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This is a well-written article about a father who put several of his kids through expensive colleges but one son wanted to be a Marine. Interesting observation by this dad.  See below.  A very interesting commentary that says a lot about our society.

By Frank Schaeffer of the Washington Post

Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.

When the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way. John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms. I did not. I live in the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.

It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John’s enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling. I did not relish the prospect of answering the question, “So where is John going to college?” from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard. At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.

“But aren’t the Marines terribly Southern?” (Says a lot about open-mindedness in the Northeast) asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation. “What a waste, he was such a good student,” said another parent. One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should “ carefully evaluate what went wrong.”

When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands. We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.

We in the audience were white and Native American. We were Hispanic, Arab, and African American, and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with battles’ names. We were Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos. We would not have been mistaken for the educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John’s private school a half-year before.

After graduation one new Marine told John, “Before I was a Marine, if I had ever seen you on my block I would’ve probably killed you just because you were standing there.” This was a serious statement from one of John’s good friends, a black ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John said, “would die for me now, just like I’d die for him.”

My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before. I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends. She has two sons in the Corps. They are facing the same dangers as my boy. When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it. His younger brother is in the Navy.

Why were I and the other parents at my son’s private school so surprised by his choice? During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit. If the idea of the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?

Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists? Is the world a safe place? Or have we just gotten used to having somebody else defend us? What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm’s way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?

I feel shame because it took my son’s joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me. I feel hope because perhaps my son is part of a future “greatest generation. “As the storm clouds of war gather, at least I know that I can look the men and women in uniform in the eye. My son is one of them. He is the best I have to offer. He is my heart.

Oh, how I wish so many of our younger generations could read this article.  It makes me so sad to hear the way they talk with no respect for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers experienced so they can live in freedom.  Please pass it on….

GOD BLESS ALL WHO SERVE

 

 

Most of us have a pretty clear vision of the kind of person we aspire to be someday. Whether it’s a successful entrepreneur, a devoted family man, or a well-balanced working mother, we picture ourselves overcoming any obstacle to become that person in the end. But life quickly teaches us that the road ahead comes with bigger challenges than we anticipate, sometimes halting our dreams for the future. For Zach, that life-altering hurdle was addiction.

After eight years of substance abuse, Zach was on the brink of losing everything he held dear: his wife and four children, even his job. But the realization that he needed to change literally smashed through one day, and he decided it was time to seek professional help.

In treatment at Texas’s the Treehouse, Zach found the courage and strength to not only free himself from the claws of his addiction, he also realized he had the ability to help others do the same.

Fate came knocking — sort of

Although he was physically present and his kids never actually witnessed him using, Zach said his indifferent attitude was a major culprit in his addiction.

“I didn’t think about how anything I did was affecting them. I made sure to pay the bills and made sure they had everything they needed, and that was all that mattered,” he said. “I didn’t think about the time I was spending with them or how them seeing what I was doing would affect them.”

Though his life started to fall apart, he said things didn’t really click until fate came crashing through his door — in police uniform.

“One morning, some cops came and kicked my door in,” he recalled. “They found some of the substances I was using. That was a big eye-opener for me.”

Zach turned to his parents for help finding a treatment center and officially made the first step toward recovery… but it was still a long road ahead.

His peers showed him the compassion he was seeking

It’s not easy to walk into a program full of strangers and divulge the details of an extremely personal addiction battle. Zach told us he wasn’t sure anyone could understand, let alone empathize, with his situation.

“When I got there, I felt empty and alone. I was ashamed of myself, I felt guilty, and I didn’t think anyone else was going through what I was going through,” he confessed. “I had a wife and kids, other people I was responsible for. I thought I’d go there and have people judging me.”

But where he expected criticism, he found understanding. In fact, the very first recovery peer he met immediately showed him an acceptance he hadn’t expected:

“I had just gotten out of my intake with the nurse, and she introduced me to someone. He said, ‘Hey, friend! What are you here for?’ And I told him. He said, ‘Don’t be ashamed — we’re all addicts here!’ That’s something that’s always stuck with me.

“It was mind blowing how people really connected with me without even talking to me, and just knowing what was going through my head just by me being there,” he added.

Finally, everything clicked

Zach said though he was building valuable relationships, after weeks in rehabilitation he still felt like he hadn’t connected with the program itself. A few days before he was scheduled to leave, he decided to give an AA meeting one last shot — this time, with an open mind — and the pieces finally came together.

After deciding with his counselor that he would benefit from a few extra weeks in treatment, Zach recommitted to the program. He said his entire experience changed for the better:

“Those last few weeks I wasn’t there just to be there — I was helping other people grow.”

The clarity of sobriety helped him see the importance of thinking of others. His mission now was to not only get himself clean to save his family, but to help others do the same.

“I always talked about going to school,” he explained. “I decided during treatment that I was going to go, and I wasn’t going to let anything hold me back. I knew this is what I wanted to go to school for. I loved seeing people’s faces light up while I was helping them in treatment, and I liked being able to understand what others were going through.”

Zach’s story is a wonderful example of how even the darkest beginnings can lead us to bright, beautiful new horizons. His addiction led him to being this close to losing all that mattered to him, and even to an arrest. But the police officers’ arrival at his home was an awakening experience that he became truly thankful for, as it was exactly what he needed to get the help that saved his life. Zach, like all of the recovering addicts I spoke with, offers a beacon of hope to anyone who may be struggling with demons of their own — whether those issues are related to addiction or not.

This article was written by Cecelia Johnson.

Cecelia believes strongly in the power of good deeds and recognizing great work.  She hopes her work can help to build stronger, more altruistic communities and citizens.

SUVA thanks Cecelia for her contribution.  Hopefully, veterans and other people suffering from mental or physical trauma will seek help like Zach did in the story so they can go on to lead happy, productive lives.

 

Echo company of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (1st Marine Division/Vietnam) reunite every even year.  We started this tradition back in 2004.  E 2/5 was in Vietnam for a little better than six years so a lot of Marines came and went during that time.  This year, 2016, we met in Philadelphia during “Marine Week” meaning the week of November 10th, the birthday of the Marine Corps in 1775.  25 of us showed up at the Wyndham with our wives, and two of our guys brought their daughters.  It was a memorable week for sure as there was plenty to see and do in Philly.  One of the activities was to attend a local Marine Corps Birthday Ball.  We chose the Ball that was sponsored by one of the local Marine Corps League Detachments known as the “Smedley Butler Detachment.”

On the night of the Ball we all loaded into a school bus we rented and rode out to the Paxon Hollow Country Club for a formal evening of ceremony, banquet, and dancing.  Everyone had a blast and the crowd was excited about celebrating the 241st anniversary of the marines.  The photo below show 5 of us who were all in Vietnam at the same time.  We comprised the ‘CP’ for 2nd platoon, Echo Company of course.  On the left is (Sgt.) Bruce Olson who was our platoon sergeant.  Next is Randy Baker, a Navy Corpsman who was one hell of a ‘doc’ in combat.  Then there’s me, Pat Lisi. I held every position in the platoon at one time or other except for platoon commander, but in the CP group I was the Platoon Guide.  The Marine on the right is our platoon commander, 1st Lieutenant William “Kirk” Kirkpatrick.

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Silver Star
Silver Star

An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony in November, an official said.

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men, but the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank.

Fresh out of the river, Hutchins took lead of a team that included three others to go after the enemy.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While coninuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, but the Air Force on Tuesday could not verify whether he received it, or whether the award had instead been upgraded to the Silver Star.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

— Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional details about the date of award and the airman’s heroic actions.

Photo courtesy The War Horse
Photo courtesy The War Horse

This article by David Palacio originally appeared on TheWarHorse.org, a nonprofit investigative news organization focused on covering the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

David Palacio recounts his own experiences on 9/11, the day that led to his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps and fight in the war on terrorism.

The morning of September 11th, I became a part of the Global War on Terrorism generation. I was in my second sophomore year at Emory University and experiencing the type of morning that landed me a second sophomore year. I woke up, hungover, having already slept through class. I had a paper due that morning and had hoped that if I could slide it under the teacher’s door instead of turning it in the next day, my professor’s reprimand would be minimal.

I crossed the empty quad during the middle of a scheduled class, not expecting to see anyone as I headed back to bed when suddenly the nearby buildings began slowly to purge students. I felt a small wave of guilt for skipping class as I became visible to all the students who had managed to make it there on time.

In a nearby patch of grass I spotted a friend and member of my fraternity, Winston, and asked him what was going on. Winston was from Georgia, but he looked like a 1950s California transplant with his shaggy hair, white hats with the brim worn down, and a laid back attitude.

“Hey man, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know dude, all the teachers are letting us out,” he replied with a smile, shrugging his shoulders high into the air. “Some plane just flew into a building or something.”

I watched history being written in a dark dorm room, alone, since my roommate was rarely present. I had flicked on my antique TV and flipped through to the first news channel I could find. The plane Winston had been talking about was American Airlines flight 11 and the building was the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

I couldn’t pull myself away; every channel was streaming a reality my 20-year-old mind wasn’t ready to handle and certainly didn’t understand. I could feel my Adam’s apple tighten up and tears start to build up in my eyes. I blinked faster to fight them back, which became harder with every successive image of southern Manhattan in chaos that played across the TV.

As the world was starting to change, my older brother, who was a student at Brown University at the time, called me.

“David…what’s going on?”

I love my brother dearly, but we never called each other simply to chitchat.

“I…I don’t know,” I stuttered slowly, and then despite trying my hardest to be a tough guy, I started to cry as I replied, “I think we’re under attack.”

In the hours and days that followed, we, as a nation, met our new reality. Sure, we were the “good guys,” we tried to help out the world where we could, but we weren’t just the home of Hollywood and Ford Mustangs, we were the object of hate for a group of people that wanted to see our world burn.

I didn’t know what to feel, other than fear, so I returned the favor; I felt hate in return. Not against a people or a country, but against whomever had attacked mine.

It took until later in the day for the name Osama Bin Laden to be associated with the attacks, or at least that’s how I remember it. It was also the first time I can remember giving care to an obscure country named Afghanistan. There was going to be a war. There had to be a war. I wanted to be a part of it. My previous thoughts of a life in the military–travel, adventure, fun–were being replaced with a new possible reality: war, loss, suffering.

On September 12th, the day that the whole world was on our side, two days before the president spoke from the smoldering ashes of what seems like it will forever be known as Ground Zero, I decided I wanted to fight. I didn’t know what else I’d do in life, but I could do that later. I was young, I was strong, and I wanted revenge.

Since I was halfway done with school I decided to try my hand as an officer, which meant I was still years away from earning my title as “Marine.” In those years, the U.S. remained in a state of military action: Our enemy was now in Iraq, and we’d largely taken care of, or contained the fight in Afghanistan, or at least that was the current narrative.

By the time I made it to Officer Candidate School in fall 2004, the war in Iraq was gearing up to a bloody crescendo. We heard about the Second Battle of Fallujah while we were stretching on a cold Virginia morning and getting ready for the morning’s workout.

I was only a little over a month into my training, but I was adapting fast. I was wearing my green sweat pants and sweatshirt, Marine Corps logo on my left breast, right arm crossed over my chest to stretch as our instructors circled behind us and released small bits of information. I could see my breath in the cold when I heard Marines were dying. Lots of them. Again, I found myself angry and wanting to fight.

The men and woman to my left and right in Officer Candidate School were a peculiar breed. Much like myself, they were joining three years after September 11th, but the impact of that day had drawn us out of our respective civilian lives, whatever they had been at the time in the fall of 2004. Some were fresh college graduates, like myself, some had left graduate school to join the Marines. More than a couple left a comfortable life on Wall Street as investment bankers or left other successful careers because they felt compelled to serve and fight, while there was fighting still to be done.

I had no intention of making a career of the military when I joined the Marine Corps. I found myself, like I believe many of us did, drawn to the story of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. He was a Roman citizen and farmer who, in a moment of crisis thanks to invading forces, was called to become the leader of the young Roman Republic. He resigned shortly after he defeated several rival armies. He simply wanted to serve his republic and to be a good citizen.

The prevailing sentiment among my fellow Marines was the desire to go into harm’s way, to take the fight to the enemy, to make sure another day didn’t go down in infamy on our watch.

Looking back now, I think many of us believed we would go to war once, maybe twice, tops, and with that we’d be able to wrap up this whole “terrorism” thing.

The memory of September 11th still elicits in me a visceral reaction. I was a young man on that day in 2001 with little memory of loss or sacrifice. Now it feels like it was the first memory of a new life: my life as a Marine. As I look around today, I see friends with whom I’ve patrolled the streets and deserts of Iraq and crossed the poppy fields and canals of Helmand Province for over a decade now. For my generation, September 11th plays into our story, in at least some way.

The younger generation coming into service now? For some, they were only three years old when the attacks took place. Soon, new service members will not have been alive that day. It’ll just be another date in American history for them. It will be another attack on Pearl Harbor, a crossing of the 38th Parallel–just another day and another reason for war, for all it matters to them. They’ll come to know it only from history books, stories from their parents and grandparents, from clips of “a very special anniversary edition” of some TV event.

In a few months I’ll leave for Iraq on my sixth combat deployment as a Marine. That’ll round me out with three tours to Iraq and three tours to Afghanistan. As for the war in Afghanistan? The war we entered into days after September 11th? I was on one of the last helicopters to leave Helmand Province as part of the last Marine infantry battalion to rotate through that country. That was October 2014.

Sometimes, when I think about the fight we entered after the towers fell, I’m reminded of a spoof poster for the classic movie “Endless Summer.” Instead of the three surfers holding their surfboards in the psychedelically colored backdrop, it’s three service members on patrol, same color scheme, with weapons in hand and the words “Endless War” written above them.

David Palacio graduated from Emory University and attended Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in 2004. He later became an artillery officer and completed two tours in Iraq with 1st Marine Division. He then joined 1st ANGLICO and completed two tours to Afghanistan as a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) before leaving active duty and attending Columbia University Journalism School. He currently serves with II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and will be deploying to Iraq as part of an advisor team.