Honor

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Those who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are at their post 24/7, no matter the weather conditions. As many Americans along the East Coast hunkered down and stayed warm during this years harsh winter weather, members of The Old Guard stood watch over the bodies “Known but to God.” Have you ever wondered what motivates these men?

We will let Sergeant of the Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Tanner Welch tell you.

“It’s about the collective respect for people who have gone before us. And it’s about the sacrifice of the unknowns and all the service members who have gone in front of us. So we want to honor their service. The guys fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan right now are not going to stop if it starts snowing tomorrow. The guys who fought in the mountains of Korea didn’t stop because it started snowing. So we have that same mentality down here and to honor their same sacrifice and their same service we’re not going to stop either.”

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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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Lance Cpl. Daniel Hickey standing tall with his newly pinned Silver Star. (Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt)

July 26, 2010

Marine Corps News|by Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.  — In the chaos and danger of battle, Marines are trained to look out for each other, take control and bring chaos to their enemy.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Hickey, a machine gunner with 1st platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, did all these things and helped save lives in Afghanistan in 2008. For his actions, he was awarded a Silver Star during a ceremony at Lance Cpl. Torrey Gray Field, July 16. Hickey demonstrated great heroism during combat when his patrol came under attack by medium machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades during an ambush.

“We were doing a routine patrol in an area not normally patrolled,” said now Cpl. Hickey, a team leader with 2nd Bn., 7th Marines. “We started taking contact from our right flank. After we started taking contact, my vehicle commander told my driver to stop.”

Hickey said, the commander dismounted the vehicle and fired on the enemy. In a fierce exchange, the vehicle commander was struck in the upper right thigh and went down. Hickey exited the vehicle and pulled the commander into the cab while returning fire with his squad automatic weapon… To read more click here.

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Disband the Marine Corps

By: Col. Arthur J. Corbett USMC (Ret.)

It would be better to disband the Corps than see it dishonored and its virtues and values destroyed.

The Pieta in St. Peter's Basillica --Rome, Italy

A vandal once took a hammer to the Pieta. It was a shocking and unexpected event, but the fact that it happened suggests a perverse streak within our nature to desecrate that which others revere in order to gain attention for ourselves. That the vandal could not himself have created an object so sublime did not mean that he could not, with a stroke of a hammer, indelibly mar its beauty or offend its admirers. Such is human nature, and such is tragedy. As individuals, institutions, and cultures, we are all sometimes vulnerable to tragedy through no fault or volition of our own.

Tragedy is not inevitable, but the confluence of political opportunism, ethical narcosis, and moral malaise that dominate and subvert American culture have ripened the opportunity for our political leadership to do what no enemy has done in 217 years—sully the reputation and honor of our proud Corps. While homosexuality is a tragic reality, and those who indulge in its indignities deserve prayerful compassion, they are not fit to lead men in battle. Culture vandals may debate this issue, but as Marines we know this intellectually, morally and viscerally. For the civilian, this may be but one of the many irreverences that he has endured as a member of the declining culture, but for the Marine it is a violation of a sacred trust. We have always perceived that the threats to our honor were external to our borders and could be countered with courage, zeal and competence. We never suspected that the threat to our ethos would come from within our Nation and be sanctioned, however indirectly by the American people. The sorry fact is that this will not be a gross betrayal by a dark and sinister force –rather it will be a culmination of banal evils from a progression of noxious ideologies. The result will he the same, only the intent is more benign.

Ayn Rand made this trenchant observation on the subversion of virtue within a culture:

When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute: when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by the scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.

And so we find ourselves at a crossroads as an institution. Though prayer and reason might yet triumph, it is clearly time to fight and prepare. For such an undeserved indignity to be heaped upon such a noble institution, with but a whimper of protest, would betray the untold thousands who bought with their blood the honor we enjoy. Yet we are constrained in our efforts by the very nature of the political system that they fought to defend, and we recognize that, while this tragedy should not happen, it is ultimately not our decision to make.

America will get both the Government and the Military Establishment that it deserves. God has blessed us richly in the past with remarkable strength in both institutions, but now we choose to go it alone. We have displaced faith in Providence with confidence in technology. We enjoy a wide, but inevitably temporary, advantage over potential adversaries in our technological capability, and so we grow both prideful of our position and forgetful of the very values that ennobled our success. Like all civilizations that have preceded us, we are passing through the culminating point of culture and starting down the precarious slope that lies beyond.

Lt. Gen. Victor H. Krulak

Soon, we must again answer an important question that has frequently been asked in the past: Do we really need a Marine Corps? As we know, Lt. Gen Victor H. Krulak answered that question in his book First to Fight: America does not need a Marine Corps—the other Services could manage an adequate defense without us but America wants a Marine Corps, because it feels safe knowing that there is a band of warriors always ready to respond rapidly, against unknown odds, to any national emergency. America felt good knowing that men of character, who shared a warrior ethos, stood ready to do its will. But some of America has changed its mind and now seems to regard virile virtues as a vestigial encumbrance upon a society that prefers dissolute equality over honest distinction.

Marine Corps history is replete with examples of uncommon valor and common virtues. The extraordinary successes that Marines have achieved in battle have earned for our Corps a reputation that is the envy of every other Service and that is unequaled in modern history. Our customs are steeped in tradition, and our traditions have been respected and honored by successive generations of Marines. We are esteemed by our countrymen and feared by our enemies. Our dead are remembered, and those who once wore our uniform, are forever entitled to claim the title “Marine.” We are indeed a unique and proud brotherhood of warriors.

Perhaps now is the time to recognize that although America might, for the first time need a Marine Corps, it no longer wants one. It is true that the future portends many littoral conflicts to which a Marine Corps should respond, but the other Services will adapt. They will certainly adapt better to amphibious warfare than the Marine Corps will adapt to recruiting sexual deviates. Marines are an incredulous lot by nature, and brutally honest in their observations and decisions. The young officers who attempt to explain how homosexuality is an “alternate” instead of a deviate life style will quickly lose the respect of their Marines and a bit of their own honor in the process. Sanitized terms like “sexual orientation” may serve to obfuscate the gross realities of a perverse lifestyle to a jaded public, but Marines living in a barracks will rightfully question leadership that discredits by association the sacrifices they are willing to make. The party line will be that homosexuals are Marines, just like you. The cognitive dissidence that this simple, yet official, lie must engender will tug at the credibility and ultimately rend the integrity of our Corps.

Critics claim that homosexuals already lurk in our ranks. The salient difference between the current reality and the proposed policy is that now the homosexuals lie to the Marine Corps. Soon we will find that to accommodate homosexuals, the Marine Corps must lie to Marines, and they in turn to one another. Institutions like the Marine Corps are not built upon deceit.

Official emblem of the United States Marine Corps - the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor.

We dare not tarnish the reputation of our Corps. Too many valiant men have fallen in honor for us to allow the term “Marine” to be degraded in a futile attempt to lend dignity to practitioners of unnatural acts. It is time to case the battle colors and ask Congress to disband our Marine Corps. The Army has long sought the Marine Corps as its own, and in many of the world’s navies there are naval troops. We can preserve our reputation, and that of those who have preceded us, by not compromising our values as a Corps. We should transfer our personnel to another Service and don their uniform. It is better to wear proudly the uniform of another Service than to see the Globe and Anchor progressively defamed. As we know, the Marine Corps is not essential for national defense; it is an expression of pride and competence by a strong people. America is our home and the home of our families. There is still much here that is worth defending. By disbanding now we preserve more than a tradition of honor and service—we preserve a remnant of hope for a future generation.

There will be time in the future, as there has always been in the past, when America will be threatened. Survival may become a dim prospect, and ancient virtues and values will be recalled. From such a crucible may emerge a neophyte warrior who remembers that his grandfather, or perhaps his great-grandfather, had been a sergeant major of Marines. If he is confident in his fellow warriors, loyal to his country, resolved on victory,

Marine Corps Color Guard at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

uncompromising in integrity, and dedicated to both innovation and tradition, then he may have the audacity to claim the title “Marine.” Once again, America will want an elite corps of honorable men to do the difficult today and the near impossible tomorrow. Old battle colors, dusty but unstained, will be unfurled, and proud men will commit their lives to God, Corps, and Country. They will inherit an unblemished tradition, and what will provide the continuity between our Corps and theirs will be a common motto: Semper Fidelis! It will be the intervening years, when there wasn’t a Marine Corps, which will validate for all time the motto itself.

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Arthur Corbett was a student at the Naval War College at the time this article first appeared in the January 1993 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette. He went on to retire from the Corps after 21 years of service with the rank of Colonel.

This article by Col. Corbett expresses the same elevation of spirit one can see in the testimony given by Col. John Ripley before the HASC in 1993.  For information regarding the first cradle to grave biography of Col. John Ripley, click here: An American Knight.

 

This article is re-printed courtesy of the Marine Corps Gazette and copyright is retained by the Marine Corps Gazette.

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Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph

A Review of Richard Botkin’s Recent Book: Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam Story of Honor and Triumph

By Michael Whitcraft
One of the most cited and least understood wars in American history is Vietnam.  Due to these misunderstandings, it has become synonymous with the words quagmire and disaster.

Thus, opponents of current military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan decry our operations there saying that America is getting itself into “another Vietnam.”  However, were US military activities in Southeast Asia really so bad after all?

The answer is yes and no: Yes, they were certainly a worldwide embarrassment as our troops left the field of battle without victory.  However, judged by the performance of America’s military, the answer must be a resounding no.  Sadly, politicians, not warriors, decided the outcome.

Thus, the true story of the American soldiers’ valor must be told.  Such was the task of Richard Botkin in his recent 650-page tome, Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph.  In it, he successfully fulfills this task by doing exactly what his title suggests: telling the story of the Vietnam War in terms of honor and triumph.

The book primarily focuses on three Marine heroes: Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Turley, USMC and Vietnamese Lieutenant Colonel Le Ba Binh. In telling their stories, Mr. Botkin seamlessly intertwines a retelling of the history of the entire Vietnam War.  His work is painstakingly researched, yet highly readable.

Certain points stand out among the many details of the book.  First, the immense suffering that the Vietnamese people suffered at the hands of the Communists.  Mr. Botkin vividly demonstrates this with incidents of the North Vietnamese Army’s (NVA) intentional targeting of innocent civilians.

After the end of the war, more challenges awaited the devastated South, including persecution from their Northern captors. This included the creation of “reeducation” camps throughout the country.  Despite their inconspicuous label, these camps had nothing to do with regaining lost knowledge.  As Mr. Botkin points out, the installation of these camps “was nothing more than organized revenge on a massive scale.” (p. 548)

Ride the Thunder includes the story of how Lieutenant Colonel Le Ba Binh was forced to spend more than eight years in one such camp, during which time he was allowed less than two hours total visit time with his family.

Another important point Mr. Botkin highlights is the military success the American and South Vietnamese armies enjoyed throughout the war.  He convincingly dispels many media-created myths that Vietnam was a lost cause.

The fact is that American forces did not lose a single battle of any consequence in the entire war, in spite of their self-defeating policy that allowed the enemy free communications along the Ho Chi Minh trail and safe havens in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam.  Even the oft-touted Tet Offensive of 1968 was a very real defeat for the NVA.

Despite the operation’s enormous scope, South Vietnamese and American forces had already regrouped and began a counterattack within hours of its first salvos.  They were so successful that other than continued fighting in Hue and Khe Sahn, the entire offensive was defeated within two weeks.  In Hue, expelling the Communists took twenty-seven days, while the enemy eventual abandoned Khe Sahn as well.

Therefore, the North Vietnamese did not gain any ground and loss an estimated 45-50 thousand troops KIA during the offensive.  Many more thousands were captured.  (American deaths during the entire war are estimated at around 58 thousand.)

All-in-all, military leadership classified the operation as a tremendous victory.  The only Communist victory of the campaign had been fought for America’s soul.  As Mr. Botkin described it: “the Communist offensive did achieve a public relations coup with the American public well beyond what a militarily defeated [NVA] could have possibly dreamed.” (p. 146)

However, a Communist operation in March of 1972 dwarfed Tet in size, aggressiveness and overall danger to South Vietnam.  Dubbed the Easter Offensive, it began with a simultaneous attack on twelve bases that spanned the entire length of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).  From its very beginning, all known friendly artillery positions came under attack.

With American troops already largely withdrawn, the objective seemed obvious and frighteningly obtainable: break through the South’s weak defensive lines and drive southward to Saigon, thus winning the war and subjecting all of Vietnam to Communist domination.

Fortunately for the South, the Communist troops met unbelievable resistance that was greatly aided by the actions of three tough Marine officers who refused to give up.

The first was Vietnamese Lieutenant Colonel Binh, whose battalion (known as Soi Bien or “Wolves of the Sea”) held the ground defending a bridge across the Cua Viet River at the city of Dong Ha.  The bridge was highly strategic because it was the only crossing in the area sturdy enough to support the more than 200 tanks the NVA had assembled on the north side of the river.

Lieutenant Colonel Binh persistently held his ground in spite of overwhelming odds.  It was his training and leadership that kept the situation together in Dong Ha as his men faced the fight of their lives.

The Lieutenant Colonel’s determination is well demonstrated in a radio message he sent out to his commanders when rumors began to circulate that Dong Ha had fallen.  He said:

It is rumored that Dong Ha has fallen…My orders are to hold the enemy in Dong Ha.  We will fight in Dong Ha.  We will die in Dong Ha.  We will not leave.  As long as one Marine draws a breath of life, Dong Ha will belong to us. (pp. 327-328)

While the desperation of the situation led scores of South Vietnamese troops throughout the DMZ to desert, not a man of the Soi Bien left his post.

Colonel Le Ba Binh, left, at the funeral of Col. John Ripley with Gy. Sgt. Jason Carrawell.

Their efforts supported American Colonel John W. Ripley, then serving with Colonel Binh as an advisor.  He would need all the help he could get as he took on a mission to destroy the Dong Ha Bridge, in an endeavor so daring that it has become part of Marine Corps legend.

The bridge’s superstructure was a hulking construction that had been made by American Seabees.  It was supported by six enormous I-beams three feet tall.  To destroy it, Colonel Ripley would have to hand-walk and crawl 500 pounds of TNT and Plastic Explosives one hundred feet into its under belly.  All the while, he would be submitted to continual enemy fire.  His difficulties were multiplied by the sleep and food deprivation he had suffered throughout the previous days.

The feat was so difficult that no one believed survival, let alone successful completion, was possible.  Nevertheless, after hours of intense physical exertion, everything had been put in place, the charges were detonated and the bridge was no more.  Colonel Ripley was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that day.

Some historians have argued that the destruction of that bridge was the single most important factor that postponed the defeat of South Vietnam until 1975.

However, there is another individual on whose shoulders the defense of South Vietnam during the Easter Offensive weighed heavily, but who has received insufficient historic recognition so far.  That is why Mr. Botkin’s description of the role played by Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Turley is of particular value.

When the Lieutenant Colonel chose to return to Vietnam in 1971, there were only about one thousand Marines still on the ground.  Since President Nixon’s policy of “Vietnamization” was fully underway, the brunt of the fighting was being born by Vietnamese soldiers.  That is why Lieutenant Colonel Turley fully expected to see little if any action during this, his second tour.

His role as assistant senior Marine advisor would consist in helping senior Marine advisor Colonel Josh Dorsey and perhaps filling in for him from time to time.  As such, he would live in Saigon, which, at the time, was far removed from combat.  The closest he imagined he would come to actual fighting was an occasional and uneventful visit to the frontlines.

Colonel Gerald Turley, Vietnam hero and author of The Easter Offensive.

His expectations were shattered when, on a four-day visit to I Corps Tactical Zone, the Easter Offensive broke out.  He happened to be at 3rd ARVN Division forward headquarters at Ai Tu when the Army officer in charge there began suffering nervous problems, abandoned his post and ordered Lieutenant Colonel Turley to take the helm.

Worse yet, communications with higher leadership in Saigon were practically nonexistent, meaning this change in command went unreported.  In addition to facing the largest Communist advance of the entire war, Lieutenant Colonel Turley also had to confront hostile and mistrustful leaders, who continually second guessed his decisions and attempted to countermand many of his orders.  The situation was so desperate, he was forced to take responsibility for disregarding some of the directives he received from higher-ups.

While other players in the offensive faced their predicament with the support of their leaders, expecting praise if they survived, Lieutenant Colonel Turley could only anticipate disciplinary action and perhaps court martial.

Diorama depicting Colonel John Ripley underneath the Dong Ha bridge located in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy.

Even when he ordered Colonel Ripley to destroy the Dong Ha Bridge, he did so against the direct wishes of his commanders.  However, the reality of over two hundred tanks about to cross the Cua Viet River and invade South Vietnam was too dangerous for him to accept when he had the possibility to prevent it.

In spite of having no food, virtually no sleep and a severe case of dysentery, he faced the opposition of his superiors and stood by his post, directing air, naval and ground operations that salvaged a desperate situation.  He continued in this capacity for a full four days until he was ordered back to headquarters for questioning.  The physical, psychological and moral stress he faced during this time can hardly be imagined.

Nevertheless, he survived and emerged as one of the greatest examples of “honor and triumph” of the entire war.

The stories of these three heroes and much more are included in Rich Botkin’s Ride the Thunder.  This makes it a must-read for all military-buffs, American patriots and especially those who are interested in knowing the true history of the Vietnam War – one not tainted by politically correct historians intent on criticizing America and especially its military.

However, readers should be warned that Mr. Botkin’s book, while less offensive than many military volumes, does have its share of profanity, which he mostly limited to the contents of direct quotes from characters in the book.  Similarly, there are references, though not graphic, to those activities that have unfortunately been so closely linked with soldiers throughout history.

Nevertheless, Ride the Thunder is an exciting and highly informative read.  No one’s military library is complete without it.

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ny lottery

BookIn today’s increasingly troubled society, there is a desperate need for role models, especially among the youth. Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC is an authentic American hero and a true role model, whose life is worthy of admiration and emulation.

Known for his impressive heroics during the Vietnam War, Colonel Ripley earned the Navy Cross, along with numerous other awards. His legendary career in the United States Marine Corps is well-known, but now, for the first time ever, a new book that covers his whole life — from his adventure-filled boyhood in rural Southwestern Virginia to his days at the U.S. Naval Academy, his tours of duty in Vietnam, his post retirement years and finally, the final days before his death — is soon to be released.

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In An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, TFP author Norman Fulkerson succeeds in telling the fascinating story of this legendary Marine, whose ancestors fought in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War.

In An American Knight, Norman Fulkerson shows:

**Colonel Ripley’s deep Catholic Faith, his love for his children and his devotion to his wife, Moline.

**His many struggles, one of the last being his liver transplant, described by his surgeon as the “most dramatic” one in history.

**The ultimate warrior whose Faith, discipline and morals provided him the strength necessary to vanquish enemies in battle.

**The gallantry of a man who faced public opinion and political correctness when he opposed homosexuals in the military and women in combat.

**How he transformed youthful energy into a determination and ultimately success at the US Naval Academy.

**How he stopped a Communist tank column and 30,000 NVA dead in their tracks.

This makes An American Knight a splendid and inspiring tribute to one of America’s greatest fighting men, whose legacy will deeply mark the souls of all those who love the virtues of the medieval knight: Faith, honor, heroism and integrity.

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From the foreward by General James Livingston:

“He [Colonel Ripley] saw accepting risk as part of his job as a Marine. He expressed this while speaking to a group of young men considering a career in the Corps. “Risk comes with the job,” he told them. “If you are not comfortable with risk, you need to get into a new line of work.”
“These and many of Colonel Ripley’s other qualities are enumerated in An American Knight. Thus, I recommend it strongly. I hope my thoughts will help its readers to gain a better appreciation for this Marine who will doubtlessly be remembered as one of the greatest men ever to honor the Corps.”

General James Livingston General James Livingston

Medal of Honor Recipient


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Here’s what they’re saying about An American Knight:

“I knew Colonel John W. Ripley like a brother for 42 plus years, but the facts are that I learned still more about my Marine buddy from Norman Fulkerson’s book… Norman goes into family and early life details that started this Marine on his most successful Marine career as well as John’s perception of the obligation and performance of his duties in uniform. This is a “must read” for all desiring to be a leader, especially those desiring to lead Marines.”

 

Colonel Wesley L. Fox Colonel Wesley Lee Fox, USMC (Ret.)

Medal of Honor Recipient

Author of Marine Rifleman: Forty-three Years in the Corps and Courage and Fear

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“In his new book An American Knight, Norman Fulkerson has vividly captured the extraordinary active journey in life of Colonel John Ripley. In this first ever biography of a truly legendary Marine, the reader will see a man of many images; a gentle person who was comfortable with people of all stations of life, a caring father, a faithful husband, and a Marine capable of doing the seemingly impossible when I ordered him to destroy the Dong Ha Bridge.

“Because of his compelling and uncommon level of service to this great nation, Colonel John Ripley truly deserves to be held up as a role model for all to follow. Norman Fulkerson’s book will help to insure this.”

Col Gerald TurleyColonel Gerald Turley, USMC (Ret.)

Author of The Easter Offensive

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“An American Knight by Norman Fulkerson is an outstanding tribute to one of the finest men to ever wear a uniform of the United States of America.”

Paul Galanti HomeCommander Paul Galanti, USN (Ret.)

POW for seven years


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To pre-order your copy of An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, by Norman Fulkerson, visit www.americanknight.org or call 1-888-317-5571.

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Written by Norman Fulkerson

On September 29, 2006, Ramadi, Iraq was considered the most dangerous city on planet earth for American servicemen. Michael Monsoor was there in the midst of it all. He was a member of the elite branch of the Navy called SEALS, which stands for SEa, Air and Land. On that day, he was on a rooftop over-watch in the most contested part of the city called the Ma’laab district. Positioned near the only exit, with an MK 48 machine gun in hand, he was providing security for two SEAL snipers who lay in prone positions on either side of him. Moments later a fragmentation grenade bounced off his chest and landed on the ground…

Becoming a Navy SEAL

Although nothing can adequately prepare one for such a circumstance, Michael Monsoor seemed to be living a life which pointed to it. He was an adventuresome boy growing up in Southern California. His father George and older brother Jim had both been proud Marines. His boyhood dream of being a SEAL began to be realized when, at 20 years of age, he joined the Navy.

In the first phase of training, he broke his heel. Exhibiting the selflessness which would become his trademark, he continued to run with a pain so excruciating he nearly passed out. Unable to continue, he was forced to ring the bell indicating that a trainee had quit the program. He was medically rolled back and sent to Italy for a year where he spent the majority of his off time doing physical training. His mother, Sally, when visiting him, said he hardly ever stopped running.

He then reentered a grueling SEAL program where only 23% pass, graduated at the top in the class of 2005 and was assigned to Delta Platoon. In April 2006 he was sent to Iraq on his first tour of duty.

From here we almost lose our breath as we follow the rapid upward trajectory his life would take.

Rescued from the Jaws of Death
As a heavy-weapons machine gunner, his position while patrolling the streets of Ramadi with Delta Company was right behind the point man. The responsibility for protecting the rest of the unit fell squarely on his shoulders. It was an appropriate position for a Catholic young man named after the warrior angel, Saint Michael.

He was also a SEAL communicator which required him to carry a rucksack full of communications equipment in addition to his MK 48 machine gun full of ammunition. He carried the extra 100 lbs, without complaint, in temperatures as high as 130 degrees.

In May of 2006, during his first month in Iraq, his unit came under fire during counter-terrorist operations. Heavy enemy automatic weapons fire resulted in a wounded SEAL who was left exposed to enemy fire. Michael threw caution to the wind and ran directly into the line of fire to help the injured soldier. As gun fire chewed up the asphalt around him, Michael snatched the wounded soldier from the jaws of death with one arm, returned enemy fire with the other and then dragged him to safety.

He then maintained suppressive fire while the wounded SEAL received tactical casualty treatment. After loading his wounded teammate onto an evacuation vehicle, he returned to the battle. This act of heroism earned him a Silver Star and a reputation for putting others first.

Some months later the injured soldier had a dream of the incident where the Michael who rescued him had wings. He later had an artist make a reproduction of the image in his dream depicting Michael Monsoor in dress blues with a loaded MK 48 Machine gun and silvery wings. As a tribute to Saint Michael the Archangel, who he felt was there with them, he included the short exorcism which invokes the warrior angel to “be our protection against wickedness.”

Streets Paved with Fire
Such protection was sorely needed especially considering that 75% of the missions involving Michael’s platoon came under attack. Thirty five escalated into heated firefights taking place in “streets that were paved with fire.”[1]

During eleven of those missions Michael’s leadership, guidance and decisive action were key in saving the lives of many of his men. For his heroism he was awarded the Bronze Star. The citation accompanying the medal describes how he “exposed himself to heavy enemy fire while shielding his teammates with suppressive fire. He aggressively stabilized each chaotic situation with focused determination and uncanny tactical awareness. Each time [terrorists] assaulted his team with small arms fire or rocket propelled grenades, he quickly assessed the situation, determined the best course of action to counter the enemy assaults, and implemented his plan to gain the best tactical advantage.”[2]

In the midst of such violent action, Michael Monsoor displayed what Secretary of the Navy, Donald Winter described as a “cool headedness under fire” and “when hostility broke out, he proved he was a SEAL you wanted on your team.”[3]

As extraordinary as all of this is, it was merely a prelude to the defining moment of his life in the rooftop over-watch.

“Path of Honor”
When the grenade landed in front of him, Michael Monsoor knew that the length of the fuse would not allow him to toss it out. He also knew that he was two short weeks away from returning home to family and friends. Plans were already made for him to see his younger brother play in a football game for North Dakota’s Minot State University.[4]

With the only exit door at his back, a live grenade at his feet and two Navy Seals in front of him he was faced with the hardest decision of his life. It was one of those rare moments when life passes before your eyes. Having already endured so many hardships and numerous brushes with death no one would have faulted him had he chosen a path to safety.

“He chose a different path,” said Mr. Winter, “a path of honor.” On numerous occasions, Michael Monsoor stared death in the face in his heroic defense of others. Once again he and death would meet and once again he put others first. With unflinching selflessness he gave his life so that others might live. In so doing, he saved the lives of three Navy SEALS and eight Iraqi soldiers.

One of the survivors described how “Mikey” looked death in the face that day and said, “You cannot take my brothers, I will go in their stead.”[5]

“He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down and toward it,” said a 28-year-old lieutenant who lived to tell the story. “He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs’ lives.”[6]

Another eyewitness described Michael’s countenance, as “completely calm, showing no fear only resolve.”

It could easily be said of him what Gen. Pericles said in his funeral oration for the warriors of ancient Athens, “He passed away from the scene, not of his fear, but of his glory.”

Feast of St. Michael the Archangel
Michael Monsoor was immediately evacuated to a battalion aid station. Fr. Paul Anthony Halladay, his platoon chaplain, was with Michael as he passed away approximately 30 minutes later.

It was an appropriate end for a Catholic soldier who, according to many reports, was a practicing Catholic. His fellow soldiers told how he frequently attended mass “with devotion” before his operations.

Patricia Monsoor, his aunt and godmother, said he “went to confession frequently” and “other soldiers who were not practicing would sometimes follow [him to mass] because of his good example.”

When he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, a tearful President Bush reminded the audience that the day Michael Monsoor died was the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel.

An emotional Donald Winter quoted a passage from scripture already remembered by so many to describe Michael Monsoor. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

“When it came down to laying down his life for his friends, his faith allowed him to [do so] without a moment’s hesitation,” said Father Halladay.[7]

“I Have Given Everything”
The most moving tribute to Petty Officer Michael Monsoor was that given by Lt. Commander John Willink during an evening ceremony at the Navy Memorial honoring the fallen hero.[8]

He described in detail a photo of Michael released shortly after his death. The picture shows Michael walking at the head of his platoon, through the war-torn streets of Ramadi. They are shrouded in a greenish yellow mist used to mask their movements from the enemy. In spite of the chaos and danger which surrounds them, Michael is calm, almost smiling.

“As I look at this picture,” Lt. Willink said, “I hear a voice in a humble but confident tone.”

He then finishes his speech with the words he imagines Michael saying to him. They are words which I feel Michael Monsoor is saying to every American who appreciates the unbelievable sacrifice he made in a faraway land. Far from his family and the country he loved.

“I am Michael Monsoor…

“I am patrolling the streets of Ramadi… My eyes sting from the sweat, my gun and gear are heavy but these things do not bother me. There is no comfort here but this is the life I have chosen and there is no place I would rather be…and I am ready.

“I am Michael Monsoor… I miss my family. I want to hold my nieces and nephews again. I want to make them smile and laugh but I am far from home. Instead I smile at the Iraqi children when we pass them by. When we encounter Iraqi families I treat them with respect and dignity. I know the importance of family because there is nothing more important to me, than my family…

“I am Michael Monsoor, I love my country, my fellow SEALS and the men fighting along side us… I have lived life to its fullest. I have not looked back. I leave nothing but love and I have no regrets.

“I am Michael Monsoor… and I have given everything…For you!”

Footnotes:

  1. http://www.blackfive.net/main/2008/04/us-navy-seal-mi.html
  2. http://www.navy.mil/moh/Monsoor/bronze.pdf
  3. http://www.navy.mil/moh/Monsoor/hoh.html
  4. http://www.landstuhlhospitalcareproject.org/Honorees/Michael%20A.%20Monsoor/Michael%20A.%20Monsoor.htm
  5. http://mksviews.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/you-cannot-take-my-brothers-i-will-go-in-their-stead
  6. http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,116817,00.html
  7. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2006608/posts?page=5
  8. http://www.navy.mil/moh/Monsoor/flag.html

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