Cynical Synapse

Tue, 13 Dec 2011

Nation’s Oldest Military Services Celebrates 375 Years

Filed under: Government, History, Military, National security, Patriotism, People — cynicalsynapse @ 5:49 am

The National Guard of the United States traces its roots back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, long before the United States existed or even declared its independence. On 13 December 1636, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia, which makes today’s Guard our nation’s oldest military service. The General Court’s declaration is the only colonial era government-issued proclamation authorizing a militia like that stipulated in the US Constitution.

In the spring of 1637, militia regiments mustered at Salem Common to drill in the interests of defending the colony and not just Salem. Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney (D-MA-6) introduced legislation designating Salem the birthplace of the National Guard, a measure supported by the entire Massachusetts delegation. Tierney described it this way:

Among its rich history, Salem was the site where our country’s earliest military regiment met, organized and conducted drills in preparation for defending the local community.

Guard UH-60 helicopter drops water on a forest fire

After consideration, the House included the designation of Salem as birthplace of the National Guard in H.R. 1540, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which the House passed 322-96 (with 13 not voting) in May. Of Michigan’s representatives, only Justin Amash (R-3), Hansen Clarke (D-13), and John Conyers (D-14) voted against the measure. As of 7 December, the Senate-approved bill is in conference to incorporate Senate modifications.

Just as in 1637, the Guard of today consists of Citizen-Soldiers. They live, work, and go to school in the same communities as their fellow citizens. In every state and 4 territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands), the Guard is just hours away when disasters or other state emergencies strike. At least since the early 1980s, Guard Soldiers and Airmen have had to meet the same training and qualification requirements as their active duty counterparts. Guard members drill 39 days a year, unless preparing for mobilization. While no one advocates eliminating the standing Army or Air Force, the Guard’s cost-effectiveness and community ties are its strengths. As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) noted the Guard is a great value for the country. While the Reserves of all the services are also a good value, only the Guard has a dual mission in the states and in support of the national military strategy.

Our National Guard and Reserve forces have taken on a major role in our combat missions abroad, while continuing to take the lead on the front lines during disasters here at home. This nation’s increased reliance on the National Guard has earned them a seat at the table along with our active duty forces.


 

Wed, 07 Dec 2011

Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Filed under: Heroes, Military, National security, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:06 am

Wreath-laying from the USS Massachusetts, 7 December 2010

Just a couple months ago, we marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Almost 60 years before that dreadful day, our nation suffered an earlier, just as deadly and despicable, sneak attack. It was the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, a “date which will live in infamy”, declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Seventy years later, we’ve been at war for a decade, yet the evils are, amazingly, not so different.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 2,403 US deaths, both civilian and military, compared to 2,977 killed on 9/11. The Japanese, however, sought to destroy military targets, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships and destroying some 160 aircraft. Pearl Harbor was the catalyst for US entry into World War II, ultimately putting over 16 million in uniform. Nearly 300,000 gave their lives in the name of freedom and democracy.

Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Most of us remember 9/11 and what we were doing at the exact moments of the attacks on the twin towers, the Pentagon, and the downing of the fourth plane in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11. There are not so many who remember Pearl Harbor left.

According to the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, as of this May, approximately 2 million World War II vets were still with us. But we are losing them at the rate of around 850 a day. In February 2009, their median age was 86. In a few years, it will be over 90. In another decade, the survivors will be counted in the thousands. Their children will follow in 20 or 30 years. Who then will remind us of Pear Harbor, the Bataan Death March, Guadalcanal, Midway, Normandy, the Bulge and the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay?

The deficit in historical knowledge is at least as ominous as the national debt. Sheep have no memory—individual or collective. They are creatures to be sheared and, ultimately, consumed.


 

Fri, 11 Nov 2011

Over 25 Million Served: Honoring Our Veterans

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Government, Heroes, holidays, Life, Military, Patriotism, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:18 pm

Veterans Day 2011

Today is Veterans Day, an opportunity to thank all who have served, or are serving, in our nation’s armed forces. The holiday originally marked the end of hostilities in World War I, taking on its 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month distinction from that role as Armistice Day. In 1954, the holiday’s purpose was expanded to recognize the service and contributions—sometimes ultimate sacrifice—of all veterans, living and deceased, who served in any branch of the US military.

Veterans Day is significant this year, not just for its 11/11/11 date. We mark the tenth Veterans Day since we began the Global War on Terror. It’s important to honor those who served in the nation’s longest war. Equally important is recognizing those who wore our military uniforms during wartime and peacetime going back through the centuries to the Minutemen, the Citizen-Soldiers who bore arms in defense of their neighbors even before our country was born. Their legacies are the freedoms for which we owe our veterans such gratitude.
 

Previously on Veterans Day:

Sun, 11 Sep 2011

9/11 Ten Years Later

Filed under: History, holidays, Life, Patriotism, Society, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 12:10 am

9/11 commemoration

Outside of the United States, there is a widespread belief the US is not telling the whole story about the 9/11 attacks. In China, only 37% believe al Qaeda was responsible, despite Osama bin Laden taking credit for them.

The facts are 2,977 innocent people were killed on 9/11/2001 by 19 Islamist extremists, members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. The attacks radically changed the world as we know it. A decade later, we have kids who weren’t old enough at the time, but now are able to form their own opinions. And we have adults that don’t understand 9/11:

Ten years later we find America in a state of confusion and disunity concerning the meaning and lessons to be drawn from the Islamist terror attacks of 9/11. This article is offered both as a remembrance of those who were killed by an act of war, and a plea for understanding the nature of the ideology that motivated the terrorists. The decision by a Sharia promoting imam to build a triumphalist mosque adjacent to the 9/11 site has highlighted a great schism in America. There are those who understand the threat posed by fundamentalist Islam and those among us who are unable to. Understanding the threat and confronting it effectively at home and abroad is one the of great challenges America faces today.

The quote comes from Remembering and Understanding 9/11. I encourage you to view the rest of the post, which I found a very powerful and compelling way to remember, honor, and celebrate Patriot Day 2011.

Previously on Patriot Day:

Fri, 26 Aug 2011

Citizenship by Proxy?

2d BN 503d IN Scouts pull overwatch above the Chowkay Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan

Regular readers know I’m a member of the Michigan Army National Guard. I personally know a lot of people who have served on the front lines in the Global War on Terror. Some have had 3 or more deployments. So, for me, this whole thing is personal.

My personal view is I don’t believe we had any business in Iraq. I think it was a personal vendetta of George W. Bush’s to avenge his father’s failure to kill Saddam Husein. That said, once we went there, it became critical we saw it through. There are plenty of analogies of “unfinished business” requiring considerable follow-up action.

As for the warfight in Afghanistan, it’s more clear to me, even 10 years after the Global War on Terror began. As far as I’m concerned, the Taliban cannot have any significant measure of power. These are, after all, the same clowns that allowed Bin Laden and his cronies to launch their 9/11 attacks.

While, for me, it’s easy to view the issues in such clear black-and-white, the reality on the ground is more gray. And, so it is from the political perspective, as well. William Deresiewicz raises such concerns in his essay An Empty Regard:

No symbol is more sacred in American life right now than the military uniform. The cross is divisive; the flag has been put to partisan struggle. But the uniform commands nearly automatic and universal reverence. In Congress as on television, generals are treated with awed respect, service members spoken of as if they were saints. Liberals are especially careful to make the right noises: obeisance to the uniform having become the shibboleth of patriotism, as anti-Communism used to be. Across the political spectrum, throughout the media, in private and public life, the pieties and ritual declarations are second nature now: “warriors,” “heroes,” “mission”; “our young men and women in uniform,” “our brave young men and women,” “our finest young people.” So common has this kind of language become, we scarcely notice it anymore.

There is no question that our troops are courageous and selfless. They expose themselves to inconceivable dangers under conditions of enormous hardship and fight because they want to keep the country safe. We owe them respect and gratitude — even if we think the wars they’re asked to fight are often wrong. But who our service members are and the work their images do in our public psyche, our public discourse, and our public policy are not the same. Pieties are ways to settle arguments before they begin. We need to question them, to see what they’re hiding.

The new cult of the uniform began with the call to “support our troops” during the Iraq war. The slogan played on a justified collective desire to avoid repeating the mistake of the Vietnam era, when hatred of the conflict spilled over into hostility toward the people who were fighting it. Now the logic was inverted: supporting the troops, we were given to understand, meant that you had to support the war. In fact, that’s all it seemed to mean. The ploy was a bait and switch, an act of emotional blackmail. If you opposed the war or questioned the way it was conducted, you undermined our troops.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on, other purposes have come into play. The greater the sacrifice that has fallen on one small group of people, the members of the military and their families, the more we have gone from supporting our troops to putting them on a pedestal. In the Second World War, everybody fought. Soldiers were not remote figures to most of us; they were us. Now, instead of sharing the burden, we sentimentalize it. It’s a lot easier to idealize the people who are fighting than it is to send your kid to join them. This is also a form of service, I suppose: lip service.

The cult of the uniform also bespeaks a wounded empire’s need to reassert its masculinity in the wake of 9/11. “Dead or alive,” “bring it on,” “either you’re with us or you’re against us”: the tenor of official rhetoric in the ensuing years embodied a kind of desperate machismo. The war in Iraq, that catharsis of violence, expressed the same emotional dynamic. We’d been hit in the head with a rock; like a neighborhood bully, we grabbed the first person we could get our hands on and beat him senseless. Mission accomplished: we were strong again, or so we imagined, and the uniform — as George W. Bush understood when he swaggered across the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in a flight suit — was the symbol of that strength. The soldier is the way we want to see ourselves: stoic, powerful, focused, devoted.

This helps explain why the souring of the wars failed to tarnish the military’s reputation. There seems little doubt that our armed forces today are more professional, and at the small-unit level, at least, more effective, than they were in Vietnam. Still, Iraq descended into stalemate, and Afghanistan gives little hope, 10 years on, of ever being anything else. Does the fault lie with our civilian leadership alone, or with our client states? Do “our brave young men and women fulfill every mission we ask them to,” as the catechism goes? These are not rhetorical questions; these are the real questions that we haven’t been willing to ask ourselves. At the very least, our generals ought surely to come in for some criticism — as they did, when it was appropriate, in other wars. And yet the cult of the uniform has immunized them from blame, and inoculates the rest of us from thought.

There are other questions. Has the military really ceased to be the big, bumbling bureaucracy it was always taken to be? And if it is supremely efficient now, is that because there’s something uniquely effective about its command structure and values — a frequent implication these days — or rather because we’ve given it a blank check? Is America the world’s cop, as we like to say, or is our military something more like an imperial police force? (When it comes to places like Darfur or Ivory Coast, which are not felt to threaten national security interests, we leave the dirty work to someone else.)

It seems extremely unlikely anything like My Lai has taken place in Iraq or Afghanistan, but there have been some terrible crimes: the abuses at Abu Ghraib; the premeditated gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Mahmudiya, Iraq, and the murder of her family; the executions of Afghan civilians by the self-described “kill team” from the 5th Stryker Brigade. Only the first has been widely discussed, likely because there were pictures. How many more of these have there been? Maybe none, maybe a significant number: until we ask—until we want to ask—we’ll never know.

As the national narrative shifts from the war on terror to the specter of decline, the uniform performs another psychic function. The military is can-do, the one institution — certainly the one public institution — that still appears to work. The schools, the highways, the post office; Amtrak, FEMA, NASA and the T.S.A. — not to mention the banks, the newspapers, the health care system, and above all, Congress: nothing seems to function anymore, except the armed forces. They’re like our national football team—and undisputed champs, to boot—the one remaining sign of American greatness.

The term most characteristically employed, when the cult of the uniform is celebrated, is “heroes.” Perhaps no word in public life of late has been more thoroughly debased by overuse. Soldiers are “heroes”; firefighters are “heroes”; police officers are “heroes” — all of them, not the special few who undoubtedly deserve the term. So unthinking has the platitude become that someone referred to national park rangers on public radio recently as “heroes” — reflexively, in passing — presumably since they wear uniforms, as well. Stephen Colbert picked up on this phenomenon long ago, which is why he slyly refers to his viewers—and now, to the donors to his Super PAC—by the same term.

“Heroes,” like “support our troops,” was also deployed early, in Iraq. Within a couple of weeks, we were treated to the manufactured heroism of Jessica D. Lynch, the young supply clerk who was rescued from an Iraqi hospital a few days after her capture by enemy forces (both events turning out to be far less cinematic than initially put out) and who finally felt compelled to speak out against her own use as an instrument of propaganda. In the case of Pat Tillman, the former professional football player who died the following year in Afghanistan by friendly fire, not in an ambush as originally claimed, it was left to his family to expose the lies with which the Army surrounded him. The irony is that our soldiers are the last people who are likely to call themselves heroes and are apparently very uncomfortable with this kind of talk. The military understands itself as a group endeavor. As the West Point professor Elizabeth D. Samet recently noted, service members feel uneasy when strangers approach them to—as the well-meaning but oddly impersonal ritual goes—thank them for their service, thereby turning them into paradoxically anonymous celebrities. It was wrong to demonize our service members in Vietnam; to canonize them now is wrong as well. Both distortions make us forget that what they are are human beings.

What is heroism? What kind of psychological purpose does the concept serve? Heroism is bravery and selflessness, but more than that, it is triumphant action, and in particular, morally unambiguous action. In most of life — and certainly in public life — there is scarcely such a thing on either count. Politics is a muddle of moral and practical compromise. Victories are almost always partial, ambiguous and subject to reversal. Heroism belongs to the realm of fantasy—the comic book, the action movie—or to delimited and often artificial spheres of action, like space exploration or sports.

The Marine who saves his buddies in a firefight, the cop who rescues a child from a well—the challenges they face are clear and simple and isolated from the human mess. Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who successfully landed an airliner in the Hudson River, was, everyone agreed, a hero. But note how frequently the element of salvation or rescue comes up when we talk about heroism. It was a beautiful coincidence that Captain Sullenberger’s moment came just five days before the last presidential inauguration, for heroism and rescue were the subtext of Barack Obama’s campaign, especially for his legions of young believers. He was the one we’d been waiting for; you could almost imagine the “S” on his chest, underneath the suit. (Once in office, of course, he descended into the muddle, and showed himself a mortal after all.) Heroes are daddies: larger-than-life figures, unimpeachably powerful and good, who save us from evil and hurt.

“America needs heroes,” it is sometimes said, a phrase that’s often uttered in a wistful tone, almost cooingly, as if we were talking about a lonely child. But do we really “need heroes”? We need leaders, who marshal us to the muddle. We need role models, who show us how to deal with it. But what we really need are citizens, who refuse to infantilize themselves with talk of heroes and put their shoulders to the public wheel instead. The political scientist Jonathan Weiler sees the cult of the uniform as a kind of citizenship-by-proxy. Soldiers and cops and firefighters, he argues, embody a notion of public service to which the rest of us are now no more than spectators. What we really need, in other words, is a swift kick in the pants.

Mon, 30 May 2011

Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Placing US flags at the tombstones of the fallen

There are 5000 reasons to remember Memorial Day as we mark 9-1/2 years in fight against evil we used to call the Global War on Terror. For Michigan, 197 service members died in this conflict, defending our freedoms and way of life. In recent years, Dearborn’s parade honors its fallen veterans without resources or family for their own burials.

I appreciate Gov. Rick Snyder (R) carrying on the tradition started by his predecessor, Jennifer Granholm (D), of lowering US flags to half-staff for Michigan’s military personnel killed in action. I understand he also calls the families. While we can never know what this means to them, I suspect it helps in some small way. There is formal recognition for the sacrifice of their loved one.

As a Michigan Army National Guardsman, I have 12 fallen comrades. Last Thursday, we held a memorial service for them. It moved me to post a note on Facebook, which I repost here as my 2011 tribute to those who gave their lives in our defense.

For several years now, the Michigan National Guard has held an annual memorial service to honor our comrades-in-arms who gave their lives in the Global War on Terror. These have taken place during the two-week Annual Training period on the day of the Memorial Parade and Pass-in-Review. There is a monument to the fallen heroes, along with a plaque bearing each of their names, outside the Camp Grayling chapel.

The services were started to honor the service of those who paid the ultimate price, as a means for their families to cherish the memories of their loved ones, and as proof to the families the Michigan National Guard will never forget them. When I was assigned to Joint Force Headquarters staff, I didn’t attend the memorial services out of respect for the families. As a Battalion Commander, I was invited to the 2010 service, and rightfully so. I never knew SPC Richard Goward or SGT Matthew Soper and both gave their lives before I assumed command of the Battalion of which their units are now part. But they are my Soldiers. And I particularly remember SPC Goward—he was the Michigan Guard’s first casualty in the Global War on Terror.

Michigan has decentralized how it conducts Annual Training, so the memorial service was moved to Lansing and conducted today, fittingly, right before the Memorial Day weekend. Since I work full-time for the Guard in Lansing, I was able to attend. While I wanted to be there, I did not expect the service to be as amazing as it was. You usually expect these to be solemn events at which you pay tribute and your respects. We did that today, but, for me, it was bigger than that.

Michigan gold star license plate

I don’t, personally, know any of our fallen heroes. Yes, two were from my Battalion and one lived where I live. That gives their paying the ultimate price a degree more connectedness, though all the other fallen since 9/11 are no less heroes. Today, my friend LTC Randy Brummette spoke about SFC Michael Hilton, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2008. LTC Brummette commanded a small team, of which SFC Hilton was part, that also consisted of a Soldier I went to basic training with and another who was one of my company commanders when I took command of the 246th Transportation Battalion. LTC Brummette’s words were personable and emotional. And SFC Hilton is real to me even though I never knew him. I am truly fortunate for such an opportunity that most will never know.

Here are the Michigan Army National Guard Citizen-Soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country and in response to the heinous, cowardly attacks of 9/11/2001:

  • SPC Richard A Goward, 32—14 April 2003
  • SPC Craig S Frank, 24—17 July 2004
  • SSG Ricky A Kieffer, 36—15 March 2005
  • SPC Timothy D Brown, 23—04 November 2005
  • PFC John W Dearing, 21—21 November 2005
  • SGT Spencer C Akers, 35—08 December 2005
  • SPC Dane O Carver, 20—26 December 2005
  • SGT Joshua V Youmans, 26—01 March 2006
  • SGT Matthew A Webber, 23—27 April 2006
  • SGT Duane J Dresky, 31—10 July 2006
  • SGT Matthew J Soper, 25—06 June 2007
  • SFC Matthew L Hilton, 37—26 June 2008

As the names of these brave Warriors were read today, I reflected on their contributions and the debt we all owe them, as well as all service men and women. But I also realized we have more fallen heroes than we typically consider.

In addition to SPC Goward, SGT Soper, and SFC Hilton, I also thought of SGT Anthony Burch. SGT Burch is an unsung fallen hero who committed suicide just 2 days into my command of the 246 Transportation Battalion. I never knew him, but he was an amazing person, by all accounts.

As a society, I suspect we take for granted and do not truly understand the value and worth our service members truly give and bring to the Global War on Terror. I’m sure it’s not callousness or lack of empathy. But for me, this has been personal since the beginning. I hope this helps you understand why.

SGT Burch is an unsung hero because his death is not attributed to combat. As an Iraq veteran, however, his family knows Tony Burch is no less a hero than those who died in direct combat.

Previously on Memorial Day:

Sun, 10 Apr 2011

Afghan Border Patrolman Exemplifies Leadership

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Heroes, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 7:19 am

Taliban with guns

Frankly, it makes me angry every time someone questions why US forces are in Afghanistan. What part of the Afghan Taliban provided refuge to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda do you not get?

The fact of the matter is Taliban insurgents are commiting war crimes and over 1,292 Afghan National Police were killed in 2010. If you think Afghans aren’t stepping up, consider Sgt. Wali Jan of the Afghan Border Police. From War on Terror News:

Afghan border policeSgt. Wali Jan, a patrolman with the Afghan Border Police, awaits the command to fire during combat marksmanship training here, March 27. Wali Jan is a five-year veteran of the ABP and is currently enrolled in the non-commissioned officers course at Joint Security Academy Southwest.

Story by Lance Cpl. Bryan Nygaard RC-SW

HELMAND, Afghanistan (April 2, 2011) – Sgt. Wali Jan loves his rifle and he plans on using it.

Wali Jan has been serving in the Afghan Border Police for the past five years and is currently enrolled in the non-commissioned officer’s course at the Joint Security Academy Southwest here. Wali Jan was one of the first students to arrive at the course and showed an eagerness to begin his training.

“He sat around for about a week … and he would ask me, ‘When are the other students coming?’” said 1st Lt. Timothy Malone, a native of Glen Burnie, Md., and ANSF Training Team OIC. “He really wanted to train. He’s always excited about what we’re going to be training for, and he tries as hard as he can with everything that we do.”

Growing up in Lashkar Gah, Wali Jan was forbidden by the Taliban to attend school. The only education he has ever received has been military training. Wali Jan credits his instructors with helping him learn his job.

“Marines are our teachers – they show us how to protect our country,” said Wali Jan. “I have learned a lot. I can save lives now.”

Wali Jan has been working with Marines since he enlisted in the border patrol, but he says the day is coming when he won’t need their help.

“All of our missions are with the Marines,” he said. “We go out with them, but we can still accomplish our mission even if they are not with us.”

Working without the assistance of Marines wouldn’t surprise any of his instructors. They have seen him taking the initiative and standing out among his peers since he arrived.

“He’s not really afraid to take charge,” said Cpl. Justin Ellis, a JSAS instructor and native of Cantonment, Fla. “Most of the other guys are somewhat quiet – just trying to find their place. Wali Jan wasn’t afraid to say, ‘Hey let’s go do this!’ [He] keeps most people in line.”

Despite his abilities to take charge, Wali Jan doesn’t consider his classmates his fellow soldiers. He calls them his brothers.

“He never argues with anyone,” said Sgt. Rhamatullah, a fellow student in the NCO course. “He tries to have fun with everyone. Wali Jan is a good man. We have never seen him do anything bad.”

Wali Jan and many of his ABP brothers have suffered at the hands of the insurgents, but his real brother was killed while fighting against them.

“He was killed by the Taliban while on a mission. He was a policeman too. God bless him,” said Wali Jan.

“The Taliban destroy our country. They are bad. We fight against them to bring peace and prosperity to our people.”

He even survived a close call himself.

“I once stepped on a landmine,” said Wali Jan. “I jumped off of it and it exploded. God saved my life.”

Wali Jan understands why he is here and that the responsibility of defending his nation rests on the shoulders of men like him.

“I serve to protect my country, my people and myself,” he said. “This is my country. If I don’t help my country, who is going to help it?”

Sat, 12 Mar 2011

Patriotism and Gratitude Are Alive

Filed under: Behavior, Global War on Terror, Heroes, Military, Patriotism, People, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:36 pm

Frequent readers may recall that I’m in the Army National Guard. I personally know more people who have deployed in support of Overseas Contingency Operations the Global War on Terror than I have fingers and toes to count. As I go to departure and homecoming ceremonies, I’m struck by the amazing level of community support. And, since becoming a Battalion Commander, I grown to appreciate and respect the selfless service and commitment of members of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Lest We Forget…Taking Zac speaks to the heroicism of our military, simply by viture of volunteering to serve, and the spirit of their communities and those who appreciate that service. From Dewey from Detroit:

Lest We Forget

In the words of Harry S. Truman,

Lest We Forget!

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid . They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.

A1C Zac Cuddeback was shot in the head by an Islamofascist in Germany last week. Yesterday he made his final return home to O’Fallon, Illinois. He will be laid to eternal rest today, March 12, 2011. Officiating will be Father Bill Hitpas, who also baptized Zac just 21 years ago at St. Clare’s church.

St. Clare Church

He was welcomed home last evening in a procession that made it’s way from nearby Scott Air Force Base to Zac’s uncle’s house in O’Fallon. The processional route was lined with 1000 flags provided by the VFW and placed by local townspeople.

Also lining the route as Zac came home were his soldier colleagues from the Air Force Base, a local Boy Scout Troop, and hundreds of people who just wanted to turn out to express their condolences and to offer a small thanks to Zac. Instead, to their surprise, Zac’s family thanked them for coming. These are the kind of people you’re likely to find in fly over country.

The somber military procession began at the Air Force base and rolled slowly through town. It was headed up by fire and emergency trucks from surrounding towns and over 200 Patriot Guard Riders who have made it their mission to accompany fallen heroes to their final resting place, and to shelter and protect the family from the likes of viral protestors from Westboro Baptist church.

US flags and A1C Cuddeback remembrances

Earlier last week people, churches, businesses and schools all over town honored Zac in any way they could. To some people it might seem a perfunctory gesture and even inconsequential, especially in comparison to the sacrifice made by Zac. But imagine if Zac were your son, brother, grandson, husband, nephew or friend. You would feel otherwise. You would feel the small gesture was quite profound. And you would be grateful.

Because you would know that sometimes simply recognizing great sacrifice is all we can do.

US flags line the route

Also in advance of yesterday’s funeral cortege, [S]oldiers and locals turned out to plant flags along the entire funeral route.

They began in the cornfields outside of town, and continued into town and through the suburban style neighborhoods to the home of Zac’s uncle, where he laid last night.

Zac's uncle's house

If you’ve seen Taking Chance, the story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl’s mission as a military escort accompanying the body of a fallen Marine home to his family in Wyoming, you might better understand the sense of honor and dignity that overwhelms everyone involved in delivering a fallen soldier home.

There is nothing inauthentic in this journey. People turn out simply to bow their heads and thank the selfless soldier who gave his own life to protect our values and way of life. You form the natural sort of bond that we do with our guardians. It is not one that can be manufactured of or from cheap emotions. Rather, it is an indelible linkage to something in our life that’s good and true. It is at once simple and profound: a bond that requires no words to explain why we fight, and why we must. Lest we forget.

Photos via Boots on the Ground

Mon, 13 Dec 2010

Citizen-Soldiers: On Guard for 374 Years

Citizen-Soldiers on Guard for 374 Years

First militia muster in 1636

The United States’ oldest military, the National Guard, turns 374 today. The National Guard traces its roots to the colonial militias formed before the birth of the country. It has always been comprised of Citizen-Soldiers, from the days of the Minutemen, who come from their communities to serve their nation and fellow citizens. How can a military force be older than the country it serves? In the case of the National Guard, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia in 1636

Colonial militias became the organized militias referenced in the US Constitution’s Second Amendment. Unique among US military forces, the National Guard has both state and federal roles. In peacetime, state and territorial governors are the Commanders-in-Chief of their National Guard personnel. As reserves of the US Army and US Air Force, Guardsmen are also subject to call-up for federal service. To that end, Guardsmen and Reservists must meet active component training requirements and standards. They receive equipment and training funding from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Minuteman statue

It is presidential mobilization authority that has seen the National Guard—both Army and Air—in active defense of the country since 9/11. In fact, over 225,000 Guardsmen have been called up in support of the Global War on Terror. According to DoD statistics, in 2005 National Guardsmen and Reservists made up about half the forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fulfilling their federal mission, Guardsmen from each of the 54 states and territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands) have deployed overseas. Many units have deployed more than once and some Guardsmen are on or preparing for their third or fourth deployment. While consuming only 11% of the Army’s budget, Guardsmen make up almost 40% of its operational force.

National Guard 374th birthday

The National Guard, and its predecessor militias, have always been a good value for the country. Citizen-Soldiers have always answered the call. They have always fulfilled the mission with excellence and professionalism. And they have always remembered their roots in their communities.

It might sound like a bank’s motto, but the National Guard represents local values and skills with global reach. Happy 374th birthday, National Guard.

Thu, 11 Nov 2010

Veterans Day: Thanks for My Freedoms

Filed under: Citizen rights, Global War on Terror, Heroes, History, holidays, Military, Patriotism, President — cynicalsynapse @ 9:12 am

Veterans Day 2010

November 11th is Veterans Day. Originally established to mark the end of World War I—Armistice Day—the holiday has come to honor veterans and their families from all wars and conflicts. President Obama began this year’s proclamation with these words:

On Veterans Day, we come together to pay tribute to the men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. Americans across this land commemorate the patriots who have risked their lives to preserve the liberty of our Nation, the families who support them, and the heroes no longer with us.

We pay tribute to veterans in a lot of ways, especially on Veterans Day. Many restaurants offer free or reduced price meals and other businesses extend military discounts. Others simply thank those in uniform or obviously veterans. I can tell you they appreciate it. Members of our Armed Forces serve year round, however, and more than 200,000 are serving away from their families. You could take a moment to show deployed military personnel you care by sending a letter or a care package.

Pres. Obama at Yongsan War Memorial

In the midst of his Asian trip, President Obama honored Korean War veterans at a memorial in Seoul. The President also thanked members of the military in his remarks to them at the US Army Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.

From those who took up arms in our first militias, before our country was even born, to those serving in harm’s way today, we owe our freedoms and way of life to veterans. They are true patriots and heroes. They stand up without reservation to defend us from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Salute them all.

Previously on Veterans Day:

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: