Wednesday Hero

March 12, 2008
Sgt. Steve Morin Jr.

Sgt. Steve Morin Jr.
34 years old from Arlington, Texas
111th Engineer Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard
September 28, 2005


From the time he finished high school, Sgt. Steve Morin Jr. made serving in the military his career.“He always stood up for what he thought was right,” Gwendolyn Michelle Morin, his wife, said. “He was a fighter. He would never give up.”

“He had called me to let me know what he was going to do that day,” she said. He expected to be able to call her more often because of the missions he was being assigned. Sometimes they would go 11 or 12 days between calls.

Morin enlisted in the Navy after graduating high school in his hometown of Brownfield, Texas at 17. By 34, Morin had devoted 14 years to the Navy, served in the National Guard for two and planned to attend Officers Candidate School.

Morin was still in the Navy when he met his wife. At the time, the two were working for a photo company; he was Santa Claus and she was an elf, she said. Both were attending Texas Tech University. “It was funny because we always kept running into each other. He would hang outside my classes and wait for me with a Diet Coke,” recalled Gwendolyn. “He knew how to make me really happy.”

Sgt. Morin died when an IED went off, overturning the vehicle he was riding in near Umm Qasr, Iraq.

“He’s very strong willed, very determined. Humorous, a clown, but he was also very disciplined and very passionate about what he believed in,” Gwendolyn Morin said. “He always wanted to serve his country.”

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.


Passing on a good post

March 11, 2008

A Neighborhood Reborn

by Captain Pete Hegseth

Al Doura, Baghdad — As I step out of the humvee into the street, I have two facts in mind: I’ve been here before; and this time, I don’t have a weapon.

Recalling the tension of my first patrol in this neighborhood as a platoon leader, my five senses are sharp. The dusty road below greets my boots, some of the smells are eerily familiar, and the sound of idling humvees is my only comfort. My head swivels to scan the street. My hands are naked without an M-4, so I find the nearest soldier.

Soon — as a young child approaches — the wary familiarity gives way to fascination. I may be in the same geographic location, but I’m not in the same neighborhood. This is not Al Doura, at least not as I knew it. Where did all these people and shops come from? Where is all the trash, and the open sewage? Where is the fear — the deep-seated fear?

Children approach, as they usually do — but today it’s not just children. Young men walk up, initiating conversation. Women cross the street between our humvees, seemingly unaware of the GIs. The people are friendly, but not assertively so. Our presence is natural, almost routine. My inner tension clashes with the calm scene unfolding around me.

I take a few steps into the middle of an intersection with a clear view in all directions. Along the main thoroughfare, my immediate surroundings are replicated: block after block of shops and bustling residents. The side streets that I remember as sewage-clogged gutters are clean and teeming with construction and activity.

This is not Al Doura. The Al Doura I knew was the heart of sectarian violence, with daily body counts in the dozens. As I keep walking, I pass a busy car wash, and then a fitness center where young men pump iron and tear-outs of Muscle Fitness adorn the walls. We pass two new playgrounds, where boys clamber up and down slides and beautiful little girls play with dolls. A cart vendor offers me a bag of freshly popped popcorn — but I decline and have some falafel instead.

Increasingly relaxed and curious, I duck into side streets. One leads me to a buzzing recreation center, where soldiers are challenged to a game of pool. In the next room, teenage boys fight it out in the computer game “Medal of Honor” (which my little brother plays constantly). The World War II battle simulator heats up as we enter: the “German” I’m watching turns a virtual corner and lobs a grenade at an “American.” We all burst out laughing. That’s as much hostility as my patrol would face this day.

The entire time, we have only nominal security. It was disconcerting at first — I would never have come here unarmed two years ago — but the commander I’m walking with eases my concerns: the people are our security. The neighborhood residents trust the Americans, as well as the “Sons of Iraq” (or CLCs, as the Army calls them: Concerned Local Citizens) — local residents who provide security for the neighborhood. In a place where al-Qaeda dominated just eight months ago, today they couldn’t buy a bag of popcorn.

The unit’s commander — Lieutenant Colonel James Crider — clarifies the new situation in Doura, “We made a deliberate attempt to engage the people and soon enough, when they realized we weren’t going anywhere, that’s when they started talking to us.”

Beginning in June, while bullets were still flying, Crider’s squadron held sit-down meetings with every family in Doura, walking house-to-house over the course of several months to forge personal relationships. This approach — combined with a 24/7 presence in the neighborhoods — eventually crippled al-Qaeda. LTC Crider notes, “Al-Qaeda had no idea who was ratting them out, because we went into every house.” The relationships they fostered from these meetings provided intelligence that allowed the unit to detain al-Qaeda members who were thriving on American ignorance and hiding in plain sight. One of Crider’s lieutenants adds, “It was a battle of intel — and we won.”

These gains, however, were costly. In their first 30 days in Doura, the unit was attacked over 50 times. On the very streets we’re walking today, LTC Crider has lost nine good men, with dozens more injured. But the unit persisted — honoring the sacrifices of their brethren — and has not been attacked in their sector since September 27. As compelling testimony to the unit’s dedication to the task, LTC Crider’s squadron had the highest reenlistment rate in all of Baghdad in 2007, exceeding their goal by over 500 percent.

As we walk, we see scars of the neighborhood’s violent recent past — bombed-out homes pepper the area and bullet-sprayed walls are everywhere. Some power wires dangle out of place. All is not perfect — but signs of life keep finding us. As we reach the end of the block, three young males approach, all looking for work and eager to join the “Sons of Iraq.” This is typical, Crider informs me, and the unit jots down their names.

LTC Crider and his soldiers understand that the security gains, though real, are still tenuous — if alternatives to insurgency are not soon in place. The unit has given out hundreds of business micro-loans, many of which were used for street-front stores. They fund only local contractors, who hire local workers to pick up trash, fix sewage pipes, and provide electricity. The people of Doura themselves are rebuilding Doura — with the U.S. Army’s help.

Before going to lunch with a local leader, I stop and talk with Omar, the owner of a small grocery. He’s clean-shaven, well dressed, and roughly my age. He moved to Doura about two years ago (when my unit was here), after being displaced from his town by the Mahdi Army.

I ask him why hadn’t he joined al-Qaeda either to expel Americans or retaliate against the Shia. He replied, “Because al-Qaeda kills civilians, including my aunt and three cousins.” His uncle was a local contractor — an offense to al-Qaeda, punishable by the killing of his wife and daughters. Omar speaks candidly of the U.S. presence here: “Americans have made many mistakes, but now they are fixing them. . . . If Americans leave now, it will be a disaster.”

The most telling aspect of our conversation is where it takes place — on the street, out in the open, and among Omar’s fellow residents. He is not afraid, and vows to fight al-Qaeda if they ever return. I ask him why, of all places, he decided to move to Doura at the height of the violence here. “Because they are good people,” he answers.

It was then that I realized I had never really been to this place — I just thought I had. This is the real Al Doura, a neighborhood and a people reborn — thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of LTC Crider and his men. Today, I saw Al Doura for the first time.

— Captain Pete Hegseth, who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from 2005 to 2006, is executive director of Vets for Freedom. He’s back in Iraq for the next week to cover the surge for NRO.


Guitar Heroes

March 10, 2008

Men crept in darkness to plant a bomb. They moved in an area where last year I was helping to collect fallen American soldiers from the battlefield. …

Another excellent post by Michael Yon Guitar Heros


Woman Earns Silver Star in Afghan War

March 10, 2008

I am beaming with pride for a local Soldier! Our sincere gratitude for the brave actions of Spc. Monica Brown. She is another excellent example of the backbone of our country.

From time to time I fret that our youth are seriously lacking in values and strength, then I turn my attention to our men and women in the military and I am reminded that they are indeed our future… And I once again have reason to believe our nation is not as flawed as is painted with lopsided news stories. My thanks go out to our brave Soldiers.

By FISNIK ABRASHI,
AP

CAMP SALERNO, Afghanistan (March 9) – A 19-year-old medic from Texas will become the first woman in Afghanistan and only the second woman since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor.

Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown saved the lives of fellow soldiers after a roadside bomb tore through a convoy of Humvees in the eastern Paktia province in April 2007, the military said.


Rafiq Maqbool, AP

Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown will become the first woman in Afghanistan and only the second woman since World War II to receive the nation’s third-highest medal for valor.

After the explosion, which wounded five soldiers in her unit, Brown ran through insurgent gunfire and used her body to shield wounded comrades as mortars fell less than 100 yards away, the military said.

“I did not really think about anything except for getting the guys to a safer location and getting them taken care of and getting them out of there,” Brown told The Associated Press on Saturday at a U.S. base in the eastern province of Khost.

Brown, of Lake Jackson, Texas, is scheduled to receive the Silver Star later this month. She was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil in the eastern province of Paktia on April 25, 2007, when a bomb struck one of the Humvees.

“We stopped the convoy. I opened up my door and grabbed my aid bag,” Brown said.

She started running toward the burning vehicle as insurgents opened fire. All five wounded soldiers had scrambled out.

“I assessed the patients to see how bad they were. We tried to move them to a safer location because we were still receiving incoming fire,” Brown said.

Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in frontline combat roles – in the infantry, armor or artillery, for example. But the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no real front lines, has seen women soldiers take part in close-quarters combat more than previous conflicts.

Four Army nurses in World War II were the first women to receive the Silver Star, though three nurses serving in World War I were awarded the medal posthumously last year, according to the Army’s Web site.

Brown, of the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, said ammunition going off inside the burning Humvee was sending shrapnel in all directions. She said they were sitting in a dangerous spot.

“So we dragged them for 100 or 200 meters, got them away from the Humvee a little bit,” she said. “I was in a kind of a robot-mode, did not think about much but getting the guys taken care of.”

For Brown, who knew all five wounded soldiers, it became a race to get them all to a safer location. Eventually, they moved the wounded some 500 yards away, treated them on site before putting them on a helicopter for evacuation.

“I did not really have time to be scared,” Brown said. “Running back to the vehicle, I was nervous (since) I did not know how badly the guys were injured. That was scary.”

The military said Brown’s “bravery, unselfish actions and medical aid rendered under fire saved the lives of her comrades and represents the finest traditions of heroism in combat.”

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, of Nashville, Tenn., received the Silver Star in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. Two men from her unit, the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., also received the Silver Star for their roles in the same action.


Just…. Dang… :(

March 5, 2008

 

LOS ANGELES —  The weekend shooting death of a high school football star outside his home “may” be prosecuted as a hate crime, the mayor of Los Angeles said Tuesday.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended a candlelight vigil to remember Jamiel Andre Shaw, a 17-year-old student who was gunned down Sunday in what police have said was a random, unprovoked gang attack.

“We don’t know right now the nature, though we understand it could be,” Villaraigosa said.

Hundreds of friends, relatives and teachers of the slain student stood on the sidewalk in the Crenshaw area Tuesday where the teen was shot, just a few yards from his home. They spoke fondly of his athletic prowess and good sense of humor.

“He wouldn’t do nothing to nobody, and they took him away for no reason,” mourner Kristen Blanton told MyFOXLA.com. “He could have been successful.”

Shaw, a standout running back at Los Angeles High School and the Southern League’s most valuable player last season, had been recruited by universities including Stanford.

“A kid like that doesn’t come around too often,” Hardy Williams, the coach of the Los Angeles High School football team, told MyFOXLA.com.

Jamiel was an all-city first-team selection last season after he rushed for 1,052 yards, averaging more than 14 yards per carry, and scored 10 touchdowns. He also ran track.

His life ended Sunday night when police said two Hispanic gang members pulled up in a car and asked Shaw “Where you from?” — code for which gang did he belong to. Shaw was black.

Shaw did not respond, Los Angeles police Det. Frank Carrillo told MyFOXLA.com.

“They shot him anyway,” Carrillo said.

Shaw’s death comes amid an increase in gang violence in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, suspected Hispanic gang members shot a 6-year-old boy in the head after flashing gang signs. The child remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Villaraigosa, meeting with Police Chief William J. Bratton before the vigil, said that gang-related homicides were down despite the recent violence, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“What is particularly traumatic is that all these people were just innocent,” Villaraigosa said at the press conference. “We have to stand up and work together to begin to take on this issue of violence in this city. We still haven’t done a good enough job.”

Shaw’s mother, Army Sgt. Anita Shaw, was on her way home from Iraq, where she had been serving her second tour since August 2007 with the Regimental Support Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, the Army told FOXNews.com.

“We were greatly saddened to learn of the death of Sgt. Shaw’s son, Jamiel,” Army Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb said in an e-mail. “Our Army has great soldiers who stand ready to support and defend our nation and stand side-by-side with their families to support each other in time of need.

“When tragedy strikes one family, it reaches the entire Army family,” she said. “Sgt. Shaw and her family are in our thoughts during this most difficult time.”

Shaw’s father appealed Tuesday for the public’s help in identifying the gunmen. He also said he didn’t believe his son’s killing was a hate crime.

“I don’t see it as black and brown,” the elder Shaw told mourners. “I see it as gang problem.”

A $50,000 reward has been offered for tips leading to the arrest of Shaw’s killers.

Hugs and condolences go out to the Shaw family.


Wounded Army officer has last ball thrown by Favre

March 5, 2008

I love this story as it ties a real American Hero with Football!(I really have tried to overcome my love of the game. But, I am a junkie.)Our thanks go out to Lt.Col Gadson and his family for their sacrifices for our country.


Associated Press – March 4, 2008 

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – The ball that Brett Farve threw on his last play in the NFL is owned by an Army officer who lost both legs in a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who has been an inspirational figure for the New York Giants during their Super Bowl run, was given the ball by Corey Webster after the cornerback intercepted Favre’s pass in overtime in the NFC title game on Jan. 20.

The pick set up a game-winning 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes in a 23-20 win that sent the Giants to Phoenix, where they beat the New England Patriots 17-14.

“That Saturday practice before the Super Bowl, I told Corey he could have the ball back,” Gadson said in quotes provided by the Giants after Favre announced his retirement on Tuesday after 17 seasons.

“I said, ‘Just let me know and you can have it back,’ but he told me that he wanted me to keep it, and that really symbolized to me what this Giants team was about,” Gadson said. “That was such an unselfish act.”

As a fan, Gadson said he is going to miss watching Favre play.

“He should be proud of the run he had last season. Getting his team to the championship game just shows what type of competitor he is,” Gadson said.

A 1989 graduate of West Point, Gadson played football for the Cadets along with Mike Sullivan, the Giants’ receivers coach.

After Gadson was wounded in an attack on his convoy on May 7 and eventually lost both his legs, Sullivan told coach Tom Coughlin about his friend.

After losing their first two games of the season, Coughlin had Gadson address the team in Washington before a game with the Redskins. His message was to concentrate on the mission, never give up and believe in each other.

The Giants won the game and turned their season around. Gadson was on the sidelines for most of the playoffs and he addressed the team the night before the Super Bowl, speaking of “pride, poise, team and belief in each other,” according to Pat Hanlon, a team spokesman.


Supporting the Troops

March 1, 2008

I have been AWOL… (is there such a thing as Official Leave for Civilians?) Perhaps a better term would be AWOB… Absent With Out Blogging. Rather than go into a boring list of reasons, I will attempt to jump back into this.

Today I am sharing a fantastic email from my Favorite Marine: 

Have you ever walk into a room and immediately felt an enormous energy field?  It happened to me about 2 weeks ago. 

I walked into the fitness center in my building and there were 2 people in there; one of the condo owners and the other a petite blond I had never seen before.

The gentleman said, “Speaking of Marines,” as he nodded toward me.  The conversation started going 100 mph from that point on.  One of the first things said was that Dianne was from Berkley, CA – that’s what I thought I heard and we all rolled our eyes because of the protests going on at the campus concerning Marines. 

In reality, she’s from Tampa.  With me asking a few questions I found out a truly amazing thing about Dianne.

The Berkley connection was that she was so outraged over the protests that she got on a plane, by herself, and flew there for the sole purpose to take these people on single-handedly and to tell them to leave “her” Marines alone! 

She even got 2 of them arrested when they spray painted her (followed by her macing them)!! 

What I misunderstood about her living there was that she had just returned from that trip. 

I had an immediate respect and awe for Dianne.  I don’t know of anyone who would do something like this.  I asked her why she had this passion – what was her Marine connection. 

She kept alluding to “her” Marines – the tens of thousands of them in Iraq and Afghanistan; that she doesn’t want anyone “slamming” them, etc. 

Like many of my friends, Dianne started collecting goodies and mailing them to Marines a few years ago when the war started.  One thing led to another and soon all her waking hours were consumed with collecting and mailing packages and she was soon spending well over $2,000 of her own money, per month, to do this.  She didn’t care. 

Oh, and Dianne is a personal fitness trainer who started her own successful business and employs 10 trainers.  Her friends and the local businesses finally convinced her to start a non-profit organization to help her with the financial strain. 

Support our Marines was born on November 10, 2007 – picked because of the birthday of the Marine Corps

What many of you may not know is that more and more Marines are living further away from the main bases so they have less access to buy even the basics than they did 2 years ago.  We have learned that to be successful in this war, we need to get closer to the local population. 

Marines do not complain and we do what is necessary.  We always adapt.  Because of the greater sacrifices expected of the units, packages from home mean all that much more, now. 

“Most of our Marines operate out of very isolated combat outpost and under some of the harshest conditions. No hot water, we use things like WAG bags for our waste, we use plywood built outhouse and sleep in some of the worst buildings and conditions. But on the other hand (some) of our Marines live and operate in conditions that are better than some but worse than most. Overall though, we are determined and committed to accomplishing our missions out here. No matter what the conditions are we will do our jobs as Marines!” Quote from a sergeant with TF 3/2. 

Of course all of these Marines (in AFG and Iraq) are in the U.S. Marine Forces Central Command’s (MARCENT) area of responsibility, (so they are even more near and dear to my heart because I work at MARCENT). 

I wanted you to know about this wonderful woman and what she is doing. 

Please feel free to pass on this email and introduce Dianne to others, too!

Sharon 

Support Our Marines

Sending a wave and a hug to Dianne. We understand why you stands up and fights for “your Marines”… as many of us have also adopted those in the military past and present. The brave men and women, who fight for us, have all become members of our extended family.


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