Sunday, March 27, 2005

Update on 1st Sgt Kasal

1st Sgt Kasal is finally ready for bone graft surgery. The process of "lengthening" his leg is completed and he will have the surgery early this week. He hopes this will be the last surgery he undergoes, as he has already had sixteen.

While at the hospital on Friday he was greeted by one of his Staff Sargents (I forgot his name....and will edit this post as soon as possible) who also had a bad leg injury. This Ssgt lost more than twice as much leg bone as did the 1st Sgt, but is healing well and can already drive (the injury is to his left leg).

As soon as I can figure out how to post photos I will post one of the two of them standing there telling war stories (about their time in the hospitals)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Operation Gator Bait

Before deploying for Iraq the marines of the 1/7 were told of their final destination; for Alpha, Charlie, H and S, and most of Weapons companies......Al Qaim, for Baker company and part of Weapons........Husaybah. Al Qaim is known as the "wild west" of the Al Anbar Province, a place where smugglers rule and Baathists hid after the fall of Bagdad. The British were routed there in the early days of OIF1 (Operation Iraqi Freedom One), then the U.S. Army took a beating there before the marines of the 3/7 came and started getting the place in line. It seems the Iraqis believe that to become a U.S. Marine you must "kill and eat your mother", or so a fine bunch of young marines have heard. Husaybah is a few miles north of Al Qaim, and is the actual location of the Border Check Point on the Syrian border. The marines of Baker 1/7 had surely heard of how the 3/7 marines were ambushed and suffered large losses there a few months back. Husaybah loomed ominously before them as they rode in the helicopters from Al Asad to Al Qaim.

They arrived in Al Qaim over the first few days of September 2004. On their second day there three of their own were killed by an IED. Lcpl Wilt, 1st Lt. Winchester, and Captain Rowe, along with ( ) from 3/7, who was just two days from returning home, were killed while searching bridges for explosives. They had not yet developed the skills nor the senses necessary to detect and avoid IEDs. That particular terrorist devise was a fairly new development in the war, but was being used at a rapidly accelerating pace. The 1/7's deployment was off to a very rough start.

By the end of the first week in September all of Baker 1/7 had arrived by convoy in Husaybah. On September 15th Lcpl Uhles was killed by an IED. Two nights later Baker 1/7 launced Operation Gator Bait. All three platoons of infantryman, along with the Recon marines, were going into downtown Husaybah to "Get Some!". They loaded up into AAVs (Amphibious Assault Vehicles), also known as "Tracs", and drove through the worst parts of Husaybah hoping for a fight. The marines of 3rd fiireteam, 1st squad, 2nd platoon Baker company were in the lead Trac. Their job was simple.........upon engagement they were to carry spike strips and barricades to the rear of the firefight and deploy them in the street so no innocent civilians would drive into the fight zone. It wasn't long before a rocket shot a few feet over the top of the lead Trac as another rocket exploded against the side of another. The rear door/ramps opened and "dismount" was ordered. 1st squad ran the direction they were supposed to go, with team leader Lcpl Rodriques leading the way, followed by PFC Roe, then by Lcpl Cochran, with PFC Milke bringing up the rear. Milke had spike strips in one hand and a barricade in the other, his rifle slung across his chest, and a "dead bag" (all the stuff for taking "care" of detainees) on his back. The team moved rapidly up the road when an explosion directly in front of Milke enveloped the first three team members. Milke who had just become fast friends with Roe, was uninjured, recieving one small piece of shrapnel in his goggles, but was stunned and thought "My best friend just got blown up". As the dust cleared Milke saw a man on the ground and yelled "Man down! Corpsman up!" then went to assist Roe. Cochran had already ggotten himself up and checking assisting Roe, who was checking himself for missing body parts. Milke, Cochran, and the corpsman, Doc Wilder, helped Roe get to a protected area in a courtyard and prepared for the fight. Now free from the chore of placing spike strips they prepared to enter the fight.

It all happened so fast, instantaneously, chaotically. Dust, smoke, the sharp loud sounds of rifle fire, the dull pounding sound of the grenade launchers, explosive blasts from rockets, unintelligible loud voices shouting to be heard above the sounds or war, all battered the senses of the marines, especially the 19 year old who stood guard near his injured friend and the Doc. Doc Wilder could not find his scissors, so Milke pulled out his combat knife and sliced open Roe's blouse so Doc could look for critical wounds. Thankfully there were none evident. Milke saw "Hadjis" running across the road near the Tracs and fired a few rounds, then again saw the enemy and fired. Soon all was quiet, and the fight was over. Roe was loaded into a Trac and taken back to Camp Gannon as the marines of Baker 1/7 began a sweep of the neighborhood, rounding up every military aged male withing 3 blocks of th fight. Milke was thinking "That was the craziest 10 minutes of my life" and looked at his watch. Two hours had passed since the fight began. They rounded up numerous "suspects" and headed back to the FOB (Forward Operating Base), where the suspects would be questioned by the Human Exploitation Team, better knows as interrogation experts. Operation Gator Bait was a huge success, with no marines killed and many suspected insurgents captured.

Their first week in Husaybah was not even over and Baker One Seven had survived their first large firefight. Thus began their seven months in that extremely hostile city, which most Americans have never heard of nor the media reported on.

Is the killing of Terri Schiavo Murder?

I am stunned by the events taking place in Florida where Terri Schiavo is being killed by starvation/dehydration due to the court ordered removal of her feeding tube. Authorities are also not allowing anyone to feed her or give her water, which according to testimony she is able to take. Make no mistake, Terri Schiavo is being killed, not dying a natural death.

I am unable to understand the reasoning behind the desire to kill her, and hope that no other person ever has to suffer what she and her loved ones (husband excluded) are suffering.

Does her killing amount to murder by the courts, lawyers and her husband? Immediately upon Terri's death Jeb Bush should order the States Attorney to seize her body, do an autopsy, and if her brain is intact, prosecute all parties on murder charges.

If in fact Terri's brain is intact (her husband and the courts have declared that her cerebial cortex is gone) then by the witholding of facts (many facts have been provided contrary to what the courts have found) she was in fact murdered by her husband.

In the United States of America do the courts do have the power to "order" people to kill other people? Our laws allow people the option of "dying" by natural causes if they so opt through proper channels. Death from "natural causes" means the bodys natural processes shut down and death occurs, ie. the lungs quit working or the heart stops pumping blood. Starvation is not a "natural cause", nor is dehydration. They are events caused by the direct actions of witholding food and water. It's the same as putting her in a room then removing the oxygen.............she would suffocate to death.

If in fact Terri's brain is mostly gone, and the only thing left is the core which makes her heart beat and her lungs function, then perhaps removal of her feeding tube is a merciful act (although I would never so opt). But if her brain is whole and functioning, and she could in fact get better with therapy (which her husband has withheld since the mid 90's) then killing her should be considered murder.

If anyone has contact with Jeb Bush please tell him to read this rant.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Where in the world is Husaybah?

My son, U. S. Marine Lance Corporal (Lcpl) Tyler Milke, just returned from his first oversea deployment (are we happy or what?. He signed up for the Marine Corp. while a senior in High School, under the "Delayed Entry Program", knowing full well that he would be sent to war. He wanted to be a "Grunt", an infantryman, specifically a "Rifleman", or in marine speak, an 0311. As a little boy he turned everything into a gun. Sticks, pipes, telephones, pencils, guitars, and every other thing he could lift and point, all became weapons of make believe destruction. He was also very fond of being make believe shot so he could do dramatic deaths. Of his two fondnesses, guns and dying, we are happy he became very good at the former, and left the latter for those not as lucky as he.

As parents of a marine my wife and I also knew he would most likely go to war. We knew he would be well trained and prepared for anything the "insurgents" could throw his way. After Boot Camp and S.O.I (School of Infantry) he was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines (1/7), in Twentynine Palms California. Since we live 150 miles from 29, and only 45 miles from Camp Pendleton, we would have prefered he be attatched to the 1/5, or the 3/1, or any other Pendleton based battalion. He left for 29 in July and deployed to Iraq in August, to a remote Firm Base named Camp Gannon in Husaybah, alongside the Euphrates river at the Syrian border. It seemed like a quiet and safe place to be. Little did we know and our ignorance was bliss (I hate it when cliches turn out to be the best words to us...........maybe that's why they are cliches)

Husaybah is a "mini-Fallujah", where terrorist thugs hide behind and amongst innocent civilians as they attack anyone connected with the "occupation" Only the diligent work the marines of 1/7 Baker Company, and the 3/7 before them, has kept Husaybah from turning into the insurgent stronghold Fallujah became in 2004. These dedicated marines learned how to "quiet" the enemies mortars, even as they flew from the Syrian side of the border. They devised ways to detect the deadly IEDs and mines which have been responsible for most of the Marines deaths in Iraq. They captured and killed many insurgents and their leaders.

They came home without the nine marines who died in combat, and with over 50 injured. My wife and are are grateful that our son returned uninjured (physically)

Next time I will write about Operation "Gator Bait"

Monday, March 21, 2005

Update on 1st Sgt Kasal

1st Sgt Kasal had another Dr. appointment last Friday, and all is looking good for him. His leg is very close to the proper length for Bone Graft surgery, which should take place in about 2 weeks. He is feeling very optimistic now that he is looking at just a few more weeks of having the "chinese torture devise" on his leg.

Look for another update this Friday

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lcpl Tyler returning from Iraq

I have not posted lately. There were many things I had "deep" thoughts about, and could have blogged on, but the fact is my time has been used to prepare for the homecoming of our son, US Marine Lance Corporal Milke (marines never use first names.........but parents do) Tyler is currently in Kuwait (possibly Germany by now) on his way back to Twentynine Palms after battling insurgents in Husaybah Iraq for the past seven months. He intends to bring his two best friends home with him to El Cajon CA, and so we have been preparing. His friends are from Missouri and Arkansas, and will not get Leave until April 1, so their families are here in El Cajon with us, and will travel to 29 palms with us today to fetch the "boys" (all three are 19 years old).

We did not get much news from Husaybah, except a few reports from Fox New's Steve Harrigan , so we are hoping to hear many stories about it from Tyler When I return to blogging, in a week or so, I intend to tell the story of our marines time in Husaybah.

Monday, March 07, 2005

How to fix Social Security

I have recently passed the mid-way point in my working years. I've been a tax paying worker for over 30 years (that would make me somewhere around 48..........OK......I'm 48 and the half way point was 5 years ago.........darn stubborn facts) and have worried about Social Security being "there for me" for at least 20 of those years. The truth is this; the older I get, the less I worry about it. But if I were a young worker now, I would want the Social Security system repaired, and turned into something more akin to a retirement system. What's that you say? "Social Security is a retirement system!" No, it's a tax and pay program which is rotten, corrupt, and unsalvageable.

Bothwell (I do enjoy reading his blog) posts today on the "Lock Box" idea. It's a good idea, but how does it ever get implemented?

First things first is what I say. Admit that Social Security is just a tax on wages to pay for old people's retirements. Once that simple hurdle is jumped, we can begin to talk about what's next.

What's next is that we make it very clear that we will continue to tax all workers to pay for old people's retirements. Everyone who retires in the next 10-20 years will be called Group A, and will not be affected at all. They will pay the same tax,and reap the same retirement payments. Everyone younger than that, who will retire from 21-40 years from now will be called Group B, and will be taxed at the same rate, but 25% of that tax must go into a 401K. Group B will not reap the benifits of the 401K. Instead, they will get the same retirement payments as Group A while the 401K builds equity for the future. Group C will be those retiring from 41-60 years from now, and will pay the same tax, but 50% will go into a 401K. They will retire with the same retirement benifits as Group A and B, but it will be paid for from the built up equity in the 401K that have been sitting since Group B began paying. Group D will be everyone younger than Group C, and will pay 1/2 the tax Groups A, B, and C paid, and will retire with their own 401K paying the bill. The built up equity in the original 401Ks will continue to pay Groups B and C until they all pass on to eternity (group A ...which includes me...will all be dead by then). Whatever is left in the 401Ks after B and C die can be thrown back into the genreal fund and wasted just like Social Security taxes are now. It would be a nostalgic bit of revelry for lawmakers.

Americans will submit to the idea of being taxed for the next 60 years if they know that in 70 years their grandchildren will be free from suffering under the same messed up system we now have. I'm no wizard with numbers, but I'd bet a, make that my hat...........that if someone ran these numbers it would work. The 401Ks would build up so rapidly with compounding interest that the need for tax increases would be eraticated. It may even be able to progress more rapidly than I have stated it.

The point is this.........a measly 3 to 5 percent of the social security tax voluntarily put into 401Ks by individuals, the boldest proposal to date, won't amount to a pot to ..........brew tea in. We must think big, outside the box, and the first step is to admit the truth. Social Security is a tax, not a retirement system.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

An "excursion" with 1st Sgt Brad Kasal

Many folks are interested in 1st Sgt Brad Kasal's recuperation from injuries he received in Fallujah while serving in OIF-2. As a friend I will use this blog to do updates from time to time.

The injuries to 1st Sgt Kasal's right leg were severe. 5 or 6 rounds from an AK-47 completely shattered (read destroyed, obliterated, disintegrated) both bones about 6" below his knee. The doctor's at Bethesda were able to save his leg and set him on a course for recovery. That course consists of an incredibly painful devise ("far more painful than being shot") which is "transporting" his leg bone. In a previous update I said his leg was being "stretched", but that is not entirely correct. What is happening is this...... 1st Sgt Kasal's leg bones were sawed in half, in two locations (above and below the injury). The two sections of leg bone are being transported by an "Excursion" devise which has screws that actually move the bones inside Brad's leg. The device consists of 4 halos, and 16 pins, some 1/4" thick, protruding through his skin and muscle into his bones. The transporting which is taking place is closing the gap from the original injury while widening the gap from the doctor created injuries, which are filling in with naturally regenerating bone. This is being done to get his leg ready for a bone graft surgery. He still has a little over an inch to go, which will take a month or more to accomplish.

The doctors expect Brad to walk again, but not run. Brad says......"If I can walk, I'll run:" I for one believe Brad. The doctor's can diagnose a body's condition, but not a man's will. 1st Sgt Kasal is a man of extremely strong willpower, and I'm betting on him being able to run again someday, and pass the Corp's PFT (physical fitness test)

The story of how 1st Sgt. Kasal was injured is very interesting, and someday it will be told in it's entirety. Brad told me that he went into that building "because his marines were in there". One of "his marines" was Sgt. Norwood, whom President Bush honored at the State of the Union Address. Sgt. Norwood was killed in that building where such incredible damage was done to 1st. Sgt Kasal, PFC Nicoll, and 6 other brave US marines.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I sense a Fatwah coming on

Bothwell blogs today on a Muslim who speaks out against Islamo/terrorists. I give the guy a week before some Ayahtollah issues a Fatwah against him.

OOPs..............that blog was from yesterday.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

How will the Iraq war be won?

A while back Bothwell did a piece on 1st Sgt Brad Kasal which was titled "Why we'll win this war". While I agree that men like 1st Sgt Kasal are the reason the US is so successful at war, I do not think those men alone can win this war in Iraq. I agree in part with President Bush when he says that our troops will be able to come home when the Iraqi troops can do the job, I think the war will really be won by the Iraqi people themselves.

Over the past 7 months I have spent alot of time searching the internet for news about Iraq, specifically the western Al Anbar Province, even more specifically the towns of Qaim and Husaybah. My son Tyler has been in Husaybah, or as I call it the Armpit of Al Anbar. I did not find much news from there, but saw alot of news that most folks never saw. I saw articles about US troops helping the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people responding in a positive way. I saw articles about Iraqi citizens reporting weapons caches to the US military. I saw a couple of articles about Iraqis beating terrorists to death before they could blow themselves up. I even read an article about a new "terrorist" group that had declared war on insurgents and foreign fighters. But until this week I never had much hope that the end of the war may be near. This week I read a few articles that give me hope that it may soon be over, of course soon is a relative term, and to me means soon enough that Tyler would not have to go back.

One article was about the massive protests after the terrorist bombing that killed more than 115 people. Thousands of Iraqis walked the streets chanting "No to terrorists", and vowing to never give in. A related article was about hundreds of Iraqis demanding the resignation of the town officials who were supposed to protect them from terrorists. The people of Iraq are getting mad. Good!!

Another article was about the murder of a working man who happens to belong to a trade union, and the union was saying they will never give in to terrorists, and just want to be able to work for a living. Imagine my happiness in seeing a story about a union actually doing something good for a change. I had no idea unions existed in Iraq. Saddam must have been democrat baathist

But the story that really gave me hope was this one about a group of Iraqi special forces who are working closely with the US Marines. These young men who "sleep on rocks, eat MREs, and are not afraid to die" may be the real reason we are going to win the war in Iraq.

UPDATE 3/5/05: If I am correct (believing Bush is correct) reports like this will become more and more common

Baja.........what could be better!!

Being in Baja sure can help put things into perspective. Hmmmmmmm??? (what literary devise is that?) I'm thinking that some people reading this may not know what "Baja" is. Baja is how we southern californians refer to Baja California Mexico. Baja is just south of us and runs from Tiajuana on the northern border to Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip. It is a peninsula jutting into the Pacific Ocean, with the warm water Sea of Cortez to the east of it. There are pine tree covered mountains rising to 10,000 feet above sea level (they get snow in the winter) and dry desert valleys where only rattlesnakes, skinny coyotes, and giant scorpions live (more creatures live there but these three may be the most plentiful). Baja is known for many things; great fishing, great off-roading, wonderfully hospitible residents, and unbelievable corruption, all of which make any trip to baja a complete adventure.

Anyway, I'm back, and maybe someday I'll tell adventure stories, but not this time. It's enough to say that I saw beautiful scenery, met nice people, drove really fast on dirt roads, and ate enough pescado y camaron tacos to keep a roadside taco stand in business for a month. I'm very satisfied, and thinking it sure is nice to live in the USA.