How Much is Enough?

On a dreary Thursday in February, 2005, while in the midst of a large operation to clear the entirety of the Al Sarai neighborhood in Tal’Afar, my gunner – SGT Frank B. Hernandez – was killed instantly when an IED detonated next to his vehicle. I say his vehicle, because on that day I had loaned him to my Bravo section – to let one of their up and coming Sergeant E-5’s get off of the gun and take a job on the ground as a team lead. Continue reading

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Time Does Not Heal ALL Wounds…

…It only heals scars and dulls some of the difficult feelings.

I haven’t written on the blog in a while, some out of laziness and mostly out of exhaustion from all that being a new homeowner entails.  But today is a fundamentally important day, because 11 years ago today, fourteen U.S. Soldiers and four U.S. civilian contractors were killed in a suicide bombing inside of the dining facility on FOB Marez in Mosul.  Four Iraqi Army troops died as well. Continue reading

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“Superman is Dead”

I want to do something a little different today.  I want to share with you a piece that came to me via FaceBook from a fellow veteran: Sergeant First Class Louis ‘Ted’ Sheppard. I had the pleasure of being his XO when I was still on the line and he was one of my finest Platoon Daddy’s and NCO’s.  I learned that the day after Veterans Day he unexpectedly suffered a stroke; now it looks like he is being med-boarded.

He posted this today and with his permission, I share it with you because I find it profound and inspirational.

‘Superman used to be my Hero

Talked with a battle buddy the other day. We went to Iraq together. He Continue reading

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“That’ll Never Be Me”

No matter what training or school or course it was in,
Fort whatever-it-was, lying on the ground at night
In the woods, cheek rested on the M-240B on guard
I fought the Z-monster but said ‘this is just training
If it was real, you’d never fall asleep on guard it’s
Just not possible – that’ll never be me.’

“Attention to detail, airborne!” the black hats screamed
As we moved double-time everywhere we went, reminding us Continue reading

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Let’s Talk About ISIL a Minute

Its been a few days since the dreadful attacks in Paris, and subsequently today French paramilitary police forces raided even more ISIL attackers, foiling another suicide bomber plot.  And now ISIL is threatening to carry out lone wolf, suicide attacks in New York City.

I haven’t really posted anything or wrote on this because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say. This is a very fucked-up situation that we (the royal we) find ourselves in. I am not political; I don’t subscribe to any party or specific ideology. I ask questions and I think for myself, making my own conclusions on and about life. Continue reading

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“I Guess We’re Veterans Now…”

On Veterans Day 2004, my men and I sat around looking at each other in Mosul, a week earlier having been blown-up wounding six, having been in Iraq for about a month and a half, and said – well, I guess we’re Veterans now.

What did that mean to me then? I guess it meant that I had seen combat; that we were engaging the adversary and were forward deployed and were getting into the thick of it. And this would be the stuff that we would tell out grand-kids about. Continue reading

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The Kid By The Red Door (or, “I’m No Angel”)

Everybody had a moment when they lose their cool. Everybody.

I probably lost it a few times, but I have been thinking recently about one time. This was in Tal’Afar. We were on a route sweep / screening mission of Route Sante Fe (the main east-west route that took you around the northern edge of the city). Route Sante Fe was affectionately called ‘IED Alley’. When we would make runs to various parts of the city that required going in and out via Sante Fe, we referred to it as ‘running the gauntlet.’

These missions essentially called for us to run the length of the route to clear it of IED’s – we’d either see suspicious things and find them, or they’d blow up on us and we’d find them the hard way. Afterwards, we would turn around and set our Stryker’s off of the route on the northern part of the city in a position that would allow us to perform route overwatch. This way the Hajj couldn’t put more IED’s in. Continue reading

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Humanity; Humility

In the fall of 2007 we conducted a large cordon and search of a Sunni slum where a lot of sectarian violence had occurred in the early days before the Surge. School-house Road (pictured, which I have written about) used to be a bad place and the home of a lot of hatred still. We had word that AQI was still transiting through the area and caching weapons.

I was in sector with my Civil Affairs teams following the mechanized infantry company and Continue reading

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Facing Fear

There comes a point in everybody’s life when they are faced with a fear – and a decision of what to do about it. We’re all afraid of something.

I want to share another brief journal entry with you about fear. From mid-November, 2004, about actions at the castle, Tal’Afar:

“I was on the far side of the road when I heard a burst of machine gun fire. ‘Mac’ and I had just met in the middle and were talking, when we heard it. We went running towards the Strykers, as a hail of AK 47 fire began to erupt from the Police station…So I ran over to the drop off to see what was going on there. Now, the back side of the police station looks like this- there is a building, and a parking lot. Then there is about eight feet of ground, and a one and a half foot concrete ‘wall’ that stands before the edge of the drop off. So I ran up, and saw several Police officers crouching as best they could behind the wall, along with ‘Mac’ who was kneeling down, scanning, and two of my guys who were on the far edge with another cop. Continue reading

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Sniper-Check (Part II)

Continuation from Sniper Check, Part I

The entire place was weird for us.  We were not used to anything like this whatsoever.  We started wearing our PT  uniforms and tennis shoes around [I had to dig those out of duffle bags that I had stashed away on the Stryker somewhere before I flew out].  We did spend a lot of time at the pool – either in it or laying around it.  It was like a frickin’ hotel – beach chairs, a big blue pool, flowers and palm trees, and the occasional klaxon that sounded as people scrambled to find an air-raid shelter.  I tried not to stare at the women too much.  We all did. Thank God our eye-pro hid our eyes.

We met with our defense counsel – a female Navy JAG officer who was pretty laid back and ‘chill’ to go along with the entire atmosphere that apparently was the Embassy (boys – she was what we’d call Field-Hot and we did get to see her in a bikini].  We spent a few hours in the morning and afternoon going over the packets and paperwork for the different cases we were each there for.  It was all very different for us, sitting in air- Continue reading

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