duminică, 13 februarie 2011

Some Gave All

Last April 4, I woke up early because we had an all-day track meet that day—the Greenwood Relays. I remember watching the news that morning before school, as I do almost every day. The news caster announced that a Marine had been killed somewhere in Iraq… Now, I can’t even remember where. But I remember they did not say it was Fallujah. With guilty relief, I told myself it couldn’t be my cousin because he was in Fallujah.

He joined the Marine Corps and I really didn’t know the extent of what it was he did. Honestly, I thought he had taken a step down in his dreams—he went from wanting to be a corporate lawyer, to enlisting in the Marine Corps. I heard that he had tied range records at Camp Pendleton, was in the elite Force Recon. I still thought he should have gone on to become a lawyer. It didn’t shock me that he excelled in the Corps—he was the best at everything he ever did.

When I heard that his unit, the 4th Recon, was deploying to Iraq, I can honestly say I wasn’t the least bit concerned. I believed my two older cousins, Jerimiah and Colby, were invincible. Growing up with them, they were both always the best. In my younger years, I spent more time with the two of them than I did with my own brother.

About two weeks before Jerimiah was supposed to leave for Iraq, I got up one morning and my mother tearfully informed me that Colby (who was in the Army National Guard) had been in a snow-machining accident and was in a coma. She was very worried. Somehow, I wasn’t. I knew Colby would be okay. Colby was in a coma for about two weeks and Jerimiah requested to go home for his final weekend before he had to leave for Iraq. He was granted his request.

When Jerimiah had to leave, he spent a final ten minutes alone with Colby, who was still in a coma. Then, he left for Iraq. While Jerimiah was on his way to the air port, Colby awoke from the coma.

Jerimiah arrived safely in Iraq. He called home on a Sunday night to say that it was “boring” in Iraq. The following morning was April 4, when I heard the news of the Marines who were killed when their vehicle went over a land mine.

I went to my track meet that day, blissfully unaware of the horrors that day held. I got home from the meet around 5:00 p.m., drove home, and my dad met me outside. He asked me if I needed him to carry my bag inside. I thought that an odd request and as I walked in the living room, my dad said, “Sit down.” My mother was in her rocking chair, her face reddened with tears. Immediately my thoughts were of Jerimiah and the news report I had heard that morning. Before I could sit down, Daddy said, “Jerimiah got killed.” I remember Dad wrapping his arms around me as he sobbed. My face was buried in his chest but my eyes were wide open and I did not shed a tear. My thoughts were racing a million miles a minute but the only concept that I could grasp was “He can’t be dead.” As Dad stood there holding me, reality began to hit and I cried with a loss I have never felt before.

Several days later, Jerimiah’s grandfather died. We went home to Louisiana, where we had a double visitation and two funerals in one day.

I had trouble grasping the fact that Jerimiah had died. I thought when I saw him lying in the casket, it would give me closure. We followed the hearse from the funeral home to the church. Men stood lining the interstate holding up American flags, in honor of Jerimiah. The city of Walker, Louisiana had erected flags about every 10 feet all through the city to honor Jerimiah’s sacrifice.

We arrived at the church and the family viewed the body. When I saw the body, it was not Jerimiah. Jerimiah was always so full of life. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face. He was always up to something. This lifeless shell was not my cousin. Jerimiah was simply not Jerimiah when he was not bubbling over with life.

I collapsed in my mother’s arms as we sat in the church and cried together. I wanted to be alone. I needed time. I remembering going and sitting down about four pews back, directly in front of the casket and just sitting there crying. Jerimiah’s best friend and fellow Marine, Brian, came and held me while I cried. Jerimiah’s younger sister, Amie, Brian, and Brian’s younger brother, James, sat with me and we began to share stories that were dear to our hearts of memories we had of Jerimiah. We shared wonderful memories for over an hour. Before I knew it, we were all laughing. Every memory of Jerimiah brought a smile to our face. Being the daredevil that he was, Jerimiah was famous for the phrase, “We’ll make it.” Brian said dirt bikes had ended up at the bottom of lakes, trucks had been wrecked, and a number of other minor catastrophes after Jerimiah’s famous words, “We’ll make it.” From that point on, any time Amie or I would begin to break down we would assure the other one, “We’ll make it.” It always brought a smile to our faces. I still can’t believe that he is gone; it seems so unreal, but his memories are alive in the hearts of everyone who loved him.

As one news article confirmed,
“Jerimiah Kinchen started off with G.I. Joes and moved on to video war games. When his first-grade teacher asked what he wanted to be, he already had a plan.

"Jeremiah wanted to be a soldier," said teacher Donna Roberts. "That wasn't all that common back then."

Kinchen, 22, of Salcha, Alaska, was killed April 4 in an explosion in Al Anbar province. The reservist was based in San Antonio, Texas.

Born in Louisiana, Kinchen moved to Alaska with his family, including parents James and Jeanie Kinchen. A friend from high school, William Westurland, said Kinchen "was pretty much a comedian half the time."

"If a spitball went across the room during a test, everyone would look to Jeremiah," he said. "He always wanted to see people on a happy note."
The next day, I sat by my mother and sobbed on her shoulder as I heard the songs, “Some Gave All” and “American Soldier” played at Jerimiah’s funeral. My daddy preached the funeral and I don’t know how he did it. We made our way to the cemetery, passing Jerimiah’s elementary school. Every student and faculty member was standing outside the school, waving hundreds of American flags. Their faces past in a blur, and I wished Jerimiah could have known how much so many people cared about him.

We arrived at the cemetery and at that point I cannot remember what happened to my mother, but my brother took care of me. I remember several Marines presenting my aunt, Jerimiah’s mother, with Jerimiah’s Purple Heart. I remember seeing these tough Marines crying as they hugged my aunt, uncle, and Colby and Amie. When they placed their white gloves on Jerimiah’s casket, it was symbolically touching. Taps was played and I never knew the heartbreak that melody held. The afternoon, like the days leading up to it, is still a blur in my mind, but I remember the casket being lowered, and the first scoops of dirt being shoveled into the grave.

Losing Jerimiah changed my life more than I ever thought anything could. Death became a reality to me that I had never accepted and with that, I learned the importance of life and what you do with the time you have—however long or short that may be. I learned how important the legacy you leave behind is.

The following Sunday after we returned home to Missouri, I Googled Jerimiah’s name. It turned up 18 pages. I looked at every single one of them. On one such link, I found the blog of a man whose son was in Jerimiah’s unit, the 4th Recon. He mentioned how hard the unit had taken losing Jerimiah and in another post he provided a list of needs the young men of Jerimiah’s unit had.

At this same time, I was angered by people who asked, “What can I do for your family?” There was nothing they could do to make us feel any better and it made me angry that they thought something they could do would ease the pain of losing Jerimiah. Suddenly, I realized that even though I never told Jerimiah how proud I was of him, I wanted his unit to know how much we as Americans and as those who loved Jerimiah appreciate what they do every day. I put contact information on a web site and when people asked me what they could do for my family, I would give them the web site URL and tell them they could send a care package to Jerimiah’s unit. With that, Help 4th Recon was born.

Along this time, I realized that I wanted to do something to support our military. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the military, but particularly the Marine Corps, and I discovered Milblogs. It was of such great interest to me that I knew I wanted to do something with my life that would support our military. I decided that the best way to do this would be to go into politics. I thought I would support our troops that way. Finally, I realized I loved the military so much that I wanted to be a part of it.

After my bout with the Navy, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. Many people find it laughable that I would join any branch of the military, but particularly the Corps. My reasons are numerous, but I chose to join the military because I want to make the most of all of our Fallen Hero’s sacrifices. Jerimiah’s death changed my life, but there are so many more who have sacrificed everything. There are more than 2,000 now who have paid the ultimate price in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I will not sit by in the comfort of my home and allow their sacrifices to have been wastes. Each of these brave men and women died for the cause of Freedom and I intend to do my all to see that the freedom they gave their lives for lives on.

I am a different person than I was when I got up last April 4 to head to my track meet. I deal with much more bitterness, anger, and pain than I ever thought could effect me, but I also realize what is important in life. The people I love and the country I live in are more important to me now than the new Louis Vuitton purse I want. Serving my country is more important to me than that some girl in my class was talking crap about me. Remembering the sacrifices of our Fallen Heroes is far more important to me than catching the latest episode of Entertainment Tonight. I am ashamed to admit the person I used to be, but I am prouder than I can say that I am soon to be a UNITED STATES MARINE.

Thank You

I have been astounded at the attention drawn by my last post, Some Gave All. I had never shared on my blog, the full story behind why I joined the military or behind Jerimiah--all the things that affect me so much. I felt that the one year anniversary would be an appropriate time to share the more intimate details with my readers. I did not expect several thousand people to suddenly drop by.
Thank you to each and every one of you for caring. One of my greatest fears is that the world will forget about our Fallen Heroes--those who gave all so that we might be free. It means so much to know that there are still people out there who appreciate our brave soldiers' sacrifices, like Jerimiah's. I appreciate the comments and the many e-mails I've received; I am in the process of responding to each of the e-mails. All of your kind words were greatly appreciated--especially those who want to get involved with Help 4th Recon. :)

The "Career Killer" MOS

I have heard a lot of talk lately about recruiters and the recruitment process--not just with the Marine Corps, but with all branches. Having dealt with several recruiters in my time, I have seen first hand both bad recruiters and good recruiters.

When I first decided to join the military, I called the Air Force recruiter and left a message. He called me at work and I told him that really wasn't a good time for me to talk (in the lobby of the bank). I returned his phone call that evening at the appointed time. He had music blaring in the background, which I found somewhat unprofessional. He talked to me for only a minute, then informed me that, "You can try if you want to, but you're probably not going to get in because we just don't want women right now." That did not make me happy and I said, "Oh that's fine. I'll find someone who does want me," and terminated the conversation.

My experience with the Navy recruiter was a much more positive one, in spite of what I'm sure I put him through with my switching branches. Yes, he did get aggravated and once he pretty much hung up on me, but I'm sure I am sure I was quite an annoyance. I am not one to believe, "It can't be done." (My mother taught me from an early age that there's no such thing as "can't." :) At the risk of receiving a lot of condemnation for not being strong enough, I will say that the Navy recruiter held more than one minimum-of-one-hour conversations in which he would make me cry. He did not take my criticism of his superiors very well, but I believe that before it was over with, he knew I was right. My biggest thing with the Navy recruiter was that he basically tried to talk me out of joining any branch of the military and told me that if I insisted, I was an "Air Force person."

I have dealt with both my recruiter in the Marine Corps, a Staff Sergeant, as well as his superior, a Gunnery Sergeant. They both went out of their way for me, but as soon as I had signed my papers, they were quick to stop being so responsive. A big irritation I have with the SSGT is when I call and he says, "I'll call you right back," and never. calls. back. That irritates me. Once I didn't call him for two weeks, just to see if he noticed, and apparently he didn't. But honestly, even though we are required to report in, there's really no reason I need to talk to him most of the time. Although those little things do irritate me, I can't say there's anything major that is bad. I know that if I ever truly need something, both of the recruiters are there.

I've even talked to an Army recruiter. One called me when I was contemplating joining the Marine Corps, and in the process of getting out of the Navy. I have to say as recruiters go, I was the most impressed with him. (For the record, I have a friend who was all set for joining the Navy, then talked to this guy and is happily in the Army.) He asked me some questions and I told him that I wasn't interested in the Army, but I also wasn't closed to the idea. After hearing about my acceptance to The Citadel, he said, "Yes, I would do about anything to get you to join the Army, but it seems like you have enough decisions to make so I am not going to bother you any more. Here is my number if you choose the Army."

I have never had a recruiter tell me I will not go to Iraq. I have never had a recruiter tell me I am guaranteed to be safe. I have never had a recruiter tell me that boot camp was "easy." I have never had one promise me that it is all fun and games. My conclusion is this: Yes, there are bad recruiters, but most of the time the problem is that potential recruits have selective hearing.

I once had a mother ask me that her son's Marine Corps recruiter promised him that he would not go to Iraq with his MOS (Legal Services). I talked to the son. He confirmed that his recruiter had said that. After I put him through the third degree, he admitted that in reality, all his recruiter had said that with the MOS of Legal Services, he was less likely to go to Iraq than a grunt, and that if he went, he would be safer than for example, an MP. I think that many times this is the case. I am not saying recruiters do not lie, but I would say that most of the time it is a case of selective hearing.

The other day, a retired Soldier informed me that being a recruiter is the "Career Killer" MOS. No one wants to be a recruiter, she said, and those who do end up hating it. I have seen so much screwed up stuff in recruitment that I would actually like to be a recruiter for awhile, just to do things the right way.

My Navy recruiter informed me that he had learned a very important lesson after his experience with me. The lesson was this: For the Navy, never recruit someone who wants to be a Marine. Only let people in who want to be Sailors. If you aid people in "settling" for less than their dreams, it will only hurt everyone involved in some way. My Marine recruiter told me that his first recruit ended up being a disaster, and that now he has actually told people that he refuses to recruit them. While I seriously doubt that such refusals are the norm, I do understand where he is coming from. Some might say that this is what the Air Force recruiter did to me, but there is a difference in turning down people on drugs, versus turning down people on the basis of sex, race, etc. I heard that this Air Force recruiter was put out of recruiting because after talking to him, so many people refused to join the Air Force.

One of my teachers, her husband was a Navy recruiter in Chicago for awhile. He never saw one female go to boot camp. The recruitment process is quite complicated, and needs many many improvements, but I do not blame the recruiters for being the "liars" they are portrayed to be.

Dissent is Patriotic; Hating America is Not

A middle school in Colorado has crossed the line. Citing conflict over the immigration debate, Shaw Heights Middle School in Adams County, Colorado, has banned all wearing of patriotic attire.

Myla Shepherd, the principal, said that tensions over the immigration issue were apparent when more than 20 students came to school wearing camouflage jackets and pants, apparently to show what they call their patriotism and American pride.
I want to know how patriotic attire and American pride can cause conflict over immigration policies! I will save my immigration views for another post, but in my opinion, the wearing of patriotic attire to school is irrelevant to the immigration issue. To issue of war, on the other hand, it is very relevant.

One school even had the audacity to ban all flags.

In Longmont, the principal of Skyline High School banned all flags, including the American flag, because of tensions related to immigration reform.
If you ban the number one symbol that represents the United States of America—the American Flag, you ban everything America stands for.

I am known for matching. Yes, matching—my clothes, my purse, my shoes, my jewelry, my make-up. Everything always matches. It’s a pet peeve of mine. In spite of that, I wore a camouflage Support Our Troops wrist band every day until it broke. After that, I wore a silver bracelet with a yellow ribbon threaded through it, with an American flag charm and a yellow ribbon charm. I wore it every day until it broke. I haven’t replaced either of them, but people noticed and were amused that I wore them no matter what. It was a silent statement that people noticed. Even though it was mostly to laugh about that "There's only one thing that can make Holly not match," people understood that there was a very deep reason and meaning behind a simple bracelet.

Every Friday, I try to wear red. Several weeks ago, when we went home to Louisiana, about 15 of my family members were eating at one of our favorite seafood restaurants on a Friday night. All of us on one end of the table were a sea of red. People noticed and people asked why. (For those who are not familiar with Red Friday, see my post here.) On Red Fridays, it is a silent statement of “I support our troops and I care.” It touches my heart to know that people care and no doubt, it boosts the morale of our troops. I challenge you to wear red this Friday and every Friday!

To ban patriotic attire anywhere is against freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It would be different if these schools have uniforms, but they don’t. They simply banned the wearing of patriotic attire. This is wrong and should not be tolerated! To write to this school, the address is as follows:

Shaw Heights Middle School
Adams County School District 50
8780 Circle Dr.
Westminster, CO 80030

Here is a link to the story, along with a video. It is notable that the school says it is because of the immigration issue that patriotic attire has been banned, but the student interviewed in the video never once mentions immigration. She mentions supporting our troops, our military, and our country, and pride in being American. I agree with her words: “If we’re an American, I think we should be proud to be an American.”

More on Cin City

No, I have not forgotten Cindy Sheehan. I probably never will. I know this is long, but someone said it far better than I have yet. This is the best article I've ever read on the Cindy mania. Take a look:
Cindy Sheehan's mistakeBy Dennis Forslund

Cindy Sheehan, the lady from Vacaville, Calif., who lost a son in the Iraq war, is clueless. She camped out along the road by President Bush's Crawford, Texas, home in protest and/or to grieve her loss. There are other mothers and fathers who are also grieving.

In Baghdad, Pakistan or Afghanistan, a mother dressed in black robes watches as members of the jihad fasten a bomb to her teenage son. They tell him of his future as a hero of Islam. She cries as other women try to comfort her. This son is her pride and joy.

She sees the scared look on his face and the fear in his deep, dark eyes. Her son will die, she knows it, but as a woman in an Islamic country, she cannot stop it. She is powerless against the fanatical leaders of the jihad.

Islamic men with the same warped minds hijacked four American passenger jets full of fathers, mothers and children also went on a suicide mission, crashing those aircraft into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. For the most part, America was living in peace that Sept. 11, when our world exploded in flames. Fanatical Muslim jihadists who strap bombs to their own care nothing about fathers, mothers and little children in jetliners.

Cindy Sheehan blames President Bush for her son's death. Was he not of legal age when he signed and enlisted? It was his choice. He swore to defend his country and she probably approved. "His country." America. The foremost defender of democracy and freedom. Freedom of speech and liberty to worship. America. With our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. America. The envy of the world.

The men who booby trap their schoolboys in Iraq know nothing of civilization and democracy. Cindy Sheehan should know--and what the Dixie Chicks, Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streisand should be aware of--is that women have the biggest stake of all in this war.

If Cindy Sheehan wants to honor her son's memory and his heroic sacrifice, then she should quit her grandstanding and speak to the black-robed women in the Middle East. Tell them they have the power to save their children by becoming spies and secret agents. Report information to the coalition forces as to the whereabouts of stored weapons, of where the next explosive device is planted and of where vicious leaders like Abu al Zarqawi are hiding. If your husband is a jihad member, stop him, even if it is as he sleeps.

Turn your hatred of Arab males who started this mess into action and destroy radical leaders like Osama bin Laden. Stop this insane cult.

These women, unlike Cindy Sheehan, would have to be willing to die for their efforts and they probably would, for they live in the most male-dominated society in the world!

The real irony of this whole Cindy Sheehan story is that other family members disagree with her efforts. Her son's grandparents and other relatives have stated that she "appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation."

Her husband, Patrick Sheehan, disagrees with her, too. He is quoted as saying, "I know President Bush is sorry and feels some pain for our loss." "I know he's a man of faith." "I now know he is sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqi people."

That is freedom, Cindy. You can go on doing what you're doing, even though you and your husband disagree. You won't be beheaded in the town square of Vacaville! That's what soldiers like your son are dying for in Iraq.

Dennis Forslund lives in Fairbanks.

What makes a person a patriot?

AFW posted about her stat counter, and I had to jump on the bandwagon. It sounded fun, so I got one, too. She was right--that thing is addictive. It tells you who has been to your page, where they were referred from, etc. Tonight I got one that caused me to think. Someone had typed into a search engine, "What makes a person a patriot?" and my blog was brought up.

The question is worth an answer. I call my blog Politics of a Patriot, but what classifies a true patriot?

When I think of a patriot, I think of Mel Gibson's movie, The Patriot. I have seen this movie in full on one occasion, about a year ago. I tried to watch it recently, but I couldn't stomach it. I remember feeling like I was literally going to throw up and being frantic to turn the site off. In spite of me not being able to watch this, it shows a family of patriots--people who are willing to give thier very lives for their country.

I call my blog Politics of a Patriot. I chose this name because I love politics, and the patriot part, because I love my country.

I suppose it is possible for a person to be patriotic to any country, but it is America and a waving flag I think of when I think of the connotation of the word "patriotic."

Why do I call myself a patriot? I love my country. I love the United States of America. I don't think you have to be in the military to be a patriot and I don't think that if you are in the military it makes you a patriot.

All patriot aren't in the same party. (Alright, I will argue the point that there are no patriots in Nazi Party or Communist Party USA.) But a patriot can be a Democrat or a Republican--I can't believe I just said that--but they still have that one thing that ties them together.

Anyone can say they love America. Few people do.

The dictionary defines the word patriot as one who loves his country, and zealously supports its authority and interests.

I believe a patriot is willing to die for his or her country. A patriot loves freedom and wants to spread freedom, but they do not want to abuse that freedom.

A patriot isn't necessarily American born. I remember reading Michael Yon's column about all of the soldiers he had met who were fighting in the United States military, who are not even citizens of the United States. These are patriots and they're not even citizens yet. We could all learn from these heroic soldiers.

I hope that I live my life in a way that people would describe me as a "patriot." I cannot think of a better name to be called.

Other hits I've gotten from search engines include, but are not limited to:

Funny Monkeys
Overweight Soldiers
My head is here but my heart is somewhere else (Whaaat?)

To say that other referrals are inappropriate would be an extreme understatement.


Have I got a project for you! Well, technically it's not me, but there is a project I am so excited to participate in and anyone who is a blogger can participate, as well.

Today I found a link off of the Open Post at Mudville Gazette for Soldier's Angel, Holly Aho.

Project Valour-IT is a project of Soldier's Angels. It explains in the link how Project Valour-IT provides voice controlled lap tops and software for our wounded troops who are recovering from hand and arm injuries. It allows them to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, as well as their buddies on the field, without ever having to use their hands. As you can see, this is definitely a worthy cause.

Fuzzilicious Thinking explains how this will work.

From Fuzzilicious's posts, you can see that there was not going to be a team for the Marine Corps. Well, Holly Aho changed that and I'm so joining in! Originally, the idea was for since there are so few Marine bloggers, that the Navy and Marines would team up... As Fuzzilicious put it:
"However, I know that Marines specialize in doing the 'impossible,' and doing it with less. SO... if you want to put together a Marines-only team (plus supporters) and enter the competition that way, Go For It!"
So civilian Holly Aho is the team leader... Join us in "going for it!"

The project will begin November 2 and go until Veteran's Day, November 11. More details coming soon.