Friday, June 29, 2007

We Are At War

And these are little reminders of that fact.

We were just having a discussion at Blackfive not many days ago about "escalation of war". A telling point, that continues to be missed by the "peace at all cost" folks is that we are not the only ones who can escalate war.

Nor is the simplistic phrase, "Fight them there so we don't fight them here" interpreted exactly as it should be. I am sure that there will be many outraged cries, once again, that Iraq has created terrorists who are coming back to England, or Europe or the United States. Many will point out that this phrase is false. The problem is that this simplistic slogan does not lend to the reality.

We must fight them there because that is where terrorism has started (to wit, in the Middle East), where it is prevalent and where it must die in order for our nation and others to be safe. There is nothing we can "fight" here or do here that ends the Islamist Salafist ideology. Aside from capitulate to their demands and some how "change" our foreign policy. Other than that, there is no "fighting" them here, in the sense that they can be defeated on our shores.

But, we are at war. Which means that our land, our nation, can be and probably will be attacked again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

This is a "Did You Know?" Post

Did you know that the repelled an Iranian gunship a few weeks before they captured the British sailors?

Duty in the Desert has the scoop from an Aussie paper:

"What I've been told by several sources, military sources, (is that) there was a similar encounter, in this case between the Royal Australian Navy and Iranian gunboats, some months ago, or at least some months prior to the seizing of the British sailors," Gardner said on ABC radio today.

"The Australians escaped capture by climbing back on board the ship they'd just searched. I'm told that they set up their weapons.

"No shots were exchanged but the Iranians backed off and the Australians were able to get helicoptered off that ship and they didn't get captured."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Enemy and the Three Ds

Their Depravity

FORWARD OPERATING BASE THUNDER, Afghanistan - The story of a 6-year-old Afghan boy who says he thwarted an effort by Taliban militants to trick him into being a suicide bomber provoked tears and anger at a meeting of tribal leaders.

Their Danger

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Al-Qaida was looming increasingly large in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Monday: The al-Qaida-inspired kidnappers of a BBC journalist released their captive's anguished plea, while the terror network's deputy chief urged Muslims everywhere to back Hamas with weapons, money and attacks on Israeli and U.S. targets.

Their Destruction

BAGHDAD - A stealthy suicide bomber slipped into a busy Baghdad hotel Monday and blew himself up in the midst of a gathering of U.S.-allied tribal sheiks, undermining efforts to forge a front against the extremists of al-Qaida in Iraq. Four of the tribal chiefs were among the 13 victims, police said.

Coming soon to a town near you.

Pardon me, but we're in a Global War On International, Islamist, Terrorism. If you don't like it, complain to the head office somewhere in a crappy little village in Pakistan (if you can find it and keep your head).

Back to you're regular scheduled programming of the life and times of an idiot heiress.

Or, you can be like me and support the folks that are working hard to keep you safe.

Last Survivor of Original Iwo Jima Flag Raising Dies

Iwo Jima flag raiser Lindberg dies at 86

RICHFIELD, Minn. - Charles W. Lindberg, one of the U.S. Marines who raised the first American flag over Iwo Jima during World War II, has died. He was 86.[snip]

Lindberg spent decades explaining that it was his patrol, not the one captured in the famous Associated Press photograph by Joe Rosenthal, that raised the first flag as U.S. forces fought to take the Japanese island.

In the late morning of Feb. 23, 1945, Lindberg fired his flame-thrower into enemy pillboxes at the base of Mount Suribachi and then joined five other Marines fighting their way to the top. He was awarded the Silver Star for bravery.

"Two of our men found this big, long pipe there," he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2003. "We tied the flag to it, took it to the highest spot we could find and we raised it.

"Down below, the troops started to cheer, the ship's whistles went off, it was just something that you would never forget," he said. "It didn't last too long, because the enemy started coming out of the caves."

The moment was captured by Sgt. Lou Lowery, a photographer from the Marine Corps' Leatherneck magazine. It was the first time a foreign flag flew on Japanese soil, according to the book "Flags of Our Fathers," by James Bradley with Ron Powers. Bradley's father, Navy Corpsman John Bradley, was one of the men in the famous photo of the second flag-raising.

"We thought it would be a slaughterhouse up on Suribachi," Lindberg said in the book. "I still don't understand why we were not attacked."

Three of the men in the first raising never saw their photos. They were among the more than 6,800 U.S. servicemen killed in the five-week battle for the island.

By Lindberg's account, his commander ordered the first flag replaced and safeguarded because he worried someone would take it as a souvenir. Lindberg was back in combat when six men raised the second, larger flag about four hours later.

In related news, Iwo Jima Changes Name to Iwo To in bid to change image.

God receive him on his final journey. He was a great American who never let the dream die. Now we are on our own.

Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

No Bias? What's This Title Mean: High court signals rightward tilt

So the Supreme Court comes down on the side of free speech for citizens in campaigns and the AP calls it "rightward tilt".

Pardon me? Just because it was in regards to a Right To Life group who had their free speech trampled on, it is now "rightward tilt"?

Not biased my a$$.

If the title changes, I did save the original screen shot but can't figure out how to put it on here.

If you can't see it after this, you heard it here first.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kansas City Heart of America Summer 2007 Veterans' Stand Down

I went to my first "Veterans' Stand Down" sponsored by KC Veterans Affairs Administration. I learned many things about the care and services provided to our indigent and homeless veterans.

First, let say that I had incorrect/incomplete information regarding the place of the "stand down". I originally had information indicating it was at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. When I had called the VA volunteer services, I did not verify the location. They might have assumed I knew where it was. I was told to go to the volunteer tent at the front to sign in. So, naturally, I drove to the VA hospital and looked for the tent. I drove around several times and in the general area to find the tent and the other tents I assumed would be there. No dice.

I suppose I could have assumed that I had the wrong day or simply went home, but angels are never daunted by things like missing information or directions. So, I went to the hospital to "information" and told the young lady, "I think I'm in the wrong place". She helpfully directed me to the location at Truman and Troost in downtown Kansas City.

As I was leaving the hospital, I noticed a trike in the handicapped parking lot.

Since I am a motorcycle afficianado, I walked around looking at the skull motif and general design of the trike. That's when I noticed the license plate.

I whipped out a Soldiers' Angels card and wrote, "Thank you for serving" and placed it on the handle bars.

I finally arrived at the location and had to drive around a bit to find a parking space. The young lady at the VA hospital who gave me directions told me that I would know I was at the right place by the "long line of cars". She was right. If you are unfamiliar with the area, it is best described as "urban". I recalled an earlier conversation with the VA volunteer coordinator when I asked about the beginning and ending times for the event. She told me and then volunteered, without prompting, "Don't worry. We'll have most of our volunteers out before dark." At the time, I didn't make much of it.

Angels walk where others fear to tread.

I found the "Volunteer Registration Tent" and signed in. At this event, they did not ask for our Soldiers' Angels volunteer code though they did ask for the name of the organization I was with. As I was waiting, one of the veteran volunteers asked me if I rode a motorcycle. When I told him that I did, he laughed and said, "You can always tell. Soldiers and bikers stand the same way: at parade rest". I had to laugh at that one. I think someone has told me that before. Another volunteer asked what was on my shirt. I told her it was "Soldiers' Angels" and explained our mission. She said she was with the Patriot Guard Riders and we exchanged a few stories about missions we had participated in. The world is a small place.

I gave them each a card and thanked the veterans for serving our country.

I was given a name tag and directed to the clothing distribution area that was about to open up. Other services were being provided in the gym including assistance with taxes, legal issues and health screening. The Vietnam Veterans of America were one of the lead organizations for the stand down. One of the gentlemen explained to the news services there that they attempted to find placement for veterans with addiction, mental and physical health issues as well as the homeless through their screening.

The volunteer services coordinator at the VA had described the event as "organized chaos". That is the best description I would give it as well. As I walked through the area, I snapped a few pictures. Parks and recreation provided a stage and someone had organized a few singers with recorded back up. There were several more tents set up around the area for food and general protection from the sun. A veteran came by with a golf cart and offered me a ride up to my area. These golf carts ran all day picking up vets and volunteers to carry to the different areas.

Our area was in an enclosed basketball court. It had a control point and veterans were called by their registration group numbers to come in to the enclosure. This was to ensure that each veteran was able to receive some of each of the items being offered and to keep it safe overnight since it was going to be held again the next morning. There were long lines of veterans outside the enclosure and some were sitting under a canopy with chairs to keep out of the sun and heat.

When I walked into the enclosure and asked to be directed to someone who would assign me to a station, the gentleman at the front pointed me towards the "civilian clothes" section and said to ask "the lady in the hat". The "lady" was not actually "in charge" (organized chaos), but she did "take charge". Her name was Mary and she was from the AUSA (Association of the United States Army). I think she was an officer in her previous life. She gave me a basic rundown of the operations and what was needed in the civilian clothes section. I say "civilian clothes" section because I learned many things about a stand down.

The area was set up to walk each veteran around the perimeter to different areas providing clothing, shoes and toiletries. The first area was manned by approximately 30 volunteers from Price Waters Cooper (financial investors) wearing t-shirts saying "30,000 strong" (sound familiar? Army Strong). These volunteers were largely young people between the ages of 22 and 30 something.

The items at the front of the perimeter line were "government issue". Until this stand down, I had thought that veterans I saw on the street simply wore their own uniforms that they had retained after service. I was wrong. The reason you see veterans, who seem to have been long out of service, walking around with pieces of uniform on is because that is what the government/VA provides free at these events. Each veteran was given a "sea bag" (army issue, green ruck sack). One of the PCW volunteers would carry the bag for the veteran. They were allowed to select two pants and two shirts from the "uniform" section. These are outdated, left over uniforms from different eras including simple army green, dark green camouflage and desert BDUs (desert storm "chocolate chip").

A volunteer then carried the bag for them to the booth providing boots. Some of them were the black combat boots, but most of the boots provided were the older model "desert suede" boots. Don't be fooled by the lack of veterans being served in these pictures. I couldn't snap them until there was a "lull" in the waves of people that included, not only veterans, but veterans' dependents. For the most part, it was veterans from the Korean and Vietnam era with a few from the last two decades.

The day was extremely hot and muggy. I came prepared with a 1/2 gallon of water in a thermos. That was not enough. As they say in Iraq and Afghanistan, "drink lots of water boys and girls". Fortunately, some other folks had brought big cannisters of water and were willing to share. The VA had provided water as well, but it was quite a distance from my post and I did not want to leave because we were very busy. We provided clothes of different style, size and condition. We sorted out the clothes that had holes or stains as best as possible and tossed them in the "grab bag". Some winter coats and jackets were hung on the fence.

As the veterans were assisted to our area, I asked for their sizes and directed them to the appropriate tables. Some didn't know or were wearing clothes that were too big. These I did a best estimate and helped them search through the clothing. A few asked for specific items like jeans, khakis or, in the case of one lady veteran, asked for some shirts in blue. She had brown and green, but no blue to go with her jeans. I would guess she was a Vietnam era veteran from her hat. She was wearing camouflage pants and black combat boots with a tank top which I perceived she received at a previous stand down (Yes, women Veterans can be homeless or indigent, too).

The veterans were all friendly and some were talkative. I saw an older gentleman with a prosthetic arm who also walked with a cane. He kept telling the young man carrying his bag he could set down at the beginning of our tables and he would walk back with the things since the bag was fairly packed. The young man said he would be happy to carry the bag for him, it was the least he could do. I heard this line of conversation over and over again. I have to say, I was very impressed by these volunteers. It made me proud to be there with them.

We served over 500 veterans that day. Those young volunteers took turns manning the clothing booths and lugging ruck sacks in the heat and sun. After the vets left our section, they were directed to the final area where they were given toiletries and new underwear, t-shirts and socks.

During a lull in traffic, I spoke with Mary from the AUSA. She told me about her organization and I told her about Soldiers' Angels. Her sons principal was wounded last year in Iraq. He lost both his legs and had severe damage to his arm. I told her that we provide First Response Back Packs for the wounded at CSH (cash) units in theater, at Landstuhl and Military Medical Centers in the United States, explaining their purpose. The Stand Down was a first for both of us, although, you would never have guessed it by her organization and direction of our section. We shook hands when she left as the event wound down and she thanked our organization for supporting our troops. She said she was very glad to have worked with me that day and I reciprocated. I gave her one of our cards, thanked her for her service and said we would be happy to work with their organization to provide services.

The Stand Down Provided breakfast, lunch and dinner for the veterans and volunteers. Due to my being lost, I missed lunch and didn't want to waste anymore time looking for a fast food restaurant, so I held out until dinner. I'm not complaining. It was the least I could do considering the condition of most of the veterans we served. We had burgers, hot dogs, chips, fruit cocktail and water. I stood in line with a number of vets and volunteers who chatted amiably while we waited. I wasn't the only one who learned something new. A couple of volunteers in line were talking about their conversations with vets. One of the ladies offered that the Vet she was talking to said he was the part of the "first in". She asked him if he was a "Green Beret". I guess he told her, "No ma'am. I was a Marine."

The entire experience was a mix of sad and impressive. The event ran for three days. I would estimate about 1500 veterans would be seen. According to one of the VVA leads, that was barely a tenth of all homeless and indigent vets in the area. Kansas City has over 600,000 veterans. The area we were in was obviously chosen based on the demographics and most need.

From my observations (limited to the clothing area), the things most needed were good quality civilian clothing and shoes. Largely mens pants between the sizes of 30 and 38. Womens pants between sizes 4 and 12. Most popular were jeans for their durability. Pajamas and robes went like hot cakes. We had one robe left only half way through the day. Women's underwear were also scarce between the sizes of 4 and 6. There were plenty of women's shirts and mens, though, "medium" in mens was also scarce or were too badly worn to be handed out. Men's and women's shoes between the sizes of 6 and 12.

Those are the basics. I am going to collect more information on how and when these items are collected including where to send them. I am thinking that people would be better served to drop their used items at a VA collection point then simply dumping them at the nearest Salvation Army or Goodwill Store. While those are worthy causes, I have been told that these items are often disposed of because the store cannot store the amount they collect or they become ruined in storage before they can be put out for sale.

Stand by for information on collection and distribution.

If you are an angel, I encourage you to get involved. Find out where your local VA is and volunteer. Find out when they have an upcoming Stand Down. I am assuming at this point that every area has a stand down at some time of the year. Some may have more than one through out the year. I think, in order to understand the true needs of veterans, it is important to become involved. Beyond that, I only spent six hours out of my life at this event. Excuse me if I sound melodramatic, but it did change my attitude considerably regarding veterans affairs, if not "life altering". There are people that do this every day, all day long. Still, we have a much pressing need.

Angels should not be daunted by the task at hand. We have several huge advantages if we are able organize and take advantage of them. We are between 50,000 and 90,000 "strong" depending on active members. We have connectivity through forums and associated organizations. We already know how to collect, buy at discount and find ways to deliver massive amounts of goods and services.

The only thing we need to do is to decide that we will do it.

Angels know how to light the way.

- May no soldier go unloved

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Funny Little Story From the VA Stand Down: When You Feel Really Old

I got hit on by a 13 year old boy at the VA stand down. If I hadn't felt so damn old and so damn tired and sweaty right that moment, I might have been more amused and gratified to know I still "got it". LOL

His dad had dropped him off to do community service. He is preparing early for college. I was impressed when he told me he already had 300 hours logged (that's three gold presidential awards for people 14 and under). We chatted a little bit to pass the time between the waves of people. He asked me if I was married. He asked me if I had a boyfriend. A little while later, out of the blue, he asked me if I had every been kissed before (that was a little cute). I laughed, "yes, once or twice". He said, "What's it like?". And I am supposed to say WHAT exactly to some kid I never met before? I said, "Well, it was nice". Then we went back to work.

A little later, at quitting time, he was going to walk up front to wait for his dad to pick him up. I have to tell you that this stand down was in a bad part of Kansas City. The parts of the city you hear on the news at night. So, I decided that I should walk him to the front and stay there until his dad came to get him. (Frankly, I was a little shocked his dad had just dropped him off on the way to work without adult supervision. Maybe I am getting old and cynical, but even with all these volunteers and security around, it didn't seem like a good idea).

So, we are sitting out front under a tree. I was being a bad example smoking a cigarette. He starts to lecture me about giving them up (that was funny, too). He says, "You should just throw them away." Kids. I asked him what he was doing community service for. He said, "College. My dad wants me to." He asked why I was volunteering. I told him, "To serve those who have served us." A few more minutes of silence go by and, out of the blue, he turns to me and says, "Can I kiss you?"

I just about spit out my water!!! LOL

I said, "Nope." He said, "Okay. I just thought I'd ask." Wow was it hard not to laugh. I was thinking the kid must be desperate for his first kiss because I was hot, sweaty, hair falling out of my pony tail and, frankly, felt like road kill. Definitely not the catch of the season. Not to mention, during some earlier conversation he asked how old I was and when I said, "XX". He was like, "Wow. You're older." He was too young for me to give him tips about how to impress a woman.

His dad finally shows up. We chat for a few seconds and his dad asked me, "So, how was he today? I wanted him to volunteer so he could learn to be more outgoing and talk with people." LOL Well, I was hard pressed not to tell him how NOT outgoing his boy was. I just told him that he did okay. He thanked me for watching out for his son and they drove off.

And that was my funny little story of the day. The rest of the day was kind of mixed sad and inspiring. Price Waters Cooper had about 30 people volunteering (they all had t-shirts: 30,000 strong). The number of people who volunteered was impressive. The number of vets we served and their conditions was extremely heart wrenching.

I'll have more on that and what I learned while I was there later this weekend.

Please donate to Soldiers' Angels. We have a lot of work to do.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Everybody Wants to Revise History

Japan changes name of Iwo Jima

TOKYO - Japan has returned to using the prewar name for the island of Iwo Jima — site of one of World War II's most horrific battles — at the urging of its original inhabitants, who want to reclaim an identity they say has been hijacked by high-profile movies like Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima."

The new name, Iwo To, was adopted Monday by the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute in consultation with Japan's coast guard.

Surviving islanders evacuated during the war praised the move, but others said it cheapens the memory of a brutal campaign that today is inextricably linked to the words Iwo Jima.

Excuse me? Hijacked?

Uh, that is their only claim to fame isn't it? How is that "hijacking" the island? Not to mention there are probably few of the original inhabitants remaining. I guess the new generation doesn't want to be tainted.

Everybody wants to revise history. Nobody wants to remember that they had to kill and be killed by the hundreds of thousands in order to learn a hard lesson everyone thinks gets fixed by "talking" these days.

Destined to repeat history.

Geeks in Arms: Zigguret Convention

Operation Dice Drop

Greetings All,

Well, Ziggurat Convention 2007 is finally over.

First, I really want to thank those who were so supportive of this convention. From Wizards of the Coast whose employees contributed approximately $15,000.00 worth of products, to the Junior High School Student who donated the one thing he could afford - a brand new set of dice. No matter how big or small the donation, we offer a huge thank you to all who contributed to this event. We are honored, and humbled by your generosity. Boxes of left over gaming materials will be shipped to MWR Centers throughout Iraq with supplies for the troops to use.

Read the rest:
Operation Dice Drop

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Volunteering

One reason that I joined Soldiers' Angels is because it allowed me to become personally involved in supporting our military. I've been a member for two years (appx) and, at first, it was enough to quietly do what I wanted and needed to do, support our military. It was not about recognition for efforts made. For the most part, it was enough to get the replies from those I have served and the general feeling of satisfaction for having done my part in supporting our nation in a time of war.

The reason I started participating more fully in fund raisers and the public events was because I wanted to do more for our troops, but was not financially capable of personally doing more. Yet, I would read in the forums the alerts and the stories of those who had no support and my heart would ache because I could only read and wonder if they were being cared for or receiving anything from home, letting them know that there was someone who believed in and supported them. Then there are the Vets in the VA that I have known for a long time were not getting the kind of assistance they need. As a nation, we often feel like we make a law, create a branch of the government to take care of our people and then we go on, largely forgetting, imagining that we have done what it takes to provide for those who have served us in the past. Then we are shocked to find that it is not so and we wonder why.

What then is our responsibility? What is my responsibility?

Then I recalled the many days sitting around my grandmother's kitchen table, drinking iced tea and listening to her and my grandfather tell stories about their youth during World War II. My grandfather had joined the Navy at the age of 17 and a year later was at the battle for Okinawa. He wanted to join at 16, but his parents wouldn't let him. When he turned 17, he told them he was going to go one way or the other, so they signed the papers for him to enter service. My grandmother talked about volunteering as a candy striper at a local hospital, wrapping bandages, the civil defense efforts, victory gardens and many other events: volunteering.

It struck me that I had been overlooking the most important part of volunteering and support. It isn't about the money, or more specifically, my money. It was about my time and what I was willing to do. The inspiration had been with me all along. I remembered that the reason my grandparents' generation was the "greatest generation" was because they harnessed the power of our nation. Not just the industrial power, but the power of the people when they are inspired to work towards a greater goal.

In my previous efforts in fund raising and collecting donations to provide for our troops, I met many people who wanted to help, but they didn't know how or where to begin. Most were very happy to have an opportunity to do so. What they lacked was inspiration and information. People are excited to find out that there is a way in their community to give back to those who give everything. I realized that, while our men and women in the military need to hear from us that we support them, our communities needed to know that there was a way to do it. Right here in their own backyard.

Right now, as I write this, our troops are in a big fight in both Afghanistan and Iraq. They volunteer, not because it is compulsory as many nations still require, but because they believe in something greater than themselves. They want to be part of something greater and they believe that they share a duty, a responsibility and even an honor to defend and protect their country, its beliefs and, most importantly, the people.

They come from our community. They are people that we know. Sometimes, until they leave us, we don't know that they are serving our nation. Mainly because it is simply what they do and they are not ones to publicize that anymore than we announce to the world in general what we do.

For me, and I hope for you, what they do is important, inspiring and honorable. It is unbelievable the sacrifices that these men and women make for our country, for you and for me. I know that there are far flung bases in many places that are nothing but a few huts, some tents, some sand and a flag pole. They aren't all living it up in Saddam's palaces or downtown Kandahar. I know there are places where our men and women are washing out of a bucket and brushing their teeth with bottled water because there is no running water. Toilets are "latrines" like we've seen in many a movie: a hut with a hole. They get mail and supplies once a month. There is no store or PX around the corner to run and get deodorant or toilet paper or something to eat when the dining facility has closed down for the day before they could return from an eight hour mission that turned into sixteen.

They are living and sometimes dying just as it has always been in war, just as our parents and grandparents did in the wars we all know from history: in conditions most of us could never relate to even on our worst camping trip. Add to that the long separation from family and friends and the very real possibility of being wounded or dying and you find that there is something more to it than people looking for a job or college tuition. It becomes the very thing that our founders believed in and fought for so long ago. It is "WE THE PEOPLE", our people, "providing for the common defense" of our nation. It becomes the noble act of sacrifice that not every generation has been called to. It becomes the very spirit of our nation from its inception: the struggle of Man against the elements, against all odds, to remain free.

I am living here free because of the generations that have come before and paid the price for me. I am living here without fear because I know that men and women stand watch somewhere for me. I am living here without want because they protect our borders, our seas and all the places from whence the very food, clothing, fuel and technology I use every day is purchased and delivered. I have witnessed the birth of democracy, the freedom of nations and people around the world. It is free nations and the spread of freedom that insures a future, maybe somewhere distant, where the best of Man is celebrated and brings the full potential of man to the fore. Even the potential someday to explore the very depths of the ocean and the heights of heaven.

I have all of these things, the freedom from want and fear, the freedom to worship. the freedom to dream and the freedom to live because I was born in a place and time where others still believe it is their duty, responsibility and even honor to insure it continues.

I had to ask myself recently if I was doing enough to "earn it". Not just for me, but, as my grandparents and parents had done: earn it for my family and future generations of my family and Americans. Because, that is why we exist in such prosperity and freedom today. That is why the United States continues on for generations. Because some one paid for it in advance.

The answer for me was, "Not yet." Maybe never, but the important thing is that I am going to do my best to honor that sacrifice and pay it forward.

It is not just about "duty" or "responsibility". There is a great feeling of satisfaction and honor in serving those that defend us. In essence, it is serving our nation. There is a great joy in knowing that I have made a difference. There is a great feeling of humility, knowing that I have done so little and enjoy so much including and often the gratitude of those that I serve.

I now know why my grandparents volunteered and served our nation in whatever capacity they were able. THEY didn't do it just because it was a duty or responsibility. They did it because they were part of something bigger. They did it because there was joy in the giving. It made them better people. It made them the people that I remember who always helped others and gave to their community in small ways and large. It was the reason that they were the "greatest generation".

I want to share that with others. I want people to know that there is something beyond the mundane, something bigger that we can be a part of. I want to share the joy and the honor of serving our troops with my community. I want to share it with you. I want you to be part of my community. I want you to share it with others in your community.

Go out and talk to your local Commerce association, to your stores, to your local fire departments, your police stations, your city councils, your church organizations and every place that you can think of to tell them about the need to support our troops. Tell them about Soldiers' Angels. Volunteer at the local VA hospital. Go to or organize meetings with community Angels to plan projects in your community or just share the joy of serving others. After you make that first, small effort, I guarantee that, not only will the next be easier, but the sheer soul uplifting experience will make you want to do it again.

Today, in places near and far, someone is standing in harms way earning it for you. Don't have to ask yourself tomorrow, "Did I earn it?"

In memory of Leroy and Mary Henry, members of the Greatest Generation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Supporting Our Troops: More Than a Bumper Sticker

Well, I've been very, very busy as I noted previously, supporting our troops and it doesn't look like it is going to settle down anytime soon.

If you want to know the schedule and are wondering what you can do to support our troops, check out Kansas City Soldiers' Angels scheduled events and fund raisers.

If you are from the area, we'd love to see you there.

It's more than a bumper sticker. More than words on a blog.

It means something to our men and women. I know, because I get their letters and I get their emails and I have seen their smiles at these events.

I am always trying to thank them, but they always humble me with their gratitude for the simplest things.

God bless them and keep them safe.

Wednesday Heroes

Lance Cpl. Hatak Yuka Keyu M. Yearby
Lance Cpl. Hatak Yuka Keyu M. Yearby
21 years old from Overbrook, Oklahoma
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force
May 14, 2006

Hatak Yuka Keyu Martin Yearby was remembered in funeral services as a small town boy who balanced his Choctaw tribal heritage and his military life.

He did traditional American Indian dances with grace, compassion, discipline and free spirit — "the way he lived his life," the Rev. Timm Emmons said Monday.

"He had a desire to be in the military since he was a young boy. And he believed in what he was doing. He was a warrior, and he was a hero and he finished the course."

Yearby was killed by a roadside bomb, along with fellow Lance Cpl. Jose S. MarinDominguez Jr., in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, two months after he arrived in that country.

Friends and family, fellow American Indians, teachers and classmates filed past his open casket for an hour after the funeral while a U.S. Marine Corps honor guard stood at attention.

About 1,000 people attended a funeral service meant to celebrate the life of the 21-year-old newlywed from Overbrook in southern Oklahoma’s Love County.

Those who spoke in the packed Marietta High School auditorium talked of how he loved to hunt, but never came back with anything. He played tricks, won dancing awards at powwows and appeared on a recruiting magazine for Upward Bound because of a headdress he made from a T-shirt.

Nine of his friends stood on stage to remember Yearby. Jake Barber spoke for them, pausing several times to regain his composure.

"Many great words describe Hatak. The only real word you need to say is 'brother'. He will always be known to us as the ace of spades, the most important card in the deck. He touched us so dearly that words cannot explain,".

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. To find out more about Wednesday Hero, you can go here.

I think I mentioned these gentlemen before, but I wanted to point out that three of the four men who received Distinguished Flying Crosses for their actions in Iraq are from MISSOURI!

Honoring Marine Cpl Valdez

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (June 1, 2007) – (June 18, 2007) -- A 15-minute drive through Fallujah, Iraq, on June 23, 2005, turned into one of the worst days in history for female U.S. Marines. A suicide bomber drove his car into a convoy, causing a massive explosion that killed three women and three men and severely burnt seven other women.

Valdez was part of a group of women who had volunteered to man entry points to Fallujah in 2005 to search women and children in order to comply with Iraqi customs regarding the protection of women from unknown men. While there are often commentary that derides such attention to local customs during a war, their efforts were part of the program that allowed the marines to win over the people of Fallujah. These efforts have made Fallujah much more calm compared to the past and other areas around Baghdad. This even contributed to the larger efforts that eventually led to the Anbar Awakening that has largely pacified western Iraq.

Still, Cpl Valdez was much more personally responsible for the success of the marines in battling IEDs, the weapon most responsible for deaths and injuries of our troops in Iraq:

Valdez, a Purple Heart Medal recipient, was an invaluable member of the 2nd Marine Division Communication Operations Section during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Valdez’s most significant work was with Division’s Counter Improvised Explosive Device Working Group. The success of the tests conducted by CIEDWG was in a large part attributed to Valdez’s knowledge of single-channel radios.

The impact Valdez made in her field was a driving force behind the dedication of a top communications training facility.

The communication facility was dedicated with her mother Elida Valdez present. A plaque with her picture graces the wall.

“We have not traveled these long distances to honor a building,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Sylvain, the communications information systems chief for Marine Forces Reserve. “We pay tribute to not only Corporal Valdez but what she represents. She’s a perfect selection to not only represent the communications community but the (noncommissioned officer) corps.”

Before the ceremony concluded, the crowd witnessed the first Radio Operators Course class graduation from the newly-named Valdez Training Facility.

Reflections on service and sacrifice

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (June 18, 2007) -- Friends, families, fellow Marines and sailors gathered to honor the service, commitment and friendship of fallen brothers of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, May 25, who were killed in action while conducting combat operations in Iraq.

The battalion suffered a loss of 11 Marines and one Navy corpsman while fighting the violent insurgency throughout Ramadi, Iraq, on an extended nine-month tour from 2006-2007.

“They are brothers in a way few can truly understand,” Jurney said. “The nature of our shared hardships creates a special bond between our Marines and sailors like no other. I know each of these men shared that special bond and brotherhood with all these men here today.”

The young men of the battalion entered the extremely dangerous city of Ramadi where there were 70-80 firefights a week, according to Jurney.

“Their courage, bravery, commitment and selfless acts were simply amazing,” Jurney said.

By the time they were leaving Ramadi, there was barely one firefight a month to account for. Families and businesses felt safer and were returning to the city because these service members were leaving it in a better state.

“These young men and all those that stand before you made a difference,” Jurney said. “What they did mattered.”

One of these Marines was Lance Cpl Michael Sanchez:

Lance Cpl. Michael A. Schwarz was remembered as a Marine that was not afraid to take the lead. “With all due respect Corporal, you’re married and you’re not going anywhere first,” was what Schwarz told another Marine in a time of danger. That’s the kind of Marine he was, a friend said.

Matt Sanchez in Iraq says: There are no whiners here.

Michael Yon makes his final report from the British Area of Operations: Death Or Glory Part IV

Task Force Grizzly Year in Review

Operation Medusa

Without hesitation Williams declares his favorite mission was Operation Medusa, a 22-day operation for which his Soldiers had six hours notice to prepare – a mission to take an objective their coalition counterparts found they weren’t able to accomplish alone.

“NATO had just taken over operations in RC-South,” Williams recalled. “It was the first NATO fight as an operation force in theater. The Canadians tried to do it without U.S. support because they wanted to be able to say, ‘We can do this on our own.’” But they couldn’t, he said.

“They couldn’t cross the river; there were just too many Taliban in the area. So they came to us to develop our task force and to deploy out there and have a Canadian company, an Afghan battalion and our guys, and it was to fence the enemy in,” Williams said.

“With six hours notice we produced the order, rolled our task force out there. We had a convoy that was about 50 vehicles and we moved in there, secured Panjwayi and one side of the ridge, and were able to keep the Taliban fixed for a few days. Then we called in and said ‘Hey, we see a hole, we think we can cross.’ and they let us,” said Williams.

What came next was like a scene taken from any heroic wartime movie. “We crossed under fire, used smoke, CAS (Close Air Support), engaged in direct enemy fire, but we got the guys across, seized the area and the next day took an objective that nobody else could take. All summer, they couldn’t take it, so we did. We took it, under fire, fighting through trench lines and compounds,” Williams said. The success of Operation Medusa helped secure Panjway and Pashmul.

Speaking of heroes, our men are in a huge fight in both Afghanistan and Iraq, battling Al Qaida elements on both fronts.

Let us pray for them and keep them in our thoughts.

Finally, I there are some heroes who are in uniform here, who work hard to save lives and sometimes give them:

The Nine: They rescued two warehouse workers from the roof and then they gave their lives to finish putting out the fire.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Soldiers' Angels Day at the K- Military Appreciation Day

Saturday, June 16, 2007 was "Military Appreciation Day" at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. Soldiers' Angels, the Patriot Guard and the American Legion Riders were on hand to show how we support the troops!

It was hot and muggy. We started off meeting at the American Legion Post 370 in Overland Park, Kansas. We went to a secondary staging area at the old Bannister Mall where we re-grouped and everyone had a few minutes to admire the motorcycles. The ride captain for the Patriot Guards gave everyone last minute instructions. In particular, STAY OFF THE GRASS!

Everyone jumped on the bikes and into their cars. Then our caravan was on the way. I took the opportunity to shoot some video (of course). We had close to 40 bikes and appx 8-10 cars. A welcome home mission was happening that morning and many joined us later at the K.

We made quite a spectacle going down the highway with all the flags flying. We were stationed in parking lot K behind the stadium in order to access the entrance for the opening event. Soldiers' Angels walked through the parking lots throughout the stadium, handing out cards and showing appreciation to our military men and women in attendance. It was fantastic fun and great comradeship among our organizations and troop supporters.

A naval reserve component was tasked with walking on to the field with the flags of all fifty states. They organized near our area and came over to admire the bikes before sorting out the order of marching. As noted, it was extremely hot and muggy. After formation was sorted out, we offered water to some of the reserve folks who looked very warm in their uniforms. Soon, in the spirit of Soldiers' Angels around the world, the word spread that we had water and we were handing it out faster than we could get it in the cooler to every enlisted or officer that we could find. Eventually, we were down to nothing but ice and some plastic cups. We gave that away, too!

Many of those who came by for water offered to pay for it. Of course, we told them, "No Way! We're Soldiers' Angels and WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!" We did give them our website and told them that they should log on, sign up or, if they felt really pressed to thank us for the water, donate directly to the Angels so that we can continue supporting their deployed brethern.

We then had another briefing before lining up to go into the stadium. Angels walked on carrying American flags, followed closely by the Patriot Guard Riders who made the stadium ROCK! when they opened their throttles in the tunnel to the outfield. The crowd went crazy!

While we were waiting for the Young Marines from Belton, Missouri to bring out the giant flag, some Florida Marlins came out of the bullpen to admire the bikes. The Young Marines had the flag in place and the announcer presented the field to the audience. Over 24,000 people heard about Soldiers' Angels and the Patriot Guards, applause for the troops could be heard for miles. We stood proud for the Angels and for our troops!

An Army Reserve band from Lawrence, Kansas played the National Anthem. As the band played, "O'er the land of the free...", the Patriot Guard Riders opened up their throttles again, the roar of the pipes echoed through the stadium. As the band played, "And the home of the brave" the roaring bikes merged with the thunder of Marine jets as they hit the afterburners and passed overhead. And the crowd went wild again!

It was an awesome event. If you enjoyed the pictures, watch the video at the bottom of this post.

If you are a Kansas City area Angel and would like to participate in these events, watch out for announcements at this site or read our monthly newsletter. You can also email Kansas City Soldiers' Angels at for information on upcoming events or if you would like to organize a local event.

If you're not a part of Soldiers' Angels yet, what are you waiting for?! Join Soldiers' Angels and let our men and women know that WE SUPPORT THE TROOPS!

- May no soldier go unloved

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tell It To the Marines!!!

Blackfive has a post up about Marine RCT 6 (Regimental Combat Team). They can see our news and they can hear people speak (those who the media deem "news worthy") and they are wondering if they have support.

We are going to tell them they are supported by sending them an email for every one of the six thousand marines in RCT 6.

How can we do that? RCT 6 set up an email just for this project. Send an email of support to: Marine RCT-6

They have a blog and it is good. The Fighting 6th

Newly Minted Hero

Fill the box.

If you support our troops, TELL IT TO THE MARINES!

- May no soldier go unloved

Friday, June 15, 2007

Reid: Pace failed on Iraq war assessment

Reid: Pace failed on Iraq war assessment

You know, the only way Reid and his ilk would be happy with the Generals and not accuse them of playing politics is if they stood on Capitol Hill, declared Iraq a loss and requested orders to retreat.

But, he knows these guys are easy marks because they are in the military and they are not supposed to make political comments that would place them in one party or the other. That includes defending themselves against such insinuations that some how still make them out to be political activists in uniform.

I think that's just about as low as you can get as a politician. That and letting your girlfriend drown in your car. Or getting your jollies in the oval office with your intern while you let your wife run the government. Or, taking bribes and freezing it in your kitchen. Or any number of other not so good things while you accuse the opposition of the same.

I guess, if you're Reid, you don't have much more to lose in terms of any integrity or standing. Guess he won't be running for president. Hate to see what his military advisors would look or sound like.

Many Veterans Of Wars In Iraq, Afghanistan Lack Access To Mental Health Treatment

Many Veterans Of Wars In Iraq, Afghanistan Lack Access To Mental Health Treatment

Soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "are finding it more difficult" to receive mental health treatment because therapists say reimbursement rates for care are too low, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. According to the AP/Daily Star, about one-third of the 9.1 million people covered under the military health care system, called Tricare, seek mental health counseling in their first year after returning from war.

Wait lists for care "now extend for months to see a military doctor, and it can take weeks to find a private therapist" willing to treat members of the military, the AP/Daily Star reports. "The challenge appears great in rural areas, where many National Guard and Reserve troops and their families live," according to the AP/Daily Star.

This is no bull. During a local Soldiers' Angels event with American Legion Post 370 Riders, I was speaking with the girlfriend of a recently returned Iraq vet (within the last year). He was in Topeka at an "in patient" treatment program. One of the major problems was that the VA only had two PTSD support programs available: one in Kansas City and one in Topeka. Leavenworth, where they lived near, did not have such a program. The waiting list for these programs was almost a year. Needless to say, this vet did not have a year to 'wait'. He wanted to get straight NOW. Unfortunately, that took a lot of work and ended with this vet going to Topeka, almost over an hour away from where he lived and his natural support group of family, friends and organizations he belonged to like the ALR.

He was a member of the Kansas National Guard. Private psychiatrists or other groups were not available to him or were too costly under his Tricare benefits which did not last past 6 months (as most would be aware is a problem when we previously talked about veterans medicine).

In related news, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Friday said that he supports legislation that would provide new compensation benefits and bonus incentives for military personnel, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Nelson, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, said that the military health care system has been overwhelmed by "too many patients, too few doctors and too few facilities." In addition, he said that long waiting periods for care, fewer options and burdensome travel requirements have further complicated the system. Nelson said that he will push for more resources, incentives to recruit and retain military personnel and better coordination to assure timely care, the Journal Star reports.

He also said that his subcommittee is developing "wounded warrior" legislation that would strengthen the veterans' health system. Nelson said that he has added $3.5 billion to the Veterans Administration budget recommended by President Bush to achieve his goal of improved services.

He said, "Help is on the way," adding, "Paying more and waiting longer for less care represents a breach of faith with our veterans." Nelson on Saturday outlined his plan during speeches to the Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion (Walton, Lincoln Journal Star, 6/8).

Now that's a Democrat plan I can get with.

A Failure To Protect Our Troops

This has been a source of discussion around the internet on milblog sites.

This editorial, A Failure to Protect Our Troops, talks about the "lack of funding" for the new MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles).

The Bush administration and military leaders in Washington are always claiming that they will do anything to support American troops fighting in Iraq. That makes it all the more infuriating to learn that, for more than two years, the Pentagon largely ignored urgent requests from field commanders for better armor-protected vehicles that could have saved untold lives and limbs.

I think the key phrase is "largely ignored". As many a logistics/procurement grunt will tell you, just because you request it, doesn't mean that you get it or that it is the best or that there is money or that something else is being looked at that might be better.

If I am correct in the history of this "procurement", there were real questions about whether this machine was just "so, so" better or a drastic improvement. Also, that the Marines may not have asked for it until after the budget had been put in (mind you, budgets for defense are like corporate budgets; usually created well in advance of the next fiscal year). Finally, there was additional testing requested. In case you think that is a bunch of BS, I think some folks who "know", "know" that the marines were getting blown up by gigantic IEDs and EFPs (exploding formed projectiles) that don't really give a hoot how much armor you have, it penetrates and bounces around, taking out things and people.

From my understanding, the Marines weren't 100% sure they wanted to invest in something that wasn't much improvement over current modes of transportation and, by definition, marines largely patrol on foot. finally, there must be a question of speed along with survivability.

All of these things come into question when making the decisions.

Now, the editorial does make a point about wart time operations that my youngest brother (anti-Iraq war guy he is) has wondered out loud about and we have to: failure to motivate the nation and place industry on a war time footing to produce necessary items and quantity to support our troops when things are deemed needed. One may wonder why, in war, special items are not immediately funded through discretionary funds or a separate appropriations bill.

My guess would be that nobody wants to have things picked apart or be forced to make or beg for votes on an "ad hoc" basis for equipment. Might look bad, etc.

Let's hope that our troops aren't being sacrificed for "face" or because the Democrat congress would argue things or possibly deny things for the sake of political grand standing.

One could ask the writer of this editorial why the Democrat held and run committees such as Armed Services, etc haven't made a finding, created a bill, voted it in and requested the president sign it for this very issue of making it funded and the law.

That is the duty of congress after all.,

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flag Day: O'er the Land of the Free

Oh, Say Can You See...

Not long ago, like many Americans, I used to see the flag and not feel anything. More precisely, I barely recognized that it was there. It was simply some red, white and blue material hanging on a flag pole at the post office, the bank or outside a house. During parades or special events, I would place my hand over my heart, say the pledge of allegiance and sing the national anthem. I did these things because that is what I was supposed to do, not because I felt like I should or because I believed it meant anything beyond a perfunctory nod to ceremony and tradition.

Over the Ramparts We Watched...

Like many Americans, I experienced an epiphany on a bright Tuesday morning in early September 2001. It was beautiful out, I was late for work and trying to figure out a way to play hookie from the office when I turned on the TV and saw the great tragedy of our times. As I watched, I went through an entire roll of emotions: numb, confused, anxious, sad, angry. Over and over again until I was washed out. Finally, I felt the great swell of pride as "over the ramparts we watched" our flag rose above the ashes, smoke and ruins of the WTC and the Pentagon.

It was at that moment that I finally realized what Francis Scott Key must have felt when he penned his famous poem, standing on the deck of a ship in the harbor, seeing the flag over Ft McHenry still waving in "the dawn's early light" after a night of fearsome bombardment. He knew that "our flag was still there" and, thus, so was our country, just as I was re-assured of the same.

From that day forward, every day and every event, I have grown to understand the meaning of that flag and I have loved it more than I have ever loved it before. I have learned to love freedom and never take it for granted. I have learned to love being an American.

Gave proof through the night...

I now know that our flag is taken down at night to protect it from damage by harsh elements or those enemies who might tear it down and our nation while we sleep. Just as we are protected, day and night, by our military men and women around the world, while we sleep or go about our daily business, never knowing or thinking about danger because they stand watch.

Our flag is illuminated at night to represent "the rocket's red glare", as the flag continued to wave all through the night of that historic bombardment. It signifies the continuous light of freedom shining down on this nation and that it shall never be dimmed. I know that our flag is raised in the morning, not simply because it was taken down the night before, but because it signifies that our nation is still here, one more day, free.

Oh, say does that star spangled banner still wave...

I have seen our flag whipping violently in stormy winds, just as our nation has been whipped by the winds of war, struggle and controversy. I have seen our flag waving gently in the wind, from one side to the other, just as we have sometimes wavered, in what some call "inconsistency", as we have struggled to balance our ideas, our freedom, with the needs of a growing and diverse nation. I have seen our flag lay dormant, without a breeze to stir it, as we have sometimes done when we have turned inwards or experienced great prosperity, hopeful of a peaceful future.

I have seen our flag dragged on the ground and stepped upon by dissidents within our country who believe that we have not lived up to our ideas or believe that they have been "stepped on" by our government and our laws. I have seen our flag burned to ashes by our enemies just as they have hoped to destroy our nation and its ideas. It has pained me to see such acts, not only because I love our flag, but because it represents our people and our ideas and it is this that is being attacked, threatened and disrespected.

Yet, for all the damage to the material, our ideas, our freedom remains. They may destroy that flag, but they cannot destroy our nation, our people or our ideas. That flag may be gone, but I can turn and see it still waving over our nation's capitol, at the post office, in front of my house and on the neighbors house down the street. It still waves, just as we continue to survive and spread the idea to every new citizen and from nation to nation.

O'er the land of the free...

Our flag represents our nation. Not only our ideas, but the very people for which it stands. It is made up of many strips of cloth held together by a strong thread that can withstand troubled winds and stormy weather. We are a nation of many people, held together by the common thread of our ideas, strong because it was woven together for over two centuries. That all men are created equal, endowed, not by a king or a government, but by a higher force with "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Like us, the white stripes would be nothing without the red. The blue field would be meaningless without its many stars. Each piece being equally important and serves an equal purpose: to represent all of our people. Without the thread that holds the flag together, it would fall to pieces on the ground, just as we would fall without the thread that binds us together. That thread, that idea, is freedom.

And the home of the brave...

I have seen our flag flying over military bases in war zones and peaceful nations. I have seen it flying over ships at sea from one end of the world to another. I have seen men and women in uniform saluting it in far away places with names we cannot pronounce. It did not get there because we are a conquering nation, subjugating others, but because those who serve under that flag have defended it, defended our nation, our freedom and the freedom of every nation and peoples at every point of the compass. That flag reminds them, where ever they may go, however far, however long, their home is here and remains forever free because they bravely serve.

I have seen our flag draped lovingly over the casket of fallen soldiers and old warriors who have given their last full measure in defense of that freedom. Our flag, representing our nation, embraces them one last time, in thanks for that service.

I have seen our flag folded precisely in a triangle, blue field with white stars facing out, representing the eternal heavens to which we have commended our fallen. It represents the eternal rest which they have earned through their brave service. It represents the eternal hope of our nation to remain forever free.

I have seen our flag passed solemnly to grieving families as the last material gift their loved one could give. The last embrace the brave shall ever receive as their loved ones hold the flag tightly in their arms. And, the final, most priceless treasure, one more minute, one more hour, one more day of freedom paid for by their service and sacrifice.

I have seen our flag absorb the tears of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters. "On behalf of a grateful nation" it comforts them in their time of grief. Their tears remind us of the cost to remain free and that we should be forever appreciative that these brave souls serve and sometimes die on our behalf, even when we have forsaken them.

The often quoted Thomas Jefferson once said that, "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots". However, it is the tears of those left behind, absorbed by our flag, that goes straight to our roots, to our hearts and reminds us to be strong in the face of adversaries and troubles, to count the cost dearly and hold our freedom that much more closely.

I have seen our flag placed upon the graves of our fallen, on rows upon rows of white marble stone, in remembrance of their service under that flag and the sacrifice they gave to keep our flag flying and our nation free. It tells our fallen that their sacrifice was not made in vain; because of them our nation still stands. It signifies our infinite gratitude as on the first day when we laid the flag upon them and gave it to their family. Wherever that grave may be, from Arlington to Normandy, from Africa to the Philippines, the placing of the flag claims that land to be the property of the United States of America, forever free, bought and paid for by the blood of our citizens on behalf of our nation. That land becomes "the home of the brave".

Finally, I have seen our flag placed upon the shoulder of citizens who continue to step forward to defend our nation, our people, our ideas and our freedom.

Through this eternal cycle we remain the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: "I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself."

I hope, from this day forward, when you see the flag that your eyes will not pass over it, but maybe linger for a moment and feel a swell of pride as it waves above you. When it is presented, please honor it by removing your hat and placing your hand upon your heart in respect. Not simply as a symbol of our nation or in allegiance to such, but for all of those things it has been for us, for all the ideas it stands for and all those who have given us the privilege of living free beneath it to make of it what we would.

Long may it wave.

Find out more about our flag at USFLAG.ORG

- May no soldier go unloved