Give Thanks By Sending Thanks

Tomorrow, Americans will gather together and give thanks for all the blessings of our lives. Some Americans will not have that opportunity, and ironically, they are as a unit one of our greatest blessings. The men and women who keep this nation safe and who protect the freedom and liberty of others will not have the luxury of a holiday from their missions.
Now we can send them a message of thanks straight from our cell phones. The major cell carriers have agreed to participate in The Giving Thanks Campaign, which asks Americans to text a message of support that will get delivered to men and women all over the world wearing the US uniform. All you have to do is send a text message from your cellphone to 89279 to brighten someone’s day — and it won’t cost a penny. I sent my message already and received two responses.
I’m including the GTC widget on this post. It shows the latest messages and provides the links back to the website for more information. Give thanks by sending thanks, and let our men and women know that they’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday weekend.

Celebrate Veterans Day With Project Valour-IT!

BlogWorld Expo had plenty of reasons to make attendance last week worthwhile, but meeting Chuck Ziegenfuss was one of the best. Chuck began the Project Valour-IT fundraising effort at Soldier’s Angels, the fund that gives voice-operated laptops to severely wounded veterans who need help in re-establishing themselves in civilian society. I joined the Navy team, which appears to have solidified our hold on last place. Yikes!
The contest is all in fun, but the donations go to a great cause and to wonderful people who risked their lives and health for our nation. On Veterans Day, please find a few more dollars to support the men and women who need and deserve our support.
And to our veterans — including the Admiral Emeritus and all three of my mother’s brothers — thank you for your service to our nation.

Honoring America’s Best

The US will award the Medal of Honor to Lt. Michael P. Murphy posthumously for his courage and determination to save the lives of his team at the expense of his own. The announcement, made Thursday, makes Murphy the first sailor to be so honored since the Vietnam War and the first recipient for action in Afghanistan. Murphy’s story reveals much about how America fights the war on terror, and it demonstrates once again the courage and honor in one of America’s finest and most elite fighting units:

Two years after his death in Afghanistan, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who grew up in Patchogue and joined the elite Navy SEALs after college, has been awarded the nation’s highest battlefield award, the Medal of Honor, for a valiant attempt to save the lives of comrades that cost him his own.
“This tells the country what we already know about Michael — that he was a hero,” his father, Daniel Murphy, said after receiving the news Thursday that the White House had made the announcement of the award shortly after noon Thursday. …
That month, Murphy and three other SEALs — Petty Officer Matt Axelson, 29, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, 25 — were inserted by helicopter onto a remote mountaintop near the border. They were four men on a secret mission to track a high-ranking Taliban warlord, Newsday reported last May. But they were discovered first by an Afghan goat herder who stumbled upon their hiding place in a mountainside forest. Not long after, the four SEALs were surrounded by dozens of armed insurgents, and a fierce battle ensued.
The lone survivor of the incident, Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, 29, of Texas, has called Murphy, the team’s leader, “an iron-souled warrior of colossal, almost unbelievable courage.” According to Luttrell’s account, as told to Navy superiors and in a recently published book, Murphy displayed “an extreme act of valor” when he ran into the open — and suffered a bullet wound when he did — in a last-ditch attempt to call for help and save his fellow SEALs.

Some wonder why hear of no El Alameins, no D-Days, no Iwo Jimas in the war on terror. They believe that a lack of glorious battlefield triumphs mean that we make no progress. However, men like Murphy and the SEALs in action on the ground fight a much different kind of war — a quieter, deadlier war that has a special nobility of its own. Without men like Murphy and the other commandos at work, we would have to fall back to a strategy that Barack Obama once accused the military of using — “air raiding villages and killing civilians” that would not only be inhumane but counterproductive as well. These quiet warriors don’t just save American lives, but Afghan and Pakistani lives as well.
This necessarily puts them at higher risk, but they accept that gladly in service to our nation. Murphy, like all other SEALs and commandos, volunteered for the opportunity to serve in just such a situation. Men like Murphy would not panic at an adverse situation, and leaders of his caliber would not hesitate to risk his life to save those of his men.
I’m blessed to know a SEAL and to call him my friend. He’s served his country for over 30 years, and he tells me about the closeness of the SEAL community where he lives — and where he also serves in a first-responder capacity when not on active duty. It’s the kind of tradition that makes America both proud and humble, because one cannot demand this devotion or even request it — it must be given. Lt. Murphy gave his last full measure of devotion in the highest and most honorable tradition of our military, and it’s only fitting that he receive his nation’s highest honor.
Godspeed, Lt. Michael Murphy. You have honored us all.

Saluting Our Veterans

I want to wish all of our brave and courageous men in uniform, past and present, a happy Veteran’s Day. These men and women served our nation to protect the freedoms we enjoy, and in many cases to bring liberty where oppression and tyranny existed. It goes without saying that we owe our own freedoms and liberties to these fine, courageous Americans, who dedicated themselves and their lives to our great nation.
Last night, the First Mate and I watched an edition of Shootout! on the History Channel. This series reviews famous firefights from various battles, analyzing them and profiling the men who survived them. Last night, they featured the Battle of the Bulge and several engagements between American and German troops, and one man’s story struck me as particularly emblematic of the fortitude of simple American citizens fighting for their country. Meet Melvin Earl Biddle, one of only 150 living Medal of Honor recipients:

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Place and date: Near Soy, Belgium, 23‑24 December 1944.
Entered service at: Anderson, Ind.
Birth: 28 November 1923, Daleville, Ind.
G.O. No.: 95, 30 October 1945.
Citation: He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy near Soy, Belgium, on 23 and 24 December 1944. Serving as lead scout during an attack to relieve the enemy‑encircled town of Hotton, he aggressively penetrated a densely wooded area, advanced 400 yards until he came within range of intense enemy rifle fire, and within 20 yards of enemy positions killed 3 snipers with unerring marksmanship. Courageously continuing his advance an additional 200 yards, he discovered a hostile machine-gun position and dispatched its 2 occupants. He then located the approximate position of a well‑concealed enemy machine-gun nest, and crawling forward threw hand grenades which killed two Germans and fatally wounded a third. After signaling his company to advance, he entered a determined line of enemy defense, coolly and deliberately shifted his position, and shot 3 more enemy soldiers. Undaunted by enemy fire, he crawled within 20 yards of a machine-gun nest, tossed his last hand grenade into the position, and after the explosion charged the emplacement firing his rifle.
When night fell, he scouted enemy positions alone for several hours and returned with valuable information which enabled our attacking infantry and armor to knock out 2 enemy tanks. At daybreak he again led the advance and, when flanking elements were pinned down by enemy fire, without hesitation made his way toward a hostile machine-gun position and from a distance of 50 yards killed the crew and 2 supporting riflemen. The remainder of the enemy, finding themselves without automatic weapon support, fled panic stricken. Pfc. Biddle’s intrepid courage and superb daring during his 20 hour action enabled his battalion to break the enemy grasp on Hotton with a minimum of casualties.

The Battle of the Bulge was a close-run victory. Men like Melvin Biddle and many others helped slow down and stop the German advance before they could seize fuel and food depots and continue their desperate counteroffensive. Mr. Biddle is still with us and living in Indiana; like so many of America’s heroes, he returned home from war and helped build the country he protected with his industriousness and dedication.
To men like Melvin Biddle — and my own father — Captain’s Quarters delivers a heartfelt thanks for your service to and love of America.

Godspeed, Michael Monsoor

Whether or not one agrees with the war in Iraq, no one can dispute the courage and honor of the American citizen soldier/sailor/airman, the volunteers that serve our country and defend liberty and freedom around the world. The latest example of the selflessness that these men and women demonstrate comes from Michael Mansoor, a Navy SEAL who gave his life to save his comrades. When an Iraqi insurgent tossed a grenade into a position occupied by Mansoor and four others, Mansoor instinctively dove — on top of it:

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.
“He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it,” said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. “He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs’ lives, and we owe him.”
Monsoor, a 25-year-old gunner, was killed in the explosion in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. He was only the second SEAL to die in Iraq since the war began.
Two SEALs next to Monsoor were injured; another who was 10 to 15 feet from the blast was unhurt. The four had been working with Iraqi soldiers providing sniper security while U.S. and Iraqi forces conducted missions in the area.

CQ readers will recall that I have a friend in the SEALs, also named Mike, who has served in Iraq. I know the kind of character and quality that SEALs have, and I’m not surprised by Mansoor’s instinctive heroism. We should make sure that the rest of the country understands the kind of Americans we have on the front lines — brave, selfless people who want to make the world a better place.
Godspeed, Michael Mansoor. You have the thanks of a grateful nation, and we know you have just landed on a better shore. (via CQ reader Stoo)

Remembering Sgt. Paul Smith

PaulSmithHonor200.jpgDerek Brigham of Freedom Dogs has arranged for a Minnesota Organization of Bloggers blogburst in memory of Sgt. Paul Smith, the first Medal of Honor recipient in the global war on terror. I wrote about Sgt, Smith when his heroism in battle first got him nominated for the posthumous award in May 2004, and again earlier this year for Memorial Day. Today is Sgt. Smith’s birthday, and thanks to his actions in protecting his men, more than 100 of them will see their next birthdays.
Here again is the story of Sgt. Paul Smith’s heroic actions:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith
United States Army

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of the Marne,” and the United States Army.

I also want to remind Minnesotans that we have an opportunity to thank our own heroes who have returned from their tours of duty. Next Saturday, September 30, the Minnesotan’s Military Appreciation Fund will stage a parade led by Eagan’s own Col. Joe Repya. The Elder has the details:
Join MMAF for an entertaining day in honor of Minnesota’s military personnel, at home and overseas. In addition to remembering our deployed friends and neighbors, this event will be a special “welcome back” for all returned troops, especially those injured overseas, capped with a day at the ballpark with the Minnesota Twins.
Events to include a 5K run, 2 Mile Walk, Celebration Events at the MetroDome “Pad” and a Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox baseball game with additional MMAF events inside the dome
All registrants to receive tickets to the Twins vs. White Sox, a t-shirt and commemorative pin. Prize drawings also available to those that bring with them the most pledges on day of the event.
MMAF 2 Mile Walk is $15 per person / $50 per family
MMAF 5K Run is $20 per person
Military personnel, their families and Scouts are Free!

I had lunch with Col. Repya on Friday — actually, CQ readers paid for it, so thank you! — and he has a surprise for everyone who shows up to the parade. Check out his new convertible that his wonderful wife allowed him to buy on his return from Iraq earlier this month. I won’t spoil it, but all I can tell you is that I wouldn’t mind driving it when people cut in front of me in traffic. Fortunately for Minnesotans, Col. Repya has a little more discipline …
Also blogging for Sgt. Paul Smith in the MOB: Andy, Matt, Brian.
BUMPED: Into Sunday. Also, Mitch has a great post about how Smith’s platoon may not have liked him much as a leader before the war, because he spent all of his time making sure they would survive it.

One Last Salute To An American Hero

America lost one of its bravest and toughest sons today. Carl Brashear, the Navy’s first black diver, died at age 75, leaving behind four children and a legend:

Carl M. Brashear, the first black U.S. Navy diver who was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 2000 film “Men of Honor,” died Tuesday. He was 75.
Brashear died at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth of respiratory and heart failure, the medical center said.
Brashear retired from the Navy in 1979 after more than 30 years of service. He was the first Navy diver to be restored to full active duty as an amputee, the result of a leg injury he sustained during a salvage operation.
“The African-American community lost a great leader today in Carl Brashear,” Gooding said of the man he played alongside Robert DeNiro, who was Brashear’s roughneck training officer in “Men of Honor.” “His impact to us as a people and all races will be felt for many decades to come.”

Men Of Honor paid tribute to Brashear, and a terrific performance by Cuba Gooding allowed Americans to know a little about Brashear and his tenacity and courage. He had already served 18 years in the Navy as a diving specialist when an accident almost tore his leg from his body, and the doctors amputated it to keep gangrene from killing Brashear. He could easily have taken a disability leave — the Navy insisted on it — but instead requalified as a Navy diver with his prosthesis. He continued his career and achieved the highest rank among all divers.
If the movie juggled facts and got a little schmaltzy, Brashear never appeared to do either. His tough-as-nails legend provides inspiration for all Americans, and many more to come. In that way, Brashear will never really leave us; we will simply tell his story to the next generation, and he will continue to inspire and instruct us.
Godspeed, Carl Brashear, and thank you.

Lunch With Legends

Those who know me and read my blog know that there isn’t too much that could tear me away from an AFC Championship game with my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers vying for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. Herb Suerth is an exception to the rule, however. Suerth is the president of the E Company Association, the company made famous in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. Suerth joined the company as a replacement in December 1944, which he noted in our conversation today as “sort of a bad place to come in.” Shortly after joining E Company, they deployed to a town in the Ardennes named Bastogne and found themselves surrounded by Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. General Anthony McAuliffe’s famous reply to a German request for surrender, “Nuts!”, came up in our conversation. Suerth recalled that “there was a lot of discussion about what the word really was. I think they cleaned it up for publication.”
SuerthA.jpgIf you get the impression from that exchange that Herb Suerth has a good sense of humor and humility, then you guessed correctly. Suerth didn’t come to talk about himself, but to discuss another issue of proper recognition for one of the legendary officers of E Company. (I learned that one does not refer to them as “Easy Company” — that was an HBO artifact, not a reference used by the men themselves.) It would be an injustice not to mention the service of Suerth, who nearly had both legs taken off by an artillery shell in Bastogne. With compound fractures to both femurs but his femoral arteries miraculously intact, the surgeons managed to piece his legs back together. He spent eighteen months in hospitals recovering from his wounds. He went back into civilian life like so many of his generation — he went to college, got married, had nine children and had a successful career in business. He lives in Minnesota, retired but active in his community.
But what brought Suerth to our luncheon, along with my friend Randy Penrod of Savage Republican, was an effort to correct a bureaucratic decision to deny proper recognition to Major Dick Winters, the legendary leader of E Company from its first action in the war. After having E Company spread all over Normandy during the drop on D-Day -1, then-Lieutenant Winters got assigned the task of taking out three German 88s that had rained artillery shells on GIs landing at Utah Beach during D-Day. Despite having only 17 of his 140 men available for the task and missing the unit’s captain, Winters took the assignment without question. He found that the three German 88s were in fact four German 105s, complete with machine-gun nests and trenchworks reinforcement. Suerth told me that the Germans probably had upwards of 90 men in this site.
Despite this being the first action Winters had ever seen, he quickly drew up a strategy to attack the gun emplacements — and proceeded to rout the Germans from their entrenched positions, kill or capture almost all of them, destroy all four guns, and capture intelligence information that proved crucial in locating other artillery emplacements in Normandy. Winters’ first engagement in combat showed such brilliance that it is still taught as the textbook method of attacking reinforced positions at West Point. His commanding officer put him up for the Medal of Honor, but in a development that could only happen in the US Army bureaucracy, a decision had been made that only one MOH would be awarded in each division for the Normandy campaign — and another officer had already won that one (the remarkable Lt. Col. Robert G Cole).
Major Winters won the Distinguished Service Cross instead — no small achievement, but not the MoH that his men felt he deserved for his bravery, brilliance, and execution, which saved hundreds of lives on Utah Beach. His men continue to press for a reconsideration from the Department of Defense and the Secretary of the Army, but thus far have not been successful in getting a review. Suerth would like to see that addressed while Major Winters can live to receive the award himself.
Randy and I will be updating this effort as we move along. We hope to get a letter-writing campaign going to press Congress to ask for a reconsideration of the denial of the Medal of Honor for Major Winters. In the meantime, I want to thank Randy for arranging the thoroughly entertaining afternoon and having the honor of Mr. Suerth’s company for lunch.
CORRECTION: This is what I get for watching football when I’m supposed to be blogging. It should be General Anthony McAuliffe.

CQ Thanks American Veterans For Their Sacrifice

CQ flies the flag that defied the terrorists at the Pentagon on September 12, 2001. Thank you to all who serve or have served our nation by laying your lives on the line for our freedom and safety.

This flag now hangs in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC.
Special thanks to our fathers:
* Edward T Morrissey Sr, Army, Korean War – 1951-53 (now Admiral Emeritus at CQ!)
* Paul Flesch, USMC, World War II (1944-45), Korean War (50-52?), deceased 1991
And a happy belated birthday to the men and women of the Marine Corps, which celebrated its 230th anniversary yesterday. Semper Fi!

Project Valour IT

You’ll notice that today’s Day By Day cartoon, besides its normal humor, promotes an effort to provide voice-command laptop computers to service members injured in the war. Project Valour IT is run by Soldier’s Angels, a fine organization that adopts soldiers and Marines on the front lines to make sure each of our fighting men and women have someone back home supporting them. You can find out more about Project Valour IT there, or at the following blogs:
Dean’s World
And here at From My Position, meet the soldier that inspired Project Valour IT.