Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Black History Month: Henry Lincoln Johnson

The story of Henry L. Johnson would make one hell of a Hollywood movie, but Hollywood by and large would rather skip true American hero stories in favor of mindless drivel.

Henry was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1897 and in his early teens moved to Albany, New York. He was working as a redcap porter at Albany's Union Station in 1917 when he enlisted in the New York National Guard's all-black 15th Infantry Regiment based in Harlem. The unit was renamed the 369th Infantry Regiment (The Harlem Hellfighters) prior to deployment to Europe, with Johnson arriving in France on New Year's Day, 1918.

Early on in the campaign the regiment was relegated to menial taskings due to the racism of their white commanders. They unloaded cargo vessels, dug ditches and other scut duties.  Finally, after weeks of this the French Command felt that the men were being wasted and asked for them to be placed under their operational command. The 369th and Johnson were transferred to the French Command and immediately pressed into service in the Argonne Forest with 16th Division of the French 4th Army.

In the early hours of May 14th, 1918, Johnson was on guard duty with Private Needham Roberts when they were set upon by a German raiding party of at least two dozen men out to take prisoners for interrogation by intelligence agents. Johnson was shot in the chest with a shotgun and Roberts took two pistol rounds in the chest. The Germans scooped up Roberts and started to make their way back to their lines.

Staggering to his feet, Johnson began to fire at the retreating enemy, and then charged after them, still firing his Lebel rifle. When his weapon jammed, he started chucking grenades at them.  When he finally caught up to the Germans he clubbed them with his rifle butt until the rifle broke in half, then he used his bolo trench knife. He grabbed Roberts, and dragged his disabled comrade back to their post, still fighting off Germans along the way. During the course of the action, Johnson was wounded a staggering 21 times.

When French troops arrived a few hours later, they found Johnson and Roberts inside their post laughing and singing songs. They also found dead and dying German soldiers strewn about the ground.

Because of Johnson's extraordinary deeds and selfless determination to save his comrade Needham Roberts, France awarded him that nation's highest military honor, The French Croix de Guerre with Gold Palm. The citation for the award reads as follows:

"Johnson, Henry (13348), private in Company C, being on double sentry duty during the night and having been assaulted by a group composed of at least one dozen Germans, shot and disabled one of them and grievously wounded two others with his bolo. In spite of three wounds with pistol bullets and grenades at the beginning of the fight, this man ran to the assistance of his wounded comrade who was about to be carried away prisoner by the enemy, and continued to fight up to the retreat of the Germans. He has given a beautiful example of courage and activity."
Johnson with his Croix de Guerre

Upon Johnson's return to the United States, he received a ticker tape parade along New York City's Fifth Avenue. After hearing his story, former President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Johnson to be "one of the five bravest men who fought in World War I."

Johnson at the parade in his honor
Sent back to the States, the Army used Johnson as a recruiting tool to entice young black men into the service.  Sadly, unable to continue his job as a porter on the railroad because of his wounds, he became destitute and an alcoholic. He died penniless in a veterans hospital on July 5, 1929, penniless, estranged from his wife and family and without official recognition from the U.S. government. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. For years, his son Herman never even knew where his father was buried. Herman Archibald Johnson was himself a distinguished soldier, serving as a Major with the Tuskegee Airmen in WW2 and later served in the Missouri House of Representatives.

While France readily acknowledged Johnson's bravery with their highest award for valor, the American military never even awarded him a Purple Heart. That wasn't bestowed upon his family until June 1996. In February of 2003, Herman Johnson was presented with a Distinguished Service Cross for his father's service. A year later the younger Johnson also passed away at the age of 88. The DSC is the nation's second-highest award for valor.

Herman Johnson with his father's DSC

Monday, February 25, 2013

Black History Month: Alwyn Cashe

The story of Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe is a hero's tale, and a tale that is far from over despite his passing in 2005. There is an ongoing fight for Cashe to be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions instead of the Silver Star that was presented to his family.

Alwyn Crendall Cashe was born July 13, 1970 in Oviedo, Florida. He joined the Army after graduating high school in 1988, and was a veteran of the First Gulf War in 1990/91. On his second tour of duty in Iraq, the Bradley vehicle he was in was hit by a roadside IED. Not initially hurt in the blast, he was however drenched in fuel, and that proved to be his undoing when he went back inside the ruined track to rescue his men. Burned badly, Cashe was transported to the burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX, where he succumbed to his wounds and died three weeks later.

One eyewitness account of the events are as follow:

As three Bradley fighting vehicles were rolling out the gate, Cashe’s broke down. Major Jimmy Hathaway, who as a Captain was the Company Commander, says  Cashe could have by all rights not gone on the mission due to that. Instead the sergeant went to another Bradley and told its gunner to take the bad one back to the base.

Trouble was about to erupt.

Half an hour after leaving the base, darkness and a sand storm obscured a  pressure-switch improvised explosive device in the Cashe Bradley’s path. The  ensuing blast resulted in fuel spewing everywhere as the vehicle erupted in  flames. Then the group came under fire from terrorists.

Cashe, injured and drenched in fuel, pulled himself out of the gunner’s hatch  and crawled down the Bradley to help the burned driver escape.

Still, the armored personnel carrier/tank killer was burning with six  soldiers and a translator inside.

With no concern about his own safety, Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle  and tried to open the troop hatch door. He couldn’t, and it got worse; his  gas-soaked uniform went up in flames.

Inside the Bradley, Staff Sgt. Douglas Dodge popped the troop hatch door open  and stumbled outside, burned and dazed from a concussion. There he saw Cashe,  his uniform gone, his skin burned everywhere except where his helmet, body armor  and boots were.

 “Cashe said, ‘Where are the rest of the boys? We’ve got to get them out.’  Without even thinking, Cashe just went in there,” said Dodge, who followed  him.

Despite the horror scene, Cashe kept going, retrieving one injured and burned  soldier after another with Dodge’s help.

While the door had been opened by Dodge, the soldiers inside were too  battered to realize that. Cashe and Dodge battled flames and smoke and got all  six soldiers and the interpreter out. By the time a crew from a trailing Bradley  arrived to assist, Cashe had suffered burns over most of his body.

The Cashe-Dodge action helped save those six soldiers, three of whom would  die from complications resulting from their burns in the next few weeks. One  more died later indirectly from his injuries.

So did Cashe, in November 2005. He left behind a wife and three children ranging in ages from 6 to 12.
The three men who perished from their burns at Brooke were Staff Sergeant George Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen Texas; Sergeant Michael Robertson, 28, of Houston; and Specialist Darren Howe, 21, of Beatrice, Nebraska.

To read the narrative of the Silver Star awarded to Cashe posthumously, it reads like the citation that accompanies a Medal of Honor.

Sergeant First Class Alwyn C. Cashe, United States Army, distinguished himself by exceptional gallantry in action in the face of violence while serving as the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company (Hard Rock) 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, based at FOB Mackenzie, Salah a Din Province, Iraq.

On 17 October 2005 , SFC Alwyn Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his fellow soldiers. At approximately 1915 hrs, his platoon departed the forward operating base along Route Jaime to conduct a route clearance operation along a supply route that ran through the town of Duliaya; a town adjacent to the FOB.

After traveling about 4-5 kilometers, the lead Bradley fighting vehicle, of which SFC Cashe was in the gunner's hatch, struck a vehicle detonated IED emplaced across the route at grid MC 25377243. The blast ignited the fuel cell causing fuel to spew throughout the vehicle, igniting a fire and causing the vehicle to roll to a stop. Also, from the forward left flank of the blast site, the platoon received enemy small-arms fire.
Soaked with fuel himself, SFC Cashe managed to dismount from the vehicle and assist the driver, SPC Howe, whose uniform was on fire. SFC Cashe extinguished the flames on SPC Howe.

Six soldiers and an interpreter were in the troop compartment of the burning vehicle. Flames had engulfed the vehicle and were darting from the weapons ports. One of the soldiers in the back of the vehicle attempted to open the hatch door in an attempt to help the soldiers escape. The flames intensified and everyone inside was aflame. Without regard for his personal safety, SFC Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, managed to help open the door and began to pull the soldiers out, one at a time. In doing this, the flames totally gripped his fueled soaked uniform causing severe, painful burns. Despite this pain, he bravely continued to pull his troops out of the vehicle and feverishly worked to put their flames out. As the chaos continued, SFC Cashe noticed that the platoon medic was still inside. He rushed back to the vehicle, reached through the flames and pulled out the medic. All this despite being on fire himself.
Within moments, a trail vehicle arrived and assisted with the CASEVAC. Although severely burned, SFC Cashe bravely continued to take control of the situation as best he could. Shortly thereafter, the company first sergeant, 1SG Chris Mackenzie, accompanied by medics and other soldiers from the company arrived and began to evacuate the severely burned soldiers, the worst of which was SFC Cashe. The FOB helipad served as the LZ/PZ for the air evacuation. Badly burned, all six soldiers were alive when they were air evacuated. The interpreter did not survive the blast and was immediately transported to the battalion morgue.
Throughout the nightmarish ordeal, ten soldiers were injured. Six of the ten were treated at the Balad Hospital. Five of those six, including SFC Cashe were later evacuated through Landstuhl to the burn center in San Antonio, Texas. Sadly, over the next few weeks, four of the six died of wounds.

Despite being the most severely injured with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 72% of his body, SFC Alwyn Cashe endured while his soldiers were alive. He suffered through painful surgeries, infections, organ failure and loss of body parts as he continued to be the consummate Platoon Sergeant to his soldiers. SFC Alwyn Cashe died of his wounds on 8 November 2005. He was the last of those so severely injured that terrible night to die.

SFC Cashe's selfless and gallant actions allowed the loved ones of these brave soldiers to spend precious time by their sides before each succumbed to their dreadful injuries.

Although he is no longer with us, SFC Alwyn C. Cashe is the type of hero that historians will write about.

His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect greatly upon himself and the US Army.

Al Cashe was initially put in for the Silver Star after the action, and the award came through three days after he passed, but at the time of the award, those higher up the chain were unaware that the incident occured while under direct small arms fire from the enemy as well, which is why it was a Silver Star that was awarded.  Several generals and an Army historian are spearheading a continuing effort to get the award upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Not your average Conservative...or am I?

There are times when I look back at my previous 43 years and wonder how I became the fervent Small Government, Pro-Constitution, Fiscal Conservative that I am as an adult. Sometimes I wonder if it was an evolution, while at others I'm convinced it was a pre-ordained path I was set upon at birth and that I was always a Conservative at heart. Sometimes I think I became a Conservative because of my upbringing, and sometimes I think it was in spite of it. Regardless, it's been a long, strange trip and while a Conservative I may be, and a staunch one at that (few can truly question my veracity) I don't exactly fit the mold most associate with being the prototypical archetype.

I'm an American citizen, but my people haven't always been. On my mom's side, I'm first-generation. She was born in Canada and emigrated here as a kid. I helped my mother study for her citizenship test in 1993. My grandfather was given his first job in America by a Czech couple who had survived a concentration camp. On my father's side, I'm second-generation. His father was conceived in Poland and born over here, the first American in the family. During WW2 he married a girl from Wales and brought her back to the States when the war was over.

I come from a lineage that appreciated being American and following the American dream. I also come from a very, very long line of military people. It's in our blood; it's what we do. On both sides, we're born with a strong sense of duty to serve. My mom's family service goes back to the Crusades. Like I said, it's what we do.

Now, I did say that I became a Conservative in spite of things. By this I mostly mean my education. Public schools have long been the Indoctrination Centers for the Liberal Left. From kindergarten through my first 6 weeks of high school, I was a victim of the Prince George's County public schools in suburban Maryland, long a deep blue bastion of the Left. I had some good teachers but the classes were often severely overcrowded and the schools were more like free lunch and daycare for poorer kids than it was a place to get educated. By junior high, circa 82/83, my classes were 45 kids deep and with a 43 minute class period, so it was less than a minute per kid for the teacher to spend. Good luck if a kid needed some extra help. No wonder some kids fell through the cracks.

I can't recall any overt political indoctrination in my younger years but they really hammered Black History Month on us every year, maybe because I was a bit of a minority (to put it mildly) and in the mid-70's we really weren't that far past the civil rights fights around the time of my birth in 1969. Teachers encouraged us to watch the mini-series "Roots". I could be wrong but this may have been the beginnings of the Liberal Left wave of White Guilt to make us all feel like evil racists. For certain we never learned about any of the historical black Americans I've written about; instead it was always the Harriet Tubmans and George Washington Carvers and the MLK's. No military figures because the military is evil. Just safe, peaceful academics and freedom fighters against The Man in general and The White Man in particular.

When I hit high school, things took a dramatic turn. I left the DC suburbs and found myself in a small school in coastal Maine an hour north of Liberal Boston. The classes were much smaller; anything more than 20 kids was crowded. The teachers were able to spend more time with the students and I feel my education, such as it was, became much better than what I was getting in Maryland. But, and there's always a but, Maine is full of escaped hippies and tree huggers and transplanted New Yawkas and Masshole Liberals who now outnumber the old-school New England Conservatives easily a hundred-fold. Many Republicans in Maine are Progressive RINO types. My freshman civics teacher moonlighted as a Democrat in the state House of Representatives so my perspective on government may have been sabotaged. I took history classes from a transplanted NY liberal who detested the military and let me and my circle of friends who were fervently pro-military know it.

Yeah, this was a weird crossroads time for me. Looking back, I was the quintessential confused teenager trying to find myself. I was, as I said, fervently pro-military. I mean, seriously like to the point where I had a subscription to Soldier of Fortune magazine for awhile and I had a litany of tee-shirts that made my teachers cringe. Great shirts like "Kill a Commie For Mommy", and "Kill 'Em All; Let God Sort 'Em Out". After watching the original "Red Dawn" at the movies with my posse, I was convinced the Russian hordes were set to invade Maine and the only hope America had was me and mine.

My high school guidance counselor acted as if he got some sort of bonus or kickback for every kid who went to college after graduation. Sat me down my senior year & asked, "So, what are Steve's plans for after graduation?" Officious prick. Did the same to all of us, and my buddy Chris who was about to enlist in the Marines said ""I dunno, he's right across the table from you. Why don't you ask him?"

Dude had no use for us once we told him we weren't planning on college and that we were enlisting. Seems he'd been drafted and spent a miserable time in Korea and despised the military and everything to do with it. He only grudgingly and with great resistance allowed military recruiters in to talk to students. He had zero use for me and my friends.

Yeah, I was the strange sort of kid who read The Hunt For Red October as a hardback in '85 at age 16  before most submarine officers did. The kid who went to the library to read Jane's Defense Weekly and would regularly check out Norman Polmar's "Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet" to memorize entire sections of data on our military. The kid who called CNN once to talk to another noted naval analyst, Norman Friedman, when he was a guest one afternoon and was told by him that my theory I proposed to him was a great idea. The kid who would read the annual reports of the Soviet threat and could identify pretty much every tank and aircraft used by NATO and Warsaw Pact forces alike.

Sounds like Reagan's perfect ideal American boy, no?

But at the same time I was a bit conflicted. Like I said, I was finding myself. And in finding myself, I found myself drawn to the fringes of the punk music scene and the second British Invasion of New Wave bands. Sometimes it was hard to play the anti-establishment tunes of the Dead Kennedys as they railed against suit-wearing stodgy stuffy Republicans while thumb-tacking a poster of a flight of A-10 tank-busters on my bedroom wall. Most music scenes are decidedly Liberal. I was reading liberal music rags like Rolling Stone.  I would find myself wearing the combat boots and leather jacket (but not the Mohawk or the safety pin in my ear) and feeling rebellious.

Then I joined the Army. It was inevitable, really.

I rode a fine line when I was in the Army. Off duty I still listened to the music and dressed in moody black and hung out with Liberal civilians in artsy clubs, and on duty I was the spit and polish Army cop. I'd get off of patrol duty and high-tail it to the local Alternative Night at a club with my bin of import CDs and 12" remix singles to provide the DJ with fresh tunes. Little did the patrons realize that the dude handing records to the DJ and tearing up the dance floor was a Military Policeman.

I voted in my first Presidential election while stationed in Germany. I voted for Bush 41. Looking back, I wish I had been four years older to have voted for Reagan. C'est la vie.

After the Army I learned what being disgruntled and disenfranchised truly felt like. It took me 10 months to land a job after the Army, despite being told my status as a veteran gave me preferential hiring status and that my Army skills were invaluable in the civilian workforce. I was beginning to wonder about these stodgy old Republicans in their grey suits and whether they were actually looking out for my best interests.

Right about this time, the Left really started to use early social media and TV to grab younger voters and lure them in to the fold. The Left used MTV and liberal musicians (Rock the Vote) to appeal to younger, low-information voters who tend to vote based on how young and hip a candidate is. They pushed for states to adopt Motor Voter Bills, where you registered to vote at the DMV when getting a license (as if it was some sort of Herculean effort and miracle to get registered. It ain't that hard, people. It takes effort and desire, though, and that is something most younger Americans lack these days.) While I can look back and applaud the effort to get younger folks interested in politics, registering to vote and actually voting, all they would do is push liberal agendas and liberal candidates. And it worked. Young people came out in droves to vote for Bill Clinton. He was young, he was hip, he played the sax on Arsenio Hall. Bush 41 simply said "Read my lips, no new taxes", and then raised taxes, due in part because Congress was controlled by the Left and that's what Leftists do. But you couldn't tell young people that.

Slick. Hip. Cool. Serial adulterer.

I didn't vote in the 1992 election, to be honest. I abstained. I was 23, unemployed, I was pissed off, I felt that after giving my first few years of adulthood to Uncle Sam that I needed a break. It was stupid and petulant of me, looking back.

In late 1993 I went back to Maine for college, and regretted it quickly. The University of Maine is riddled and rife with hippies, tree huggers, and other various & sundry Liberals. While the Criminal Justice program seemed to have its head screwed on right, the rest of the faculty seemed your average garden variety granola. I got bored with the BS for a BS and dropped out, on the Dean's List with a 3.67 GPA. Read about it here.

Along came the 1996 election, and I simply didn't trust Bill Clinton. I was 27, recently married, and had responsibilities, things like bills. And that, my dear readers, is one of the things that grows you up and makes you lean RIGHT and not LEFT: it's easy to bang the liberal drum and rail against those evil banks and corporations when you're a college student leeching off mom and dad or some welfare maven sucking the governmental teat, all woe is me and downtrodden, but once you grow up and have responsibilities and bills to pay, you begin to realize how shallow and corrupt and vile the Left is and you start hungering for fiscal responsibility in your leaders, a strong national defense to keep offshore scumbags at bay, your right to a firearm to keep local scumbags at bay, lower taxes and fewer regulations so you can keep what you earn and live a free life as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Problem is, the GOP kept propping up stodgy old white guys in suits.They still do, actually.

Yes, I supported Ross the Boss
Bob Dole had all the personality of a dead fish all through the election of 1996. Slick Willie was all, well, Slick Willie. I supported the Crazy Guy, Ross Perot, as a protest. We got more Slick Willie as a result, and after the election, Bob Dole hit the late night shows (hosted by Liberals) and he was personable, funny, engaging; had he shown even half that much personality and affability BEFORE the election I'd have been right there with him all the way.

But yeah, the older I've gotten, the more Conservative I've become. In spite of being surrounded by Libs all trying to seduce me to the Dark Side.

The Liberal Lapdog Media likes to portray the Typical Conservative as either a rich, doddering old man in a suit counting his billions schemed off the backs of the proletarian masses, or as a crazed gun-toting redneck garbed in camo and a NASCAR hat, burning crosses and misquoting Bible verses as they run over illegal aliens and other minorities in a giant pickup.
 Conservative Stereotype A

Conservative Stereotype B
Yes, there are rich Conservatives in bespoke suits and yes there are Conservatives who live just down the road from me who fit more than just a couple of the criteria on the latter list. Where do I fit in?

I'm a blue-collar guy. I work for a dairy company in shipping. I'm not rich by any means. I'm a college dropout. A damned intelligent college dropout if I dare say.

I'm not a religious guy whatsoever. On a generous day, I'm an agnostic at best. However, I have no real problem with those who practice their faith. This nation was founded on religious freedom as one of its basic tenets. I simply choose not to practice.

Pickup truck? Not me; I drive a ten year old Toyota made in Kentucky and the wife drives a Kia that we just got a month ago. Almost 44 years old and this was the first brand-new car I'd ever signed my name to.

I have 8 tattoos and 2 earrings.

Yes, I have tattoos for a band.

And I have my belief system as a tattoo

Gun nut? I like guns, am very comfortable with guns, and I enjoy shooting. Do I own a closet full of shotguns and assault rifles? Nope.We have a couple of handguns for personal defense and recreational shooting. Would I shoot an intruder threatening my home and family? You bet your ass, and with zero hesitation. 

Most conservatives are against same-sex marriage. Not me. I'm cool with it. You're different from me in your sexuality? Fine. You found love? Awesome. You wanna commit and get married and take a penalty on your taxes like me? Excellent. You want to be able to extend familial survivor benefits and what not to your spouse? Cool. That in no way affects or threatens my marriage or me in any way. Some people are gay and we as a human race really need to get the fuck over it.

Conservatives by and large wave a big huge giant flag against abortion. It's a super-tricky issue. I'm not in favor of it as a rule, especially not as a form of contraception by irresponsible types and not if we gotta fund it for free for those same irresponsible types. It's your problem; why should I pay for it? The complication is that it is constitutionally legal. If you ban it, it will just go underground and occur in secret filthy labs set up in self-storage lockers and folks are gonna die. (And by folks I don't just mean the fetus; I also mean that those getting it done will invariably become casualties as they would in any lurid secret underground illegal unlicensed surgical deal). If you really feel the need to ban it, amend the Constitution that you claim to defend, uphold, and support. That's the process we set up when we founded this country. Personally, I'm against it after the first trimester whatsoever, unless continuing the pregnancy will cause harm and irreparable damage. Some say that life begins at conception and others say at birth. Some say that if you're going to say that a pre-fetal zygote is a living human why can't you claim it on your taxes and give it a Social Security Number till it's born? I try and be practical and call it life if it can viably live on its own outside the womb. For the record, I have no children of my own, so some would also say that I shouldn't even comment on the subject at all.But since when do I follow the rules?

The more I get to know my fellow Conservatives (not Establishment Republicans) the more I think I'm probably actually more mainstream than I thought. We tend by and large to fall into that gray area middle ground. We work, and we work hard. We want lower taxes and we want government to stay the hell out of every bit of minutiae in running our lives. We're sick of welfare leeches and sick of paying through the nose for gas and food. We're sick of our rights being eroded away and being replaced by bullshit regulations. We're sick of the Left usurping the Constitution. We're sick of the Establishment GOP handing us RINO squishes and jellybacks as candidates, of giving us progresssive old rich white dudes as candidates, of giving us UNELECTABLE candidates who won't fight back or even fight at all. We're sick of bending over and taking it in the ass from the Left on every issue because our alleged leadership just caves in on every issue.

Okay, rant over.What say you?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Black History Month: Clifford C. Sims

Clifford Sims, as a Specialist 4 with the 82d Airborne

Clifford Pittman was born June 8th, 1942 in Port St. Joe, Florida. Orphaned at an early age, he was adopted at the age of 13 by James & Irene Sims and took their surname. After graduating high school in Jacksonville, he joined the Army and later that year married his high school sweetheart, Mary.

In the summer of 1967, Sims was assigned to Delta Company, 2d Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and deployed to Vietnam with the company. On February 21, 1968 Staff Sergeant Sims found himself engaged with enemy forces near Hue City when someone triggered a booby trap. Sims threw himself onto the device, absorbing the blast with his body and saving his squad in the process.

An eyewitness account of the action stated that, "Before the squad reached their destination they encountered a bunker, and SSG Sims took it upon himself to see if it was empty. As he moved forward a booby trap went off and everybody froze. But SSG Sims shouted a warning then dove on it, fatally wounding him. However he had covered the blast with his own body, and thus saved the lives of those in the area..."

Another account stated, "[Sims] also saved his squad by moving them quickly out of the way of a house filled with ammunition which was burning. Just as he got his men away the house blew up. Then on moving toward a bunker a booby trap was set off, and Sgt Sims yelled for everybody to get back, but before they could he threw himself on the device taking the entire blast to save his squad from complete disaster. In so doing he gave up his own life. Each and every man of the 2nd Squad owes his very life to this man.."

Clifford Sims was just 25 when he gave his life in defense of his country and his fellow soldiers. For his bravery under fire, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation for his medal reads as follows:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Sims distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader with Company D. Company D was assaulting a heavily fortified enemy position concealed within a dense wooded area when it encountered strong enemy defensive fire. Once within the woodline, S/Sgt. Sims led his squad in a furious attack against an enemy force which had pinned down the 1st Platoon and threatened to overrun it. His skillful leadership provided the platoon with freedom of movement and enabled it to regain the initiative. S/Sgt. Sims was then ordered to move his squad to a position where he could provide covering fire for the company command group and to link up with the 3rd Platoon, which was under heavy enemy pressure. After moving no more than 30 meters S/Sgt. Sims noticed that a brick structure in which ammunition was stocked was on fire. Realizing the danger, S/Sgt. Sims took immediate action to move his squad from this position. Though in the process of leaving the area 2 members of his squad were injured by the subsequent explosion of the ammunition, S/Sgt. Sims' prompt actions undoubtedly prevented more serious casualties from occurring. While continuing through the dense woods amidst heavy enemy fire, S/Sgt. Sims and his squad were approaching a bunker when they heard the unmistakable noise of a concealed booby trap being triggered immediately to their front. S/Sgt. Sims warned his comrades of the danger and unhesitatingly hurled himself upon the device as it exploded, taking the full impact of the blast. In so protecting his fellow soldiers, he willingly sacrificed his life. S/Sgt. Sims' extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
SSG Sims is buried in Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida.
The widow of Clifford Sims receives his Medal of Honor from Vice President Spiro Agnew

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Revisiting Black History Month, my way

It's not Black History; it's AMERICAN History for all races

It's been 25 years since I graduated high school. As an elementary/middle school kid in the Maryland suburbs around Washington, DC we covered Black History Month pretty well every year. It was covered less in high school in Maine, probably in part due to the fact we had maybe 4 black kids in the school. Of course, we always covered the standard figures one expects to find in Black History Month, the George Washington Carvers, the Martin Luther Kings, the Frederick Douglasses, the Harriet Tubmans...

Nowadays, it seems that instead of decent role models from American history, American kids in general and black kids in particular, are cleaving towards thug-life rappers and sports figures.

Two years ago I challenged myself to highlight an inspirational black American that I felt needed to be showcased, not just as a role model for kids but as historically significant Americans who were being overlooked by the left-leaning educational system that indoctrinates our kids.

I'm going to add a few more in the next few days, but in the meantime in case you missed it, here are links to the ones you missed from February 2011.

Black History Month, my way.

The Tuskegee Airmen

Robert H. Jenkins

Lawrence Joel

Joe D'Acosta

Oscar P. Austin

Clarence Sasser

Charles Rogers

Riley Pitts

Vernon Baker

Carl Brashear

Dorie Miller

Milton Olive

Jesse Brown

James Anderson

Ruben Rivers

Russell Honore

John Warren

John Fox

Freddie Stowers

Quincy Green

Ron McNair

Charles Thomas

Cornelius Charlton

Webster Anderson

Ralph Johnson

Garfield Langhorn

And my wrap up open letter to Black America

Saying goodbye to a hero

Monday, America said goodbye to a truly great American, a man who was a larger than life hero but by all accounts was a humble, regular guy. Known to his enemies as The Devil of Ramadi, where his prowess with his weapon became legendary, he left his nation's service after ten years to save his marriage and raise a family.

Former Navy SEAL operator Chris Kyle was killed by a veteran with PTSD that he was trying to help; he looked out for fellow troops till the end. He left behind a wife and two kids, and a nation that is just a little emptier without him.

Some 7,000 people attended his memorial service, held at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The crowd was a sea of uniforms, from police to fire to members of all the armed services to Patriot Guard riders in leather. 

Thousands more lined the 200-mile route of the procession from Dallas to his final resting spot in Austin to pay their respects.

Goodbye, Chief Kyle. Fair winds & following seas.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Today a warrior was honored

Earlier today, a humble family man and former soldier who now works for an oil company in Minot, ND was awarded the nation's highest award for valor under fire.

Clint Romesha, 31, left the Army in April of 2011, about a year and a half after the battle at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan in October 2009 that earned him the Medal of Honor. Today he donned his dress blues one more time to receive the award at the White House.

Romesha is the fourth living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the eleventh overall.
SSG Romesha in Afghanistan

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3, 2009. On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire. Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner. Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds. Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers. Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter. While orchestrating a successful plan to secure and reinforce key points of the battlefield, Staff Sergeant Romesha maintained radio communication with the tactical operations center. As the enemy forces attacked with even greater ferocity, unleashing a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and recoilless rifle rounds, Staff Sergeant Romesha identified the point of attack and directed air support to destroy over 30 enemy fighters. After receiving reports that seriously injured Soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station. Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New posts at The Savvy Guyde

C'mon, you know you wanna subscribe to my other blog, too. Show me some love.

My latest articles include a discussion on men's skin care and how to avoid hands that feel like a bag of needles on tender lady-skin, and we go over some info on getting a Man Bag for your gear that doesn't look like a purse or a shaving kit.

Head on over to The Savvy Guyde and join the fun with your Virtual Wingman..

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fight Like a Girl: Another story of a woman in combat

The other day when I posted my opinions on women in combat, I made mention of a combat medic named Monica Brown who was awarded a Silver Star for her actions in a firefight that saved the lives of several fellow soldiers. I was remiss in not pointing out that Brown was only the second female soldier to be awarded the Silver Star since WW2, and further remiss in not highlighting the other awardee.

Of course, she's another fellow MP, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, of the Kentucky National Guard's 617th MP Company.

SGT Hester with a captured AK

SGT Hester with a horde of captured enemy weapons after the battle was over.
On March 20, 2005 near the town of Salman Pak, Iraq, Hester's squad of two women and eight men in three Humvees was shadowing a 30-truck supply convoy when approximately 50 insurgent fighters ambushed the convoy with AK-47 rifle fire, RPK machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades. The squad moved to the side of the road, flanking the insurgents and cutting off their escape route. Hester maneuvered her team through the kill zone and into a flanking position that cut off the enemy's escape route, where she and her squad leader, Staff Sergeant Timothy F. Nein, assaulted a trench line with hand grenades and M-203 grenade launcher rounds. Hester and Nein assaulted and cleared two trenches. During the 25-minute firefight, Hester killed at least three enemy combatants with her M-4 carbine.

When the battle was over, 27 insurgents were dead, six were wounded, and one captured. Sergeants Hester and Nein were both awarded the Silver Star. Nein's was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.

Also awarded the Silver Star in this ambush was platoon combat medic Specialist Jason Mike, who took up and simultaneously fired an M-4 carbine and M-249 SAW light machine gun in defense of his comrades.

Nein, Hester, and Mike at their awards ceremony

 I kid you not, a toy company created a commemorative action figure of Leigh Ann Hester. Pretty badass.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A differing viewpoint on women in combat (from Guest Blogger Jim)

Half the fun of being a grown up is that you can be the best of friends with people and have different opinions on things and it doesn't alter your friendship, and often times you can reach a middle ground quite easily.

My old Army buddy and fellow MP Jim from over at the Oh, Bama Files wrote this piece about the same time as I was writing mine about women in combat, and Jim brings about the very valid point that if women are to serve in the traditional combat arms fields in the military, by which we mean Infantry, Armor, Special Forces, and the jobs in Artillery and Engineers that heretofore had been closed to women, then they need to perform to the EXACT SAME STANDARDS as their male counterparts.  More on that after his piece.
Well, I wanted to put something up sooner and got side tracked; now it appears that I am jumping on the band wagon.  So be it.

I do not want to see women serve in the combat arms branches of the armed forces.  Sorry, call me old fashioned, but i just do not believe that women are capable of taking the day to day grind of sustained field operations that occur in the direct-action units which comprise combat arms.

In looking at an old APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) card I refreshed my memory to the fact that women in the 17 to 21 year age range could do 24 fewer push ups than men of the same age, and receive a score of 100 in that category. Guys who completed the same amount would only receive 76 points. In the timed 2-mile run, women would get 100 points for a time of 14 minutes and 54 seconds; second class citizens (men) would get a 70 for the same time in the same event. Assuming our male and female test subject did the same 90 sit ups, our male would get a 244 on his APFT, good for 21 promotion points; the female soldier a perfect 300 score, good for a whopping 50 promotion points. What does that mean?  Simple: she does half the work and reaps more than twice the benefits of her male peer.

That won't cut it in combat, children.  The average weight of an M-240 machine gun is 25 pounds,  average weight of a shell for a 120mm gun on an M-1 Abrams tank is 49 pounds and the weight of a 155mm shell for an M-109 Paladin howitzer is 96 pounds. How many girls you know can shuck that shit for hours on end?

Loading the main gun in an Abrams tank

Loading the gun on a Paladin howitzer. Powder bags go behind the shell.

Now, I think a legitimate reason to put women into these units would be if we could not fill the spots determined by the budget with men. This is not, and has never been, the case.  Have you heard of, or can you recall any stories of the Army or Marines being incapable of filling their infantry slots?  No, you can not.  And one the reasons for this is while you may come into the Army to be in the Intelligence branch, all it takes to send you to the grunts is failing some test, or being a fuck-up, or the loss of your security clearance. It's called the needs of the army.  The primary reason this also is not a problem is because young guys WANT to do these things. It's cool and macho. How cool are you if they let girls do it?

Over at IT DON'T MAKE SENSE, they posted a letter by a female Marine officer. While it may not be indicative of all all women in combat experiences, it certainly offers insight. My good buddy Steve, over at GLOBAL DOMINATION, seems to think that the time has arrived to allow women into the field units. Steve makes a STRONG case for this and while I disagree, I respect his view as we served together.  He has forgotten though the things that kept female soldiers limping along on field problem all those years ago. 

In our units the new "men" got to carry the Pig or Hog; the M-60, a 26-pound belt fed machine gun. It was a rite of passage.  Go to the field and guess who was on the bleed, unable to "hump the pig" due to cramps?  Let's say you are getting ready to deploy to a hot spot as a company commander of an infantry company made up of 30% women, and half report they are pregnant?  Guess who just lost 15% of their combat effectiveness without a shot even being fired?

We need to stop trying to be all things to all people, and remember as leaders we CAN NOT (nor should we try to) make everyone happy all the time. I still respect and honor your service, ladies, but unless you WILL be judged by the same tough standards of your male counterparts, you should stick to the combat support units.

And fear not, you will still get plenty of opportunities to prove your valor and dedication.

I see Jim's points. The way the Army is set up, women perform to a different set of physical fitness standards based upon the physical difference between men & women. They can get the maximum 300 score on their PT tests by doing fewer pushups, fewer situps, and by running slower than men. And when you're competing to make Sergeant or Staff Sergeant every promotion point counts, and using Jim's example above the same numbers/times gave the female soldier a 29-point advantage. Another consideration for promotion to Sergeant and Staff Sergeant is the promotion points accumulated by passing PLDC, the Primary Leadership Development Course, and BNCOC, the Basic Non-Commissioned Officer's Course. Both of these schools also include a PT Test, where the female soldiers enjoy that same advantage towards passing that course.

If you want to do the exact same combat job, you should have to meet the exact same standards. Otherwise, folks could get killed and folks may not have a lot of faith in the person leading them or backing them up. It's bad enough to have these situations in combat support units but direct-action units could crumble quickly this way.

My wife made the valid point of how crappy she feels during That Time Of The Month and how for those few days she sure as hell wouldn't feel up to running two miles or climbing walls or anything else, and when you get a group of women together they all end up cycling together pretty much, so is your female infantry unit going to be combat ineffective for 5 days a month?

How about a female Ranger infiltrating enemy territory on a recon, crossing through a chest-deep swamp as her pad gets soaked through and bacteria-laden swamp water swishes through her tender lady parts? Would the menses attract gators? It sounds like an absurd and misogynistic question but I think these are valid points to consider.

As I said in my own article, this is a seriously complex issue and there are no easy answers. It will be interesting to see what the politically-correct asshats on Capitol Hill come up with.