Why They Fight
ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- It's been 56 months since the onset of the Long War. Time for a break.
So this most modern of the Navy's warships - recently back from the Mideast and in training for a return trip - turns her bow toward New York City and Fleet Week liberty for her 1,800 sailors and Marines.
What sort of a ship is she?
"Forty-thousand tons of twisted steel and sex-appeal," says Rear Adm. Garry Hall, with a broad smile. "There's no beach beyond our reach."
It's a time-tested trope, no doubt about that, but no less true for the re-telling - certainly not the beach part. Kearsarge can put 2,000 Marines and their equipment across a contested coastline in a matter of hours and sustain them for as long as it takes to get the job done.
And there have been many jobs since 9/11. Kearsarge has ferried Marines to combat in the Mideast. Its helicopters flew combat resupply missions during the early weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
There have been two additional months-long deployments to the Mideast since then, the most recent ending last September - but not before Kearsarge came under terrorist rocket attack while pierside in Aqaba, Jordan, on Aug. 19. (The ship was undamaged, but a Jordanian sentry was killed.)
Soon Kearsarge, refreshed and replenished, will return to the region - as it must for as long as it is necessary for the Navy to project power in service of American security interests.
But how is the crew holding up?
Amazingly well, says Hall, given the stress. "More than 70 percent of the youngsters [aboard ship] enlisted after 9/11," he adds proudly.
A Naval Academy graduate from upstate Buffalo, he commands the Navy's Amphibious Group Two, a 27-ship flotilla served by thousands of sailors, aircrewmen, pilots and Marines - the latter a singular group indeed.
Meet Maj. Chris Curtin of the 10th Marine Regiment, a 35-year-old out of Bridgewater, Conn., Norwich University and - most recently - the Syrian-Iraq frontier.
That on-again, off-again hotspot doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. Once upon a time it was a sieve; al Qaeda fighters and other terrorists entered Iraq with virtual impunity and then set about their deadly tasks.
Lately the traffic has been choked down - not eliminated, but perhaps brought under control. That's a critical step in controlling the Iraqi insurgency.
For this, thank Curtin and his comrades.
Pressed for details, the major smiles wryly, a hint of amusement in his eyes, and just keeps his counsel. It wasn't his first trip to Iraq, nor is it likely to be his last - and if not Iraq, then somewhere equally as demanding, equally as dangerous.
Such is life for a major of Marines as the Long War proceeds. He has a wife and three children, but America must come first. They know it, he knows it - and that raises a fundamental question.
"I love my country," Curtin says.
"The adventure," he adds. "And I like the people."
The twinkle leaves his eyes.
"I am part of something larger than myself. I am part of an organization that stands for something."
Indeed it does, and thank God for that.
Thank God for men like Maj. Curtin and the thousands upon thousands of young Americans now under arms - men and women equally dedicated to faithful service to America, never mind the challenge and never mind the danger.
And, of course, for all those who have fallen - and who will fall - to maintain America as an exemplar of peace and freedom in a too-often brutal, benighted world.
The sailors and Marines of Kearsarge get it.
As the ship entered New York Harbor last week, the topside chatter stopped twice: When she passed the Statue of Liberty and, again, when she rendered honors to Ground Zero, they stood proudly to parade-rest.
And then they, too, smiled.
For they, too, are part of something larger than themselves, and they know it. Good for them.
It's getting harder and harder not to raise my hand. -Al
Gaurd & Reserve Contribution
80,157 Army National Guard and Army Reserve
4,964 Navy Reserve
7,681 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve
6,338 Marine Corps Reserve
347 Coast Guard Reserve
Here's to the 99,140 Citizen Warriors (and 347 Citizen Coasties :) that have endured long seperations from their families, their civilian careers, and in most cases their home Country to defend Freedom around the world.
One weekend a month and two weeks a year, my ass.
Warship Built Out Of Twin Towers Wreckage
In a shipyard in New Orleans, survivors of one disaster are building a monument to another.
(London Times 22 MAY 06) Tom Baldwin
In a city still emerging from the floods of Hurricane Katrina, a ship has begun to rise from the ashes of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Bringing together America’s two great calamities of the 21st century, the USS New York is being built in New Orleans with 24 tonnes of steel taken from the collapsed World Trade Centre.
There is no shortage of scrap metal in New Orleans these days, but the girders taken from Ground Zero have been treated with a reverence usually accorded to religious relics. After a brief ceremony in 2003, about seven tonnes of steel were melted down and poured into a cast to make the bow section of the ship’s hull.
Some shipworkers say the hairs stood up on the backs of their necks the first time they touched it. Others have postponed their retirement so they can be part of the project.
One worker, Tony Quaglino, said: “I was going to go in October 2004 after 40 years here, but I put it off when I found out I could be working on New York. This is sacred and it makes me very proud.” Glen Clement, a paint superintendent, said: “Nobody passes by that bow section without knocking on it. Everybody knows what it is made from and what it’s about.”
The ship is being built by Northrop Grumman on the banks of the Mississippi. It should be ready to join the US Navy in 2007.
Later vessels in its class will include USS Arlington — named after the section of the Pentagon that was also hit by an airliner on September 11 — and USS Somerset, in memory of United Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, on the same day as passengers struggled with al-Qaeda hijackers.
Mr Clement said it would be fitting if USS New York’s first mission was to capture Osama bin Laden. He said: “They hit us first, but out of a tragedy a good thing has come, in that we’re building a ship which can help take those people out.”
The $1 billion vessel is one of a new generation of amphibious assault ships capable of landing a 700-strong Marines assault force on a coastline almost anywhere without the need for a port.
Woody Oge, Northrop Grumman’s director of operations in New Orleans, was keen to play down suggestions that the ship might be used to spearhead invasions.
He pointed out that LPD vessels had been used as much for humanitarian assistance as for war. One such ship, USS Boxer, was dispatched to help to deal with the aftermath of Katrina.
Although the hurricane smashed its way through the shipyard last summer, the half-completed New York survived intact. The same cannot be said for the homes of some of its builders. About 200 are still living at the shipyard in the hastily set up “Camp Katrina.”
They include Earl Jones. More than eight months after Katrina, he does not know if his home in the Lower Ninth ward will be rebuilt. “The insurance company won’t even talk to us,” he said. “We’re having to hire lawyers to chase ’em. I don’t like this, but I don’t want to be out of work.”
Mr Jones’s wife was evacuated to Baton Rouge and is seriously ill with breast cancer and pneumonia. He said: “She ain’t handling very well me being away all the time.”
Katrina and 9/11 are two disasters that continue to produce very different responses from America. Mr Jones does not want his old home enshrined in a $1 billion fighting machine, but a small cheque from the insurance firm might help.
Force of liberty
*USS New York, USS Arlington and USS Somerset will be part of a nine-vessel fleet of new amphibious transport ships
*Length: 208.5m (684ft) — more than twice as long as the Statue of Liberty
*Beam: 31.9m (105ft); weight: 24,900 tonnes; speed: 22 knots
*Equipment: helicopters, landing craft, amphibious vehicles, missile launchers
*Crew: more than 1,000, comprising 361 ship’s company plus 699 marines.
Tommy's Grand Idea
Apparently the best blonde jokes are lifted right from the diaries of blondes themselves. This showed up in my inbox today.
Last year I replaced all the windows in my house with that
expensive double-pane energy efficient kind, but this week, I
got a call from the contractor who installed them. He was complaining that
the work had been completed a whole year ago and I hadn't paid for them.
Hellloooo, just because I'm blonde doesn't mean that I am
automatically stupid. So, I told him just what his fast talking
sales guy had told ME last year,.....namely, that in ONE YEAR these windows
would pay for themselves!
Helllooooo? It's been a year! (I told him.)
There was only silence at the other end of the line, so I
finally just hung up.... He didn't call back.
Guess I won that stupid argument.
In the Eye of the Beholder
Happy Mother's Day
THE MOMMY TEST
I was out walking with my 4 year old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that.
"Why?" my daughter asked.
"Because it's been laying outside, you don't know where it's been, it's dirty and probably has germs" I replied.
At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, "Wow! How do you know all this stuff?"
"Uh," ..I was thinking quickly, "All moms know this stuff. It's on the Mommy Test. You have to know it, or they don't let you be a Mommy."
We walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information. "OH...I get it!" she beamed, "So if you don't pass the test you have to be the daddy."
"Exactly" I replied back with a big smile on my face and joy in my heart.
And as a Dad, I must say that this is entirely true. There's no way I could pass that test.
USA Today Question & Answers
Anger grows over Bush surveillance report
The phone company has not violated anyone's privacy. When you make a phone call, you don't own the number or the technology that takes your voice to the other end. You have the expectation of privacy as to what you actually say, as long as you aren't saying it to someone in another country with established ties to terrorism. There should be no expectation of privacy as to the number you called, the number that called you or how long and on what date that conversation occurred. All of that data belongs to the telephone company and they can do what they want with it.
All of you people that insist on diluting the power of the intelligence community, forcing them to make public all of the secret methods by which they PROTECT you, day in and day out, should be ashamed of yourselves. When the day comes, and it will if we continue on this track, when America is attacked again, the blood of the innocents will be on your hands. When you ask YOUR Government why they did nothing to prevent it...when you demand answers as to why WE didn't see this coming, why didn't WE have the intelligence to stop this horrible atrocity, guess what we are going to say? Because YOU crippled us. You took away our eyes, our ears and our INTELLIGENCE. You killed those people.