Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tim Hetherington

SGM Caldwell, me, Tim

"It was an emotional hit. He was a good man who lived his life for others." - COL Bill Ostlund

I'm breaking a rule tonight.  I'm sitting on my patio drinking alone.  I'm drinking to the life of Tim Hetherington.  No, I'm not drinking to his memory.  I don't want to "remember" him.  I want to hug him.  I want to listen to that British accent for hours.  I want to see that smile that goes on forever and those eyes that can go from dancing with excitement and joy while telling a story to dark and foreboding while telling a different story.  I want to watch his hands dance as he responds to a reporter's questions in an interview.

Tim being interviewed about RESTREPO

I want to watch over and over again as he greets a Soldier that he spent months with in Afghanistan - to see him gaze across the heads in a crowded room until he spots one of those Soldiers then navigate the crowd like threading a needle until he gets to his objective.  I want to watch him grab that Soldier in a big bear hug, lay a resounding pat on his back and hear him say with the most genuine of emotion and love, "Good to see you man.  How are you?"  I want to stand back and watch while he and the Soldier go from a laughing and animated conversation to one of seriousness and dignity as they remember a fallen brother.

Tim and some of the Soldiers of RESTREPO
Just as many others are I am in denial and disbelief that Tim has been taken from us.

Honored.  Privileged.  Grateful.  Fortunate.  None of those words or any others can describe how I feel about having the opportunity to meet and get to know Tim.  No, we weren't "best" friends.  But we were friends.  And I knew that if I ever needed to pick up the phone or drop an email to Tim for help he would have done so without question.

My eyes are red and puffy and the tears continue to stream down my face.  I just cannot make them stop.  I keep having this vision of Tim in the hospital in Libya and me willing the doctors to MAKE HIM LIVE!  I knew Tim had been in Libya but I thought he was on his way home.  And he had been, sort of.  But  he decided to go back in and not come home just yet.  I suspect it was because of the plight of those in Misrata that he went back.  Ever the humanitarian Tim spent his adult life advocating for those in war zones and areas of conflict and genocide.  I'll never question why Tim made the decision to go back in and not come home just yet.  See, Tim Hetherington wasn't a thrill seeker.  He wasn't egotistical.  Tim Hetherington was a humanitarian to the core of his soul.  I have to believe that Tim felt or knew there was something below the surface of the reports we have been getting from Libya.  Something that he felt the world needed to know.  I know he didn't go back in just for the hell of it.

A lot of people seem to have the impression that, because he was an Academy Award nominee, Tim lived the high life.  Probably had a penthouse apartment in New York where he lived.  Those who knew him know that cannot be farther from the truth.  Tim lived an incredibly spartan live.  Advocating for and helping others was what made him happy.  Tim once said that the only furniture he had in his New York apartment was a chair and a bed.  Tim and Sebastian Junger (co-Producer) went into debt filming and producing RESTREPO so that they could keep editorial control and make sure the men of the ROCK were not portrayed differently from exactly what they went through.  Contrary to what some think Tim did not get wealthy off of RESTREPO or INFIDEL.  I suppose, in the end, they became more of a labor of love.

Soldiers aren't an easy group to win over as far as trust and respect goes.  Tim Hetherington more than gained the trust, respect and love of the Paratroopers with whom he embedded in OEF VIII.  As I've read comment after comment on facebook today from the men of the 173rd, 2-503rd (and not just Battle Co, 2nd Platoon), I have been touched with the love they are sharing and the heartfelt loss they are feeling. Many are commenting that he is a "brother."  Others are calling him one of  "The ROCK". One comment hit the nail on the head, "Without a sign, his sword the brave man draws, and asks no omen, but his country's cause. Tim was the brave man without a sword and his cause was humanity."

The day he left for Libya Tim stopped by Sebastian's on the way to the airport.  While he was there he signed a couple of copies of INFIDEL and RESTREPO for me.  I've run my fingers across those signatures many times tonight.  For some strange reason it makes me feel like he is still alive.  Even though Tim is no longer on this earth he will always "live".  He will live through his amazing works.  He will live through his inspirational life.  He will live through the love he gave to so many in so many ways.

Between sips of scotch tonight I have been turning page by page of Tim's book (that he autographed for me last year) "Long Story Bit By Bit: Liberia Retold."  Many people don't know that "He was the only photographer to live behind rebel lines during the 2003 Liberian civil war -- work that culminated in the film 'Liberia: an Uncivil War' and the book 'Long Story Bit By Bit: Liberia Retold' (Umbrage 2009), and his work for Human Rights Watch to uncover civilian massacres on the Chad / Darfur border in 2006 appeared in the documentary 'The Devil Came on Horseback,'" his biography on the "Restrepo" website says.  Most images in the book are profoundly haunting.  The interviews explain this history of the troubled nation.  Tim's love for mankind seeps out of every page.

Tim wouldn't want us to be sad or make a big deal out of his death.  He would want us to forge on advocating for those suffering humanitarian injustices particularly in time of war and conflict.  He would also want us to find a way to "be there" for those who have returned from war and are struggling each day to re-integrate back into society. 

There are many links on the internet tonight about Tim.  I like this one best.

Tim was a great man and a man of greatness although he would argue that.  He'd lose the argument with me.  I couldn't mean it more when I say that Tim Hetherington was one of the greatest men I ever had the privilege of knowing.  I am grateful for the laughs we shared and for the moments of serious conversation.  I'm grateful for his work on RESTREPO and INFIDEL.  I'm grateful for the unconditional love he had for the men of the ROCK.  And I'd be remiss if I didn't say (on behalf of every red blooded American woman) that I'm grateful for the skinny jeans that Tim wore.  :)

My heart physically hurts tonight for Tim's family, for the love of his life and for the thousands around the globe whose stories he told through his incredibly works of photography and film.

So, while I began this by saying I wasn't going to "remember" Tim tonight I will.  I'll remember him tonight and every night for the rest of my life.  Tim and his work inspired me.  I hope that each day I can do something to help others that would make Tim proud.  I hope those of you reading this will pledge to do the same.  What a wonderful way that would be to remember Tim and to honor his life.  He was absolutely one in a million and I loved him for who he was.  Say hi to Dad and all our Fallen Heroes Tim.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Weekend Storms Across The Nation Including Fort Bragg & Camp Lejeune, NC

I was driving for several hours yesterday but on one pit stop I checked my email and found one from a Soldier who was a medevac crew member during OEF VIII.  He and his crew members spent countless days up and down those dangerous valleys as they rescued and recovered our beloved wounded and heroes.  His email said:

"Hello, I am in the Emergency Ops Center, quick email to let you know we are OK, Fayetteville and Bragg got hit with a tornado today, and we will be without power for at least a while (maybe days)

We are OK,

No Power, No email, No info- I am at work"
I knew that storms that had caused so much devastation and loss of life in OK, AR, MS and AL were moving east but I wasn't listening to any updates.  It was a relief to know that he was OK especially since I hadn't had the opportunity to hear/read about the tornadoes that had hit the Carolinas including both Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.  I was grateful that he cared enough and was thoughtful enough to let us know he was OK.
From fayobserver dot com (Saturday April 16th edition - more at the link):
"Fort Bragg closed tonight to all but key and essential personnel and will remain closed Sunday, Army officials said.
Fort Bragg was affected by severe weather with high winds on April 16, causing damage to multiple structures and cutting power to the entire installation," a statement released late today said. "There are no reports of loss of life or significant injuries on post."
From fayobserver dot com (Sunday April 17th edition - MUCH more at link):
Path of tornado through Fayetteville, NC
"One person died and at least 85 were injured in Cumberland County when a tornado ripped through a wide swath of Fayetteville on Saturday afternoon.
In Cumberland County, the damage spanned about eight to 10 miles, from North Reilly Road to north Ramsey Street. In some places, entire neighborhoods were wiped out. (Emphasis by the blogger) The city and Cumberland County declared states of emergency.
Shortly after the tornado struck, people wandered aimlessly along Yadkin Road, stepping over downed power lines and smashed transformers. A silver van came to rest on a tree, suspended about 10 feet off the ground. A semi-trailer sat on its side, a tree lying across it."
From jdnews dot com (Thank you to Jonn Lylea at This Ain't Hell for the link that has much more information than the snipets that follow):
"Military officials said base commander Col. Daniel Lecce had gone to base housing around 10 p.m. to inspect the extent of the damage left by the tornado. At least a dozen houses aboard Tarawa Terrace II were believed affected by the event, and possibly as many as 30, officials said.
Tim Strickland, spokesman for Onslow Memorial Hospital, said about 30 trauma victims had been received at the hospital by 10:30 p.m. as a result of the storm. Strickland said that number was expected to rise as people trapped in their homes were freed. (Emphasis by the blogger)
An eyewitness said he observed extensive damage to at least eight, and possibly up to 15, houses in the Piney Green area. He described the homes as “leveled.”
People at the scene confirmed multiple injuries, but there was no word on any possible fatalities.

The area was described as a “debris field,” with uprooted trees, a transformer and power lines in the road, and branches and pieces of shattered homes scattered about."
Both Fort Bragg (site is not operational right now) and Camp Lejeune have troops deployed right now.  I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to be overseas and wonder how your family, friends and home are.  Prayers to all of those affected across the nation (and deployed around the globe) with homes and families from Oklahoma to the Carolinas - especially those who lost loved ones. Additional prayers of thankfulness that with the intensisty and severity of these storms there was not more loss of life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Remembering Eagle Flight - Annual Memorial On

Matt Burden at Blackfive reminds us on the anniversary of this tragedy.  Below is the time table of what happened but please go to this link to read the entire story.  Most of all remember those who perished that day.  Give them a moment of your time.  It is the least we can do for them, their families and friends.

On April 14th, 1994, two Blackhawk helicopters were ready for take-off from Diyarbakir, Turkey. COL Jerry Thompson - one of the most respected officers and commanders in Special Forces - was changing command (or co-command as "command" of Provide Comfort was shared with Turkey). He decided to show his replacement, COL Mulhern, the lay of the land. At 0730, COL Thompson assembled 26 people that comprised important (command group) roles for the mission. He included French, British, and Turkish commanders and liaisons, and also brought along Kurdish para-military personnel and linguists.

The two Blackhawks were designated Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. Their first destination was Irbil, Iraq, but they would have to make a stop in Zakhu, Iraq (where the military part of Provide Comfort operated). There were plans to visit several other areas as well.

At 8:22AM, Eagle Flight departed Diyarbakir. They were headed East-Southeast for a "gate" into the No-Fly Zone. Per Standard Operating Procedure, the command group was split between Eagle-1 and Eagle-2 to ensure continuity of command if one helicopter went down.At 9:21AM, Eagle Flight called the AWACS (callsign "Cougar"). They requested and were granted permission to enter the "gate" into the the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:24AM, Eagle Flight lands at Zakhu, Iraq.

At 9:35AM, two USAF F-15 fighters launched from Incirlik, Turkey. They were designated Tiger-1 and Tiger-2. Tiger-1 was the lead fighter with Tiger-2 as the wingman. Tiger Flight was headed to patrol the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:54AM, Eagle Flight calls the AWACS to report departure from Zakhu, Iraq, with a destination of Irbil, Iraq.

At 10:12AM, Eagle Flight enters mountainous terrain. It's Identification Friend or Foe system (IFF) failed.

At 10:20AM Tiger Flight passes through "gate" into No-Fly Zone.

At 10:22AM Tiger Flight picks up radar contact at forty nautical miles. No IFF reading occurs. Tiger-1 reports, "Cougar, picked up helicopter tracking northwest bound." AWACS says the area should be "clean".

At 10:25 AWACS responds that there are "hits there" in the No-Fly Zone - confirming Tiger Flight's radar contact.

Tiger Flight makes visual contact with Eagle Flight at five nautical miles.

At 10:28 Tiger-1 conducts a visual identification (VID) pass of the helicopters. "Cougar, tally 2 HINDS."

HINDS are Soviet Helicopters used by the Iraqi Armed Forces.

AWACS replied, "Copy two HINDS".

Tiger-1 then instructed Tiger-2 to make a VID pass.

Thirty seconds later Tiger-2 confirms, "Tally 2."

Tiger-1 to Tiger-2, "Arm hot."

At 10:30AM on April 14, 1994, Tiger-1 fired an AIM 120 (medium range air-to-air missle) at Eagle-2. Tiger-2 fired an AIM 9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missle) at Eagle-1.

The missles hit Eagle Flight with deadly accuracy. Tiger-1 confirmed the hits to AWACS, "Splash two HINDS."

There were no survivors.

Today is the anniversary of this horrible accident. In memoriam:

US Military:
SSG Paul Barclay (SF Commo NCO)
SPC Cornelius A. Bass (Eagle-1 Door Gunner)
SPC Jeffrey C. Colbert (Eagle-1 Crew Chief)
SPC Mark A. Ellner (Eagle-2 Door Gunner)
CW2 John W. Garrett, Jr. (Eagle-1 Pilot)
CW2 Michael A. Hall (Eagle-2 Pilot Command)
SFC Benjamin T. Hodge (Linguist)
CPT Patrick M. McKenna (Eagle-1 Pilot Command)
WO1 Erik S. Mounsey (Eagle-2 Pilot)
COL Richard A. Mulhern (Incoming Co-Commander)
1LT Laurie A. Piper (USAF, Intel Officer)
SGT Michael S. Robinson (Eagle-2 Crew Chief)
SSG Ricky L. Robinson (SF Medic)
Ms. Barbara L. Schell (State Dept. Political Advisor)
COL Jerald L. Thompson (Outgoing Co-Commander)

British Military:
MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer
LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)

French Military:
LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)

Turkish Army:
COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander)
LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer)
LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)

Kurdish Partisans:
Abdulsatur Arab
Ghandi Hussein
Bader Mikho
Ahmad Mohammed
Salid Said (Linguist)

Please take a minute to pray for their families today and remember that their hard work and sacrifices led to a flourishing Kurdish enclave - a place they would be very, very proud of today. I don't think in our wildest dreams we ever thought that would have been possible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Heroes & Horses - A Respite For Returning Combat Veterans

I learned about this program from Matt Burden over at Blackfive and was immediately interested.  I've tossed a few dollars their way and hope you will, too.  On the sidebar at Blackfive I found:

"Heroes & Horses is open to any recent American combat veteran who loves and could benefit from the breathtaking beauty and unique demands of Montana's real ranch country and who craves the sense of accomplishment gained by mastering true horsemanship and skills in the challenging backcountry of America's majestic Rocky Mountains.  A seven-day working horse ranch experience is available for a wide-range of gutsy veterans at the Mantle Ranch, offering an opportunity to learn--through intensive instruction and interaction with fellow combat veterans--how to ride, pack, and orchestrate a mountain trip, as well as a variety of related equine and back-country activities on one of the most spectacular working horse ranches in the West."

MOTHAX of the American Legion Burnpit Blog recently wrote about the program.  Click on his link to get all the skinny but I'll share a bit here.  Here is the mission statement for this invaluable experience:

"The experience of bringing together a group of combat veterans--each dealing with the process of returning to the normalcy of everyday life after war and each looking to communicate that process with others of the same mind--is invaluable. No classroom, no respite, no program can provide the opportunity to accomplish a goal, learn a set of skills, and challenge the mind and body like the great outdoors. No companionship is as effective as that found around a campfire at 9,000 feet, with no parameters and no guided limit or canned focus. No sense of accomplishment compares to the first time you and your horse have climbed a mountain with the confidence of competence, then looked out over the grandeur of America--the greatest country in the world--with knowledge that is yours and available always for your enjoyment and that of your friends and family. This is freedom worth fighting for. It should be capitalized upon like the spoils of war. It is a reward in itself. It should be enjoyed by our soldiers upon their return. It is uniquely theirs."

The first group of Veterans will be heading to Montana and Yellowstone in late June.  I know a couple of the guys who are going.  It doesn't matter a hoot that I know any of them.  What matters is how excited they are about this opportunity to 1) share their experiences of war with other combat Veterans and 2) to be able to get totally away from civilization and let loose.  I wish every returning Veteran could go and I hope like hell this program takes off like wildfire and is able to send continuous groups.

Go check out the site for more information here.  And stop here to make a donation to help sponsor a returning Veteran for a trip and experience so well deserved.  Your donation will make such a difference.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Less Than 2 Days Until The Start Of The Best Ranger Competition

The Best Ranger Competition celebrates it's 28th anniversary this year.  The competition will be held April 15-17 at Fort Benning, GA

The Best Ranger Competition 2011, is the 28th anniversary of this grueling competition, starring the best soldiers of the world, our United States Army, RANGERS! The Best Ranger Competition was started in 1982 after Dick Leandri found a way to honor his personal friend, Lieutenant General David E. Grange, Jr.

The competition is a 3-day event consisting of physical and mental tasks undertaken with very little rest between events. Selected events must be completed to remain in the competition. The historical attrition rate averages approximately 60%. Competitors are not aware of test sequence until arriving at the test site.

Good luck to all those who will be brutalized over the three days.  You're totally AWESOME just competing.

Tons more information at the link above.