Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remembering SGT Joshua Brennan Four Years After He Gave His Life For This Nation

SGT Josh Brennan
30 May 1985 – 26 October 2007
SGT Josh Brennan succumbed to his wounds on October 26, 2007 after being shot multiple times during an ambush on October 25th, 2007.  Josh, a member of the 173rd ABCT, 2-503rd, Battle Company, was killed in action during Operation Rock Avalanche.  SSG Sal Giunta was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action that day when he, among other things, prevented the enemy from capturing one of his closests friends, Josh.

Rest in Peace Josh always knowing how much you are missed, loved and honored by your family, battle buddies and friends.

Last year, Josh's mother, Janice Gates, sang the following song at her church in memory and honor of Josh.

I wrote this post two years on the anniversary of Josh's death.  There are some wonderful photos of Josh over there along with a video tribute to him set to the same song as his mother sang in the video above.  The video at the link above was done for Josh's funeral service.  Please take the time to go to click on that link and read it.  Most of all please keep Josh, his family, battle buddies and friends in your prayers.

SGT Joshua Charles Brennan was born on 30 May 1985 in El Paso, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 25 September 2003.

During his time in service SGT Joshua Brennan completed Basic Infantry Training, Advanced Individual Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 15 March 2004, he reported to Vicenza, Italy where he became a Paratrooper in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Assigned to Battle Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry – The ROCK – SGT Brennan was first a rifleman and then an Assistant M240 Machine Gunner in 1st Platoon. Promoted to Team Leader, SGT Brennan deployed and served with distinction during bothVI and VIII. SGT Brennan was undoubtely one of the finest Noncommissioned Officers in Battle Company. He always led from the front.

SGT Brennan’s awards include: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart(2), Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Basic Parachutist Badge, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. Prior to his death, SGT Brennan was submitted for the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for his actions on 07 August 2007. For his service during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII, SGT Brennan was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Service.

Remembering SPC Hugo "DOC" Mendoza Who Was Killed In Action in Afghanistan on Oct 25, 2007

SPC Hugo "DOC" Mendoza died of wounds sustained when he came in contact with enemy forces using RPG, machine gun and small arms fire during Operation Rock Avalanche combat operations on Oct 25, 2007 in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.  He was serving with Battle Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment.

SPC Hugo Victor Mendoza was born on 23 March 1978 in California and spent most of his childhood in El Paso, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 31 May 2005.

During his time in service, SPC Hugo Victor Mendoza completed Basic Infantry Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Medical Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

On 6 March 2006, SPC Mendoza reported to his first duty station at Caserma, Ederle, Vicenza, Italy. He was assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry – The ROCK. SPC Mendoza was then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with duty as a combat medic in Battle Company. He immediately found his home among the combat warriors of 1st Platoon – The Celts.

SPC Mendoza trained, deployed and fought side by side with his band of brothers in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII. SPC Mendoza distinguished himself in The ROCK as a heroic medic, charismatic Paratrooper, and an overall altruistic human being.

SPC Mendoza’s awards include: The Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge, and Basic Parachutist Badge. SPC Mendoza has been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal for Service in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII.

SPC Mendoza's family recalls him as a very giving person; a man who treated everyone the way he wanted to be treated. SPC Mendoza planned to become a firefighter once he left the Army.

He was laid to rest at Fort Bliss, TX.

We will NEVER forget you "DOC". Rest in Peace brave warrior

"Honor the Fallen" has an article here that you should read.  His family and friends tell more about the incredible man he was.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Remembering SSG Larry Rougle KIA 23 October 2007 in Afghanistan

SSG Larry Rougle
06 May 1982 – 23 October 2007

SSG Rougle was on his sixth deployment when he was killed in action on 23 October 2007 during Operation ROCK Avalanche.  SSG Rougle had deployed to Iraq three times and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

SSG Rougle joined the Army in 1999.  According to his brother, David Rougle, "It was the best thing for him," David Rougle said. "He was proud to serve. He believed in what he was doing. And he would debate with anyone who said anything differently."

SSG Rougle's father and an uncle both served our nation.  His father, Ismael, served in Vietnam.  His uncle, Fernando Lopez, served in the first Gulf War.  Both knew the cost of war.  Both had lost friends in combat.  SSG Rougle's father didn't encourage him to join the Army but was proud when he did.

In the documentary Restrepo, SFC Kevin Rice (then SSG Rice) told the film makers, "He was one of the best, if not the best," Staff Sgt. Kevin Rice told Hetherington and Junger in the film. "I think that's what was tough for a lot of people, was kind of knowing in the back of your mind 'well if the best guy we have out here just got killed, where's that put me? What's going to happen to me, you know? What's going to happen to the guys on my left and my right?'"

At the Memorial Service in Afghanistan for SSG Rougle, SGT Joshua Brennan and SPC Hugo "Doc" Mendoza, SSG Michael Gabel said,  "I will not be bitter. I will not shed a tear of sorrow. I am proud to have known such a good man and a warrior to the bitter end. Until we see each other again, sky soldiers!" 

Only a few weeks later, on 12 December 2007, SSG Gabel died in combat as the result of a roadside bomb.

Arlington National Cemetery's website has a series of reports and photos about SSG Rougle here.  I hope you will take the time to read more about this American Hero who was loved and respected by so many and who is missed by legions of battle buddies and friends as much today as he has been any day since he gave his life for this nation.

I was at Arlington National Cemetery last weekend.  It was an honor to visit SSG Rougle's gravesite to pay my respects, deliver a message from one of his battle buddies and to place a red rose for love and a yellow rose for friendship on behalf of his battle buddy.

SSG Rougle is survived by his daughter, Carmin, his parents Nancy and Ismael Rougle; his brother David Rougle; a godson, cousins, and aunts and uncles, including his Aunt Char and Uncle Joel Rodriguez, members of St. Francis Xavier Parish.   He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, November 8, 2007.

SSG Larry I Rougle
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment

SSG Larry Ismael Rougle was born on 6 May 1982 in West Jordan, Utah. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 14 March 2000.

After SSG Rougle completed Basic Infantry Training, Advanced Individual Training, Airborne School, and the Ranger Indoctrination Program he was assigned to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment as a Rifleman. He was later assigned as a Team Leader in the same unit in June of 2003. He deployed numerous times while with the 75th Ranger Regiment, to include OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. In 2004, he reported to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy and was assigned to 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry – The ROCK.

SSG Rougle served in multiple green tab leadership positions in The ROCK – Able Company as a Squad Leader during OPERATION ENDURING FREEOM VI and most recently, HHC as a Scout Team Leader during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII.

SSG Rougle’s awards include: Army Commendation Medal for Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (2), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Pathfinder Badge and the Senior Parachutist Badge. SSG Rougle was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Service and the Purple Heart.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

When Will The Disrespect End?

A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending the funeral of an American Hero at Arlington National Cemetery.  We all gathered in one of the family rooms until it was time to drive or walk to the staging area where the Old Guard so reverently and honorably transferred the remains of the fallen Hero from the hearse to the caisson. 

The Color Guard began to move down the street in Arlington National Cemetery followed by the band.  The horse drawn caisson fell in behind the band with the Hero's widow and her parents following closely accompanied by representatives of the Old Guard.  The rest of us fell behind them.

We walked a short distance and topped a hill.  At the bottom of that hill I saw 4 or 5 tour buses.  People began spilling out of them and running to the corner of the street we were on and one that intersected it.  These people were in cut off shorts, tank tops, baseball caps, etc.  They couldn't get their cameras up and clicking fast enough.  All of this in direct sight of the Hero's family, battle buddies and friends.

One of the representatives of the Old Guard, while continuing to walk along side the family, moved out to the side and motioned SEVERAL times for those wearing caps to remove them.  They finally did.  Then the father of the widow, himself a retired Army officer, yelled to the gawkers, "NO PICTURES".  Most put their cameras away.  A couple of others just had to get "one more shot". 

How dare they disrespect a fallen Hero and his family like that?

Last weekend I went to Arlington National Cemetery to pay my respects to several of our fallen Heroes.  I made my way to the Columbarium first.  On the way I encountered a tour group.  The tour group leader was holding up a piece of paper and yelling in Spanish.  I can only assume he yelling for the group to come closer as that is what they did.  He then began to, VERY LOUDLY, talk to them.  They were ahead of me so as I approached I asked him if he would mind speaking a bit softer out of respect for those laid to rest.  He ignored me.

I continued on to the Columbarium more than a little annoyed.  After paying my respects there I moved to Section 60 to pay my respects.  It was a beautiful day and a bald eagle was circling over Section 60.  So honorable. There were a lot of people in Section 60.  Everyone was quiet and respectful as they laid flowers, touched their hands to tombstones, hugged one another, softly weeped, tied balloons, etc. 

I then decided to walk to the Tomb of the Unknowns for the Changing of the Guard.  I've seen the Changing of the Guard several times but wanted to go again.  I had a very peaceful walk.  Along the way I "met' two ladies who were at Arlington to visit their husbands.  I expressed my condolences, gave them a hug and continue on through the tree lined street to the Tomb.

As I approached the Tomb I saw that the crowd was immense.  I've never seen a crowd so large at the Tomb. I got to thinking that I've never been to Arlington on a weekend.  Then I saw people pushing and shoving to get closer.  I heard people, who apparently got separated in the crowd, YELLING for each other.  Seriously?  Can you (who are speaking English) not read English?  There are signs as you enter the area that CLEARLY state that you are to be quiet and reverent.

As the Changing of the Guard ceremony began I knew I was not going to be able to see it so I decided to take a seat on a bench nearby.  I would pay my respects afterwards.  As I walked over to the amphitheater I encounter high school aged boys joking and carrying on in a loud manner - jumping up on the railings to take photos, etc.  I quietly reminded them that they were on hallowed ground and should be respectful.  They dismissed me but left.

I made my way to a bench.  As I was sitting there I looked up and saw a bald Eagle circling overhead.  WOW!  Twice in one day.  Soon after that the ceremony was over and the crowd began to disburse.  A group of high school boys came walking down the sidewalk and past the bench I was on.  One was spouting profanities right and left.  I quietly reminded them that they were on hallowed ground and not at an amusement park.  They glared at me and continued on their way.

I paid my respects at the Tomb and began to make my way back to the visitor's center.  From behind I heard a young man "rapping".  Again, with language that was not so clean.  I turned around to see a group of 4 or 5 young men.  I stopped and reminded them that they were on hallowed ground and should be respectful of where they were.  One of them decided he was going to "set me straight" about me having no authority to ask them to be quiet.  BAD IDEA!  I very calmly (because I KNEW WHERE WE WERE) explained that I was not asking them to be quiet all together - that I was asking them to be respectful.  Then I shared a story with them about one of the Heroes I had visited earlier.  They walked away a bit quieter.  I was so angry.

As I continued on to the visitor's center I heard a young man behind me say, "Dude!  Take a picture of that.  Look at all of those dead people."  I took a very deep breath and turned around to explain that each of those "dead people" was someone who had honorably served this nation.  I explained that many of those "dead people" had given their lives in service to this nation.  I continued on with how each of those "dead people" had a name, a family and friends who love them and miss them.

And then I dropped the bomb by asking them if they would like to go with me to visit a few "dead people" who I knew personally and that I had come to visit and pay my respects to that day.  Yep, the proverbial pin drop moment.  One of the young men did apologize as they scurried away.

I realize that Arlington National Cemetery is a public place.  I realize that anyone who wishes to visit may do so for whatever reason they have.  But dang it, how would YOU feel if I visited a cemetery where your loved ones were buried and acted like that?  And how would you feel if you were at a cemetery laying to rest someone you love and I showed up in cut off shorts, a tank top and a baseball cap snapping photos of you as you grieve? 

I know we have lost respect in this nation but I will not stop hoping that one day we will have it back especially on such hallowed ground.

A Post Office Encounter With A Pathetic American

I went to the post office yesterday to mail some boxes to Afghanistan. The trunk of my car was full of boxes. As I began to take them out (knowing I would have to make a couple of trips) a lady approached and asked if she could help. She appeared to be in her mid 60's or so. Here's how the conversation went (down hill) after that:

Me: Oh, thank you so much but I can get them. They aren't heavy - just bulky. I'll just need to make a couple of trips. If you want to get the door for me that would be very helpful.
Lady: (As she is picking up one of the boxes) Oh, I don't mind helping.

Me: I appreciate it. These are all going to Soldiers serving in Afghanistan right now. (My way of "getting the word out in hopes MORE people will support our troops).
Lady: Oh, isn't it great news that the President says they will all be home by the end of this year?

Me: (Struggling to remain composed) The President's announcement was about our troops in Iraq - not the ones in Afghanistan. (I didn't even want to go into my thoughts about pulling all of our troops out of Iraq)
Lady: It's all the same

Me: NO! It's not ALL THE SAME. I can get these. Go home and educate yourself.

So she picks up the box anyway. I pick up three boxes. We get into the post office and:

Me: Would you like to pay the postage for one of these boxes to help support our troops?
Lady: Oh? Well, ah, no, I guess not

Me: Thanks. I'll be sure to tell our troops in harms way and their families how much they matter to you.

I just left the boxes and her and went out to get more boxes totally disgusted with her. I know I shouldn't be surprised but it just flat pisses me off. I know that many of you who read this blog have run up against the same type of people but, really? When will all of this ignorance and apathy end?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Remembering the Fallen Heroes of COP Keating - KIA 3 October 2009

Two years ago today eight American Heroes gave their lives and 22 more were wounded when OP Fritsche and COP Keating were attacked by the enemy in Kamdesh, Afghanistan.

Please take some time to read about the Fallen Heroes of COP Keating.  Click on each link below to read more about what their families, friends, Brothers-in-Arms and community members have said about these men.  It is the VERY least we can do to REMEMBER them and HONOR their sacrifice.

May God rest the souls of these men and continue to provide comfort to their families and friends.

SSG Vernon Martin was known as a giving husband and a loving father to his three children ages 2, 4 and 6 at the time of his death.  He was also known as a great brother. SSG Martin married his high school sweetheart and aspired to work with children in a youth development program when he left the Army.

SSG Martin was known for his laugh, his loving and giving spirit and his love of children and their causes.

He was a native of Savannah, GA.  He entered the Army in August 2004 and had served one tour in Iraq prior to his deployment to Afghanistan.  You can read more about the man and and Soldier he was in this article from KKTV.  There are so me very touching comments at the end of the article.

SSG Justin T. Gallegos, a native of Tuscon, Arizona, was on his third deployment.  He had previously served two deployments to Iraq and had been awarded, among other awards, three Purple Hearts.

SSG Gallegos was the father of a five year old son. 

Retired Army CSM Don Becker told a story about one of the times when SSG Gallegos was wounded in Iraq and earned his first Purple Heart.  Becker says Gallegos' vehicle was in a convoy when it was bombarded with grenades and machine gun fire and Gallegos took a chunk of shrapnel in his arm.  "But he continued to fight," Becker says, until one final grenade was thrown.  Becker says Gallegos told him, "I saw the guy that threw it. But I didn't shoot at him. So I started to open my mouth of course to ask why. He looked at me and said he was standing behind a bunch of kids."

You can read more about this SSG Gallegos in this article from KKTV.

SGT Joshua J Kirk was a husband and father of a three year old daughter.

At the Memorial service at Fort Carson in October 2009 it is reported by Military Times that chuckles rippled through the nearly full chapel as letters were read from soldiers still in Afghanistan recounting the fallen troops’ lives and praising their bravery and friendship.  “I would have followed that man straight to hell if he thought it was a good idea,” one letter said of Sgt. Joshua T. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine.

In this article from the Portland Press Herald Sgt Kirk's cousin, Ben Dinsmore of Killeen, Texas, said "Kirk had dreams of joining the Army when he was a kid. He said they played Army when they were growing up.

''We were thick and thin,'' Dinsmore said. ''We would grab any stick that looked like a gun and run around in the woods playing Army. I joined the Coast Guard and he joined the Army right around the same time.''

There's much more about SGT Kirk at this link

SGT Joshua M Hardt entered the Army in June 2006.  This was his second deployment.  His first was to Iraq.  A Soldier who served with SGT Hardt said, "He was an amazing person and a great teacher."  Another commented that he always knew how to light up a room with his smile.

In an article in the LA times I found this about SGT Hardt:

"While he was still in high school, Joshua Hardt took one look at his future wife, Olivia, and told friends that some day he would be with her. That first date was low-key: a movie and Chinese food. He gave Olivia a piggyback ride into the cafe.  Later that night, he asked if he could give her a good-night kiss. She declined, but he touched his lips to her forehead. She reciprocated with a kiss on the cheek.  He ran down the driveway, kicked his heels in the air and exclaimed "Yes!" his wife remembers. "He was animated like that," she said.

You can learn more about SGT Hardt from this article and the touching comments published by KKTV

SGT Michael Scusa left behind his wife, Alyssa, and their 1 year old son Connor who was named for one of SGT Scusa's fallen comrades. He joined the Army in 2005 and had served one tour in Iraq.  He re-enlisted in the Army not long before deploying to Afghanistan.

The Press of Atlantic City notes that "As a teenager, Michael Scusa used to jog down Kentucky Avenue in the Villas with a backpack filled with bricks to simulate Army training." 

The article also states, "Scusa left an impression on his Lower Cape May Regional High School teachers, who remembered him fondly as a sometimes-quiet student who blossomed over the years. He was enthusiastic about joining the military, they said. He enlisted while still in high school and shipped out shortly after graduation.  He visited his (high school) alma mater several times, but the first time he walked the halls in uniform and chatted with teachers was the most memorable.  He had changed, said his freshman English teacher Chris Rosenberg, who became friends with Scusa.  "He was a man," Rosenberg said.

From KKTV:  "Alyssa says she will remember her husband Michael as a goofy, fun loving person, who made everyone smile."  And  "Michael's father-in-law tells 11 News that Michael was proud to be a soldier. He believed in his mission and his family."

SPC Stephan Mace joined the Army in early 2008 and was on his first deployment.  He was from Lovettsville, VA, the second eldest of four brothers.  SPC Mace was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.  He is survived by his mother, father, three brothers and grandparents.

There is a moving video here of SPC Mace's final journey home.

SPC Mace is described as a Moto Cross champion, football player, hunter and all around fun-loving, loyal friend.  I urge you to take some time to read this story published by CNN of an interview done with SPC Mace's mother Vanessa Adelson.  I was moved to tears on more than one occassion.

In this article from the Colorado Springs Gazette his mother said, “There was a peace about him,” she said. “He told me many times: ‘I trust everybody in my unit to cover my back.’ He loved those boys he fought with like brothers.”

She said he showed no fear as he returned to the remote outpost where he later died

KKTV has more about SPC Mace.

SGT Christopher T Griffin of Kincheloe, MI was 24 and known for his infectious smile.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Tom McKee, a classmate who is now a student teacher at Rudyard High, said the whole town knew that Griffin would someday don his nation’s uniform.

“He always wanted to join the service,” McKee said. “Any time we played, we were Army men.”

At Rudyard, Griffin played football and wrestled. He was known as a generous kid with an easy laugh.

“He was a quiet person who had a great sense of humor and always smiled,” McKee said. “In the 15 years I knew him, I never heard him say a negative word.”

An avid Green Bay Packers fan, he showed versatility on the high school gridiron. “If he had to learn a new position in a day, he would do it,” McKee said.

Griffin visited his home town after he’d joined the Army. McKee said he appeared content with the decision.

“He said he was doing what he loved to do.”

PFC Kevin C Thomson was born in California but raised in Reno, NV by his mother.  He enlisted in the Army in 2008.  This was his first deployment. 

From Freedom Remembered - PFC Thomson was known as a young man full of spirit and was very close to his mother - it was just the two of them.  He was also known as a consumate prankster and for embracing his love of country.  Kevin lost 100 pounds so that he could join the Army.  He was always known for being there for anyone who needed him.

KKTV has more about PFC Thomson at their link.