matt letourneau

Lt Matt LeTourneau – Philadelphia Firefighter Dies in the Line of Duty

A fire that tore through a rowhouse in North Philadelphia claimed the lives of firefighter Lt Matt LeTourneau and a civilian on Saturday. Another civilian is in critical condition. Two other firefighters were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  The two alarm fire broke out at around 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Firefighters managed to get the fire under control in about an hour.

Lt LeTourneau was trapped when the interior of the rowhouse collapsed. He was under the debris for about 30 minutes before firefighters could reach him for rescue.  Though he was transported to the hospital, he didn’t make it.

“Our hearts are breaking. And we are without words.” Fire Commissioner Adam K. Thiel

A profession where heroes live and die

Firefighters, much like police officers, are a breed apart. Running into burning buildings in order to save lives is extremely hazardous.  It’s a profession where heroes live and die. Lt Matt LeTourneau was an 11 year veteran of the Philadelphia Fire Department. Those who worked with him knew him as a man of honor and integrity who loved his job.

The following is a Facebook post from Deputy Chief Denny Merrigan, who worked with Lt LeTourneau at Engine 43. LeTourneau was currently with Engine 45. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 2015.

Lt Matt LeTourneau…R.I.P.      (Photo provided)

“There’s a saying in the fire service- never judge another firefighter by the numbers on their helmet or the station they’re assigned to. Rather you judge them by their performance on the fire ground, by their heart and their dedication to the job. I’ve had a lot of assignments over the course of my career including some “less than desirable” spots. I can attest to the validity of that fire service saying. When I was sent back to Squrt 43 after making Captain I was pissed off no sugar coating it. 43’s is a spot that will grind you up the FIRST time let alone the second go around.

I learned that I didn’t have any reason to be aggravated. What I quickly realized is that I had a fantastic crew including Matt Letourneau. Matt was a natural leader and it was evident how much he loved the profession. It didn’t matter to Matt that he was at E-43. What mattered to Matt was that he WAS at Engine 43 or WHEREVER… as long as he was hanging his hat in a PFD station. Every day he was checking the equipment, washing the truck, helping make breakfast or whatever, it didn’t matter because THAT is where Matt belonged, where he wanted to be- in the firehouse.

I thought about his effort when I was feeling sorry for myself getting a second tour at 43’s. Here was a guy who was thanking his lucky stars for his FIRST! That’s the kind of guy Matt was and he taught me to be happy just for being part of the greatest job on Earth.

Matt just wanted to be the best fireman he could be and make those around him better. And he was one of the very best. I’m more than proud to have hung my coat on Squrt 43 and to have climbed into the cab with one of the best firemen I ever worked with. This citation says it all. It doesn’t matter WHERE you are in the job, as long as you ARE… in the job. RIP Matt. Godspeed.”  Deputy Chief Denny Merrigan

This is the audio feed from the incident via  Statter911

 

Originally published by Faye on Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.

michael reagan

Never Forget Fallen Heroes – Portrait Artist Michael Reagan

Michael Reagan is a Vietnam Veteran…a Marine who found his purpose in life drawing portraits. He founded the Fallen Heroes Project, which earned him “The Civilian Service Before Self Honors (2015) Medal from the Medal of Honor Foundation. But it’s his calling to draw the faces of the fallen that propels him, bringing healing to the families, and ultimately, healing to himself.

Vietnam

Michael joined the Marine Corps because he was angry. Angry at the death of a friend named Bill Denhoff who joined the Marines right out of high school after graduation in 1965.  On April 29, 1966, Bill was shot in the chest by a sniper and died on May 4. It occurred only a few days after he arrived. In May, 1966, Michael joined up with 4 of his buddies. Two went to the Army, two went to the Marines, and by 1967, when Michael went to Vietnam, he was still angry. He wanted revenge.

Michael was with Kilo Company 3/4.

“We landed in Vietnam when it was ‘185,000 degrees’ and I suddenly wondered what the heck I was doing there.”

They ended up at Con Thien. He had no concept of what “incoming” really meant, nor did he know how to dig a hole deep enough to be safe. Fortunately,  his Platoon commander, Lt. Pete Wymes got him clued in before something bad happened. He told us he lived in that 6 ft deep hole for a year.

“They called it the ‘Hill of Angels’ for a reason.”

Michael says he was able to tell Pete thank you for saving his life several years later.

While deployed, he began to draw pictures for his buddies, using the torn cartons from sea rations. (Paper didn’t last long in the humidty and mud). He would sell his pictures for cheap and send the money or the pictures home.

Sometimes the artwork was all that came home from Vietnam.

Two of Michael’s friends were killed in a 2 day firefight on 3-28-68 – Peder Armstrong, and Vincent Santaniello. Michael told us that he held Vincent in his arms as he died because he didn’t want him to feel alone.

Vincent’s last words were, “Mike I just want to go home.” Then he closed his eyes and died.  It is Vincent’s face that Michael Reagan stills sees in his mind every day of his life.

Vincent’s last words: “Mike, I just want to go home.” Then he closed his eyes and died.

Michael left the Corps as a Corporal, an E-4 Squad Leader with 1st Platoon.

A New Calling

By the time Michael returned to the US in 1968, he began spending his time in bars, drawing for free drinks. He told us that the next four years were tough ones, and it was the friends who cared about him that pulled him through, stopping his downward spiral.

After art school, Michael began to realize the drawings were part of a bigger Plan. And as he gave them to families, their lives were changed. He was even able to give his drawing of Vincent Santaniello to the family.

“Ralph Vincent Morales, Vinny’s nephew, represented Vinny’s family and in 2014 came to Edmonds for an event so I could present the portrait of Vinny. Ralph was born 2 years after Vinny died and he was named after him…I told them his last words, that he just wanted to go home. As I gave them the portrait, I said, now ‘his journey begins.'”

Michael’s own journey home from Vietnam began with the portraits of the fallen.

People contact Michael to draw portraits of loved ones lost. He has drawn the faces of famous celebrities, civilians and military young and old. One face that stuck with him was Lilly Garcia, the 4 year old victim of a drive by shooting in Albuquerque, killed while she was in the car with her dad.

Lilly Garcia

He told us that once a Gold Star Mother called him to ask if she could come to lunch with him the next day. She had just received his portrait of her son.

“I suggested we meet at the Claim Jumper’s restaurant in the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood (Washington). She didn’t know where that was, so I gave her directions. I finally asked where she was and she said, ‘Connecticut.’ It turned out she was flying in to SeaTac from Connecticut with the Brigade Commander’s wife.”

After our lunch, she told me, ‘When I looked into the eyes of my son [in the portrait], I knew you were the last person to see him alive.’

She had come to Seattle to say goodbye to her son.”

The amazing thing about Michael Reagan is that the portraits are provided to the families at no cost for conflicts in the war on terror. They are gifts from his heart to the families of the fallen, healing for both the Gold Star families and the artist.

In the 14 years since the beginning of the Fallen Heroes Project, he has drawn over 5,100 fallen hero portraits. Portraits of the fallen can be requested on the website, as well as donations to the project. His portraits have funded numerous charities across the country. Scroll through the gallery section to see some of the finished products.

Featured photo: screenshot

Originally published at Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

long road home

The Long Road Home Miniseries – and the Real Battle Behind It

Army Infantry Squad Leader Joshua York was in Sadr City on April 4, 2004 when all hell broke loose. Comanche Red Platoon was with 2nd Battalion, 5th Calvary Regiment (2/5) – the unit ambushed by forces loyal to Shi’ite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. “The Long Road Home ” is a miniseries that began on November 7 and is based on a book written by Martha Raddatz about the real battle for survival. The battle became known by some as “Black Sunday.”

The Reality of War

Joshua York began his 22 year military career in the US Marine Corps right out of high school. During his time as a Marine, he served during the US Embassy bombing in 1998. He eventually left the Corps as a Corporal.

Then he joined the US Army and was stationed at Fort Hood. After two years, the deployment to Iraq came. His experience as a Marine were skills needed… but he had no idea how needed they were about to become.

Starting off as an infantryman, the Army told him he’d be with “Bradleys” – Bradley M-2A3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles- on the deployment to Iraq. After figuring out what a “Bradley” was, he told us he was ready to test his skills.

“It was supposed to be a peacekeeping mission with nothing going on. I guess I was naive to think I was ready to test my skills. Hindsight is always 20/20.”

The 2/5 was the “second wave” – the replacement for another unit at Camp War Eagle outside the city. They had only been in Iraq since March, and assumed they had missed the fighting. They were wrong.

Countdown to Trouble

Josh told us that on Friday, April 2, the Army had shut down a newspaper loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr that was spouting anti-American rhetoric and advocating violence against the troops. They had moved their Bradley vehicles out to provide security for the operation.

By Saturday, the locals started massive demonstrations against the Americans. Palpable anger  had replaced the initial feelings of thankfulness for Americans liberating the city from Saddam Hussein. What the 2/5 did not know, was that the Mahdi Army loyal to al-Sadr had already seized key Iraqi police positions throughout the city.

“It was a weird feeling.”

Sunday, April 4  

Josh’s platoon was on a “routine” patrol, escorting “honey wagons.” As a squad leader, and due to some of their comms being down, he was working to get them up and running so was not with them at first.

“Suddenly they told me that my boys were in contact, so I gathered up the remaining platoon members and headed out to the fight.”

The “contact” was a bloody battle that ensued as 19 members of the 2/5 were surrounded and holed up in a house. At first, the 1st Cavalry Armored Division rescuers were unable to use their big guns due to the rules of engagement, and were pushed back by the attacks from the Mahdi Army that had taken over police positions. Eventually, the use of their firepower was granted when it became obvious they were all outnumbered.

“We all grew up very fast that day. The first man killed was a friend of mine, Sgt Chen. He babysat my son. He was in our platoon, but a different squad. All of us were very close- we’d been together for over 3 years. At the end of the day, we lost 8 men.”

The battle only began on April 4.  After 4 years of on-again, off-again battles with the Madhi Army, a cease-fire agreement was reached that allowed Iraqi forces to enter the Sadr City neighborhood.

“Sadr City was the biggest gunfight since the fall of Baghdad.” General Martin Dempsey

*****

The Long Road Home is a miniseries on the National Geographic Channel that airs on Tuesday nights at 10 EST/9 CST. We asked Joshua if it was an accurate rendering of the battle – surprisingly, he said “Yes.” The book was written by Martha Raddatz, a reporter with ABC news and their Chief Global Affairs Correspondent, in 2008.

Joshua said he was fortunate to meet the actors involved in the show, and even the one who played his friend, Sgt Chen. He said it was “surreal” to watch The Long Road Home, and how realisticly the cast portrayed everyone.

“They got it right – regular guys from all walks of life were put into extraordinary situations. And they all ran toward the danger. They told our story well. For me, I have to thank the Marine Corps for the training they gave me that got me through it.” Josh York

York is currently a Captain with US Army Medical Activity Bavaria. He oversees 5 medical treatment facilities all over Germany, plus one in Romania.

Featured photo: Screenshot from NatGeo’s The Long Road Home on You Tube

Originally published at Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.

military families

Remember Veterans, and Military Families on Veteran’s Day

One day my stepson Jerry dropped by to talk to his dad, mentioning that he wanted to join the Army National Guard to “do something bigger” than himself. He was slightly past the enlistment age, so he would have to get permission from the Army. His dad, having been in the Air Force, told him to do what he felt was right. All of us knew that there was a war going on. We were about to embark on the journey of military families.

The Army National gave permission for him to enlist – they needed people with his computer skills.  He was off and running. Lots of running.

From Basic training to Officer Candidate school, Jerry worked his way up to 1st Lieutenant. We traveled to both his graduation from Basic and OCS at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His daughter Maddie desperately missed him for all those long weeks, but she toughed it out.

In 2010, his unit was called up for deployment to Iraq for Operation New Dawn… and the worries cranked up to high. He would be gone for 12 months.  TWELVE. His wife Mindy is a “military brat” so she didn’t freak out… she was an absolute rock. At least it seemed that way. She did worry like the rest of us, it just didn’t show too much.

The rest of us only semi-panicked. The Army did an “orientation” to tell us what we could talk about and what we couldn’t to keep the team safe.

Watching him leave on the bus with the rest of them caused a huge lump in our throats. It could easily have been the last time we’d see him alive.

His deployment was with the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, part of “Task Force Snake” – which was part of the larger 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team (AKA the Snake River Brigade).

116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team
We SKYPED, we wrote, and we sent care packages. We tried to keep the letters light. Some of the care packages thing was more for our benefit than his – it kept our brains engaged so our emotions wouldn’t mess up. We just wanted to do SOMETHING to help. He had plenty of stuff. Including sand. Lots of sand.

He was in a “relatively safe” area (so they said), the infamous “green zone” and inside most of the time. But one member of the 145th was severely injured from an IED while on patrol outside that zone. We consoled ourselves with the thought that Jerry was inside out of harm’s way. Except for the IEDs. And mortars. And snipers. And attacks. We prayed a lot.

He returned home none the worse for wear in September of 2011 (with a little heightened awareness issue, but that’s pretty normal from waiting for attacks 24/7). We planned a big get-together with numerous inch thick steaks for the whole family. Of course, I ended up in the hospital with a brain bleed that day, so they got all the meat and I missed the welcome home party.

Jerry’s Captain pinning

Some time after he returned, he was pinned as a Captain. He’s out now, back in the civilian world. But he’s still a veteran. And we will always be proud of his service and his life, as we are for both the ‘kids’ and their families. Yeah I know, they haven’t been “kids” for a long time.

Veteran’s Day – Remember military families

For our veterans, family is their most important support group. We were fortunate that nothing happened to Jerry during his deployment. Others are not as lucky- death can happen at any time, wherever in the world they might be. Horrific injuries, PTSD, difficulties happen…and no matter what, it’s our job to support them before, during, and after their time of service.

Families of military members also sacrifice when their loved ones are away. We had it easy, as much energy that was expended on concerns. Whether it’s a Blue Star family with a service member deployed, or a Gold Star family that has lost a loved one, today on Veteran’s Day let’s remember them too.

*******

For Marines:

You can read about Marine Ross Schellhaas’ family, written by his wife, Kristine Schellhaas. It’s entitled 15 Years of War, about how the long war in Afghanistan affected the family. It’s worth reading! Get tissues, however. Note: Kristine is the original founder of USMCLife news.

montana spirit

Montana Spirit – Resilience Amid Tragedy

Sunday, August 27 dawned relatively normal near the Bears Paw Mountains of Montana. But the ranchers in the area kept a watchful eye on their land, knowing that it could change at a moment’s notice. It did. Families, ranchers, stood together in battle against a raging inferno – it can only be described as the resilience of the Montana Spirit in the midst of tragedy.

Una Ford is a Dialysis Registered Nurse at Northern Montana Hospital. She is 5th generation Montanan, born and raised on a ranch. She and her family live around 35 miles south of Havre, Montana in a 4 mile stretch of ranches that exemplify the idyllic beauty of the Big Sky Country.

Her Mom and Dad run a herd of around 600 head of Commercial cattle. Her brothers, one of whom works part time for the BLM, own a herd of Registered cattle. Una herself owns a herd of Quarter Horses. It’s a family operation that spreads across a 4 mile stretch on the back road she lives on.

Spring in Montana was normal, wet, and brought fresh growth across the state. But the last drop of rain occurred on Memorial Day – since then, it’s been a growing tinderbox. Temperatures soared into the high 90’s, unusual for Montana. The grasses dried out, crackling beneath their feet. As experienced ranchers, they knew that one spark would set off a conflagration.

Una and her family did their best to prepare for the worst, both practically and mentally. They brought their herds as close as possible to the house so they could be defended. Her 30 mares and colts were taken right behind her home just in case.

Inferno

The East Fork Fire broke out on August 27. By Monday, flames were consuming acreage at an alarming rate. It burned fast and hot. Most of the property in the area is private land.

“By Tuesday, we couldn’t fight it. The terrain is deceiving. You can’t take a vehicle up those hills, they are tough – rocky with timber. There are steep canyons. My two brothers, my parents, and my husband and I – all four of our houses were threatened at the same time.” Una

The area was placed under an evacuation order, but this family stayed to defend their livelihoods, their livestock, against an enemy that has no name, and no creed other than total annihilation of everything in its path.

“My Dad and husband left to fight it and were gone for over 40 hours. Mom and I stayed behind, holding the line. It was intense; hoping you were making the right decisions at the right time. If the wind shifted, you’d have to do something different because it wasn’t safe.” Una

They came from “near and far” to stand with Una and her family: local ranchers, family. They built fire lines, they fought the giant with everything they had. In the end, her livelihood and that of her family was preserved.

Una and her family took a “rescue ride” on Wednesday and Thursday last week and found that the pasture where her Quarter horses had been before the fire had “not one blade of grass left in it.”

Had they not moved the horses….

The Montana Spirit

Photo of the blackened area near the cattle – photo credit Una Ford, used by permission

The East Fork Fire is now 80% contained, and is seemingly holding. It has burned 21,518 acres, according to Inciweb.

“We had a pile of losses, but many things to be thankful for. Lots of devastation, but many positive things. No one lost their life. No main structures were burned. People came from near and far to help us. It was amazing to watch.” Una

Helping one another, seeing the positive in the midst of devastation, that’s the Montana Spirit. Our best wishes to Una and all the families and ranchers like her who exemplify the very best of America.

*****

Featured photo of Quarter horses in the pasture by Una Ford- used by permission

 

This article may also be viewed here.

sheep

A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

“Leushen” was a name that meant “light;” or it had something to do with a werewolf, I was never sure. He was a wolf-mix pound puppy destined for euthanization at a local animal shelter until our son Jerry rescued him. I think it was the deep golden eyes and thick, grey, black, and rust coat that snagged his heart. Since Leushen was only 6 months old, he simply couldn’t let the dog die.

When he called to tell us he was on his way with a new addition to our canine family, my husband and I shuddered. We already owned a big Newfoundland named Joshua and weren’t sure that a wolf and a Newfy would get along. Joshua was exceedingly protective. On the other hand, with both of us gone to work during the day, it might be a good thing.

Jerry arrived with the furry creature in his arms, and we were instantly smitten. His markings were obviously more wolf than malamute, but his size closer to the malamute side.  He was an abused dog, and our hearts broke at the thought. Someone had beaten this poor creature on a regular basis because he cowered when we reached out to pet him. He lost his wolf nature at the point of someone’s cruelty.

The next few weeks tested our patience to its breaking point. Joshua took to him immediately, but Leushen had some issues. Wolves and malamutes both have the bad habit of chewing on nearly everything in sight. (Did we know that? No, of course not). Leushen ate television remotes, metal detector earphones, telephone jacks and cords, my husband’s favorite Mark Twain book, and eventually chomped his way through our living room couch…right down to the frame. We tried to stop it with everything from Tabasco sauce to big rawhide bones to no avail.  He didn’t care for the bones, but loved the flavor of Tabasco. Spicy little critter. That’s not counting the seasonal shed that left so much fur on the floor that two vacuum cleaners died a horrible death.

As if the chewable items weren’t bad enough, he and our Newfy joined forces to become partners in crime.  One week Joshua stuffed his big head under the fence and held it up so Leushen could escape. Then they both sauntered off for a walk around the neighborhood. We lived on one of the busiest streets in our city. When I arrived home I had to hunt for them, praying that they hadn’t been hit by a car or captured by the animal control officer.

Every day that week they escaped. My husband couldn’t fix the fence until the weekend, and I worried sick over their escapades. Towards the end of the week, the dogs were still in the back yard when I arrived home. When I walked out back, I noticed that one of our frustrated neighbors had nailed several boards crossways over the gate to the fence. Apparently he was tired of the daily excursions of a wolf and bear and did my “honey do” list before my honey got to it.

Something oddly familiar about Leushen’s annoying behavior dawned on me: people who have been abused also tend to act according to their own feelings rather than acceptable guidelines. They require heaps of patience and a lot of extra “cleanup” after they’ve been around. It was a moment of clarity that changed our whole outlook. Armed with a fresh view of our situation, we decided to treat Leushen more like a family member and less like a pain in the rump roast.

As the months passed, he stopped eating all the plastic in the house, and decided that rawhide wasn’t so bad after all. As soon as the fence was permanently fixed, he stayed in the yard with his pal, and became a very real blessing to our family. He slept by the bed at night beside his brother, and rarely exhibited the wacky behavior present at the beginning.

We learned to apply the principle of loving the dog to people, and found that consistency in love can help people grow beyond their bad past. Leushen was the best life lesson we could have asked for.

One fateful day, his pal Joshua passed away.  A bout with bone cancer took the big Newfoundland, and left Leushen alone. He sat by my side of the bed with his head on the covers and whimpered through the night.  Ok, both of us whimpered through the night. Our big black friend was gone, so it was time to find a new puppy.

I investigated the classified ads in the local newspaper and found a Newfoundland breeder that had one puppy left. I drove to their home, gathered up the little furball and brought him home. Within a couple of days, Leushen accepted his presence and rose to the occasion of becoming the big brother of the family.  Whether teased by a rabbit, sprayed by a skunk, or examined as possible food by a roaming cougar, the “Boys” as I called them, grew in to adventurous and humorous creatures. Except for the two weeks it took to get the smell of skunk out of their fur.

On a crisp September afternoon, the “boys” began to bark excitedly. I opened the door just in time to see Leushen launch himself off the back porch and fly through the air to try and catch up to whatever excited him. He yelped and fell to the ground. I ran to his side. He was in extreme pain and could not walk.

We loaded the dog in the car and sped off to the vet’s office. The news wasn’t good. Leushen had torn the ligaments in his back leg, and the doctor said he would likely be lame for the rest of his life without surgery. When he told us the price of that surgery, we were distressed. It was far out of our family budget. So we picked the dog back up and took him home.

I wept over my wolfy friend. I prayed as I stroked his beautiful coat and looked into his eyes. We couldn’t put him down. We loved him too much. For the next few days I fed him outside as he lay on his bed, and gave him baby aspirin. It seemed that he was starting to limp around the yard without yelping. Then it happened. He felt so good that he once again launched himself off the porch and this time hurt the other back leg!

As he lay there on the ground, whimpering in pain, his Newfy friend Zeke nosed him and stared at me as if to say “Do something, Mom!”  Leushen was in excruciating pain, now from not one bad leg but two. He couldn’t get up.  My tears fell on his fur as I prayed even harder for him. This time I had to feed him outside rather than on his bed.  I did everything to try to give him comfort, but I knew that things looked grim. I cried myself to sleep at night, praying and hoping that he would recover from the injuries.

Leushen didn’t move much for a few days. One afternoon I opened the back door to find him running, yes, running across the back yard. No limping, no yelping, no whimpering, just running with the full ability to keep up with his buddy Zeke.

I wonder if we will ever love people as much as dogs love us. Dog is God spelled backwards, you know. Every one of our dogs has held a life lesson in loving humans as well as animals.      Leushen passed away from old age in the fall of 2006. He turned out to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing, a part of our family that we will never forget. He taught us how to love in spite of bad behavior, and hold patience as the key to working with people.  We still miss him, but we will never forget the truths hidden in his life.

 

by D.Faye Higbee

Variants printed in The Dog Paw Chronicles by D. Faye Higbee, and Wags to You anthology by Clark L. Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

imprisoned

Imprisoned for Doing Their Duty

When former President Obama left office, he pardoned traitors, terrorists, and drug offenders. But there are good men imprisoned by a government that failed them …men who did what they had to do in the heat of battle. They are men for whom justice has been denied.

We have written about each of these men previously. But each man in this article, and the others like them, who have borne arms in defense of America, whether for the Military or a Military Contractor, have paid an exorbitant price. They have lost everything…their lives, their reputations, their hopes and dreams.

As we go through these instances, ask yourself- what would you have done, given the circumstances of war?

Sgt Derrick Miller 

In 2010, while deployed to Afghanistan, Sgt Miller encountered a suspicious male that had breached the perimeter of the base.  The man lied to Sgt. Miller, first saying he was there to fix water pipes, then an electrician. He had no tools with him.

Two men that were with the male dispersed in different directions. The soldiers believed that they carried information back to insurgents as a prelude to attack. As Sgt. Miller questioned the man, it appeared to Miller that he was trying to take his gun. The Sgt shot and killed him.

Less than 45 minutes later the unit was attacked from two sides. Because the base had gone to full alert after the incident with Miller, there was no American loss of life.

Sgt Miller was convicted of murdering the Afghani because one member of another unit testified that the Sgt shot him in cold blood as the man “tried to create distance” from the Sgt when he pointed his gun at the man’s head.

Two different interpretations of the same incident, with a tragic outcome. Other members of Sgt Miller’s unit testified that Derrick Miller had excellent, sound judgment.

The Miller family has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in the legal defense of their loved one.

Sgt. Miller believes, despite his conviction and sentence of life in prison for the murder of this Afghan insurgent, that he was acting solely in self-defense and with sound judgment.” Free Derrick Miller Facebook Page

Clint Lorance 

1st Lt Clint Lorance was in charge of a Platoon that was patrolling in Taliban territory when they were approached by 3 men on a motorcycle coming in fast and not stopping.  When a soldier asked permission to neutralize the threat, Lorance gave the order to fire. The soldier who fired missed.

When the Taliban dismounted their bike and began coming toward the patrol, the Afghanis in the unit raised their weapons and ordered the men to halt. They did not do so. Lorance gave the order to fire. Two were killed, one ran away.

The soldiers captured the man who ran away, along with another. Both men tested positive for explosives. The motorcycle was stolen from the scene by someone, likely a Taliban, shortly after the incident.

1st Lt Clint Lorance took full responsibility, and was the only one who faced any charges.

According to the Free Clint Lorance website, “In November 2014, Clint’s defense team uncovered information that proves these men were both biometrically connected to IED attacks on U.S.soldiers. The army had this information, and did not think it was important enough to divulge to Clint’s lawyers.” 

Nine men of his unit were granted immunity and chose to testify against him. Yet Clint Lorance maintains that if anyone should be in prison it’s him, just because he was the “officer on the ground.”

Raven 23- The Blackwater Trial

Charges against Paul Slough, Nick Slatten, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard were initially dropped by a judge who stated that the government didn’t have enough evidence to charge them. But the government dragged a judge out of retirement and pursued charges anyway. Vindictive prosecution?

The narrative created by the media and the government over the men of Raven 23 was a horrendous hit job.  The prosecution painted a picture of half-crazed men with machine guns who targeted innocent civilians in a shooting rampage in Nisur Square, Baghdad, September 16, 2007.

Eventually, the government admitted that the men of Raven 23 were under enemy fire that day, and they knew it all along throughout the trial. But making the Iraqis happy was the game, even when the so-called “eyewitness” testimony was not credible.  The litany of Constitutional issues followed:

One of the main Iraqi witnesses perjured himself. The Iraqi witnesses were coached prior to testifying. The FBI processed “evidence” that had passed through many hands in the 3 weeks before they even arrived at Nisur Square. Some of the “victims” were not even present the day of the incident.

Paul Slough, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty – were convicted and sentenced to 30 years plus one day for having machine guns under a law designed for drug cartels, not State Department employees that were assigned the weapons. All were prosecuted under MEJA, which did not apply to them since they were State Department employees at the time, not Military.

The murder charge against Nick Slatten was woefully lacking in evidence. Not only did another man confess to the shooting, the indictment in 2014 did not state that the government actually had enough evidence to bring charges against him, in fact the govt admitted they had no new evidence. Yet there he sits in prison, along with his team, waiting and hoping for justice to prevail.

Oral Arguments were held before the appellate court on January 17, 2017. Of the three judge panel, one seemed like she understood that the defense had solid arguments. One was antagonistic. The other? The families, wives, children, fathers, mothers, and friends eagerly await their decision, which will not be for a few months.

What would you have done?

In the heat of battle, with intelligence information revealing the dangers surrounding them, these men – from Sgt Miller, to 1st Lt Lorance to the men of Raven 23 –  did what was expected of them. These men are not new to battles, they are seasoned Soldiers and Marines.

The battlefields of the Middle East have no visual divisions between enemy combatants and ordinary people. No one wears a sign or uniform that declares “I am an enemy.” When a person or vehicle fails to stop, it can mean the difference between life and death for soldiers and contractors if they do not neutralize the danger.

Again, what would you have done?

Featured picture is by artist George Pedro specifically for Free Derrick Miller. Used by permission.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

An 8 yr old’s Dear Santa letter- please send military dads home this Christmas

The heart of an 8 year old touched an entire community when his teacher at school had the children write letters to Santa. What did Lane Loftin want for Christmas? He asked Santa to bring Military Dads home to all the kids.

“The best thing I’ve ever had is having my Dad home for Christmas.” Lane Loftin

 

“Dear Santa, I want to be nice so if you can, well you know when my Dad was in the Air Force you can send other kids dads to them. I would love that like me and my dad.”

His letter has been shared around in Collinsville, Oklahoma and is very popular, according to his Uncle Josh.

Home is where the heart is

Lane’s Dad, Rob Loftin, was active duty in the USAF Security Forces from 2009-2015. He couldn’t always be home for Christmas. His son remembers that part vividly.

With his Dad home now, he is grateful and wants to help others who might be missing their father at this time of year.

“Mom, I want to do something for the other kids.” Lane

Lane and his Dad are inseparable now that he is out of the Air Force. From “cop to full time cowboy,” Rob serves as a ranch hand in Oklahoma. The two go fishing, duck hunting, and deer hunting – precious memories built together that Lane will never forget for the rest of his life.

Lane and his Dad caught a big one!

For Christmas this year, Santa brought Lane a brown lab puppy. Of course because Santa can’t really drive that sleigh and reindeer with a puppy to take care of, he had to bring it early to the Loftin home. This is one happy 8 year old.

“All he has wanted from Santa for 3 years. It has been rough since his Dad got out of the Air Force. We finally saved up enough to get him a pup he can duck hunt with. This is the brown lab puppy, named Chip. Since the A.F. we are back in Oklahoma hunting, fishing, and loving everyday!!” Veronica Loftin

Military separations

Lane’s Mom wants to remind people that being apart is extremely difficult for military, their spouses and children.

“We are a military family. Rob has a cousin right now who is deployed. He has two children, one 5 months and one 2 years old.  People don’t understand how hard it is for families to be apart.” Veronica Loftin

Lane’s letter to Santa is a vivid reminder that freedom isn’t free…it comes at a price. And sometimes part of that price is the heart of a child who loves his Dad and never wants him to go away again.

Photos provided by Veronica Loftin.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children post written by Faye Higbee

No Greater Honor- Last Words of a Dying Marine

Dr. Larry Lindsey was a US Marine. He made a final video directed at President-elect Trump, VP-Elect Pence, and Gen Mattis. He passed into eternity not long after he made the video. It is profound.

Larry was a man of honor who loved his country. His respect for our new leaders was deeply evident in his last words:

“President Trump, Vice President Pence, and General Mattis, I would like to say that the greatest honor of my life has been to wage this battle with you. I have been prouder of being a Marine than anything I have ever done in my life.

Having a hand in some small way in fighting for my country has meant the world to me. There is no greater honor for me to have great men like you leading this country back its foundations…and back to God.
A Mr. Trump, I have no doubt in my heart and in my mind that you will be perhaps the greatest President in the history of our country.

Vice President Pence, I am so honored to call you my Vice President.You’re an incredibly good man and probably the only Vice President in 150 years to have any brains. And I appreciate that about you. The candor and honesty from both of you men is much needed in this day and time.

General Mattis, Sir, it appears that I am now out of ammunition, but I continue to fight with my last breath. I do not fear death, because I know where I’m going, and I’m only going home for a rest.

It’s you people here, the good people of America, for whom I cry. My loved ones and my friends and the sacrifice they make in this fight to restore our country.

Dying is the easy part. Dying is the comforting part, if you know who your God is, and you know that He holds your hand. And I do. I’ve prayed for a wonderful life, so many blessings that I have known. And so many wonderfully kind and loving people in this country, whom I have met during my fight for this country.

I want you to know, each and every one of you, that we have taken on a challenge that has only just begun. The real battle lies ahead. And General Mattis, I have one request, Sir, and that is…Give ’em hell.

Semper Fi, God bless.” (Larry salutes).

Spoken like a true Marine. Larry’s battle is finally over, but the rest of us are still involved in the fight. Let’s take his words to heart, and “give ’em hell.”

christmas

Christmas – Peanuts, Tree Toppers, Music, all “offensive”

People are offended at everything these days and Christmas is no different. For years, every holiday season, instead of enjoying the pretty lights and warm atmosphere, somebody raises a stink.  So here are this year’s first crop of complaints:

Pooping on Peanuts

A teacher at the Killeen School District in Texas put up a poster of Linus from the Peanuts cartoon. In the show “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus tells Charlie: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

The school principal forced the woman to take down her poster. Even after intervention of the Texas State Attorney General, who said that it was likely a violation of Texas’ “Merry Christmas Law,” the school refuses to back off their stance.

No one was forced to convert. No one was denied access to the teacher’s classroom. The Principal and the school ruined Christmas for everyone else.

Town Bullied over a tree topper

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Knightstown, Indiana because one resident, Joseph Tomkins said that the cross in the top of their Christmas tree- the one that had been there for as long as any of the other residents could remember- was causing him to have “unwelcome contact” with the cross and causing “irreparable harm.”

The town caved to the lone complainant and took down the cross rather than fight the ACLU. Frankly, Mr. Tomkins should find another city to live in. Several residents have put up crosses in response to the town’s decision. Hope he likes THAT “unwelcome contact.”

“I am incredibly disappointed by the town council’s decision to not pursue this matter and to allow just one Knightstown resident and the ACLU to bully our town into removing the cross as a tree topper for a Christmas tree…It’s sad that our society has come to this, where one person can dictate their opinion onto everyone else. What’s next?”Angela Moore, Knightstown resident to IJR

Oh Come All Ye stupid liberals

All of these are bad, but the owner of a restaurant in Florida was stunned when he received a note from a diner that said his Christmas music was “offensive.”

Michael Lugo, the owner of Michael’s Tasting Room in St. Augustine decided to post the note online. More than 800 comments later, most have been supportive.

The fact is there really is a war on Christmas. People are offended at the celebration of a Christian holiday. Christ+Mas = the Birthday of Christ. He is the reason for the season. They should be taking up their complaint with Him instead of ruining Christmas for everyone else.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children- post by Faye Higbee