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Monday, May 30, 2011

#830 Memorial Day 2011

Once again it is time to "officially" remember those who have given there all in uniformed service to their country. Men and women who have answered the call and gone to war. Most came back alive, and we honor them. Some came back in body bags, and we honor them. Some did not come back, and we honor them. Some are still serving, and we honor them.

I have just gone through the eleven postings that are labeled "war stories" in this blog and my previous blog, Life in Lansing, KS. They are stories that interested me. If you are interested then you can use the links here and there to read them. The first one was a Memorial Day Thank You to a deceased comrade, Captain Chet Lee.

Last week were going through a box of stuff - photos, awards, newspaper clippings, etc., when we chanced upon the following handwritten note. Chet was killed April 1, 1966. You can see by the date it was written that I was beginning to come to grips with his death.

3 April 1966

Today the bitterness is slowly subsiding.  I have lost a good friend.  Was it a senseless killing?  A needless death?  We expect death in war and we prepare ourselves for it. The job of the soldier is to protect his country through armed conflict if necessary.  All through our careers we train for that one day when we must face our enemy and let him know that he has made the wrong choice in challenging us.  Chet died doing this.  He faced  a cunning enemy that had superior firepower.  He died because he had to try to stop the enemy. A .45 caliber pistol with seven rounds at the most is very poor odds against an automatic weapon.  Why wasn’t he better armed?

He was doing a job that all company commanders enjoy, he was checking his men. A man on a guard post who is the first, last and only line of defense for the installation he is guarding.  We place these men on these posts knowing that they will most likely be one of the first to die.  The men themselves realize the danger of this position.  How can we make their job easier?

The Army spends millions on procuring an arsenal of weapons that can dispatch an enemy surely and swiftly.  We train our men in the use and care of this weaponry.  They gain confidence in the themselves and their equipment through the association of use and training.  They become professionals.  We teach them offensive and defensive techniques  of  warfare.  We seek to improve our defensive positions.  This is an age-old principle of the Army.  Is it no longer valid?

We know that the enemy can destroy any place he wants to whenever he wants to. Or, can he?  Are we not falling victim to complacent thinking if we believe this?  We know how the enemy usually operates.  He has set up a modus operandi. It would seem logical to utilize this information to our benefit so that we might better defend our men and equipment. We make suggestions to improve the defensive positions of our men.  Can a young company commander, with no previous combat experience, know what to do in this situation?  What can you tell a man who asks you, “Why can’t I use my rifle on a static security post?  Why can’t we put some type of protective barrier around my post?”

Telling him that these recommendations have been made already isn’t enough. Can we tell him that we don’t want to show the local nationals that we are afraid of the enemy? That we don’t want to kill innocent civilians (which we don’t), that we must help keep the city beautiful?

What do you tell a man that says. “Terrorist bombs kill innocent people.  The local nationals have sand bagged barriers.  As for keeping the  city beautiful, have you seen the garbage in the gutters?

It is difficult to reconcile the fact that you must knowingly send a man to do a job with less than adequate equipment and protection, particularly when the equipment and protection is readily available.

There is no guarantee that Chet and his men would be alive today if they had had that equipment and protection, but it is a thought to ponder.

They were brave, good men who not only fought the enemy but the deck that was stacked against them.

Futility and frustration


Goodbye, Chet

I can only hope that the "powers that be" are making fewer such mistakes, but I doubt it. Greed and the hunger for power still reign supreme.


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