Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Inspiring Hero!

Richard Ingram received his commission as an Army Lieutenant this month, after completing his degree at North Georgia College and State University. You may ask why this is important...well, because in June 2005 Lt Ingram lost part of his left arm while serving as a Cavalry Scout in Iraq. According to the Army, Lt Ingram is the first person with such severe combat injuries to earn a commission through ROTC.

Lt Ingram was attending school at North Georgia College when the National Guard Unit he served with was activated and sent to Iraq. He was injured when his tactical vehicle rolled several times after being hit by an IED. Lt Ingram is quoted as saying,

"I didn't think there was any way I was going to live through it when the truck started rolling. But it was clear that I hadn't fulfilled my purpose in this life. Even though I was hurt, I knew I'd get to keep doing the things I love so much. I was being given another chance at life."

After recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed, including getting fit for a prosthesis, Lt Ingram decided it was time to go back to school and get on with his life, so he went back to North Georgia College and returned to the ROTC program there. His ROTC instructors were impressed with Lt Ingram's physical conditioning, despite the loss of part of his arm. They quickly concluded that he had what it took to be an Army officer and was capable of carrying out any duties required of him. His ROTC professor said, "Lieutenant Ingram demonstrated throughout his time in ROTC that he was more than capable -- both physically and mentally -- to be a highly effective leader in our Army. The professor explained, "Once you spend time observing Richard, you forget that he has a physical disability. He can run faster and do more physical training than most cadets. He will do an outstanding job leading troops in combat, and I know he will succeed in his goal to attend Airborne, Sapper and Ranger training."

So what does this exceptional young officer say about his decision to continue pursuing a career as an Army officer? He says, "I am extremely proud to have earned a commission through the Army ROTC program at North Georgia College, and I look forward to serving as an Army officer.' But he also explains, "I didn't decide to do this just to get a slap on the back. I want to be an inspiration to others who were wounded."

Well, Lt Ingram, in my opinion you're an inspiration to a lot of folks; wounded or not. You've shown that you can set a goal and overcome difficulties placed in your path in order to achieve that goal. Wonderful...and inspiring!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is This When the Zombies Attack?

Andrew Osborn has an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today. The article discusses a prediction made by Igor Panarin, the Dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for foreign diplomats (and a former-KGB analyst), that the United States will suffer an economic and moral collapse in 2010 that will result in the breakup of the Union. Apparently Mr Panarin has been predicting the dissolution of the United States for over a decade, but now that the economy is "messed up," people are taking him a bit more seriously. Should we?

According to the article, Mr Panarin used classified data to formulate his prediction that

"economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.

Okay...so who is the guy? Well, he's not a member of the fringe-crazy-conspiracy underground. He has a doctorate in political science, has studied U.S. economics, and worked for the Russian equivalent of the National Security Agency. He developed his theory that the US will disintegrate while he was writing strategy forecasts in the 1990's. Mr. Panarin says that the disintegration of the US will not be a good thing for Russia, but still says there is a 55-45% chance that it will happen.

Okay...so is his theory nuts? It seems to me that Mr. Panarin's disintegration theory is more than a bit "extreme;" but like many extreme theories, may have an underlying basis of reality embedded somewhere inside. The US does face challenging times in 2010. Our economy seems to be in a decline, that even President-elect Obama warns may take a long time to fix. Economic stimulus packages, mortgage and Wall Street bailouts, and even the Christmas shopping season have not generated an economic recovery. People continue to be pessimistic about the economy, and have very definite ideas on what will, or will not, work. There is fear of another "Great Depression." We also have a very definite schism between political parties, and we seem to be losing all pretense of civility. We have "red states" and "blue states" with differing interests, outlooks, and political philosophies. Our "red states" feel that the "blue states" have a disproportional influence on national priorities; even though the "red states" are more numerous. As a public, we don't trust our politicians and we want a change in how our politicians (at both the local and national levels) do business...but we still want "our" representatives to "bring home the bacon." We also don't trust bankers, CEOs, and newspaper reporters (and probably shouldn't based on their recent records). For some reason, though, we do trust celebrities. Most of the public also trusts the military, but that portion of the country who wears pink, has attended an Ivy-League school, or lives in the Northeast still lives in the Vietnam-era fear that the military will stage a coup...or something. We are suffering from a "quiet invasion" of illegal immigrants; and cannot figure out how to respond. We have created, and perpetrated, a culture of victimization. Many of our citizens, rightly or wrongly, still feel like they are treated as second-class citizens because of their skin color or their gender or their religion. We avoid risks instead of taking them as challenges.

Okay...so should we worry? Like I said, things are challenging; but I don't think we should necessarily start selling our US Savings Bonds, yet. I don't know if Mr. Panarin understands the basic psyche of the American public. We may have economic and political challenges, but we will still support the "idea" of a national union against all comers. Remember how, despite differences, we pulled together after the 9/11 attacks? Underneath all, most Americans are patriots. We love our successful experiment in representative democracy and want it to not only survive but grow stronger. Like any big family facing challenges, we will argue and fight amongst ourselves; but when an outsider wants to intervene, we will pull together and display a united front. So, while Mr. Panarin's theory is interesting (and good for a bit of a laugh); I don't think we need to fear the Zombies, quite yet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Thoughts

On this Christmas Eve, I'd like to wish all of you who read this blog a very merry Christmas. May you find joy and happiness during this Season, and all year long. As you celebrate with family or friends, please take the time to remember those who serve in your prayers and send them good wishes. There are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coasties who cannot spend the Holidays with their families or friends because they're serving our Nation in places far, far away. There are also our "first responders," the firemen, emergency medical technicians, and members of the law enforcement community who won't spend the day with those important to them, because they're on duty...just in case. So, on this Christmas Eve, I wish you all a very happy and merry Christmas, and I pray for the safety of those who serve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is This Where We Want To Go?

Okay, I know it's the Christmas Season. . .when we're supposed to hold good will toward all men in our heart. I mostly do. I've been trying to change my perspective and be optimistic about life and not so cynical about a lot of things. But, even in this Season of joy and good will toward men, I have to agree with Fox News's Seven Milloy's editorial posted on Junk Science. Mr. Milloy writes about the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to post a "Most Wanted List" of "environmental criminals." He conclusion that, "If the EPA needs a Wanted list, how about making it a “Help Wanted” list in search of Enforcement Division employees with some perspective?" is exactly right. In my opinion most environmental-activist-types need perspective about one thing or another.

Mr. Milloy writes about two of the "environmental criminals" on the EPA's list. One is the "Alfa Romeo Gang" who had the audacity to illegally import cars that do not meet US emission standards. Of course, the gang resides somewhere in Italy. The other "criminal" is the man, Maruo Valenzuela, who loaded the oxygen canisters onto the ValueJet plane that crashed in the Everglades in 1996. Apparently, the EPA believes his action was an extreme criminal act. Mr Milloy explains, "The EPA apparently views the canister loading as 'illegal transportation of hazardous material.' In any event, Valenzuela’s boss and co-worker were eventually acquitted of the same criminal counts. The only reason Valenzuela also wasn’t acquitted was because he panicked and fled to parts unknown before trial. He is, in effect, a fugitive from his own innocence -- but he is wanted by the EPA nonetheless."

There are others on the EPA's "Most Wanted List" as well. Mr. Milloy writes,

"The rest of the EPA’s fugitives appear to be mostly hapless immigrants now believed to be “hiding” oversees in places like Syria, Mexico, India, Greece, Poland and China. They’re wanted for a variety of alleged infractions, including smuggling banned refrigerants, discharging waste into sewers, lying to the Coast Guard about a ship’s waste oil management system, transporting hazardous waste without a manifest, and creating false official documents.

"While the EPA’s fugitives certainly appear to be a motley lot who may have broken a variety of environmental regulations, often unwittingly, one can’t help but wonder whether the EPA’s Wanted list is not only over-the-top, but where the agency is headed."

We should all wonder. I agree with Mr. Milloy; these "environmental criminals" may have broken laws designed to protect the environment, but are they the equivalent of the terrorists, murders, and rapists on the FBI's "Most Wanted List," for example? Of course not. Mr. Milloy believes that "The list’s creation seems a furtherance of the Greens’ larger campaign to plant the idea within the public’s mind that all environmental “transgressions” fall along a criminal continuum." Perhaps. I do think that some of the more "radical" environmentalists (the "greens") may indeed believe that the guy who panics and dumps fuel into a sewer is really the moral equivalent of terrorists. Okay, everyone is entitled to their beliefs and opinions. But what is really scary to me, however, is that (for the most part) "radical" environmentalists don't understand why most people don't think like they do. So, I'm concerned about the EPA's attempt to “track down environmental fugitives,” and “increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives” through a "Most Wanted List." I agree with Mr. Milloy, maybe we need to look at where the "radical" environmentalists (and it seems the EPA's Enforcement Division) want us to go when we consider "environmental crime." For example, according to Mr. Milloy,

"In September 1988, the EPA had John Pozsgai indicted for removing more than 5,000 old tires from his property and spreading dirt where the tires had been. Although Pozsgai’s land was bordered by two major highways, a tire dealership and an automobile salvage yard, the EPA considered his land a federally protected “wetland” because of a drainage ditch running along the edge of his property. Though the ditch was mostly dry, it flooded during heavy rain, and the EPA considered it a stream. When Pozsgai filled the ditch without a permit, EPA undercover agents secretly filmed the dump trucks that delivered the topsoil. Though his actions didn’t create any pollution, endanger any species or water quality, Pozsgai was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $200,000.

In 1997, nearly two dozen federal agents, armed with semiautomatic pistols, showed up at James Knott’s wire-mesh manufacturing plant in Massachusetts. Knott was indicted on two counts of violating the Clean Water Act for allegedly pumping acidic water into the town sewer system. The EPA publicly condemned Knott and warned that his conviction could result in up to six years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. The case was subsequently dropped when it was discovered that the EPA had omitted vital information from the search warrant information indicating that Knott wasn’t violating the law."

And were do the "radical" environmentalists want us to go with how we consider environmental crimes? Well, it may be that the "Most Wanted List" is just the first salvo in a campaign to get us (the public) to consider any environmental miss-step as a drastic crime. For example, Mr. Milloy says points out that,

"A man in the U.K. was fined $215 for leaving the lid of his trash can ajar by more than three inches. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed last July to deputize garbage men to fine people as much as $1,000 for mixing trash with recyclables. Garbage cops, however, pale in comparison to the call earlier this year by NASA’s global warming alarmist, James Hansen, to put the CEOs of oil and coal companies on trial for 'high crimes against humanity and nature' -- a sentiment first broached in 2006 by a blogger for Grist magazine who called for a 'climate Nuremburg' for those who have questioned the need for global warming regulation."

I echo Mr. Milloy's question, "Is this really the direction in which we want to go?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Standing Watch....

Ms Wheeler, the mother of an injured warrior who is recuperating well at Brooke Army Medical Center's burn unit, posted this poem on the website she uses to update family and friends (and concerned citizens like me) on her son's condition. I don't know who the author is, but it's wonderful. Because I tend to be larcenous when I find something that I like; I'll post it here to share with those of you who read my blog.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

'What are you doing?' I asked without fear,
'Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!'
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said 'Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.'
'It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,'
Then he sighed, 'That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers.'
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.'

'So go back inside,' he said, 'harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.'
'But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
'Give you money,' I asked, 'or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son.'

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
'Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.'

Snow Angels

Remember snow angels? Well, I found one in a field of fresh fallen snow in the middle of a National Park somewhere in "flyover country." Fortunately, I was able to get a picture of this elusive creature so that I can share it with you. Snow angels are known for their ability to lift the heart and make even the most cynical adult act like a giddy child. They somehow touch the soul and can bring tears to the eyes of a grown man. In this Christmas Season, I hope this snow angel will bring you joy and happiness. God Bless.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Straight No Chaser!

In 1996, a group of guys got together at Indiana University and formed a group called Straight No Chaser. This year, one of the guys posted an old video of one of their performances on YouTube. After a whole-bucket-load of hits (somewhere close to 9 million so far) Atlantic Records offered the group a record deal to cut a Christmas album. The guys now live all over the world (one even lived in Hong Kong) doing "real jobs" including teaching, television reporter, IT salesman....but they've gotten together to record the album. Based on the videos on YouTube, I hope this group cuts many more! Here's their rendition of the 12 Nights of Christmas. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Army Operations Order

This was just too funny not to steal from Cassandra over at Villainous Company! Anyone who has ever read an Army Operations Order will recognize this....

Army Christmas Operations Order: 12-24-08

Subject: Christmas

1. An official visit by MG Santa (NMI) Claus is expected at this headquarters 25 December 2008. The following instructions will be in effect and govern the activities of all personnel during the visit.

a. Not a creature will stir without official permission. This will include indigenous mice. Special stirring permits for necessary administrative actions will be obtained through normal channels. Mice stirring permits will be obtained through the Office of the Surgeon General, Veterinary Services.

b. Personnel will settle their brains for a long winter nap prior to 2200 hours, 24 December 2008. Uniform for the nap will be: Pajamas, cotton,light, drowsing, with kerchief, general purpose, camouflage; and Cap, camouflage w/ear flaps. Equipment will be drawn from CIF prior to 1900 hours, 24 December 2008.

c. Personnel will utilize standard field ration sugar plums for visions to dance through their heads. Artificially sweetened plums are authorized for those in their unit weight control program. Specifications for this item will be provided by the servicing dining facility.

d. Stockings, wool, cushion sole, will be hung by the chimney with care. Necessary safety precautions will be taken to avoid fire hazards caused by carelessly hung stockings. Unit safety Officers will submit stocking hanging plans to this headquarters prior to 0800 hours, 24 December 2008, ATTN: DCSLOG, for approval.

e. At the first sign of clatter from the lawn, all troops will spring from their beds to evaluate noise and cause. Immediate action will be taken to tear open the shutters and throw open the window sashes. DCSOPS Plan (Saint Nick), Reference LO No. 3, paragraph 6c, this headquarters, 2 February 2008, will be in effect to facilitate shutter tearing and sash throwing. Division chiefs will familiarize all personnel with procedures and are responsible for ensuring that no shutters are tornopen nor window sashes thrown open prior to start of official clatter.

f. Prior to 2400, 24 December 2008, all personnel will be assigned “Wondering Eye” stations. After shutters are thrown open and sashes are torn, these stations will be manned.

g. The ODCSLOG will assign one each Sleigh, miniature, M-66, and eight (8) deer, rein, tiny, for use of MG Claus’ driver who, IAW current directives and other applicable regulations, must have a valid SF 56 properly annotated by Driver Testing; be authorized rooftop parking and be able to shout “On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, up Comet, up Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen”.

2. MG Claus will enter quarters through standard chimneys. All units without chimneys will draw Chimney Simulator, M-6, for use during ceremonies. Chimney simulator units will be requested on Engineer Job Order Request Form submitted to the Furniture Warehouse prior to 19 December 2008, and issued on DA Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-in.

3. Personnel will be rehearsed on shouting “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.” This shout will be given on termination of General Claus’ visit. Uniformity of shouting is the responsibility of division chiefs.

Colonel, USA
OIC, Special Services

Everybody Who Still Believes

Code Pink Crazies Honors the Iraqi Shoe Tosser

One of Lt Nixon's rants is about Code Pink's plans to honor the Iraqi Journalist who tossed his shoes (without much success) at President Bush. It seems that Code Pink has announced a "shoe in" at the Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday during afternoon/evening rush hour. The Code Pink crazies ask attendees to bring shoes to represent the Iraqis and Americans who have died "since Bush's illegal invasion." This protest is scheduled to take place at an extremely busy intersection in Los Angles. Stupid plan...to bring shoes to honor an angry Iraqi or Egyptian (or whatever), and schedule such a publicity stunt during rush hour at a busy intersection. I agree with Lt Nixon when he says, "Code Pink didn't have the decency to hold this display of idiocy on the weekend, so commuters will have to watch out for flying Birkenstocks as they exit off the 405."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Red State Patriotism

Ed Lasky has a post on the American Thinker website that will really make you think. The post, titled "What's the 'Highest Form' of Patriotism Again?", discusses an article published in the Washington Post which summarizes a study looking at whether, or not, there is a regional pattern to which states contribute volunteers for the all-volunteer military. As anyone who has served in the military can tell you, it seems that there is a regional pattern; the Red States contribute more volunteer for the all-volunteer military than the Blue States. Is anyone surprised?

According to the Washington Post article,

"Since 1970, the population of the United States has grown by about 50 percent, from roughly 200 million to 300 million. Over the same period, the number of active-duty armed forces has fallen approximately 50 percent, from 3 million to 1.4 million. A far smaller percentage of the citizenry now serves in the military.

Whereas in 1969 13 percent of Americans were veterans, in 2007 only 8 percent of us were.

Even more important than these general demographic shifts is the change wrought by the end of the draft in 1973. Until then, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true. The residential patterns for current veterans and the patterns of state-level contributions of new recruits to the all-volunteer military have a distinct geographic tilt. And tellingly, the map of military service since 1973 aligns closely with electoral maps distinguishing red from blue states.

In 1969, the 10 states with the highest percentage of veterans were, in order: Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut and Illinois.

In 2007, the 10 states with the highest percentage of post-Vietnam-era veterans were, in order: Alaska, Virginia, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming, Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Maryland and Georgia.Over the past four decades, which states have disappeared from the top 10? California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois, all big blue states that have voted Democratic in the past five presidential elections. These states and another blue state, New York, which ranked 12th in 1969, are among the 10 states with the lowest number of post-Vietnam vets per capita. New Jersey comes in 50th of the 50 states; just 1 percent of current residents have served in the military since Vietnam.

Mr. Lasky says that Blue-staters may try to pass the lack of Blue-state volunteers as "true patriotism" because they are brave enough to dissent. Probably, they tend to pass everything "military" off as outside the norm. But I totally agree with Mr. Lasky when he says that dissent isn't the highest form of patriotism. The highest form of patriotism is, and always should be, loving your nation so much that you are willing to commit the ultimate sacrifice to defend her.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I think that we, as humans, look for beauty in people, places, and things. Just look at all the money we spend on products, potions, and paraphernalia to make us "beautiful." (Okay, be honest men; while women may spend the majority of that money, guys spend their fair share on "stuff" to make them more attractive or keep them younger looking....) Anyway, we seek after "beauty" in all its forms. Don't we? Something that is truly beautiful will touch our soul and fill our hearts.

I know there are many definitions and forms of "beauty." The look on a mother's face when she sees her children is beautiful. The reverence with which some approach their Heavenly Father is beautiful. The sound of a finely tuned voice or instrument is beautiful. Beauty, in all it's myriad forms, is present all around us. . .we just have to open our eyes and see it.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been surrounded by the beauty of God's creation in a part of the Country that most people "fly over." While one part of me is happy that this part of the Country is "off the beaten path," I'm sorry that so many of my fellow countrymen (and women) consider this part of our great Country to be too desolate to see and too hard to get to. So, let me share some of this beauty with you. The pictures really don't do justice to the scope, color, and diversity of the landscape. Our wonderful Earth is a beautiful paradise; if only we would open our eyes to see.

I hope that as you go about your day, that you'll look for and find beauty in this Christmas season; in all its forms.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"'40% Off--Some Assembly Required'"

Col Oliver North wrote an editorial, published on FoxNEWS.com, talking about the young Marine Lieutenant the Freedom Alliance honored at the Army-Navy football game. The Freedom Alliance is a non-profit organization that provides educational scholarships for children of military members killed in action. This year's reciepient of the "Defenders of Freedom Award" is Lieutenant Andrew Kinard; a true hero. Col North's editorial tells Lt Kinard's story better than I can summarize it. Here it is:

"On October 29, 2006, Lieutenant Kinard was leading his Marines on a foot patrol in Rawah, Iraq — searching for a terrorist bomb factory — when a command-detonated IED exploded directly next to his left leg. The blast blew him into the air and he landed almost 20 feet from the crater. Three other Marines were wounded.

According to those who were there, before the grievously injured officer passed out from loss of blood, he ordered them to set up security, get a head count and start treating the other injured Marines. The platoon Corpsman tried to staunch the flow of blood, but couldn't find enough undamaged tissue to apply tourniquets and the lieutenant was losing blood — from almost everywhere.

A Cas-Evac helicopter airlifted him to the Marine Air Base at Al Asad, then to the Army trauma hospital at Balad, north of Baghdad. Sixty-seven pints of whole blood — more than five times the amount in a healthy adult — were pumped into the failing officer's veins in a 24-hour period.

By the time he was flown to Landstuhl, Germany in a C-17 Nightingale, he had gone into cardiac arrest — and been resuscitated — twice. Emergency surgeries went on nearly non-stop to plug the seemingly innumerable holes punched in his body. The family was alerted and a prayer vigil held. Hundreds of people half a world away went to their knees and begged God for a miracle.

Some miracles happen immediately. This one took awhile.

Four days after being blasted to pieces, Andrew Kinard was in the intensive care unit at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, with his family around his bedside — and still praying. By the time I got back from Iraq, just before Christmas 2006, "Drew" as his Marine and Naval Academy friends call him, had already endured more than two dozen surgeries.

His doctor told me that the 24-year old lieutenant was "getting better" even though he had pneumonia, a blood infection and multiple perforations of his intestines from shrapnel. They had just done one of the many skin grafts necessary to prepare his stumps for prosthetic limbs.

When I walked into his room, his mother and his sister Katherine were with him. His dad, a doctor in Spartanburg, SC, and two younger siblings, Courtney and Will, were all enroute to spend Christmas with their badly battered Marine.
But for all the cards, poster, banners, Christmas stockings, lights, photos and flags, the room would have looked like a scene from a science fiction movie. Monitors, electronic devices, compressors, pumps and assorted tubes, wires and bags of colored fluids surrounded the bed — all the connected to Andrew Kinard. Tiny flecks of shrapnel were still visible on the side of his face. He had no legs. His abdomen was an open hole. And he was smiling. "God is good," he said in greeting.

Over the next 11 months of hospitalization, Andrew Kinard was living proof of that statement. When I would ask him or his family, "How can I help you?" The inevitable response would be: "Just pray for recovery." And so, he also became evidence of the power of prayer.

In April 2007, he flew to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to meet his Marines when they returned from Iraq. Wearing his Marine utility uniform for the first time since being wounded, he greeted his comrades in a special "all-terrain" wheelchair.

Asked by a reporter to recollect the day he was wounded, he acknowledged that his memory of the attack had been dulled by shock and pain. Then he said, "A man asks himself, if something happens to me, when I go into battle, how will I react? Will I be brave?"

As they arrived home, the members of "Alpha" Company made it clear: Lieutenant Andrew Kinard was, without a doubt, their hero.

On October 29, 2007, exactly a year after he was wounded, the indomitable young officer came home. Dignitaries and thousands of well wishers were on hand to welcome Andrew at First Baptist Church, Spartanburg. The following Sunday he spoke at all three services, thanking all for their unfailing prayers.
His recovery will continue for years to come. But on one of my visits to him in the hospital the man who had once played rugby at the Naval Academy said, "I don't need legs. I have my arms. I learned discipline at the Naval Academy. I have my faith and a desire to serve. Maybe I'll go to law school."

Andrew has all of that — and more. He also has a great sense of humor. He has a T-shirt with the words "Marine for Sale" printed on the front. On the back it reads: "40% Off — Some Assembly Required"

Great Story! Personally, I hope Lt Kinard does go to law school. The legal profession needs heroes, too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Consequence Management

The Commission that issued the "World at Risk" report warned that we could potentially face an attack using nuclear, biological or other weapons of mass destruction "somewhere in the world" in the next 5 years. Scary! So what's being done? Well, the Commission had recommendations, and some of them even made sense. And (much to the concern of some) the Pentagon also announced this week that there would be 15,000 troops dedicated to Northern Command to respond to a weapon of mass destruction attack; 5,000 active-duty soldiers, with the rest of the troops from the National Guard and Reserves. Okay. So how does this help us? Well....the increase in military forces dedicated to NORTHCOM really doesn't help at all in preventing an attack; but it does help in managing the consequences of any attack.

It's clear that we also need to try to prevent an attack from ever occurring, particularly on American soil. But if it ever does, the military is best equipped to help civil authorities manage the results of any attack. Think about it...remember the immediate aftermath of hurricane Katrina? It was the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and active-duty military forces that had the command structure, the training, the logistics, and (frankly) the shear ability to do what was necessary to gain control of the situation and start dealing with the disaster. While we learned a number of lessons from the Katrina response, there is still no reason to believe that civil authorities are any better equipped or trained to deal with nuclear, biological, chemical, or high explosive weapons. The military is, so it makes total sense for the military to be ready to respond to any attack using weapons of mass destruction.

So to those out there who are afraid of the military running amok, or fear another Kent State (for those of you youngsters who don't know what happened at Kent State, look it up), you need to ask yourselves who would do what needs to be done if we were attacked, if not the military. Who has the training to deal with the aftermath of a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon? Who has the chain of command and logistics necessary to ensure that people and needed resources are in the right place at the right time? Who has the equipment that may be needed? It certainly isn't FEMA, nor is it the state or local authorities. Only the military has the ability to do what needs to be done.

So it's a good idea to get the right forces assigned to the right command and ensure that they're properly trained and that they've done what's needed to ensure civilian authorities are integrated into the military's planning. This is too important not to make it work.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The World at Risk

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has released its report, titled "The World at Risk." Congress chartered the Commission, co-chaired by Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent, to look at our progress in preventing weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism. The Commission was also asked to give the next President and Congress recommendations on how to ensure we protect our nation from weapons of mass destruction. According to the Report's Executive Summary,

"The Commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013. The commission further believes that terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon.

"The Commission believes that the U.S. government needs to move more aggressively to limit the proliferation of biological weapons and reduce the prospect of a bioterror attack.

"Further compounding the nuclear threat is the proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities to new states and the decision by several existing nuclear states to build up their arsenals. Such proliferation is a concern in its own right because it may increase the prospect of military crises that could lead to war and catastrophic use of these weapons."

The Report is very interesting, very frightening, and very necessary. It's been seven years since terrorists used civilian airliners as cruise missiles and attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In that seven years, we have been fortunate that there has not been another successful terrorist attack, despite the best efforts of some miscreants. Our law enforcement and security folks are fantastic and have been able to stop those who have wanted to attack us in some way. Thankfully! But unfortunately, the lack of a successful attack has caused much of our citizenry to become complacent. Some people have regressed into a belief that "it can't happen here." According to this Commission, a terrorist attack can happen here and it might happen here within the next five years.

The Commission makes 13 different recommendations on how we can better protect our nation from weapons of mass destruction. Some are really good, like the recommendation to implement a series of measures to protect against bioterrorism, the recommendation to continue to work with Russia reduce the danger of the use of nuclear and biological weapons, and the recommendation to create a principle advisor at the White House for issues relating to weapons of mass destruction. But the best recommendation, in my opinion, was the recommendation that said,

"As a top priority, the next administration must stop the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs. In the case of Iran, this requires the permanent cessation of all of Iran’s nuclear weapons–related efforts. In the case
of North Korea, this requires the complete abandonment and dismantlement of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. If, as appears likely, the next administration seeks to stop these programs through direct diplomatic engagement with the Iranian and North Korean governments, it must do so from a position of strength, emphasizing both the benefits to them of abandoning their nuclear weapons programs and the enormous costs of failing to do so. Such engagement must be backed by the credible threat of direct action in the event that diplomacy fails."

I've always thought that Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Well, it may be worth another try to get both Iran and North Korea to stop their nuclear weapons programs. But somehow, I don't think more talking will work. I agree with the commission that the only way diplomacy will work with either country will be if there is a "credible threat of direct action." Neither country will play nicely without Teddy's "big stick."

The Commission has concluded that "America’s margin of safety against a WMD attack is shrinking. " However, the Commission also found that there was "ample and solid ground for hope about the future." I hope so. I hope that our nation's leaders and our nation's citizens wake up and read the Commission's report. I hope that we lose our collective complacency. I hope that we, as a nation, take the steps necessary to protect ourselves; before it's too late (again). The Commission believes that "our nation has immense reservoirs of strength that we have only begun to use, and our enemies have weaknesses that we are learning how to exploit. There is much more that we can do to protect ourselves." Okay, so let's wake up, meet the challenge, and do what we need to do to protect ourselves from the threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction against us.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pvt Monica Brown

Yesterday, CBS aired a 60 Minutes story on Pvt Monica Brown, the second woman to be awarded the Silver Star since WWII. Pvt Brown, an Army medic, was awarded the medal for her bravery in risking her life by running through small arms and mortar fire to treat two critically wounded paratroopers, and shielding them with her body while they were evacuated. Both paratroopers survived. Pvt Brown was only 18-years old at the time, and had only 4 months training as a medic. Her story is a good one. If you missed it, you can check out the 60 Minutes story here.

Pvt Brown's story raises the question, again, whether women should be allowed in combat units. Now, being retired from the Air Force (and a woman) I have found no reason that women cannot perform just as well as men in a combat situation. There is no reason that women must be restricted from combat or front-line units (especially when there is no such thing as a "front line" in combat zones like Iraq or Afghanistan). Women are just as competent as men in stressful situations like combat. Just ask any stay-at-home Mom with an active toddler in the house.

Having said that women should be allowed in combat, I also have to say that I do not believe that physical requirements for combat units should be "gender-normed" just to allow women into the unit. In other words, if a woman can pass the same physical standards that the men are required to pass, she should be allowed to serve in a combat unit. If she can't pass, she shouldn't. It's that simple.

What do you think?

h/t GI Kate

BT's Circular Saw

At the side of this blog, I link to a number of blogs that I personally enjoy. The War on Big Tobacco is one of them. Big Tobacco is a "somewhat" irreverent Army Sergeant currently deployed to an unknown FOB somewhere in Iraq. His posts are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but always well-written. I wanted to highlight one of his recent posts...about a circular saw. Go read it, it's good stuff! Keep it coming BT!