It’s a good thing, I believe, to remember the dead — especially in a culture that trivializes death. We shunt it aside to the fantastic realms of video games and movies, and call it by other names when we do it to old people and unborn infants, and all of this is a way, I think, of grasping life in the wrong way, in a way that reveals the underlying belief, for many of us, that our lives are about our gratification.
That’s such a big word for an experience that is so very small. Gratification is as far removed from joy as hunger is from a great feast, and yet we forsake the latter in pursuit of the former because joy, like a feast, requires sacrifice.
So it’s a good thing to remember those who gave their lives in sacrifice for others. Think on them, and if you like you can light a candle or mutter a prayer, a prayer that you and I and the rest of the world will, if only for a slender day, give ourselves over to loving someone other than ourselves, which means the great sacrifice of setting down our hurts and lusts and grievances and entitlements, all of which are chains with heavy anchors, but which we gather to us like treasures. But today, if only for today, what say we lay them down?
Our armed forces have become exquisitely sensitive—toward Nidal Malik Hasan and Ahmed Hashim Abed, and one wonders who else. Such sensitivity comes at a price, of course. But for now, at least, that price won’t be paid by those who set the policy.
The SEALs would’ve been better off if they’d just shot the guy dead.
This looks good.
“Brothers at War is an intimate portrait of an American family during a turbulent time. Jake Rademacher sets out to understand the experience, sacrifice, and motivation of his two brothers serving in Iraq. The film follows Jake’s exploits as he risks everything—including his life—to tell his brothers’ story.
“Often humorous, but sometimes downright lethal, Brothers at War is a remarkable journey where Jake embeds with four combat units in Iraq. Unprecedented access to US and Iraqi combat units take him behind the camouflage curtain with secret reconnaissance troops on the Syrian border, into sniper ‘hide sites’ in the Sunni Triangle, through raging machine gun battles with the Iraqi Army.
“Ultimately, the film follows his brothers home where separations and life-threatening work ripple through their parents, siblings, wives, and children. Brothers at War is a rare look at the bonds and service of our soldiers on the frontlines and the profound effects their service has on the loved ones they leave behind. For more information please visit - www.brothersatwarmovie.com.”
The film is executive produced by Gary Sinise (CSI: New York, “Lt. Dan” in Forrest Gump), who said, “The media took the 15 people of Abu Ghraib and made them the face of the military. This [movie] is a true portrait of our military and their families.”
Thanks to the best wife in the world, my Valentine’s Day gift arrived three days early. Last night I was privileged, along with a couple hundred others, to spend some time with General Charles “Chuck” Yeager.
General Yeager has long been a hero of mine. He was one of many reasons I entered Air Force ROTC in college. His exploits, as portrayed in The Right Stuff, kept my friend Matt and I up late into the night on more than one occasion. When she learned he was going to be in town as part of a fundraiser for the C.R. Smith Museum, my wife thought I would enjoy attending, and oh, was she ever right.
We watched a 20-minute clip from a DVD about the general, and then he spoke for about an hour and a half, discussing his experiences from World War II onward, and taking questions from the audience.
Some of his recollections and observations that I can remember, in no particular order:
General Yeager has flown nearly every aircraft in the Air Force inventory, and myriads of planes that never made it in to service.
His favorite jet currently in American service is the F-15E. Given his opinions, one can surmise that he believes taxpayer resources would have been better spent upgrading and improving this aircraft, rather than investing in the F-22 and F-23. He referred to the F-22 specifically, as well as the F-16, as “great for air shows,” but not so great for modern air combat.
In October of last year, he went to France and flew the Airbus A380. General Yeager was very impressed with the “hotel with wings” (his words), and its stability. He told us of the flight tests he took part in with the water drums loaded throughout the fuselage (to simulate passenger and equipment weights), and how they would be moved about to change the plane’s center of gravity, and the 380 would take it all in stride.
During the Airbus visit, he was reunited with some of the Maquis resistance fighters who’d sheltered him for three months after he was shot down over southern France. “There’s not many of them left; they’re all older than me.”
He’s convinced France is the second-best country in modern aviation, behind the United States.
He lamented the consolidation of the aircraft industry in the U.S. When he was a test pilot, flying 25-30 different aircraft each month, the Defense Department could choose from myriad contractors: Lockheed, North American, Grumman, Corvair, Rockwell, Boeing, Bell, Martin, and McDonnell Douglas. It was extremely competitive, and the country was rewarded with the best possible aircraft for the best possible price. Now the industry has contracted to only three players, and these companies are free to “fleece” the government.
On shooting down a Me 262 during World War II: while on a mission, Yeager’s squadron encountered several 262s, but none engaged the P-51s. While passing over a particular area, the squadron came under antiaircraft fire. While spying where the flak was coming from, Yeager noted the guns were protecting a small airfield, and he saw 262s on the ground. He also saw a 262 coming in for a landing. He then lined up behind the 262 and destroyed it; “not very sportmanslike, but what the hell” was the general’s sentiment. He noted with amusement that an antiaircraft battery at the end of the runway had turned its gun on him, now racing down the length of the runway about six feet off the deck, and, missing his Mustang, was hitting its own hangars at the opposite end of the field.
He thought Tom Wolfe’s portrayal of him and the Air Force in The Right Stuff was accurate; “pretty much how it really was.” On NASA, the German scientists who helped build the rockets, Vice-President Johnson: not so much. “There was a lot of embellishment.” (Yeager was a technical adviser for the movie, and flew several of the featured aircraft for the film.)
Regarding the early period of space flight research in the U.S.: the Air Force owned the space program. They were in charge of all the training of pilots-cum-astronauts, ran the test facilities and aircraft, all on a miniscule budget. They did all of this with nary a mention in the press. Then Sputnik went up, Eisenhower made space a priority, NASA was born out of NACA, and the place became a bureaucratic and budgetary mess “and has been that way since.” I gathered that he thought it outrageous that each of the original Mercury astronauts got his own press agent. Yeager has a very strong opinion about the space program, from which one might surmise that today it would be a very different, and likely much more successful, animal if it were still under the Air Force’s purview.
He does not regret ever going into space. He is especially proud that the men who came through the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, of which he was the first commandant, were among the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle astronaut crews.
Though he retired from the Air Force in 1975, he continued to test fly for the Air Force. His payment was a dollar a year. When presented with the offer, Yeager says his only response was “I don’t have to pay for the fuel, do I?” He’s also performed test flights for many private companies, including foreign ones (viz: Airbus, above).
Regarding his selection to fly the X-1: his dad was a natural gas driller in West Virginia, and as a 12 year-old, Yeager would help his dad repair dome regulators, which lowered the pressure of the gas so it could be more easily sent through pipes, atop drilled wells. Part of the gas system for the X-1’s rockets included the same type of dome regulators. Yeager contends “In some ways, I knew the X-1’s fuel system better than the guys who designed and built it, because I grew up with it.” His background knowledge factored in to his selection.
After three months in southern France, the Maquis resistance managed to get Yeager across the Pyrennes into Spain. Spain was neutral at the time, along with Switzerland and Sweden. Combatants who ended up in these countries were expected to pretty much ride out the war there. Spain had no petroleum resources of its own at the time, and due to the war, was having difficulty importing it. The U.S. agreed to an exchange of petroleum for several pilots, including Yeager, who had ended up there. The general joked, “Now I don’t know how many barrels each of us was worth…”
Improvement in technology aside, Yeager is indignant over the number of troops injured and killed by IEDs over the past few years on Iraq. He told us about how the Air Force used to assist the troops on the ground in the removal—via detonation/destruction—of roadside mines during Vietnam. (This involved the Bird Dog observer aircraft spotting and marking new disturbances in the ground alongside the roads, with ground attack aircraft following, strafing the marked positions.) He rhetorically wondered why something similar wasn’t being done in Iraq, and contends it’s because those running the war for the various services didn’t serve in Vietnam.
His last flight in a military jet of any kind was on 18 September 2007. Looking back through old flight logs, he discovered his first official flight in a military aircraft of any kind was 18 September 1942. He was obviously pleased with this 65-year run of flying military aircraft.
He’s a modest man who doesn’t look at his accomplishments in the same light as the rest of us. One can understand that; living in the moment, you oftentimes fail to appreciate it for what it was at the time it happened. Yeager contends that he was simply in the right place at the right time, with the right set of skills.
Given that General Yeager’s 86th birthday will be on Friday, the 13th, a cake was brought out and the entire audience sang “Happy Birthday” to him. He thought it was a kick. He mingled briefly afterward, and had a slice of cake. There was no official signing or greeting line; the general either hadn’t planned to, or was too tired, to sign books and other items. All perfectly understandable.
It was disappointing to not be able to greet General Yeager personally, shake his hand, and thank him for his decades of service. But I am not disappointed in the overall experience. It was fantastic! If you ever have the chance to meet with General Yeager or hear him speak, do not miss such an opportunity with an authentic American hero.
Much love and thanks to Kelly for making last night possible for me! I love you, sweetheart!
Obama’s busy expanding all of the rest of the government except for its primary, Constitutional mission: defending the nation.
With several friends serving our country in the armed forces, I can only pray they continue to have jobs until they are ready to leave the service.
Reducing our troop strength solely on the basis of trends in violence also misses the critical point that the mission of American forces in Iraq is shifting rapidly from counterinsurgency to peace enforcement. The counter-insurgency fight that characterized 2007 continues mainly in areas of northern Iraq. The ability of organized enemy groups, either Sunni or Shia, to conduct large-scale military or terrorist operations and to threaten the existence of the Iraqi government is gone for now. No area of Iraq today requires the massive, violent, and dangerous military operations that American and Iraqi forces had to conduct over the last 18 months in order to pacify various places or restore them to government control. Although enemy networks and organizations have survived and are regrouping, they will likely need considerable time to rebuild their capabilities to levels that pose more than a local challenge—and intelligent political, economic, military, and police efforts can prevent them from rebuilding at all.
American troops continue to conduct counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has not given up, and against Iranian-backed Special Groups, which are also reconstituting. U.S. forces support Iraqi forces conducting counterinsurgency operations in the handful of areas where any significant insurgent capability remains. But mostly our troops are enforcing the peace.
In ethnically mixed areas, American troops are seen as impartial arbiters and mediators. In predominantly Shia or Sunni areas, they are seen as guarantors of continued safety, destroying the justification for illegal militias. American brigades also play critical roles in economic reconstruction, not by spending American money but by helping Iraqis spend their own money. American staffs help local Iraqi leaders develop prioritized lists of their needs, budgets to match those priorities, and plans for executing those budgets. American troops support the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that mentor Iraqi provincial leaders and help local communities communicate their needs to the central government. American soldiers provide essential support to Iraqi soldiers and police working hard to develop their ability to function on their own.
Indeed, American combat brigades have become the principal enablers of economic and political development in Iraq. When an American brigade is withdrawn from an area, there is nothing to take its place—all of these functions go unperformed. Clearly, then, the number of brigades needed in Iraq should be tied not to the level of violence but to the roles the Americans perform and the importance of those roles to the further development of Iraq as a stable and peaceful state.
[Emphasis added. —R]
“[L]et us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” —Dwight Eisenhower
It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators — on both sides of the aisle — who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.
I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war — and our part in it — at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.
The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers.
We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can’t do it from inside a jet or a tank.
Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory — and a democracy in the Arab world — is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.
The following landed in ye olde e-mail inbox earlier today, penned by talk radio host Laura Ingraham:
Megan pulled a three-ring binder out of her bag and showed me a photograph of herself and her husband. Young—they’re both 21—with big smiles on their faces and obviously wildly in love. “That’s what he looked like,” she said with a somber face, “He was such a cutie-pie, always buying me little stuffed animals and writing the most thoughtful notes the entire time he was in Iraq.” Then she showed me the photo of her husband receiving the Purple Heart on Wednesday from President Bush at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. As President Bush pinned the medal on Mike, he lay unconscious in the ICU, having suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a piece of shrapnel that pierced his temple.
“This is my Mike now,” she said, rubbing her eyes. He is completely blind and to alleviate a terrible cranial pressure build-up, doctors had to remove the front of his skull. Since being wounded several months ago, Mike has never regained consciousness and suffers from terrible seizures. “That’s my guy,” she repeated, before she went on to tell me about how they met and fell in love.
For whatever reason, I kept thinking about the fact that some person somewhere carefully assembled the IED that would eventually maim Mike and many others. They are often packed with nails, hunks of lead and screws to cause maxim human suffering. When they explode, the contents rip through flesh and bones, shattering countless dreams in the process.
How to comprehend this level of evil and the physical and emotional agony it causes? This young woman and her husband should be out buying their first Christmas tree together, going to parties, raising a glass to their future. When I asked what she was doing for the holiday she said, “I’ll be here with Mike. I would never want him to be alone on Christmas.” They had been married for about three months when Mike was wounded.
In these days before Christmas, Megan and other military wives and moms gave me a precious gift. They reminded me that true love requires sacrifice—sometimes seemingly unbearable, heart-wrenching sacrifice. They are living out their love in big and small ways. Many have moved thousands of miles to relocate to the hospitals where their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are being treated. This takes an enormous emotional and financial toll, yet they do it for love. When they are not at the hospital bedsides of their wounded warriors, they sit for hours a day in waiting rooms across the United States, hoping for good news—or at least no more bad news. They pray with each other, cry with each other, and yes, even manage to laugh with each other as they hope for a day when they can return to “normal life.” Yet for the families of our most seriously injured troops, they know they will have to get used to a “new normal,” much different from the life they knew before.
As we are about to celebrate Christmas spending time with our families and friends, let us all do our best to live up to the true spirit of this season—and make it a time filled with love, faith, gratitude, hope, charity, and, yes, let’s try for some peace on earth. Let us remember the military families and our wounded heroes who will spend this Christmas at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center and other medical facilities across the nation. As we rush around stressed out because we “haven’t found the perfect gift” for so-and-so, these families hope and pray for gifts that cannot be wrapped up: a hand that squeezes back, a smile, the first step on a new prosthesis, or a positive medical report.
They need our prayers and support at Christmas and every day. Please give what you can to any of the wonderful organizations that support our bravest and their families.
So, what am I thankful for this year….?
My wife. Those who know me know that she has to put up with a lot on a regular basis. However, when I injured my left foot earlier this year, a ton of extra stuff fell to her to take care of, and she’s been absolutely wonderful. I love you, sweetheart.
The little phisch. Our little man is a never-ending source of joy—and frustration, but that’s just part of parenting. That smile of his just lights me up any time, and his laugh is the best sound I’ve ever heard. He’s a gas to play with, and it never ceases to amaze me when I see his mind at work on something. Being his dad is the greatest job I could ever have, and has given me a larger appreciation of the love my own parents have for me.
My folks. I had a perfectly normal childhood. My parents, while strict at times, were never abusive in any manner, and I always knew I was loved. I grew up in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, with lots of other kids my age. My folks provided everything I needed, and more. They made sure I went to college without incurring a large financial debt. Since I’ve left the nest, they’ve been a source of encouragement and help in ways I never imagined.
My family. My sister, my grandmothers, my aunts, uncles, and cousins whom I’m lucky to see even once a year. We may not all talk often, and see one another even less, but it’s nice to know that when we do get together, after a few minutes of catching up, it’s pretty much just picking up from wherever we last left off. My life would be more shallow without them.
My friends. I have friends in this nation from coast to coast, and from the far north of the 48 states down to their southernmost. I am blessed to have quite a few right here in my little corner of the world, and more in many other corners. You have all enriched me in some way, and I’m thankful to know you.
The men and women of the United States armed forces. I’m proud to count members from the prior category in this one as well. Thank you all for your tireless sacrifice on behalf of the rest of us. You are never far from our thoughts and prayers. May those of you in the line of fire return home safely upon the successful completion of your mission. In the mean time, watch your six, and God bless.
God. You have made all things possible. You have blessed me in ways far beyond my understanding and worth. You offered Your own Son in my place, so that I might have a place in Your kingdom forever. I am humbled that You, the Creator of all things, would deign to know the number of hairs on my head, much less want to be my friend. All of the above things for which I am thankful are gifts from You, and I am eternally grateful.
Today we stopped by a local mall. The missus needed to make a return of some merchandise to Nordstrom, and we took in lunch as well. While waiting for a table at our eatery of choice, I caught the end of a conversation where an unidentified woman told her equally unidentifiable conversation partner, “Happy Memorial Day.” in closing.
Happy Memorial Day?
Are you serious?
There was a time in this country when Memorial Day was treated with the solemn respect it deserves. When businesses actually closed for the day (as was Costco, we learned, when we stopped to fill up the gas tank), instead of having Memorial Day Weekend Sales™. (The irony of my making this statement while having engaged in a small bit of consumerism on this day is not lost on me.)
People made efforts to remember those who have fallen in service to our nation, for this is not a “holiday”, but rather a day of mourning. It is sad that so many have had to give their lives in the cause of freedom, and we should be graciously thankful those who have died were willing to make the sacrifice in our stead. They deserve our utmost respect, which does not translate to saving a few bucks on jeans and cosmetics.
Notably, they are not deserving of someone wishing another a “Happy” Memorial Day, for the occasion is not one of happiness but remembrance. How many of us even pause for a moment’s reflection today? How many of us participate in any sort of remembrance ceremony, rain or shine, today? How many of us set aside time to go to a local cemetery and clean the grave sites of fallen servicemen, to lay flowers and plant flags?
We, fellow countrymen, owe a debt that we can never repay, yet it is a debt we should nonetheless honor. You may feel otherwise, but I can’t help but feel that said honor does not come from shopping and failing to acknowledge, even in passing, what this day truly is about. It comes from remembering the fallen, honoring their memories, praying for their families and sharing in their grief at having lost their beloved so young. Because so many of those lost are young. Such has it always been, and such it is likely to always be.
War is a terrible, terrible thing. Yet it is often a necessary thing, and we should be thankful there are those willing to fight, and to die. Remember our men and women who have given their lives. Offer a prayer of thanks, if you are the praying sort. Treat this day with the solemnness it deserves.
The Chance To Say Goodbye
I did not get the chance to say goodbye
To shake his hand, look him in the eye
To offer for his service my thanks
For what he did on the Rhine’s banks
Or in Hue city, Berlin, or Khe Sanh
Paris, Baghdad, Iwo Jima, Okinawa
Tripoli, Italy, the Belleau Wood
Croatia, Chosin, or the skies above
Or in the waters deep, or atop the oceans’ waves
Slinging missiles, marking the Unknowns’ graves
Delivering the mail to a far-out firebase
Medevacing out those with injuries of the worst case
I did not get the chance to say goodbye
To shake his hand, look him in the eye
To offer for his service my thanks
For now all I have are these words in this place
—Christopher Turner, 27 March 2007
Dear American Soldier in Iraq:
There are a few things you should know about how tens of millions of us back home feel about you and the fight you are waging. These things need to be said…
What has happened is that many Americans, for all sorts of reasons—some out of simple fatigue, some because they do not believe that war solves anything, some out of deep loathing for the present administration—do not believe that what you are doing is worth doing. You know that what you are doing is worth continuing…
You know that you are fighting the most vicious and primitive ideology in the world today. It is the belief that one’s God wants his followers to maim, torture and murder in order to spread a system of laws that sends societies back to a moral and intellectual state that is pre-civilization. You know that the war you wage against these people and their totalitarian ideology is also necessary because a society unwilling to fight for its values does not have values worth sustaining…
We see you as the best and brightest of our society. Even The New York Times, one of the mainstream media publications that do not understand the epic battle you are waging, acknowledged in an article by one of its embedded correspondents that few Americans of your age can come close to you in maturity, wisdom or leadership abilities. It is unfortunate that the battle for moral clarity and moral courage in America is as divisive as the battle for freedom is in Iraq. But that is the nature of the world we live in. And it has ever been so…
You probably knew all this. But you need to hear it anyway.
That, and thank you. Thank you very much.
Apparently, there’s a great need.
Seriously, if you give to any of our deployed service personnel who regularly find themselves in such situations, maybe including a can of Silly String in the next goodie box would be a good idea. It’s a brilliant low-tech solution to a common problem they face.
Today is Veteran’s Day, and we offer our heartiest and most humble thanks for those who have served, and those who are currently serving, in our nation’s armed forces.
“Across America, there are more than 25 million veterans. Their ranks include generations of citizens who have risked their lives while serving in military conflicts, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the war on terror. They have fought for the security of our country and the peace of the world. They have defended our founding ideals, protected the innocent and liberated the oppressed from tyranny and terror. They have known the hardships and the fears and the tragic losses of war. Our veterans know that in the harshest hours of conflict they serve just and honorable purposes. Every veteran has lived by a strict code of discipline. Every veteran understands the meaning of personal accountability and loyalty and shared sacrifice. From the moment you repeated the oath to the day of your honorable discharge, your time belonged to America; your country came before all else.” —President George W. Bush
From Jack on the World_SIG list, who said, “You’ll never see this in the MSM.”
The text accompanying the photo reads:
“Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital. The girl’s entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well. The girl received treatment at the U.S. military hospital in Balad, but cries and moans often. According to nurses at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he has spent the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair.”
CMS Gebhardt will never be singled out by the American or Arabic press for his compassion. He will not receive an award for the love and affection he has shown a little girl in such desperate need of both. His action may not resonate with anyone on this blue marble except the little one on the receiving end.
A couple of nights ago, I caught a M.A.S.H. re-run. It was the one where a Korean-American baby is left outside The Swamp, with a note attached telling the camp the baby’s father was an American GI. Like Japan, Korea is a very homogenous culture, and children of mixed heritage were (are?) looked down upon. This little girl would not have a happy childhood, and would likely even be killed before she reached adulthood. The staff of the 4077 try in vain to get her transferred to the U.S., and finally resort to leaving her at a nearby monastery, where the monks will keep her cloistered and safe from those would harm her.
As they’re saying their goodbyes outside the monastery, Hawkeye tells the baby, and forgive me for my paraphrasing, “You brought a little light in to a world filled with darkness.”
Thank you, CMS Gebhardt, for bringing light in to a little one’s world of darkness. I know you are likely not concerned with receiving it, but I pray she is able to thank you some day, too.
This was in my inbox this morning.
The Monsters and the Weak
by Michael Marks
The sun beat like a hammer, not a cloud was in the sky.
The mid-day air ran thick with dust, my throat was parched and dry.
With microphone clutched tight in hand and cameraman in tow,
I ducked beneath a fallen roof, surprised to hear “stay low.”
My eyes blinked several times before in shadow I could see,
the figure stretched across the rubble, steps away from me.
He wore a cloak of burlap strips, all shades of grey and brown,
that hung in tatters till he seemed to melt into the ground.
He never turned his head or took his eye from off the scope
but pointed through the broken wall and down the rocky slope.
“About eight hundred yards,” he said, his whispered words concise,
“beneath the baggy jacket he is wearing a device.”
A chill ran up my spine despite the swelter of the heat,
“You think he’s gonna set it off along the crowded street?”
The sniper gave a weary sigh and said “I wouldn’t doubt it,”
“unless there’s something this old gun and I can do about it.”
A thunderclap, a tongue of flame, the still abruptly shattered;
while citizens that walked the street were just as quickly scattered.
Till only one remained, a body crumpled on the ground,
The threat to oh so many ended by a single round.
And yet the sniper had no cheer, no hint of any gloat,
instead he pulled a logbook out and quietly he wrote.
“Hey, I could put you on TV, that shot was quite a story!”
But he surprised me once again - “I got no wish for glory.”
“Are you for real?” I asked in awe, “You don’t want fame or credit?”
He looked at me with saddened eyes and said “you just don’t get it.”
“You see that shot-up length of wall, the one without a door?
Before a mortar hit, it used to be a grocery store.”
“But don’t go thinking that to bomb a store is all that cruel,
the rubble just across the street - it used to be a school.
The little kids played soccer in the field out by the road,”
His head hung low, “They never thought a car would just explode.”
“As bad as all this is though, it could be a whole lot worse,”
He swallowed hard, the words came from his mouth just like a curse.
“Today the fight’s on foreign land, on streets that aren’t my own,
I’m here today ‘cause if I fail, the next fight’s back at home.”
“And I won’t let my Safeway burn, my neighbors dead inside,
don’t wanna get a call from school that says my daughter died;
I pray that not a one of them will know the things I see,
nor have the work of terrorists etched in their memory.”
“So you can keep your trophies and your fleeting bit of fame,
I don’t care if I make the news, or if they speak my name.”
He glanced toward the camera and his brow began to knot,
“If you’re looking for a story, why not give this one a shot.”
“Just tell the truth of what you see, without the slant or spin;
that most of us are OK and we’re coming home again.
And why not tell our folks back home about the good we’ve done,
how when they see Americans, the kids come at a run.”
“You tell ‘em what it means to folks here just to speak their mind,
without the fear that tyranny is just a step behind;
Describe the desert miles they walk in their first chance to vote,
or ask a soldier if he’s proud, I’m sure you’ll get a quote.”
He turned and slid the rifle in a drag bag thickly padded,
then looked again with eyes of steel as quietly he added;
“And maybe just remind the few, if ill of us they speak,
that we are all that stands between the monsters and the weak.”
Two members of the U.S. Navy SEALs, killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, will be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the service’s second-highest medal. Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson, along with a third SEAL, Michael Murphy, were killed while fighting a large enemy force, giving a fourth SEAL teammate a chance to escape.
As the anniversary of September 11th approaches, let us also remember those who struck back at those who struck us, and in doing so, paid the ultimate price. Please consider a donation to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation or the Special Operations Warrior Foundation in names of Dietz, Axelson, and Murphy.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:13
The U.S. Army now has podcasts.
Thanks to the folks at Xerox, with help from Layer 8 Group, you can send a postcard, with original artwork by a child, to a member of the armed forces serving abroad: Let’s Say Thanks. I sent one, how about you?
[Via Susan via e-mail.]
About.com has some good advice in its Back to School section concerning backpack selection for students. The first tip they offer, to get a bag with two straps instead of just one, to help balance the load across the body better, is why I’m a dedicated backpack guy.
Photo mosaics have become popular; I have one of Darth Vader, made up of different scenes from Episodes 4-6.
There are many tutorials online for making your own photo mosaics, but John Tolva has one where you create your mosaic with LEGOs. You’ll need Photoshop, and a healthy bank account for all those LEGO pieces you’ll be buying.
How close to you and yours does a convicted sex offender live? Find out, thanks to Family Watchdog.
[Via Daily Dose.]
At journalism conferences, the question is often brought up whether a journalist should see himself as an American first or a journalist first. Often the consensus is that they are journalists first.
I wonder how many of them would report a story if it would mean the death of their own child. And would any of those reporters who would be journalists first in even that appalling instant cheerfully mis-report a story in order to cause the death of their child? I suspect virtually none would.
If only they loved their country’s young and willing warriors as much as they loved their own children.
But the journalists today are too swept up in their own dance macabre to even notice the murderous consequences of their own malfeasance — or to hear the demands of simple decency.
I wonder if the F-16 pilot who dropped the Zarqawi-killing bombs gets to collect the $25 million bounty. That would be a nice retirement package.
I don’t need anything else special to remember my wedding anniversary. Circumstances of life dictated that forever shall the day of our wedding be shared with that of the invasion of Normandy, and the enormous sacrifice made there by so many. Yesterday marked the second anniversary of President Reagan’s passing, I can think of no better words to remember D-Day, than those spoken by him on the fortieth anniversary of the invasion:
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young that day and you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here?
We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love. The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge—and pray God we have not lost it—that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force of liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer… You all knew that some things are worth dying for.
It says a lot about our nation in that too few of us think about those who have given their lives in military service, much less participate in events to commemorate them, on Memorial Day. This was what ran through my head as we drove the Maine coastline today, noting the hundreds, perhaps thousands, on the beaches of York.
To honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I humbly offer these words from one of our greatest Presidents:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
[With thanks to KnowledgeNews for the text of the Gettysburg Address.]
This likely has made its rounds through the blogosphere already, but I just read in the latest dead-tree edition of Wired that Choose Your Own Adventure books are getting republished, updated for the 21st century.
Though he’s not old enough yet to read on his own and appreciate them, I may have to pick up these titles for my little phisch. I had a great time with them when I was eleven, though I don’t believe I was ever able to successfully navigate The Abominable Snowman without “cheating”.
What happened to all that wreckage from the Twin Towers after 9/11? Twenty-four tons of steel girders ended up in one of the Navy’s latest ships.
There have been many acts of heroism in the Iraq War and continuing liberation that have gone under- or unreported by the media. One such underreported act is that of Paul Ray Smith, the only Medal of Honor winner of the conflict. Sergeant First Class Smith gave his life near the Saddam Hussein International Airport on 4 April 2003, defending his comrades and the wounded in a nearby aid station. Ralph Kinney Bennett has the story.
Vietnam-era traitor Jeffry House, now a “prominent human-rights lawyer” in Toronto, is helping current-day traitors flee from the service they voluntarily enlisted for. (I feel it worth noting that Mr. House is not performing this work pro bono.)
As a father, I can certainly feel for Jeremy Hinzman in that he doesn’t want to go to Iraq, get killed, and leave his son fatherless. I so totally get that.
The fact remains, however, that Mr. Hinzman voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army. Therefore, during the terms of his enlistment, he is to go where the Army tells him to go, even if it is to a place he doesn’t want to go because he thinks the United States, vis-a-vis its armed services, shouldn’t be there.
Mr. Hinzman had a chance to legally leave the Army, and he chose to stay. He should be returned to the United States to stand trial for desertion, and be sent to prison. It would appear the maximum sentence is only five years; still plenty of life to spend with his son.
William Blair was recently outed as the secret benefactor to a group of World War II Pacific Theater former POWs, who get together for a monthly breakfast at Bunny’s Restaurant in Suffolk, Virginia.
I’ve met a good number of WWII vets in my time, and a few of them were POWs. Mr. Blair is correct in his noting that the Pacific Theater POWs usually get little mention compared to their European Theater brethren. I had the privilege in college of meeting a group of former POWs, including a Bataan Death March survivor. Those men have borne heavy burdens, and still do to this day. Mr. Blair, we salute you for your generosity and patriotism.
By now, most people have heard John Kerry’s slanderous comments about our servicemen terrorizing women and children in Iraq. James Taranto turns the table on the man who would be President, noting a CNN story about what a handful of our servicemen are really up to: doing everything possible, with help from folks stateside, to see that a little Iraqi girl doesn’t die from spina bifida.
Today we honor those who serve and served in our nation’s armed forces. Though the original day of remembrance was Armistice Day, noting the end of World War I, it became Veterans’ Day, where we honor those who have served throughout out nation’s history. I think it is quite appropriate that a day to thank and honor our veterans falls within the same month as the Thanksgiving holiday.
Each citizen of this country, whether they want to admit it or not, owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who wear and have worn the uniforms of our armed forces. Having been, at one time, in the process of becoming one of those in uniform, I hold a special place in my heart for our servicemen and women.
In addition to all veterans, there are a few people I would like to thank.
From within my family: Dad, Uncle J.D., Granddaddy, and Uncle Richard.
Friends: Will, Wally, Damion M., Brian, Dan, Larry, John A., and Gary R.
From Detachment 310, 1988-92: Liz, John, Craig, Cathy & Michael, Kristin, Greg, Russ, and Colonel Hendrickson. I miss you guys.
Please explain to me how our children have had no school yesterday and today so that the Teachers Unions can go out and organize for Democratic candidates — but the schools will be open on Friday when the federal Government and most offices will be closed to commemorate our nation’s war heroes?
This must be an East Coast (West, too?) thing, or perhaps confined to Shirley’s home state (Virginia?). The kids were in school yesterday and are today in DFW.
Memo to Brendan Miniter: Marines don’t like being called “former Marines.” “Once a Marine, always a Marine” is how they view it. Having known a few Marines in my time, perhaps “retired Marine” would be a better term in the future.
Soldiers’ Angels has started Project Valour-IT, an endeavor to get voice-activated laptops to our wounded servicemen. To help with raising money for the project, a friendly competition has been set up between four teams, one for each of the service branches. Holly Aho is running the USMC team, which Hugh and Glenn are a part of. Sign up with one of the teams and donate to help out our wounded personnel.
Al-Qa’ida murdered almost 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil in about an hour back in 2001—almost all of them civilians. The reason no additional American civilians have died in attacks on our homeland is that 150,000 uniformed American Patriots have formed a formidable front on al-Qa’ida’s turf, a very inhospitable region of the world. These Patriots are a proud breed—Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen—and they have chosen to stand in harm’s way in order to defend their families, their friends, their country.
In doing so, more than 2,000 of these brave souls have been killed.
This week, every mass media outlet took a break from their “CIA leak” promotion to run headlines and lead stories about the Iraq death toll reaching 2,000 (1,567 killed in action since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 19 March 2003)—as if the death of American Patriot number 1,999 was somehow less important. Typical was this headline from The New York Times: “2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, A Grim Mark.” But not a whisper in the Leftmedia about the 3,870 Iraqi security forces killed in the last six months alone, in defense of their emerging democracy.
For The Patriot, every death of a member of our Armed Forces is equally devastating, and we mourn each one. Not a day passes without our prayers for both those standing in harm’s way, and their families.
The “dezinformatsia” machines promote this “milestone” for one reason only—to foment additional dissent and rally support against the Bush administration’s national-security strategy, which is to protect our homeland by taking the battle with Jihadis to their turf. In doing so, the Leftmedia has reduced the sacrifice of these young Patriots to nothing more than political fodder for their appeasement agenda.
On the night of 11 September 2001, President Bush told the nation, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” He set in motion pre-emptive operations, which would become the “Bush Doctrine.” Our analysts continue to support the doctrine of pre-emption firmly as the best measured response to the Jihadi threat around the world.
As for those still “Stuck on Stupid”, insisting that there were no WMD found in Iraq, here’s a partial list of what didn’t make it out of Iraq before the invasion: 1.77 metric tons of enriched uranium, 1,700 gallons of chemical-weapon agents, chemical warheads containing the nerve agent cyclosarin, thousands of radioactive materials in powdered form designed for dispersal over population centers, artillery projectiles loaded with binary chemical agents, etc.
As The Patriot noted in October, 2002, our well-placed sources in the region and intelligence sources with the NSA and NRO estimated that the UN Security Council’s foot-dragging provided an ample window for Saddam to export some or all of his deadliest WMD materials and components. At that time, we reported that Allied Forces would be unlikely to discover Iraq’s WMD stores, noting, “Our sources estimate that Iraq has shipped some or all of its biological stockpiles and nuclear WMD components through Syria to southern Lebanon’s heavily fortified Bekaa Valley.”
In December of 2002, our senior-level intelligence sources re-confirmed estimates that some of Iraq’s biological and nuclear WMD material and components had, in fact, been moved into Syria and Iran. That movement continued until President Bush finally pulled the plug on the UN’s ruse.
To that end, we are deeply indebted to our Patriot Armed Forces, who have prevented al-Qa’ida or some other Jihadi terrorist cell from striking a U.S. urban center with WMD. Make no mistake—Islamofascists want to bring America to ruin, and they will use any means at their disposal to do so. Mr. President, stay the course.
[Emphasis added. —R]
Since you won’t hear about it any where else, Arthur Chrenkoff has the latest good news from Afghanistan. It is amazing how much is happening in this now-free nation in such a short amount of time. It truly shows the bias and if-it-bleeds-it-leads mentality of the mainstream press that these stories are not getting more coverage. We wrought this, America, through the service and sacrifice of our sons and daughters in the armed services. They should be proud. We all should be.
Anthony Swofford’s book Jarhead, which I will not link to, was a sad account of a mentally disturbed—which Swofford admits to—man’s time in the Marine Corps and his deployment to the first Gulf War. Panned by myriad current and former Marines as riddled with half-truths, the book became a minor cause célèbre for the mouth-foamers on the angry Left. Anything that is anti-military, especially when it’s written by someone who was in the military, is always accepted as gospel by the radicals. Brad Torgersen has a good summation.
So of course the book was optioned for a motion picture, which debuts in November. Looking over the cast of characters, and knowing their politics, I’m not the least bit surprised to see who signed on. Non-mouth-foamers are advised to pass.
I have a soft spot for working dogs; I’ve always told my wife that if I were in law enforcement, I’d want to be a K-9 cop.
It’s important for working dogs to keep cool, as it is much harder for dogs to cool down than it is for humans. Military working dogs in Afghanistan and Iraq are especially at risk, but the Space Coast War Dog Association is working with Glacier Tek to provide Glacier’s ChillyDog cooling vest to dogs in those theaters of operation.
Regardless of how you feel about the politics of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, remember these dogs have no say, and are just happy to do the job they were trained to do. If you can support the effort to get as many vests as possible to the dogs that need them, stop by the SCWDA web site and learn how to donate.
I felt “The Patriot Perspective” from today’s Federalist Patriot (PDF file) was worth reprinting.
Spitting on The Few, The Proud…
Upon entering a fine Southern high school with a long and honorable history as a military academy, this columnist’s next nine months would be marked by the official indoctrination (and unofficial hazing) that attended freshman years at most such academies. It was September of 1970. A year later, however, this school, like many others across the nation, did an about-face and abandoned its military tradition. It seemed that public opinion of military service, and thus, parental enthusiasm for military feeder academies, had changed dramatically in the course of just a few years.
Prior to 1967, military service and tradition were still considered good and honorable. But by 1972, acrid protests against our military campaign on the Cold War front in Southeast Asia had taken a heavy toll. Elitist politicos like George McGovern, glitterati like Jane Fonda, John Kerry, et al., along with their Leftmedia propaganda machine, had overturned public support for the defense of South Vietnam and, by extension, support for anyone in a military uniform. There were no more ticker-tape parades welcoming troops home, but plenty of seething glares, name-calling and spitting from “enlightened youth” and their protagonists who tagged all military personnel persona non grata.
Fast-forward about three decades.
After 9/11, America was virtually, and rightly, united behind President George Bush’s campaign against Jihadistan and its asymmetric threat vectors such as al-Qa’ida. Now that support has begun to unravel, however — not because there are 58,000 casualties as there were in Vietnam, but because, once again, as America’s finest are defending liberty at home by promoting freedom in critical regions abroad, the storm clouds of Leftist dissent are gathering. Once again, anti-American protests by political opportunists, Hollywonk elitists and the Leftmedia’s (now 24-7-365) talkingheads, are taking a heavy toll.
Perhaps the earliest evidence of waning public support for the Long War against Jihadistan is the recruiting difficulty for our “all-volunteer” Armed Services. Army recruiters have fallen short of their goals for four of the last five months and may fall well short of their annual objective of 80,000 enlistments, with only two months left in this fiscal year. This will be the first time since 1999 that the recruiting goal has not been met. Guard and Reserve recruitments have also fallen short for the other service branches.Military planners may ask Congress to authorize raising the age limit for Army active-duty service from 35 to 40, and authority to double the enlistment bonus for high-priority recruits (intelligence, infantry, special operations, civil affairs, and linguists) from $20,000 to $40,000. But this is not likely to offset the damage inflicted upon the image of military service by the Left.
Of course, part of the problem is that military service is, as it has always been, tough. But most active duty and reserve personnel are dedicated warriors who complain little.
The real obstacle to the enlistment of new recruits is the desecration of the image of military service by the Fifth Column — the enemy within. The American anti-war movement, led by neo-McGovernites such as DNC Chairman Howard Dean and lawmakers Kucinich, Kennedy and Kerry has not been able to find legs. So rather than target “war,” these malcontents have rallied their minions to undertake counter-recruitment measures, figuring that a nation can’t fight a war without warriors. (Of course, it can’t defend itself either — but the Left refuses to acknowledge that liberating Afghanistan and Iraq, and keeping Syria and Iran at bay, is relevant to our national defense.)
Doing the bidding of big dogs like Dean and the aforementioned KKK are their radical allied organizations like the Campus Antiwar Network, Code Pink for Peace, the Ruckus Society, Earth First, United for Peace and Justice and the Society of American Law Teachers, to name a few. These organizations and a hundred more like them are surrogates for the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Veterans for Peace, the War Resisters League and The American Friends Service Committee. Their objective is to undermine recruitment efforts by labeling anyone interested in military service persona non grata. It’s deja vu all over again.
Periodic Leftmedia feeding frenzies over alleged “abuse” at places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay add fuel to protestors’ efforts to debase military service by equating those in uniform with terrorists. Extending this equation, some of these groups are now deplorably suggesting that American casualties are justified because “freedom fighters” in Iraq are defending themselves against American invaders. (Rhetorical memo to the anti-war Left: What kind of “freedom fighter” detonates a bomb-laden SUV amid a group of Iraqi children receiving candy and toys from U.S. soldiers?)
The emergence of these cadres of Leftist agitators is a serious threat to U.S. national security. Their efforts to undermine the honor of military service in an effort to deter recruitment efforts should not be underestimated.
Predictably, where anti-American sentiments flourish, Jane Fonda can’t be far behind. This week, Hanoi Jane announced plans for a protest tour on buses fueled by vegetable oil to suggest the current conflict in the Middle East is only a “war for oil.” “I have not taken a stand on any war since Vietnam,” Fonda said. “I carry a lot of baggage from that.” (Click here to see some of that baggage, as “Hanoi Jane” mounts an NVA anti-aircraft gun about 100 yards from the “Hanoi Hilton,” where American POWs were being tortured. “It’s another example of the government lying to the American people in order to get us into war,” Fonda says of the liberation of Iraq.
Of course, it is Fonda who is lying to the American people.
Take note, Hanoi Jane and all you counter-recruiters endeavoring to denigrate military service — ditto to Dean and KKK, who exploit the murder of military personnel as political fodder to undermine public support for a Republican administration in advance of midterm elections: Your actions are tantamount to spitting on not only those who wear our nation’s military uniform, but those who have died in it.
Indeed, news about Fonda’s shameless antics was overshadowed this week by the tragic death of uniformed Patriots in Iraq: 21 Marines (20 of them attached to the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines based in Ohio) and eight Soldiers were killed, and others wounded, in roadside bombings and other ambushes by Islamofascist death squads.
Sergeant Justin Hoffman of Delaware, Ohio, was among the fallen. His father, Robert Hoffman, said that Justin believed in the cause he was fighting for, and he challenged his fellow Americans to support the mission in Iraq through its completion. “I have some real doubts whether Americans will stand tall and follow through on it,” Mr. Hoffman said. “It needs to be done, and if they don’t, it’ll be a real disgrace to the lives that were sacrificed.”
If America does not stand firm, there will be many more lives sacrificed — and on American soil.
“The Word of God is like cool water from a canteen,” said retired Marine Corps Commandant Charles C. Krulak. “During the most difficult times, it brings relief and a feeling of renewal that allows us…to accomplish any mission set before us.” To that end, please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces, and especially for the families of our fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, who have died in defense of American liberty while prosecuting the war with Jihadistan.
In their honor, and that of all Patriots standing watch today, we must not allow the Left, in pursuit of their self-serving agendas, to once again treat military uniforms as spittoons. The re-emergence of counter-recruiting/anti-war cadres should be rejected with prejudice.
If you had any doubts that the FAA’s (see post title for definition of acronym) flight regulations regarding anti-terrorism were completely insane, there’s this, courtesy of the Air Finance Journal:
Before deploying from Savannah, Georgia to Iraq by a chartered airliner, the troops of the 48th Brigade Combat Team, a National Guard unit, had to go through the same security checks as any other passengers. Lt. Col. John King, the unit’s commander, told his 280 fellow soldiers that FAA anti-hijacking regulations require passengers to surrender pocket knives, nose hair scissors and cigarette lighters. “If you have any of those things,” he said, almost apologetically, “put them in this box now.” The troops were, however, allowed to keep hold of their assault rifles, body armour, helmets, pistols, bayonets and combat shotguns.
[Via Political Diary, emphasis added. —R]
While reading the moving story of SEALs laying to rest one of their own, I learned something new about the Navy’s special operations unit. It has become tradition to leave one’s Trident on the coffin of a fallen comrade. Be sure to read all of Matthew Heidt’s story.
Today President Bush posthumous awarded the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Paul Ray Smith of the U.S. Army. Sergeant Smith, in April of 2003, led a counter attack against members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard who had ambushed Army troops at the Baghdad Airport. His actions saved more than 100 men. Only three Medals of Honor have been awarded since the Vietnam War.
We are grateful for people like Sergeant Smith, and our hearts and prayers go out to his family, especially his children. Were that more of our countrymen of Sergeant Smith’s mind.
A U.S. Marine, Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert, has scored a kill shot while engaging the enemy in Iraq, and the shot was over a mile away. For his actions, Staff Sgt. Reichert has been awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.
In the after-action report, the platoon leader made a remarkable account: that Reichert made the shot from 1,614 meters – about a mile away. His accuracy was the deciding factor in the outcome of the firefight.
For the math-impaired, 1,614 meters translates in to 1765.0918662 yards. There are three feet in a yard, so that number times three yields 5,295.2755986 feet. Staff Sgt. Reichert scored a kill shot at fifteen feet beyond a mile. Boys and girls, that’s a long, long way for a rifle shot.
I wonder what goes through the minds of terrorist scum…when their fellow thugs are being systematically plucked out of the gene pool from that distance.
Indeed, snipers are extremely effective psychological weapons of war. Not to mention, the most cost-effective weapon available on the battlefield, even with their expensive training. A well-trained sniper with a few missions under his belt is worth his weight in gold, silver, platinum, and any other precious metal. Combined.
For the math-impaired reading the story linked above, a thousand yards is more than half a mile.