Category Archives: For The Troops

God Bless Our Troops

Adam, Karoline, and Wil

For Karoline

by Karen S. Elliott, 2009

We didn’t know each other

A year ago or more.

We were just two single mothers

Til deployments hit our core.

Our sons are in the Air Force

And have been shipped off to Iraq.

We suffer through the sorrow,

Praying they will soon be back.

We sacrifice and stifle sobs,

Occasionally we weep;

We’re moms, it is our job,

Stiff upper lip – our creed.

M-4s and 9 mil handguns,

the launching of grenades;

Armor replaces balls and bats

and backyard lemonade.

And now we know each other,

Entwined we have become.

Our sons, they live like brothers,

As mothers, we’re as one.

Adam and Kenton in Iraq

Adam in Iraq

Kenton in Iraq

Homecoming

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A boy, a son, a soldier, a husband, a dad

Shawn, Wayne, Kenton. Photo by Jeanita Kennedy.

My Mom (the original “MoMo”) with little boy, Kenton

Me and my boy

Twelve career years in the U.S.A.F.!

Beautiful d-in-law with her man

Shawn, Kenton, Wayne

Shawn and Kenton

Wayne and Kenton

Group hug

A serious bicycle pit stop

Shawn with Kenton, painting a bird feeder

Wayne and Kenton, indoor soccer

A top shot

***

Opening photo by Jeanita Kennedy of My Lil Britches Photography, Minot, ND. A must-see website full of babies, children, and families.

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A Jarhead’s Night Before Christmas, by Jeffrey Hollar

Twas the night before Christmas – Fallujah, Iraq.

Not a creature was stirring, we hadn’t seen jack.

The weapons were stacked by the door within reach,

In hopes that they wouldn’t get sand in the breach.

The troops were all nestled down snug in their cots,
With dreams that next Christmas they’d do Toys for Tots.
And I in my skivvies and woolen watch cap,
Had just settled in for a 40-wink nap.

When out on the fenceline arose a commotion,
I sprang from my rack in a flurry of motion.
I low-crawled my way to the door in a pinch,
And peeked ’round the corner about half an inch.

The moon on the crest of each wind-shifting dune,
Lit the place up damned near bright as was at high noon.
When what to my sand-stinging eyes should appear,
But a gunmetal sleigh and eight armored reindeer.

By the way that he handled the rudder and stick,
I knew that the pilot was Gunny St. Nick.
More rapid than gunships his coursers they came,

And he cursed them all soundly and roll-called each name:

Now Eightball! Now Cowboy! Now Joker! Now Fuller!
Now Nimitz! Now Halsey! Now Dewey! Now Puller!
To the top of the fence! To the top of the wall!
Let’s shag it! Let’s shag it! Let’s move it out ya’ll!!

As targeting lasers reach out in the night,
And hit their objective at speeds close to light
They shot towards the barracks as speedy as hell,
With their cargo intact and the Gunny as well.

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof,
The synchronized pace of each marking-time hoof.
And before I could guess at the Gunny’s next tricks,
He crashed through the wall in a shower of bricks.

He was dressed all in camo from cap down to boot,
With his uniform tarnished with cordite and soot.
A ginormous ruck he set down on the deck,
And he looked like a MEF just unloading their tech.

His eyes – how they smoldered! His visage – how freaky!
His cheeks red as coals and his nose rather beaky.
His slash of a mouth was decked out in a scowl,
And his whiskers were trimmed like the horns of an owl.

A big chaw of Redman distended his cheek,
And the juice that he spat left his mouth like a streak.
He had a lean face and a great set of abs,

That when he would tense them could crack shells of crabs.

He was stringy and taut, a real tight-ass no foolin’,
And I found myself quaking and just short of droolin’.
With a glance of his eye and a shake of his head,
I figured out soon he was someone to dread.

He said not a peep but got right to his task,
And left the guys goodies for which they’d not ask.
Then grabbing a line that they dropped from the sled,
He climbed like a monkey way high overhead.

He hopped in his cockpit and gave a loud whistle,
And away they all flew like a Patriot missile.
And I heard him exclaim as he took to the sky,
Merry Christmas to all and to all Semper Fi!!!

Jeffrey Hollar

From Jeffrey Hollar –

I am a husband, father, stepfather, veteran, poet & author, and too many other things to consider. I am a writer without genre writing whatever seems to work on any given day. Jeffrey blogs at The Latinum Vault. You can also find him on Twitter.

God bless our men and women in uniform.

Service photos from Photobucket Madcat91 and Huey197.

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Christmas 1945, Hamburg, Stille Nacht, by Harry Leslie Smith

It snowed on Christmas Eve day. It fell like icing sugar and dusted the city as if it were a stale and crumbling Christmas cake. The peddlers, black marketers, and cigarette hustlers scrambled to finish their commerce before the church bells pealed to celebrate the birth of Christ. Along the St. Pauli district, steam-powered trucks delivered beer and wine to the whorehouses who expected exceptional business from nostalgic servicemen. Across the Reeperbahn, the lights burned bright, while in the refugee camps, the homeless huddled down against the cold, warming themselves with watery soup and kind words provided by visiting Lutherans priests.

The airport was somnolent; the service men charged with keeping it operational were as sluggish as a cat curled up on a pillow before a fire. Outside the communications tower, LACs took long cigarette breaks, draped in their great coats. In between puffs and guffaws, they swapped lewd jokes or tales about their sexual exploits with German women.

The air traffic control nest was unmanned for the next few days. The radio transmitters hummed emotionlessly because the ether above was empty and the clouds ripe for snow. Nothing was expected to arrive or depart until Boxing Day. On the ground, the roadways around the airport were quiet because the fleet of RAF vehicles was stabled at the motor pool for the duration of the holiday. Everywhere, it was still, except on the runway where a platoon of new recruits cleared snow from the landing area.

At the telephone exchange, the switchboard was staffed by a bored skeleton crew who waited for their shift to end. The normal frenetic noise and activity from hundreds of calls being patched and dispatched through the camp to the military world in Germany and Britain was hushed as there were few people left to either place or receive a call. Some communication operators hovered around mute teletype machines, which awoke every hour and furiously printed out wind speed, temperature, and ceiling levels, “For bloody Saint Nick,” someone remarked.

This was a unique Christmas because for the first time since 1938, the entire world was at peace. So anyone who was able took leave and abandoned our aerodrome for a ten-day furlough. For those of us who remained, a Christmas committee was formed to organize festivities. The Yule spirit around camp mirrored row house Britain. It was constructed out of cut-price lager and crate paper decorations with the unspoken motto: “cheap but cheerful cheer in Fuhlsbüttel.” In the mess hall, a giant Christmas tree was erected dangerously close to a wood stove by the Xmas team. They had festooned it with glittering ornaments and placed faux presents underneath its boughs. Sleighs and Father Christmas figures cut from heavy paper were pinned to the walls as festive decorations. Mistletoe dangled from light fixtures and gave our dining hall the appearance of a holiday party at a carpet mill in Halifax.

On the morning before Christmas, I negotiated with the head cook for extra rations for Friede and her family to allow them a holiday meal. The cook was an obliging Londoner whose mastery of culinary arts began and ended with the breakfast fry up. Never one to saying no to sweetening his own pot, the cook amicably took my bribe of tailored shirts in exchange for food. He let me fill my kit bag to bursting with tinned meat, savouries, and sweets.

“Give the Hun a bit of a treat tonight,” he said. “Take the pork pie along with a bit of plum pudding.”

Harry Leslie Smith

Harry Leslie Smith was born in Barnsley Yorkshire in 1923. After a stormy and chaotic youth; he joined the RAF in 1941. Smith eventually ended up in occupied Hamburg Germany at the end of the Second World War. He remained part of the peace time RAF until 1947 whereupon, he married and decamped back to Yorkshire with his new bride. Six years of post war England were enough for Harry and his bride and they decided to emigrate to the greener pastures of Canada.

In Canada, Harry Smith worked in the oriental carpet trade. He specialized in designing and importing unique rug creations from all over the Middle East, the former Soviet Block, and Afghanistan.

Since his time in the second world war, Harry Leslie Smith has been an avid reader and writer; who at 87 has found a keen interest in social media and connecting the stories of his past with contemporary audiences.

Currently, he divides his time between Canada, Great Britain, and Portugal.

Find Harry Leslie Smith’s 1923 site here and blog here.  Harry is also on Facebook and Twitter.

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Just a few more books for the troops

SSgt. K. G. Roberts, USAF

Military Appreciation Week is coming to a close, but not my appreciation for our military men and women.

The other day I posted an article about Soldiers’ Angels, an organization that sends books, magazines, and loads of other goodies to our heroes overseas.

Here are a few other organizations that accept donations for books (both print and e-book here!).

Operation Paperback – Paperback books, accepting“gently used” too.

Books for Soldiers – Books, CDs, DVDs. See Care Package Help guide for more information.

Ebooks for Troops – Donate ebooks and e-readers.

Please take a moment, maybe pack up a box, and send some love to our men and women of the armed forces.

*****

Books I’ve read –

I’ve read these books recently, and I can recommend them – they are not for the faint-hearted.

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War – David Bellavia with John R. Bruning

The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier’s Account of the War in Iraq – John Crawford

Jarhead – Anthony Swofford

Take a moment to remember all the sacrifices our troops are making – every day – in defense of their country and countrymen.

God Bless America! And God bless our men and women of the armed services!

Home for now

Closing photo – Sue Peterson Smith

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The special story of the Combat Tracker Teams

I found Susan Merritt via writers’ group friend Joseph Perrone, Jr. (of The Matt Davis Mystery Series) – thank you, Joseph!

Please welcome, Susan Merritt.

Then and now, the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service of the UK are universally acclaimed as the best warriors in the world. By a twist of fate, the Visual Tracker trainees were initially trained by them and the plan itself was devised by their “man-tracking headmaster”.

In the arcane world of these strange things, Major F. Huia Woods had earned the title of the world’s best man-tracker. He had been in contests with aboriginal contestants from tribes and cultures and was the winner. He felt that the K9 on a team would bring a measure of security and speed to the young American teams who had no prior training in junglecraft. This would be an equalizer. Woods had started using a Labrador retriever and handler in the mid-50s in counter-terrorist missions throughout Malaysia and the Far East.

The SAS had been created during WWII and “stood down” in the aftermath. As Malaysia and other current and former territories in South Eastern Asia were overrun by the Marxist Communist-backed insurgents, only the Brits were successful in defending against the onslaught. The SAS was re-formed as a major factor in training and fighting and became paramount as a warrior force in the world.

Meanwhile, on the K9 side, there were the men from the #2 War Dog Training Unit. Sounds benign, doesn’t it? These men would go into every corner of the British Empire and later the independent colonies to assist fledgling governments from take-overs. They fought in Africa during the Mau-Mau Uprising, Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Suez Canal Zone, Kenya, Cyprus, Suez, Borneo, Vietnam, Aden, and Oman. They would approach the mission in a different, yet equally “forceful”, manner.

There would be two teams of ten men and two dogs each. The teams would consist of trained Royal Army Veterinary Corps’ Trackers, (those who would become the #2 WDTU) and LEPs (Locally Enlisted Personnel). Of course, the valiant Labrador retrievers were always there as the K9 component. These teams were not a “fast attack” force, rather, they were stealthy and completely self-sustained for weeks at a time in any terrain in the world, literally.

They did not have the assets of the 1st Cavalry during the Vietnam War where a “chopper” could be sent at a moment’s notice with supplies or a small airplane could spot them and relay their position. These teams were part of the environment until their objectives were met. That could mean an abduction; intelligence gathering or finding of friendly personnel – or the remnants of same.

Our young men were the recipients of the knowledge that these two sources had gleaned. Further, bonds were forged there that time and governmental and political constraints never were able to sever. The Ministry of Defence was kind enough to give dispensation so that the former instructors could be in touch with their students once again … after 30 years. Let me assure you, the feelings have only grown closer over time.

More about the book, Seek On!

The True Story of Combat Tracker Teams of the Vietnam War

Five men, one Labrador retriever – trained by the world’s best to find the “Elusive Enemy” in the jungles of Vietnam Seek On! is the true story of the young Americans who volunteered to become the first response to finding the elusive fleeing terrorists and NVA who were waging asymmetric warfare in Southeast Asia.

The teams were trained at the Jungle Warfare School in Malaysia initially, and took that superb training to the fight. They were able to find and fix the enemy; gather intel and retrieve  friendlies from the grip of the enemy. These are their stories – not the only “official papers.” Learn what they went through as their NZ SAS trainers “treated” them to the same training as they had received! When “in-country,” read what it was like juggling their survival between the enemy and their own support, so they didn’t get ambushed between them! Imagine what they felt as a K9 became a complete member of their team!

After their deployments working as “a single entity,” they were separated and told that “this never happened.” There were no ceremonies; many had no access to necessary documents for the VA; medals were unavailable that were won. Most of all, they lost each other – men who were closer than brothers. That has been rectified. This is their story, and that of their Labs and instructors and crazy days and nights when the clock still ticked. SEEK ON!

Now available, Seek On! can be ordered through the publisher’s website here. Also available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

About the Author: Susan Merritt resides in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Frank, one of the original Combat Trackers. They founded and continue to host the website for the veteran CTTs. She was motivated to write Seek On! because this group of men gave their youth to their country and were never recognized for their outstanding service.

Susan Merritt

NVA – North Vietnam Army

NZ SAS – New Zealand Special Air Service

CTT – Combat Tracker Team

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Military family and friends

SSgt. K. Roberts, USAF, Minot, ND

SSgt. A. Stock, Germany

SSgt. R. Laird, currently in Kuwait

SSgt. S. Bordwell, Minot, ND

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