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“In Flanders Fields”
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, Canadian Army (1872-1918)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

  

 

--

History of "In Flanders Fields" via Arlington Cemetery

"Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva" by Eric Hill, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license via Wikipedia


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On May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama reported that al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was officially dead. Rumors suggest that SEAL Team Six was the end of the line for the man who planned and orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the defeated attack on Washington, DC. The President suggests that this is a turning point in the nearly decade long global war on terror that is no longer called the Global War on Terror, and that this event is long-awaited justice for those innocents killed in what has become known as this generation’s Pearl Harbor moment.

So why don’t I feel like celebrating?

Primarily, because I don’t consider war to be a cheering matter.   When the news broke, there was celebration in the streets, overwhelming chants of “USA, USA, USA” at the White House between rounds of The Star-Spangled Banner, and wave after wave of patriotic and religious praise channeled through networks like Facebook and Twitter. The death of public enemy number one became a reason to frolic and rejoice in the streets because it was justice. But what is justice, and has it been served?

On September 11, 2001, approximately 3,000 people died from all walks of life and spiritual beliefs at the hand of nineteen terrorists. Since then, the highest estimate of casualties has been 1.2 million dead in the fight against terrorism. That number may be conservative – the lowest estimate is just over one million – but will continue to rise as hostilities continue and the delayed health effects of responders to the World Trade Center site start being factored in. On the concept of justice, Wikipedia offers the crowd-sourced definition of a “concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics.” It also states that there are five variations of justice, but I believe the one that President Obama suggested would be that of retributive justice: The proportionate response to crime proven by lawful evidence so that the punishment is justly imposed and considered as morally correct and fully deserved. Go a step further to lex talionis, the law of retaliation, which is a military theory centered on reciprocity being equal to the wrong suffered. Are we expected to believe that the life of one man, Osama bin Laden, is equated to 3,000 innocents at a minimum? How about 1.2 million, including innocent women and children who have euphemistically become known as “collateral damage”? Do the scales balance because a Navy SEAL ended one man’s existence in the names of thousands or millions?

It is well documented that President George W. Bush took to this war based on what he determined was a calling from God. Inherent to the concept of lex talionis is the principle “an eye for an eye”, which appears numerous times in the Bible and other religious texts, and it seems that many of the social celebrations to yesterday’s event focus on one deity or another bestowing blessings upon the American people for exacting lex talionis.

 

Now I lay me down to sleep, one less terrorist this world does keep.
With all my heart I give my thanks, to those in uniform regardless of ranks.
You serve our country and serve it well, with humble hearts your stories tell.
So as I rest my weary eyes, while freedom rings our flag still flies.
You give your all, do what you must; with God we live and God we trust.

–various sources on Facebook

 

Martin Luther King, Jr – paraphrasing Mahatma Ghandi – once said, "Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral.  It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all.  The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.  It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding." While this war is not about racial justice, is about justice based on matters of faith. Al-Qaeda did not declare war on the United States because they hate our blue jeans, fast cars, tall towers, or apple pie. Al-Qaeda is based on an extremist interpretation is Islam, and that faith is what drove them to attack us because our diversity of faiths makes us inferior to them. Despite protests to the contrary, this fight is one of religion and whose god has a bigger piece of the pie. It’s not a new battle – the Crusades and the Inquisition show us that – and it has no easy solutions, but I feel that the word racial in Reverend King’s quote can be substituted by religious along with any other form of justice. I’m not so sure that justice has been served in this case, and I certainly do not feel that it is a moment of celebration or victory.

What people don’t seem to understand about this conflict is that we don’t have a distinct enemy to fight against. When Adolf Hitler was declared dead – interestingly, on May 1, 1945 – the Nazi armies surrendered the very next day. This demoralization isn’t the case with al-Qaeda. We’ve taken out significant chunks of their command structure before, and like the mythological hydra, two new heads would grow back in the form of a person to take the place of the fallen and new tactics to avoid making the same mistake again. The fall of Osama bin Laden doesn’t mean that the war is over, nor does it mean that our troops are coming home. In fact, I would venture that al-Qaeda will only become stronger or, at the very least, more cunning in its methods. I agree that we should be happy that one powerful avenue of hatred and violence has been eliminated, but I greatly fear for what darkness lies at the bottom of that Pandora’s Box. What has bin Laden’s death unleashed upon us in retaliation for what the enemy will likely see as another murder perpetrated by the western terror?

Another source of contention has been the disposition of the body. While Muslim death rites are somewhat shrouded in secrecy, it has come to light that the body must be buried within 24 hours to hold with religious tradition. While morbid and disgusting jokes of stuffing the corpse so every American can take a whack at it like some macabre piñata have surfaced, some have taken this as an offense to those killed since 2001. I firmly believe that, no matter the evil perpetrated in life, any person’s death should be respected. If they took our corpses and burned them in effigy or fed them to a pack of wild dogs, we would be livid. People, including those of deep religious and spiritual faith should consider that before calling for desecration of a corpse in the name of revenge.

 

“The rabbis say that, as the Israelites celebrated the death of the Egyptians, so did the angels. But God stilled them and ordered them to stop their rejoicing. ‘But why?’ the angels ask. ‘Look what they did to Your children.’ And God answered, ‘These too are My children!’”
Harry Danziger

 

What I don’t doubt about the death of Osama bin Laden is that it will be a source of morale for a country weary of war. After a decade of gains and losses that effectively cancel each other out, this marks a moment where something substantial has been accomplished. If maintained, this momentum can be harnessed to usher in a new era of support for both politicians and fighting forces. Having been in the uniform, I understand the need for morale boosts in providing purpose for your efforts. But, remember that war is sterile only from the safety of the armchair. War is a bloody, disgusting, destructive mess, and I have yet to meet a veteran who was proud of what he or she had done in theater. They are usually proud of having contributed to peace, but I don’t recall any pride or joy stemming from pulling a trigger, sending a round downrange, and becoming the messenger of death for another human being.

If I have to be proud of killing a terrorist, I have to be proud of every time one of our enemies has died in the name of stopping terrorism. That means I have to be proud of the terrorists who die in allied bombing runs that kill innocents, and that is something I cannot support. War is necessary because politics and diplomacy cannot solve every social or cultural difference in the world, but that doesn’t mean I have to celebrate it or be proud of it. I don’t see anything to celebrate in killing another human being, and I certainly don’t see justice even if you look beyond the "eye for an eye" version Americans seem to crave. I think we need to remember that revenge is indeed a dish best served cold, and this doesn’t make me un-American or unpatriotic or even an enemy sympathizer. Killing Osama bin Laden has not restored the 3,000 lives taken ten years ago, and it certainly has not restored the 1.2 million lost since then. The scales cannot be balanced exclusively by steps such as these, but this is one more step toward a possible peace.

Peace is something I can celebrate.


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“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”    —President Franklin D. Roosevelt

May the 2,402 American military, 57 American civilian, and 64 Japanese military casualties rest in peace.





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On the heels of the unsurprising Supreme Court’s decision not to strike down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), Kenny (@Geekyfanboy on Twitter) made this simple statement:

 

I couldn’t agree more.  I don't understand why a country wouldn't defend those who sacrifice everything to protect it and its people.

By the way, I'll just leave this related gem here as well:






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From Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, published on November 8, 2010:
 

On Nov. 11 each year, the United States formally honors the service and sacrifice of more than 20 million living American veterans through their service, as well as all the men and women who have guaranteed our freedom and kept America secure against those who would harm us throughout the years.

Our veterans represent the best of America. Coming from every background and every walk of life, they represent the rich tapestry of our nation and the multitude of cultures that make the United States unique upon the earth.

On Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to thank them, to thank every Marine, Sailor, Soldier, Airman and Coast Guardsmen who has ever worn the uniform for what they have done, and to thank those of you still in uniform for what you continue to do for the United States every day.

Thank you for your service, Godspeed. 
 

 

Major hostilities of World War I -- "The War To End All Wars" -- ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November in 1918.  One year later, President Woodrow Wilson declared the day a holiday named Armistice Day.

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."


By 1954, the holiday became known as Veterans Day.

Thank a Veteran today, will you?

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Happy 235th, Marines!

 

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As many of you know, I was in the Navy for seven years. This continues my family’s tradition of military service; my dad retired from the Air Force after 20 years, and both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family have members who served honorably throughout the years. The same goes for my wife’s family.

I received the following from my parents the other day. Naturally, I checked its veracity and it looks legit. They also included a note:

I thought of you as I read this and how many times I have thanked God that you and your father both came home safe. God bless you son and thank you for all you did to help make this country as safer place for all of us. Words can never express how proud of you we are and how much we love you.

The note included my wife as well:

Thank you for being the person you are and for standing by our son while he served his country. You have a special place in our hearts and you always will. You are more than a daughter-in-law, you are a daughter and a very special part of this family. We love you more than words can express.

After reading the following letter, which strikes me more as a poem than anything else, I felt a bit reinforced on a position that I’ve had for a long time. There are people in today’s American landscape that stand on either side of the actions in the Middle East, driven by the politics, logistics, and realities of war. While most people I’ve encountered, regardless of their stance on the war, have shown support for the people engaged there, I’ve debated with a few who can’t distance the two. For them, military action and the military itself are one and the same, and to support the troops is to support the actions they take.

It would be easy to dismiss their claims with a wave of the hand and a quick “if you’ve never served, you’ll never understand.” While certain parts of that are true, I feel it is my duty to help non-veterans understand as much as possible about how the military dynamic works and runs. Monday morning armchair quarterbacking is easy, as are most things with 20/20 hindsight, but the community dynamic is very different from the social dynamic the rest of the world shares.

In reality, the volunteers who serve in uniform are bound by an oath to obey lawful orders. There are methods to review orders if they are questioned, but if a military member disobeys orders deemed lawful upon review, they are punished, and that has repercussions beyond their the absolution of their consciences. After all, most of these brave Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and a punishment that garnishes half a month’s pay for several months could be the difference between their children eating the next week or paying the bills.

I firmly believe that you can support the troops without supporting the war. These brave men and women volunteer to sacrifice upwards of eighteen months at a time away from their families in support of a cause they believe in. Whether or not that cause is just, that level of sacrifice demands recognition.

Furthermore, the poem below reinforces that by detailing an honor guard’s trip to bring a fallen soldier home. Along the way, he encounters people who show their respect for the sacrifice one young man has made, regardless of politics, religion, age, gender, or any other label.

They are Americans first.

One other example of this is the film Taking Chance. If you have the opportunity to watch this powerful film, please do.

 

"I Saw America Today"

Eric Newman, 30, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded Oct. 14 in Akatzai Kalay, Afghanistan. He married Charidy Newman last year, and was planning to become a state trooper after his career in the military was over. The funeral was held on Saturday, October 24, 2010 with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and several other medals for his exemplary service.

 

I saw America today.

I was among more than 200 people gathered on the tarmac at the Meridian Air Naval Station to welcome Sgt. Eric C. Newman, 30, of Waynesboro, Miss. home from Afghanistan.

He did not exit to cheers and hugs but was greeted by respectful and women, bikers, policemen, firemen, all in formation riveted their attention as Sgt. Newman disembarked from the plane carrying him.

 He exited in a flag draped coffin, killed in action in Afghanistan.

 The family stood near the hearse and as Sgt. Newman's casket approached he was greeted by his new wife and his mother as they draped their arms around the casket where their beloved husband and son lay. There would be no married life for the newly married couple and another mother had given her son in the name of freedom.

I saw America today.

The procession formed with a police escort in front leading the hearse carrying Sgt. Newman which was followed by his family, more than 100 bikers, including the Patriot Guard Riders, scores of police officers, firemen, and friends. I rode near the front and I never could see the end of the procession as we rolled over the hills from Meridian to Waynesboro.

I saw America today.

On the 60 mile journey truckers, the big rigs, pulled to the side of the road, exited their trucks and put hand over heart in honor of Sgt. Newman and the American flag. Down the road from one big shiny rig was a humble logging truck, driver standing on the ground, hand over heart.

For sixty miles a mixture of people stood by the side of the road, flag in hand as we rolled past. At every junction where a side road entered there were people. At the overpasses there was always a fire truck displaying a large American flag. Every fire department along the way had their fire truck standing by to honor this young American who gave his life for us.

There was a young Boy Scout, in uniform, proudly saluting Sgt. Newman and the American flags that passed him.

A man in bib overalls stood by a ragged old pickup truck giving honor. Just down the road was a man dressed in suit and tie by his expensive SUV.

Something in the bright blue sky above caught my eye. It was two jet fighter planes flying over the procession, the thoughtful action of fellow soldiers.

I could see a woman kneeling, holding something out in her hands. At first I thought it must be a camera but as I passed I could clearly see it was a folded American flag. Just like the one that was given to my mother when my father died. Yes, it was her way of saying, "I lost a loved one as well."

I saw America today.

As we left the main road and entered Waynesboro two fire trucks were parked in such a way as to form an arch with a giant American flag suspended between the two.

The streets were lined solid with people. No cars were moving. I observed someone in a wheel chair on the side of the road. When we drew closer I saw several in wheel chairs, some on crutches. They were old, and fragile. They were residents of a nursing home. On down the road there was another group from yet another nursing home, all waving tiny American flags.

As we wound our way through town hundreds of people lined the sides of the streets. We passed an elementary school. The children lined the fence three deep, most with flags, some with red, white, and blue balloons which were later released.

Next we passed the high school. Again the students respectfully lined the streets adjacent to the school. All were standing respectfully in honor of Sgt. Newman.

And did I mention the yellow ribbons? They were on trees, mailboxes, fences, and anywhere people could place them.

I saw America today.

When we had finished the escort all the bikers were asked to meet at the First Baptist Church of Waynesboro. There they gathered us up and escorted us to the Western Sizzlin' where the people of the town treated us to lunch for doing something of which we were proud to be a part.

Today, I saw America and I'm proud to be an American. God bless America.

 

Rod Smith, Patriot Guard Rider

October 21, 2010

Laurel, Mississippi


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Ten years ago today, two al-Qaeda terrorists committed a suicide attack against the USS COLE (DDG 67) while the destroyer was conducting refueling operations in the Yemeni port of Aden. It has been labeled as the deadliest attack on a United States naval vessel since the USS STARK incident in 1987.

My thoughts today are with those Sailors who save the USS COLE, and with those seventeen who sacrificed their lives in service to our country.
 



Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class (HT2) Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter
Chief Electronics Technician (ETC) Richard Costelow
Mess Management Specialist Seaman (MSSN) Lakeina Francis
Information Systems Technician Seaman (ITSN) Timothy Gauna
Signalman Seaman (SMSN) Cherone Gunn
Information Systems Technician Seaman (ITSN) James McDaniels
Engineman Second Class (EN2) Marc Nieto
Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class (EW2) Ronald Owens
Seaman (SN) Lakiba Palmer
Engine Fireman (ENFN) Joshua Parlett
Fireman (FN) Patrick Roy
Electronics Warfare Technician First Class (EW1) Kevin Rux
Mess Management Specialist Third Class (MS3) Ronchester Santiago
Operations Specialist Second Class (OS2) Timothy Saunders
Fireman (FN) Gary Swenchonis, Jr.
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Andrew Triplett
Seaman (SN) Craig Wibberley

 


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Here's where I'll be during Dragon*Con this year.


Friday
Military in Sci-Fi: 4:00p, Marriott A704
I’ll be a panelist for this discussion about the use of military in science fiction and if it is a crutch or good planning.

Saturday
The 2010 Parsec Awards: 4:00p, Hilton Regency V
The Scapecast is up for their third Parsec against some pretty stiff competition.  I’m also there to support my fellow podcasters.  The ceremony runs 2.5 hours.

“Browncoats: Redemption”: 7:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
The world premiere of a highly anticipated fan film set three months after the events of Serenity. (2.5 hours)

Mighty Fine Shindig!: 10:00p, Peachtree Ballroom Westin
I had a lot of fun last year at this party for Browncoats.

Sunday
Scapecast Live Show: 11:30a, Hilton 204
I’ll be on the panel with my friends from the show, Kevin Bachelder, Lindy Rae, and Wendy Hembrock.

“Farscape: Uncharted Territory?” 4:00p, Hilton Regency Ballroom
Fellow Scaper Angela Dean has the opportunity to interview Ben Browder, Raelee Hill, and Virginia Hey.

Geek Radio Daily Live: 7:00p, Hilton 204
I’ve recently become a fan of GRD, and I look forward to meeting this lively bunch.  Rumor has it that Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Stargate SG-1) will be a special guest.

Imagine Greater: 8:30p, Marriott A704
I’ll be on a panel with fellow sci-fi fans discussing the merits of Syfy’s Saturday night B-movies.

 

Aside from that list, I'll be attending various other panels, hanging out with family and friends, and wandering about having a grand geeking time.  For those of you who can't be there, I'll miss you and hope to see you next year.

If you will be there, come on by and say hello.  I'm always willing to meet new friends.


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Provocative quote of the day, courtesy of Lieutenant Colonel Jay Stout, USMC, retired:
“My Air Force compadres, darn them, did such a great job of engaging the Iraqi fighters as they got airborne that I doubt an Iraqi aircraft got within 50 miles of a Marine Corps aircraft. So we had to satisfy ourselves with tearing up forces on the ground.”

I heard it on “Remembering The First Gulf War, 20 Years On” on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.  While it’s definitely Marine-speak, I wonder if certain people should never be allowed in front of a microphone in public forum.  Listening to it, I'm sure LtCol Stout meant it humorously, but the joke fell flat.  He tried a couple of other bits of military humor, but what some of my friends in uniform fail to realize is that civilians don't understand it.  Unless you've experienced it, most military humor feels barbaric at worst.

-----

In other news, my brain’s working overtime on another story idea. Yes, brain, I’m listening.


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