View Full Version : Attacks Worsen In Iraq

12-05-04, 07:44 AM
Attacks Worsen In Iraq
Associated Press
December 5, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Suicide car bombs struck Iraqi police and Kurdish militiamen in Baghdad and northern Iraq on Saturday, killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens, while four U.S. soldiers died in separate attacks, again demonstrating the lethal reach of Iraq's insurgency just weeks ahead of crucial elections.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, acknowledged that the country's homegrown forces aren't yet up to the task of ensuring secure elections, requiring the planned increase in U.S. troops. More than 42 Iraqis have been killed in the last two days alone.

But U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi criticized the military's hardline approach to the insurgency and said credible elections cannot be held Jan. 30 under the current conditions.

Meanwhile, the insurgents pursued their deadly campaign against American troops and Iraqi security forces. Two U.S. soldiers were killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad and near Baqouba Saturday, and two other American soldiers were killed and four wounded when their patrol came under attack in the northern city of Mosul.

Also Saturday in Mosul, a suicide bomber exploded his vehicle alongside a bus carrying Kurdish militiamen in the city, killing at least nine people, including seven militiamen and two passers-by, and wounding nine more, officials said. Along with Iraq's majority Shiites, Kurds back the upcoming elections, and the bombing may have been an attempt to drag them into a civil war.

The militiamen were being transported to guard Kurdish offices in Mosul, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling insurgents following an uprising last month.

In fierce fighting on Friday, gunmen tried to seize four Mosul police stations but were repelled, the U.S. military said. About 70 guerrillas also ambushed a U.S. patrol with roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. After regrouping, U.S. and Iraqi forces struck back, killing more than two dozen fighters, the military said.

With the country still so unstable, the U.S. military plans to increase its troop strength from 138,000 to about 150,000 by mid-January - slightly more than during the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime - to try to keep order during the vote. The primary concern is Iraq's Sunnis, who generally oppose the vote and are believed to be fueling the insurgency.

In candid remarks, Abizaid admitted the troop increase wasn't what Washington had envisioned.

"It had been our hope that we would be able to have a combination of increases that mainly were Iraqi troops' increases," Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, said.

"And while the Iraqi troops are larger in number than they used to be, those forces have to be seasoned more, trained more. So, it's necessary to bring more American forces."

Speaking to reporters at a regional security conference in Bahrain, Abizaid declined to speculate on when the Iraqi forces would be ready or say how many they now number. But he said they were "constantly improving."

Brahimi, however, said the United States and the Iraqi government should reconsider their reliance on force to eliminate insurgents.

In an interview published Saturday in a Dutch newspaper, the Algerian diplomat insisted the country cannot go ahead with the elections "if conditions remain the same."

"It's a mess in Iraq. The international community, hopefully with the Americans, must help the Iraqis to clean up the mess," he said.

Officials had hoped the recent U.S.-led assault on the insurgent hotbed of Fallujah would put the rebels on the defensive. But the latest attacks showed they are still highly capable of hitting back where they choose.

Saturday's car bombs in Baghdad went off nearly simultaneously at about 9:30 a.m. by a police station across the street from a checkpoint leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses Iraqi government offices and several foreign missions.

Bursts of automatic fire followed the thunderous detonation, which shook windows hundred of yards away in buildings on the opposite side of the Tigris River.

Health officials said the bodies of seven people killed by the blast and 59 wounded were brought to two Baghdad hospitals. Officials said most of the victims were police officers, but the identities of all the dead were not yet known.

Adel Hassan, a policeman who survived the attack with head injuries, said at a hospital crammed with victims that a "suicide car bomber sped into our place (the police station) ... and then there was an explosion."

Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, as it had done for a highly coordinated assault on a police station west of Baghdad the day before in which insurgents killed 16 police, looted the station's armory and freed dozens of prisoners. The claims appeared on an Islamic Web site known for such statements and could not immediately be verified.

In eastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed an American soldier and wounded five others Saturday, the military said. Another bomb near the town of Ghalabiyah, six miles west of the insurgent hotbed of Baqouba, north of Baghdad, hit a truck in a U.S. military convoy, killing a soldier and wounding another, Master Sgt. Robert Powell said.

Two soldiers with U.S. Task Force Olympia, based in Mosul, were killed when their patrol came under attack Saturday afternoon, according to a military statement released Sunday.

Another three U.S. soldiers were wounded while on patrol Saturday but returned to duty after their Humvee was attacked by a roadside bomb near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, Powell said.

A suicide car bomb also hit an American forward operating base near Iraq's border with Jordan on Friday, killing two U.S. service members, the U.S. command said Saturday. A Marine spokesman said the attack was directed at members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Iraq closed its Karameh border crossing into Jordan until further notice, Jordanian officials said.

The killings brought to at least 1,271 the number of U.S. military members to have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In other developments Saturday:

- A hospital official said the bodies of four slain men wearing Iraqi National Guards uniforms were found the day before in the northwestern town of Tal Afar, raising to at least 70 the number of remains discovered in and around that town and Mosul since Nov. 18.

- Mortars were fired at a police station in the northern city of Samarra after midnight, wounding two officers. Gunmen injured two policemen in another attack at about 10 a.m., according to police Maj. Sadoon Ahmed Matroud.

- A truck traveling in a U.S. logistics convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device near Beiji, killing the driver who was a third-country national. No further details were available.

- Insurgents killed an Iraqi National Guard officer and wounded another in Abayach, 50 miles north of Baghdad.


12-05-04, 07:45 AM
Spouses on Okinawa upbeat despite extension of Marines' deployment

By Fred Zimmerman, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, December 5, 2004

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Spouses here weren’t overly surprised by the news that 900 Okinawa-based Marines were extended in Iraq, according to a key volunteer coordinator.

“There’s a little bit of sadness,” said Lanae Weaver, wife of Maj. Van Weaver, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit logistics officer. “But the wives have been pretty positive.”

The extension didn’t come as a shock, she said, because the unit’s commanding officer, Col. W. Lee Miller Jr., told spouses the deployment go could longer than the scheduled to last seven months.

And spouses received the news in person Wednesday morning during a meeting with the outgoing executive officer, Lt. Col. Robert G. Oltman, who is currently on Okinawa. Weaver said Oltman not only wanted to find out how the families were doing, but also he wanted to break the news firsthand.

“We didn’t want it,” Weaver said. “But no one seemed unprepared for the news … no matter what happens or what comes our way, we’re going to find a way to float the boat.”

Weaver said she believes that positive outlook is due to keeping spouses informed through the network she runs. She said the group holds meetings at least once a month, and Miller sends a letter to the spouses every month from Iraq to help keep the families informed. She said there also is a public relations officer who sends news articles about the unit back to the network so the spouses can read about what their Marines are doing.

The troop extensions announcement was made Wednesday after the secretary of defense approved a request by Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq. In all, nearly 10,400 soldiers, sailors and Marines are staying put, and an additional 1,500 soldiers are being deployed for an anticipated 120 days. National elections in Iraq are slated for Jan. 30.

The Okinawa-based troops are part of the approximately 2,300- strong 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is based out of Okinawa. Other members of the unit are based out of Hawaii and California and are attached to the MEU under the unit deployment program.

The Marine unit left Okinawa in mid-August and arrived in Kuwait on Sept. 11 for training before heading into Iraq. They were due to leave the war-torn country near the end of January, according to an American Forces Press Service report. The 31st MEU is now set to depart Iraq in late February, which would put the Marines back on Okinawa in mid- to late-March, according to 1st Lt. Tryiokasus W. Brown, 31st MEU public affairs officer, in an e-mail response from Iraq.

As for the Marines’ ride home, a representative from the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group said no word has been passed to them. When queried via e-mail Thursday about a possible extension, and asked for an estimated date of return, Lt. Ed Sisk, spokesman for the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, stated that no orders to extend deployment have been received.

“In general, we do not discuss future operations; however, we can say that the Essex ESG has not received orders to extend its deployment,” stated Sisk, who is embarked on the Essex.

From Sasebo Naval Base in southern Japan, the Essex, USS Juneau and USS Harpers Ferry are deployed in the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s area of operation.

“The Essex ESG is prepared to answer national tasking, and remain on station in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom if so directed,” Sisk wrote.

“The U.S. Navy is committed to maintaining six-month deployment schedules,” he noted, “but will adjust schedules as necessary to provide continued support to U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq, and … at sea in support of the Global War on Terrorism.”

“The current extension order certainly keeps us away from home longer than expected, but it is too early to tell how this might affect our normal deployment cycle,” Brown said. “We are, however, confident that the necessary adjustments will be made to get us back on more of a routine schedule.”

Greg Tyler contributed to this report.


12-05-04, 07:45 AM
US Marines change policy on disclosing Iraq deaths

03.12.04 1.20pm

WASHINGTON - The US Marine Corps will again disclose the deaths of Marines as they occur in Iraq, reversing a policy that has made it difficult to track American casualties and the lethality of the insurgency.

The Marines, ahead of the Falluja offensive that began Nov. 8, instituted a policy of no longer announcing the deaths of Marines shortly after fatal attacks by insurgents took place.

"We changed our policy in mid-October, deciding not to issue press releases on a casualty because we did not want to aid the enemy in determining the success of their actions," Col. Jenny Holbert, a spokeswoman with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, said by email.

Seventy-one US troops died in the fierce urban combat of a Marine-led Falluja operation intended to deny the rebels their long-standing safe haven, along with an estimated 1,200 to 1,600 insurgents, the US military said.

"Now, since operations have slowed down, we are taking few casualties and the enemy has been severely disabled, we will go back to publishing releases as casualties occur," Holbert said.

The October policy change meant that the first public acknowledgment of a Marine’s death came days later when the Pentagon issued a news release identifying the deceased after next-of-kin notification.

The policy made it hard to assess US casualties on a day-to-day basis and gauge the level of activity of insurgents fighting to expel American and other foreign troops from Iraq.

Holbert said that it had "seemed sufficient to leave the announcement to DoD (the Department of Defence). We believed this would provide enough time away from the event that the information would have little value to the enemy."

Even as the Marines ceased announcing deaths as they occurred, the US Army stuck with its policy of issuing news releases through US Central Command detailing fatal attacks against its soldiers in Iraq.


Spokesman Bryan Whitman defended the Pentagon’s record on public disclosure of military deaths.

"It would simply not be true to assert that the Defence Department is in any way trying to keep hidden the human cost of combat," Whitman said.

"It’s still always a concern that you don’t want to announce directly to your enemy how and when they’re being effective in producing casualties," Whitman added.

The Pentagon announces the name of every US service member killed in Iraq after the various branches of the military get formal notification of the death and the next of kin is notified. Congress has required that the Pentagon not release the name of any deceased troops until at least 24 hours after the family is notified.

During the offensive, the Marines gave a periodic death toll for US troops in the operation, but it was two weeks between the last two casualty updates.

Holbert said another reason for the October policy change was that Marine officials sometimes did not receive immediate formal documentation of a death from the battlefield, and that the delay in making the announcement of a death "confused the situation with the media." She said there may still be such delays occasionally, but "we hope to eliminate any confusion."



12-05-04, 07:46 AM
Marines in Fallujah Connect Face-to-Face With Families in Time for the Holiday Season

Partnership Between Eagan Hills Alliance Church, TDS Metrocom, InfraSupport
and Polycom Offers Operation Connect

MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Marines in Fallujah will have the
opportunity to talk face-to-face with family members in time for the holiday
season thanks to technology donated by TDS Metrocom, a local
telecommunications company, Polycom Inc., the market leader in
videoconferencing, InfraSupport, a local IT support company, and space donated
by Eagan Hills Alliance Church.
The effort, dubbed Operation Connect by the partners, will allow
videoconferencing between Marines in Fallujah and family members and friends
gathered at Eagan Hills Alliance Church.
TDS Metrocom donated a T1 line to allow the transmissions to take place.
Polycom Inc. donated a V500 videoconferencing unit, InfraSupport donated a
firewall system and technical expertise. Eagan Hills Alliance Church will
schedule times for family members to come in and connect with their loved ones
overseas. The value of the T1 line is approximately $5,500 and the Polycom
equipment is valued at $2,000. The church is located at 700 Diffley Road in
The idea to connect through videoconference came about through emails
between longtime friends -- one in Minnesota, the other serving in Fallujah.
"Gunnery Sergeant Mike Hanson from the First Marine Expeditionary Force
and I were emailing back and forth and really wanted to do more for families
to connect -- especially during the holidays," said Greg Scott, Eagan Hills
Alliance Church volunteer and owner of InfraSupport. "We contacted Polycom
and TDS Metrocom and were thrilled that they were willing to help us make this
According to Kurt Daugherty, Regional Marketing Manager for TDS Metrocom,
the decision to get involved in the effort was easy.
"Those of us at TDS Metrocom thought this was a tremendous opportunity to
give back to the community and show our support for our troops who are serving
overseas by helping them connect with their family members during this holiday
season," Daugherty said. "While phone calls are great, seeing the expressions
on family member's faces is priceless."

About TDS Metrocom
TDS Metrocom, part of the TDS family of telecommunications companies, is a
competitive local telecommunications provider established in 1997 that serves
key markets in Wisconsin, Illinois Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota. TDS
Inc., a Fortune 500 company, is a Chicago-based telecommunications corporation
founded in 1969 with established local wireline and wireless businesses and
rapidly growing competitive local phone service operations. Through its
strategic business units and business unit divisions, TDS Metrocom, TDS
Telecom and U. S. Cellular, TDS provides service to customers in rural and
suburban markets around the country. The company employs approximately 10,900
people and serves more than five million local telephone and wireless
customers in 36 states. TDS Metrocom can be accessed through the Internet at

About Polycom
Polycom, Inc. is the world's technology leader of high-quality, easy-to-
use video, voice, data and web conferencing and collaboration solutions. The
Polycom Office(TM) is our continued commitment to make distance communications
as natural and interactive as being there by providing best-in-class
conferencing solutions that are interoperable, integrated and intuitive to the
user. The Polycom Office is based on industry standards and supported by an
open architecture that promotes interoperability in multi-vendor environments
and complements leading network infrastructure platforms. For additional
information, call 1-800-POLYCOM (765-9266) or +1-408-526-9000, or visit the
Polycom web site at http://www.polycom.com.

About InfraSupport
InfraSupport Corporation is an emerging Minnesota small business focusing
on IT networks, infrastructure, and security. The InfraSupport website is at

About Eagan Hills Church
Eagan Hills Alliance Church offers contemporary Sunday morning services
with a commitment to Biblical Christianity. For additional information, visit
the church website at http://www.eaganhills.org or call 651-452-3695.

Web Site: http://www.tdsmetro.com


12-05-04, 07:47 AM
3/5 Marines find house of Janabi
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20041257551
Story by Lance Cpl. Miguel A. Carrasco Jr.

FALLUJAH, Iraq (Nov. 24) -- U.S. Marines with 3rd Platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, found the house of Abdullah Janabi, a well known insurgent leader, in Fallujah, Iraq, Nov. 24.

During Operation Al Fajr, Company K has kicked in more than 1,000 doors from approximately 500 homes while conducting hasty and detailed searches for the small pockets of insurgents.

Before finding Janabi’s house, the platoon had cleared almost 15 houses earlier that day and taken in about 30 insurgents who willingly gave up.

“At first I didn’t even know who Janabi was, but when I found out that we found something big we all felt good about it,” said Cpl. Mason H. Fisher, 23, a native of Jordanville, N.Y., and a team leader with 3rd Platoon, Company K, 3/5.

Janabi is believed to have been the right hand man of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the believed leader of the insurgents who were operating out of Fallujah.

The squads also found several weapons, explosive ordinance items and other materials linking Janabi to the nearby area. Later, Marines from Company K found one of the biggest caches in a nearby mosque.

“We found weapons caches near Janabi’s house and with the help of (intelligence), we were able to link his house to the mosque nearby as well,” said 2nd Lt. Colin M. Browning, a platoon commander with 3rd Platoon, Company K, 3/5.

The area in which Janabi’s house was located was a step up from the normal ragged homes.

“(Janabi) lived in a very wealthy neighborhood, it was almost like Beverly Hills in Fallujah,” said Browning, 24, a native of Thief River Falls, Minn.

The Marines with 3/5 have been in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since September. With most of the Marines returning to Iraq for a second or third time, the battalion has learned to pass on the knowledge they find to every Marine.

“Everything we were able to find will help in our fight against the insurgents and will keep Marines who are in the fight safer,” said Sgt. Martin J. Gonzalez, 24, a native of Houston and a squad leader with Co. K, 3/5. “The insurgents are running and not fighting, I am glad we have been able to do our part in the fight on terrorism.”


12-05-04, 07:48 AM
Marines engage in Operation Candy Cane
By Gwen H. Jader Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted Sunday, December 05, 2004

Holiday singers, a magician and the most magical elf of them all helped take a group of Lake County Marines and their families far from the realities of combat Saturday.

About 125 military personnel and their families celebrated the holiday season during Operation Candy Cane, a breakfast party in Lake Forest. The Marines serve in Air Control Group-48, Tactical Air Command Squadron-48 and Wing Communications Squadron-48.

"For those of us who went over to serve or who are going over to serve, an event like this reminds us how great the American people are," Tony Turner, executive officer of MACG-48, said during the party, which was hosted by Grainger Inc. in Lake Forest.

"It's very tough to have husbands or wives away, especially at this time of year," Turner said. "The reason we make these personal sacrifices is to protect the American people."

Last year, Turner had just returned from a stint in Iraq when Grainger held its first holiday party for the Marines.

"When we came back last year, we were in tears about how great this was," he said.

Company employees donated toys, and many children of employees served as elves, passing out gifts. About 50 employees volunteered to help serve a buffet breakfast.

The company, a supplier of facilities maintenance products, is called upon to deal with emergency situations on an ongoing basis, said Richard Keyser, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

The firm began hosting annual events to benefit military personnel in 2001 with a Thanksgiving dinner for more than 100 sailors from the Great Lake Naval Station.

"This event is a way to show our appreciation to the men and women who serve our country and to their families," Keyser said.

The past year has been especially difficult for the communication squadron, said Master Sgt. Beth Piccolo.

"This is a wonderful way to help these families and the kids who need a good Christmas," she said.

Holiday: Grainger workers volunteer


12-05-04, 07:48 AM
Goodfellows Toy Fund: A marine's mission of charity

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Lance Cpl. Adam Samide sorts toys in the Marine Corps Toys for Tots warehouse at Eastland Mall in North Versailles. Donations to the Post-Gazette's Goodfellows Toy Fund help the Marines buy thousands of toys for needy children each holiday season.

The corps holds open houses to distribute toys to needy families from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, tomorrow, next Friday and on Dec. 11, 17 and 18 at Eastland Mall.

Recipients should bring photo ID; proof of age for each child such as birth certificate; and proof of assistance need such as an Access card or WIC paperwork. Tax-deductible donations to Goodfellows may be made using the coupon on this page, or online at www.post-gazette.com/pgcharities.


12-05-04, 07:49 AM
National Guard Hiring Recruiters
Associated Press
December 4, 2004

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. - Increasing numbers of soldiers are deciding not to join the Army National Guard after they leave active duty, a trend so troubling that the Guard is hiring 1,400 more recruiters to reverse it.

The Guard's new recruiters - plus its 2,700 already on the job - will be aiming to get high schoolers and 20-somethings to sign up like they never have before.

In fiscal 2004, the Guard had expected 7,100 soldiers to sign up after active duty tours. Instead, only 2,900 did - not even half. As a result, what's supposed to be a 350,000-member organization had just 342,918 soldiers when the year closed out on Sept. 30.

"If a soldier is near the end of their term of service and looking to stabilize their life, they know the likelihood is they're going to be deployed if they join the Guard," said Lt. Col. Mike Milord, spokesman for the Guard's headquarters in Arlington, Va.

In Pennsylvania, recruiters are enlisting just 200 of the 300 soldiers statewide they must sign up every month to keep the Pennsylvania Army National Guard 16,000 soldiers strong. Right now, according to spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, it has 14,982.

The National Guard is similar to the Reserves in that soldiers sign up for part-time duty. Pennsylvania enlistees can join for three years, but most join for six because they get up to $70,000 in pay, bonuses and college tuition, including full-tuition at any of 14 state-owned universities. While reserve troops are always under the President's command, each state's Guard troops answer to the governor - unless they are called to active duty.

What's changed the face of the Guard is the increased likelihood of active duty deployment in the last decade, especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The Pennsylvania Guard used to be split about 60-40 between former active duty troops and civilian recruits; now its about 35-65, Cleaver said.

Recruiting younger civilians continues to be a challenge, though officials say those numbers are holding steady and should grow because the new recruiters will be targeting them.

The Guard used to sell recruits on the idea of spending just one weekend a month, plus two weeks in the summer, in uniform.

"On average, right now, its 100 days a year," said Cleaver, noting that average is skewed by some 4,500 Pennsylvania Guard troops in Iraq. "If you sign up, we are probably going to need you to go (to Iraq), or at least be in an environment where you're going to be needed more often."

"This is not your father's National Guard. The big joke used to be, 'It's one weekend off a month,'" Clever said.

But while the war in Iraq may be chasing former soldiers away, recruiter Sgt. 1st Class William Merriman said many younger recruits welcome their almost certain deployment.

Pvt. Frank Kelly, 22, was married with a 1-year-old daughter and new house when he signed up in April. He will probably ship out to Iraq with the 128th Forward Support Battalion by February.

"I didn't want nobody else fighting for my family and I wanted to fight for my country," said Kelly. He likes the service so much he may enlist full-time when he returns home.

"Basic training, they could have pushed you harder. It wasn't (tough) like it is in the movies," Kelly said. "I joined to get pushed to the limit and my limits weren't pushed yet."

"When he walked in the door, I didn't have to do any sell on him at all," Merriman said. "If they were all like him, I'd have the easiest job in the world."


12-05-04, 07:50 AM
Joe Galloway: Insurgency Broken? Far from It

WASHINGTON - A senior American commander made the mistake of telling reporters that the military offensive that eventually captured a largely depopulated and destroyed Fallujah had "broken the back of the insurgency" across Iraq.

It did not, of course. It could not.

What the take-down of Fallujah did accomplish was to correct, at great cost in American lives and American treasure, an American mistake made last spring when the Marines were halted as they moved to take both Fallujah and Ramadi after weeks of deadly fighting.

The insurgents and foreign fighters had been given free rein over Fallujah for more than six months, and they used it as central headquarters for bomb making of various sorts, a torture and execution chamber for foreign and Iraqi hostages, and a launch pad for attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere.

The American-led offensive was loudly announced in advance to empty Fallujah of its 200,000-plus civilian populace. Civilians weren't the only ones who left. Along with them went the top leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's gang of foreign terrorists and many of his fighters and other local insurgents.

The American attack accounted for perhaps 1,200 of the estimated 3,000-plus armed enemies who had occupied the city.

The capture of a single strongpoint does not break the back of an insurgency as widely spread and deeply motivated as the one that has tormented Baghdad and the cities and towns of the Sunni triangle.

That insurgency will only be broken when the Sunni population, 20 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, is convinced that they have a viable future in the Iraq that is being rebuilt on a different model.

It can be fairly argued that we Americans created the insurgency that today bedevils us and takes the lives of four to six American soldiers every day. The Bush administration had planned to clean out the top few layers of Saddam Hussein's Sunni dominated Baath Party. But when the time came, former Ambassador Paul Bremer instead purged Iraq of every Baathist down to kindergarten teachers and then disbanded and dismissed without pay the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Saddam's army.

No one has to date accepted responsibility for those glaring mistakes, or any of the other failures in planning for post-war security, stability and rebuilding.

Nor has anyone in authority yet stated a plausible exit strategy, an end if you will, for our costly and deadly involvement in Iraq.

An insurgency can only be beaten when, through information and incentives, the civilians among whom the insurgents hide are eventually convinced that they gain nothing, and risk everything, by shielding and supplying the guerrillas. The key words in that sentence are "through information and incentives," not through bombing and shelling and overwhelming and destroying in classic fashion.

We now face the plain fact that the insurgency is growing. A year ago the enemy was able to mount 15 to 20 attacks a day in Iraq. Recently that number has escalated to near 150 attacks per day - attacks that now include daily car bombings of our convoys and occasional mortar and rocket attacks in the heart of Baghdad.

American commanders on the ground are asking for more soldiers and Marines to boost strength above the 138,000 now fighting in Iraq so they can secure the rebuilding of Fallujah, keep the insurgents from coming back in, and chase them to the cities and towns elsewhere in the triangle where they have resumed their deadly business.

Why does my mind keep going back to the Weinberger/Powell doctrine, which the current civilian leadership in the Pentagon declared dead and gone while they were doing their victory laps and praising their own strategy of smaller, faster, deadlier in the field of military affairs?

That doctrine, dating to when Caspar Weinberger was defense secretary and Colin Powell was his military aid, said you only go to war when you have exhausted all other options; that you go to war with everything and everyone you need, not incrementally; that you clearly define your objectives; and that your military leaves after winning the war.

There's something in there for everyone -- a lot of good lessons learned the hard way in a place called Vietnam. Now if only we can persuade the civilians who command our military to vet their plans for the next war against that doctrine.


12-05-04, 11:53 AM
Battle of Fallujah from the view of someone who is there

An e-mail from a soldier...

Battle of Fallujah.....and Happy Thanksgiving Everyone,

Well Task Force 2-7 Cav made it back from Fallujah earlier than expected, mission accomplished. It feels so good to be back from a second successful mission that was as difficult as it was dangerous. We left Camp Cooke on Nov 1 and staged at Camp Fallujah for about a week.

While there, we got the good news that George Bush was re-elected' and we had busy days and nights of planning and rehearsals for the big attack. 2 days before "D Day," a 122 mm rocket impacted 50 meters away from our tents that sent everyone to the floor. We staged there at a remote part of the post and it was obvious that a local national tipped off the "mujahadin" (Arabic name for the enemy) where we staged. From that attack, we lost one soldier and 4 more were wounded. That attack gave the rest of the Task Force enough anger to last the whole fight.

After all the drills and rehearsals, the day for the attack finally came on Nov 8. Prime Minister Allawi gave the green light and Coalition and Iraqi forces went all the way.

On Nov 7, a battalion of Marines seized the peninsula to the west of the city to prevent insurgents from fleeing. A brigade (4,000 soldiers) from the First Cav set up another cordon around the city to catch anyone fleeing. The plan was to make sure the insurgents would either surrender'or fight and be killed. Intelligence estimates put the enemy between 3,000 - 5,000 strong, so we knew we had a tough fight ahead of us.

One of the interesting factors to this fight was the weather, although Iraq is unbelievable hot in the summer (up to 130 in Najaf), it was colder out in Fallujah than it was back in New York. Temperatures were typically in the upper-30's and low 40's between 5 pm ' 8 am. The average temperature here has dropped about 30 degrees in the past month or so.

We moved all of our vehicles and soldiers from Camp Fallujah to a position about 1 mile north of the city. That's also where we set up our TF support area (re-fuel, re-arm) and where we set up the Tactical Operations Center. All day long while we're setting up at that location, Air Force and Marine Corps aviators shaped the battlefield with laser-guided bombs and hellfire missiles. Although American forces had not been into the city since April, we had been collecting intelligence on the city for months through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's), human intelligence, and Special Forces. So we knew exactly where they stored their weapons and where they held meetings, and so on'.all of these attacks from the air were precise and very effective in reducing the enemy's ability to fight us before the battle even started. With each attack, secondary explosions of weapons/ammo blowing up were heard. The Coalition also threw the enemy a curveball by destroying all the vehicles that had been parked in the same location for more than 3 days---the enemy planned to use these as car bombs when we attacked. Again, almost every single vehicle the air assets attacked had huge secondary explosions.

After 12 hours of massive air strikes, Task Force 2-7 got the green light and was the first unit to enter the city. There is a big train station on the city's northern limit, so the engineers cleared a path with some serious explosives and our tanks led the way. While this was happening, my intelligence shop was flying our own UAV to determine where the enemy was. It is a very small plane that is launched by being thrown into the air. We flew it for 6 hours and reported grids to the tanks and bradley's of where we saw insurgents on the roof and moving in the street---so our soldiers knew where the enemy was, before they even got to the location. We crossed the train station just before midnight and led the way for the Marines by killing everything we could in our way. It took our tanks and brads until 10 am the next day to get 2 miles into the city. They killed about 200 insurgents in the process and softened the enemy for the Marines. 5 of our soldiers were wounded in this first 10 hours, but we accomplished our part of the plan.

The Marines' mission was to follow TF 2-7 and fight the enemy by clearing from building to building. A lot of the insurgents saw the armored vehicles and hid. They waited for the Marines to come and took their chances by fighting them since the Marines weren't protected by armor like we were. In that first day of fighting, the Marines took 5 x KIA and many more wounded, but they also did their job very well. Along the way, they found HUGE caches of weapons, suicide vests, and many foreign fighters. They also found unbelievable amounts of drugs, mostly heroin, speed, and cocaine. It turns out, the enemy drugged themselves up to give them the 'courage" and stupidity to stay and fight. The enemy tried to fight us in "the city of mosques" as dirty as they could. They fired from the steeples of the mosques and the mosques themselves. They faked being hurt and them threw grenades at soldiers when they approached to give medical treatment. They waived surrender flags, only to shoot at our forces 20 seconds later when they approached to accept their surrender.

The next few days, TF 2-7 maintained our battle positions inside the city, coming out only for fuel and more ammo. We fought 24 hours a day and continued to support the Marines as they cleared from house to house. If they were taking heavy fire or RPG fire from a house, they would call on our tanks. Our guys would open up on the house with 120 mm main gun or .50 cal. After 5 minutes of suppressive fire, then the Marines would go into the building and clear it. There was rarely anyone left alive by that point. The problem is that we couldn't be there to do that for all the Marines'.and when we couldn't and they had to clear the building without our help, they took heavy casualties because the insurgents didn't stop firing until the Marines got into the building and killed them.

After 3 days, half of the city had been cleared and Iraqi Forces followed the Marines to re-clear the buildings and clean up the caches. Sometimes the insurgents who had managed to hide from the Marines would stand and fight the Iraqis, so they took some casualties as well. But they did a good job of securing the area and collecting the thousands of AK-47's, RPG's, mortars, and IED's that were in these houses. All that ammo proved just how intensely the enemy planned to defend the city'after all, Fallujah was the symbol of the resistance against the new Iraqi government. They wanted to keep their safe haven for terrorists like Zarqawi to behead innocent people. Since no Coalition Forces were allowed into the city, they were able to get away with those atrocious acts without much trouble.

On day 3 of the fight, we had the most exciting moment for me personally when our Task Force Support Area and TOC came under attack. Insurgents fired mortars and rockets at us everyday, some landing as close as 30 meters from us. But on this day at 6 pm, just as it was getting dark, we took 3 rounds very close'and then to the north 8-10 insurgents opened up with small arms fire on the TOC. Luckily, a tank platoon was back re-fueling and along with the scout platoon, laid down some serious firepower and killed them all in a matter of 5 minutes. But all of us in the TOC got to go out and be part of the fight, firing rounds and seeing the tanks unload on these insurgents. None of us were hurt, but it was an exciting 10 minutes.

THEN came the second push through the rest of the city. Although by day 4, the Coalition had already killed over a thousand, many of them fled to the southern portion of the city and took up positions there. Again, Task Force 2-7 led the push a little before midnight. Same mission, same purpose: To soften up enemy strong points and kill as many insurgents as possible to enable the Marines to follow us when the sun rose. The Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1 did just that for the next 5 days---fighting house to house, finding more weapons, more torture chambers, more ammunition, and more insurgents ready to fight to the death. One fighter came running out of a building that our tanks set on fire'.he was on fire and still shooting at us. As our Sergeant Major said, "going up against tanks and brads with an AK-47, you have to admire their effort!" Over the next 5 days, the Marines and our Task Force killed over 1,000 more insurgents. In that time frame, over 900 more fighters made the decision to spend 30 years in prison rather than die. The Marines are still occupying the city and helping with the rebuilding process---they still meet some sporadic resistance, usually a group of 3-5, shooting from a mosque or faking surrender and then shooting at them.

We were very disturbed to find one house with 5 foreigners with bullets in their head, killed execution style. Marines also came upon a house where an Iraqi soldier in the Iraqi National Guard had been shackled to the wall for 11 days and was left there to die. These insurgents are some sick people and Fallujah proved that more than ever. 2 mosques were not being used for prayer'.but rather for roadside bomb making. They were literally IED assembly line factories, with hundreds of IED's complete or being built. They also had several houses with high-tech equipment where they conducted their meetings. In Fallujah, the enemy had a military-type planning system going on. Some of the fighters were wearing body armor and kevlars, just like we do. Soldiers took fire from heavy machine guns (.50 cal) and came across the dead bodies of fighters from Chechnya, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, and so on'.no, this was not just a city of ****ed off Iraqis, mad at the Coalition for forcing Saddam out of power. It was a city full of people from all over the Middle East whose sole mission in life was to kill Americans. Problem for them is that they were in the wrong city in November 2004.


12-05-04, 11:54 AM
Now that it's over, there is a lot of things that people back home should know. First of all, every citizen of Fallujah (non-insurgent) is getting $2,500 USD (that's a lot over here) to fix up their house or buy new things that may have been destroyed in the fighting. Insurgents took up positions in resident's houses so we were forced to destroy a lot of buildings. There is over $100 million dollars ready to be spent to re-build the city. This may seem like a lot of money, but I can assure you that it is a small price to pay for the amount of evil people no longer alive, contemplating how to kill more Americans. The intelligence value alone is already paying huge dividends. Some of the 900 detainees are telling everything they know about other insurgents. And the enemy never expected such a large or powerful attack and they were so overwhelmed that they left behind all kinds of things, including books with names of other foreign fighters, where their money and weapons come from, etc' I went into the city 3 times, but after a lot of the fighting had been done. It was amazing to see how the American military had brought the world's most evil city to its knees. I have an awful lot of pictures that I am going to upload to my webshots site it will blow your mind to see what the insurgents forced us to do to win this fight. And seeing the pictures of what I saw firsthand will make you very happy to be an American and know that our country has this might if evildoers force us to use it. Our mission in Iraq is to help the Iraqi Security Forces become stable enough to keep this country safe'.and once in a while fight with our full might to give these security forces a fair chance. When we need to go after the enemy with all we've got, the results have been amazing.

In the fight for Fallujah, our military lost over 50 soldiers and Marines including a sergeant major, company commander, and 8 platoon leaders, along with 40 kids, typically between 19 and 23 years old. I can't even tell you how proud I was to be part of this fight and know these soldiers who were going from building to building to take the fight to the enemy. My Task Force lost 2 more soldiers after the rocket attack at Camp Fallujah, 1 of them that I knew pretty well. It was hard on the unit to deal with these losses, to go along with the 16 soldiers from 2-7 who were wounded. But this was a fight we knew would be dangerous'..but worth the risk based on the good that would come out of it. Anyone back home who thinks the world is a safe place needs to come here for a day and learn real fast that there are an awful lot of people out there who hate Americans so much that they risk their lives to try to kill us. We cannot live peacefully back at home right now unless we continue to stay on the offensive against our enemies and fight them in their backyards. Remember, radical Arabs started this war, and they continue to fight it, proving to America over and over that they need to be fought.

I am hopeful that most Americans understand that you have to accept death to defeat evil; all of us soldiers accepted that the day we signed up. There are some things worth fighting and dying for, and making the world and especially America, a safer place, is one of them. For every Mom out there that you read about who turns into a peace protestor when her son is killed in action, there are 99 Moms you don't hear about who are proud and believe in this mission even more.

It sure is good to be back to Taji after our second "field trip." We have an officers vs. enlisted football game tomorrow where I am the quarterback, so I am excited about that. We also have a Task Force Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Despite the fact we have upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years away from family, friends, and fun'.all of our soldiers are thankful to be back after this big fight and to have played such an important role in the successful mission. I received some nice letters out there that were very supportive, so thank you to all of you who did that for me. Thanks for all your prayers and support'.and I wish everyone back home a Happy Thanksgiving and some quality time spent with family and friends.

12-05-04, 11:55 AM
Images of Fighting in Fallujah Compel at Different Levels
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2004; Page A20

Two photo-rich summaries of the battle of Fallujah -- one produced by the U.S. military in Iraq, the other by an anonymous American blogger -- highlight how the terrain in such counterinsurgency fights can be as much psychological as physical.

Both presentations have gained increasing Internet audiences recently and attempt to convey, among other things, the suffering imposed on Iraqi civilians in Fallujah.

That is where similarities end, however. The military's presentation depicts the fight for Fallujah as a liberation of a city from the insurgents. The Web log posts far more graphic wire service and other photos, and tends to point the finger of blame for civilian suffering at the military.

Judging by the reaction of several soldiers and military experts, a comparison of the two presentations shows, among other things, how the might of the U.S. military can be matched by a single blogger working part time.

Public affairs officers at the top U.S military headquarters in Baghdad produced the 59-page Microsoft PowerPoint presentation titled, "Telling the Fallujah Story to the World." It is the first such effort distributed by the headquarters, said one of its creators, Army Maj. Scott R. Bleichwehl.

It comes as the U.S. military is trying to step up "strategic communications" in Iraq, after being heavily criticized, internally and by outside experts, for failing to get its message to the Iraqi people and the world in general.

The military briefing, an electronic slide show that has rocketed around the Internet over the last week, can be read at Soldiers for the Truth ( www.sftt.org ) and other Web sites, frequently with comments such as, "Why is the DOD not getting this information to the media?" Another version of the briefing was released Friday by the Pentagon and is reachable at www.dod.mil/transcripts/2...-1721.html .

Charles Krohn, a former Army public affairs official who worked with the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq, said he suspects the presentation is directed at American audiences. He said the United States has failed to get out its message in Iraq, and has not even appeared to want to do so. "How we can invade a country and eject its government without letting the people who live there know what we were doing and why is a mystery to me," he said.

The U.S. military briefing focuses on violations of the law of war by the insurgents. It states that of 100 mosques in Fallujah, 60 were used to hide weapons or as defensive positions. A map shows nine locations of bomb-making factories and comments that roadside bombs are "the insurgents' principal instrument of attack on innocent civilians." It also shows a van whose side panels have been "removed and filled with PE-4," a kind of plastic explosive.

Another slide shows a photograph of bloody handprints on a wall, and blood on walls, presumably evidence of torture or murder. There also is other evidence of hostage-taking presented.

"The anti-Iraqi forces took hostage the city of Fallujah and projected terrorism across all of Iraq," it states.

The presentation ends with photos of local Iraqis "securely and calmly" receiving food supplies from Iraqi security forces.

"Overall, we've gotten positive feedback on the packaging, because it contains a lot of information and provides visuals," Bleichwehl said. An Arabic version of the presentation has been released, he said.

A competing vision of the Fallujah operation is presented by the blog titled "Iraq in Pictures" ( www.fallujahinpictures.com ), which Krohn says is far more similar to what Iraqis, and the Arab world, see on their satellite news channels.

The site has become one of the hotter blogs on the Internet, receiving thousands of visits a day.

In the version of the Web site that was up last week, the first image on the site showed a malnourished Iraqi baby, wide-eyed and screaming in pain, under the sarcastic headline, "another grateful Iraqi civilian."

Many of the photographs are far more graphic than are usually carried in newspapers, showing headless bodies, bloodied troops, wounded women, and bandaged babies missing limbs. One added recently shows a U.S. soldier with part of his face blown away by a bomb.

The blog also amounts to a critique of the U.S. news media. Another section of the site, under the headline, "Also not in today's news," shows a photograph of a Marine propped against a concrete wall, grimacing as he is treated for a shrapnel wound in his upper right leg.

The blogger, who in an e-mail responding to a query identified himself as "Hugh Upton," but when questioned said that was a pseudonym, explained on his Web site that one of its purposes is to show the ugliness of what he believes is really going on in Iraq. "The world sees these images and we do not," he states. "That scares the hell out of me, as it should you."

He insists that he is sympathetic to U.S. troops. "I am angry with our citizens, not our military," he writes. "If this war is unjust they are among the victims of it."

In an interview, the blogger said he started the site after the presidential election, working on it in his spare time, because he believes "there is an emotional truth to the war, and it's not being shown" in the U.S. media. Since starting it, he said, the site has had more than 800,000 hits. He also has received more than 2,000 e-mail messages, about 10 percent of them hate mail, he said.

He declined to disclose his real name or many personal details. He said he is a 26-year-old writer in New York who works for an Internet company. He originally is from the District, he said.

After being interviewed, he added more information to his Web site, insisting: "This is not an antiwar site. You can visit this site and appreciate what it's doing and still support the war. . . . We need the whole story." He added that those wanting to see "the other side" of the story should "Go to Fox News, CNN, USA Today, WSJ, the Washington Post, or any of the other outlets that has these pictures and doesn't show them."

Retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, who has advised the Pentagon on how to better fight in Iraq, said he thinks the military PowerPoint presentation does "a good job of trying to get the real story out."

But several other military experts said they found the blog more compelling.

"As far as the blog site, this is information operations at its finest," said one Marine officer who has served in Iraq. "IO is about influence, and this piece tries to influence people by depicting the human cost of war."

An Army soldier who fought in the Sunni Triangle last year and maintains a blog himself agreed. "The winner has to be the blog," he said. "There's something all too visceral about seeing the pictures of the dead and wounded, on both sides, which overwhelms static displays of weaponry" in the military presentation.

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraqi affairs who has a blog called "Informed Comment" ( www.juancole.com ), came to a similar but broader conclusion: "What the two presentations show us is that the U.S. military is full of brave and skilled warriors who can defeat their foes, but is still no good at counterinsurgency operations, and is wretched at winning hearts and minds."


12-05-04, 12:15 PM
Jones hits Pentagon policy embedding journalists with troops
Dec. 5, 2004

The shot was heard - and, more importantly, seen - around the world.

Marines entered a Fallujah mosque last month. A wounded and allegedly unarmed Iraqi insurgent lay crumpled against the wall. There was screaming. One of the troops lifted his rifle and fired, point-blank, into the enemy's skull.

The footage was captured by a NBC correspondent embedded with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which is part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton in California. It aired worldwide Nov. 16.

Fallout, both at home and abroad, has been on par with the uproar following last summer's prison-abuse scandal. Now, as then, residents of the Arab world - particularly Iraqis - are horrified, and human rights groups want a comprehensive investigation. The U.S. military has promised one.

But there's a notable difference in how each incident made it from the front lines to the public. The images of U.S. military personnel torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners were leaked to the media. The mosque-shooting video was actually enabled by the military's policy created specifically for journalists documenting combat in Iraq.

The aftermath has prompted U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., whose 3rd District includes Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point, to question the value of allowing embedded journalists to report on military units "engaged in direct combat."

Jones has since asked the Defense Department to restrict media coverage of these situations.

"This (content) goes all over the world - to the people who hate us," Jones said. "And I don't think it does us any good.

"It really hurts me to see that young Marine. Â… Some are saying he's done the wrong thing."

In a letter sent Nov. 29 to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Jones argues that media reports, when condensed to brief TV-news segments, are liable to distort the facts.

"It is unfair for our troops to be constantly monitored by cameras and have their every move recorded and subjected to public opinion based on a sound bite or two-minute video segment," Jones wrote.

"I pray that a Marine or soldier in the future will not lose their life because they hesitated due to concerns that their action would be recorded by the media, reported out of context and scrutinized by public opinion before all the facts are presented."

Rules to follow

Thorough war reporting can't be done without embeds, said Tony Perry, the Los Angeles Times' San Diego bureau chief. In 2001, Perry went with Pendleton Marines to Afghanistan. Since 2003, he's been to Iraq twice, spending last April with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in Fallujah. He's headed back in late December.

Granted, embeds are only a part of the equation, Perry said, "but they're a crucial part."

"You need people at the Pentagon," Perry said. "You need people badgering the generals. But I don't think you could cover the war without embeds."

Giving journalists a front-row seat to the war is not without risk, said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman for Camp Lejeune's II Marine Expeditionary Force. When assigned to the Pentagon two years ago, Lapan assisted in cultivating the embed program now in place in Iraq.

Part of the deal, Lapan said, requires reporters to stifle some information - namely pre-combat planning - in the name of security.

"These ground rules are built to ensure that sensitive or classified information does not get out inadvertently," Lapan said.

And history suggests the military takes them seriously. If a reporter breaks the rules - as Fox News' Geraldo Rivera did in 2003 when he used a crude sand sketch to illustrate an Army unit's location inside Iraq and its anticipated movement - then they're gone.

Jones' motive is tied to troop safety; in that respect, he's on common ground with the military. His letter to Rumsfeld acknowledges the media's responsibility to inform the public, but he believes that must be weighed against the importance of letting U.S. troops conduct their duties free from the fear that their actions will be portrayed negatively.

"He's right about two things," said Phil Meyer, a Knight Foundation chair in journalism who teaches media analysis at the University of North Carolina. "There has to be a balance, and the safety of the troops has to come first.

"But he's missing one positive side. (Combat coverage) minimizes the efforts of enemy propaganda."

A 10-year Republican representative in a GOP-heavy House, Jones, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has "clout," Meyer said. And while he's discouraged by the prospect of Jones' request growing legs, Meyer said it's possible Rumsfeld will give it consideration.

Donald Shaw, Meyer's colleague at UNC's journalism school, agrees with the need to filter details related to troop security - but that's it, he said. Free societies, he believes, are best served when they are allowed access to both good and bad news.

"We don't want to lose our heads," said Shaw, who teaches journalism history and theory. "We want to keep our focus on the freedom of information.

"The issue of war coverage surfaces in every single war. There is nothing new about it. Historically, reporters have presented war as fairly as they could. It was true in World War II. It is true in Iraq, I think."


Certainly, the media's ability to cover war has evolved since the fall of Nazi Germany. Technological advances aside, access has played a key role in that. Embedding is nothing new. Lapan said reporters were allowed to mingle with units in Afghanistan, the first Gulf War and, to some extent, Vietnam. But now in Iraq the military is permitting it on a never-before scale, he said.

The results vary. There is at times good news from the front lines. With the U.S. death toll in Iraq now above 1,200, there is, of course, a lot of bad news, too.

"By and large," Lapan said, "Marines are fairly supportive and positive about having the media embedded with their units. It's a way for having our stories told. It's a way of understanding the challenges of working in a combat environment.

"In most instances, the reporters have been able to convey those things to the public."

Controversies like the mosque shooting seem to succeed only at encouraging debate - debate over whether the war is justified or whether such reports are just poisoning troop morale.

For Perry, that footage reinforces the necessity of having reporters close to the action.

"It's the embedding process at its most pure," he said. "I don't see it as a black eye at all, and my hunch would be that the Marine Corps doesn't see it that way, either.

"You just cannot shut out the American public when the troops are there in their name."

For Jones, who said he had this concern even before last month's incident, the mosque footage underscores the need to re-evaluate what's at stake: peace, life and freedom.

"We've got kids over there - many of them right out of high school - who've never been faced with a combatant, never been faced with the possibility of dying, never been faced with opening a door and firing a machine gun," Jones said. "And my heart is with those going through that pressure.

"(Does the media) need to be walking with them every step of the way, in every environment?" Jones said. "That's my question."


12-05-04, 12:46 PM
Give a little something, instead, to those who are giving it all

Maria and Bill Gaskill of Pegram have decided to forgo presents to each other this holiday season.

After 23 years of marriage this Dec. 19, they realize there is really nothing the other could give that they don't already have. A good marriage is a treasure in itself.

So they're giving the money they would have spent on presents to our sons and daughters in uniform, specifically those who have been wounded over there so that we might stay whole over here.

This change in their giving is the Gaskills' way of saying ''thank you'' for an extraordinary job these men and women are doing in preserving the light of liberty against the darkness of terrorism. This change in their giving is the Gaskills' way of making a statement about the good this nation is doing, positives more Americans need to see and hear.

''The media seems almost exclusively to present the negative side of our war against terrorism,'' Maria said. ''We believe this is a worldwide concern and are proud that the United States of America is leading the way toward eradicating this global threat.

''We recently received an e-mail titled 'Scenes Too Horrible For the Media to Show.' The photos were of smiling, happy Iraqi children with American GIs and of Iraqi women holding up signs which read, 'Thank You, USA.' We can find uplifting news about the positive side of the war in Iraq, but we really have to search for it.

''We feel that our troops are not given the recognition and appreciation they deserve, especially in the media. Thus, individuals are called upon to do their best to counter the negativity which our troops must read and see every day. We are so very grateful for their service and sacrifice.''

I received the same e-mail of photos as the Gaskills. Send me your e-mail address if you'd like to see them. The images are like those featured on a DVD honoring Tennessee Marine Capt. Brent Morel, who gave his life last April in saving his convoy from a terrorist ambush in Iraq. To see what our men and women are fighting for and what sustains them in battle, you need to watch this DVD.

Its images and the inspiring words spoken by our troops also are something rarely seen or heard. After watching the DVD, you'll never look on a man or woman in uniform without a deep sense of gratitude and admiration. Contact me, and I'll come out and show the DVD to your civic group, school or place of worship.

Covering this war and providing its images is a dangerous and difficult task for the media. Criticism of their efforts often comes too easy. But many Americans such as the Gaskills simply hunger for the light from Iraq * not as a substitute for what's being presented as news now but for the sake of balance.

Most recently, our Marines performed marvelously in retaking Fallujah from the terrorists. They uncovered a torture chamber where blood was splattered everywhere like a slaughterhouse. Now, its horrors have ended.

Every victory of light over darkness, however, requires sacrifice. More than 50 Marines lost their lives in the Fallujah campaign, including Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego.

While much media attention focused on the right or wrong of a Marine who shot and killed a wounded terrorist, far too little has been said about how Sgt. Peralta threw himself on a grenade to save four of his comrades, according to the Army Times. He reaffirmed the message of light for this season: ''Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'' * John 15:13.

Both actions took place as Marines entered insurgent safe houses. Yet Peralta's story has barely been told compared to the Marine shooting. Americans such as the Gaskills wonder why.

Many times, the number of Americans killed in Fallujah were wounded. Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Medical Center in the Washington area have become long-term homes for these wounded and for their families to help in the healing.

That's where you can make a big difference this holiday season and make a statement like the Gaskills. Maryland chapters of the Marine Corps League * a nationwide organization of former active-duty Marines * are providing support to these families like money for food and lodging besides extras for their Marines.

For instance, the League will distribute presents Dec. 22 to the wounded who won't be able to go home for Christmas. Little things such as a phone card, for instance, mean a lot to raise spirits. And you can help play Santa Dec. 22.

Marine Corps League chapters across the country are helping their Maryland counterparts with this financial burden through a fund-raising drive called ''The Bethesda Project''. Locally, contributions are being collected by the Stones River chapter in Smyrna. I know the guys in Smyrna. They are dedicated to this cause.

You can join this cause by sending a donation to: The Bethesda Project, c/o Rob Law, Am South Bank, 301 S. Lowry Street, Smyrna, Tenn. 37167. Make checks to ''The Bethesda Project''.

Also, the family of the Capt. Brent Morel has established a scholarship fund in his honor to educate the children of other fallen Marines. Send checks to: Marine Corps Scholarship Fund, 121 South Saint Asaph St., Alexandria, Va. 22314-3119. Be sure to put Morel's name somewhere on the check.

Your contribution can brighten the lives of Gold Star families that have given the ultimate sacrifice in preserving the light of liberty for others. Your donation tells them that their sacrifice matters, that their loved one's heroics in fighting the darkness will always be cherished.

For some couples, forgoing presents for donations might not be a good idea. Giving presents is how some of us husbands make up for all the silly things we do during the year.

But if you're safe this holiday season, if you have family around to make new memories, show support for those who help secure our freedom to celebrate. Then put a note on the Christmas tree to your spouse about what you did in his or her name. Let him or her open it as a surprise Christmas morning. As the Gaskills realize, a more meaningful gift is not possible.

Invest in the light this season, and make a statement of appreciation for those who fight to spread its liberating warmth and illumination.

Tim Chavez is a columnist for The Tennessean. Contact him at tchavez@tennessean.com or (615) 771-5428.


12-05-04, 03:21 PM
Insurgents Kill 17 Iraqis in Tikrit

By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen ambushed a bus carrying unarmed Iraqis to work at a U.S. ammo dump near Tikrit on Sunday, killing 17 and raising the toll from three days of intensified and bloody insurgent attacks to at least 70 Iraqi dead and dozens wounded.

The attacks, focused in Baghdad and several cities to the north, appeared to be aimed at scaring off those who cooperate with the American military — whether police, national guardsmen, Kurdish militias, or ordinary people just looking for a paycheck.

The violence came just weeks after the United States launched major offensives aimed at suppressing guerrillas ahead of crucial elections set for Jan. 30. Later Sunday, several small Sunni Muslim groups joined more influential Sunni clerics in demanding that the vote be postponed by six months.

Sunday's bloodshed began when gunmen opened fire at the bus as it dropped off Iraqis employed by coalition forces at a weapons dump in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, said Capt. Bill Coppernoll, spokesman for the Tikrit-based U.S. 1st Infantry Division. Coppernoll said 17 people died and 13 wounded in the attack.

Survivors said about seven guerrillas were involved, emptying their clips into the bus before fleeing. The bodies of the victims were brought to a morgue too small to hold them all; some were left in the street.

About an hour later, a suicide car bomber drove into an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint in Beiji, about 75 miles to the north, detonating his explosives-packed vehicle, Coppernoll said. Gunmen then opened fire on the position. Three guardsmen, including a company commander, were killed and 18 wounded, Coppernoll said.

Also Sunday, guerrillas ambushed a joint Iraqi-coalition patrol in Latifiyah, south of Baghdad, and attacked Iraqi National Guardsmen patrolling near Samarra, north of Baghdad. Two Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded.

The attacks seem to be an orchestrated campaign by Iraq (news - web sites)'s Sunni-led insurgency to strike any Iraqis who cooperate with the Americans. On Friday, a police station was hit and 16 men were killed. On Saturday, suicide car bombs hit another police station, killing six, and a bus carrying Kurdish militiamen, killing seven.

The raids also appear designed to resupply the insurgents' arsenal. Rebels behind Friday's attack looted the police armory, and on Sunday, police said armed men stormed a station about 30 miles south of Fallujah and stole two police cars and a large cache of weapons.

That has not stopped the coalition from arming Iraqi forces. On Sunday, the U.S.-led Multinational Security Transition Command announced Iraqi security forces had received deliveries in November of 5,400 AK-47s, almost 2,000 9mm Glock pistols, 78 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and millions of rounds of ammunition — as well as body armor, night vision goggles, armored personnel carriers and four Russian-designed battle tanks.

Six U.S. soldiers have been killed since Friday as well. That number includes two soldiers slain Saturday during a patrol in Mosul's Palestine neighborhood, when they came under fire from insurgents shooting from two mosques and other buildings in the area, according to spokeswoman Capt. Angela Bowman. The U.S. military and Iraqi forces later raided a mosque and detained three suspects.

The raid drew several masked men onto the street in protest.

"I swear by God, I swear By God, I swear by God, our retaliation will be severe, God witness what I say!" a masked man shouted before speeding away in a car.

Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for several attacks Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, another militant group, Jaish Mohammed — Arabic for the Mohammed Army — issued a statement saying its fighters were lying low for "a few days" but planned more attacks against U.S. forces.

The group's statement, which could not be immediately verified, also warned Iraqis against aiding coalition forces and said they would be attacked with similar fury as that directed against the U.S. military.

The latest attacks on Iraqis cooperating with the interim government have been particularly brutal in their scale and have taken on a new urgency in light of the approaching vote.

The U.S.-led coalition had hoped its invasion of the insurgent hotbed of Fallujah last month would cripple the insurgency. Instead, the rebels appear to have scattered, and, after a brief lull, resumed their campaign.

The Americans had also wanted Iraq's army and police force to play a larger role in calming the country before the elections. Instead, the homegrown troops have only shown how vulnerable they are to devastating and extremely demoralizing attacks.

Acknowledging that problem, the Pentagon (news - web sites) decided Wednesday to raise troop levels from 138,000 to 150,000, more than were initially deployed for the war to oust Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) last year, to help bring security for the vote.

While Iraq's majority Shiites are eagerly awaiting the election, the Sunnis oppose it, partly because the violence has been heavy in their areas west and north of Baghdad and voter registration there has not begun. About 40 small, mostly Sunni political parties met Sunday to demand the elections be postponed by six months, but stopped short of calling for a boycott.

President Bush (news - web sites), Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Iraq's Sunni president, Ghazi al-Yawer, have insisted the vote will be held as scheduled.


12-05-04, 05:05 PM
Long-term care a challenge for soldiers
December 5, 2004


In World War II, for every soldier killed in combat, there were three wounded on the battlefield, according to historians with the U.S. Army Medical Command. In Korea, the ratio of killed-to-wounded was one to four. The ratio was the same for Vietnam. In Iraq, the ratio is one to 12.

"If they're alive when medical care gets to them, 98 percent are surviving," said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, one of the top medical officers for the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Those combat survivors -- along with thousands more service members in Iraq and Afghanistan who are injured or who fall ill off the battlefield -- will add to the growing demand for services from an already struggling federal Veterans Affairs Department. The Sun-Times reported Friday that the VA's regional office in Chicago is among the stingiest in the nation when it comes to deciding how much to pay disabled Illinois vets.

As the growing ranks of the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan leave the military, they will be ready to apply for health care and disability benefits from the VA. The question is: Will the VA be ready for them?

Not likely, said Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

"We'd better be prepared for the people coming back home, and I don't think we are," Evans said. "The resources are simply inadequate."

Last year, the VA temporarily stopped certain veterans from enrolling for health care because demand was too high. Claims for disability benefits also are on the rise in Illinois, while the staff to process those claims has shrunk.

"The VA would have a problem keeping up even if the war weren't going on," said Joe Violante of the Disabled American Veterans in Washington, D.C.

Body armor saves lives

Shortly before Garriga's life would change forever on July 14, 2003, the Illinois National Guardsman was manning the machine gun in his Humvee. A suspected suicide bomber had just driven past a checkpoint. When Garriga's vehicle tried to block the car, it rear-ended another Humvee with fuel cans tethered to the back. The crash sparked an explosion. Garriga landed right in the middle of it.

Burns scorched the soldier's arms and legs but largely spared his torso -- a familiar pattern among the wounded in Iraq. Experts credit the military's new body armor, which shields the torso's vital organs. Made of Kevlar and ceramic plates, the Interceptor body armor can stop a high-velocity round from an AK-47 that would've torn through vests worn by troops in Vietnam.

"There have always been flak jackets," Kilpatrick said. "But we're having people survive being hit with rocket-propelled grenades or improvised explosive devices because the body armor has protected the torso. In the past, these individuals would have died."

Soon-to-be-published trauma data suggest the extent to which the $1,585 body armor is making a difference. Of 598 soldiers treated at the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, 14 percent suffered injuries to the torso. Among Iraqi prisoner patients, the rate was nearly twice that, at 27 percent.

"The body armor has probably had a very real effect, cutting in half the number of chest and abdomen injuries," said Col. John B. Holcomb, commander of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The war on terror has seen the debut of several tools aimed at the same goal: stopping the bleeding -- the leading cause of preventable death on the battlefield. Holcomb saw firsthand the need for better hemorrhage control during his stint in Somalia, where several Army Rangers and Special Operations soldiers bled to death on the streets of Mogadishu in 1993.

"We came back and started working on better ways to stop bleeding," said Holcomb, whose surgical research center is the starting point for many of the medical advances that make their way to war zones. "We've now fielded five or six new products since that time."

Some injured troops are being treated with Quick Clot, a powder sprinkled on wounds to staunch bleeding. Other wounds are dressed with pricey new bandages that greatly speed up clotting. This also marks the first war in which soldiers carry tourniquets that can be applied with one hand.

Race against the clock

All doctors who deal with trauma -- whether they're based on a battlefield in Iraq or an E.R. in Chicago -- know the importance of treating victims within that "golden hour" after injury.

This was no easy feat in past wars, when wounded troops had to travel lengthy distances from the front line to a field hospital or mobile army surgical hospital, or MASH. Now the military is dispatching smaller, highly mobile surgical teams much closer to the action.

"We're there to do damage-control surgery -- fix gunshot holes and bleeding arteries -- and then send them off as soon as we can to a combat support hospital," said Dr. Scott Gering, part of a "forward surgical team" in Kuwait and Iraq. "We can stop and set up an O.R. in 25 minutes. Having a bunch of surgeons that far forward definitely saves lives."

The percentage of those wounded in action who die after being seen by a physician -- a good barometer of how well military medicine is working -- has never been lower.

During the Iraq war, only 1.8 percent of soldiers hurt on the battlefield have died despite doctors' efforts. In World War I, before antibiotics were added to the medical arsenal, the "died of wounds" rate was 8.1 percent. It hovered just over 14 percent in the Civil War, "when there was no such thing as sterile surgery, and they had no idea what germs were or how infections were spread," said John Greenwood, the Army's chief medical historian.

Gravely injured soldiers, such as Garriga, need to be evacuated to sophisticated medical care quickly. Helicopters proved invaluable in Vietnam. Today's choppers are faster, and some military planes have been transformed into airborne intensive care units.

"The evacuation is stunning," Holcomb said. "They can get to Germany [Landstuhl Regional Medical Center] in 24 hours and get [to Texas] not long after that. That's unheard of in military medicine."

Strain on the VA

For every injured soldier military medicine keeps alive, that's one more who might need years of care and disability benefits from the VA, which historically has struggled to keep up with demand.

Some worry that things will get worse with this new influx of enrollees, many of whom are members of the National Guard and Reserves, who typically wouldn't have qualified for VA benefits in the past had they not gone to war.

"Look at Gabe Garriga," said Eric Schuller, senior policy adviser to Illinois Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, an outspoken advocate for service members and their families. "If he hadn't been activated, he wouldn't have been injured. Now, he's a permanent part of the VA system -- a system that's already strained.

"Since 9/11, there have been over 11,000 National Guard and Reservists called up in Illinois. Most of them wouldn't have been eligible for the VA in the past. Now, they will be. That will be a problem down the line."

VA Secretary Anthony Principi said his department was overburdened when he took over in 2001.

"You had 300,000 veterans who were promised health care enrollment and were told they had to wait six months to a year for their first appointment," Principi said, adding that the number has since fallen to about 5,000. "We've made tremendous progress."

Principi wants to cut the time it takes to process veterans' disability benefits claims from 160 days to an average of 100 days. In Illinois, the number of claims is up since last year, although the staff of "raters" who process those applications is down, according to officials at the Chicago VA regional office.

"We don't have enough people processing claims," said Rep. Evans, "and we need about $1.6 billion just to catch up with the current level of health care services."

VA officials say they have enough money to do their job -- and do it well.

"Everybody in government and the private sector can use more," Principi said. "But I've been the beneficiary of some extraordinary budgetary increases. This is not my dad's VA. This is a wonderful VA."

Uncertain future

Principi insists the VA is capable of absorbing the newest crop of veterans.

"Those numbers are still small relative to the entire veteran population, and they're certainly small relative to Vietnam, where you had millions in the conflict," he said. "Today, we have a few hundred thousand. But it's going to create demand, no question about it."

It already has. Among the 168,528 Iraq war vets no longer on active duty, 16 percent have sought VA health care, according to a Veterans Health Administration report.

"Status quo right now, the VA is struggling," said Geoffrey Collver, spokesman for the Democratic office of the House's Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "Add 15 to 20 percent of the new veterans, and that's a lot of people."

As more troops return from a hostile war zone, one of the biggest demands for VA services could stem from post-traumatic stress disorder. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that at least 15 percent of service members in Iraq and Afghanistan will develop the disorder.

Can the VA handle that volume of patients? No one knows -- not even the VA, according to a report in September from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Its investigators found that the VA doesn't know how many vets are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at its facilities and "lacks the information it needs to determine whether it can meet an increase in demand."

That kind of uncertainty troubles wounded soldiers such as Spc. Aaron Wernz. The Illinois National Guardsman from Downstate Marshall nearly died in September when a mortar strike on his compound sent shrapnel into his heart, lungs, kidney, colon and face. Wernz isn't sure if his injuries will let him go back to his job as a farmer. And he isn't sure whether he wants to rely on the VA for his future health care.

"I'm only 26," Wernz said. "Who knows how well they'll fund the VA 20 or 30 years from now?"

Garriga also worries about the future, and whether the country he fought for will return the favor when it comes to disability payments and health care.

But most of his worries are more immediate, like whether the 8-inch incision in his stomach will leak again, or if nerve damage in his leg will be permanent.

"I'm never going to be the same," Garriga said, "but at least I'm alive. I guess that's all that really matters."


12-05-04, 06:42 PM
31st MEU disposing of weapons cache in Fallujah
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, December 6, 2004

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - Marines and sailors with the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit have been assigned to remove and destroy the huge weapons caches left behind by insurgents after U.S. forces seized Fallujah in November.

MEU Service Support Group 31, assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force while in the U.S. Central Command's area of operations, was given the task of organizing a weapons cache removal and demolition task force that is collecting the weapons, ordnance and bomb-making materials and transporting them outside the city for demolition, according to a statement released by the Marines' Consolidated Public Affairs Office on Okinawa.

"The task force includes military police as well as Marines and sailors skilled in ordnance disposal, combat engineering, motor transportation and medical care," the release stated.

"There must have been a sustained effort on the part of the insurgent leadership to build these massive weapons caches," said Lt. Col. James A. Vohr, MSSG-31's commanding officer.

"One of the most striking aspects is what must have been the total disregard on the part of the insurgents for the safety of the citizens of Fallujah," he said. "Had any one of these caches detonated in town it would have leveled city blocks."

Most of the city's 250,000 civilian residents fled before the Nov. 8 assault by coalition forces in a final push to drive the insurgents from the city.

"We are looking at a very dense city of some 50,000 structures - each and every one of them has a potential cache hidden inside," Lt. Col. Dan Wilson of the I MEF told reporters, according to the Associated Press. Searching out and destroying the weapons is proving to be "very tedious hard work."

One huge storehouse for such weapons, which included automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and suicide vests, was found in a city mosque, a Marine intelligence officer told reporters.

"The amount of weapons was in no way just to protect a city," Maj. Jim West, a Marine intelligence officer, told reporters.

"There was enough to mount an insurgency across the country."

"The Marines and sailors work with a purpose and feel good about what they are doing because they know they are making a difference," Vohr said, according to the Marine press release.

"The task of removing the numerous weapons caches is a painstaking process that is collected in a deliberate, methodical manner and results in the daily reduction of what was left of the Fallujah insurgents' weapons and munitions inventory," the release stated.

"This action by the Marines and sailors of the task force is one step of a multipurpose process that will ensure the city is safe when civilians eventually return."


12-05-04, 06:45 PM
City says goodbye to its slain Marine
By Sara Steffens
Knight Ridder Newspapers

City workers arrived early, to make sure everything was in place before the family got there.

They lined up folding chairs in the community gymnasium, coned off a traffic lane out front and strung a huge flag across Benton Way, tethered to the ladders of two fire engines borrowed from neighboring towns.

Mark Mesta, who lives across the street, stepped out of his house clutching a cup of coffee to watch the set-up. In American Canyon, his home of 14 years, most folks know one another, he said.

``You see all the kids grow up together,'' he said.

Saturday morning, the city came together to bury one of its own: Marine Lance Cpl. Phillip Gordon West, the first Napa County resident to die in the Iraq conflict.

West, 19, was well-known at Vintage High School, where he played football and attracted plenty of attention from girls. He joined the Marines just after graduating in 2003 and was sent to Iraq in June.

He was killed Nov. 19, during a sweep by Marines of houses in Al-Fallujah.

The news hit hard in American Canyon, home to about 14,000 people. City officials organized a candlelight vigil Tuesday, dedicated the annual tree-lighting Thursday to West, and offered to help with Saturday's funeral, knowing the family couldn't accommodate the crowd that would want to pay respects.

``Because this is a small community and this is our first person killed in action, we're feeling it as a community,'' said City Manager Mark Joseph.

The gym held significance beyond its size: West had worked next door as a lifeguard at the American Canyon pool, which the city council plans to rename in his honor.

Just before 10 a.m., the hearse carrying West's casket pulled slowly onto Benton Way, preceded by two officers on motorcycles, five police cars and a fire engine, all with their lights slowly, silently whirling.

The Marine Corps Honor Guard, precise from the tips of their polished shoes to the perfectly positioned brims of their caps, came forward to carry the flag-covered casket.

They were joined by 15-year-old Kyle, staring solemnly forward as he helped carry his older brother. The rest of the West family -- his father, Edward, mother, Mimie, and 14-year-old sister, Megan -- followed behind, arms resting on one another's shoulders. For steadiness. For strength.

For more than an hour, mourners continued to file in. Friends and neighbors. Children clutching plush toys. Teenage girls shivering in black dresses.

Fifteen-year-old Ashley McGough and 14-year-old Allison Jenny, who attend school with Phillip's younger sister, paused on the sidewalk. It was hard to believe Phillip actually died, they said.

``He was the class clown, funny, always making jokes,'' said Ashley. ``He was cute, too.''

Andrew Chambers, 19, sat on a bench outside shaking, eyes red-rimmed.

``I used to know Phillip West from elementary school, middle school and high school,'' he said. ``It's kind of a small town. Everybody kind of knows everybody.''

Chambers and West were even on the same football team. ``When I was a kid, we used to play Army games and stuff.''

The crowd kept coming. Veterans groups and Boy Scout troops in uniform. Mothers wearing picture buttons of their soldier sons. A high school student wearing her Vintage Crushers letter jacket.

One girl carried a handmade sign, caked with glitter: ``Thank you Phillip. God Bless. P.S. Enjoy your wings.''

The programs ran out, then the chairs, then the bleachers, then the standing room at the back of the gym.

As the service began, late-comers listened from the loudspeakers outside, alongside the reporters and photographers who had been asked to hang back.

Military officials formally awarded West the Purple Heart.

Mimie West read from Ecclesiastes. Everything has its season, she said: killing and healing, tears and laughter, war and peace.

Kyle told stories about his brother, remembering his sense of humor, his desire to defend his country.

``Phillip always wanted to become the Marine in a picture like that, and he became it,'' said Kyle.

A woman who lives across the street from the Wests thanked the family for their sacrifice.

``Regardless of our political stances and beliefs that we may have about the war or the president,'' she told the mourners, ``Phillip West is an absolute hero in our hearts.''

A classmate read the note West wrote in her yearbook.

As the casket re-emerged into the December cold, a line of Marines and police stood in full salute.

Neighbors lingered afterward on the sidewalk and on the lawn, talking quietly, hugging, wiping away tears. Remembering.