The Veterans of Foreign Wars Faces a Challenge

VFW, Veterans of Foreign WarsThe Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW, strives to do good things for deserving people; particularly veterans, their families, and their communities.  From local grassroots ideas to national influence, we work everyday to make a difference.  It’s our strength as an organization.  And, with each individual membership, we only grow stronger.

Except all is not well in VFW land:

I met with a state commander of the VFW last week while he was in DC for some national business. As we talked, through the conversation some aspects of my military service came up. He asked about my own membership in the VFW and I told him I used to be a member but had declined to renew my membership some time ago. He seemed surprised but asked why, I told him about what I found by a number of the members of the VFW where I had been to be a “chip on the shoulder” syndrome.
Despite having been in real no-kidding combat in Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, I was often told that these were not ‘real wars’ (which in at least two cases they weren’t – not for the U.S.) The propensity of the members to think that in 2001 Afghanistan or 2003 Iraq there were the creature comforts of modern life that is shown on the news is a gross miscalculation.

VFW, Veterans of Foreign WarsWe briefly discussed how I parachuted into Afghanistan and did not see a shower or hot meal for 68 days. My wife didn’t know where I was (other than I was probably in Afghanistan), multiple firefights, direct and indirect fire and calls for fire on targets seemed like a war to my team, regardless of the year that it took place in. I feel much of the feeling was based on how these men were treated when they came home. Their fathers who had fought in WWII were treated very differently by society than they were, but should that justify contempt for those who have fought after them?

Hmm, I still intend on joining when I retire. I imagine the different VFW units vary by area?

Libya and Iraq, Can You Hear Us Now?

The beauty of the internet is that you can travel, in the blink of an eye, around the world. Like to Libya to read the head covering of this Libyan woman:

a Libyan woman wearing a depiction of the national flag bearing the words, "hold your head high, you are Libyan," attends commemorations to mark the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi in Benghazi, Libya. Women played a major role in the 8-month civil war against dictator Moammar Gadhafi, massing for protests against his regime, selling jewelry to fund rebels, helping treat the wounded, smuggling weapons across enemy lines to rebels. But since Gadhafi’s fall more than 18 months ago, women have been rewarded by seeing rights they enjoyed under his rule hemmed in and restricted

A Libyan woman wearing a depiction of the national flag bearing the words, “hold your head high, you are Libyan,” attends commemorations to mark the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi in Benghazi, Libya. Women played a major role in the 8-month civil war against dictator Moammar Gadhafi, massing for protests against his regime, selling jewelry to fund rebels, helping treat the wounded, smuggling weapons across enemy lines to rebels. But since Gadhafi’s fall more than 18 months ago, women have been rewarded by seeing rights they enjoyed under his rule hemmed in and restricted.

Or off to Iraq, where some protestors are getting a touch heated about U.S. policy. Why? We are no longer in their country:

Sunni Muslims take part in an anti-government demonstration in Falluja, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad,

Sunni Muslims take part in an anti-government demonstration in Falluja, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad.

Anyway, the press no longer covers Iraq. Their work there is done. Silly Sunnis.

Dogs at Fleet Week

This American Thinker article weaves in Military Working Dogs (MWDs, not WMDs), New York, the Blue Angels, Iraq, and other interesting topics. It also links to the tragic story of Tony Martin (convicted of killing Fred Barras during the latter’s robbery of his home.) Read it if you errrr so inclined. Do watch your blood pressure. (Hand Salute: Kris, thanks!)

Free “I Served” Sticker to Non-Flag Stompers

I served Iraq, Afghanistan, Desert Storm, VietnamNavy Times is offering a free I Served (in) Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, or Desert Storm sticker for all those who have served.

I’ll bet I know of one person who does not want the sticker, the Chapin High School English teacher (South Carolina) who repeatedly stomped on the flag in class to make a point.

Please ignore my pet peeve of folks misspelling or misidentifying Berkeley in the comments. Like Sergeant First Class Brice Harris who calls it UCLA-Berkeley. C’mon SFC, I expect better. Two separate schools, Berkeley and UCLA. Separated by almost 400 miles!

McNamara Apache Family

The Apache helicopter, it’s one sweet ride. And a family, the McNamaras, have three AH-64 pilots in their brood. Father, son, and daughter. All flying the Apache:

Dennis McNamara, an AH-64 Apache Longbow attack helicopter pilot for the 8th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment, an Army Reserve unit based out of Fort Knox, Ky is now deployed at Camp Taji, Iraq.

CWO2 Brendon McNamara, Capt. Dennis McNamara and Capt. Elizabeth McNamara.

Dennis McNamara is now deployed at Camp Taji, Iraq along with his daughter, Capt. Elizabeth McNamara, 28, and his son, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brendon McNamara, 24 both of which are AH-64 Apache Longbow attack helicopter pilot too.

I’ll bet dinner around the McNamara family table is mighty interesting. Lots of hand gestures, if they are anything like Navy pilots. . .

Two Gold AK-47s For Your Sunday

A gold AK-47, what every naughtily nice boy and nicely naughty girl scribbled on their short list for Christmas. We have two here for your perusal. First up, an AK from the peaceful land between the two rivers, Mesopotamia. Otherwise known as Iraq:

Iraqi AK-47, Saddam Hussein’s Weapon?

So the above boom-stick is to be interred at the London Design Museum for iconic objects. Also included are a Space Invaders game, a LookSoFlat lamp, a 3D Mouse Novint Falcon, Texas Instrument’s Portable Radio, an Olivetti 1969 typewriter, an Ipogeo Lamp, a Sony Walkman, a Kindle from Amazon, a Portable CD Player (Discman), and a Sony Mini Disc Recorder. 14 objects were recently added to the collection:

London’s Design Museum has added 14 new classics to its collection, which includes the Walkman and the Kalashnikov AK-47.

‘The Walkman became part of culture and even part of fashion,’ the Design Museum said in a statement. It was first sold in 1979 and within 10 years a staggering 50 million people owned one.

The AK-47, with its distinctive curved magazine, is another instantly recognisable design.

The next gold AK is somewhat smaller. Let’s test your rumored hawk-like vision. Do you see the AK-AK in this picture:

Alicia Keys’ AK-47 Necklace

Pretty easy? Her necklace?!? Yes, you are right. Before I realized it was Alicia Keys’ initials, I wondered why she had jewelry with an AK-47. The rifle is, after all, popular in all the wrong circles. A semi-informed blogger muttered this in one of his rambling posts:

Yet it is directly responsible for the killing of our service members. And while I respect the AK’s durability and success, I would not want to be associated with it. Sure, it has counter-culture cachet, but the only counter I want to lean on is the one at McDonalds. Ordering some McNuggets.

Alicia Keys, who has the perfect name for a pianist, shared this ’bout it:

Alicia told Blender Magazine that she wore a gold AK 47 machine gun on a pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ‘em dead,” – and because those are her initials.

Hmmm. What Blender Magazine article? This one:

Do you feel lucky, Punk? Alicia Keys’ Handgun

“‘Gangsta rap’ was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. ‘Gangsta rap’ didn’t exist.”

Keys, 27, said she’s read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ‘em dead,” according to an interview in the magazine’s May issue, on newsstands Tuesday.

Another of her theories: That the bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled “by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing.”

Okay Alicia, go easy on the Ima-gonna-’stablish-my-cred vibe you got going on. After all, Google proudly displays the below picture of you in a Navy ballcap. I thought we were cool:

Alicia Keys Yo, USS Los Angeles OTW-66?

Hmm, your cover says OTW-66. What does the OTW stand for? I have never heard a ship, boat, grey thingie with an OTW as its prefix. I’ve ‘eard of the sub SSN-688, the airship ZR-3, the Cruiser CA-135. But nothing with an OTW. Still searching. Oh no. Hell no:

The epitome of California skate stems from VANS with roots dating back to 1966. A special collaboration with STARTER breathes life into the OTW-66 snapback cap.

Styled after naval battleship caps worn by active and veteran military personal alike, the OTW-66 features the USS Los Angeles with designation OTW (Off the Wall) -66. Laurel leaves adorn the bill of the cap for accuracy. Scope this out now at select Vans accounts and online at www.vans.com.

Vans Starter OTW-66 Navy Hat

A fake Navy hat from a skate company? Oh well. Imitation is the sincerest form of hattery, I suppose. . .

Operation Hero: The Army Finds an Iraqi Dog and Brings Her to the United States

Malinois

Dogs and the military go together like bacon and eggs.

On a deployment, I once approached a leashed Malinois, the Belgian cousin to a German Shepherd. They are military working dogs (MWDs) and probably should not be bothered. But I chatted up the handler anyway, who let me pet the dog. It was a little slice of home in a place most assuredly not.

And at NAVCENT, I used to pause at the Military Working Dog (MWD) kennel, to see if any of the pooches were out and about.

So when I saw this picture:

Hero, Justin Rollins’ dog

And then read the story, a blog entry by an ABC News 20/20 reporter, I was hooked. The media team had traveled to Newport, New Hampshire to speak to Army Specialist Justin Rollins’ family. Justin was an 82nd Airborne Soldier, stationed in Samara, Iraq. And he had tragically passed away from an IED explosion.

The family had a picture of their son holding Hero up from when the dog had been a puppy. And he had sent it to his fiancee, Brittney Murray, the day before he had died.

Army Specialist Justin Rollins and Hero the Dog

The family asked the Army brass at Justin’s funeral if they could find the dog from the above picture. Push comes to shove and the Army runs Operation Hero. Of course, they locate the lucky canine and deliver her to the Rollins.

The ABC reporter, Kimberly Launier, had the following to say about the picture of Hero standing in the ray of light:

I was filming soldier Justin Rollin’s parents Skip and Rhonda playing with their dog Hero, whose rescue from the Iraq War zone where Justin died was nothing short of a miracle.

Sometimes when Rhonda hugged Hero she would softly pet her face and coo, “Justin, are you in there?”  It was Rhonda’s gentle way of remembering their son and his last living connection to Hero. At one point, Hero wandered off and took a stroll in the backyard. All of a sudden, the clouds broke and a light began to solidify in a beam directly down on Hero — a kind of vertical halo.

What a great picture, moving story. After the dog returned to the States, Hero traveled to New Hampshire Congressman Paul Hodes’s office. And guess what Hero did?

The puppy soon hit the tarmac, and began earning impressive frequent flier miles traveling from Iraq, Bahrain, Brussels and New York before finally landing in New Hampshire to a full-blown media circus fit for a rock star. At Congressman Paul Hodes’s office, little Hero claimed the territory her own.

She christened the carpet,” remembered Rhonda.

Reporters crowd Hero

I am a sucker for dog stories. Cat tales? Sure, why not. Here’s one, nothing more than an after-dinner mint really.

Matilda III is the house cat at the Algonquin Hotel. If the hotel’s name sounds familiar, it should. It was home to Dorothy Parker and the Round Table. As for Matilda:

The city’s favorite feline, a blue-eyed ragdoll, took up residence last winter. She’s the 10th Algonquin cat since Rusty, aka Hamlet I, moved into the hotel, legendary home of the “Round Table” literary salon, in 1932.

The pampered pussies are as much a part of The Algonquin’s cozy confines as the oak paneling and upholstered chairs and sofas. Hotel staff have delighted in pointing out Matilda’s hiding places to guests.

Matilda III at the Algonquin Hotel

New York City’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene has struck again. The cat now must be caged or leashed.

So the city can’t sweep some hippies, the Occupy Wall Streeters, out of a park. And the mayor enforces restrictions on trans-fats and salt. Now he seems intent on adding a puddycat to that list.

The New Iraq

I have spent a lot of time in my career focused on one particular non-vacation spot: Iraq. Pasted below is the latest lay-down (follow link for larger picture.) Included is the OOB, Order of Battle, indicating where the numbered military units reside.

I am always struck by how large Al Anbar is. If you do not know the story of that western province, and the crucial work the Marines did in securing the region, you should consider studying up on it. Of course, the Marines’ big brother also did some of the heavy lifting. Plenty of other Al Anbar resources are available as well. . .

Al Anbar was akin to the Wild West before it turned. Our victory in Iraq took seed from the crucial COIN (counterinsurgency) work fine-tuned there. The term used to describe the change was the Awakening. It led to a civilian, tribal renaissance. That is, if the word renaissance can be used to describe anything in that volatile region. . .

Hand Salute: Theo and DJ Elliott

When the Music Stopped

Courtesy of reader ExAFCrewDog, we have the following story, written by a Chaplain stationed in Iraq in 2007, at Logistics Support Area Anaconda. While I have only seen Balad from 28,000 feet, I have been in several base movie theaters. And the following account could have happened at any one of ‘em:

I recently attended a showing of ‘Spiderman 3′ here at LSA Anaconda. We have a large auditorium that we use for movies, as well as memorial services and other large gatherings.

As is the custom at all military bases, we stood at attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature.

All was going well, until three-quarters of the way through the Anthem the music stopped.

Now, what would happen if this had occurred with a thousand 18-to-22-year-olds back in the States? I imagine that there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments, and everyone would sit down and yell for the movie to begin. Of course, that would require them standing for the National Anthem in the first place.

Here in Iraq, our thousand soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again and the soldiers maintained their stance. Again though, at the same point, the music stopped. What would you expect a thousand soldiers standing alert to do? Frankly, I expected some laughter and everyone would eventually sit down and wait for the movie to start.

No. . . You could have heard a pin drop while every soldier held their uprightness.

Suddenly, a lone voice sang from the front of the auditorium, then a dozen voices, and soon the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off:

“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O! say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

It was the most inspiring moment I have had in Iraq, and I wanted you to know what kind of U.S. Soldiers are serving you. Remember them as they fight for us!

God Bless America and all of our troops serving throughout the world. Pass this along if you are so moved as a reminder to others to be ever in prayer for all our military members serving us here at home and abroad. Many have already paid the ultimate price.

Written by Chaplain Jim Higgins, stationed at LSA Anaconda, Balad Airport, north of Baghdad.

Update: ExAFCrewDog points to a website that confirms the story. I may have proofread the good Chaplain’s words. Forgive me Father, for I have edited. . .