‘A Little Pink’ Always Colors My Memorial Day

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The American Flag flies above the US American Victory Museum & Memorial Ship, Tampa, FL.

Through almost 40 years of reporting – there are stories and people that never leave you.

A Little Pink In A World Of Camo, a military wife’s blog, is where I discovered such a heart-captivating story titled: I Will Always Be A Marine Wife.

I just need to share some sad news with all of my blog friends.

Sad isn’t even the word to describe it, but honestly at this point I can’t find the words to describe it. Angry, empty, crushed, confused, shocked, alone, unglued, hateful, depressed, beaten down… none of these words can do justice to my feelings.

I am being forced to do something that no 23 year old woman should ever have to do. I am being forced to do something that no one should ever have to do, not at this early in life, especially. I am being forced to lay the love of my life, my saving grace, my entire world to rest. …

– Rachel Porto –

And after reporting on their family’s loss, Ariana Porto, her mother Rachel Porto and grandmothers Evelyn Jewell and Rachel Bernaby (Porto’s mother) forever became a part of my Memorial Day remembrances.

I never met him and Corporal Jonathan Porto never held his daughter Ariana.

The closest he got was kneeling down and talking to her through Rachel’s pregnant belly on the day he deployed. An iconic photo of that moment was snapped by another Marine wife. Rachel was unaware at the time, but she ended up featuring the picture at the top of her blog: A Little Pink in a World of Camo.

Porto was one of 10 men killed in his battalion, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, while deployed to Afghanistan. He died in March 2010 just shy of his first wedding anniversary.

What will always stay with me is that photo of Jonathan talking to his unborn daughter and the power of Rachel and Jonathan’s relationship. Jonathan made Rachel promise “no moping” while he was gone. And as difficult as the hours, days, months and years may have been since his death, Rachel continues to keep her promise to Jonathan. And she’s continued to write earning a masters’ degree in writing.

Please on this Memorial Day, keep the promise made by President Lincoln, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” So, take a moment to remember those who have fallen in service to our country.

My eternal appreciation to all who have allowed me to tell their stories.

 

An Afghan Puppy Gets a Free Ride from a U.S. Marine

I usually try to share the Military Working Dog photo of the week produced by writer Kevin Hanrahan.

Well instead of a military working dog – here’s a photo of the military working for the dog, or puppy in this case.

I believe I have seen this photo on Kevin Hanrahan’s blog, but it is now making the rounds being share of active duty units. I just saw it posted by CENTCOM.

This puppy followed U.S. Marines from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, during a mission while the unit was serving in Afghanistan. After following the Marines for many miles, a soft-hearted Marine picked the puppy up and carried it in his drop pouch. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Charles T. Mabry II)

This puppy followed U.S. Marines from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, during a mission while the unit was serving in Afghanistan. After following the Marines for many miles, a soft-hearted Marine picked the puppy up and carried it in his drop pouch. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Charles T. Mabry II)

Military Dog Photo of the Week: Marines and Their Black Labs

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog. Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan’s website.

Ty and Stormy are the top dogs in Kevin Hanrahan’s Military Dog Photo of the Week.

A native of Arlington, Texas, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann is the dog handler  for Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog.

In the photo to the left, Mann sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security in Afghanistan.

Marines and sailors with 1st LAR and India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, conducted clearing and disrupting operations in and around the villages of Sre Kala and Paygel during Operation Highland Thunder in February.

Marines with 1st LAR led the operation on foot, sweeping for enemy weapons and drug caches through 324 square kilometers of rough, previously unoccupied desert and marshland terrain.

Mobile units with1st LAR set up blocking positions and vehicle check points while India Company, 3/3 conducted helicopter inserts to disrupt insurgent freedom of movement.

Stormy, a working dog with the 2nd Battalion 11th Marines Headquarters Battery, takes a break and gets a pat from her owner, Cpl. Bryant Wahlen during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Panetta Condems Actions, Calls Karzai About Video

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has released a statement Thursday strongly condemning the apparent actions of four Marines who appear to be urinating on the bodies of three dead Afghan enemy combatants.

In the statement, Panetta said he has seen the footage and finds the behavior depicted in it “utterly deplorable.”

“I condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Panetta said. “I have ordered the Marine Corps and ISAF commander [Marine Corps] Gen. John Allen to immediately and fully investigate the incident. This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold. Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”

Additionally, the Pentagon press secretary said Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the video Thursday.

“The secretary expressed his view that the conduct depicted in the footage is utterly deplorable, and that it does not reflect the standards or values American troops are sworn to uphold,” George Little said. “The secretary also noted in the conversation that he has ordered that the video be immediately and fully investigated.”

You can read the full press release HERE.

A Military Mom: Don’t Take the Small Things for Granted

Here’s a second contribution from Momma B – also known as Elaine Brye. She has four children and writes a blog: 4 star military mom. All are serving in the military – one in each branch – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Elaine Brye's four children who are rarely home at the same time.

BY ELAINE BRYE

As a military mom it is not only the big things that get to you-it can be the every day things that most take for granted. For example getting all four of mine in one place at the same time is quite a challenge. As I sit on our hilltop farm and look out on a holiday I can see clusters of families gathering together-not my kids. I may be lucky to get a double or a triple but very seldom do I get a home run of everyone together.

It’s funny – when they were home all the time –  I think they got the basics of hand-to-hand combat completed in my living room. I would head to town and war would break out. The battles raged, casualties abounded including lampshades and then the phone would ring. ” Kids, I am on the way home, anything else we need?”

Immediately they sprang into action just like Thing1 and Thing 2 (out of Dr. Seuss) – in this case – also Thing 3 and Thing 4 – and all worked together to put things back in order.  A few days later I might ask, “What happened to this lamp shade? ” to be met by silence. Of course all of this has only recently been disclosed now that the statute of limitations has run out.

They work hard to see each other when they can, but that little thing of normal life together is a thing of the past.

When they were home, I knew their friends,their comings and goings, and supported them in their activities. I sat on so many bleachers  that I developed bleacher bottom – an increase in girth directly attributed to hours sitting in the car or the bleachers.

Now, the questions remain unanswered – what did you do at work today, where are you, when will you be home? OPSEC (Operational Security) reigns supreme and I find myself reading the news to figure out if my kid might be there. The not knowing – and being less a part of their lives because of it – those are little things I took for granted in years gone by.

Momma B's first grandchild.

I have to say the one thing that really has upped the ante when I think of the little things is my grandchildren. During my sons’ first deployments they were newlyweds. Their wives stepped it up and bravely held down the home front. They dealt with all the things that can go wrong.

As it says in Mrs. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will happen when he is out of town-or on deployment.

But this time around – well – it is different. There is a little girl left behind. Six months old when Daddy left and she will be a year old when he comes home. The first tooth, the first steps – no amount of technology can replace missing those milestones. When we talk about personal sacrifice,  it can be the little things that mean so much.

Medal of Honor Tampa Ceremony Honors Fallen Marine

Gunnery Sgt Aaron Michael Kenefick, USMC KIA Kunar Province, Afghanistan 9-8-09. Photo courtesy of Susan Price.

At the same time that Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer is presented the Medal of Honor by Pres. Obama, USMC Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick will be remembered at a Tampa ceremony Thursday at noon on Patriots’ Corner, Bayshore and Bay to Bay boulevards.

Kenefick’s mother, Susan Price of Riverview, is one of the organizers of the side  ceremony. She said she’s responding to Meyer’s request.

She also shared these words written by her son, one of the five fallen during the ambush and six-hour fire fight in Kunar Province Afghanistan. Although five were killed, Sgt. Meyer is credited with saving dozens of U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

Words by   Aaron Michael Kenefick, Gunnery Sgt, USMC

KIA Kunar Province, Afghanistan, September 8th, 2009

“I’m a laid back guy who try’s not to take himself too seriously.  I’ve experienced many things in life, both good and bad and I have to say, it’s made me the strong man that I am today.  I cherish my friends and family more then anything in this world as they have always been there for me through the good times and the bad times.  I’ve been all over the world, pick a place and I’ve probably been there but my days of traveling are far from over.

                         I have a competitive spirit and I am driven, my ambitions which includes first and foremost, happiness and whatever that encompasses.   I’m not afraid to take chances or risks.  No risk no reward but I do understand that for every action there is a consequence.”

             

Deployment’s Emotional Cycles: Stage 1 for an Army Wife

 

Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

Anticipation of Departure for the service member and spouse is different from what I experience as a military mom.  The first stage of the emotional cycle of deployment is a very busy time for the soldier and his or her family and brings mixed emotions.

The service member is away from home frequently due to extensive training and preparation which touts the reality of the looming separation for the whole family.  The bond between unit members grows immensely as they are completely focused on the impending mission.  In addition to preparing for the work side of deployments, there are many personal items that need tended to: wills and power of attorneys, house and auto repairs, decisions and arrangements about where spouse will spend the deployment, final visits with family, medical and dental visits–these are just a few.  This stage can be stressful for the soldier as he juggles the final preparations for work and home while trying to spend quality time with family.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, shared her thoughts and experiences with this stage:

Josh and Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins, http://www.shootinforfun.com.

“The anxiety prior to deployment is overwhelming because I feel such pressure to make the most of every moment I have left with Josh while I’m constantly fighting emotions for the loss I am about to experience when I have to say good-bye.  Josh and I created a wish list (similar to a bucket list) of things to do before he deployed and we accomplished everything.  We truly lived like we were dying and savored every outing and relaxing moment together.  I treasure the dinners, movies, walks, fishing trips, hugs, and we had intimate conversations that we struggle with during deployments.  We learned a lot about each other and our relationship as husband and wife during the month prior to his leaving.   

Our fun trip prior to deployment was a hog hunting excursion in Oklahoma which Josh picked.  It was both satisfying and sad; I know how much he enjoyed it, but the reality is he wanted the experience in case he doesn’t get another chance.  

We have professional photos done prior to every deployment; it is very important to me to have fresh photos to treasure if they are the last ones of us together.  This may sound morbid but I never know when such opportunities are the last.”

I commend Alison for her strength and willingness to share her innermost feelings.  She is a loving and supportive wife to my son and an amazing example and mentor to other Army wives.

Josh and Alison on their hog-hunting trip prior to his third deployment.

 

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