Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Welcome to another Memorial Day weekend.

All over the nation, people have flocked to the beaches, or family cookouts, or made roadtrips to see friends & family. That’s all well and good. I personally celebrated my 42d birthday this weekend , myself. Memorial Day weekend has become the traditional kickoff to the summer season of fun in the sun. In many parts of the country, school is already done for the year, and kids have graduated.

Across my television and in my newspaper, I have been deluged with tacky and tasteless screaming advertisements for Memorial Day sales, hawking everything from cars to mattresses to appliances, which makes me reluctant to ever patronize those businesses. Nothing says “DUTY, HONOR, and SACRIFICE” quite like a cut-rate pillow-top mattress for $999.00, today only…..

As I drove down Dorchester Road in North Charleston on my way home Friday afternoon, I spotted a Harley Davidson at a gas station across from the Air Force base, decorated with a large flag. It suddenly hit me that I’d just seen a rider from the Patriot Guard, and remembered why they were in town.

A young man from North Charleston, South Carolina came home Friday afternoon. It wasn’t the homecoming his family wanted or expected when he left for Afghanistan a short time ago.

I never knew Cheziray Pressley, but I consider him a brother still. Cheziray was a soldier, a comrade, a brother in arms. Just 21 years old, barely 3 years out of high school, graduating in 2008 from Fort Dorchester High School. Six months ago he married his longtome girlfriend, Dawn. He had a little daughter at home waiting for Daddy to come home.

Pressley was assigned to 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Wainwright in Alaska. A couple weeks ago, only three days into his tour in Afghanistan, Cheziray Pressley was killed with three fellow soldiers by a roadside IED explosion in Zabul Province.

An honor guard carries the casket of Cheziray Pressley from the aircraft that brought him to Charleston from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The memorial service for Cheziray Pressley will take place at the North Charleston Convention Center on Monday at 3:00 PM. The public is invited to attend.

I was Cheziray’s age roughly when he was born. Twenty one years ago I myself was a 21-year old soldier, freshly back from a tour in Germany. No, I never knew Cheziray Pressley, not personally, but I know a bit of the young man’s character, of his patriotism and devotion to his country and family. It’s the same sort of character that has called young men and women into the armed services of the United States of America since the inception of our country 235 years ago.

No, Memorial Day isn’t about sales at the mall. It’s about remembering the sacrifices of those who went into the breach and who gave their lives so that you could go to those sales, or eat too much at that barbecue, or soak up the sun at the water’s edge. It’s about all the sales and barbecues and sunny days that those brave men and women will never again see.

I’m not telling you to not enjoy your holiday weekend. I’m not telling you to not spend time with your family. I’m not telling you not to stimulate the economy by checking out the sales.

I am, however, telling you to take some time and reflect upon what you have, and who gave up all of their tomorrows so that the rest of us could have today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

More TSA-related crap

A week or two ago the TSA was in the news yet again with footage of agents searching the diaper of a 2-year old for explosives. The TSA and their lunacy is one of the reasons I currently refuse to fly anywhere. The price of flying is the other. Fear of terrorism doesn't even factor in.

About six months ago a friend of mine shared a photo with me:

The top item is a fold-up corkscrew and bottle opener. The bottom item is the deadly princess snow globe. My friend had this to say about the items:
Fact: The top item was allowed (with full TSA knowledge) to get through security at the Atlanta airport. FACT: The item on the bottom was confiscated by the TSA at the Tampa airport one month earlier. (I bet it was that menacing squirrel inside the princess snow globe that set off alarm bells)
Yeah....the deadly princess snow globe. How many planes over the years have been taken over or brought down by snow globes?

Oh yeah, get them pesky terrorist octogenarians....

And make sure you get those dangerous kids.....

Make sure you grope the firm round ones...

And you absolutely HAVE to have a nun get searched by a Muslim TSA agent in a Hijab...

And this story has been around the Web for a few months but bears repeating...

As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards.

Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That's where the STUPIDITIES started.

First, everyone was forced to get off the plane-even though the plane wasn't refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine. It's probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M-4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M-9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren't loaded, as we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it re-inspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to re-inspect our Cargo - just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, re-inspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Okay, whatever.

So we lined up to go through security AGAIN. This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols. So we're in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they're going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can't take those on the plane.

Soldier: What ? I've had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You're not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I'm allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can't use it to take over the plane. You don't have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I'll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

To top it off, the TSA demanded we all be swabbed for "explosive residue" detection. Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for "Gun Powder Residue". Who the F**K is hiring these people? This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns - But nothing like a nail-clipper that could have been used as a weapon...

Can someone please tell me: What the F**K happened to OUR country while we were gone?

Sergeant Mad Dog Tracy

Exactly...what's happened to our country. I'll tell you what.....Progressive Liberalism happened.

I am *SO* over Lady GaGa

A couple years back I thought Stephanie Germanotta, better known as Lady GaGa, was a quirky but fairly talented dance music artist. But then I started to get bored with the music and the HEY LOOK AT ME antics. I thought the speech in favor of gay marriage in Maine was nice, but you ruined that with a speech in favor of illegal immigration in Arizona.

After a while, you couldn't escape her. Commercial radio flogged you with her music non-stop. I ignored the inane lyrics and tried to concentrate on the beats, but to no avail. And now with this new album of hers, I'm really just saturated and completely over her.

The first single, "Born This Way" is a blatant ripoff of Madonna's "Express Yourself", and further rips off a portion of her song "Vogue" as well. The followup single, "Judas" (released just in time for quaint) is damn near unlistenable.

I can see pushing some boundries, but to be a spectacle for the sole sake of being a spectacle & calling it art as a blanket cover statement is lame.

Over on Facebook, the video game company Zynga is bringing a whole GaGa theme to their Farmville game along with a special offer to buy the new album. Further saturation.

I think the final straw for me was her grotesque appearance the other night on that other grotesque spectacle, American Idol, a show that I thought was on the road to redemption with a looser feel and likeable judges but instead pissed away talented kids before it was time for them to go home while keeping a screecher and a one-trick country pony. With James Durbin, the most talented of the lot since Day One of the auditions, gone I will just hope that Lauren Alaina comes out on top. But back to GaGa...

She couldn't show up to mentor these young people looking like a normal human being. No way. Instead she's moved the shoulder-spike dermal implants she denied having up to her face and wore some sort of idiot clown makeup coupled with a black & platinum hairstyle (a wig? Who the hell knows?) and an outfit with her ass hanging out. She spent most of the sessions with her legs splayed open or rubbing up on the kids and exhorting them to more or less sex it up a little.

I guess the kicker is the fact that she did a national TV show wearing $4500 platforms that had, seriously, glass phalluses for heels. Really. I shit you not. The heel of each show was a glass penis. Millions of kids at home watching, and this paragon of virtue wasted 4500 bucks to show up with dicks on her feet and her ass hanging out. Ya'll know that I'm definitely not a prude, but c'mon....

Dick heels, meat dresses, clown makeup that makes Marylin Manson look like a school teacher, dermal implant spikes, and worn out dance grooves. Sorry, GaGa.....the schtick is no longer funny or even worth listening to.

No longer missing, but still missed...

In a small town in Alabama, about 400 or so people gathered in a cemetery this weekend to pay their respects and welcome home a soldier who had been missing for 43 years. Finally, James Leslie Moreland, known as Les to his friends & family, was being laid to rest between the graves of his parents.

Moreland was a 22-year-old Special Forces medic when he was last seen mortally wounded at the Lang Vei Special Forces camp on the South Vietnamese border in a battle remembered as the first time the North Vietnamese used tanks. Moreland was one of ten Americans killed, captured, or missing after the fall of Lang Vei during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Three of the soldiers were captured and held by the enemy and released in 1973. They were SFC Harvey G. Brande , SSG Dennis L. Thompson, and SP5 William G. McMurray. Two others, SFC Earl F. Burke and SFC Eugene Ashley , were killed in action, with Ashley later being awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. The remaining five soldiers were listed as missing in action: SGM Kenneth Hanna, MSG James W. Holt, MSG Charles W. Lindewald, SFC James L. Moreland, and SFC Daniel R. Phillips.

The remains of Hanna and Lindewald were repatriated on 15 Jan 2004 and positive identification announced on 08 Sep 2004. In 1995, remains believed to be Moreland’s were excavated and sent to a military forensic laboratory in Hawaii. But it would take 16 years and DNA samples from five different family members before the military was certain. His remains were identified on October 13, 2010. And now, finally Les is home with his family.

Linda Brown, right, and her daughter Lisa Newlander wear POW/MIA bracelets bearing the name of Newlander’s uncle and Brown’s brother, Les Moreland.

Kathy Strong asked for a POW/MIA bracelet for Christmas in 1972 when she was in seventh grade. For 38 years, she’s faithfully worn the bracelet with the name of James Moreland. Saturday the bracelet was buried in Moreland's casket.

"I hope everyone knows why we are here today," said retired Army Colonel Paul Longrear, Moreland's former commanding officer, in the eulogy. "We are not here to celebrate a burial. He was already buried in the debris of war. We are here today to celebrate a homecoming."

Mourners gather at the memorial service for Les Moreland

A 21-gun salute pierced the rural quiet. When “Taps” played, retired and active military in attendance, at least one-third of the crowd, snapped salutes. Then roaring through the clouds came four Navy jets in formation, until one jet dramatically peeled away in what is known as The Missing Man formation, symbolizing the departure of a fallen comrade. Moreland’s sister was then presented with the folded flag from her brother’s casket. Nestled in the flag were three spent brass M-16 shells representing: duty, honor, country.

At least two dozen retired and active Special Forces soldiers attended from around the country.

"It's been worth waiting 43 years to see this," said William Amelung, a 65-year-old retired Green Beret who trained with Moreland and "earned our berets together"

Retired Sergeant Major Dennis Thompson, who had served with Moreland at Lang Vei and been captured by the enemy, had traveled from Washington state to attend the service. When asked why, the fellow Green Beret said simply, "Because he would have done the same for me."

The green beret of the US Army Special Forces, resting atop Les Moreland's casket, with the black, yellow, and red "flash" of the 5th Special Forces Group and the Special Forces crest. Upon that crest are the words "De Oppresso Liber", Latin for "To liberate the oppressed". Welcome home, Les.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Welcome home, Donnie Shue

After being missing for 42 years, an Army soldier who went missing on a mission in Laos during the war in Vietnam was buried last weekend in North Carolina.

The remains of Sergeant First Class Donald Monroe Shue, a Special Forces trooper who had been on a secret patrol mission in Laos, were found on a farmer's property in that country a few months ago. Shue's sister Betty Jones told The Associated Press that she didn't initially believe Army officials who said her brother had been found.

But she was convinced when they showed her a Zippo lighter, inscribed with his name, that was found in Laos. Her brother, 29 years old at the time, hadn't been seen since November 1969. I was six months old when Donnie Shue went missing.

MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces Group channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 03 Nov 1969, team leader Staff Sergeant William T. Brown, radioman Sergeant Gunther Wald, rifleman SP4 Donald Shue and six Montagnard tribal soldiers formed a patrol, Recon Team Maryland, operating 30 miles west of the South Vietnamese/Lao border in the isolated and rugged jungle-covered mountains near Ban Chakevy Tai, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

As the patrol moved through the area, it was ambushed by a numerically superior communist force. During the initial burst of automatic weapons fire, SSG Brown was shot through the body just below the rib cage. The communists lobbed in grenades, fragments of which struck SP4 Shue. At the same time, as SGT. Wald was making radio contact for help, he was also struck by grenade fragments. Two of the six Montagnard team members were also wounded in the initial attack. All three Americans were last seen lying wounded on the ground by one of the four surviving team members, who were forced to leave the others behind and withdraw under fire. At the time they departed the area, the Montagnards did not know the extent or severity of the wounds sustained by the Americans. Further, as the Montagnards were escaping the ambush site, they heard the communists shout: "Capture the Americans!" They successfully evaded capture and reported the results of the ambush once they made their way back to base.

Due to bad weather, a search and rescue team could not be inserted into the area until 11 November. They searched the entire area, but could only find some web gear which was identified as belonging to the patrol members. More importantly, no personal equipment, weapons or graves were found in or around the battle site. Likewise, there was no trace of the men themselves. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, William Brown, Donald Shue and Gunther Wald were all listed Missing In Action.

Initially Shue was declared Missing In Action(MIA), and later declared Killed in Action(KIA) on January 15, 1979, and posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class. His remains were actually found and returned to the U.S. control in 2009 and finally identified for burial by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command's Central Identification Lab in Hawaii.

Donnie Shue was finally laid to rest in his home state of North Carolina on a beautiful sunny spring Saturday, surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers, family members, and fellow veterans. You were missing, but never forgotten. Welcome home, brother.

Could it be? Sunday Comics Again!

Today's edition of the Sunday Comics is an expanded super deluxe double edition to make up for the weeks I slacked off. As always, I culled them from various sources around the web...ENJOY!