Category Archives: military news

They have earned our eternal gratitude

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This piece was published initially on ketr.org, the website for KETR-FM public radio based at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Jose De La Torre would be about 75 years of age today. I don’t know how he would have lived his life. I don’t know about his family history or what he aspired to do after he took off his Army uniform.

Indeed, our acquaintance was fleeting. We served in the same aviation battalion briefly in Vietnam. I worked as a crew member on an OV-1 Mohawk fixed-wing reconnaissance airplane; De La Torre served on a UH-1 Huey helicopter crew … as a door gunner.

I arrived in Vietnam in March 1969. One day in June of that year, Spc. De La Torre ventured into our work station to boast a bit. He was going home. He had been in Vietnam for 30-something months, extending way past his scheduled return to The World. But he was going to call it quits. He was a bundle of energy that day, bursting with palpable excitement.

Later that day, his Huey company scrambled on a “routine troop lift” into a landing zone; they were to drop soldiers off on a recon mission. The intelligence prior to the mission indicated a smooth delivery and departure.

It was nothing of the sort. The LZ was “hot,” meaning the enemy was waiting for our ships. They opened fire. Our guys suffered grievously.

Jose De La Torre died that day in “the bush.”

His name now is among those etched into that black stone edifice in Washington, D.C. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – known colloquially as The Wall – contains the names of 58,000-plus men and women who perished in that terrible conflict.

These are the men and women, along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans who perished in other conflicts over the course of our nation’s journey through history, we honor on Memorial Day.

I graduated from high school in Portland, Ore., in 1967. I joined the Army a year later and the year after that I reported for duty in South Vietnam at a place called Marble Mountain, a jointly operated Army-Marine Corps airfield just south of Da Nang in Quang Ngai province. I am fortunate to be able to boast that no one from my high school graduating class died in service in Vietnam … at least not to my knowledge.

This essay, though, is about the individuals who did die in service to their country. We owe them all that we can muster up to bless their souls for the devotion they had for their country and for the principles for which they fought and died.

We shouldn’t conflate this day with Veterans Day, which will come up later this year. We honor those who did not come home, those who died in battle. And yet some of us do tend to mix these holidays. They’re both worthy of our commemoration, but we always must pay tribute exclusively to those who perished in battle and those who served in the military.

I learned a little about Jose De La Torre when I found his name on The Wall in August 1990 during my family’s first visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I learned he hailed from Fullerton, Calif., and that he was born in 1945. My lasting memory of this “forever young” fellow, though, will be of his unbridled joy at the thought of going home. The rest of his story will remain known only to those with whom he was much closer.

Still, it is fitting for me – a mere passing acquaintance – to offer a sincere “thank you” to this hero’s memory and to all Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion to the country they loved.

President spoke eloquently on this battlefield

We’re going to honor our nation’s fallen warriors on Monday. We set aside Memorial Day to remember and salute the supreme sacrifice they gave to those of us who remain.

I want to share a brief statement that a president of the United States delivered on a battlefield in the midst of a war that took more young Americans’ lives than any other conflict in which this nation became involved.

The president was a man of few words. But those words he spoke that day will ring for eternity.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

USAF to send B-1 bomber on a loud fly-by

The Navy has its Blue Angels acrobatic flying team; the Air Force has its Thunderbirds.

The Navy and the Air Force have been sending their teams to cities across the land to honor health care workers and other responders for their heroism during the coronavirus pandemic. The Blue Angels just this week flew over the Dallas-Fort Worth area … which my wife and I missed because we happened to be out of town on that day — dang it!

Now we hear of another salute from an iconic airplane. A B-1 bomber based out of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene is going to fly over the Thomas Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center in Amarillo on Friday; then it will head south to fly over the Lubbock VA center before returning home to Dyess.

If you’ve never watched a B-1 bomber fly overhead, you need to understand that this airplane is real loud and I guarantee that if it’s flying low enough off the deck that it will set off car alarms and get dogs to barking for miles around.

Still, these tributes are so richly deserved and I am proud of the Air Force and the Navy for arranging these magnificent tributes to the men and women who work heroically every waking minute of every day to protect us from the killer viral infection.

Our heroes deserve all these tributes and so much more.

The B-1 will fly over the Creek VA Center at 11:21 a.m. on Friday and then visit the Lubbock center at 11:40. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges those who want to watch to practice “social distancing.” By all means.

And prepare for some serious noise. It’ll thrill you to no end. I promise.

Capt. Crozier back to the USS TR? By all means … yes!

What do you know about this item?

The U.S. Navy is considering whether to return Capt. Brett Crozier to the bridge of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he was summarily — and wrongly, in my view — removed from his command of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Former Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly canned Crozier after the captain fired off a letter to the brass complaining that the Navy was not doing enough to protect sailors who had been exposed to COVID-19. Several dozen sailors serving on the Roosevelt had tested positive for the virus. Capt. Crozier issued a plea for help!

For that he was relieved of his command. His sailors cheered him as he left the ship for what was thought would be the final time.

Modly himself was removed from his post.

Now we hear that the Navy is considering whether to return Crozier to the ship he commanded and to command the sailors who revere him.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday’s spokesman said the admiral hasn’t made a firm decision … which to me sounds as if he’s leaning toward that returning Crozier to his former — and possibly future — command.

The New York Times, though, reports that Crozier’s possible return to the TR might face an obstacle: the commander in chief might meddle in this military personnel matter. Donald Trump already has demonstrated a willingness to intervene in a command decision. Trump has criticized Crozier already for the way he communicated his concern over his sailors’ well-being. Thus, he well might feel inclined to block a rightful decision to return Crozier to commanding a crew that clearly respects and reveres him.

I hope Capt. Crozier is returned to the Theodore Roosevelt.

The men and women would welcome him. What’s more, if the commander in chief is as devoted to the men and women who serve our country as he claims to be, he will stand aside and let Brett Crozier resume his command.

Acting Navy boss ends tumultuous tenure

Thomas Modly now can be called the “former acting secretary of the U.S. Navy.” To which I say, “Good riddance!”

Modly quit his temporary post after receiving some serious blowback over remarks he made about a ship’s captain he relieved of his command. Modly reassigned Capt. Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after Crozier pleaded with Navy brass to do more to protect sailors who were infected by the coronavirus.

Modly said that Crozier had gone outside the chain of command and had caused undue alarm among family members of the ship’s 5,000 crew members.

Crozier’s sailors hailed him as a hero. So did many outside observers. His crew cheered him wildly as he left the ship for the final time while it was docked in Guam. Modly, though, then exhibited some extremely bad taste by suggesting that Crozier was “too naïve” or “too stupid” to command a ship such as the TR.

That’s when the fecal matter hit the fan.

Modly then apologized to Crozier for “any pain” he caused.

Today, he quit. Good riddance, Mr. Acting Secretary … and don’t let the door hit you in the you know what and where.

I guess I should add that if there’s any real justice in this mixed-up world — and I realize it’s too much to ask — Capt. Crozier would be allowed to resume command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

‘Too naive’ or ‘too stupid’ fits the acting Navy boss

Acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly needs to get his mouth washed out with soap.

The idiot bureaucrat demoted the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt for seeking help for his sailors struck down by the coronavirus. Capt. Brett Crozier has been reassigned, but was cheered wildly by the sailors under his command as he left the aircraft carrier for the final team the other day.

Modly then flew to where the Roosevelt is docked and was overheard describing Crozier as being “too stupid” or “too naïve” to command a ship with a 5,000-member crew.

Modly has been “rewarded” for popping off by incurring the wrath of U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, who wants Modly fired.

Of course, Defense Secretary Mark Esper — Modly’s immediate supervisor — won’t do it because Esper doesn’t exhibit anything approaching the integrity that Crozier exhibited when he sent out that letter. You see, these men serve at the pleasure of a commander in chief, Donald J. Trump, who lacks any of the compassion and empathy that men and women who serve their country deserve from the individuals who command them.

I agree with Chairman Smith that Modly doesn’t deserve to continue as acting Navy secretary. It’s just a shame that no one with the authority to show Mobly the door will heed the chairman’s demand.

Crozier is the hero in this saga. Modly is the zero.

Ship captain sacked … oh, the irony of it all

I am struck by the rich irony of the stated reason for U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Cozier being removed as commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Mobly demoted Crozier for failing to follow proper military protocol when he wrote that scathing letter demanding more attention to his crew, some of whom are stricken by the COVID-19 virus that has essentially shut down the world.

Mobly said Crozier didn’t follow the rules set by the chain of command, that he should have gone to his superiors privately. Crozier’s dismissal, of course, didn’t set well with the men and women under his command on the Theodore Roosevelt. They cheered him loudly when he left the ship for the final time.

The irony? Well, there’s this: The commander in chief, Donald Trump, has no understanding of chain of command, which explains why he interceded a few months ago on behalf of a Navy SEAL who had been stripped of his Trident emblem over his conduct in the war against terror. Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher had been punished by his commanding officers after he was convicted in a court martial for desecrating the corpse of an enemy combatant.

What did Donald Trump do? He ordered Gallagher’s rank restored and allowed him to keep his Trident, which is the SEAL badge that the special forces wear with pride.

Trump blustered right through the chain of command himself with that reckless and, frankly, brainless act.

So now an officer who commanded one of the Navy’s premier warships is stripped of his command because he sought to bring pressure on the brass to do a better job of protecting his sailors.

Yep, the irony is astounding.

And sickening.

Navy sinks a stellar career … because of an officer’s love for his sailors

U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier loved the 5,000 men and women under his command aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. He loved them so much that when several of them tested positive for the coronavirus, he sent out an alarm to the top brass, which he declared needed to do more to care for the sailors with whom he served.

What did Capt. Crozier get for his demonstration of love and loyalty to his sailors? He got booted off the ship, stripped of his command. Who did the deed? The Navy’s acting secretary, quite possibly on orders from the commander in chief, Donald John Trump.

There’s no nice way to say this: Brett Crozier got hosed by the Navy, which he has served for 30 years.

Acting Secretary Thomas Modly relieved Crozier of his command because he reportedly went outside the chain of command. But why did he do that? Because the chain of command wasn’t responding to his pleas for help in protecting the sailors who serve aboard the nuclear-powered attack aircraft carrier.

So the highly decorated, highly regarded officer took command of the situation.

To be candid, this story gave me a touch of heartburn when it first broke. Then I saw the reaction sailors gave Crozier as he was leaving the ship for the final time. They cheered. They shouted his name. The din was deafening. They expressed their gratitude for the care that Capt. Crozier had displayed in seeking to protect them against the killer virus.

That is what leaders do. They care for the individuals who serve under them. They do not knuckle under to stiff-necked protocol when it puts personnel in dire jeopardy.

Acting Secretary Modly, dare I say it, is behaving like a political appointee/hack.

To be modestly fair, I should note that Crozier will keep his rank. That said, the man once slated to become an admiral likely won’t get the promotion he now deserves more than ever.

His career is probably over. That is a terrible shame.

Stars and Stripes falls victim to changing media climate?

Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute.

Donald John Trump keeps yammering about how much he cares about the men and women who serve in the military, doing duty that he couldn’t fit into his own life when he was of the age to fight for his country.

Why, then, is the Pentagon — under the current president’s watch — stripping Stars and Stripes of the government subsidy on which it relies to provide news and other information to our military personnel?

Stars and Stripes, which has been published regularly since World War II, is losing its $8 million annual subsidy, ostensibly so the Pentagon can spend that money (which amounts to chump change in the total spending accrued by the agency) on other projects.

As Stars and Stripes reported: “Every day in my office as commander of U.S. European Command, I would read Stars and Stripes,” said retired Adm. James Stravidis, who served as EUCOM chief and NATO Supreme Allied Command from 2009 to 2013. “It was an invaluable unbiased and highly professional source of information which was critical to me in my role overseeing U.S. military throughout Europe.”

Allow me to join Adm. Stravidis in declaring my own intense interest in Stars and Stripes. Many of us serving in Vietnam came to rely on the newspaper to tell us of what was happening back home. We also had Armed Forces Radio, but to those of us who preferred to read the printed word, Stars and Stripes served as a sort of lifeline to the “The World.”

Are we now being led to believe that our young men and women no longer get to read the news that Adm. Stravidis said kept him informed just a few years ago?

This is an absolute shame.

POTUS’s incessant feud with brass shows his own ignorance

Donald Trump’s current feud with former White House chief of staff John Kelly only underscores what most of us have known all along.

The president keeps saying how much he respects the military but keeps demonstrating at every possible turn how he manages to disrespect those who make command decisions.

Kelly is a retired Marine Corps four-star general. He ran the Department of Homeland Security before he moved to the White House post. He didn’t last long before Trump fired him. Now he’s going after Gen. Kelly for speaking up on behalf of an Army lieutenant colonel who acted as he was trained to do when he heard something he perceived to be illegal; in Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s case, he heard the president ask a foreign government leader for a personal political favor.

A year ago, Trump fired off an angry tweet criticizing another highly decorated officer, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. He said McChrystal had a “big dumb mouth.” He had criticized Trump’s sudden decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, ,which is still in the midst of a war with the Taliban and other terrorists.

Trump has disparaged other premier military men, such as former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who happens to be an Army lieutenant general and a noted military scholar.

Let us remember what he declared during the 2016 presidential campaign that he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.” He doesn’t know more. He doesn’t anything about the Islamic State, or al-Qaeda.

And speaking of al-Qaeda, how can one forget when he said that the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden should have occurred before it did. He then launched a brief feud with retired Admiral William McRaven, the former head of the Special Operations Command and under whose watch the SEALs along with CIA commandos took out the al-Qaeda leader.

What is most galling about all of this, of course, is the manner in which Trump avoided military service during the Vietnam War. He managed to find a family doctor who signed off on something called “bone spurs,” enabling young Donald to obtain a medical deferment that kept him out of uniform.

Yes, all of that rubs many of us who did serve in that war the wrong way. It also rubs many of us raw the way he continues to disparage brilliant and courageous military officers who saw fit to thrust themselves into harm’s way while the commander in chief chose to stay far away.

Disgusting.