Memorial Day Thoughts 2014

I am thinking about the dead on this weekend.  Specifically, those who died in our country's military service in war and conflict.  I am not an uninterested observer, as these were my brothers and sisters in arms. But I am not directly affected either, as none of my shipmates, battle buddies and friends have died in combat, for which I am thankful.  But I have been thinking about some that slept in the same camp I did, walked the same broken paths, ate at the same DFAC, used the same gym.  During my tour in Kabul, eight USAF personnel and one contractor were killed by an ANA Air Corps Colonel on 27 April 2011.  This was one of the so-called Green on Blue attacks, which heightened tensions and eroded trust with our ANA allies.  It also led to actual tactical pistol training, as some of the after action reports stated that none of those killed drew their weapons.  It was a bit of a shock around Camp Eggers.  Although we had heard of these types of attacks, it was rarely something we briefed to our teams before leaving base.  We changed some of our policies after that, strictly enforcing a buddy system on ANA bases, and getting our sailors range time to maintain weapons skills.  It changed our perceptions of disagreements and arguments with the ANA.  It left me a little twitchy for a while.  What I remember most though is some guilt and sadness.  These people lived on the same relatively small base.  I am sure I walked past them at some point, but I did not recognize a single face from the photos.  The sad thing is that with almost 3000 people on that base, and regular traffic from the Embassy and ISAF HQ, most faces of people you didn't know faded into the crowd.  I am sorry I didn't get to know them before they fell.  I am sorry I wasn't there to fight beside them in their last moments.  Farewell shipmates.

Here are links to some articles with the casualty list:

Here are some other links to the incident:  http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/04/afghan_pilot_kills_8.php#
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/air-force-advisers-remember-deadly-insider-attack-of-2011/2013/04/28/ec2fa5d4-b02a-11e2-9a98-4be1688d7d84_story.html (this one is a retrospective from last year)

Only 5 days later, President Obama announced the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden.  I remember watching the scenes on TV and internet news reports.  Other than a few high fives and probably a few America, Fuck Yeahs, we just kept doing our jobs.  An important milestone was reached, but we knew that America was committed to staying in Afghanistan through 2014.  That raid was amazing, and although there were a few near misses, we lost no one.

Just three months after Osama's death,  we lost over 30 people in one helicopter shoot down, including members of Naval Special Warfare Development Group.  One of my battle buddies read the casualty list and realized he personally knew almost every SEAL on that helicopter.  It was terrible to watch him deal with that, knowing there was nothing I could say or do to help.  He had also lost one of his brothers to a terrible accident in June.

Extortion 17 shoot down:

It seems Death stalked us all that year.  It seemed I was always somewhere else when it struck out at our forces, but it finally found a member of my family.  A week after the helicopter shoot down, I received a Red Cross message indicating my father-in-law voluntarily ceased dialysis and cancer treatments and was expected to die in 1-2 weeks.  I was granted emergency leave and had priority travel out of Afghanistan (only wounded service members got out faster than me).  I was in Flint, Michigan in less than 48 hours, after passing through Al-Udeid, London, and Chicago.  I lost my luggage and had to buy clothes on the way to my in-laws house.  I actually beat my wife and kids there.  About a week after I arrived, this old warrior fought his final battle with cancer, laid down his arms and breathed his last.

In Memoriam, James Washington Crichton:  http://obits.mlive.com/obituaries/flint/obituary.aspx?pid=153282117

Somewhat grim after good weather, good food and time with friends and family.  Hope you have no tragedies to ponder in your own lives this Memorial Day.

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