Month: June 2014

Was it all even worth it?

We’d all like to forget our mistakes. Even the ones we learn from usually involve events we’d prefer not to think about or be reminded of on a regular basis. The key, though, is that we at least learn from our mistakes. Ignoring the mistakes we’ve made or pretending we didn’t make them at all is self-delusional at best.

Let us not forget that the Iraqi people wanted us out. They wanted us gone and to leave their country for good. And now, seeing cities in Iraq like Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Mosul and now perhaps Baghdad being overthrown and taken back by Al Qaeda doesn’t sit well with me and has me wondering that, in the grand scheme of things, was it all really worth it now? At the time, the Bush administration believed that American troops would be “greeted with sweets and flowers,” as one advocate put it, due to their effort to oust Saddam Hussein from power. But a decade after the war began, it is perhaps the costs—not the victories—that are most prominent: 4,488 American lives lost, more than 32,000 Americans wounded, and untold pain to those who came back traumatized by their experience. Even more so, what really pisses me off is hearing POTUS same time and time again, “Osama Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda is on it’s heels and on it’s way to being defeated”, when clearly in the past 24 hours, that statement by Obama proves to be just another talley mark in a plethora of lies and deceptions.

Denying Al Qaeda safe-haven was the entirely legitimate justification for invading Afghanistan in 2002. Ensuring regional stability in the Middle East was why we re-took Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in 1991. By leaving Iraq in 2011 we created the conditions which would require US involvement in another war in Iraq. Secretary of State Kerry said the Iraqis will have to deal with Al Qaeda’s offensive in Fallujah and Ramadi. That it’s their war. Well, it may be their local war, but fighting Al Qaeda and ensuring oil keeps flowing from the Middle East has been the US’ war for decades. At some point I believe we will be forced to become involved again in Iraq even though the current administration says we would only give air support.

We should have stayed but at most, just stayed involved.

If we refuse to admit we made a mistake in leaving Iraq because we’re angry and embarrassed that we mistakenly invaded Iraq in the first place, we’ll only have greater problems to deal with in a few years’ time. Not talking about the war or trying to forget it happened is a disservice to those who fought and to those who will have to fight again someday.


Bergdahl Guilty of Absence Without Leave (AWOL) Under The UCMJ Article 86


It’s safe to say that the Bergdahl trade, brokered by the CIA, has been a PR disaster for the White House, and the media frenzy is in full swing with no end in sight.

Susan Rice’s statement about Bergdahl serving with honor and distinction triggered an outcry from many in his former unit who see his unauthorized absence, what is known in the military as being “UA”, as anything but honorable. And while their statements paint a picture of desertion, it remains unclear if Bergdahl violated Article 86 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and did in fact desert his unit.

What nobody is talking about, and what is factually correct, is that Bergdahl did go AWOL and is guilty of this under the UCMJ. He was not where he was supposed to be, period.

Unauthorized Absence (UA) or Absence Without Leave (AWOL)

Article 86

Any member of the armed forces who, without authority:

(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;

(2) goes from that place; or

(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

In Navy speak, Bergdahl “missed muster” and was not where he should have been. The consequences of this action alone triggered a series of events that contributed to the deaths of soldiers in his unit and in other units who contributed to the search efforts. The daylight exchange also put all US forces involved at risk; Special Operations warriors prefer to operate at night with the advantage of thermal and infrared technology at their disposal.

“Boys are for pleasure, and women are for pleasure,” is a popular Pashtun saying. Judging from the way Bergdahl was presented in the Taliban propaganda video of the hand over, clean shaven and effeminate, according to Pashtun culture, it seems likely that this was potentially an additional insult intended for America. It also hints at how Bergdahl’s captors viewed and potentially treated him during five years of captivity.

It disturbingly reminds me of the hit TV series, Game of Thrones, and one of the main characters, “Theon Greyjoy”, who found himself captured, was brutally tortured and is now known by his pet name “Reek”, a name he willingly accepts. Bergdahl’s five years was likely more terrible then we could ever imagine, given the ruthless nature and sexual culture of the Taliban, and that’s the elephant in the room everyone wants to ignore.

I am glad this American is home, but his actions demand explanation and his UCMJ violation needs to be dealt with accordingly. Although, the White House wants this to end quickly, and I see quick action on the Army’s part with a likely dishonorable discharge in Bergdahl’s future.

One thing is certain, Bergdahl will have to live with his own personal demons that come from knowing that his actions contributed to the deaths of good people, and God knows what else, during his time spent with the Taliban. And this is far more punishment than any currently available to the Army under the UCMJ.

Read more:

Generations of Marines Connect Through the Eagle, Globe and Anchor

By Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor represents more than a symbol of the Marine Corps. While the eagle represents the United States, the globe means worldwide service and the anchor stands for the Marine Corps’€™ rich naval traditions, for Marines this is only scratching the surface of what the emblem represents.


It is the defining moment during boot camp, and I remember it well. Tired, dirty and sweaty after the Crucible, the final test before recruits earn the title “United States Marine,” I marched back realizing weeks of training were leading me to this moment.

I stood beside the other recruits in my boot camp platoon in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. Our senior drill instructor stood before each of us, shook our right hand and placed a tiny piece of metal in the other.

I did not dare turn from him as he placed the emblem in my hand. The iconic symbol of the Marine Corps — the Eagle, Globe and Anchor — felt heavy. In actuality, the tiny piece of metal did not weigh much, but the rich history of the Marine Corps combined with being in front of a memorial dedicated to all Marines who have fallen for their country, seemed to be embodied in it.

With the emblem representing so much more than a piece of metal, I was surprised when I received a package from a complete stranger before I deployed to Afghanistan the year after I graduated boot camp. Wrapped tightly in a plastic bag, I found an EGA.

Also included in the package was a letter from Staff Sgt. Charles E. Fessler, who served four years with 1st Marine Airway. He graduated recruit training from Parris Island, S.C., during July 1942.

“It was important to me to give this Eagle, Globe and Anchor to a new Marine about to deploy,” Fessler wrote. “It was a bit of a good luck charm and a token to remember an older Marine and those from the past.”

It is hard to express the meaning of such a gesture. On the surface, it appeared to be a simple action accompanied with kind words. I knew Fessler, from Easton, Pa., saw it as something more, and it meant more to me, too.

“For me, the Eagle, Globe and Anchor is a symbol for the entire Corps,” Fessler went on to write. “Something in common and a bond between new Marines and old.”

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor is earned by Marines during Marine Corps recruit training. After weeks of training, the recruits earn the small piece of metal and the title “United States Marine.” This EGA was given to me before my first deployment to Afghanistan by Staff Sgt. Charles E. Fessler, who served with 1st Marine Airway during World War II.


The eagle represents the United States; the globe stands for worldwide service; the anchor for the rich naval traditions, but for many Marines that is only scratching the surface.

The EGA is as recognizable a symbol as any in the military. It is a symbol of pride to all Marines. I earned the title “United States Marine” and the right to wear the Marine Corps emblem. It is something no one can take away from me.

I realized when I first received the EGA from my senior drill instructor that I would always be a Marine. It motivates me to remember that. I was the first Marine in my family, and I feel privileged each time I put on the symbol.

I brought the EGA Fessler gave me to Afghanistan. When I go out on patrols, operations or to other bases, I make sure I have it with me. I keep it in one of the pouches on my flak jacket. It is a constant reminder of the rich history of the Corps.

“It’s to remember those who have gone before you,” wrote Fessler. “The ones who fought and returned and those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.”

The emblem accompanied me when I went through Zamindawar with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, Regional Combat Team 6, during Operation Jaws. It was with me when I patrolled through Sangin with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, RCT-6. When I spent time with the Marines with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, RCT-6 in Trek Nawa, it was always in my flak jacket.

I enlisted with the goal to deploy. When my gunnery sergeant asked me where I wanted to go to after my military occupational specialty school, I told him confidently, “Anywhere deployable.”

To me, that is what being a Marine is about. Marines are warriors, regardless of our job. It does not matter if I work in a supply lot, an administrative office or am a machinegunner in an infantry platoon, we are all trained to fight and to accomplish the mission.

Fessler served the Corps during World War II. He was not involved in a bloody landing or combat like many of his brothers because of his job, but he saw many of his friends suffer.

I think this added to him wanting to reach out to me. As Marines, we have been through the training, the 24-hour duty shifts, the long formations and the loss of our brothers. We understand each other in a way our family and friends can not fully comprehend. These shared experiences link Marines from all walks of life.

It is that sense of camaraderie that connects the generations of Marines. I did not fully understand that bond until I became a one.

“I feel there is a spirit that exists within the Marine Corps that is not evident in any other branch of the military,” wrote Fessler.

In the Marine Corps we use the words camaraderie and brotherhood to describe our relationships. It is something we share regardless of age, race, sex or religion.

I have been privileged to witness the camaraderie between Marines firsthand. I respect the other military branches. They are part of the military family, and we are in the fight together. But the camaraderie between Marines is different.

The EGA bonds Marines together regardless of when they graduated recruit training. Fessler graduated more than 40 years before I was born. The bond pushed him to make a simple gesture to a Marine he never met. It is the same thing that motivates me to one day give the same EGA to a young Marine.

The simple piece of crafted metal weighs little more than a paperweight, but carries the history, tradition and spirit of the Marine Corps, and I will never forget the day I received it.