues Mission of Love for Iraqi Children

From Multi-National Force - Iraq:

Calif., native 1st Lt. Casey Zimmerman of Company C, 3rdBattalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, hands out footballs at a school in Mullah Fayad March 27. All the items were donated by the family and community of Sgt. Nathan Barnes, who served in the area and was killed in Rushdi Mullah July 17. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div.

Tuesday, 01 April 2008
By Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback
3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT)

PATROL BASE YUSIFIYAH — Whoever said violence begets more violence never met the family of Sgt. Nathan Barnes.

American Fork, Utah, native Sgt. Nathan Barnes, a Soldier with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was killed in Rushdi Mullah, Iraq, when his unit came under attack by small-arms fire July 17.

Rather than hold bitterness toward the people of a foreign land where their son died, Barnes’ family is embracing them. Barnes often sent home photos of children in the areas he served. His father, Kevin, said Nathan truly loved the Iraqi children.

Nathan’s love for those children inspired his father and other residents of American Fork to collect enough donated items to fill a 40-foot shipping container. Sewing machines, book bags, newborn kits, personal hygiene items, food, toys, children and women’s clothing, school supplies and even wheelchairs were donated to residents in and around Rushdi Mullah and Yusifiyah, places Barnes did most of his service in Iraq.

Rushdi Mullah, where Barnes was killed, is one of the communities now supported by Rakkasan Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The Rakkasans took on the task of distributing the items once the shipping container arrived in Iraq.

Company C, 3-187th Inf. Regt., distributed some of the gifts at a school in Mullah Fayad, an impoverished Yusifiyah community.

Santa Barbara, Calif., native 1st Lt. Casey Zimmerman, who helped hand out the donations at the school, wanted everyone to know the source of the aid.

“I made a point at the beginning to convey who Nathan Barnes was, how he died, and what kind of loving family and country he belonged to,” Zimmerman said. “I bet we saw over 1,500 men, women, and children – mostly children.”

The generosity of the Barnes family and the American Fork community led to a similar address in Rushdi Mullah by Brig. Gen. Ali Jassim Muhammad Hassen Al Frejee, commander of the 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.

“A Soldier who came from thousands of miles away and was killed here – his family spends money to rebuild this area,” Ali said. “We have to respect that.”

Capt. Clifford Kazmarek, commander of Company B, 3-187th Inf. Regt., said the experience was remarkable and humbling.

“I have just the greatest amount of respect for that family for doing this, and I know that the people here truly appreciate it,” Kazmarek said.

The citizens received most items with a smile and without hesitation. But there was one gift that had many children puzzled.

“The Frisbee befuddled them,” said Pittsburgh native Capt. Michael Starz, commander of Co. C, 3-187th Inf. Regt. “They didn’t quite grasp the concept. They thought it was a serving plate so we had to engage with the kids for a few throws until they got the idea. In the end, though, they still said, ‘Where’s the football?’”

There were many footballs – soccer balls to Americans – handed out as well.

Thousands of Iraqis from Rushdi Mullah and Mullah Fayad benefited from the generosity.

“I never imagined a family – American or otherwise – could provide unmitigated charity to the people of a foreign town in which their son was killed,” Zimmerman said. “The Barnes family and those who have contributed to their noble foundation are true testaments to America's values.”

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Missing No More

For four years, the family of Sgt. Keith Matthew "Matt" Maupin has waited for word of his whereabouts. Tonight, they have an answer.

Sgt. Keith Matthew "Matt" Maupin has been found.

This afternoon, his family was informed that remains discovered in Iraq had been positively identified as Sgt. Maupin's, bringing to a sad end a story that began almost exactly four years ago. He was captured April 9, 2004, when his fuel convoy was ambushed in Iraq. Al Jazeera later aired footage that showed him surrounded by now all-too-familiar black hooded thugs. A second tape purported to show his execution, but the footage was of poor quality and only showed the back of his head. No actual shooting was shown, and his family was left to wonder - and to hope.

The waiting is over for them, and I can only hope that they are able to find some small measure of peace in being able to bring him home.

Read more here.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

To read messagess from Soldiers' Angels and others to our Heroes, go here.

Labels: , ,