Sunday, May 29, 2011

Schuyler B. Haynes

So many fond memories. The order of them has muddled over the years.

We discussed the deep philosophical topics such as Marvel versus DC comics and their universes. In the end, we both agreed that Batman and Wolverine kicked butt and should team up.

When he found I had an interest in Rugby, he let me know he had just finished a tour on the Fort Lewis team that had won the all-Army competition. So, he taught me how to play.

He always picked his feet up as he walked, like he was marching in as part of the Old Guard at Arlington.

In Panama, he was there to commiserate the seemingly childish pranks the other guys played on each other to blow off steam. Then he calmed me down after I had to rescue the same refugee from killing himself for the third time in a week.

When Matt and I "gothed-up" to hit the underground sub-culture clubs in Seattle, he made the small-minded Soldiers think twice about their pre-judgments. Then again, Matt is huge guy. We almost got Schuyler to go with us once. Instead, we all ended up at Cheers West drinking Guinness, except for Matt, who didn't drink. That worked out as Matt served as the perfect DD. Matt and I did get Schuyler to go with us to another hidden haunt called "The Owl and Thistle". Schuyler loved the place with it's Scottish theme decked out in Rugby memorabilia. It became a Saturday afternoon routine.

When Schuyler moved to Alaska, I was the only one in the unit he kept in contact with. We sent postcards back and forth for years until in 1998 I ended up back in Germany. We lost contact somehow. I think the digital age had caught up with us and we never got the chance to exchange email addresses.

After our tour to Panama, I had come to a decision to re-enlist in the Army for another hitch. I decided to give MI a try. I made a stink that I would do those 3 years and be done, head off to law school. He chuckled and said "Nah, you're gonna love MI and fit in with those geeks. You'll be a lifer".

That theme seemed to wiggle its way into our discussions for years, even in those postcards. On the day of my re-up, he was the re-enlistment NCO for the company. When he walked up to give me the handshake and traditional shot in the arm for being a jackass and signing those papers the subject came up for debate for the final time. "Tell you what, Lifer, I have a bet for you. Whichever of us gets out last will buy the one who gets out first a scotch after he retires".

"Bet," I responded, "I'll meet you here in Seattle to collect".

"And don't try to go all Jew-boy on me and buy cheap, blended swill either".

Our letters and postcards always contained the post-script "who's buying that scotch?"

On November 15th 2006, the fucker beat me out of the service. He and his crew were killed by an IED in Baqubah, Iraq. It wasn't until May 2007 that I learned of his death through reading the Doonesbury tribute to the OIF KIA. I didn't believe it. I looked everywhere to see if it was some other SFC Schuyler Haynes. When I saw the picture on his obituary and tribute, there was no more doubt.

I will spend my last day in uniform on 10 June 2011. I will officially retire on 1 August 2011 after 24 years doing the job we both loved for the country we both loved more.

I owe him that scotch. I'd rather he be here to collect it.
Keep Up the Fire, Fucker.

Names of the Fallen, and WHY they should be honored

I am NOT a fan of his politics, but...

Gary Trudeau, author and creator of Doonesbury, has, several times, done a Sunday strip for Memorial Day listing those who did not make it home from Iraq.

Agree with his generally left-wing slant or not, agree with his purpose in posting these names as the "cost too high" or not; the comic in and of itself is a tribute to those who paid the ultimate price for our continuing freedom from tyranny, terrorism, and the oppression of a socialist regime.

I will get on my own political soapbox here for just a moment and give some facts for those who wonder "what is wrong with social programs". Socialism is evil. It allows for tyrannic dictators to gain power of the people by enslaving them to a dependency upon government directed programs. It shackles creativity and progress, redistributing the wealth of those industrious producers who don't bend their knees to that elitist few. It steals the earned rewards from those who create and gives it to the undeserving, lazy leeches who believe themselves entitled, just for breathing, to what somebody else has earned through achievement. Then those shackled entitlement junkies become enslaved to those programs, afraid to loose their free lunch by actually doing something to better themselves.

These are facts, not conjecture. The proof is in history in regimes like Adolph Hitler's Socialist regime, Stalin's Socialist regime, and the Ba'ath Party (a socialist party) of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Their policy is to convince or force you to bend your knee and take the handouts, giving all your efforts to the causes they dictate and not the ones chosen by your own morality. They take away your power to choose. They oppress, destroy, of kill any who express a vision of greater good through personal gain (capitalism). You not longer get to build for your own merits, just labor for theirs. Industry belongs to the state and all incentive to innovate is crushed. There will be no more great inventions like "smartphones" or iPads or the internet or Hybrid cars or good running shoes.

Would you build a house for your family if you knew the government was going to tell you to let eight strangers move in with you? Would you buy a car if you were told that, in doing so, you had to drive 4 drug addicts to their dealers' houses every day on your way to work? Probably not. So, why support the social programs that are the stepping stones to that? Say no to "welfare". Say "no" to nationalizing and socializing the health care industry. Say "yes" to human innovation and invention. That is what creates jobs and the spirit to achieve, succeed, provide, and LIVE.

Ok, now that I put you through my tirade, I will make my true point. Every name here died fighting against a socialist regime and tyrannic extremist terrorism to make the world a better place for our country to thrive with a reduced risk threat of these things oppressing and killing the people of our great nation. That is what these great patriots fought and died for -- for you to LIVE, thrive, produce, think, and enjoy the blessings of liberty. You owe each of them your eternal gratitude; unless, of course, you are one of those elitist left-wingers seeking to oppress the little people and force others to "give back" to the undeserving in order to enslave them.

Here are the Sunday Comics (it may be easier to go to the links at the bottom and zoom the view to read):

By the way, it was through this comic, the second set, last panel, 5th name; that I found out about the death of my friend Schuyler. What a shitty way to find out, huh?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memories of Love and Faith

Once upon a time, Memorial Day weekend was, for me like many of you, a day off from work. The weekend was an excuse to see friends and hold a BBQ on Sunday that lasted to the wee hours of Monday. It was time to travel to see family. It was a break.

Since even my grade-school days, I have known the meaning behind the day. We would head to my grandparents' summer cottage and have a family gathering most years. It involved lots of food, some fishing, and the adults enjoying a few beers and some loud conversation. It usually also involved a lot of foul language directed at the Cubs game on the radio. So, despite knowledge of its meaning, it really didn't sink into my heart or mind.

Once in uniform, I caught a little bit more of the meaning. I participated in several Memorial events from helping clean and decorate graves to some form of religious service. But, I often attempted to avoid being selected for these details preferring, instead, to stay up late and sleep later.

In early February 2003, things changed. I deployed to Kuwait and then fought the ground war against Saddam Hussayn's Iraqi army. It was not my first deployment. It was not even the first deployment where I had to shoot or was shot at. But it turned out to be the one deployment that changed my perspective dramatically.

Just as we were preparing to fire our first deep-strike salvo of missiles at key targets in Iraq in order to set conditions for 3rd ID to cross the border, I heard an explosion on the horizon. It would be a few hours before I got the news. One of my best friends was killed by a grenade. The grenade was thrown into his tent while he slept. The attacker was a traitor in a US Army uniform. Chris Seifert lay dead, never to kiss his wife again. Chris Seifert lay dead, never to hold his newborn son. The School Age Services building on Fort Huachuca is dedicated to his memory.

Chris was not the last friend I was to lose over the years of conflict. We lost a good NCO from the Brigade I was attached to. He died saving the rest of his crew. An enemy anti-armor rocket struck an ammunition carrier vehicle. Red died attempting to put out the fire and evacuate the crew.

A young HUMINT collector, Yari Mokri, was blown to vapor by an IED in early 2007. His warm laugh and personality made quite and impression upon me and his platoon. One of my other close friends was in the same patrol. She never recovered, emotionally, from the loss. I don't think any of us have.

That same year, a young Captain I worked with had changed his duties from Battalion Targeting Officer to take over his BN's scout platoon. There were things going on that had some members of the platoon and other officers from that unit facing some potential charges. I cannot discuss what I know on the subject. I can say that I worked out with Derek and other members of that platoon. We practiced martial arts together and lifted weights together. On a mission I had recommended, their helicopter crashed. There are conflicting reports. the official report currently reads "due to unforeseen mechanical failure". Half of the remaining platoon died in that crash, including Derek. I got the news early in the morning. My chief and I trashed our office when we heard the news. We had just finished cleaning the mess 2 hours later when the rest of our team arrived. They thought we were joking when we gave the news.

That same year, one of my oldest friends was blown up by an IED while on patrol near Baqubah, Iraq. Schuyler Haynes and I had been Manchus together and been deployed together several times when we were both still Infantry. I didn't find out until some time in mid 2008, just as I started preparing for my 4th tour to Iraq.

In 2009, I was at the FOB maintenance yard. It was a Friday, our day to get stuff fixed on the team's vehicles. Short and I were on top of the MRAP doing our inspection when a huge explosion rocked the earth. I hit the ground while Short just grabbed the roof of our vehicle. We then watched the fireball and secondary explosions. A quarter-mile down Marez Utility Road, a large Truck-borne IED exploded just outside of the HQ of the Iraqi Federal Police Brigade we advised. (We advised one of the BNs under it).  To top it off, that BDE's entire monthly supply of vehicle fuel (gas and diesel) had just been delivered the night before. The HQ went up in flames. An MRAP carrying 5 infantry Soldiers (US Army) from one of our partner units was vaporized, except for the V-shaped hull. We went out to help recover the bits and pieces of bodies, both US Army and Iraqi. I did not know the US Soldiers. I did know several of the Iraqis that were killed, though. They were good men, fighting for their country, making money to support their wives and kids.

There are countless more names and stories I could post. I know they are countless because I used to count them. I used to count every single name of every single soldier I knew, even if just in passing. After 173, I stopped. I couldn't do it anymore. the effort to copy and paste one more name onto my list and tick that counter one number more became too difficult. I can leg-press over 1000lbs. But I couldn't manage the physical strength to move a mouse and click some computer keys. So, these are among the most vivid of my memories, these great men that WE lost.

So now I know what that far-off daze my father and grandfather both seemed to get during the pauses in merriment at those family gatherings. Both were veterans of wars to defend this country. My Grandfather was US Army Intelligence in WWII. My father served in Vietnam. I now see what they saw when they got that look: that look as though they were seeing another time and another place. I know now that they were hugging their brothers from those wars. I now know that they were doing their duty in not letting the memories of those men fade from existence. They were keeping their promises to never forget.

I never will.

That is the prologue or introduction to my latest poem. If you have made it this far in my essay, I invite and ask you to make it just a few lines more. I ask you to do so not for me, but for the meaning of Memorial Day. I ask you to do it so these great men and women look down from heaven and see they are still loved and cherished in the hearts of the citizens of this great nation.

In Memoriam of love and faith
To the brave and bold
My eternal thanks
I will never forget

To the Army of the Potomac
Who shivered at Valley Forge
And the Minute Men
For the Freedom you gave me
I thank you

To those who stood strong
When in 1812 they came to reclaim
What was gained in 1776
Your valor retained
For that I thank you

Those who charged in answer
The massacre at the Alamo
And those battles that followed
For proving our nation’s mettle
I thank you

When the powder keg blew
And the Great War ensued
You who manned the trenches
Under our banner of Liberty
Standing forever stalwart
I thank you

An island territory attacked
And a genocidal tyrant ran rampant
Those who answered the call
To restore peace and freedom
For us and the world
A generation of great heroes
I thank you

An Asian Domino teetered and poised
To fall and bring hateful oppression
Into our world
For fortitude and bravery at Chosin
And defending Seoul with all your might
I thank you

The Marines who landed near Danang
And Soldiers who patrolled
Rice Patties, Jungle and mountains
Trying to hold back Ho Chi Minh
My father and his brothers-in-arms
I salute you

For Grenada, Panama, Somalia
Desert Storm and freeing Kuwait
Bringing Peace to Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia
Braving the flooding rains in Albania
To end genocide in Kosovo
I thank you

For those who watched the towers fall
And a jet crash into the Pentagon
Then answered the call
For those who fought by my side
dodging mortars and rockets
In Baghdad and Balad alike
Who charged into the mountains near Kandahar
To those who sucked sand and fumes
In Restrepo, Kirkuk, Wasit, Peshwar
Who braved bombs in Mosul and Tikrit
And didn’t make it back

I miss you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Am Not Posting My Rant, Yet

Events and issues brought to a less local light over the past week are pushing my buttons to write a long rant about illegal immigration. But I will refrain for now.

Items of note, however, that have my blood boiling include:

1. Large wildfire in Horseshoe Canyon caused over $10 Million in private and public property damages. It was most likely caused by two-legged coyotes.

2. La Raza has so integrated into the Arizona Public School System that in Tucson, 3rd graders get an "ethics class" that preaches hatred of "Gringos". This "textbook" contains obscenities that, if uttered when I was that age, would have led to munching on a bar of Ivory soap as an after-school snack.

3. Talking with many of my neighbors who work for DHS or USBP, detentions of illegal aliens are down because the Executive branch of our Federal Government has issued a policy of "TBS" (Turn Back South). So, they cannot detain illegals unless they are flat-out caught with drugs or unregistered weapons. This has enabled smugglers instead of deterring them.

4. Two more USBP agents stationed in Arizona (and legal residents of Arizona) have been shot and killed in the line of duty. These guys face ROE stricter than the overly-restrictive ROE I faced in Iraq and what is currently in place in Afghanistan. There has been a public outcry that the ROEs in those theaters of conflict are too restrictive and are putting out Soldiers at unnecessary risk. Yet, our BP agents are facing similar threats under a much more constrictive ROE. And they are dying. Five guys I have been acquainted with have died in the line of duty in the past 6 months. This is HERE in ARIZONA!

5. President Obama goes to El Paso, TX and jokes that we, the citizens of Arizona, won't be happy with border security until we have a moat. His joke was that if he built a moat, we'd want alligators in it. No, Mr. President, no alligators. Alligators would not do well in the desert. I want a MINEFIELD! As much as I despised the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, they did have that practice down. But I don't think we need to keep our people in as much as illegal immigrants OUT!

So, just five little things. Each of those I could so a multi-paged rant about. I'll spare you. However, I will encourage you to read the editorial our beloved Cochise County Arizona Sheriff posted in the New York Times:

Sheriff Dever's NYT Editorial

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Loyalty and Fidelity

I once heard a great man speak on his philosophies of life and leadership. It was an amazing time with lessons that remain burned into my very being. I have had the privileged to witness many great men and many vaulted men (and women) speak. Some have had great things to say peppered throughout their verbiage. Others looked good and had pleasant sounding voices that entranced mindless sheople into nodding assent without critically weighing the word-vomit.

One phrase, however, this particular great man spoke set my mind to thinking. I liked what he said and how he said it. I feel that my own philosophy enabled me to truly hear his words and their meaning. I comprehended. I more than comprehended. I agreed with him long before I heard his words. Given the greatness of his words, I'm using them. This man said "Do not do me the dishonor of agreeing with me. Do not do me the disloyalty of telling me what you think I want to hear. If you are loyal, you will tell me the truth of what you think." Who was this great philosopher? He is none other than General (retired) Colin Powell.

I love that man. He exudes charisma and true leadership. He lives a life that pales the words he speaks. His path is the one not of perfection, but of excellence.

I challenge you to go back and read his words once again. Think about them. When you are ready, if it pleases you, continue taking in my diatribe.

Loyalty is NOT blind faith. Loyalty is NOT blind obedience. If I wanted blind obedience, I'd have a dog. Actually, if such a dog existed, I'd probably put him down for being too dumb to exist. No. that is not cruel. I am pretty sure that most people can agree that a good dog, one with whom you have bonded and trained, is a wonderful companion. Some may even say that you would be hard-pressed to find better companionship. However, even a well-trained, obedient dog will cock his head and look at you like you are a moron if you try to tell it to do something it knows to be a poor decision. That is a good dog.

So, now I ask you, if you are in charge or placed in a position of responsibility, management, or leadership, do you really want those "under" you to be dumber than a dog? Probably not. Dogs are loyal. They are faithful. But they are no blindly obedient. They do not have blind faith. So why surround yourself with idiot people who are?

Leaders cannot lead unless they have the loyalty of the led. That is how it works. The better leaders have followers who criticize the decisions a leader makes. They followers are willing to grant their insight, experience, and thoughts to their chosen leader. They support the leader's ability to make a decision. They do not hamstring the leader by nodding assent and keeping things from the leaders. To do so sets a leader up to become a tyrant. It also leads the way for the led to become sub-human. True loyalty means bearing true faith in the leader to make decisions and to accept the consequences of those decisions, good or poor. True loyalty means supporting those decisions, once made, and assessing how well they worked.

On the other side, leaders need to have fidelity in those they lead. They have to be open to their input. They have to judiciously weigh that input. They owe it to the led to make the most informed and active decision possible, and to execute. If the leaders expect blind obedience and blind faith (which is NOT true faith), then they are tyrants. They will find themselves oppressing the governed into indentured servitude at the end of a gun. They will no longer be followers, but slaves.

Loyalty means you support the leaders' decision. You gave them the responsibility to make those decisions and the authority to execute them. So, do so. But question the decisions in the process. That is true loyalty.

Fidelity means trusting those in your charge to support you with honest data and insight. It means having faith that the led want to accomplish the intended goals. It means faith that they will honestly do so by presenting you with what you need to hear; not what you want to hear.

So, what sort of leader are you? Do want the companionship of a loyal dog (or better, a free-thinking and honest person); or do you prefer the enslaved obedience of a puppet? Do you have fidelity or are you a tyrant? (Tyrants get overthrown, eventually)

What sort of follower are you? Are you a slave? Are you a mindless sub-human drone? Are you a puppet? Or are you a free-thinking human?