I need to stress just how intermittent this blog will be. As tempting as it is to write treatises on current events, I’m trying to finish a draft of my next book by December 31. It’s a weak excuse, but there are only so many free hours in the day to write.

A few scattered thoughts on recent topics such as mass shootings, gun control and the like. My point of concern isn’t the concept of banning guns but rather the argument that concealed handguns would solve this problem.

1. I do not trust 99.9 percent of the human population to deposit their trash at the curb each week, much less to judiciously exercise deadly force with a handgun. The only people who envision themselves as Chow Yun-Fat performing acrobatic leaps and delivering precision bullets into consummately evil attackers are, as it turns out, full of shit and invariably unacquainted with the sensation of actual bullets being shot at them from actual guns. Throw in a chemical irritant, a darkened, confined space, etc. and you find the potential for pinpoint-accurate gun heroics diminishing.

2. You want my real opinion on handgun ownership in America? Here: “An armed society is a polite society.” That is, as long as you substitute “polite society” with “a society riven by its own terrors and shames that gropes at the disparate frissons of safety provided by having an inaccurate-but-still-deadly weapon wedged in its sweatpants whilst eating at Bojangles; also, a society that gets drunk and shoots things: sometimes itself, and often unintentionally.” That said, I’m a realist about what the law can and cannot accomplish, particularly when a large segment of the U.S. political system would actively subvert any far-reaching law signed into being.

3. I was ambivalent about handguns until I moved to Alaska, where they’re practically sewn into the flag and where illegal shootings are frequent. Cops get shot, gangs shoot up family picnics, you name it, but the distance and relatively small population keeps them out of the national news. The gun laws there are more liberal than anywhere else I have ever lived, and shootings happen so often that it really fails to make a blip on the radar. By contrast: when I was a kid growing up in Germany, there was a shooting in a town a few miles from mine. A man killed another man with a handgun while the victim was stepping off a city bus. The concept of such a thing taking place was utterly and completely foreign to all the kids in school, including myself (I didn’t live on post). Locally, it was a huge story that drew on for weeks. Handguns are, of course, banned in Germany.

There are compromises. I’m a big fan of lever-action rifles or shotguns for use in home defense given their difficulty to conceal and difficulty of use when employed by, say, a two-year-old. My buddy lives in a shoddily-constructed apartment complex and has a can of mace in his nightstand. He’s also a professional soldier (and a gun owner), but he doesn’t want any errant bullets to penetrate the walls and harm innocent neighbors. I’d rather live next to him than to a guy with an AK-47, a claymore mine, a PKM and a SMAW-D. But that’s just me.

4. “Assault rifles” achieve that categorization by having selective fire capability (among other things). Wild-eyed gun dogmatists like to raise hell about AR-15′s being incorrectly referred to as “assault rifles,” but that’s a case of missing the forest for the hair on the back of the mosquito climbing the bark of the tree among the trees. Seriously. An AR-15 with a reflex collimator (or equivalent) employed in semi-automatic mode is exactly the same kind of weapon used by U.S. Army infantry soldiers. Exactly. Our training does not instruct us to use the three-round burst mode, and a high-capacity drum magazine is actually more firepower (with fewer magazine changes) than what a typical rifleman would have at his disposal (obviously machine guns and grenade launchers are another story).

Trying to wheedle an AR-15 into some other category besides “assault rifle” is just an exercise in self-delusion. It’s a semi-automatic rifle intended for a fire-and-maneuver assault. It’s what I carried on every combat patrol and air assault in Afghanistan. If this guy in Colorado had an EOTech and a 100-round drum, he was actually better armed than I was. No, he couldn’t select “automatic” or “burst” when mowing down a crowd of innocents, but don’t try to tell me it was the same as a Marlin 1895.

5. Even in the military, for all the training we provide, we still have an absurd amount of negligent discharges (people firing their weapons unintentionally). Numerous rear-echelon bases in Iraq and Afghanistan had to adopt rules forcing all weapons to be empty (and magazine wells clear) inside the wire due to the abundance of accidental shootings. I know two other officers (one of whom is in the 75th Ranger Regiment) who ND’ed their weapons inside their offices in Afghanistan. I did an investigation on a guy who ND’ed the M240B in the ECP guard tower. Hell, the commanding general of U.S. Army Alaska banned concealed weapons for soldiers until the 2011 NDAA forced him to change the policy (link is a PDF). I might very well be wrong, but I struggle to believe that the concealed-carry permit training requirements are more stringent and exhaustive than, say, basic training and twice-yearly unit qualifications. If they are, great. Please tell me about them. I want to believe that they’re rigorous and demanding and that only people who should carry concealed weapons may. However, I doubt it, and considering how many states have “must issue” laws, I’m even less credulous.

Feel free to criticize the points made in this article, but please do not try to pigeonhole me as indicative of one side of this pro- / anti-gun binary. I have, at times, employed assault rifles and handguns for a living, and in many cases my life has depended upon them. In the near future, I will do so again. I just don’t think that all citizens should have the right to pack concealed heat. Maybe it’s a kind of elitism. Sorry — I’d rather that than have fawning populism get me killed by an idiot who can’t practice target discrimination.

Anybody in the South knows that it has been insanely hot lately. It was nearing 110ºF this weekend. This past Thursday, walking to my car near the intersection of Bastogne and Reilly at about 4:00 pm, I heard an intense concentration of wailing sirens. I assumed it to be heat-related.

It was something else. At 3:30 pm, a soldier pulled out a handgun during his battalion commander’s safety brief and began firing. He killed the battalion commander, mortally wounded himself and injured another soldier in the crossfire. The details emerged slowly. The shooter died of his injuries. Newspaper articles revealed a sordid history: he was facing UCMJ punishment for having stolen Army property (in this case, a $1,700 tool set). He had punched a woman in the face at a bar in his hometown, earning criminal charges and inflicting $60,000 in medical bills. He had deployed twice, once during the brutal, meat-grinder period of Iraq c. 2006 (he served with my former brigade) and again to Afghanistan with his current unit, the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.

Reading between the lines: 525th BFSB allowed him to deploy, and the prosecutors in Kansas delayed the proceedings so that he could ostensibly go serve America. This is not uncommon: Army logic says that we need all the help we can get, and if a soldier is downrange, he’s at least separated from whatever temptation or conflict caused him to act up. Never mind that we’ll entrust him with deadly force over the lives of locals. The Fayetteville Observer has a story on the final Facebook comments posted by the shooter, and there are users arguing back and forth with all sorts of accusations that you can peruse at your own risk. Apparently the shooter was a member of the battalion commander’s personal security detail while deployed.

When I consider these facts, and the fact that the military suicide rate has surged despite limitless efforts to curtail it (anybody who’s been in the Army in the past five years has been briefed ad infinitum about suicide prevention), I start to get angry and worried. If you ask Army leadership, we’re the strongest military we’ve ever been. Battle hardened. Combat proven. The reason for this is that, in order for Army leadership to rise to the level of brigade command and above, they have had to spend the entire past decade becoming whole-hearted Kool-Aid-drinkers with regard to the state of the Army. Cracks in the finish be damned. If you go back and look at the Army’s statements to itself and others from about 2005 on, it starts to read like a horrifying Thomas Friedman column. The next six months will be pivotal. We’ve turned the corner in Iraq. All’s well, or all’s getting better. And so on. Anybody on the ground could tell you it was false, but given the widening distance between America’s voting public and its military, everyone just hoped for the best and ignored the signs indicating otherwise.

In the world of guys who actually do combat patrols, this phenomenon is called “giving a false report.” You may not be deliberately lying, but you’re making positive gestures to the people above you that things are fine, when they’re very obviously not. I hope that this past week’s shooting is a fluke event, but I don’t trust that assessment. I don’t expect frankness or honesty from the upper echelons anytime soon; I instead expect the usual run of things, the back-patting and hand-shaking, the absurd blanket label of “heroes” (and the furious, spittle-flecked uproar if said absurdity is questioned), and our soldiers will likely keep punching women in the face and committing murders in an organization too myopic and self-satisfied to face the facts.

This isn’t grand or wheezing in your usual 4th-of-July warrior ode kind of way, but it’s the truth as I see it. I welcome your counterpoints.

Stacy Bare recently published an article on Thomas Ricks’s blog discussing a growing and inflated sense of entitlement among veterans. I thought it was a good essay, but with all respect to Stacy for coming out and saying it, I thought it lacked some of the repugnant examples of veterans behaving badly. Particularly, I felt that it didn’t address a key issue: that soldiers’ outsize sense of entitlement starts long before they put on civilian clothes and attempt to take advantage of generosity.

Let me forewarn you: I’m not nearly as diplomatic or forgiving as Stacy, and maybe that stems from the fact that I’ve been serving in combat arms for the entirety of my career, and so I’m used to both whiny, entitled soldiers of the combat and non-combat variety (and when I say “soldier,” I don’t mean just enlisted people — it’s meant to be a catch-all term for everyone serving). As you will see, there are distinct differences. All of which is funny considering that, to the average civilian, a soldier is a soldier is a soldier. They just see the uniform. We, on the other hand, invent classifications and gradations with which to categorize and judge. Which I am going to do right now:

There have always been sustainers just as well as fighters, and yes, I get it, without sustainers we’d be incapable of fighting. My only argument is that there are a lot of them. Frankly, there are a lot more of them than fighters. If you think this is going to lead into some diatribe about my Paleo-diet warrior badass superiority, don’t worry. My only point is that, for there to be a supply support activity office or a forward area refueling/rearming point or a unit maintenance collection point, there have to be rear-echelon soldiers. Doctrinally (that is to say, in a war of movement), they’re literally dozens of miles behind the lines. However, in the current conflict, this has translated into massive bases and encampments from which many of these soldiers will never depart (that is, except for when they go on mid-tour leave or depart the combat zone entirely).

There are huge risks. During the height of the Iraq insurgency, our brigade’s support battalion had a senior sustainer NCO die when a 132mm rocket landed directly on top of her container housing unit. And there’s no denying that the sheer amount of time spent away from home – be it in the shop, on a field training exercise or a deployment – contributes to stress. But let’s not kid ourselves. The risks faced by living on Balad or BIAP or Bagram Air Field are minimal in comparison to the M1151 gunner driving through Sadr City in 2005 or the SAW gunner posted atop Hesco bastions in some hellish, forgotten platoon outpost somewhere in the Tangi valley or along the Pech river.

I bring up the Tangi valley because it was an absolute hell on earth. My best friend set up the first outpost in the Tangi in 2009, and his platoon suffered IED after IED, which killed or crippled a number of his men. When my friend finally got mid-tour leave, he delayed departure for a few days so that he could help process the personal effects of all his men who were so grievously wounded that they had been evacuated from theater. My battalion commander had sent me to Bagram to find information about a wounded Afghan policeman being treated in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital (I wrote about the trip here). In the process, my friend and I got to hang out at Bagram for a few hours and drink some Green Beans coffee. My friend told me a story:

Walking out of the main post Green Beans on the western side of Disney Drive, he overheard a conversation between some REMF and the Indian employee at Orange Julius, in which the soldier had thrown a fit about them not having had the particular flavor of ice cream he wanted. He then made the Indian gentleman make his drink with a bottle of water that the soldier provided, because (as the soldier put it) he “didn’t trust that haji water.”

Now, imagine the look on my friend’s face. They had been living on bagged rations and literally slinging lead for two months in a hellishly contested zone. There hadn’t been a night without indirect fire in weeks. They hit an IED every time they drove their trucks. Meanwhile, at Bagram: a soldier isn’t getting the exact flavor of Orange Julius he desires. A tragedy. This photo comes immediately to mind:

Image

The mature adult in me says that I should respect everyone’s combat deployment and the hardships therein, even if they were dissimilar to mine. The infantryman in me wants every one of you to know that, given the above anecdotes and the extent to which sustainers outmatch fighters in the Army, my inner rage monster hears entitled soft-skill veterans and says, “Get the fuck over yourself. It wasn’t that hard.”

However, infantrymen can be just as whiny and entitled when they want to be. In some ways I think they can be more whiny because, as opposed to expecting cushy environs when deployed or in the field, they instead return from said locales and want to strum the whiner’s lyre and sing about how unforgivably unfair and hard it all was. I’m guilty of it, too.

Here is an example of a sense of entitlement emerging among infantrymen during a deployment: there was a National Guard unit assigned to an adjacent U.S. base when I was living at the Sharana provincial headquarters. They had never updated their rolls for assigned interpreters, and they very rarely (if ever) went on missions. As such, there were 45 interpreters living on a company-size COP, and you can imagine an undersized DFAC packed full of hungry Afghans doing nothing all day long. You can imagine the reaction that Georgia National Guardsmen might have to said scene.

I won’t get into the racial aspects of it, but needless to say, when the Guardsmen had to wait in line behind Afghans, there were poopy faces all around. “This is fuckin’ BULLSHIT!” their XO said to me once. “Why the fuck am I waiting behind these fuckin’ people?”

Why indeed? And let’s not forget how unsatisfying that hot KBR meal was on such a star-lit wintery night. Because, as we all know, everyone in Afghanistan was getting such a hot, plentiful meal. No one was going hungry; no one was pulling security on some precipice. No one was doomed to live in that country for the rest of their lives.

I’m sure that every one of that company’s soldiers (besides the morbidly obese ones who wore maternity uniforms – no joke) could put a rucksack on their backs and walk a ways. They were combat arms soldiers. They were all volunteers. They were serving abroad. But did they have to be such babies about it? I used to ask this question to my soldiers in a rhetorical way: did you think it was going to be easy?

In the palatial showers of that U.S. base, I’d hear the same argument: “Why should I spend my time in this fucking country helping these fucking people? Why should I be away from my family?”

Well, simply put: because you volunteered. Because you signed the dotted line. It isn’t just about free first-class upgrades and anonymous handshakes in airports. It isn’t just about the faux-patriotic tumescence of Applebee’s discounts on Veterans’ Day. You signed up for the job, and that job happened to place you in an uncomfortable situation or an austere environment. If you were a sustainer, it was most likely less physically demanding. If you were a combat arms soldier, it was likely more dangerous. This is the occupation you chose. It could be worse. Deal with it.

I applaud the sacrifices of all those who made them. Having seen the brutal hardship endured by many, I’m more than impressed. But guess what: we all did it to ourselves, and we were handsomely compensated for it. We elected to join, but this isn’t unpaid volunteer work, and as such you shouldn’t expect a discount or a free ride. You shouldn’t brow-beat civilians into giving you something. You shouldn’t accuse people of being weak or afraid for not making the same choices that you did.

So, in that regard, I think Stacy’s closing statement was right on. I also think we need to exhort all reasonable veterans to police up their own and make on-the-spot corrections. Otherwise, whatever strained expressions of goodwill still extant after a decade of whiners ruining it for everyone will soon wither and die. In some ways, we owe it to ourselves. Because some people did suffer, and some people are hurt, both physically and mentally, and some people did lose friends or family or their lives, and we should reserve the goodwill for them. We should reserve the discounts for them; it’s a testament to their true sacrifice. There were heroic acts by men deserving the appellation of and treatment befitting a hero. But we’re not all heroes, and the sooner we stop expecting to be treated like them, the sooner we’ll stop embarrassing ourselves.

I was born in 1984. At the time of my birth, my parents’ tax dollars were paying for munitions shipped through Pakistan to the Afghan mujahideen. Most of what got shot at me during my deployment was hilariously ancient, which is to suggest that it might have even been the very same bullets purchased in the name of defending me as an infant. This isn’t so much true today; besides the fact that the ISI doesn’t need us to buy the ammunition for them anymore, most of the soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are so young as to have been born after the U.S. decisively disengaged from Afghanistan in 1990.

I turned twenty-six a few months after returning from deployment. My father turned twenty-six in 1979. When I think about the insane gulf between the social-cultural consensus at the time versus now, it feels like he lived on another planet. Once, during a getting-to-know-you session in an Army school, our instructor asked what we’d like to see if we could go back in time. Some people said, “The invasion of Normandy.” Some people said, “Ancient Rome.” Some people said, “A few years back when life was sweet and I had a hot ass girlfriend.”

I said 1979. I’d want to see the same West Berlin that David Bowie and Brian Eno saw when they were working on “Low,” “Heroes,” “Lodger” and “Scary Monsters.” I’d want to see Elvis Costello perform songs from “Armed Forces” or the Clash performing songs from “London Calling.” This sort of height-of-the-analog-era fantasizing is really akin to personalized science fiction, something in a similar vein to what James Murphy called “borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered ’80s” back when he first sang “Losing My Edge.”  I’m guilty as charged. I’ve watched “Downtown ’81” and “The Clash on Broadway” way too many times to pretend I’m not a geek for the time period.

Examples of this zenith of the analog era: the hopelessly new wave music video to Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen” (a phenomenal song in of itself) and a similarly-animated counterpoint in the Soviet propaganda cartoon “Shooting Range.” Both of these videos are worth your time, and I would recommend you take in the Soviet cartoon with enough frankness to consider a) how amazingly weird it truly is and b) how little exposure and insight the artists had when they were making it back then.

(Check the gallery below).

More importantly, however, 1979 is the pressure point affecting our modern state of affairs so drastically, and so I guess I wish I could see it and hear it. The notion of communism being on the march in 1979 seems far-fetched and pessimistic given a modern re-evaluation, but I suppose I never lived in fear of Nicaragua becoming another Cuba. I didn’t live through the initial Cuban threat, either. The taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan created a dynamic for the coming decade that would hedge U.S. influence towards villain states across the globe, both among the secular despots of the Middle East and the shameless brutalizers of the developing world. Reagan’s first months in office saw a massive expansion of aid to the Salvadoran military government and to the recruitment and training of ex-national guard soldiers living throughout Central America after the collapse of the Somoza regime. Time Magazine ran a story in 1981 about “human rights training” at Ilopango Air Field in San Salvador. It all seems so agonizingly tongue-in-cheek now. (That story is semi-blocked by Time’s paywall, but you can get it on archive if need be).

Our willingness to throw money and venom into various sub-rosa conflicts throughout the planet supposedly paid dividends. Savimbi and UNITA kept Angola in flux until 2002; El Salvador adopted the U.S. Dollar; Honduras kept its status quo until 2009 (and so little has actually changed there post-coup, anyway); Mobuto kept social equity and democratic representation as far from the Congo as possible; Mubarak stayed in power until 2011. The tally sheet of these conflicts is staggering when considered today. Taken piecemeal, they were miniature interventions with little to no direct U.S. military involvement. I’m too young to understand the terror and the imperative to get involved, and I think that, were I my father’s age, and were I alive in 1979 and cognizant enough of the shape and state of affairs, I might at least have the boilerplate apologia necessary to explain it away.

Because in my case, when I think of my own experience and the agonizing frustration of fighting a war in which your own government is paying both sides, I honestly feel sorry for and empathize with the Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and for every other combatant in every other G.I. Joe-era dirty war. We smirked at it in the 1980s and fist pumped to visceral war porn like Red Dawn, but what we were doing to the Soviet Army has been revisited upon us in time. My fascination with this era is twofold, I guess: first, because of the just-out-of-reach cultural influences from my dad’s young adulthood; and second, because the ramifications of that era are still felt strongly to this day, by kids even younger than me, in every country and region that they touched.

With that in mind, I would strongly suggest that you watch the forty-minute documentary entitled Afgan, a bizarre embed-journalist film made by Americans in 1988. Not only is it a fascinating document of a similarly height-of-analog period, it’s also stunningly relevant and comparable to our own attitudes in that conflict. I won’t insult your intelligence by listing them off – the parallels are staggeringly clear.

You can pay $2.99 for the film through this link.

Or, if you’re cheap, you can watch it piecemeal through Youtube uploads here.

I wrote this on Memorial Day two years ago in a hung-over daze. I had been visiting friends in Washington D.C. and spent the day flying back to Alaska. The Mavi Marmara attack had just taken place, and I had only been back from deployment for less than three months. The immediacy and desperation of what I wrote really surprises me when I read it now.

Some friends really enjoyed this post, and they started sharing again. Now that I’m lucky enough to have an actual audience, I wanted to share this with you as well. Have a great Memorial Day, and try to walk that line between earnest remembrance and getting brow-beaten by overwhelming guilt.

*****

May 31, 2010.

I’ve been lucky enough to get this far, not just on this weekend (where I have managed to travel unimpeded between Alaska and Washington D.C.) and in life in general (where, despite terrible decisions on my part both inside and outside a war zone, I have emerged unscathed). Given the hours of downtime between now and my final flight to Anchorage, I wanted to write a note to reflect on Memorial Day and the things we’re remembering.

Sometime between the first time that I saw Saving Private Ryan in 1998 and the day that I first saw actual fighting in Afghanistan, I started to worry about a phenomenon in both our portrayal of war violence in entertainment as well as, later on, in real life.

There’s always a heroic story arc in war movies, even in self-consciously anti-thematic movies like “The Thin Red Line.” It’s understood that the individual whose story is told will encounter violence — it’s a war movie, right? — and friends and acquaintances tangential to the protagonist will die. You might see sweeping scenes of battlefield violence in which dozens of people are dead or dying, setting the scene that war is unfortunate, brutal and sad. Sometimes the protagonists die. Sometimes they suffer and live on. Rarely do they die at the beginning of the movie, in those expositionary scenes. The guy who gets pinged through the head running in a trench along the Atlantic seawall — who was he? The bodies floating en masse on Utah Beach — who were they? They’re not important to our story except as scene setters, as embodiments of the reality of the nature of war. Viewers are shocked but soon forget because the story goes on.

Not for them. The rest of their story is never told. And maybe we don’t have the time to depict every story of every family’s loss. Maybe that’s why the Vietnam Memorial is so popular. It just lists the names, identifies the cost in concrete terms, and allows us to draw our own conclusions. Was it worth it? I have no idea. I have only the numbers to attend to. I can do the mental arithmetic and sometimes it overwhelms me.

What I am going to say next may seem shocking, and I want to say that I mean it with all respect. I know that we fought for small victories in Afghanistan, and that friends bled for them. There was meaning. I just have to say this:

More terrifying than the pain of dying in war is the fear of dying in war for nothing. Everyone who wears a uniform has imagined what might happen to them in that fatal event. We want it to mean something, and surely it will later on, we think. The men in films I described above, the deaths that seemed to be rendered trivial, they have history on their side. Surely there is value in dying during the liberation of Europe. And surely we can’t tell a heroic epic of a story if the tragedy of every death is placed at center stage. My fallen friends died doing their jobs, doing them well, making the best of the situation, trying to help. But who knows how this story will end? Something needs to be advanced in our world to cost so much. Either that or we need to be done with this and never do this kind of thing ever again.

I don’t believe that there are heroic deaths, but I do believe that there are heroic actions. Men do their jobs and stay their posts because they have learned to confront the most brutal situations with the same frankness of strategy as every other frustrating task that the Army requires. I knew a guy, a really headstrong dude that I clashed with all the time, but who I respected. He was prior service Army and had fought in Afghanistan before he became an officer. He had his own theories on what worked and didn’t work in counterinsurgency. He got blown up one day and was fine, but had a concussion and was shaken up bad. I ate dinner with him that night, and he talked in circles as we ate KBR food in the crowded, hot dining hall. I’ve got a family, he said, I’m trying to get this done with. I should have eaten with him again. On September 4, during the recovery of yet another blown up vehicle, an insurgent fired an RPG-7 at the clean-up crew. My friend saw it coming and jumped in the way of the projectile, shielding another. The guy he knocked out of the way was unscathed, but my friend died. He saved the lives of at least three others by doing this. He was recently awarded a posthumous Silver Star for that day.

The RPG triggered an ambush; another soldier was shot and later died in Germany when his family traveled to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center so they could say goodbye before they had to pull the plug on their 20-year-old son. For disconnected citizens these were but blips on the radar of the misery that has spanned this decade. Over 600 families in Kileen, TX have lost their primary wage earner in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. The trickling numbers, the back-page news clippings, they all add up, and each one is the end of the world for a family, a neighbor, a relative or a friend. Each passing Memorial Day sees more and more of them. Soon you will see kids who were eight years old on 9/11 fighting and dying in Afghanistan. And those kids’ brigades will be on 12-month tours, and brigades will come to replace them, with younger kids still. And so on. This horrifies me.

So, this is Memorial Day. Let us remember the human cost and give respect to those who didn’t make it home. I hope that when the moment of silence ends, we start frankly discussing the war and what it means. I hope it ends sooner than later. I think it costs too much. And if that deprives the next generation of elegiac war movies where death comes unfairly and suddenly, then so be it. Knowing the alternative, I will cling to blind optimism, to stupid hopes, to bearing witness to the memory of better men than myself.

In loving memory of 2LT Darryn Andrews, Blackfoot 3-6, B/1-501, killed in action September 4th, 2009 in Palau, West Paktika, Afghanistan;

and PFC Matthew Martinek, B/1-501, died September 11th, 2009 in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds received on September 4th, 2009 in Palau, West Paktika, Afghanistan;

and SSG Michael Murphrey, C/1-501, died September 6th, 2009, in Sharana, Afghanistan, of wounds received the same day in Da Dila Panegir, West Paktika, Afghanistan;

and SSG Kurt Curtiss, HHC 1-501, killed in action on August 26th, 2009 in Sar Hawza, West Paktika, Afghanistan;

and SSG Clayton Bowen, HHC 1-501, died on August 18th, 2009 in Sharana, Afghanistan of wounds received the same day in Dila, West Paktika, Afghanistan;

and SPC Morris Walker, HHC 1-501, killed in action on August 18th, 2009 in Dila, West Paktika, Afghanistan;

and 1LT Brian Bradshaw, C/1-501, killed in action on June 25th, 2009 in Na’im Gul Shahzada, West Paktika, Afghanistan.

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