Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BRITISH MEDIA calls it like it is - "Barack Obama's decision to play golf on Memorial Day was disrespectful and hardly presidential "

At least we count on the BRITISH Press to call out the "Doofus in Charge"....None of the Media in America would have the guts to print this story as the President would shut them out or bar their access to the White House press room......

You can say many things about former President Bush, but he had a sense of decency when it came to how seriously he took BEING the President....the POSER we have presently does not see it the same way. He holds the military in contempt and has not been the biggest supporter of the military prior to getting elected. I feel that his "change of heart" since getting elected is not genuine and that the things we see him doing as President are solely "window dressing" for election purposes....

Either way, the BRITS don't think much of him either...Gotta love the Brits as they don't hold back, unlike the fawning media weasels we have here in the states....

And just so you don't feel I am singling him out, I feel the whole co-opting of the Memorial Day Weekend into another festive holiday when it should be meant to honor our Fallen Heroes is wrong. WE, as a nation, need to be better about making sure we honor those who gave the last full measure of devotion to our country.

Barack Obama's decision to play golf on Memorial Day was disrespectful and hardly presidential
By Nile Gardiner – UK TELEGRAPH

Can you imagine David Cameron enjoying a round of golf on Remembrance Sunday? It would be inconceivable for the British Prime Minister to do so, and not just because of the usually dire weather at that time of the year. Above all, it would be viewed as an act of extremely bad taste on a day when the nation remembers and mourns her war dead. I can’t imagine the PM even considering it, and I’m sure his advisers would be horrified at the idea. And if the prime minister ever did play golf on such a sacrosanct day he would be given a massive drubbing by the British press, and it would never be repeated.

Contrast this with President Obama’s decision to play golf yesterday, Memorial Day, for the 70th time during his 28-month long presidency. For tens of millions of Americans, Memorial Day is a time for remembrance of the huge sacrifices made by servicemen and women on the battlefield. The president did pay his respects in the morning, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, but later in the day traveled to Fort Belvoir to play golf. The story has not been reported so far in a single US newspaper, but was made public by veteran White House correspondent Keith Koffler on his blog. Here’s Koffler’s report:

The business of memorializing our war dead done, President Obama headed out to the Fort Belvoir golf course today, finding his way onto the links for the ninth weekend in a row.

Obama earlier today laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and met with families of those killed in battle. But he emerged from the day’s solemnity to go golfing for the 12th time this year and the 70th time of his presidency.

The decision to golf on Memorial Day invites comparison with President George W. Bush, who gave up the game early in his presidency and said he did it out of respect for the families of those killed in Iraq.

Does it matter if the president chooses to play golf on Memorial Day, and for the second time in his presidency (he did so as well in 2009)? I think it does, and it displays extraordinarily bad judgment, not only by Obama himself but also by his advisers. His chief of staff for example should have firmly cautioned against it. President Obama is not just any American but Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces. The United States is currently engaged in a major war in Afghanistan with over 100,000 troops on the ground, and more than 1,500 have already laid down their lives for their country.

The least the president can do on Memorial Day is spend the whole day with veterans and servicemen’s families while acknowledging their sacrifice. As Koffler points out above, President George W. Bush stopped playing golf out of respect for the families of Iraq War dead. This demonstrated not only good judgment but humility and respect for the men and women who keep America safe. It is little wonder that, as Gallup reveals in a new poll, US military personnel and veterans give Barack Obama lower marks for his job performance than members of the general public. The president’s actions smack of poor taste, as well a lack of empathy and support for the US military, hardly the kind of leadership the White House should be projecting at a time of war.

" She saw guys in a uniform and knew they would feed her and take care of her." - The USMC rescue a puppy named " Alice" from Afghanistan

This is the measure of true devotion that our K-9 Friends pay us and the USMC returned in kind, with the help from some school kids, to a puppy named "Alice"....AWESOME and SEMPER FI !!

War zone puppy reunited with Marine
By: Karen Hensel - WISH-TV Channel 8

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A dog that survived the war zone in Afghanistan is safe in Indiana thanks to the U.S. Marines and the love of hundreds of local school children.

"She was a stray and in bad shape, maybe 10-15 pounds. She had been in a couple of fights and was all scarred up," Captain Matt Taylor of Lebanon, Indiana says,

She is a stray puppy who became a lesson in war, life and love for students at Lebanon Middle School who raised money to bring her to the states. The students donated one dollar at a time and raised over $1,000 to help send Alice home to the states.

Captain Taylor and Alice walked into a room of smiles and applause from the students on Friday.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and my Marines hearts because this little girl helped us through some hard times and was a really sweet reminder of what is good and good things that can happen when people like you come together," Taylor told the students.

But the story really begins with Alice and how a foreign four legged friend can break down barriers to find trust even at war.

"She knew a good thing when she saw it I guess. She saw guys in a uniform and knew they would feed her and take care of her. She became attached to my Marines. She wouldn't leave and kept coming around and of course they were feeding her and giving her water and she became a part of the family," Captain Taylor recalls,

She was rescued from sure death by the Marines but in return became a loyal and loving unit mascot for six months. But then came word the Marines were getting a military working dog to help with ied detection so they would have to get rid of her. Rather than turn her back onto the streets they worked to send her back home to the states. The Afghan puppy got her own website. Marines, families and students all donated.

A non-profit based in the UK helped get her from Kabul to Dubai to Indianapolis. The last time Captain Taylor saw her was months ago as he was putting her into a taxi. It would be months before he would see here again, this time in Indiana.

"It was a big leap of faith. A very excited Afghan taxi driver saying I've got this, it's good, I'll drive her 14 hours to Kabul. There's obviously some trepidation there," Captain Taylor reveals.

Trepidation; an interesting word choice when you understand why Captain Taylor has missed the last four Christmases and last four birthdays.

We first met Matt Taylor of Lebanon Indiana thousands of miles from home when 24 Hour News 8's Karen Hensel went to Iraq in 2006. He was stationed in the thick of the war halfway between Balad and Fallujah. He was just a lieutenant then and brand new. But he has "trepidation" for the stray dog who became a battle buddy, bridged barriers and healed wounds. For even tough Marines far from home it was nice to have a dog to come home to.

"It was a nice bit of comfort. You come home and it's hot or cold or you are wet or tired and there is always somebody who is real happy to see you. You're not going to get a hug and a kiss from a Marine when you come back from patrol, but there is always a little girl like this to come up and give you a lick, put her head on her lap and remind you there is something nice in the world too," Captain Taylor says.

The BOSTON BRUINS head out to Vancouver in the QUEST FOR THE STANLEY CUP

Those of us who are older than a certain age,(and I'm not telling you what age that is), can remember the days of "The Big Bad Bruins". Boston was a huge hockey town and playing "pond hockey" with your friends was the sport of choice in the winter. We would get dressed up, my Mom would hand us a bag lunch and we would head out to the local pond in the woods for an all-day hockey fest. Each of us would want to be Bobby Orr or Phil Espisito...These were our Heroes and Hockey was huge...Every kid wanted to find new hockey skates & a new hockey stick under the Christmas Tree.

As time went forward, Hockey lost some of the luster after the Bruins became regular cellar dwellars...we had the 1980's USA Olympic Team which had many hometown players from the Boston area. The Bruins teams we had in the late 1980s and early 1990s had some of the best players we had seen in Cam Neely, Ray Borque and Andy Moog. Those were good days but still no Stanley Cup while the other teams in Boston,(Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics) all made efforts to once again stand on the top of the mountain....Only the Bruins lagged behind.

NOW, we will see if the 2011 BOSTON BRUINS can recapture the magic and the title of the BIG BAD BRUINS....THIS will be good.

It’s unbelievable!’
Fans fired up as B’s skate into finals
By Ira Kantor
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
- The Boston Herald

Hundreds of devoted fans clamoring for a long-sought Stanley Cup triumph sent their hometown heroes off with cheers at TD Garden yesterday, as the Bruins [team stats] headed for Vancouver and a brutal battle with the Canucks.

“It’s the first time they’ve advanced to the finals since I’ve been alive,” said Colleen Donovan, 21, of Lynn. “It’s long overdue. We don’t have any passengers on this team. Everyone’s up front.”

Season-ticket holder Danny Fortunato, 54, of Beverly brought along his son, Michael, 18, who was not only wearing a Bruins jersey coated in autographs but also was draped in a Bruins flag. The die-hard fans have a Bruins “shrine” in their home full of team paraphernalia.

“The players are really into the fans and vice versa. You can just feel it throughout Boston — it’s like a family atmosphere,” said Danny Fortunato, a social worker. “You don’t see it every day like this. You got to take it all in. We’ll be following them the whole way.”

“I will not move,” added Michael Fortunato, “I don’t want to a miss a second of it.”

Fans proudly draped in black and gold stood behind a yellow barricade in the Garden’s parking lot chanting, “We want the Cup!” and, “Let’s go, Bruins!” as star players, including defenseman Johnny Boychuk and center Tyler Seguin emerged from inside to slap high-fives and sign autographs.

“It’s unbelievable,” Boychuk told the Herald. “Everybody’s dream is right now. We just got to make sure we fulfill that dream.”

Seguin called the fan support “phenomenal.”

“Everyone wants the Cup back here in Boston,” Seguin, 19, told the Herald. “If hockey wasn’t in Boston the last few years, it definitely is right now.”

Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals takes place tomorrow night in Vancouver. The Bruins have not won a Stanley Cup since 1972.

“It’s such an awesome feeling,” said Julie Happel, 45, of South Weymouth, who came to the Garden with her husband, Fred, and sons Michael, 9, and Sean, 4. “It’s true hockey at its best.”

Jay Dellisola of Lynnfield said he encouraged his two sons Alex, 14, and Jack, 7, to stay up late on school nights to watch the Bruins’ nail-biting playoff games.

“I was 7 when [Bobby] Orr won us the Cup, now (Jack’s) 7. It’s a sign,” said Dellisola, who predicted the Bruins would win in six games. “I don’t think they’ll let this chance fly by. It’ll be a great two weeks.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

US medics brave fire to save lives in Afghanistan

On this holiday weekend, while all at home worry about traffic, bad weather, gas prices, the 2012 elections, etc., a few brave medics look after those at "The Tip Of The Spear "

The MEDIC is the one the Warriors count on and they respond to the tough places where men & women in uniform need help as minutes mean saved lives...and because of their actions, there is one less family that needs to hear bad news today.

US medics brave fire to save lives in Afghan war
AP By KEVIN FRAYER, Associated Press

FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan – U.S. Army medic Sgt. Jaime Adame hauled open the door and lunged from the helicopter into a cloud of dirt and confusion.

He could hear bursts of incoming fire above the thumping rotor blades. Somewhere in the billowing red smoke that marked the landing zone and the choking dust whipped up by the medevac chopper was a cluster of Marines pinned down by heavy fire, and one of them was bleeding badly.

The problem for Adame was that he did not know where.

Adame had dropped into "hot L-Zs" before but this one was especially thick with commotion. Every second of indecision mattered, so he just ran, knowing any direction was dangerous. Only then did the cloud clear enough to bring into view the blurred outline of several Marines' boots peeking out of the vehicle they were taking cover under.

"The fear I have never lost," said Adame, who's from Los Angeles. "It's absolutely risky ... and it will definitely get a lot more dangerous."

With the spring fighting season under way in Helmand province in Afghanistan's volatile south, the medics, crew chiefs and pilots with the U.S. Army's "Dustoff" medevac unit expect a rising number of casualties. Coalition troops are seeing stepped-up attacks, the use of complex weapons systems like multiple-grenade launchers and the continuing plague of improvised explosive devices on the battlefield.

By the war's blunt calculation, the worsening hostilities on the ground mean more medevac flights to ferry the wounded. For an emboldened insurgency, that equals opportunity. Increasingly they are targeting the medevac choppers as they swoop in for a rescue.

"It is kinda the wild, wild West," said pilot Lt. Terry Hill of Kellyville, Oklahoma, the senior officer at Forward Operating Base Edi. "In the back of your mind as a pilot you know that you will most likely be shot at or hit."

The Black Hawk helicopters Hill and other medevac pilots fly are unarmed, though they are always accompanied by at least one other aircraft that is. The "Dustoff" helicopters are distinguished with the emblem of the Red Cross and under international law are supposed to be off-limits to enemy fire.

Afghanistan's insurgents make no distinction.

On one recent medevac run, as the helicopter navigated a firefight to set down in a small courtyard, a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a compound exploded in the air just behind the helicopter. The pilot quickly aborted the approach. Ground units called in air support, and attack helicopters riddled insurgent positions with heavy caliber machine gun fire.

Within minutes, the medevac chopper made a second attempt at landing to rescue a critically wounded Marine who had sustained a gunshot wound near his spine.

On another mission, insurgents fired several rounds from an assault rifle into the belly of the helicopter and its rotor blades.

"They seem to want us to get killed, which is surprising because we rescue everybody, including them.," said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Otto of Irvine, California.

The medevac doesn't discriminate between the war's wounded. Beyond coalition and Afghan soldiers, helicopters and medics also pick up injured Afghans, especially children. They often act as an ambulance service ferrying ill and injured Afghans from remote villages to coalition medical facilities. Enemy fighters are evacuated from the battlefield and treated as well.

With the sound of explosions shaking the air, Adame raced to find the wounded Marine. His comrades carried him on a stretcher from the dusty chaos to the chopper and Adame and his crew chief swiftly set to work.

Cpl. Andrew Smith was suffering a life-threatening arterial bleed from a shrapnel wound. His boots were sliced from his feet with a seat belt cutter. He was losing blood at an alarming rate. The medics focused only on stabilizing the young corporal; there was no time to think about the danger they had just faced.

"If one of those grenades hit us as we're taking off or coming in to land that's close to 17,000 pounds of steel, and hydraulic fluid, and flammables," Adame said. "Falling out of the sky in one of those things isn't going to be pretty no matter how you look at it."

Smith remarkably survived and is recovering at a military hospital in Maryland.

It's those successes that give the "Dustoff" crews motivation to plunge back onto the battlefield.

"It's all about saving a human life," said Chief Warrant Officer Joe Rogers of Russellville, Kentucky, the pilot of the helicopter that was hit by assault rifle fire. "And it's definitely worth the risk."

Navy's next carrier to be named CVN-79 USS JOHN F. KENNEDY

JFK would have been 94 years young on his birthday, Sunday May 29th....

He would have likely still had a spring in his step, a wink and smile for the crowd and a story or two to share.....He was the last true leader we had as President....

Many like to say that of Ronald Reagan, but Reagan was an actor. He portrayed who you wanted to see and "played" the part.....JFK was a TRUE LEADER...someone in whom Leadership was ingrained in the DNA.

John, we harldy knew ye.....we miss you and only wish that we had been able to hold on to you a little while longer.

Navy's next carrier to be named after JFK

By Lauren King
Meredith Kruse
The Virginian-Pilot
© May 30, 2011

John F. Kennedy will have a second aircraft carrier named after him.

The Navy announcement came Sunday, on what would have been the President and World War II naval veteran's 94th birthday.

Designated CVN-79, the carrier will be the second in the Gerald R. Ford class of carriers. The first, the Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78, is scheduled to be delivered to the fleet in September 2015. It was unclear when the John F. Kennedy would be completed and delivered.

The new carrier is under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Ford-class aircraft carriers are designed to replace Enterprise- and Nimitz-class carriers. The new carriers should save more than $5 billion in ownership costs during their planned 50-year service lives compared with the Nimitz-class carriers, a Navy news release said.

They will retain the same hulls as the Nimitz class but will contain several advanced technology systems, including electromagnetic aircraft launching systems, advanced arresting gear, dual-band radar, a redesigned smaller island and a new propulsion plant.

The Kennedy and other Ford-class carriers will be the premier asset for crisis response, humanitarian relief and striking power in major combat operations, the Navy said.

"President John F. Kennedy exemplified the meaning of service, not just to country, but service to all humanity," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement. "I am honored to have the opportunity to name the next aircraft carrier after this great sailor and inspirational leader, and to keep the rich tradition and history of USS John F. Kennedy sailing in the U.S. Fleet."

Kennedy entered the Navy in October 1941. Serving in the Pacific on a ship known as PT-109, he was in command on Aug. 2, 1943, when the ship was struck by an enemy vessel and split in half. Kennedy led the crew to safety over the next six days and later received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart.

The earlier carrier named after Kennedy, which bore the hull designation CV-67, was decommissioned in 2007 after serving for nearly 40 years. It stayed for several months in Hampton Roads before being towed to Philadelphia. Efforts are under way to preserve it as a museum in Rhode Island.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Navy roommates shared their lives, now lie together at Arlington National Cemetery

No other words are needed.....

Navy roommates shared their lives, now lie together at Arlington
Travis Manion and Brendan Looney, who became great friends at Annapolis, occupy neighboring graves at Arlington
By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
9:42 a.m. EDT, May 28, 2011

That Travis Manion and Brendan Looney ended up side by side should surprise no one.

Loved ones had always been struck by the similarities between the Naval Academy roommates — both family men, both rugged athletes, both warriors who yearned to reach the heart of action.

Now, they needed to be together again. It was the only bit of comfort Amy Looney could fathom as she watched white-gloved soldiers carry her husband's casket from the back of an airplane at Dover Air Force Base last September.

Three years earlier, a sniper had shot Travis in Iraq after he exposed himself to enemy fire so he could drag wounded comrades from an ambush. Now, Brendan was gone as well, killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Confronted with that cruel reality, Amy Looney was sure what had to happen next: Brendan, the absurdly tough Navy SEAL she had fallen for back in Annapolis, would want to spend eternity beside Travis in Arlington National Cemetery.

In life, they laughed at jokes that only they were in on, blended into one another's families and talked quietly of their hunger to fight where they were needed most. Amy Looney wanted all of that to endure beyond terrible loss.

"It was the only peace I could find in the whole situation," she says.

When she made her thoughts known, the Manions agreed that the men belonged together, even though that meant moving their son from a Pennsylvania cemetery.

Travis was reinterred at Arlington on a Friday in early October, and Brendan was buried to his left the following Monday.

There they lie.

Though undeniably tragic, the culmination of Travis and Brendan's bond is more than that for the people who loved them. It's a story of bravery, of goodness, of two men who died doing what they were put on the earth to do.

"They're probably the two best guys I've ever known and the two best guys I ever will know," says their friend and academy classmate Ben Mathews. "I think it means something that they're together. It's terrible that they had to give their lives, but they're shining examples of what Americans can strive to be."

Brendan was days from beginning SEAL training in San Diego when the news of Travis' death tore his world asunder. His sister, Erin, had always viewed him as indestructible and was taken aback to hear him hurt so badly. "That was the toughest part," she says. "It was the first time I ever saw Brendan in a different light. Not that he wasn't still tough, but maybe he was a little more vulnerable."

The Navy would not allow Brendan to leave for the funeral. In his fury, he briefly considered quitting. Instead, he dedicated his training to Travis and won the coveted "Honor Man" spot as the top graduate of his class.

On missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brendan wore two personal items — his wedding ring and a metal wrist band Travis' parents gave him to commemorate his friend. At his wedding reception in 2008, he handed Travis' mom, Janet, the gold trident pin he received for completing SEAL training.

"I only got this because of Travis," he said.

Destined to be a Marine

Travis Manion grew up in Doylestown, Pa., a borough of tree-lined streets and tidy shops 30 miles north of Philadelphia.

The foundation bearing his name, which gives grants to wounded veterans for community service projects, is housed just off Main Street. Janet Manion's office is a mini-shrine to her son. Photos of him in his wrestling uniform and combat gear surround her desk. On the window sill sits a note from local elementary-schooler Luke Sliwinski, who wrote, "I always try to do things that would make Travis proud. He is my hero. Semper Fi."

The Manions are well-known in Doylestown. Hundreds lined the streets to watch Travis' flag-draped casket proceed from a downtown church to a cemetery on the outskirts of town. Travis' father, Tom, ran for Congress the following year, arguing that too many people in government had set aside the needs of American troops. He didn't win but spread his son's story as a symbol of daily combat sacrifices that are too often out of sight, out of mind.

Janet walks into her favorite sandwich shop on a pleasant fall afternoon, less than two weeks after her son was buried at Arlington.

"I can't even comprehend how difficult that must have been," the shop's owner says. "But it's a beautiful place. He's near his buddy."

She smiles and says yes, that's a comfort.

Travis was born at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the family moved around in his early years, when Tom was still an active-duty Marine colonel. The boy loved to put on his dad's camouflage gear and protect his buddies during imagined backyard combat. He and his older sister, Ryan Manion Borek, often belted out the Marine Corps hymn on the family couch.

"He wouldn't hurt a butterfly," Janet says. "If someone was mean to him, he'd really take it to heart."

The Manions moved to Doylestown when Travis was in elementary school so his father could take an executive job at Johnson and Johnson. Shortly after, Janet got an early glimpse of her son's sense of justice.

He became fast friends with Steve Brown, one of the few black students at his school. One afternoon, the boys went to get pizza at Travis' favorite downtown shop. Brown ordered a slice of pepperoni, but the man at the counter looked right past him and asked Travis what he wanted. Brown again asked for a slice of pepperoni and again, the man looked past him and asked for Travis' order.

"I'd like a slice of pepperoni," Travis said. The sixth-grader got his pizza and quickly handed it to his buddy, according to Janet. "You know what. We're not going to come back here," he told the counterman who had ignored Brown. Sure enough, Janet says, he boycotted the joint from then on.

Travis grew into a strapping kid who earned top grades in history and math and loved to question just about everything. At La Salle, the Catholic school he entered in ninth grade, he starred on the football, wrestling and lacrosse teams and fit easily into the popular crowd.

Travis grew up around family friends who had attended the Naval Academy, but his parents were surprised when he insisted on Annapolis as his only possible destination for college. They cajoled him into applying to a few less selective schools. But during a family move a few years later, Janet found the application forms, never sent, in one of his drawers.

Travis adjusted to plebe summer more easily than most. He was plenty strong for the physical challenges and plenty bright for the intellectual ones. "Your son's going to do great," an officer told the Manions when they visited him for the first time.

By October, however, Travis had his doubts about academy life. He heard his sister's tales of carefree college nights and bristled at the restrictions on his time. He had to finish the semester, his parents told him. But when Travis went home for winter break, he arranged a transfer to Drexel and left Navy behind.

Big brother

Brendan Looney grew up in Calvert County, the oldest of six siblings in an affectionate but tough Irish Catholic family.

"We expected a lot out of them," says his father, Kevin Looney. "We told them that you're given a lot, so we expect a lot."

Brendan took his role as big brother seriously. When Christmas approached, he called conferences with his two brothers and three sisters so they could synchronize their lists and maximize the gift haul for the entire tribe. He practiced tackling and wrestling with his little brothers, Steve and Billy, making sure that if anyone ever tried to pick on them, they'd be ready.

Brendan's sister, Erin, remembers how hard the younger siblings worked to earn his favor. He liked to construct challenges that pitted one against the other. One day, it might be a race to see which little sister could jump through the ceiling fan without getting her head whacked. The next, Brendan might strap Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pillows to their arms and coach them through a wrestling match. The prize? His weight belt wrapped in tinfoil.

Time in his room was an even greater reward.

"I don't even know that we were allowed to talk," Erin says. "But just getting to hang out with him, you would think, 'Man, this is a good day.'"

Erin could only laugh when war-hardened SEALs approached her at Brendan's funeral and told her how they had cherished any chance to hang in her brother's quarters.

All the male Looneys went to DeMatha for high school, and there was no doubt Brendan would follow the line to Hyattsville. He threw himself into sports, starting on both offense and defense for a football powerhouse that sent players to major Division I programs and the NFL. Even after a hard afternoon practice and an hour-long ride home, Brendan often ran up and down the quarter-mile hill behind his family's home.

"When it came to the fourth quarter of a game, he wanted to know that he had worked harder than the other guy," says Kevin, his voice catching and tears welling in his eyes.

He was the type who ran every practice sprint as hard as he could, stayed late to coach younger players and changed games with his reckless hits.

"Without a doubt, Brendan was the leader of that team," says longtime DeMatha coach Bill McGregor. "There might have been better athletes, but he was the leader."

Because he was only 5-foot-10 and lacked the speed of a pro receiver, Brendan did not draw attention from the flashy football schools that recruited his friends. But he wanted to play Division I and that goal steered him to Navy, which often recruits undersized but tough prospects.

Brendan started at the academy's prep school in Rhode Island, because he was colorblind and there were only so many slots in Annapolis for colorblind midshipmen. He stood out from his first day, says another former roommate, Neil Toohey. He met standards easily and in his spare time, helped others reach them. He even folded Toohey's socks and underwear so his friend wouldn't get in trouble during inspection.

"He had a leg up on the rest of us, but rather than show us up, he helped us out," Toohey says. "Who else would fold my laundry?"

Birth of a friendship

In April of his first semester at Drexel, Travis called his mother from a bar, where he was partying with fellow lacrosse players.

"I want to go back to the academy," he told her. "These guys don't take college seriously enough."

Travis had lapped up the regular college life he believed he was missing in Annapolis and had decided the taste didn't suit him. But as hard as the academy is to enter in the first place, it's even harder to re-enter.

Tom Manion drove his son to Annapolis and sat in the parking lot as Travis tried to talk a colonel into letting him come back. The teenager said time away had taught him that he needed to be at a school where every day was lived with purpose. He got his readmission.

Travis returned in the winter of 2001 to resume his plebe year with a batch of midshipmen who had never met him and had spent months forging bonds without him. Brendan was in his new company.

But they didn't know each other well until the academy paired them as roommates in their sophomore year. The living arrangement proved auspicious, bringing two kindred spirits together.

"Brendan and Travis are so similar, so similar," Erin Looney says.

Travis visited the Looney house in Silver Spring on weekends, forming tight bonds with Brendan's brothers, who were academy-bound, and keeping a watchful eye on his friend's sisters. In turn, Brendan loved to relax at the second home the Manions kept in Annapolis, near the academy campus.

They often described themselves as "brothers from another mother," the Manions say.

Erin Looney laughs, recalling how Travis was just as likely as Brendan to cast a skeptical eye at a Looney sister and say, "Why are you looking at that boy?"

"It was like jeez, Travis, I've already got three of these guys watching everything I do," she says.

Once, Brendan phoned from California and insisted that his youngest sister, Kelly, put her boyfriend on a conference call with the brothers. "How many pull-ups can you do?" he asked the poor guy. "How many push-ups?"

Exasperated with the answers, Brendan said, "Well what can you do?"

When Brendan went on dates with his future wife in Annapolis, Travis often tagged along. The roommates split the cost of a guitar and taught themselves to play, albeit not very well. Travis' greatest hit was an improvised goof called "Orange Sherbet." At other times, they might sit together in silence and suddenly burst into laughter at the same moment.

"It was almost like they could read each other's minds," Janet Manion says.

Peers regarded Travis as the more philosophical of the two. His classmate, Mathews, remembers walking into his room and finding a plastic box full of notecards, each with a quote that had struck Travis as meaningful. He became fascinated with the ancient fighting Spartans and could happily pass a day watching the whole run of HBO's series "Rome" in the family basement.

"Every movie he watched, any book he read, any girl he met at a bar, he tried to take some kind of learning lesson from it," Mathews says.

When talking about Brendan, classmates often resort to expletives to convey their awe at his physicality and determination.

"Whatever was put in front of him, he always just did it," Mathews says. "He was very stoic, but he had a presence about him. He did not want to surround himself with people who weren't trying to do their best."

Neither wanted to be on sidelines

Brendan's Navy football career stalled when a new coaching regime came in. So he turned to lacrosse, a sport he had barely played. It's extremely unusual for a novice to have any shot at playing for an elite lacrosse program, but the challenge thrilled Brendan. He didn't mind practicing rudimentary skills like throwing a ball off the wall and catching it with his stick.

Former Navy coach Richie Meade unreservedly calls him the toughest kid on the team, a fast bundle of muscle who would fly in after the faceoff and obliterate a key opposing player. He did just that against No. 1 Maryland his senior year, setting the stage for a Navy upset.

"It was a rough game, and he was the roughest guy on the field," Meade recalls. "You just felt good going in, knowing that Brendan was on your team and not the other."

Brendan played extensively his senior year, when his brothers were also both on the team. Together, the three Looneys helped take the Midshipmen to the NCAA championship game.

"He was the real deal," Meade says. "Everything that, as an American, you would want this institution to instill in a leader, Brendan Looney was all of that."

Travis, meanwhile, wrestled in the 184-pound weight class for Navy. Though he lacked elite quickness and flexibility, he built enormous strength in the weight room and was rising in the national rankings when he hurt his shoulder as a junior. Surgery and rehabilitation never got him back to where he hoped.

"He went through a grieving process with it, wanting to do more, getting angry and then reaching acceptance," says Navy wrestling coach Bruce Burnett. "He got to the point where he said, 'If I can't do this, what can I do?'"

For the Army meet his senior year, Burnett asked him to go through the ardors of dropping weight so he would be eligible to wrestle even though he would not actually compete. By putting Travis in the lineup, Burnett forced a strategic switch in Army's lineup that ultimately helped Navy win. Travis made the effort without complaint, though he was too hurt to train off the pounds easily.

The mentality that made Brendan and Travis similar as athletes also informed their approach to service after graduation in 2004. Both wanted to make a difference in battle as soon as they could.

"They were always players," Janet Manion says, drawing the connection between their athletic and military mindsets. "They didn't want to sit on the sidelines. It's who they were."

Travis chose to follow his father into the Marines. He aced officer training school and wanted to go infantry. Instead, much to his frustration, he was assigned to a logistics unit for his first tour of Iraq. His only real thrill was guarding a polling place when the reconstructed country held its first election.

"I don't want to say he was bored," his sister says.

"But he wanted to go on more missions," Janet Manion cuts in.

Brendan found his early years of service even more frustrating. He wanted to be a SEAL but couldn't because of his colorblindness. Instead, he was assigned to an intelligence unit in South Korea, where he lived his worst nightmare — sitting behind a desk analyzing data all day.

"You don't want to be a nose picker like I am," he told his brother Billy.

Salvation finally came in the form of a new waiver allowing colorblind sailors to enter SEAL training. Brendan would get to test his physical prowess the way he wanted. He began Basic Underwater Demolition (BUDs) training in the spring of 2007.

Dying the way he lived

The Manions have zeroed in on one conversation to illustrate the service ethic shared by their son and Brendan.

Travis was home on leave at a Philadelphia Eagles game with his brother-in-law, Dave Borek. As they approached an escalator at the stadium, his brother-in-law joked that he could shove Travis down in hopes that he might break an ankle and miss his next combat tour.

Travis turned with a serious look and said, "Dave, if not me, then who?"

He left for his last tour of Iraq the day after Christmas in 2006. This time, he would be embedded with an Iraqi unit in Fallujah, helping the soldiers learn to fight insurgents. Early in the tour, he told his dad, "It's pretty serious over here now."

At the same time, he relished bonding with the Iraqi soldiers he advised. He listened to tapes to improve his Arabic and helped build a new mess hall.

Last year, Tom Manion used his military connections to arrange a trip to Fallujah, where he met some of the Iraqis who served with Travis. They remembered staying up late with him to share philosophical talks about the mission.

"Manion was different," Tom remembers them saying. "He reached out to us and tried to build relationships. He cared about us as people."

Travis' reports grew more dire as his tour went on. During one conversation, his sister made a casual remark about his deployment being half over. "Just because I'm halfway doesn't make it any safer or easier," he said.

In March, a roadside bomb rocked his vehicle, leaving him dazed. But Travis, at 200 pounds plus gear strapped all over him, busted out of the wreckage and chased down the trigger man. His Iraqi peers wanted to execute the enemy, Tom Manion says, but Travis talked them into escorting the insurgent to prison. He posthumously won the Bronze Star for his actions that day.

The last time he spoke with his parents, his connection kept cutting off, but he kept calling back as if he had something important to get out.

"I don't know if the American people know this, but we're doing a lot over here," his father remembers him saying. "We're fighting every day in the streets, and we're making a difference."

"It was probably the most intense talk we ever had," Tom Manion says.

Janet Manion doesn't know why, but on the following Sunday, she invited a passel of friends and family to the house for a picnic. They planted flowers, kids played ball in the backyard and smoke poured off the grill. "It was almost like he called us together," she says.

She answered a ring of the doorbell and saw a uniformed man standing outside.

On patrol in Fallujah that day, Travis' unit had fallen into an ambush by enemy snipers. The citation for Travis' Silver Star says he pulled a wounded Navy medic from the line of fire, then emerged from cover again to pull a Marine to safety. He emerged one last time to lay down fire so his wounded comrades could be rescued. In that exchange, a sniper shot and killed him. He was 26.

Rob Sarver, another academy classmate, got the call on his cell phone as he and Brendan readied their gear for the start of SEAL training. "Something bad happened to Travis," the voice on the other end said.

"I had never seen Brendan emotionally upset," Sarver recalls. "But I could really tell it hit him like a ton of bricks. He just said very quietly and very stoically, 'This training means more now than it did before. We have to go back and continue fighting where Travis died.'"

Brendan listened to Travis' funeral on speakerphone in San Diego. He bawled in calls home to his mother and Amy.

He kept his vulnerability to himself during SEAL training.

The 14-month preparation amounts to consensual torture. The candidates run four miles uphill with 35 pounds of weight in their packs. They wade shirtless into chilly water and then do hundreds of calisthenics in the rough sand. Nothing slowed Brendan. He performed so well during "Hell Week" that fellow trainees rechristened it "Camp Looney."

"In the two-mile swims and the four-mile runs, there was just no comparison," Sarver says. "Brendan physically crushed them."

As soon as Brendan came home from training, he drove to Pennsylvania and sat at the Manions' basement bar, crying and telling stories about Travis. The night before 120 people ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Travis' honor, Brendan spoke to them with tears in his eyes about how much he loved his roommate.

Together again

Brendan loved being a SEAL lieutenant — the crazy rigor of learning to ride a horse or a dirt bike so he'd know how to do it on covert missions.

"The more strength and the more skill it took, the more Brendan enjoyed it," says his uncle, Chris Parker.

In a company of tough men, he represented a rugged pinnacle that others aspired to reach. If he ate fish one night, they ate fish. If he took two scoops of veggies, they took two scoops. He cultivated a wilder look, letting his hair grow long and his beard fill out. His college lacrosse coach, Meade, joked that when Brendan returned to campus, younger midshipmen stayed a step back from him, as if Thor had entered their locker room.

Brendan first served a tour in Iraq and then deployed to Afghanistan on March 9 of last year. He sounded happy on calls home, though he couldn't say much about his covert missions. In typical fashion, he complained that his unit could be doing more. As the end of his five-year commitment neared, he signed on for another five.

Brendan's tour was almost over when he hopped on the helicopter in late September. A replacement SEAL team had arrived in Afghanistan, and back home, his mother was making plans with Amy for a visit to San Diego, where the young couple lived.

The accidental crash that day killed nine servicemen, including Brendan. He was 29.

Eighty people, including the Manions, drove to Delaware to greet his casket. Those who loved Brendan struggled with the idea that he was the one coming off the plane that September day. He had seemed so indestructible.

"To see a coffin come out with a flag on it and know that's Brendan Looney, it's tough," says Meade, his former lacrosse coach. "I said to my wife on the way back from Dover, 'Brendan would have been a better father than me.' I'm never going to be the same."

In the days of mourning that followed, Brendan's mother, Maureen, often sought Janet Manion for a hug. "I don't want you to leave," she told Travis' mother. "You're the only one who knows what this feels like."

As it happened, the Manions had felt misgivings since burying Travis near their home. Before his death, he had told several people he wanted to be interred at Arlington. His sister had pushed her parents to move him. Now, Amy Looney was saying that her husband and Travis belonged together.

Cemetery officials said they could not hold a spot next to Brendan but said the roommates could be side-by-side if the Manions acted quickly.

"It just felt like the right thing to do," Janet Manion says.

So one burial became two.

Marines, SEALs and friends from as far back as elementary school poured in to pay their respects and tell the families stories of how Brendan and Travis had touched them. The SEALs sported fresh tattoos of skeletal frogs adorned with Brendan's initials.

Many shared the same solace, that both men died doing what they were meant to do, that both lived according to the principles they shared.

"It's the old Braveheart thing," Mathews says. "Would you rather die in bed many years from now or would you rather give your life for something like freedom?"

The Looneys endured the pain knowing that their other two boys would be back to Navy service a few days later, Billy as a supply officer at the academy in Annapolis and Steve as an intelligence specialist in San Diego. "We all still believe in what they and Brendan were fighting for," says Maureen, wearing a bright green Navy T-shirt.

Erin Looney says her brother was drawn to tight communities in which he felt a powerful common purpose. She knows that whenever she visits Brendan's marble headstone, she'll see Travis to his right. The pilot of the helicopter in which he died is buried to his left.

"Even when he's gone, he's got this tight crew around him," she says. "He has his guys with him

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Election 2012 - and in this corner, we have the GOP collection of " Elect me, elect me" wannabees

Like most armchair Political pundits, I have my doubts about what is driving those interested in being President (Ego, narcissism, hutzpah, etc.)....Part of the problem is the "lightweight" sitting in the Oval Office presently....He proved that people are dumb enough to elect a feckless idiot who served in the Senate for only a short time and voted "present" on 74 bills....We need to make sure the next time we elect a President, it isn't some "empty suit " like the present POTUS.

Now, as we have President Doofus on the DEMS side of the equation, the GOP has to find someone who can counter the idijit who sits in the Oval Office presently....

Here is the list and my take on each of the contenders (In Alphabetical Order):

Michele Bachmann - Tea Party Darling, has certain " Palin-like" qualities, mucked it up pretty bad when she was in NH a few weeks ago and stated that she was glad to be where it all started in Concord, the scene of the shot heard around the world.....Excuse me, Congresswoman, that was Concord, Massachusetts, next state over....Before you become President, you have to learn a little about our history. Sorry, you blew it and that will be about far as you go.

Herman Cain - Nice guy, makes a darn good pizza (As founder of Godfather's Pizza chain) but has done little to show he can be trusted with the keys to the kingdom...might get to be considered but more likely good economic advisor for the next guy who really gets elected President. Until then, stay on the sidelines.

Newt Gingrich - Newt, Newt, Newt....what can I say....you're like a case of athlete's foot...annoying and you just won't go away....Run this through your head for a minute, " President NEWT Gingrich "....that just doesn't even sound right..." President Newt " - UGH ! Like we need another guy who admitted to screwing around on his wife in the White House...sorry NEWT, too much baggage and no one but you and the little woman want to see you in the White House....NO ONE...on your way now...don't write. Please. We're begging you to just go away.

Jon Huntsman - Ambassador to China, Former Governor of Utah (Yawn)...Likely a good guy but as charismatic as a bowl of Bran Flakes....a good VP or Cabinet guy but not the Leader of the Free World...We need someone with a little more "Zing" to counter Barry from Chicago

Gary Johnson - Best known for his efforts to legalize marijuana during his two terms as governor of New Mexico...sampling a little of the product, are we sir?? Guy wants to be looser with immigration and acts like the Republican most likely to jump on Obama's bandwagon...sorry Dude, you aren't going to be the GOP guy....time to head back to the desert...

Sarah Palin - What do we do about Sarah ?? Is she the no-nonsense Mama Grizzly or is she the Stalker Girlfriend who wouldn't leave you alone in college ?? She is a political spark-plug who has stepped into it a few times but bounces back....Lotsa interesting stuff there , you betcha!

The Liberals favorite target, she is the GOP version of Nancy Pelosi....the LIBS/DEMS are eager to sink arrows into her....would it make an interesting contest, you betcha x 2...She is one person who can overcome the image that all GOPers are old white men....not sure that is reason enough to put her in charge....if you count her out, you just made a mistake....she cannot be underestimated.

Ron Paul - Ron Paul ? Really?? This guy is the other half of the Dennis Kucinich "aliens conspiracy" double-team....whackier than the March Hare and has been in Congress for 20 years proving it every day....Believes in anything but the things most Americans hold dear...A true Libertarian.....which means he has not been taken seriously by anyone for a long long time...ET is calling sir, you better go run and answer the phone....

Tim Pawlenty - Nice guy - From Minnesota. They have long winters up there and will have a decent shot based on his "main street moderate " approach. Acts very sincere and down to earth....if this is what is needed to given old Jug Ears in the White House a run for the money, I'll consider him the one that would be less likely to make Americans vote for Hopey/Changey guy for another term...needs to get some steam built up but a few primary wins could project him well into that spot....worth watching.

Mitt Romney - MITT, MITT, MITT - you remind us of the creepy guy at the Company Christmas party that everyone tries to avoid but just won't leave us alone...he comes off as desperate and not like the Leader we need.....He has FLIP- FLOPPED more than John Kerry (that's saying quite a bit)

SLICK MITT ROMNEY said he raised 10 Million dollars in a one night phone bank callathon just the other day...Must have been a compelling sales pitch, " Hi, I'm calling from the Mitt Romney Campaign office and if you don't donate some $$$, we'll just keep calling and calling and calling until you do....."

Likely those who were waterboarded at GITMO got off easier than having to listen to his drivel...Just like the speech he gave last week which was pretty much labeled "desperate" by anyone who saw it and those who see him for what he is, another narcissistic fool who believes his own image when he looks in the mirror.

Mitt, just GO AWAY....we're begging you....You aren't going to be President of the United States, no matter how much money you stack up(as he hasn’t figured out not everything or everyone can be bought) And take Ann, your wife who is just as obnoxious as Obama's wife...They are a matched set, and just as delusional as their husbands. Mitt is also famous for torturing the family dog by putting the dog in a kennel on the car roof for a 12 hour ride with the family....if he thinks so little of the family pet, guess what he thinks about you???

Rick Santorum - Rick was a Senator from Pennsylvania and was at the center of some serious debates during his political career about right to life issues...Was the third-ranking Senate Republican, one of his party’s fastest-rising stars who was a brash favorite among social conservatives and now works for Fox News....not sure he can pull the undecided’s over but so far has not done anything that makes him a no-go.....Time will tell....his possible candidacy was greeted with " YAWN" from all side in the political world.....

So there you have it in a nutshell.....IF the GOP doesn't get their act together (and soon), the DOOFUS in Charge will be guaranteed a 2nd term because this collection of political fools are presently enabling him....let's get it together, people.....we are only talking about the future of our country...

Please, we're begging you...find us a decent leader among the collection of clowns who see themselves as the next leader of the free world.

We need a few of these fools to put their egos in check and get out of the way of the few who could actually run a competitive campaign against Barry-From-Chicago.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day - “It's not just Cape traffic & cookouts, it's really about the ultimate sacrifice that so many men and women have [made]”

The enclosed picture shows 20,000 flags planed on the Boston Common to represent the servicemen & women who have given their lives in defense of our country and our state of Massachsuetts since Worl War I. As the 13th generation of a family that came to Massachusetts in 1635, quite a few of my ancestors are among those 20,000. I have served and one of my children served in our fine US Navy. It was our distinct privilege to wear the uniform and continue a long tradition of selfless service to our country.

This weekend, make Memorial Day Weekend about more than cookouts and another day off. I'll be here in Afghanistan supporting our fine military. Please do your part to honor our fallen Warriors wherever you are.

Ceremony honors state's fallen ahead of Memorial Day

BOSTON -- Twenty thousand flags filled up Boston Common as the city honored fallen service members heading into the Memorial Day weekend.

“Each of them represent a heart silenced and a life lost in service to Massachusetts and the country from the beginning of World War One until last month,” Steven Kerrigan of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund said.

One of those flags was for PFC John Hart.

“He always wanted to be a soldier,” his mother, Alma Hart, said.

The 20-year-old lost his life when he was ambushed in Iraq back in 2003.

“He stood up, did his duty and covered the wounded and when he ran out of bullets he was shot,” Hart said.

Years later, his mother had a Memorial Day weekend message.

“You should pause for a moment and think about the hopes and dreams these people had,” she said.

With mourning families, city and state leaders took a moment to remember the fallen.

“This visual behind us, 20,000 flags, is a powerful, silent tribute,” Governor Deval Patrick said.

“It's not just Cape traffic and cookouts, it's really about the ultimate sacrifice that so many men and women have paid for our commonwealth,” Kerrigan said.

The names of 143 Massachusetts servicemen and women killed in recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were also read during Thursday’s ceremony

Notes from " Outside the wire" where they are taking it directly to the Taliban

This message came from a colleague who has a fellow West Pointer out here in the field, doing what Army guys do "outside the wire" - Inspirational stuff. Working with the ANA (Afghan National Army) to secure the peace.

(See enclosed picture - Their faces have been obscured to ensure OPSEC)

They are taking it directly to the Taliban.

His words -

" Came back in from a mission today and it was pretty warm. Got some chow and went to the Team meeting.....a collage of pix that had been taken on the day I left on leave of the mission they had done that day, I think it was the 21st of April.

There is a hill east of our COP which has been dubbed "POO Hill" (POO being the current military term for "point of origin", essentially where the bad guys are when they are shooting stuff at us). There has been a Taliban white flag on it for a long time, and they shoot their 82mm mortars from there at us. The mission for that day included some of the team guys going up on top of this hill in order to (IOT) man a OP/sniper/mortar position for other op's which were also being conducted.

The four guys who were going up there ( I was going to be the fifth, but was going on leave so did not go) decided to do the American Thing and place Old Glory on top after they had ripped down the Taliban rag. You need to understand that this was no small endeavor; from the gun trucks to the top of the hill was an elevation climb of over 700 ft and a damned tough climb. They each made four trips IOT carry all that was necessary for the mission- which for them included picks, shovels, three 60# bags of cement, mortar ammo, three five gallon Jerry Cans of water, a 20 ft flag pole and all the other mission gear and rucks necessary to fight. This was carried up and in place by first light. Then they went to work. I did not ask them how long it took to dig down in the rocky soil on top of the hill, but there is a picture of the hole and some very tired looking guys. Then the mixing of the concrete and setting of the pole.

Now you all have seen the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima by the Marines. I saw tonight a picture of three men doing exactly the same thing on a hill in the Shalay Valley of the Konar which made me choke up. The emotion which was expressed in the pictures is beyond description. I was moved like I have seldom been; only the combat loss of men gets me as much as seeing this tonight. I was getting damned choked up as were these guys.

Then they presented me the American Flag which had flown that day.

That's when I lost it...

We all did.

After I recovered I thanked them but could not accept it as I had not been there, and this flag was a very important part of the teams history, and would return to the team room back at Ft Bragg. I did say that I would be honored to retain the next flag so long as I was along on the operation. They assured me that that would be soon.

It is just a month or so from being 40 years since I swore in on the Plain at West Point. In all these years, this has to rank up in the top one or two honors I have ever received.

You can rest soundly as there are men who are willing to do what it takes.

I am damned lucky and very proud to be able to serve with them."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

K-9 Veterans start to get respect they deserve from the public - US NAVY JEEP supports our K-9 Veterans

In the almost two years that I have authored this MILBLOG, I have focused on many issues and themes. One of the main themes has been our four-legged friends, especially those who serve side by side with our military as K-9 Veterans.

In 2007, my wife and I hosted a Benefit Car Show where we raised approximatley $1000 for K-9 Veterans. We donated the proceeds among three organizations that supported K-9 Troops. I firmly believe the link between Man and Dog is one of the key events in human history. Without them, we are weaker. With them, we are an unstoppable team.

In the wake of the info about the K-9 Trooper who went with the US NAVY SEALs to get OBL, the public has finally caught up with what some of us knew all along. Our K-9 Veterans have been doing their part to support the military for decades and all they ask in return is that we show them we care, give them an occasional walk & toss of the tennis ball.

My thanks to all our 4-legged Vets who keep the military safe and those that protect the homefront while we work out here. Dogs may not be our whole life, but I know life is not as whole without them.

"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's."
- Mark Twain, Letter to W D Howells, 4/2/1899

SEALs canine commando piques interest in war dogs
Military officials receive over 400 adoption applications after canine helped during mission to kill bin Laden

-- Life after the military is looking brighter than ever for America's four-legged veterans since one of their own helped in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

War dog organizations say the number of people asking about adopting retired military canines has risen dramatically since the mission involving Cairo, the Navy SEALs dog tasked with tracking anyone who tried to escape from bin Laden's compound and alerting the special operations forces to anyone approaching.

While about 300 retired U.S. military dogs are put up for adoption each year, military officials say they've received more than 400 adoption applications in the three weeks since the May 2 raid. In past generations, most military dogs were euthanized once their tours of duty were done.

"They made a really big deal about Cairo being a super dog, but all dogs in the military are super dogs," said Ron Aiello, president of the U.S. War Dogs Association. "These dogs are fully trained, are worth probably $40,000 to $50,000 each at least, and it's a dog that has been saving American lives. It's kind of a hero in a way."

Aiello, a dog handler for the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, started his organization with other former dog handlers to teach Americans about the long and often sad history of the dogs that have been deployed with troops.

The attack on Pearl Harbor sparked the U.S. military's interest in war dogs, which Germany and France used in World War I. Prior to the Vietnam War, the canines were trained to be fierce attack dogs that greatly distrusted humans. But the military soon found that limited them too much and started training German shepherds and other breeds to be patrol dogs.

Today, military dogs are used to find explosives, insurgents and drugs, and to help search for missing people. Some are so highly trained they can work off leash and follow commands whispered by their handlers through a specialized communication system attached to the dog.

The dogs are credited with saving thousands of lives. Last year, Aiello said, a dog on patrol in Iraq detected a fertilizer bomb on the other side of the door in a building. The dog sat down and alerted U.S. troops, who spotted the explosive by looking under the door.

If the dog had not sat down, troops would have opened the door and the building might have blown up, killing all inside.

Other times, the dogs can only do so much. When a sniper's bullet struck Pfc. Colton Rusk in Afghanistan, the first to reach his body was his best friend Eli -- a bomb-sniffing, black Labrador so loyal he snapped at other Marines who rushed to his fallen handler. Rusk died Dec. 6. His parents have since adopted his dog.

After the Vietnam War, only 204 of an estimated 4,900 war dogs returned to the United States, according to military dog organizations. The others were euthanized, given to the South Vietnamese army or abandoned by soldiers trying to save the dogs.

That changed in 2000 when President Bill Clinton signed a law allowing the dogs to be adopted. Dog lovers say the military has made dramatic strides since then. Last year, 338 dogs were adopted, including 34 that were given to police departments or other government agencies.

None are euthanized now, said Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where the military's dog adoption program is based.

"All the animals find a home," he said. "There's a six-month waiting list right now for people wanting to adopt. And (the applications) have gone up substantially since the raid."

The nonprofit Military Working Dog Adoptions has received over 300 inquiries in the past two weeks, said Debbie Kandoll of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who founded the organization after getting her first war dog in January 2008. Her group and Aiello's help raise awareness about the retired dogs, make sure they are treated well and help people through the process of adopting the animals.

Aiello said the most common breeds for military canines are Belgian Malinois, Dutch shepherd, German shepherd and Labrador retriever. They are generally older than 10 when they retire, and some have a litany of medical problems.

"They only have a couple of years left, so why not have them spend it with a loving family where they're not going to hear gunfire go off, explosives go off," Aiello said.

Not all the dogs could do well in a home with, say, children or other pets, but some are remarkably docile after spending years on the battlefield.

A dog named Chyba was deployed to Iraq before Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, adopted her last year. Pickens said Chyba is a sweet, relaxed dog who is happiest stretched out in the shade of a tree.

It's not cheap to adopt a military dog, in large part because adoptive owners often have to pay $1,000 to $2,000 to bring them back to the U.S. on commercial flights. Putting a retired dog in a crate on a military cargo flight is against the rules.

When dogs are adopted, they no longer belong to the military, "so it would be fraud, waste and abuse for the DOD to transport that pet," Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog told the Air Force News Service in 2009.

Officially, military dogs are considered equipment, and retired dogs are excess or surplus equipment. Kandoll wants the military to reclassify the dogs as canine veterans. That would take an act of Congress, but it could also ensure that all dogs shipped out of the United States are brought back.

"Uncle Sam gave the dogs a ride over. He should give them a ride back," Kandoll said.

"To me, it's like leaving a soldier behind," said Pickens, who spoke in Encinitas last month at the dedication of a monument to military working dogs.

It's unlikely that Cairo will have any trouble getting adopted, but military officials aren't saying how far the dog is from retirement. They aren't releasing his age or any other details about the special operations canine because his work is classified.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"We are honoring the dead, and these people served their country and they deserve at least a little respect,” Paul Monti, Father of Jared Monti MOHR

SFC Jared Monti learned many lessons from his Father and it is no suprise that his Father took on a fight to honor his son and all others on Memorial Day at the Bourne National Veterans Cemetery....I salute your efforts sir....Glad to see you still fight for those who cannot do so.

Like Middleboro, Raynham, MA raises some dedicated citizen soldiers in Southeastern Massachusetts....always have and always will.

Medal of Honor recipient's father leads effort to place thousands of flags on vets' graves
May 24, 2011 04:38 PM
By Jenna Duncan, Boston Globe Correspondent

The first Veterans’ Day after his son was killed in Afghanistan, Paul Monti went to visit the site where his son, Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, is buried at Bourne National Veterans’ Cemetery, with plastic American flags in hand.

He noticed none of the graves had flags, even for the holiday. When Monti inquired, he learned flags were restricted from the grounds because they got in the way of maintenance.

“They didn’t allow flags on individual graves, and that made me quite upset,” he said.

The Raynham man has spent the four years since trying to reverse this rule, and now, this Memorial Day, he and a group of volunteers will place 56,000 flags on the graves at the cemetery, he said.

Somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people will join Monti Saturday to place the flags, he said.

“I think I’ll probably be elated once I see it done, but in a somber sort of way,” he said.

"We are honoring the dead, and these people served their country and they deserve at least a little respect,” he said.

Volunteers are welcome to attend, or can donate money to the SFC Jared C. Monti Memorial Scholarship Fund to cover the cost of the flags.

Jared Monti was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism when his patrol was attacked in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan in 2006.

50 years later, JFK's words echo across time....." We choose to go to the Moon..."

John F. Kennedy was the right person at the right time to push us along into the Space Race. Russia was trying to assert itself and they had an edge in getting into space.....they also disregarded the safety of their Astronauts, unlike NASA where all efforts were in trying to keep the men we sent into Space safe.

JFK's leadership and vision are the true mark of leadership.....something that is completely missing from the White House and most of the Congress. Like driving down the highway in a restored 1961 Impala, we can imagine for a few minutes that we are back in that day & time when the whole world and our country were attentively listening the words of our 35th President who told us that we were going to the Moon and that while it would challenge our country's best, we would accomplish the task as it was the right thing to do....

Jack, we still hear you regardless of what the feckless idiot who presently sits at your desk says....We know you were the real deal, while others are only keeping the seat warm.

Race to Space, Through the Lens of Time
Published: May 23, 2011

It was the spring of 1961. President John F. Kennedy, speaking of new frontiers and projecting the vigor of youth, had been in office barely four months, and April had been the cruelest.

On the 12th, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth — one more space triumph for the Soviet Union. Though the flight was not unexpected, it was nonetheless deflating; it would be more than a month before Alan Shepard became the first American in space, and that was on a 15-minute suborbital flight. On the 17th, a force of anti-Castro exiles, trained by the C.I.A., invaded communist Cuba at the Bay of Pigs — a fiasco within 36 hours. Mr. Kennedy’s close aide Theodore Sorensen described him on the 19th as “anguished and fatigued” and “in the most emotional, self-critical state I had ever seen him.”

At one meeting, his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general, “turned on everybody,” it was reported, saying: “All you bright fellows. You got the president into this. We’ve got to do something to show the Russians we are not paper tigers.” At another, the president pleaded: “If somebody can, just tell me how to catch up. Let’s find somebody — anybody. I don’t care if it’s the janitor over there.” Heading back to the Oval Office, he told Mr. Sorensen, “There’s nothing more important.”

So, 50 years ago, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, declaring: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

There it was, the challenge flung before an adversary and to a nation on edge in an unconventional war, the beginning of Project Apollo.

Echoes of this time lift off the pages of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillan), a new book by John M. Logsdon, a political scientist and longtime space policy specialist at George Washington University. He has drawn on new research in archives, oral histories and memoirs available in recent years to shed new light on the moon race.

The famous speech came after five weeks of hand wringing, back-channel memos and closed-door conferences, often overseen by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. In those meetings NASA and Pentagon officials, scientists and engineers, budget analysts and others decided that sending astronauts to the Moon by the end of the sixties was the country’s best shot at overcoming the Soviet post-Sputnik command of the orbital front in the cold war.

But, Dr. Logsdon said in an interview last week, the new material highlighted some recurring themes that had been overlooked, like Mr. Kennedy’s return, time and again, to the idea of engaging the Russians in a cooperative venture, his continuing support of the project through a time of doubt, and how little was known then of Soviet capabilities and intentions.

Most of all, Dr. Logsdon said, hindsight had made him aware of his blindness to Apollo’s implications for the long run. He said he had been wrong, in a 1970 book on the subject, to think that the lunar decision “can be generalized to tell us how to proceed toward other “great new American enterprises.”

And like many others who for years lived and breathed the project, he finally had to recognize that the “impact of Apollo on the space program has on balance been negative.” It was, he explained, not the beginning of human voyages to Mars and lunar bases but “a dead-end undertaking in terms of human travel beyond the immediate vicinity of this planet.”

Of course, it takes two to have a race. The American president could not be sure the Russians had a lunar-landing program. There was no evidence that the Russians were building facilities for a booster capable of launching people to the Moon. Was the president just double-dog-daring them to come out in the schoolyard and show their stuff?

An intelligence report in 1962 had nothing to add, short of speculating that “the chances are better than even that a lunar landing is a Soviet objective.” Only in 1964 did intelligence agents detect signs that there was indeed someone to make it a race.

Initially, NASA set its sights on late 1967 for the landing attempt. As spending escalated, Apollo ran into its first sharp criticism in Congress, the science establishment and the news media in 1963. “Even some of the Kennedy advisers were eager to slip the end-of-decade date and relieve the pressure, mainly to save money,” Dr. Logsdon said.

These “winds of change,” as he put it, may have motivated Kennedy’s renewed invitation in a United Nations address in September to the Russians to join in a cooperative mission. He had proposed this informally to the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, at a meeting in Vienna shortly after his 1961 address to Congress. It was rejected out of hand. Russian accounts after the cold war have linked the rejection to a fear of exposing the technological shortcomings of the country’s program.

Walter A. McDougall, the historian who wrote “The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age,” has suggested that Kennedy’s periodic messages on space cooperation “were just exercises in image-building.” Dr. McDougall took a more skeptical view of spaceflight’s bearing on geopolitics, more in line with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address on the spreading influence of the military-industrial complex in national affairs.

Dr. Logsdon countered that the American achievements had by 1963 progressed to the point, as Mr. Sorensen said, that there was “a very real chance that we were even with the Soviets.” And since the Cuban missile crisis the year before, it was noted, Soviet-American relations had improved.

McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser, talked tactics with the president. Either press for cooperation with the Russians, he suggested, or continue to use their space effort as “a spur to our own.” In a memorandum, Mr. Bundy said that “if we cooperate, the pressure comes off” regarding the decade goal, and “we can easily argue that it was our crash effort in ’61 and ’62 which made the Soviets ready to cooperate.”

In the year of criticism, Kennedy wavered but never backed away from his lunar commitment. Visiting Cape Canaveral on Nov. 16, 1963, he seemed to enjoy seeing preparations for the next astronaut flights. Days later, on Nov. 22, in the speech Kennedy never lived to give in Dallas, he intended to say “the United States of America has no intention of finishing second in space.”

The goal was reached on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin stepped on the gray surface of the Sea of Tranquillity. Since the last of six landings, in 1972, no one has been back.

No presidents since have felt the need or believed they could marshal political support for comparable undertakings. NASA has achieved dazzling successes exploring the solar system and the cosmos with robotic craft. But the agency was driven at the outset by the challenge of human flight to the Moon. At the conclusion of Apollo, Dr. Logsdon wrote, “NASA entered a four-decade identity crisis from which it has yet to emerge.”

In the book and interview, Dr. Logsdon sought solace in thinking that flying to the Moon at least “will forever be a milestone in human experience, and particularly in the history of human exploration, perhaps eventual expansion.” Even critics like Dr. McDougall conceded that “perhaps Apollo could not be justified, but by God, we could not not do it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fenway Run raises $2.6 Million to aid Veterans - GO RED SOX and thanks for your support

Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox are a class act and it shows...in everything they do to support the community and those in need. Here is one more example of them showing that they are serious about taking care of those in need including our Veterans.

I salute their support for our Veterans.

Fenway run raises $2.6m to aid veterans

By Stewart Bishop
Boston Globe Correspondent

May 23, 2011

On a cool, overcast morning at Fenway Park yesterday, 33-year-old Meredith Griffin paid tribute to seven members of her family who have fought in the Iraq war — especially to the one who never made it home.

She joined more than 2,000 runners, including almost 300 active duty military service members, to raise money to support veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat stress or brain injuries.

Griffin’s cousin, Army Captain Anthony Palermo Jr. of Brockton, was killed in the line of duty in Baghdad in April 2007. Yesterday she ran the race wearing a shirt bearing Palermo’s photo, along with the dates of his birth and death.

“It’s really kind of a labor of love to run today and to really be involved in this cause,’’ said Griffin, of Raynham, as she stood in front of the Red Sox dugout after the race. “This is in honor of Tony and in honor of my other relatives that are still with us and that are still struggling.’’

Griffin said many of her family members who have served have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, a debilitating anxiety condition that often affects soldiers exposed to severe trauma.

“A lot of them, the ones that came home, have been diagnosed with PTSD. There’s a lot of emotion they don’t share with you, a lot of mood swings, fear, and mixed emotions. It’s hard to deal with all of that,’’ Griffin said. “We have a pretty amazing family and a great support group, but not everybody’s that lucky. “

Organizers said the 5.6-mile run — which began on Yawkey Way, stretched over the river to Memorial Drive and ended with runners crossing home plate inside the park — raised an estimated $2.6 million for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program. It was the second annual Run to Home Base, and participants were required to raise $1,000.

Chris Reynolds, 55, a deputy chief with the Holyoke Fire Department, said he saw the run as a good way to help veterans and maybe touch a little Fenway glory at the same time.

“It’s a good cause and a chance to cross home plate,’’ Reynolds said. “It’s a win-win.’’

Reynolds said he and his family raised $2,000 in support of the cause. Many of his fellow firefighters, he said, have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Many of the guys getting on [the department] now are all veterans; several of them keep getting deployed every year,’’ Reynolds said. “They’re risking their lives to support the way we live. It’s very important — that’s why we’re here.’’

The winner of the race for the second year in a row was Peter Gleason, 33, of Millbury.

Gleason said he’s happy to be able to raise money in support of the troops.

“Most road races aren’t this fun, they don’t have this kind of backdrop,’’ Gleason said, gesturing toward the Green Monster. “It was a great experience last year and even better this year. I’ll keep coming as long as they keep having it.’’

In a ceremony before the race, runners and their supporters were greeted by US Senator Scott Brown; General Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff; Lieutenant General John Kelly, senior military assistant to the secretary of defense; Dr. Peter Slavin, Massachusetts General Hospital president; Tom Werner, Red Sox chairman; and Rob DeMartini, New Balance president and chief executive.

Michelle Obama sent a taped greeting from the White House that was played on the main video screen above center field.

“The Home Base Program is helping our veterans and their families to get the clinical and support services they need and they’ve earned,’’ Obama said. “Thanks again to Red Sox Nation for stepping up to the plate when it counts.’’

Brown, who also ran the race, said in an interview after the run that a strong support system for returning veterans is essential.

“Obviously it’s badly needed; you’ve seen the statistics,’’ the senator said. “I know we all care very deeply about the men and women that are serving and there’s a lot of positive things being done in Washington about it, and in the state, too. Governor Patrick, and his team on veterans’ issues, is second to none in the country.’’

As for the thrill of crossing home plate in the iconic ballpark?

“It was pretty cool,’’ Brown said. “I won’t lie.’’

Stewart Bishop can be reached at sbishop@globe.com

US NAVY looks to Drones as a way of countering CHI-COM Navy

SECNAV had announced at one point in the last year or so that by 2015, he wanted 1/2 of all aircraft taking off and landing on our carriers to be remotely piloted drones. Now we know the back story as this type of A/C will be used to counter the possible threat that the CHI-COM Navy may raise as they move towards becoming more present on the high seas....sounds like something from a movie....The US Military becoming more and more reliant on drones and robotic platforms....

The Terminator: The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 2017. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

Sarah Connor: Skynet fights back.

The Terminator: Yes. It launches its missiles against the targets in Russia.

John Connor: Why attack Russia? Aren't they our friends now?

The Terminator: Because Skynet knows the Russian counter-attack will eliminate its enemies over here.

John Connor: We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.

The Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.

John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?

US Navy drones: Coming to a carrier near China?
ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press

YOKOSUKA, Japan (AP) — The U.S. is developing aircraft carrier-based drones that could provide a crucial edge as it tries to counter China's military rise.

American officials have been tightlipped about where the unmanned armed planes might be used, but a top Navy officer has told The Associated Press that some would likely be deployed in Asia.

"They will play an integral role in our future operations in this region," predicted Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, which covers most of the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Land-based drones are in wide use in the war in Afghanistan, but sea-based versions will take several more years to develop. Northrop Grumman conducted a first-ever test flight — still on land — earlier this year.

Van Buskirk didn't mention China specifically, but military analysts agree the drones could offset some of China's recent advances, notably its work on a "carrier-killer" missile.

"Chinese military modernization is the major long-term threat that the U.S. must prepare for in the Asia-Pacific region, and robotic vehicles — aerial and subsurface — are increasingly critical to countering that potential threat," said Patrick Cronin, a senior analyst with the Washington-based Center for New American Security.

China is decades away from building a military as strong as America's, but it is developing air, naval and missile capabilities that could challenge U.S. supremacy in the Pacific — and with it, America's ability to protect important shipping lanes and allies such as Japan and South Korea.

China maintains it does not have offensive intentions and is only protecting its own interests: The shipping lanes are also vital to China's export-dependent economy. There are potential flash points, though, notably Taiwan and clusters of tiny islands that both China and other Asian nations claim as their territory.

The U.S. Navy's pursuit of drones is a recognition of the need for new weapons and strategies to deal not only with China but a changing military landscape generally.

"Carrier-based unmanned aircraft systems have tremendous potential, especially in increasing the range and persistence of our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as our ability to strike targets quickly," Van Buskirk said at the 7th Fleet's headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan.

His fleet boasts one carrier — the USS George Washington — along with about 60 other ships and 40,000 sailors and Marines.

Experts say the drones could be used on any of the 11 U.S. carriers worldwide and are not being developed exclusively as a counterbalance to China.

But China's reported progress in missile development appears to make the need for them more urgent.

The DF 21D "carrier killer" missile is designed for launch from land with enough accuracy to hit a moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers). Though still unproven — and some analysts say overrated — no other country has such a weapon.

Current Navy fighter jets can only operate about 500 nautical miles (900 kilometers) from a target, leaving a carrier within range of the Chinese missile.

Drones would have an unrefueled combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles (2,780 kilometers) and could remain airborne for 50 to 100 hours — versus the 10 hour maximum for a pilot, according to a 2008 paper by analysts Tom Ehrhard and Robert Work at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Work is now an undersecretary of the Navy.

"Introducing a new aircraft that promises to let the strike group do its work from beyond the maximum effective firing range of the anti-ship ballistic missile — or beyond its range entirely — represents a considerable boost in defensive potential for the carrier strike group," said James Holmes of the U.S. Naval War College.

Northrop Grumman has a six-year, $635.8 million contract to develop two of the planes, with more acquisitions expected if they work. A prototype of its X-47B took a maiden 29-minute flight in February at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Initial testing on carriers is planned for 2013.

Other makers including Boeing and Lockheed are also in the game. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. — the maker of the Predator drones used in the Afghan war — carried out wind tunnel tests in February. Spokeswoman Kimberly Kasitz said it was too early to divulge further details.

Some experts warn carrier-based drones are still untested and stress that Chinese advances have not rendered carriers obsolete.

"Drones, if they work, are just the next tech leap. As long as there is a need for tactical aviation launched from the sea, carriers will be useful weapons of war," said Michael McDevitt, a former commandant of the National War College in Washington, D.C., and a retired rear admiral whose commands included an aircraft carrier battle group.

Some analysts also note that China may be reluctant to instigate any fighting that could interfere with its trade.

Nan Li, an expert at the U.S. Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute, doubts China would try to attack a U.S. carrier.

"I am a skeptic of such an interpretation of Chinese strategy," he said. "But I do think the X-47B may still be a useful preventive capability for worst-case scenarios."

The Air Force and Navy both sponsored a project to develop carrier-based drones in the early 2000s, but the Air Force pulled out in 2005, leaving the Navy to fund the research.

Adm. Gary Roughhead, chief of naval operations, said last summer that the current goal of getting a handful of unmanned bombers in action by 2018 is "too damn slow."

"Seriously, we've got to have a sense of urgency about getting this stuff out there," he told a conference. "It could fundamentally change how we think of naval aviation."