Monday, May 26, 2008
The following photos are not meant to represent the events at the ceremony today, but as an album of our family's remembrance of Memorial Day 2008.
SPC Mark's speech at the Veteran's Wall in Jacksonville:
I am deeply honored to be here this morning.
I am a soldier in the
I am a paratrooper in the 82nd airborne.
I am a veteran of two combat tours in
I have entered and cleared more than five hundred buildings . . .
more than a 150 mounted and dismounted patrols on the streets of
participated in 15 air assault missions into
some of the worst neighborhoods of
Tikrit to Ramadi to a little know place known as Yusafiah.
I am not a hero.
The 13 brothers we left behind . . .
and the men and women whose names are etched in the wall behind me . . .are heroes.
Today is Memorial Day and we remember and honor their
sacrifice. Memorial Day and Veterans Day seem
especially important in this time of war. But they
are no less important in times of peace. Today is not
just a time to remember the four thousand plus who have paid
the ultimate price in
but a time to remember all of
those patriots from all wars who answered a far off
call in the name of their country and never came home.
After I returned from
behind to complete their 15-month tour.
Weeks from redeploying and on his last mission . . . a friend of mine
walked into a house and was killed instantly by an IED.
He was as good a man as I have ever met. . .
devoted family man. . .
never one to let the Army get the best of him.
Just like every name on that wall. . . he had a story.
Each left behind love ones and friends.
Each left behind a void that may never be filled.
Despite this. . . let Memorial Day not be a national day of
mourning but a day of celebration. Those of us left
behind must celebrate our cherished memories. . . and what
little time we were fortunate to have with them. We
must celebrate the fact that we are still free thanks
to their sacrifice. We all must celebrate the fact
that through it all . . . despite public opinion or
political climate . . . this country still has sons and
daughters willing to give their most precious
possession in the name of freedom.
As long as this wall stands. . . As long as there are
people still willing to take a day to remember. . .As
long as there are still people willing to put on the
uniform. . .As long as this country remains a beacon of
freedom . . . our fallen shall live on. . . forever.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
We had our own version of a drop zone in the kitchen as in dropped shots and beer. As you can tell, some of the 82nd is arriving here for the weekend. Hooah!
Friday, May 23, 2008
A couple of photographs from the 82nd Airborne Division review yesterday by President Bush from the News and Observer.
Rumors have it that a number of 1st platoon, B. C0., 1-325th AIR are redeploying to Jacksonville today to hear SPC Mark speak at the city's Memorial Day ceremony. Should be an interesting weekend.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division watch
as parachutists jump over Pike Field on Wednesday
during rehearsal for the division review.
At any rate, President Bush is reviewing the troops this a.m., which will take about 2 1/2 hours and ends at noon. It should be impressive to watch. The three brigades in attendance have all just finished combat tours. Last year, All American weekend and the division review was canceled because all of the troops were deployed.
The President's arrival at Ft. Bragg comes two days after he threatened to veto Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) bill to expand G.I. Bill education benefits. The President claims that enhanced benefits will hurt the retention rates of soldiers and Marines. The Congressional Budget Office projects a 16 percent decline in re-enlistments if the bill becomes law. I have not seen any statistical evidence to back that up. But the CBO also said that new enlistments would increase by 16 percent.
I tend to agree with Veteran of Foreign Wars' national commander George Lisicki who said in the NY Times today: "People are leaving after their first enlistment because they are tired of being shot at, and their families are tired of the frequent deployments. . .Whether they stay in 4 years or 20, we owe this newest greatest generation the gift of education."
As I write this, President Bush has begun the division review. Some of those 16,000 will leave the Army this year and next because they are indeed tired of being shot at.
And the families? We're pretty darn tired too.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The story says about 1,200 soldiers participated but it was more like 12,000. The Fayetteville Observer put it at closer to 16,000. Here's the Observer's slideshow.
Monday, May 19, 2008
CITY OF JACKSONVILLE TO HOLD ANNUAL MEMORIAL DAY OBSERVANCE
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 16, 2008 – Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton and U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw will join state, city, and military leaders and the Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Division to observe Memorial Day with a ceremony honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation.
WHEN: Monday, May 26
9:30 a.m. Pre-show
10 a.m. Ceremony
WHERE: Veterans Memorial Wall
1145 E. Adams St.
Between Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
WHO: U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw
Mayor John Peyton
SPC Mark Middlebrook
Other city, state and military leaders
Bereaved families of soldiers
WHAT: Free and open to the public, the event will pay tribute to those who have fought for freedom. Ceremony includes remarks by local and military
leaders, presentation of colors, family tributes, a wreath presentation, a 21-gun salute and "Taps".
The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Concert Chorale will perform patriotic tributes with the St John’s River City Band.
Free parking is available in the west lots of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
The Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Division also recommends some additional ways to observe Memorial Day and show gratitude to those wounded soldiers and the bereaved families, orphans and widows of the dead soldiers.
- Adorn the graves of soldiers with flags or flowers.
- Visit cemeteries and memorials.
- Fly the American flag at half-mast until noon.
- Fly the POW/MIA flag
- Keep silent for a minute at 3 p.m., '”National Moment of Remembrance”.
- Volunteer to assist disabled veterans, widows, widowers and orphans of the dead.
- Offer thanks to veterans and show appreciation for the ultimate sacrifices of the soldiers to the bereaved families.
For more information about the Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Division, call (904) 630-CITY or visit www.coj.net key word veterans.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I may have my memories garbled - my brother will correct me if I am wrong - but as a youngster growing up in East Aurora, NY, Armed Forces Day meant a parade down Main Street. All the kids would decorate their bikes with streamers and fix baseball cards to the spokes of their bicycles with clothes pins to make faux motorcycle noises.
But not anymore.
I talked with all three sons yesterday. They didn't mention it nor did I. It's easy to blame the media for this one, but I am as much responsible for the demise of the celebration as anyone.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
82nd Airborne museum and memorial
Today the memorial, thought to be big enough when it was planned, is now full and cannot accommodate any more names. The story about this memorial and others can be found here.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Army is full of guys like Staff Sgt. Scott Plavney, 36, of
He was among a team of 1st Cavalry Division soldiers that last week checked on an abandoned clinic in
That's a bad sign, like in the westerns when everyone clears the dusty main drag as the bad guys ride into town.
"This is a perfect example of how well it's going," Plavney said, prompting me to think he was nuts. "There's a boy walking down the street with a bag of food."
My paranoia meter shot up. Maybe that kid was out there to lull the soldiers into complacency. There is danger everywhere in this city and, for that matter, all of
So when I think of how small the military is, the many sacrifices it makes and how unlikely most Americans are to know anyone on the front lines, I wonder about the wisdom of an all-volunteer service.
I wondered some more after reading a message from an old boss at The Florida Times-Union in
"I hope you are doing well," he wrote in a message left on my blog. "My son is in
That would be the 82nd Airborne Division. My heart sank. A longtime friend in
Now in our middle age, it's our turn to watch the kids get shot at. They call or e-mail to say everything is fine. They make small talk. They don't tell you about the doors they kick down or the roadside bomb that barely missed them. They figure you don't need to know about that, and they're right.
I think about these things more when covering funerals for
The weight of this war falls as much on the parents, spouses and siblings of those back home as it does here. In some ways, perhaps, it's easier on the soldiers and Marines in the war zone because they bond together so tightly.
It's an amazing thing to watch. These guys are tough, well trained and motivated. And they're great to write about.
This is a brave bunch out here, but my heart goes out to their loved ones back home. It takes a lot of guts to be a soldier's dad.
Just ask Mark Middlebrook."
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I saw this on PBS tonight (about Frances Richey's new book). It was so touching, I thought you all would appreciate
the thoughts. You can watch the piece on the http://www.pbs.org/newshour
there is more on
Happy Mothers'Day OnePercenters
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2008 (From Frances Richey's Blog)
Ben and I were at Fort Bragg yesterday. We spoke to an amazing group of women who are in Famliy Readiness Groups at different posts around the country. All had husbands or sons who have served or are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. I read a few poems, but the best part of the time we spent with them was the question and answer period. Ben and I shared equally in the discussion, and it felt wonderful to be there with my son and with a dedicated and caring community of women who are helping each other through the deployments of their loved ones. Ben and I enjoyed the time we spent there. I'm looking forward to our reading/talk at West Point next week.
I've been reading and enjoying your e-mails. There have been some questions about where I grew up. I grew up and went to public schools in West Virginia. Some of you have asked if I'll be coming to your area on the book tour. If you go back to the home page, you can click on the schedule heading and see all the dates and cities. In general, I'll be in New York, DC, Boston, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Colorado Springs, Seattle and San Francisco. I only wish I was going to have a little more time in each city, but this will be a quick trip...a city a day.
Thank you for your heartfelt messages.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Also, USA Today reported that 43,000 troops who deployed to combat zones were medically unfit although the gravity of health issues are unknown. That included 9,140 troops who deployed in 2007. You can read about it here.
On Wednesday, the PGA Tour presented Jack Nicklaus with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Navy band was there to play the National Anthem, but not a peep about the troops overseas. But we shouldn't complain. The Tour gave SPC Mark tickets to a Jacksonville Jaguar game when he came home from his first deployment. It was greatly appreciated.
At Ft. Bragg, the Red Falcon battalion promotion board met. Young Mark appeared and apparently did well although he won't know officially for a couple of weeks how well he did. But he had been very busy preparing, which is why we haven't heard from him recently. He has a little time off this weekend and I am hopeful that he will return to the keyboard.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The vast majority of them were Iraq- and war-related. I was stunned.
I knew the Iraq deployments had chewed up a big piece of our lives, but I didn't know it was that much of a distraction.
More than 2,000 emails in 22 months. Amazing.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Outside the Wire is an open blog for service members who have literally been outside the wire on their tour through Iraq and Afghanistan. We are hoping other service members will join in the conversation.
SPC Mark will continue to post here as well.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Patrizio, 93, is a veteran of three wars, WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
He enlisted in 1933 and lives in our neighborhood.
SPC Danielle Inama, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne
SPC Inama returned from Baghdad in October and will redeploy in November.
Our neighbor, Chuck Ellis, and friend.
Mr. Ellis served on the USS Pennsylvania on Dec. 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor.
Sanchez had stepped out of the night club and was talking to his girl friend when he happened upon a robbery in which some other soldiers were beaten and had their wallets stolen. Sanchez was the designated driver for his friends that night. He was approached by several armed men. He put his arms in the air and someone shot him in the back of the neck with a 12-guage shotgun. His girl friend heard everything over his cell phone. He died a week later and police are looking for suspects.
In the U.S., when bad men do bad things for money, we call them criminals.
In Baghdad, when bad men do bad things for money, we call them terrorists.
Some days, to me, it all sounds alike.