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I spent the past week away, some may have noticed. Not just away from this site, but away from home; off somewhere else at a conference with full days and late dinners and a slooow (but wireless) internet connection in billeting. (Yes, slower than Baghdad.) Such is life.
But I spent some of my spare time this past week reading and rereading Mike Yon's book, and writing and rewriting a review thereof. Hopefully you'll see that in finished form somewhere soon. In the meantime, here's a brief bit that was excised somewhere along the way. The "graveyards" I mention are near Baqubah, the city in which Mike's book begins. I'm struck by the difference between Mike's Baqubah of a few months ago and the one described here.
"If you're not there now, you're not current" was a statement I heard regarding Iraq at the conference. In a room full of people who had been there, no argument was offered.
I'd guess Mike was still writing his book up until the day before it went to press a few weeks ago. It's current. I spoke with him earlier this week. "Congratulations on the book. I saw you made the top 50 at Amazon." I told him. My news was old news. "We were in the top ten before they sold out." Mike replied. That's certainly good news and bad news - but if you're a reader here and hadn't already ordered your copy then you have no one to blame but yourself. There are more on the way.
And there may be an upside to that shortfall - the Amazon price is quite low now, perhaps reflecting the brief delay you'll experience in getting a copy. A good time to order one for a friend or Congressman, says I.
You might still be able to get an autographed copy. But he's only in the States for a couple weeks, and then he's back to Iraq. I'd recommend ordering quickly.
What tales we'll tell, I wrote from Baghdad on Christmas, 2004) when that time comes when tales can be told. Coincidentally, that month Mike Yon was stepping off a plane there for the first time to do just that.
It was good to spend time this past week sitting around dinner tables, well fed and downing a few beers and swapping some of those tales with the handful of people in the world who'd done what I'd done in Iraq, at different times but often in the same places as far back as March 2003. Such opportunities are rare, for me perhaps never to be repeated. But between us all we could compile a comprehensive first hand account. Perhaps some day I will.
And it was good to see old friends, folks I'd known from as long ago and far away as Korea in 1989. Guys I'd been to schools with who now actually looked like the fathers of those guys I'd been to school with. I'm kidding, of course, no one had changed a bit.
"What's new?" They'd ask. "Where are you now? Where are you going next?" That sort of thing. "I'll retire by the end of summer" I'd reply. After all, in certain lighting conditions my hair appears grey - so I might look like the father of the guy they knew all those years ago, too. And they were new then, and I was not quite as...
I could stay. I remain dangerous - I am fully capable both mentally and physically and haven't exceeded the federal expiration date, but I choose to go on my own terms. I actually have served with the sons of men I'd served with two decades ago.
Families. Military service is a family bond, and those who serve have families of their own, of the same sort most people do. Over at MilBlogs you will find lines written by soldiers on the front lines, and veterans of those lines. But you'll also find entries authored by mothers, fathers, and wives.
We write things in full knowledge that what we write will be read by members of the family. Sometimes that is revealed:
My daughter read this and was unable to respond and asked me to. Paul was her uncle, she was very small when he met her, so her only insight to him is me. Thank you from both of us in reference to this site.
Bless all of those still so far away from home,
we will never forget.
Posted by Dee at April 8, 2008
Thank you thank you for the tribute to my husband.
Let us all never forget Rick or what happened to our world on that day. It takes much courage to face evil. You are all heros.
Posted by susan rescorla at September 9, 2003 11:02 AM
I am Jonathan's brother and I'd like to thank the ones who left their inputs on this page. To the people who knew Jon always remember how down to earth he was. He was never scared, he always kept it real. He was hard and always lived his life to the fullest. Respect and family values was his way of life. God bless and see when I get there brother. I love you man. Uso pride remains in the blood always. You're my hero aka Bolrok. Your memory will always be kept alive. Peace my brother!Mike Yon told me he sometimes considers leaving Iraq but then hears from a reader who appreciates his efforts, and that little bit keeps him going.
Posted by niko falaniko at April 13, 2004
I know just what he means. I won't be retiring from this effort any time soon.
Mike's book is more than a collection of his dispatches from Iraq, but it opens with one:
Thoughts flow on the eve of a great battle. By the time you read these words, we will be in combat. Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now - for the battle has already begun for some - little news of it reaches home. I have known of the plans for a month, but have remained silent.I remember it well. I was elsewhere in Iraq at the time, and following his stories quite closely.
Some of the 1920s were about 300 meters down the road by now, and walking into the ambush that had apparently been set for us. BOOOOOMMMM! The detonation looked like it must have killed five or ten of them. What comes next is often shooting and more bombs, so I dove for cover while turning on the video camera, and since I have been practicing shooting both cameras at the same time, got some still shots.In an interesting moment of synchronicity, on my way home from the conference yesterday I found that report from a milblogger in Baqubah now via the Dawn Patrol:
I was told later we were in a real firefight. Hard to tell sometimes because the IAs and 1920s were firing the same kinds of weapons al Qaeda, JAM and all the rest fire. In any case, the one certain thing is that thousands of shots were fired and it was loud. Hot, too.
Some American Soldiers had rushed forward to help the 1920s, but I stayed back with an American platoon. If the lieutenant suddenly realizes he’s lost a reporter on the battlefield, he’s not going to be happy when we get back, so it’s very important that the man who brought you always knows where to find you. Our guys were firing 40mm grenades into the palm groves. The 25mm was booming away.
As the 1920s came streaming back, some had clothes tattered from the blast. They were dazed and agitated. The 1920s man with the clean ammunition belt was dragging it down the road and I walked up and pointed to it and he draped the belt back on his shoulder where it should be. The shooting continued.
I kept making eye contact and the Iraqis seemed reasonably okay. Amazingly, none were killed. The explosion was big enough that had they been walking in a cluster instead of keeping their intervals, there would be 1920s body parts scattered all over the road.
I'm not the only one feeling the boredom, on one of our patrols we paid 4 donkey cart drivers to race, the stipulation, one soldier on the back of each donkey cart. My donkey lost, it tried to kick its driver.I can't be there now, but it's good to stay current.
So is this what we've been waiting for in Iraq? Or is this silence just the prelude to more attacks and violence? In Baqouba I can say that I think this peace will last, at least while my unit is here.
"If you're not there now, you're not current".
I think that's a fair assessment. It's hard keeping current from back here, even with classified reports -- and if you're depending on the open sources (including military ones, for that matter), you're just not getting the real picture.Grim just got back from Iraq a few days ago. He and I were able to meet in person a few times in Baghdad. I'm glad he's home with his family now.
Knowing he's a man just reunited with his wife, I suspect that something in that experience might have led him to writing this post on chivalry. I think it makes a fine companion piece to Cassandra's, and I think both will give you some insight to the "military family".
I also find this review of Grim's post interesting: "This is the kind of bullshit that keeps me from reading most of the mainstream milblogs." (Seems he touched a feminist nerve, he did.) I find other people commenting on milblogs posts who are eager to assure anyone on that same point - "this item I read is the reason I never read this" - a wonderful argument, and one I won't join.
My other favorite complaint: "You're a Republican". (Or substitute Bushbot, Wingnut, or whatever phrase is the designated sophisticated witticism of the day.) No, I might reply, I'm a guy who's been to Iraq, who knows many other people who have - some of whom have been killed or wounded - and communicates routinely with them, and their friends and relatives.
Usually I'm then accused of claiming that only people who've been to Iraq have the right to talk about it. Nope. As a wise man recently said' "Senator, we fight for the right of people to have other opinions".
So we're driving home from the conference, eventually losing the signal from a fine radio station. My traveling companion begins scanning through the channels, as is often the case in the middle of nowhere, USA, the only signal is from an AM talk station. Tony Snow is on for Bill O'Reilly. I'm a bad Republican so I'm not paying much attention and instead reading a blog post from Baqubah on my handheld.
"At the bottom of the hour" Tony says, "we'll talk to Mike Yon about Iraq."
And he did. And we continued southward, then lost the signal just as Mike's segment ended. Hopefully somewhere someone was tuned in who learned something he (or she) hadn't known before. As static noise drowned out the signal we pulled off the freeway to fill the tank.
At the gas station, I saw the cover of USA Today. There, above the fold, was what millions of Americans learned about Iraq that day.
"Iraq Violence taking toll"
"50 Iraqis dead in Suicide bombing, 9a"
"Study: mental strain in US troops, 8a"
The tank was full, we returned to the freeway, and a few hours later I was home.
Don't be too hard on our female Marine.
When I had my go at it in... well, nevermind the date... we were instructed to call them "Women Marines," or WMs, a usage that I think dated back to the beginning of women in the Corps. I've heard that the Corps abolished the usage not long ago, and now insists that "all Marines are Marines." That navigating by that sexism star: to eliminate any distinction between men and women.
Yet, having the freedom to identify herself as she wishes, our young lady identifies as a "Female Marine." She values her experience as a female, and thinks it matters -- that it is something important you need to know about her. It's not enough to say, "I'm a Marine," because that leaves out an important part of the picture.
That's almost precisely the point I was making when I said that sexism is a false star. What she seems to want is respect as a woman as well as as a Marine, separately and in concert.
I think she should have it. And, much as I love the Marine Corps, if a Marine treats her in an ungentlemanly fashion, he won't get much respect out of me. As Baden-Powell said: "A man without chivalry is no man."Posted by Grim at April 20, 2008 02:13 AM
"this item I read is the reason I never read this"
Huh, go figure. I just wrote a post today saying the exact OPPOSITE.
Don't mind those people, GRIM, Greyhawk and all the rest of you. I don't comment much, because I feel like I am out of my depth when it comes to discussing military matters and feel like a peon since I am merely a civilian and my opinion probably does not hold any weight with anyone. But, as I said in my post, I have grown as a person and as a man so much in the past few years since discovering military blogs and the military community. This would not have happened without being exposed to your great minds, great experience, great personalities and great ways that you express everything which you choose to share with the world.
Please keep up the great work.Posted by Michael in Michigan at April 20, 2008 02:21 AM
"...merely a civilian..."
Ah, that's all I am, lad. Just a civilian advisor to the 3rd Infantry Division, currently. Don't feel you can't strike a blow for what's right in any uniform -- I did whatever good I did in Baghdad wearing a Stetson hat.Posted by Grim at April 20, 2008 02:26 AM
Honest to God, I am just so grateful for you guys. And for Michael Yon. I'm about half way through his book(wonderful), and I'm so happy that I didn't wait to order it, since it says on the Amazon site that it won't be available til May 20 again.
I wish I had enough income so that I could buy multiple copies for people who need to know what's in that book. I am not a Republican, but I'm voting for McCain. Obama and Clinton make me nauseous when I hear their bloviating. It's sickening.Posted by Maggie45 at April 20, 2008 04:53 AM
Michael, Maggie, you're the reason milblogs exist.
And milblogs wouldn't be useful without insight gained from good folks like Akinoula.
And for those who may wonder, Grim did indeed wear the Stetson in Iraq. Made it easy to pick him out of the crowd the first time I met him. He'd told me ahead of time, "I'll be the guy in the Stetson".Posted by Greyhawk at April 20, 2008 11:26 AM
As an old Vietnam vet who came home to insults and derision, I have done all I can to inform people about milblogs. It is the only way to get the real story about what is going on in Iraq. Gave up reading newspapers and watching TV 3 years ago. Now its the blogosphere everyday.
I am so furious that the public is not being informed. Wouldn't a one hour a night TV show that read reports from milblogs and stories from Yon, Roggio, Totten etal be something people would watch? If it was called "Up Front" or "Frontline Report," people would know they could get real news from the front like the days of WWII and correspondents like Ernie Pyle. This war against the Islamist jihadis is going to last a long time. We cannot maintain the will to prevail unless the citizens are informed. We are failing badly in the information wars.
Anyway, just thinking about what might be done to get the word out. Thanks for your blog and thanks for your service.Posted by Jimmy J. at April 20, 2008 06:00 PM
I've been reading milblogs since Citizen Smash was in the sandbox, back in '03 or '04, and I can't imagine doing without them.
It surprised me to read Michael Yon's comment to Instapundit that he guessed people were actually interested to hear what he had to say based on the sales of his book. I'd ordered it through his site back in late March or early April figuring he'd get a bigger cut of the proceeds that way than he would from Amazon.
The point that I'm making, slowly, is that I've rarely commented on the many stories I've read on the various milblogs mostly feeling as Mike in Michigan said: I don't have much to add to any given story, being a civilian whose closest exposure to the military is through these milblogs. What I should have commented, atlest, is how much I rely on the milblogers for perspectives that can't be had anywhere else. Geez, I'd better go hit a few tip jars and say thanks.Posted by Retread at April 21, 2008 01:43 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(7) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)