Tag Archives: Memorial Day 2016

Unfinished Lives

by LTC(P) Zolton Krompecher

We live in an age where some confuse heroes with entertainers, role models for charlatans, but remembering Americans who died young places perspective in sharper relief.

As a boy, I spent afternoons dashing around the neighborhood playing “Army” with friends. Tree forts became castles, bushes hideouts and passing cars were tanks to be avoided at all costs. Somewhere in our minds we were aware of Vietnam, but our neighborhood sheltered us until two names came to personify the war: Corporal Frank Miller and LT James Francis O’Laughlin.

Frank was the uncle of my best friend while James O ‘Laughlin was the father of another classmate. Both Soldiers died in Vietnam. Each represented a link to my hometown of Athens, Ohio. Every Memorial Day, I thought of them. Decades later, I visited the Wall in Washington and etched their names.

Iraq and Afghanistan are my generations’ wars. One autumn day I took a phone call and was told my friend Dave was killed in Iraq. I was to escort him home. I reflected on our time together in the Special Forces. Fighting was the melody he danced to, and Dave knew the steps well, but he had a clean heart, too. Ever the consummate warrior-scholar, Dave was a well-read Green Beret who knew his craft but also helped local children wherever he served. I remember how he set his jaw in grim determination when challenged. Life can shift in an instant: I suppose that is the same look he had on the day the desert sun boiled and he made his fateful decision. There was no manual instructing me what to say when his wife threw herself onto his casket. The whole experience skinned my insides.

Some nights I stare at the stars and think of Bill, Laura, Ted, Justin (who grew up in Coal Grove, Ohio just down the river) and Drew. They were the brave ones willing to lay it on the line when things got rough and now remain eternally young, preserved in the minds of those who knew them best.

When visiting their graves, I don’t blunt emotions or debate the logic behind the wars in which they fought…that is for other venues. What I see are patches of grass containing dreams of what might have been—Daddy/Daughter dances, games of catch, first days of school, walks down the aisle, and reunions. Their unfinished lives moor me to the past while whispering the warning not to allow life to grow stale. The cemetery becomes a confessional where secrets to my friends leak out of my mouth and the past becomes grafted with the present, if but for a moment. But what of graves with no names and few visitors?

Just off to the right of the Fort Myer entrance to Arlington Cemetery stands a stone with a simple epigraph reading:





Behind this grave is number 8429. Behind that stone is 8443. Flanked on both sides are others. Who knew these brave souls “Known but to God”? 8067 is buried in one of the Civil War sections. Did this Soldier know my Great-Great-Uncle Eli who joined the Union at eighteen, saw action at Shiloh and Corinth and died soon after? I can only wonder.

I used to make it to a cemetery every Memorial Day but now visit on my own time. Instead, I try to make my friends’ sacrifices worthwhile by evaluating my relationships with others and occupying the in-betweens of my life by doing better.

Each one of us has the capacity to make a difference: surprising our children at school lunch; calling an old friend with whom we’ve lost contact; inviting a neighbor or clergy member over for dinner; visiting an assisted living home to listen to stories of a way of life which disappear with each breath; or taking off work to spend the day with a spouse. Maybe it’s a simple “Hello” to someone who least expects it. Showing kindness and empathy to fellow Americans—even those with whom we disagree—is the least we can do for Frank Miller, James O’Laughlin, Soldier #8067 and others who left behind unfinished lives.

And so what’s the cost? A moment of our time, that’s all. And what some wouldn’t give for a moment.




Desert Storm – Valor, Sacrifice & Uncertainty

by Iron Knight 2  (Originally published May 21st, 2016)

“Saddam Hussein resurrected the Armor Corps. He did more for tankers then St. George ever hoped”

“…If you are not having wet dreams about what we did here then you are asexual…” Phantom Brigade Commander

We were training when he invaded Kuwait, Stuttgart, an exercise,
in Germany you were always training, always waiting for the Soviet attack, Defending the Meinigan Gap, preparing to be rolled over by Russian steel. Most of us did not even know where Kuwait was, the news was unreal.

For us, SW Asia was still foreign, We enjoyed lunch at the Golf Course snack bar,  CNN always on, lots of talk about battle, where the hell is Kuwait? Janes, a world atlas and encyclopedias, Rommel in North Africa, most popular of all: Kahalani’s Heights of Courage
Jokes about the 82nd being speed bumps for Iraqi tanks,
not a joke to them.

September in Germany, festival season,
we trained for a fight we never thought we would join.
Desert Fighting techniques, Israeli against Syria how to invest a Pita defense

And our day jobs, planning for that mythical Soviet invasion.

On weekends I would drive to Rhine Main Air Force Base;
shopping in the Base exchange, with our Soldiers and Marines,
from contingency units, all in desert uniforms.
They ate fast food like a prisoner’s last meal,
and made teary last calls home,
Tense and exciting.

A quick drive by the active,
C5’s and C141’s, constant movement,
mountains of supplies, pallets piled high,
war is logistics.

03 October; Schienfurt’s local training area,
we called it “Area Mud.” tracks churned the earth,
sticky mud covered everything exposed
For Germany it was unity day, another reason to celebrate.
No time to party, too much to do,
Brave talk and quiet trepidation.
We traipsed across the Main Valley with the Scout platoon,
we worked together, talked and laughed,
Crew drills and reporting, practice for a serious future.
November in Germany, preparing for gunnery at Graphenweir
a cold, muddy and foggy place
a place to Soldier.

It was a Thursday morning, officers call
we gathered for breakfast and an update.
The SECDEF was preparing to announce additional forces.
My division did not get the call, we had not made the cut;
and were bitter sidelined for the big game.

That evening, an announcement,
the 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID was going to the show,
we were pulled off the bench.
Machismo and false bravado gave way to conscious thought
Alert called that evening, a weekend staff call;
unprecedented, a forward deployed brigade sent to an active theater.

The amount of work was staggering
For a week we burned hundreds of documents,
maps and contingency plans, the information used to plan a fight
with the Russians
The most painful, the destruction of the freshly compiled CONPLAN B, a year’s worth of work up in smoke.
That war was over and we did not even know it.
The middle of December the Advance Party deploys
The senior officer a captain from operations,
myself, four XO’s and the communications specialist
I have a faded color picture, we were young.

We landed in the middle of the night, undisclosed Saudi Arabia
bottles of water and a bus ride to the Initial Staging Area
Managed confusion, adapt to the situation,
basics secured, food and shelter, organize for camp life,
10,000 men doing the same thing,
hundreds of thousands across Arabia
Christmas Eve, time spent playing cards, down time
a traditional night of rest unless you are Hessian
BBC on the short wave,
we could have been listening to the Morrow Boys.
Silent Night.

Days and weeks, waiting and preparing,
we smoked cigars, gave each other bad haircuts and grew mustaches
waiting, boredom, tents and cots,
letters from home, timeless on any front.

We celebrated the New Year in the Initial Staging Area,
then moved to the port to link with the battalion.
We thought about the nature of our work, and the impending push
We tried to remember lessons learned,
exercises and training events, it all seemed so canned.
Here there were no answers, only best guesses and estimates.

What would he do? What would he risk?
What could be won or lost? and at what cost?
is there any chance victory on the battlefield?
what is the value of standing against the infidel?
The calculus is beyond comprehension.

Five days into the new year the battalion closed,
our Tanks and Bradleys still in the Gulf,
think Afrika Korps in Tripoli, we waited at the Port
good chow, dry and clean latrines,
foreign nationals, cooking and cleaning,
Almost civilization, soon we would leave that behind.

The political process took center stage
ultimatums and dates on the front pages
of stale newspapers picked up two days late.

Sitting, soldiers are bored and unknown tomorrows
cast an emotional shadow,
fear of the unknowable, a Soldiers load.

In port, with no armor, we worked to stay busy
mock ups of enemy fighting positions
created as training aides.
We expected the breech mission, and prepared
Iran/Iraq was known for gas attacks; Mustard and Nerve,
perhaps 10,000 causalities then.
We did NBC drills, remembering Owen’s
“Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling”
Serious, deadly serious business.

Training at the base included discussions on trenches and wire,
weapons systems and ranges.
We did not talk Sunni and Shia, those details were little understood,
Time on our hands, Soldiers played chess and cards
Lots of working out, sand bag curls and wrestling
unchanging activities, apparitions of past wars.
Terrorism was a threat, it looming, if misunderstood,
we trained and equipped a QRC.
Information from higher was slow in coming,
And of little value when it arrived
At echelon we were only guessing.

National Guard Soldiers moved in with us
Viet Nam patches and war stories,
Older men, a different war a different time
The President had just extended their contracts another 90 days,
they seemed bitter.

Boredom bleeds the sharpest of Soldiers
We have been at the port 11 days,
The RORO Cape Inscription, still in the Gulf
We want to move north and get on with it
Anything is better than sitting here…maybe not.

On the 12th of January our ship made port,
my armored office, my M577 with overlays and maps,
acetate and markers, Je Suis Prest.
Flying across the desert in a Black Hawk
A day trip to our Forward Assembly Area, a feel for the terrain,
one day closer to the breech.

Congress blocked a UN resolution
36 hours and the ultimatum is placed.
DA Form 1155 (Witness Statement on Individual)
DA 1156 (Casualty Feeder Report)
folded neatly in the appropriate SOP mandated pocket.

0800 15 January time is up,
Tanks and Tracks painted sand color,
We huddled in small groups, spitting tobacco, smoking, very confident, ready.
Someone says “…we are going to grab them by the balls
and hold on so tight their mothers will hurt.”
Nervous laughter.

“The anvil was being tempered; the hammer was beginning to fall”

17 January, the war started with a massive air attack against the Iraqi Army.
0230 bedded, waiting for something to happen.
Orders from higher break open their “ice packs” and assume MOPP 2.
Ammunition was issued, a basic load
Sometime in that darkness, a SCUD alert,
No gas!
Reports of SCUDS until morning,
ineffective, but a fearsome weapon.

We rolled into TAA Thomson,
A drive up Tap Line Road, dark and foggy LIMVIS,
Guided in by a friend, we established at the forward CP.

The fighting characteristics of a battalion are a reflection of the character of the battalion commander. Bold and tenacious battalion commanders have bold and tenacious battalions” FM 71-2

A new commander took the battalion, hard and competent
a sense of humor, approachable, a leader to emulate.
He told us that we were going to participate in a significant operation the technology to decimate a people, subject them to our will and humble their leaders.
War is Hell, and the American Way of War, the destruction of will
our tradition since Grant.

On the scorecard, we were to face the Republican Guard,
The best they have-
Or had, until the USAF had her way,
BDA was flowing
10,000 Soldiers, 134 tanks, 220 APC’s 70 Artillery pieces
We were not even sure if the BUFF’s and F16’s
would leave any meat.


41,000 sorties, we lost 23 aircraft
Talakania Division has lost over 120 tanks,
options now limited, withdraw or defend.
Hamaraibi, Talakana and Madiniha,
proud Republicans Guard Divisions,
proud men and capable machines, all taking serious losses.
F111B’s B52’s and A6’s were doing their jobs.
4 Feb: With no air defense the Iraqi Army cannot survive,
they sit and are hit by heavy bombers,
they move and our fighter jets bounce,
their government is sacrificing her best.
Supplies running out, mass defections.

We are next in the fray.

7 Feb: Breakfast on the hood of a HUMMVE,
MRE and Army Coffee.
Look up, three B-52’s, a couple of fighters and a KC-135.
Some pity for the front line Soldiers, you feel the concussion,
miles away the earth quakes,
powdered creamer swirls into coffee as the hood shakes.

Saint Valentine’s day we Jump to a forward position,
Fast moving, a quick morning update,
read the traffic, war game, listen to the BBC,
Eat MRE’s rest, read, try to understand.
We crossed the Wadi Al Batin,
clouds of dust form under a thousand sets of tracks,
Our VII Corps a modern nod to Willoughby XXXth
and the move up to Sidi Rezegh.
Pressure on the Iraqi General Staff
Line of Departure soon.

Oil Wells set alight,
SCUDS hit Hafar Al Batin, lucky shot, devastatingly lucky,
rumors of nerve agent.
The desert is on fire,
I see dust and smoke, mostly dust,
kicked up by man and machine.



We sat a few days prior, anxious waiting for the hour.
The staff studied the problem and published orders.
Soldiers sat on their tanks, played cards and wiped sand from tired eyes.
Night then morning.
At 16:20 we crossed the berm,
In silence we shifted Marne patches left to right.
Our commander broke squelch, he spoke of history, courage and combat.
30 KM an hour across an empty desert,
So intense and meaningful, black lines, blue circles and triangles;
ink on acetate for weeks transformed to patches of dirt, and road intersections.
O&I reports large amounts of unexploded munitions in sector,
scouts must have rolled through an ammo dump.
Tanks and men, unstoppable, pass through the 26th Infantry Division,
Command push reports flank units breach unopposed.
Sporadic Artillery and sniping but NSTR.
Dark now, the wind picks up, heavy haze, light rain, moonless, a dark dream rockets streak, and scream.
Late into early morning staffs plan and prepare for a dawn attack.
We took our Malaria pills and doze, a precious hours rest,
FM crackles, RTO’s take notes.
Massive artillery prep before morning twilight, rockets and rounds,
concussion shakes the ground.
Sunrise now, Objective Bear, overwhelming combat power,
secure within hours.
O&I reports
Republican Guard 78 KM to the east, real business just beyond the horizon.
Al Busayaha between us and the Republican Guards,
Two infantry battalions a tank company and a Division Command post.
...1st CAV continues its feint, IID completes its breech
Desert Rats pass through and attack the 12th
2ACR is on PL Smash, in contact with the Talakana
Our Marines are on the gates of Kuwait City.
It is windy and rainy in sector,
Massive prep on Al Busayaha, it looks like war.
Tankers in their tracks, waiting to roll
some killers play cards on the back deck.
At 0630 prep shifts off and the infantry and armor roll through the town,it is over in three hours, 600 EPW’s.
Tawalkana and Medinah, much depleted are next.
Our battalion stages near PL Libya, DIV Recon develops the situation,
DIV Arty (Gunner) closes in range.
The target, the ADNAN Division, and Medinah Brigade logistics site.
Blawk Hawk reports a tank battalion (40 T-55’s) dug in along the round of march,
this is not Republican Guards.
Division Attack Squadrons called in,
27 Vehicles and crews destroyed in less than an hour.
Second BDE was called forward to finish the job.
Change of Mission, our 1st Armor was ordered to push
beyond PL Libya and develop the situation.
Iraqi Armor was fleeing, situation unclear.
We continued to attack.

We were pausing at AP JAT to ROM,
MRLS fires intense.
We were set to attack the best equipped Light Infantry BDE in their Army, with the most modern and best equipped Heavy Division in the World,overmatch, it did not last long.
DIV Fires massed against a 200 square meter log base,
explosions seen across the front, concussion takes your breath.
A kilometer away ramps down, TOC back to back,
We see the fires, hear the radio, feel the blast,
on that windy, overcast dusty day.|
18 EPW, 1 destroyed T-55, 8 dead Iraqi’s

27 Feb: PURSUIT: Black is on Phase line Spain.
The Division plan is for two Brigades lay a base of fire,
and one conducts the attack.
We wait; it’s early in the morning on the 27th.
No one has gotten any sleep.
I just finished plotting newly reported positions of a Medinah Brigade.
Confusing, no real formations, reports of company positions behind our lines.
No one had a clear vision of the battlefield.
We are attacking, we are not worried about the front line trace,
Targets will be dealt with as they pop up.

0315 someone is firing arty and its hitting the Black Hawk CP
Who the fuck is shooting? Phantom 6 responds not us,
Gunner says it’s not him…20 injuries, none serious, no idea what happened.
0327, Phantom 6 says move, “pick up and move 10 km” report when REDCON 1.
Gunner 2 over the O/I net…”You’ll never see a prep like this…”
0430 three Brigades on line ready to attack a single brigade of the Medinia,
we pass through the CAV at 0436.
0630 the attack begins after an intense artillery bombardment,
Some falls on Cotton, don’t know if it was 4-7 or 1-7.
Little enemy contact in the initial attack,
we destroyed 3 tanks, type unknown, and 2 BMP’s.
Pause to refit, fuel is called forward, support platoon working their butts off  while some of us wash the dust,
Nothing over the O/I, nothing over the Command Push:
then, from the southern flank,
a large number of enemy vehicles, all types running,
working hard to get north of Al Basara,
they slam right into the Brigade,
a duck shoot, outgunned, overmatched, within 10 minutes there were 35 burning Iraqi hulks,
surreal, managed chaos.

We were advancing quickly, than slowed to a halt as an engagement developed to our front.
Close quarters for armor, berms and wadies, a filthy, near abandoned ammo dump,
manned by a rear guard.
Monitoring two Fox Mikes and an AUX from the back of my M577,
the partial picture of a piece mill battle developed.
Confusing and hazy as it always is.
An M3 was hit by RPG fire, one or two rounds at close range;
“medic and evacuation required.”
The Scout Platoon Sergeant raced forward in his track, pivoted 180 degrees
ramp to ramp to execute the evacuation
A Fatal mistake, in haste to save his comrade he failed to rotate the turret
A flank unit, a sister battalion, 2000 meters left rear, observed the threat turret.
Fires cleared, then cleared again, no friendly’s in the reported AO:
“Your clear.” “Gunner, Sabot, Track!

A single 120mm Armor Piercing Super Sabot
designed with increased velocity and improved terminal effects screamed in locked on its target and penetrated the Bradley Scout Vehicle at 5700 feet per second.
ending the life of 20 year old Specialist Clarence ‘Johnny’ Cash,
removing the leg of the Platoon Sergeant, and badly wounding others.
Their battle is over, their fight just beginning.
Stunned activity on the net, orders given movement, in slow motion.
I watched from my hull the field ambulance rush forward from the combat trains’
and hurry back with the causalities.
Evening brought contemplation, the “quiet undertones of war”
Next afternoon, the battalion commander of our flank unit came into our operations center.
A private meeting with the commander, departure after quiet regrets.
The Iraqi fate of the engagement was staggering, 182 tanks, all types, 191 APC’s 21 Arty tubes, 10 bunkers and 40 trucks,
grease smeared in sand.

The next morning we moved to a new attack position,
prep continued all night
Some rest, not much,
0100 word of a cease fire, I woke the commander and read…

“Possibility exists of a cease fire. At 0500 units are authorized self defense but will not initiate ground or air actions. Stress security and safety of troops, there is still a danger of hostile action,” JAYHAWK 6

0200 resting, 0400 attacking,
0530 a battalion of AH-64’s striking well forward
0630 attacking again, with instructions to kill anything that moved;
we did.

01 Mar: The war is over.
100 hours from the time the ground war kicked off.
From TAA Thompson to our current location near objection Bonn,
5 km west of Kuwait, in the Radaif Ar Rahsi desert.
We traveled over 300 kilometers,
participated in operations as intense as any unit in the war,
as intense as any I ever thought I would see.



(Originally published Memorial Day 2016)

by Echo Zulu 21            Charlottesville, NC

Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08 was tough on a lot of units, but especially difficult for the 2nd Battalion, 8th United States Cavalry Regiment. The Stallions were stationed out of Camp Taji Iraq, roughly 20 miles north of Baghdad. The 82nd Airborne was on the ground quickly as the first wave of the surge troops that arrived into Camp Taji. Great for Baghdad, not so good for the unit holding the northern border. What happened was the surge troops came in and pushed all the bad guys to the towns outside of the major metropolitan city. The kinetic activity of significant activity (SIGACT) picked up exponentially in our Area of Operations (AO).

It’s virtually impossible to know everyone in a 900+ Soldier Battalion, but I knew quite a few. When I try and reflect on Memorial Day, I naturally gravitate to those who were killed that I knew personally. It’s pretty strange, because you hear about someone being killed or wounded, or you’re on the response team and you don’t know the name, but you know the face. A lot of times I would figure it out, because I would be walking to the trailer or motor pool and the person that passes me at the same time every day is not there one morning. It’s like that last scene in the movie “The Sandlot”, where the characters are at their respective positions on the diamond and the narrator is describing what they go on to be in life, and the character fades out of the shot, and is no longer on the diamond, but the other characters are still there.

In the first deployment to Iraq, 2-8 Cavalry lost 1 Soldier. We left OIF 06-08 in double digits in both KIA and wounded. Several Officers, NCO’s and Soldiers. There was no segregation from the enemy. The Battalion Commander’s PSD was hit. We had both a Company Commander and our S3 hit with ball bearing IED’s that sent them home. We had First Sergeants and Sergeant First Classes hurt or KIA. All ranks suffered.

I escorted the personal effects of SPC Swanson. He was in the BC’s PSD. I was in his vehicle with the BC 2 weeks prior to the attack. I knew and met everyone in that vehicle and spent about 8 hours with them on a mission where we escorted dump trucks full of rice from a factory up to the town of Tarmiyah so the local Iraqi population  could use it.

1LT Dan Riordan and 1LT Gwileym Newman were my peers. I knew them both pretty well. Newman had a 1 year old daughter. He was shot in the head by a sniper in Tarmiyah, just as he exited his vehicle to dismount for a raid.

I escorted the personal effects of Dan Riordan. He had pictures in his room of a homecoming party that his family and friends had thrown for him when he came home on mid-tour leave. Dan took leave really early in the rotation, so his Soldiers would have more time to figure out their dates. They had food and beer and you could tell how proud everyone was of Dan. Dan was killed by an IED strike in the western portion of our AO. His entire vehicle was destroyed and all 5 Soldiers in the vehicle were KIA.

Unfortunately, there are many more that I could describe. I think about all of them daily, because it’s important to remember them and everyone else. I’m not on Facebook and I have not had much connection to my old unit, but I certainly do wonder how their families are doing on each Memorial Day, and all days. Newman’s little girl, Dan’s family, Swanson’s buddies.

I’m a civilian now and just think about how lucky I am to have known them and served alongside of them. Maybe this little reflection in some small way helps to honor them, their memories and their families.


A Veteran Died Today

by Unattributed      (Originally published May 25th, 2016)

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever-waffling stand?

Or would you want a Veteran
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Veteran,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Veteran,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Veteran’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:




by Stalwart 2.      (Originally published May 18th, 2016)

LCDR Erik Kristensen, in his life and in his service to our country, meant many things to many people. He was a sailor, a SEAL, a hero. He was a teacher, a mentor, a son, a friend. And for the men of Eye Street, he was – and still is – a role model. The small, but poignant memorial so aptly located in a basement rotunda through which nearly every one of a thousand boys’ age fourteen to eighteen-year-old walk by each day, serves as a solemn reminder of his sacrifice. Its location is important; while the familiar is often glassed over by complacency and forgotten in repetition, the ever present placement of such an example of service in constant view of the privileged sons of Washington provides young men at their most impressionable with the example of one of their own who valued others more than himself.

Prior to his service, Erik attended and graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was an avid competitor, playing football and lacrosse at Gonzaga and earning a varsity letter on the Academy’s crew team. After graduation, he continued to compete, working towards a graduate degree and eventually joining the Navy’s elite as a member of SEAL Team 10. He was the kind of man others strive to be – ambitious in his goals and determined in achieving them, all the while staying true to his values. He is the kind of man to be admired by generations which follow; the kind of man we have a responsibility to hold in high esteem among our youth.

LCDR Kristensen was tragically killed in action on 28 June 2005, shot down in a helicopter among fifteen other Special Forces operators from the Army and Navy. Always a man for others, LCDR Kristensen had volunteered to lead the expedition on a rescue mission to save four fellow SEAL members who had been pinned under enemy fire. His selflessness – his sacrifice – is indicative of the man he was, and acts as testament to the parents, friends, teachers, friends, and environment that shaped him.

This author did not have the pleasure of meeting Erik, instead only knowing him through the connections of a shared school and a common belief in the value of service before self. These connections are not unique, either, but are shared by countless members of the generations that followed Erik. His memory is an inspirational one, his memorial an impetus for betterment. He is the role model we passed on our way to and from class each day; his name the one spoken in admiration with wonder; his shared history with our own a point of pride. To us, Erik is the epitome of selflessness, of service, and of sacrifice. To all, he is a man for others. LCDR Kristensen will continue to inspire the young men of Eye Street and beyond to seek a career in service – to honor his legacy, we owe him our best.


“I Wanted to Earn the Right to be an American”

(Originally published May 18, 2016)

by Blackjack Pershing

Recently I had the privilege of meeting a recent recipient of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest recognition for gallantry in times of war. Florent Groberg was born in France to a French Algerian mother and never knew his natural father. He was lucky in that a man named Groberg met and married his mother, adopted Flo and moved his family to the United States, giving them an existence that most in the world still envy.

While looking for a speaker on veteran’s employment Flo’s name popped up on Linkedin at just the right time; he is working with Linkedin on veteran transition issues. In a very short time I was reminded about all that we owe our veterans in a powerful way by Flo.

Flo told his life story to an audience of business professionals. It was highly personal. He shared his early memories of France, moving here and knowing no English. Experiencing the knowledge that one of his mother’s nephews killed himself in a terrorist attack. Experiencing 911 here in the US and being motivated to fight for his country. It was then, as he chose to join ROTC, that he learned that in order to get clearances he would have to renounce his French citizenship. And then he made that statement with which this piece is titled: “I wanted to earn the right to be an American.” The room I was in fell silent. He eye-balled us. In one simple sentence so many thoughts came rushing in. When do we hear this now? When are we reminded just how precious life in this part of the planet under our set of ideals is? We are subjected to an ongoing onslaught of grievance and very very little about our obligations, our responsibilities, our stewardship of this country. Flo said volumes in a very short sentence. I am keeping this about Flo so I will not follow all of the rabbit trails that the aforementioned grievance culture can dredge up.

Flo threw himself on a suicide bomber in order to save the men he was working with and the VIP’s he was charged with protecting. Four of those men died; others were seriously injured, including Flo who spent three years convalescing. Flo’s messages were profound and inspiring. He spoke of resilience first and foremost. Knowing many had it worse than he did and many never came back, he still struggled with survivor’s guilt. A visit from Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee and war veteran finally snapped Flo out of his anger. He developed a new mission to help veterans make their transition from the military as effectively as possible.

Florent Groberg is America at its best. An immigrant. Heroic. Funny. Responsible. Idealistic. Tough as nails. An Army Infantry Airborne Ranger. I am proud to know him even though he’s a cubs fan.

Flo talked at length about needing to learn with humility from the senior enlisted men that reported to him. He talked about the application of these principles to civilian life and how humility is an essential part of leadership. He spoke of the unique attributes of veterans of the service and how they add value for employers. Message received, Flo, message received. This old veteran will do everything he can to continue to share it. Hooah!


The Greatest Generation

by CDR (R) US Navy

During this special Memorial Day Weekend, let’s take some time to reflect on the greatest generation this nation has ever been blessed to have. The greatest generation that defeated the Axis of evil of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.

The entire country rallied around freedom. Those who could serve, mostly younger than than those reading this article today, stood in line to enlist and to fight for freedom. From North Africa to Anzio, to Normandy and Iwo Jima, they proudly stood by their fellow soldiers, airmen and sailors in arms to keep our country safe. Those at home made the American war machine invincible. Mothers continued to raise our children. Seniors and children alike were part of the effort to ensure liberty prevailed. Rations and black-outs were the norm in the homeland, as well as long days producing the food and goods to keep the American war-machine going to ultimately prevail.

Those of the greatest generation that fought overseas, most of us have fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who were part of that effort, were selfless. Again, they were selfless. They wanted to come back home. They dreamed of coming back home. They talked about coming back home. But they were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to keep freedom alive. In those times you deployed until you were killed, critically injured, or the war was over.

We have to take a moment to pay our respect for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice that allows us to enjoy the freedom we have today in this great county. Politics aside, we have a democracy which was saved by those in the greatest generation. Let’s pay our respects. Let’s remember freedom is not free but paid for by service of special Americans. Those before us and those that come after us, including our children. Let’s keep America safe. Let’s all do our part.


Airline Pilot

by Airline Pilot
My lead flight attendant came to me and said, “We have an H.R. on this flight.” (H.R. stands for human remains.)
“Are they military?” I asked.

‘Yes’, she said.

‘Is there an escort?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I’ve al ready assigned him a seat’.

‘Would you please tell him to come to the Flight Deck. You can board him early,” I said…

A short while later a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldie r.

The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us. ‘My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,’ he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military, and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the Flight Deck to find his seat.

We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight, I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.
‘I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is also on board’, she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left.

We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia . The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.

I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do. ‘I’m on it’, I said. I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of t he dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:

‘Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now, and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family.

The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal, where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home.

Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.

I sent a message back, telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, ‘You have no idea how much this will mean to them.’

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing . After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

‘There is a team in place to meet the aircraft’, we were told. It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I a sked the copilot to tell the ramp controller, we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, ‘Take your time.’

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said: ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking: I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX s under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is A rmy Sergeant XXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.’

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later, more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of ‘God Bless You’, I’m sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA .

Foot note:

I know everyone who reads this will have tears in their eyes, including me.

They die for me and mine and you and yours and deserve our honor and respect.

Prayer Request:

When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world… Share with others. Do not let it stop with you. Of all the gifts you could give a Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and others deployed in harm’s way, prayer is the very best one.


Thank you all who have served, or are serving. We Will not forget!!!!



by Marine1948

It’s 0447 hours here in Northwestern Massachusetts and as I look across the street I see the lights on in the dwelling of a silent hero.

Don is an old “China Marine”. He enlisted in the Corps in 1937 with duty on the Asian Mainland.

His enlistment should have been up in December of 1941 and then Pearl Harbor. All were told that their enlistments would be extended indefinitely.

Throughout the next 4 years Don slugged through campaigns in the Pacific on islands with the infamous names recorded in the annals of the Corps: Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima all with the 3rd Marine Division.

Don returned to his hometown in 1945 and went to work immediately. Met a woman and married her and raised his children. Still ever the duty bound man, he served with the town’s volunteer fire department and forest wardens until time caught up.

I came to know him probably at some point in the 70s. And as fate would have it, I moved in across the street from him the early 80s. Strange that 34 years have passed so quickly.

To say that I have been in awe of this man seems so inadequate. I have observed him through this many years do things that a man half his age couldn’t accomplish.

You see, Don will be 96 next month. Here is someone who has cut his grass, shoveled snow and so many tasks I can’t recall. And he still does! When the humidity is so high that even nature’s creatures don’t stir, he cuts the grass fully clothed. When the wind chill would scare an Eskimo, the snow is removed. And not uncommon for him to use his snow blower to help much younger neighbors.

He stands tall and straight. His hearing and eyesight remain intact. Ah, he still has a full set of his own teeth. Amazing!

There is the common denominator that we possess, that being MARINE. It is a bond that never leaves us. No matter the era from which we rose.

A common greeting is, “Do ya think we still could make it through Parris Island?” And the chuckles come.

I look at him and think that he is 5 years my dad’s senior, also a WWII man.

Don gave up his driver’s license a few months ago, as he said, “It’s time.” Now I observe him after he cuts his grass sitting in the backyard in a chair looking at the sky. I can only imagine the thoughts.

Don doesn’t ask much, but every now and then I bring him a package of Oreos, an enjoyment of his. It seems so small and insignificant for someone of his stature. But it brings a smile and a thank you.

On the holidays that are appropriate for the display, I put out my Marine Corps flag and then watch across the street, sure enough, Don follows suit.

Someday Don will enter Valhalla and the Valkyries will bring him the nightly feast joined by and in brotherhood by all other warriors.

I salute you, Don. Semper Fi! And God bless you and America.

“marine1948” Bishop, HG Jr
Sgt., USMC, 2322500 1967-forever