Patriotism

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by: Norman Fulkerson


The Annual Veterans Conference put on by the American Veterans Center is always a special event, dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of our brave servicemen. They did not fail once again to put on a splendid event this November 9-11.

“Dear Jesus, Please Forgive my Sins, so I Can Go to Heaven”
The first evening’s event featured a panel of Wounded Warriors. During the reception beforehand, I was surprised when one of those warriors, Corporal Garrett Jones from Newberg, Ore., happened to sit across from me for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. It turned out to be one of the most memorable conversations of the event.

What struck me most about this 28-year-old Marine was the utter absence of self-pity in spite of the fact that he was an amputee. He told the gripping details of how he lost his leg while serving in Iraq back in July of 2007. When a 155mm Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated under his feet, he was thrown into the air like a rag doll. He never lost consciousness and attributed his survival to the “grace of God.”  He thought he was dying because of the difficulty he had breathing. He then started feeling very cold from loss of blood and felt his death was certain.

“Dear Jesus,” he recalled praying, “please forgive my sins, so I can go to heaven.” He would go on to survive and surprisingly tells how he never suffered a day with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He humorously defined himself as a “black-and-white kind of guy. There are three types of people in the world,” he said, “sheep, wolves and sheep dogs.” It was clear that he placed himself squarely among the latter. Another word for sheep dogs, he explained, is “warrior.”

“Dear Jesus, please forgive my sins, so I can go to heaven,” prayed a dying Garret Jones, right, after an IED had detonated under his feet. Although an amputee, he resisted self-pity and even deployed with his unit when they deployed the following spring. (Courtesy of Tony Powell)

“Such men need to be willing to do violence on behalf of the sheep,” he continued. “That means they need to be ready to fight, be wounded, and if necessary, die… and be fine with it.”

This no-nonsense Marine described his reaction when he heard his unit would be deployed to Afghanistan after his injury. “I am going with you,” he informed his commander in a very decisive way. With the help of higher ups including the then-Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Conway, he did in fact deploy the following spring.

Medal of Honor Panel
During the following day’s Veterans Conference, attendees were treated to a wide variety of heroes and legends. Medal of Honor recipients Gen. Patrick H. Brady and Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha were part of one panel. They took questions from the audience while the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation President and top gun pilot, Maj. Gen. Thomas Wilkerson moderated. Like most recipients of the Medal of Honor, both men showed great humility in wearing our nation’s highest honor for valor.

“I did what any other soldier would have done,” said Staff Sgt.Romesha as he choked back tears in remembrance of those who did not survive. Gen. Brady drew a laugh from the audience by describing how he was “embarrassed” to receive the award. He went on to describe how the medal represents “all those who didn’t make it back. They don’t come from easy days,” but rather from a difficult moment “when you’re faced with an adversity.”

The Honor Banquet
The highlight of the conference however was the Honors Award Banquet. Doris Day, the charming and gracious widow of Col. Bud Day was there to accept The Doolittle Tokyo Raider Wings of Valor Award that was posthumously awarded to her late husband. With her always sparkling blue eyes, this wonderful lady expressed her gratitude and explained how Jimmy Doolittle was her husband’s hero.

The last living member of the legendary Navajo Code Talkers, Chester Nez was also on hand. During World War II, the Japanese broke every code devised by Americans except the one devised by a Navajo Indian named Philip Johnston. His undecipherable code was based on their language and was so effective that the 29 original code talkers could communicate in 20 seconds what it previously took coding machines half an hour.

Mr. Nez was only a tenth grader when Marine recruiters came to his boarding school looking for young men who were fluent in both English and the Navajo language. He jumped at the chance to serve his country, lied about his age, and signed on with the Marines. He was the first of the original Code Talkers, which took part in every Marine assault in the Pacific. They sent thousands of messages that baffled Japanese military cryptologists who were unable to decipher a single one.

The Devil of Ramadi
The most special part of the evening however was the moment when the late Chris Kyle was posthumously awarded the Paul Ray Smith Award. It was difficult to restrain one’s emotions as a moving video tribute of this All American Hero was projected on screens at both ends of the room.

With the parents of the late Navy S.E.A.L., Chris Kyle, who had racked up 160 confirmed kills, earning him the nickname, The Devil of Ramadi. (Courtesy of Carrie Hanna)

His parents, Wayne and Deby were there to receive the award on behalf of their fallen son. As a Navy SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle racked up an astounding 160 confirmed kills during his time in combat, a US military record that is unlikely to be broken. He was so deadly he earned the nickname, The Devil of Ramadi by the enemy who placed an $80,000 bounty on his head.

His life was brought to an abrupt end when he was shot and killed by a Marine suffering from PTSD that he was trying to help. As his grieving parents walked on stage to receive the award, the audience erupted with a standing ovation that seemed to go on forever. I personally could have clapped until my hands were bleeding for that man.

Doolittle Raider Toast
As the evening winded down, conference organizers explained the significance of the bottle of Hennessey Cognac sitting at the center of each table. As we were celebrating heroes in our nation’s capital, another crowd at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio was honoring three of the last four remaining Doolittle Raiders. This heroic group of pilots conducted the retaliatory raid on Tokyo, Japan after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Their historic feat had the double result of lifting American moral and demoralizing an intransigent enemy that thought they were invincible.

In 1959, the city of Tuscon, Arizona presented the group with 80 sterling goblets etched with the names of all the original Raiders and a bottle of 1896 Hennessey Cognac in honor of the birth year of their founder Jimmy Doolittle. At each yearly reunion since then a tradition was born. The remaining living members would toast those who had passed away on the previous year, then turn the goblet of the deceased upside down. The original plan was to save the 1896 bottle of Hennessey for the last remaining Raider. With the death of Thomas Griffin earlier this year and the failing health of another, it was decided to bring this extraordinary tradition to a ceremonious end.

As the remaining Doolittle Raiders were making their last toast, attendees of the Veterans Conference were with them in spirit. It was a chilling moment as the shining amber liquid was poured into each of our goblets. This spine-chilling event gave me time to reflect on the previous days’ events.

We are truly the land of the free because of such daring men like those Raiders and other selfless “sheep dogs” like Chris Kyle and Corporal Garret Jones. Men such as these ask nothing in return for laying their lives on the line for us. This became clear for me as I remembered a comment made by Corporal Jones during our conversation on the first evening. When he was blown into the air by an IED and felt sure he was dying, he admitted “being okay with it. Warriors always are,” he said, “as long as [America] drapes a flag over their coffin.”

 

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by: Norman Fulkerson

With so much negative news these days, the story about Capt. William Swenson, who received the Medal of Honor last month is truly a breath of fresh air. He earned our nation’s highest award during the same fierce battle as fellow recipient and Kentucky native, Dakota Meyer.

We long for better days but have lost sight of the fact that it was because of men such as these that our country achieved the success –economic and otherwise– we now see slipping away. Over the years we have lost track of what matters most in life. We give too great importance to material things, such as our favorite technological devices, and fail to realize the inestimable value of immaterial things like honor. America desperately needs the “rule of honor” so well explained in my favorite book “Return to Order” by John Horvat.

If/when we hit bottom, it will not be to our i-phones that we will turn for help, nor to our “nanny government” whose socialist programs will eventually impoverish our nation. Rather, we will turn to selfless heroes like William Swenson who courageously faced withering gunfire and even death out of love for neighbor and a higher cause.

Thankfully such men are not as uncommon as we might think in our great nation. They are easily recognizable as those who seek to surpass the proverbial Joneses, not by the amount of money in their pockets, but by the amount of courage and honor in their hearts.

Lest We Forget!!!

Flight Turns Unforgettable

By: John E. DiScala

Delta Flight 2255 from Atlanta to Los Angeles seemed to be an ordinary flight with the exception of Candy, who was the most loving flight attendant I’ve ever encountered. Besides using her Southern charm to quickly defuse every situation, she began her welcome announcement by thanking the handful of uniformed soldiers on-board for serving our country. Her poignant message was followed by applause, and it put into perspective that none of us would be able to do what we do without these brave men and women.

But this transcontinental flight turned out to be everything but ordinary. We later learned, when the captain got on the PA system about 45 minutes prior to landing, that we were transporting a fallen soldier. The plane went quiet as he explained that there was a military escort on-board and asked that everyone remain seated for a couple of minutes so the soldiers could get off first. He also warned us not to be alarmed if we see fire trucks since Los Angeles greets their fallen military with a water canon salute. See my video below.

A few minutes after touchdown, we did indeed have a water canon salute, which I’d previously only experienced on happy occasions like inaugural flights. This time, the water glistening on the windowpanes looked like tears.

Passengers in the airport must have been worried when they saw our plane pull into gate 69A, as we had a full police and fire escort, front and back.

I was on the left side of the plane and later realized that the family could be seen off to the right, standing with the United States Army Honor Guard. According to Wikipedia, each military branch has its own honor guard, usually military in nature, and is composed of volunteers who are carefully screened. One of the primary roles for honor guards is to provide funeral honors for fallen comrades.

When the jet door opened, another military officer addressed the escort who was standing at attention. He then stepped on the plane and told us passengers “I just addressed the escort. It is a sworn oath to bring home, to the family, the fallen.” He paused and then said, “Today you all did that, you are all escorts, escorts of the heart.” And then thanked us for our time and walked off the plane.

As you can imagine, everyone was silent and no one got up, not even that person from the back row who pretends he doesn’t [understand] English so he can be first off the plane. I’m sure most had meteor-sized lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes like I did.

It only got more emotional when I deplaned. There was a large number of passengers, who are normally in a hurry to get home or make a connection, standing by the window to witness something truly moving. To see the Honor Guard and family waiting patiently, while LAX baggage handlers and a military loadmaster removed the flag covered casket first from the cargo hold, was humbling to say the least. I’m not sure if it was the fallen soldier’s mother or wife who I watched slowly walk up to the coffin while a few other family members, wrapped in blankets, stood near with a dozen or so of the Honor Guards standing in salute.

As soon as I saw her reach out to put her hand on her baby’s casket, I walked away.

This ordinary flight became extraordinary and is one that I will never forget.

Thank you to all the military who protect our beautiful country and let us live the lives we are able to lead. Without you we would be nothing. And thank you to the Honor Guard for making sure these fallen soldiers, warriors and heroes are not treated like just any piece of luggage as they used to, but rather with the care and respect they so rightly deserve.

| On 15, Oct 2013

During a mission in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan, the U.S. Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion was attacked by a massive suicide explosion that left four members of the team dead. Ranger Josh Hargis, one of the survivors, was severely wounded from the attack.

Here is a picture of Josh recovering in a hospital in Afghanistan. About fifty soldiers crowded into the room to award him with the prestigious Purple Heart for his wounds received in action. Despite the horrible pain he was experiencing, he still gave this incredibly beautiful salute to his commanding officer. This is the definition of true patriotism:

Here is what Josh’s wife posted, along with the photo, to her Facebook page:

“I received this picture today along with a letter from the commander of the team Josh was a part of on the night of his injuries. A letter to explain to me what kind of man I have the privilege of being married to. He explained to me what happened and what was going on in the picture.

“Josh was seriously wounded as you know, and survived for almost two hours after his injury before arriving to the hospital. Josh was immediately pushed through a series of surgeries and emerged hours later into an intensive care unit here at our base in Afghanistan.

“Despite being in intense pain and mental duress, Josh remained alert and compassionate to the limited Rangers that were allowed to visit his bedside. Prior to Josh being moved to Germany for his eventual flight to America, we conducted a ceremony to award him with the Purple Heart for wounds received in action.

“A simple ceremony, you can picture a room full of Rangers, leaders, doctors, and nurses surrounding his bedside while the Ranger Regimental Commander pinned the Purple Heart to his blanket. During the presentation the Commander publishes the official orders verbally and leaned over Josh to thank him for his sacrifice.

“Josh, whom everybody in the room (over 50 people) assumed to be unconscious, began to move his right arm under the blanket in a diligent effort to salute the Commander as is customary during these ceremonies. Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes, and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm and rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen.

“I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh’s courage and character. The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every news paper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my ten years in the Army.”

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Their may concern was to return with HONOR… Need we say more?

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Former CIA Director David Petraeus

by Norman Fulkerson

For many years, General. David Petraeus was the public face of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was seen as a battle-hardened veteran, a four-star general who enjoyed what many called a “storied career.” Thirty six year Marine Corps veteran General John Allen has a similarly illustrious career and was awaiting confirmation on his nomination to become Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Both of these warriors were seen as men of honor. This image has been crushed: first by the admittance of General Petraeus to an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell which has now wrecked his career and could destroy a 37- year marriage: then by the voluminous email exchanges, now being scrutinized for wrongdoing, between General Allen and what the media is labeling as Broadwell’s archrival, Jill Kelley.

Unanswered Questions
We now find ourselves standing in the glow of a giant media spotlight that is turning this story into juicy soap opera. Political pundits are raising reasonable suspicion that all this is merely a smokescreen to take attention off the Benghazi attack which left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and a lot of unanswered questions. Others still are raising national security concerns over whether or not General Petraeus shared classified information with his paramour. While these are valid concerns, there are others that those shining the spotlight have conveniently overlooked.>>

Thankfully there are many who question the morality of Paula Broadwell, a married woman and mother of two, being “embedded with the troops” which set the stage for this particular scandal. Sexual scandals, however, be they consensual or by way of assault and harassment, are lamentably becoming all too common in our modern military.

According to the Army’s own “Gold Book,” a report on wartime personnel stress made public by the Center for Military Readiness, sexual assaults have increased in all branches by 22 percent since 2007 and violent rape has doubled since 2006. This should naturally lead a person to recognize the obvious pitfalls of a mixed Armed Forces and the now hotly contested issue of women in combat. This is a blatant denial of man’s human frailty, a consequence of our fallen nature. Whereas we should be praying with renewed fervor for God to “lead us not into temptation,” we turn a blind eye towards the wrecking ball of social experimentation wreaking havoc on our military. One sad consequence is the disgrace which Mrs. Petraeus, Mrs. Allen and their families now have to endure.

General John Allen is considered by many to be a man of impeccable character.

A similar question has yet to be raised with the case of General Allen. There was mention early on that he could stand trial for adultery which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This manual, the foundation for military law in the United States, also holds sodomy to be a crime, yet during the debates concerning repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” this manual was never mentioned. The so-called upholders of morality were initially holding Gen Allen’s feet to the fire for what, thankfully, is still considered unacceptable behavior (adultery), yet they gushingly embrace the unnatural vice of sodomy. Homosexuals are allowed to live side by side with the men of honor who still exist in our military. They are allowed to make a political statement–stringently denied other servicemen—by marching in homosexual parades in uniform. They kiss their same-sex lovers upon returning from oversees, and these flagrant violations against the UCMJ and basic morality are never mentioned.

Shattered Dreams
The biggest concern however is the deleterious effect such scandals have on Americans who yearn to see men of honor. There are many people, for example, who consider General John Allen to be a man of impeccable character. John Ullyot who served with him said he “was known as a warrior monk.” Is this a mere chimera?>

In a society which appreciates the value of honor, appropriate actions would have to been taken, but any disgrace would be kept discreet, not continually aired for all to see like the proverbial “dirty laundry.”>

At the writing of this article, General Allen has forcefully denied inappropriate behavior. We pray this is the case, but even if he is totally exonerated of wrong doing, his career just might be over. Worse yet, his image as a man of honor is irreparably smeared and there will be no New York Times’ article to sufficiently repair the damage done to him and those who loved what he represented, even if he is proven innocent. Those who had looked upon him with pride are left to pick up the pieces of the marvelous dream he embodied and hold their breath for fear that others might suddenly meet the same fate. Can a nation continue to exist without such dreams?>

Those in search of dreams and those who destroy them are much like the sons of Noah who survived God’s punishing deluge. The noble prophet had unintentionally become intoxicated with wine and was reduced to a state of disorientation. Scripture describe how two of his sons preserved their father’s dignity by walking backwards with a cloak to cover his nakedness. Such was their appreciation for what their father represented. The other son took an entirely different attitude, laughed at his father’s drunken state and was subsequently cursed.>

One cannot help but see a parallel to the scandals that are unfolding before us. While we cannot compare the central figures in this drama to a man of Noah’s stature, we can identify the two opposing attitudes of his sons with two types of Americans and how they see our military. There are those who love the military and cannot help but admire its member’s daily sacrifices and heroic service. They recognize that we sleep comfortably at night because our brave servicemen faithfully stand watch. There are others, however, who seem to take joy in finding examples of dishonor and deserve the same punishment meted out to the bad son of Noah.

"Ship of Honor"

The Ship of Honor

This all leads an admirer of honor to wonder if the institution of the military has not suffered the same fate as the Titanic which sank 100 years ago. Has the proverbial ship of honor sunk?

There is a very beautiful legend famous among the people of Brittany in France called la Cathedrale Engloutie (“The Submerged Cathedral”). It speaks of an old city that was submerged by a mysterious cataclysm in the Atlantic Ocean, not too far off the coast of Europe. On certain nights when the moon is full and the tide is low, one can see the majestic steeple of the town Cathedral among the waves. From time to time, it is said, angels ring the cathedral’s bells at the bottom of the sea. Those beautiful sounds then rise all the way to the surface, allowing fishermen going by, on a calm evening with a tranquil sea, to hear them. Those same fishermen say that one day the cathedral will return to dry land even more beautiful, as it has been kept unscathed under the waves.
While this is only a story, we could say this legend describes our beloved military which sometimes appears to be like a sunken ship of honor. Those who love honor in our day also experience moments like the calm evening on a tranquil sea. They know that this ship of Honor will also return to dry land even more beautiful because it also remains unscathed under the waves.

We can hear the “bells of honor” in men like Marine Corps Colonel John Ripley, Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. They allow us to hear the bells of honor because they kept their honor clean.

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The Federal Government was mostly shut down during Hurricane Sandy.

However, this group of federal employees still went to the office as they do Every Day!


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Maj. Gen. James Livingston USMC (Ret.) is a Medal of Honor Recipient whose heroism can now be cheapened by any imposter audacious enough to wear the medals he courageously earned.

By Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.)

The federal government failed us all on June 28th, and in more ways than one. Days before Americans celebrated the anniversary of our nation’s hard-fought independence, the Supreme Court of the United States declared unconstitutional the Stolen Valor Act. Overshadowed by its decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the Court’s decision was a landmark blow to a definitive feature of American culture: The prestige and honor we bestow upon sacrifices made by few while protecting the freedoms enjoyed by all.

According to the Court, Congress violated your First Amendment rights to free speech by making it a federal crime for you to knowingly issue false claims about your receipt of military awards and decorations for heroism, including America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. If, that is, you do so without the intent to defraud — as if one would falsely claim their receipt of America’s top military awards and decorations for heroism for other purposes.

While the Supreme Court effectively consents to imposing limitations to the First Amendment in the instances of slander and unfounded character assassination attempts targeting persons and organizations, according to SCOTUSblog, “The Court concluded that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because the Government had not shown that the statute is necessary to protect the integrity of the system of military honors — the interest the Government had identified in support of the Act.”

The decision to eliminate any penalty for those persons falsely claiming receivership of these hard-earned and treasured honors is disturbing in many ways. But it brings to mind two simple questions: Can we meaningfully protect the integrity of the system of military honors without legally deterring activities that diminish the sanctity of those honors? Moreover, by scrapping such legal deterrents, by making it lawful for anyone to falsely claim participation in that system, has the Supreme Court not diminished the integrity of the system of military honors, which so clearly stems from its inclusion of a select few, for select reasons?

The great irony of this decision is glaring. It is a crime to falsely claim degrees earned from universities for personal gain and employment. It is a crime to cheat on professional examinations in college. It is a crime to provide false or misleading information on a bank or mortgage loan application. Likewise, it is a crime to lie to law enforcement officials during the course of an investigation, and pose as an unlicensed professional, such as a doctor, lawyer or police officer. It is even a crime to falsify a student education loan or a passport application.

These are all examples of fraud for personal gain. And I fail to see how falsely claiming undeserved military combat honors, especially the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or any award for valor is anything less than the greatest of frauds. Particularly as perpetrators’ agendas are virtually always focused on attaining notoriety and some form of accommodation by claiming receipt of special acknowledgements for service to our country which are reserved by the federal government for a very special group of patriots.

Those who make such claims regarding the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart and other decorations for valor tarnish the prestige, sanctity, honor and sacrifices of those who have legitimately earned these distinctions. In so doing, they denigrate the system of military honors, public perception of that system, and chip away at the prestige our society rightly assigns to military service, and combat heroism.

I have personally served with fine young Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who legitimately earned accolades and honors reserved for military heroes for their service to our country — many of whom never lived to benefit from their sacrifices. In my view, it is a disgusting and tragic footnote to our collective history that our highest court has determined accolades for such service are, in essence, free to acquire, without proper sanction, and may be displayed in the public domain under false pretenses by individuals who might not have even served in uniform.

It is a privilege for Americans to serve in uniform, and in particular an honor to be chosen to serve in the United States Marine Corps. But these imposters, these brazen charlatans who lay claim to these undeserved honors make it an absolute disgrace — a true dishonor — to all of us who have served in uniform. Let alone suffered the pain of battle, faced an enemy, collected the dead and wounded, and lived with the aftermath of doing a job that most cannot fathom, or would ever wish to perform.

Of course, these imposters do more than dishonor those of us who have served. They dishonor the values and integrity of our nation and its proud heritage.
Our current administration and the Supreme Court — through their continued and questionable actions — have made it abundantly clear that personal accountability, personal and national honor, individual integrity, and duty to the nation above oneself mean much less than self-gratification, the agendas of political action committees, currying favor for elected office, and claiming unearned honors for personal gain through any means.

These are neither the values, nor a legacy we should impart to future generations of Americans. If the federal government is unwilling to do what is right in this case, individual states must rectify this gross lapse in judgment. Just as states implemented their individual versions of immigration reform laws after being let down by the federal government, the states should establish laws to protect these honors which, according to federal law, are now so easily degraded and devalued by the shameful actions of a despicable few.

The implementation of laws to protect our honor, and punish those who would abrogate, who would pursue such conduct to dishonor those of us who have fought to protect their freedoms, is long overdue in many states. And there is no better time than the present to take action to address our federal government’s failures.

 

Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret) is a recipient of the Medal of Honor. In addition to serving on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards, he is the CEO of Kronos Advisory. An autobiographical account of Gen Livingston’s military career, including his courageous actions at Dai Do, Vietnam that earned him the highest military decoration awarded by the United States Government, is presented in his book Noble Warrior: The Story of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.), Medal of Honor.

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