Because of an excess of spambot activity, I have blocked new registrations. I hate taking such drastic measures, but I don't have time to clean up all the false registrations that result from whatever attack list I landed on. I will likely revise this in the future once I've upgraded some of my code, but until then, please email me if you would like a user account. Most days, you'll get a login within a few daylight hours. Please let me know:
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The WatchCat spent a year in Russia and the Middle East in preparation for a government career. Unfortunately she got in a little too deep, and health problems sabotaged her career before it began. The future? Now there's an open question. She gets her paws in the action whenever possible, with or without a paycheck. WatchCat keeps busy supporting the troops, recruiting pararescue candidates, yelling at traitors and helping people navigate the grey areas on international everything.
A close family member is active duty US military, but due to OPSEC (and the general need for family peace), WatchCat is unable to write about that person's activities. She makes the most of the opportunities that God gives her, knowing that she should be dead by now.
And yes, she is married & is going to stay married. Smacks upside the head are delivered as needed to those who don't understand this.
We buried my grandmother at the same national cemetery years ago, but that was different. I was running late that day, so I barely spoke to the staffers, and since she was "just" a spouse there of course were no military honors. But yesterday is forever etched in my memory, not only for our own loss, but because of walking the same path as the Gold Star families.
The VA administration is profoundly screwed up, but the people working at the national cemetery were wonderful. When we arrived we discovered that multiple issues had been mishandled by the funeral home. On a half hour's notice, they got 3 National Guardsmen and 6 VFW Marines to perform full military honors, including a bugler and rifle volley. Words cannot convey the depths of my gratitude that we could give my grandfather his proper sendoff.
Yet it was also a stark reminder of the road other families must walk. We knew my grandfather's death was coming. But how does someone stumble through it all when the death is a shock? How do you keep the scream from bursting out of your chest when the last salute is fired?
I've been to a lot of funerals. The worst ones are the structureless ones, where the people present are left to the sum of their emotions. Grief needs structure. It needs familiar words and days off work and black clothes to tell the world to back off. My family hasn't been able to take time away from other responsibilities, and that has taken a terrible toll over the last two weeks. But at the cemetery they reminded us to silence our phones, effectively shutting out the rest of the world for a time. It was a time for honor, a time for grief. We shut out the world but connected with the unique brotherhood of all who grieve there.
The gift of the national cemeteries is the reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our immediate families. Every time I visit, I enter in grief but leave in gratitude.
There are times when I understand why certain governments control their media. I would love to squelch ours right now. I would love it if no news story included information on race. It's not that I don't think that racism is a problem still. I don't often see it in front of me, but I'm a white gal in a liberal northern state. Yet what I hear from my "non-white" friends tells me that there's more work to be done.
But trial-by-media does nothing but fan the flames of hatred on all sides.
What I've read of the grand jury transcripts is a far cry from the street narrative. Here we see two critical issues: 1) The media's disregard for truth in their pursuit of sensation, and 2) people's belief in the media above the judicial system.
It's hard to do anything about either issue when whites and blacks still harbor suspicion about each other.
I have a friend, a middle-aged black writer, who has done a great job of sharing her experiences without lapsing into hatred. I've written before about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issues that arise when an entire community has been scarred by mistreatment, and I believe that there are parallels. Yes, "reverse racism" is a problem. My friend admits it. But affirmative action won't fix this. More legislation won't fix this. It is a social problem and it needs a social solution.
It needs invitations to coffee.
It needs doors held open.
It needs less edginess and more laughter in the checkout line.
There are different cultures and different struggles, and deep resentments on both sides. Much will not be understood without active engagement. We've lost the ability to draw out the opposing side; we're so busy proclaiming that we're right that we don't bother to find out why someone thinks we're wrong. There's no harm in asking, "Why don't you trust the police? Why don't you trust the judicial system?" The answers might surprise you. I have a personal reason to distrust the judicial system, but I don't let it end there because I recognize it is the best of the options. We need to encourage each other to work for solutions rather than just complain about other people's behavior.
Blame begets hatred. Compassion paired with clear thinking stops the cycle.
Here's the thing: I posted "Pray for Ferguson" on my Facebook wall and did not get a single "like." I have both liberal and conservative friends on FB. What is wrong with us if we cannot even agree to pray for a place that is getting sucked into hatred and violence?
You might start by looking someone of the other "color" in the eye and saying hello.
We'd been expecting it for a long time, and it's pretty amazing that he held on as long as he did. Knowing his service record in the USMC, though, it wasn't a surprise that he held on for a few extra years.
It makes the "if onlys" a bit harder. We weren't close, but it still feels like the rug got pulled out from under me. He was part of my foundation, a key piece of who I am, and that piece is part grit and part too-hard shell. I broke through that shell with him once, and he told me about the blood sloshing around on the floor of the hospital ship.I hope that in that moment, he knew that he was heard. I could love and accept and be proud of the warrior he had once been. But he kept those memories locked down most of the time, maybe to protect us, maybe because he just couldn't bear to relive them.
A good friend of mine recently made an offhand comment about me not being a very affectionate person. It wasn't a criticism; she was just making an observation while discussing an issue. It surprised and stung me a bit, because I don't think of myself that way. But I realized that my deepest feelings do get buried. Thus I'm more like my grandfather than I realized.
Did my grandfather love me? The more I think about it, the more I believe that he did. But we primarily knew each other's walls, not the things inside. I wish we had given each other more of a chance to be real; I think it would have turned out well.
If you love someone, no matter how imperfectly, don't let them doubt it. Hug them a few seconds longer, send a two line email just because, give them grace when they screw up. Someday one or both of you will have to say goodbye.
One of my closest friends is a newly-minted sergeant. She's no glory hound; in fact, I remember her commenting about her trip home from Afghanistan and how problematic it was when people wanted to talk about her service all the time when she just wanted to get a nap before coming home. So it surprised me yesterday when she remarked about going into a particular store while in uniform, and no one there made the slightest acknowledgment of her service. I know the store in question. It's a hotbed of liberalism, so I wasn't really surprised. Just...sad. She's an amazing woman who has truly found her niche. But liberals probably see her skin color and the uniform and pity her at best. I almost wish someone had actually said what they were thinking; they might have learned their lesson.
Long ago, I thought only the old guys were the veterans. But then after Desert Storm, it was the dads, the uncles, the older cousins. Then it was the brothers, the classmates, the husbands... Now, fellow moms are veterans, and the older kids are enlisting.
I cannot imagine how not knowing any veterans would feel. No wonder liberals want to legislate the heck out of everything; their world must feel totally insecure. To know a veteran is to know sacrifice and honor and backbone. We understand it to varying degrees, but the collective character of veterans is a gift to our country that extends far beyond time in service.
So, to my family, friends, and those veterans I don't know by name: Thank you. You protect our freedoms, you keep our enemies at bay, and your character makes this a better country. We are truly blessed to have you.
The President of the United States of America, in the name of
Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously)
to First Lieutenant Loren Douglas Hagen, United States Army (Reserve),
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life
above and beyond the call of duty while serving as the team leader of
a small reconnaissance team with the U.S. Army Training Advisory
Group, in action against enemy aggressor forces while operating deep
within enemy-held territory in the Republic of Vietnam, on 7 August
1971. At approximately 0630 hours on the morning of 7 August 1971 the
small team came under a fierce assault by a superior-sized enemy force
using heavy small arms, automatic weapons, mortar, and rocket fire.
First Lieutenant Hagen immediately began returning small-arms fire
upon the attackers and successfully led this team in repelling the
first enemy onslaught. He then quickly deployed his men into more
strategic defense locations before the enemy struck again in an
attempt to overrun and annihilate the beleaguered team's members.
First Lieutenant Hagen repeatedly exposed himself to- the enemy fire
directed at him as he constantly moved about the team's perimeter,
directing fire, rallying the members, and resupplying the team with
ammunition, while courageously returning small arms and hand grenade
fire in a valorous attempt to repel the advancing enemy force. The
courageous actions and expert leadership abilities of First Lieutenant
Hagen were a great source of inspiration and instilled confidence in
the team members. After observing an enemy rocket make a direct hit on
and destroy one of the team's bunkers, First Lieutenant Hagen moved
toward the wrecked bunker in search for team members despite the fact
that the enemy force now controlled the bunker area. With total
disregard for his own personal safety, he crawled through the enemy
fire while returning small-arms fire upon the enemy force. Undaunted
by the enemy rockets and grenades impacting all around him, First
Lieutenant Hagen desperately advanced upon the destroyed bunker until
he was fatally wounded by enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire.
With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant
Hagen's courageous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity
above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his own life, were
in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and
reflect great credit upon him and the United States
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life
above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board
the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy
Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19
March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous
barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt.
Comdr. O'Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the
shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant
explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in
ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying,
comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led
firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he
directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the
magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling
dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite
searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and
imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude,
and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Comdr. O'Callahan.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his
life above and beyond the call of duty. Chaplain Watters distinguished
himself during an assault in the vicinity of Dak To. Chaplain Watters
was moving with one of the companies when it engaged a heavily armed
enemy battalion. As the battle raged and the casualties mounted,
Chaplain Watters, with complete disregard for his safety, rushed
forward to the line of contact. Unarmed and completely exposed, he
moved among, as well as in front of the advancing troops, giving aid
to the wounded, assisting in their evacuation, giving words of
encouragement, and administering the last rites to the dying. When a
wounded paratrooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting
forces, Chaplain Watters ran forward, picked the man up on his
shoulders and carried him to safety. As the troopers battled to the
first enemy entrenchment, Chaplain Watters ran through the intense
enemy fire to the front of the entrenchment to aid a fallen comrade. A
short time later, the paratroopers pulled back in preparation for a
second assault. Chaplain Watters exposed himself to both friendly and
enemy fire between the two forces in order to recover two wounded
soldiers. Later, when the battalion was forced to pull back into a
perimeter, Chaplain Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were
lying outside the newly formed perimeter. Without hesitation and
ignoring attempts to restrain him, Chaplain Watters left the perimeter
three times in the face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar
fire to carry and to assist the injured troopers to safety. Satisfied
that all of the wounded were inside the perimeter, he began aiding the
medics ... applying field bandages to open wounds, obtaining and
serving food and water, giving spiritual and mental strength and
comfort. During his ministering, he moved out to the perimeter from
position to position redistributing food and water, and tending to the
needs of his men. Chaplain Watters was giving aid to the wounded when
he himself was mortally wounded. Chaplain Watters' unyielding
perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades was in keeping with
the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.
George Kirk, Sr. was a Marine and a Navajo Code Talker who passed away
in 1999. Recently his uniform was set to go up for auction but
thankfully Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly heard about it and was
able to get it returned to the tribe.
When Sergeant Cavaiani and the remaining platoon members could not
halt the enemy advance, he ordered his men to escape while he laid
down covering fire. As they ran, the citation said, he "recovered a
machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy
fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping
motion." Most of his men escaped. Sergeant Cavaiani was severely
wounded. He told the PBS series "American Valor" that he had "almost
120 shrapnel holes in me, and a couple of bullet holes." He said he
had played dead when enemy soldiers took the hill and then hid in the
jungle for more than 10 days before he was captured. He spent 23
months as a prisoner of war, much of that time in solitary
confinement. He was released in March 1973.
From Sgt. Maj. Cavaiani's Medal Of Honor citation:
S/Sgt. Cavaiani distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in
action in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 while serving
as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an
isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the
morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage
of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and
mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani acted
with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly
exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp's
perimeter directing the platoon's fire and rallying the platoon in a
desperate fight for survival. S/Sgt. Cavaiani also returned heavy
suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period
with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be
evacuated, S/Sgt. Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain on the
ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. S/Sgt.
Cavaiani was able to direct the first 3 helicopters in evacuating a
major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase in enemy fire,
S/Sgt. Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he
calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their
defenses. On the morning of 5 June, a heavy ground fog restricted
visibility. The superior size enemy force launched a major ground
attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small
force. The enemy force advanced in 2 ranks, first firing a heavy
volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade
fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand
grenades at the beleaguered force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani returned a heavy
barrage of small arms and hand grenade fire on the assaulting enemy
force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining
platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover
fire. With one last courageous exertion, S/Sgt. Cavaiani recovered a
machine gun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy
fire directed at him, and began firing the machine gun in a sweeping
motion along the two ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through S/Sgt.
Cavaiani's valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the
majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While
inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, S/Sgt. Cavaiani
was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. Cavaiani's conspicuous gallantry,
extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above
and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest
traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon
himself and the U.S. Army.
During his 41 years of service, Admiral Oscar Badger II saw action in
the U.S. occupation of Veracruz as well as both World Wars. He was
awarded four Legion of Merit awards, the Navy Cross as well as the
Medal Of Honor.
You can read more about Oscar Badger II here
On September 15, Spc. 4 Donald Sloat was posthumously awarded the
Medal Of Honor for his actions in 1970 in Vietnam:
Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat distinguished himself by acts of
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond
the call of duty, while serving as a machine gunner with 3rd Platoon,
Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry
Brigade, Americal Division, during combat operations against an armed
enemy in the Republic of Vietnam, Jan. 17, 1970. D Company operated
out of Fire Support Base Hawk Hill in an area of I Corps. They were
located south and southwest of Danang providing security for local
villages and conducting regular searches for NVA units. The territory
they patrolled stretched from the coastal lowlands to the mountains
and jungle. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong activity was common in the
area, and D Company suffered regular casualties from snipers and booby
traps. On the morning of Jan. 17, 1970, Sloat's squad was conducting a
patrol, serving as a blocking element in support of tanks and armored
personnel carriers from F Troop in the Que Son valley. As the squad
moved through dense up a small hill in file formation, the lead
Soldier tripped a wire attached to a hand grenade booby-trap set up by
enemy forces. When the grenade rolled down the hill toward Sloat, he
had a choice. He could hit the ground and seek cover, or pick up the
grenade and throw it away from his fellow Soldiers. After initially
attempting to throw the grenade, Sloat realized that detonation was
imminent, and that two or three men near him would be killed or
seriously injured if he couldn't shield them from the blast. In an
instant, Sloat chose to draw the grenade to his body, shielding his
squad members from the blast, and saving their lives. Sloat's actions
define the ultimate sacrifice of laying down his own life in order to
save the lives of his comrades. Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat's
extraordinary heroism and selflessness are in keeping with the highest
traditions of military service, and reflect great credit upon himself,
his unit, and the United States Army.
A quick note about this weeks post. Below is all the information that
could be found about Airman Second Class Gordon Thayer. Not everyone
who has served goes into the history books. The majority simply
return home and live their lives.
Airman Second Class Gordon Thayer
From Airman Second Class Thayer's Silver Star citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of
Congress, July 8, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes
pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Airman Second Class Gordon
C. Thayer, United States Air Force, for gallantry in connection with
military operations against an opposing armed force near Phouc Vinh,
Republic of Vietnam on 25 August 1966. On that date, Airman Thayer was
a Pararescueman aboard a Rescue Helicopter, which was shot down and
forced to crash-land while attempting to evacuate wounded Army
personnel. Shaking off the effects of shock of the extremely hard
landing and with complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Thayer
tended to the Army wounded while subjecting himself to intense hostile
fire. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Airman Thayer has
reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air
From Airman Second Class Thayer's Distinguished Flying Cross citation:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of
Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished
Flying Cross to Airman Gordon C. Thayer, United States Air Force, for
heroism involving aerial flight as para-rescueman on an unarmed and
unarmored CH-3C helicopter over North Vietnam on 27 July 1965. On that
date, Airman Thayer's aircraft penetrated the surface-to-air missile
envelope surrounding Hanoi, North Vietnam, to successfully recover a
pilot who had abandoned his crippled aircraft in that area. This
recovery operation involved flight in excess of 300 miles over hostile
territory under marginal weather conditions and without navigational
aids. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty
demonstrated by Airman Thayer reflect great credit upon himself and
the United States Air Force.
These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives just so
that we may get to enjoy our freedom. For that I am proud to call
Those Who Say That We're In A Time When
There Are No Heroes, They Just Don't Know Where To Look
This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more
information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on
your site, you can go here.
I'm still not sure of what happened with my hosting service these last few months, but thankfully it is sorted out and the old posts are back, so I might dare to write a new one or two someday.
Life has changed. The Great Move has been accomplished, although we still have crazy amounts of boxes to still unpack. We love our new house and moving back to an old haunt feels right. But it has been more than ten years since I've had any kind of residence here, so it's an odd experience. We're planning to stay for at least five years. Still, I wonder if I'm jinxing myself by throwing away the boxes and the bubble wrap.
Politics... I'm fed up and and yesterday's election showed that most of the country is fed up too. We'll see if the new government can do any better.
I'll do some mass postings of Wednesday Hero to catch up and then I'll try to work through all the things I flagged for attention these last couple months. Thanks for sticking around.
"Even to the death fight for truth, and the Lord your God will battle for you." -Sirach 4:28
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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" -Isaiah 6:8
As many of you are aware, the PJCountry blog disappeared in November 2008.
I'm doing my best to help the pararescue community by sharing PJ-related news and events on my blog. The following information may be helpful:
You will find answers to many questions at pararescue.com and specialtactics.com
If you're ready to become a PJ, you'll need to decide between Active Duty and Reserve. This will determine who will handle your official recruitment. Visit Contacts and POCs to find the appropriate person or email me.
304th Pararescue Team (Reserve) (Oregon)
If you're on the west coast near Oregon and are considering being a PJ/CRO on the Portland Pararescue Team (commitment of 4 years beyond training), contact TSgt Stanley Iakopo at stanley.iakopo AT us.af.mil or email me.
I have no official role with pararescue or other SpecOps but I know enough to get you connected to the right people. Email to CAT at THEWATCHCAT dot NET
Jubilate Agno, Fragment B
[For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry]
by Christopher Smart
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.