Monday, July 30, 2012

Ohio Flags of Honor

In July as part of their Community Days event, the City of Brook Park, Ohio hosted the Ohio Flags of Honor commemorating Ohio service members who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Being based in Brook Park, we were on hand to provide some color guard action and some sharply dressed Marines to add some scenery.

Marine color guards are excellent to have on hand for any occasion.
Each flag has the name of a fallen service member from Ohio written on it. As the ceremony opened Gold Star families were invited up to place the flags of their fallen loved ones.

After the Gold Star families the rest of the community lined up to place flags of the fallen as their names were read allowed.

Nothing like getting the entire community involved.

Names of the fallen were inscribed on each flag and read as they were carried in.
Everyone got in on the ceremony

Our rifle detail completed the ceremony with a 21 gun salute.
Amazing Grace always sounds best on the pipes.

The state of Ohio and the Cleveland area are proving themselves great communities to be a part of. Stay tuned for more action from the northern Ohio region!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Monday, July 23, 2012

High Ground

The Journey Home is an Uphill Battle

High Ground is about 11 wounded warriors and 1 Gold and Blue Star mother who climb Mt. Lobouche in the Himalayas. While recounting their war time experiences, the veterans find teamwork, friendship, and healing on the journey. This film is right where the focus has broadened: revealing the lives of those who have served and live with both seen and unseen wounds. High Ground was produced by Don Hahn (The Lion King) and Directed by five time Everest climber and three time Emmy winner Michael Brown.

Kanani over at the Kitchen Dispatch is one of the lead ninjas getting the word out on this great film (yes I've seen it, awesome!). Kanani describes it best:

"High Ground ties in with the warrior resiliency programs used to address combat stress and trauma, as well as the aftermath of war.  But I think there's a difference: this is showing people doing something, not just a list of things to watch for. I think it could lead to a good discussion about self care, a great discussion about the scientific studies being done that prove movement and breath combined with talk therapy surpass the limiting treatment to the usual two modalities (medication and talk therapy).   We have a chance to help this and future generations of veterans with the aftermath of war in ways that were unimaginable in the past. High Ground is part of it, and it does not mask the very substantial trauma that the men and women went through, while also showing them experience small victories along the way."

The August theatrical release will be in New York, DC, and Los Angeles. In DC they are doing a free premiere for military and military support groups. 

Why should you see it? I'll let Kanani tell you:

"One of the things High Ground does is allow the Gold Star mother, and the veterans to tell their stories. Through the process of storytelling --whether it's by recounting verbally, or writing, one is allowed the opportunity to put things into an order that makes sense to them.  Researchers in PTSD call it getting unstuck or  framing a series of events so that it becomes a bad memory, rather than something that one is reliving every day."  

High Ground will be in theaters November 2. See the film, hear their stories, watch them take the high ground.  

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hangin' with the old breed.

I'm finding Inspector & Instructor duty involves quite a bit of community relations. In late June I was asked if some Marines could visit the veterans who reside at the Hamlet Manor Nursing Home just outside of Cleveland. Naturally I said yes, so last week six of us took a trip over there and met some of the old warriors on whose shoulders we stand today.

Firm handshakes all around from grizzled warlords.

We greeted the first group and I immediately asked them why they weren't all standing at attention. They threw their teeth at me and then we took a tour of the home and assisted living areas meeting veterans along the way.

Some of the residents were chair or bed ridden but seeing a uniform brought a smile nonetheless.

"Hey, I'm taking a picture with the Marines!" His buddy didn't believe him.
 Some of the residents thought my Cpl resembled Harry Potter. He'll be reaping the benefits of that one for some time to come.
This gentleman showed us his unit's campaign map from WWII.
Cpl Harry Potter puts on a magic show for the residents. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Hand salute! Right back at you brother.

A great time was had by all. Most satisfying was hearing nurses comment they hadn't seen smiles on some of the more ornery residents until the Marines came to visit. Maybe they were just barring their teeth?

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In memory of Sgt Joe Wrightsman, hardcore USMC.

Two years ago this week a man of valor fell in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
PATROL BASE JAKER, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — A Marine says goodbye to Sgt. Joe L. Wrightsman during his memorial service at Patrol Base Jaker, Afghanistan, July 30, 2010. Wrightsman died supporting combat operations July 18, 2010. (Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)
 In his memory, a fine young American will be running the Marine Corps Marathon raising funds for the International Association of Fire Fighters. In her words: "Joe lived for only 23 years, but gave so much back to our nation. He was one of many heroes that willingly sacrifice themselves for the safety of others. Sadly we don’t hear about each and every one of them, or get to know them unless if there is a 5-minute media coverage. I told Joe’s story to my family and friends; they were touched just as much as I was. So we came up with the idea to run a fund raising campaign for this race and dedicating it to Joe’s loving memory."

Nila contacted me asking if she could use a photo from the blog on her fundraising site and I said I'd do her one better. Fire fighters and paramedics being my kind of ninjas, I said I'd post the link to her fundraiser here. So without further ado:

Clark Kent has nothing on this guy.

It is my understanding Nila has been training her tail feathers off and intends to win the entire event. At least that is what I told her was the price of my posting a link. So if you like betting on a sure thing and giving to a worthy charity in the name of a worthy Marine, go check out Nila's fundraising site and throw some money her way.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bringing one home

Recently the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command was able to identify the remains of Corporal Clarence Huff, USMC.  During the Korean War Cpl Huff was part of Item Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.  He was reported killed in action on 2 December, 1950, south of a town called Yudam-ni. Though he was a known battlefield death, his body was not recovered.  Excavations by JPAC in North Korea, between 1996 and 2005, resulted in the recovery and repatriation of remains of over 220 U.S. servicemen.  Some remains from that battle are still unidentified and are interned at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Now days DNA is used to help identify some of our unknown fallen. In Cpl Huff’s case, his remains were part of a mass recovery of unknowns who were shipped to somewhere in Japan back in the ‘50s. There, a preservative was applied to the remains which, it turns out, degrades DNA. This was all before DNA testing was even a consideration and being an unknown, Cpl Huff was one of many interned at the Punchbowl.  Recently, it was discovered Cpl Huff was among a small group who had chest x-rays done before they deployed. With the help of these and dental records Cpl Huff was identified from among the unknowns interned at Punchbowl.

This past week one of my Marines had the privilege of accompanying Mrs. Hattie Johnson of the POW/MIA Section, Headquarters Marine Corps Casualty Office, to brief the family of Cpl Huff on the news of the recovery of their fallen family member.

Sgt Smith and surviving family members of Cpl Huff.

Sgt Smith will also escort Cpl Huff from Hawaii next month when he is finally returned home to his family. We at 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines are looking forward to being part of this occasion. 

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ask America's SgtMaj: Bearing

Ally asks: "How does the USMC teach Marines to go from a seated position… to standing in that 'Marine posture' with hand outstretched in less than the time it takes me to blink? See, I drive around a lot and when I spot a recruiting station I go in for a hand shake. …to a man the Marines perform the aforementioned maneuver. "

Ally actually goes on in some detail about meeting Marines who effortlessly untangle themselves from various contorted seating positions to stand immediately straight, shoulders back, hand extended in greeting, yet ready for action.

Marines put a lot of stock in bearing. One of the 14 Leadership Traits it is defined as: "The way you conduct or carry yourself. Your manner should reflect alertness, competence, confidence, and control."

Personally, I prefer the word comportment but it's the same thing. A civilian friend once described it as an air of: "… not to be %&@#!* with."  It's not about giving off a bad ass vibe though. Any thug can be a tough guy. A Marine should be firm, courteous, tactful and leave you with the impression if the wolf came knocking he'd kick the wolf's tail for you. This seemingly small attribute can leave a lasting impression on those who witness it in action. 

Ally's question reminds me of standing post on embassy duty in Madrid. One evening after normal hours an Air Force buddy who worked in the embassy mail room stopped by Post One to ask about something. Post One is the main guard post at every American embassy Marines provide security for.  Essentially it is a duty hut composed of bullet resistant glass and CCTV gear.  It provides a very visible Marine presence to anyone entering or exiting the chancery.

I have no memory of the conversation. I do recall since it was after hours and almost everyone was gone, I had relaxed somewhat from the pacing tiger posture I normally adopted while on duty to leaning casually on the window ledge.  In contrast this could best be described as a loose bag of laundry posture.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the elevator doors. They suddenly opened and out came the Defense Attache Officer, a Navy Captain. My instant transformation to the position of attention with crisp salute and proper greeting as the Captain left for the day completely stunned the Air Force mail handler: "Dude! How did you do that? You, like, totally uncoiled yourself in the blink of an eye!" What to a Marine was a seemingly mundane event was a story this guy told for weeks afterward.    

How do we teach it? I really don't think there is an instruction manual on comportment, but institutionally the Marine Corps understands the importance of professional bearing.  I always tell the Marines if they look squared away then they probably are squared away. If they look like a sloppy bag of smashed buttocks then it is likely they are exactly that. Perception is indeed reality.

As pertains to recruiters, I've heard more than one story from a Marine who related they joined because they were sitting in the office of one of our sister services until they saw the Marine recruiter swagger past. Their unanimous response to this was: "Wow! I wanna be like that guy!"

Go figure.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

As an old School House Rock kid I just couldn't resist!

Enjoy the fireworks!

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Because they say so much more.

A lazy post with pictures!

Recently Marines Blog asked to reprint one of my old posts on their site. I thought it was pretty awesome of them to ask.  You can check it out right now. Feel free to leave comments. They like it when you do that.

The funny part to me is the picture I sent to be used for my mini-bio at the end of the article.  After a short while one of my old Marines sent me a link to some internet meme site and asked if I had seen it before. Someone got a hold of the picture and here are the results.

 As if I haven't inundated everyone with Marine Week madness, here are some more pictures from that event.

Osprey flight over Lake Eerie. Are those rubber propellers ?
Running my mouth for the cameras at the football game between the Marines and Cleveland PD. Mistake!
3/25 Marine offers donuts to the Police bench before the game. It's surmised this secured our 28-0 loss to Cleveland's Finest.
By popular demand, yet another picture of the superior pitching form of America's SgtMaj.
Changing of the guard at the Vietnam War Memorial replica.
A valorous road to take.
The Marine Week mural painted by Marine artists on one of the public buildings.
The Police Chase fun run logo.
So there you go. Enjoy!

America's SgtMaj