First Marine Killed in GWOT Remembered

IMG_1633[1]38 years ago, on November 21, 1979, United States Marine Corporal Steven J. Crowley, who was guarding the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was shot and killed by radical Muslim extremists, becoming one of the first casualties of the Global War on Terror.

CplStevenCrowley

Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the U.S. occupation of the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, gathered weapons and then boarded buses that would take them to the embassy.

Once at the compound, the Islamists stormed the complex and then set fire to debris collected on the first floor of the main building.

US Embassy Islamabad

CPL Crowley was shot once through the head, just above his left ear, at approximately 1:10 p.m. local time, while on duty protecting the embassy from the roof of the main building. He was taken into the building and then brought to the safe room, or vault on the second floor.

At approximately 3:25 p.m. CPL Crowley was pronounced dead in the embassy vault, after an oxygen tank that was providing his threadbare connection to life ran out.

This group of Islamist “students” was later to be funded by none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Steven was a tall, fit, blond-haired blue-eyed, chivalrous and cordial 19 year old graduate of Comsewogue High School, in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, New York, who loved to run on the Cross Country and Spring Track Teams and who was a member of the Chess Club.

cplstevencrowley-1

Steven Crowley Park, in Port Jefferson Station, was named for this brave neighbor of ours, and by cleaning up the park each fall we honor him and his brave and selfless service to our country. Cub Scout Pack 120 (Boy Scouts of America) has been cleaning up the park each fall at least since my 22 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 16 years ago and counting.

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We tell the boys about Steven and his sacrifice to his country and to all of us.

Steven is a hero to all the nation, and his death marks one of the very first casualties in the Global War on Terror. The incident that precipitated Steven’s murder at the hands of Islamists shook the Muslim world just the day before, on November 20, 1979.

Overzealous Wahhabi’s seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca for about two weeks. Saudi Arabian commandos, with the help of French and American intelligence, eventually retook the mosque, ending the incident. But the erroneous story that the U.S. had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.

The incident at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was merely the first in a series of events that eventually led up to the attacks by Islamists on the United States on September 11, 2001, killing more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or died at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Since then our enemies have mutated into the current Islamic State, but many other Islamic terrorist groups have emerged as well, each one determined to eliminate Israel, kill all infidels, and establish a worldwide caliphate.

In Steven’s memory, and for us, and for generations to come, we must fight the forces of evil that continue to harm us and our allies. Until all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves by any means necessary.

Thank you, Steven for your service, loyalty and sacrifice. We shall never forget your chivalry, integrity and self-less service to this great nation. Amen.

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First Marine Killed in GWOT Remembered

IMG_1633[1]37 years ago, on November 21, 1979, United States Marine Corporal Steven J. Crowley, who was guarding the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was shot and killed by radical Muslim extremists, becoming one of the first casualties of the Global War on Terror.

CplStevenCrowley

Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the U.S. occupation of the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, gathered weapons and then boarded buses that would take them to the embassy.

Once at the compound, the Islamists stormed the complex and then set fire to debris collected on the first floor of the main building.

US Embassy Islamabad

CPL Crowley was shot once through the head, just above his left ear, at approximately 1:10 p.m. local time, while on duty protecting the embassy from the roof of the main building. He was taken into the building and then brought to the safe room, or vault on the second floor.

At approximately 3:25 p.m. CPL Crowley was pronounced dead in the embassy vault, after an oxygen tank that was providing his threadbare connection to life ran out.

This group of Islamist “students” was later to be funded by none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Steven was a tall, fit, blond-haired blue-eyed, chivalrous and cordial 19 year old graduate of Comsewogue High School, in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, New York, who loved to run on the Cross Country and Spring Track Teams and who was a member of the Chess Club.

cplstevencrowley-1

Steven Crowley Park, in Port Jefferson Station, was named for this brave neighbor of ours, and by cleaning up the park each fall we honor him and his brave and selfless service to our country. Cub Scout Pack 120 (Boy Scouts of America) has been cleaning up the park each fall at least since my 21 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 15 years ago and counting.

IMG_1638[1]

We tell the boys about Steven and his sacrifice to his country and to all of us.

Steven is a hero to all the nation, and his death marks one of the very first casualties in the Global War on Terror. The incident that precipitated Steven’s murder at the hands of Islamists shook the Muslim world just the day before, on November 20, 1979.

Overzealous Wahhabi’s seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca for about two weeks. Saudi Arabian commandos, with the help of French and American intelligence, eventually retook the mosque, ending the incident. But the erroneous story that the U.S. had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.

The incident at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was merely the first in a series of events that eventually led up to the attacks by Islamists on the United States on September 11, 2001, killing more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or died at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Since then our enemies have mutated into the current Islamic State, but many other Islamic terrorist groups have emerged as well, each one determined to eliminate Israel, kill all infidels, and establish a worldwide caliphate.

In Steven’s memory, and for us, and for generations to come, we must fight the forces of evil that continue to harm us and our allies. Until all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves by any means necessary.

Congress Reacts to Military Mental and Brain Health Issues: Will You?

When U.S. senators from two political parties come together to introduce legislation, without argument or hesitation, one should take notice.

In the current climate, when political opposites attract one might think money, prestige, or influence are involved, but in the case of the bill to improve military mental health evaluations for service members, Sen.s Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), no such benefits await them. They appear to have only altruistic and patriotic motivation for seeing that our heroes receive the comprehensive medical attention they need and deserve.

The Medical Evaluations Parity for Service Members Act of 2014 (S. 2231 or MEPS Act,) states that before anyone can become enlisted or receive a commission in the armed forces of the United States they shall receive a “mental health assessment” that will be a “baseline for any subsequent mental health evaluations.”

Alex Burgess gets emotional while visiting the gravesite of an old friend who was killed in Iraq, in section 60 at Arlington Cemetery, May 27, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. For Memorial Day President Obama layed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, paying tribute to military veterans past and present who have served and sacrificed their lives for their country.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This would bring mental health and “brain health” issues to parity with the physical evaluations conducted prior to admittance into the military.

If passed, the law would also include a comprehensive physical and mental and brain health evaluation when the service member comes off of at least 180 days of active duty or separates from the service. This would include screening for Traumatic Brain Injury, recently found to cause most instances of Post Traumatic Stress, which could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. TBI is a “brain hurt” as opposed to a “mind hurt” issue that is more physiologic than mental.

We are finally addressing TBI issues, the signature issues of our returning heroes. Brain injury is not synonymous with “mental illness,” and the treatments for mental illness are often detrimental to TBI, hence the distinction is very important.

It is estimated that over 400,000 Global War on Terror veterans suffer from TBI, and most go undiagnosed and untreated, which leads to PTS and then possible PTSD.

AP photo.

Veteran and former U.S. Army Military Police non-commissioned officer, Curtis Armstrong was given a routine exit physical which didn’t connect the dots between his symptoms of memory loss, headaches, and thought process problems, since identified as being associated with TBI.

We can all imagine that if you’re not looking for something, and don’t know what it looks like even if you were, you’re not going to find anything. That’s exactly what happened to Curtis, and hundreds of thousands of his comrades.

The Resurrecting Lives Foundation, founded by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, has been trying to gain the attention of politicians in Washington, D.C., for several years now. They have a panel of experts and have been advocating for the establishment of proper screening and treatment for veterans with TBI. Moving forward, the most encouraging event to date has been the MEPS Act introduction in the Senate.

When I inquired as to the catalyst for Sen. Portman’s introduction of the MEPS bill his staff replied:

“[T]he MEPS Act is a response to the clear need for better monitoring and assessing of service members’ mental health. While recent tragedies like the shootings at Fort Hood and the Navy Yard raised the profile of these issues, the need to address it has been apparent for far too long…Last summer, Senator Portman’s [Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee] subcommittee held a hearing on improving access to health care, including mental health care, for rural veterans. To help correct this, Sen. Portman introduced an amendment to the FY14 defense authorization bill requiring [the Department of Defense] to report on the current status of telehealth initiatives within [the Department of Defense] and plans to integrate them into the military health care system. Sen. Portman and Sen. Rockefeller also attempted to introduce language requiring mental health screenings for exiting service members. This language is now included as part of the MEPS Act.”

At the risk of seeming too giddy about these latest developments, which bring not just mental health, but “brain health” issues of military personnel into a broader light, it has been far too long that these issues have stayed in the shadows.

Soldiers like Curtis deserve better, and we as a country need to pay close attention to how we can help. Encouraging our own legislators, local, state and national, to support and pass the MEPS Act is just a start; there needs to be more resources allocated to ensuring our best and brightest are also well cared for, especially after their deployment service has ended.

AP

Among the several professional organizations endorsing this bill is the Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. According to Dr. Gordon, rehabilitation specialists would be included in the evaluations and in the program of reintegration.

“Sen. Portman did that, inviting collaboration with the private sector – the way to solve the TBI epidemic,” she said.

We can’t afford a legacy of forgotten warriors. We cannot endure the nightmare of neglected veterans. We are better than that. We, each of us, have an obligation to care for those we depended on to protect our ideals and us. Nothing less than a full accounting of every suffering veteran should be acceptable.

The Veterans Administration can be a hero here instead of the villian. If Secretary of Veterans Affairs retired general Eric Shinseki would pay attention to what’s going on in Congress, he could beat legislators to the punch: He could ask for funds to implement the essence of the MEPS Act within VA policy and practice.

Beginning with the new fiscal year in October 2014, he could seize the initiative in the war against mental and brain health issues in the military. You could suggest this to your legislators when you encourage them to sign on as co-sponsors and then pass the MEPS Act.

It’s important to remember that enshrining mental health evaluations for military personnel in law would ensure implementation in a timely manner, but if the MEPS Act gets held up in committee or is defeated, having the VA move forward with policy and practice changes through budgetary requests for fiscal year 2015 would honor the commitment our heroes deserve and should expect.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1.

DEBATING IRAQ: HINDSIGHT VS. REALITIES – RESPECT FOR VETERANS

Lane Filler, in his opinion piece in the January 8, Newsday titled, “The tragedy of Iraq, a decade later,” attempts to extract a pound of flesh even from his own belief that going into Iraq in April of 2003 was the right thing to do. Regarding weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein had everyone fooled on that, including the U.N. Security Council and 86 countries that supported going into Iraq; Saddam had used chemical weapons in Iraq’s war with Iran and against his own people (thousands of Iraqi Kurds in March, 1988). Fuller lists numbers of people killed. What about the people saved, which can never be measured?

Saddam harbored terrorists (Abu Abbas, highjacker of an Italian cruise liner resulting in the death of American Leon Klinghoffer, found in a Baghdad suburb in 2003), trained, supported and financed international terrorists, and murdered an estimated 250,000 of his own people with his paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam. He invaded Kuwait, attacked Saudi Arabia and Israel during the First Gulf War, and had chemical warhead artillery ammunition ready to fire against U.S. Troops.

The only thing wrong with our military operation in Iraq is that we left. We’re still in countries we defeated in WWII, and Germany (chemical decontamination unit), Japan (transportation unit) and Italy (support troops) all supported the Iraq operation, continue to allow U.S. military bases, and are among the world’s economic leaders. Our relationship with these countries allows us to better protect our friends, and ourselves and to project our power and influence around the world.

Barack Hussein Obama’s quitting Iraq had the effect of destabilizing the Middle East and creating a security vacuum that is now exacerbated by the influence of Iran, Russia and China. Al Qaeda has re-invaded Fallujah and Ramadi, and Iraq is precipitously on the brink of destabilization; a festering sore in Obama’s failed Middle East policies and practices.

As a Global War on Terror veteran who served in Iraq in 2004-2005, I am appalled and offended by Lane Fuller’s ignorance about the geopolitical significance of Iraq, and his insensitivity towards those who served and gave their lives and livelihoods there in order to keep this great nation safe.

HOW COULD SACRIFICING ONE’S LIFE FOR 50 OTHER HUMAN BEINGS NOT BE WORTHY OF THE MEDAL OF HONOR?

Imagine this, if you can: you’re a Marine, stationed at a check point at the entrance of a Forward Operating Base in Ramadi, Iraq. Your mission is to protect the base and check every incoming vehicle and personnel.

It’s hot, it’s boring, and with each incoming person and truck you are expected to be alert, professional and vigilant, because  death could be lurking behind innocent looking eyes. There are 31 American Marines and 23 Iraqi police behind you, depending on you to do your job.

Then, one truck ignores the signs and shouts, the flares and warning shots to slow down and stop. The Iraqi police flee the scene after detecting extreme danger. But you, instead of fleeing, bear down on your weapon and fire it cyclically, as you were trained to do, aiming and striking center of mass on the incoming threat. The vehicle finally stops, mere feet from your position. Then, it hits: the concussion blast from a 2,000 pound vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

For his actions on April 22, 2008 day, 19-year-old Marine Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter, and his battle buddy, Cpl. Jonathan Yale, received the Navy Cross, among other posthumous awards.

Military Honors: How You Can Help Recognize an American Hero

The highest ranking officials have mentioned him in speeches, including this quote from President Barrack Obama on Jan. 27, 2009 at Camp Lejeune, N.C.:

Semper Fidelis: it means always being faithful, to the Corps, and to the country and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter.

And this from Gen. James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, in his 234th Marine Corps birthday video message, holding Haerter and Yale up as ideal examples of “carrying on a legacy of valor.”

There is a petition now, initiated by loved ones of Jordan to put in motion a process for him and Jonathan to receive the recognition they truly deserve: a Medal of Honor. Since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only 12 service members have received the Medal of Honor, seven of which were posthumously awarded.

Haerter’s mother, JoAnn Lyles said in a recent interview regarding the White House petition, that she would “certainly support an appropriate review for a higher award.” But also said, “I don’t want to push for it if it’s not warranted.”

How could sacrificing one’s life for 50 other human beings not be worthy of the Medal of Honor, the highest tangible recognition of valor America has to offer?

There is probably no honor that could adequately memorialize or quantify the sacrifices made by Haerter and Yale that hot April day in 2008, but the Medal of Honor would help preserve their memory and their actions to the highest possible degree. This would give an added level of comfort to their families, loved ones and comrades, and preserve for future generations of Americans the idea that such sacrifices will not be forgotten and will never be marginalized.

If you agree then maybe we could all make a difference by signing the White House petition via Change.org. The petition does not authorize the award for the men; it would initiate a process whereby the President could decide to ask for a review for the award.

It seems the least we can do to honor the last full measure of these young men’s lives, which they gave willingly for each of us, as well as for 50 of their colleagues that day.

It’s easy to sit back and simply watch the world go by and tsk-tsk this or that and say, “someone else can do something for these young men,” but why would a red-blooded American patriot let someone else take on a responsibility we all have, individually to do whatever we can for those who did more for us than we could ever do for them?

Sign. You won’t regret it, and maybe down the road someday, if the medal is awarded, you could be one of those who can stand tall and say you had a small but significant part in it.

Semper Fidelis.

A WELL-ARMED MILITIA: IT’S TIME FOR VETERANS TO TAKE A STAND

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, a document I swore to uphold and defend with my life, states:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Considering the current government assault on military benefits, and considering the administration’s response to the Benghazi attack, I am wondering just how much consideration some might give to joining our all-volunteer force in the future?

I wonder too, if the Framers imagined a government “Of the People, by the people and for the People” ever reneging on the promises made to those of us who swore our lives to defend this great nation, including its supreme law? Here’s something President Abraham Lincoln said about our commitment to the veteran in his Second Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1865, with the end of the Civil War in sight:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

This is a promise, borne of a sense of duty and righteousness toward those who bore the burden of supporting this great nation with their blood, sweat and tears. This promise is the legacy of a nation born in blood and preserved in honor.

This promise is the legacy of a nation born in blood and preserved in honor.

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What is happening now in the great halls of our government in Washington, D.C., is a desecration of that promise. A little here, a little there; capping cost of living increases for military; eliminating this benefit for years for retirees,;reducing pension growth for disabled retirees and survivors; preventing Reservists from collecting retirement pay for decades; and reducing retiree benefits by 20 percent. It all adds up to more than $6 billion in “savings” over 10 years.

A Well Armed Militia: ItsTime for Veterans to Take a Stand
Vietnam War veteran Fred Johnson, 73, watches people shop at a yard sale held to benefit Jerral Hancock, a 27-year-old Iraq war veteran who lost his left arm and is paralyzed from the waist down in a bomb explosion in Iraq, on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Lancaster, Calif. When the seniors in Jamie Goodreau’s high school history class learned Hancock was once stuck in his modest mobile home for months when his handicapped-accessible van broke down, they decided to build him a new house from the ground up. It would be their end-of-the-year project to honor veterans, something Goodreau’s classes have chosen to do every year for the past 15 years. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Tens of thousands of my fellow returning veterans from the Global War on Terror (still being fought world wide with U.S. troops in over 150 countries) will receive less and less of what we were promised.

Staff Sgt. Alex Jauregui, a double amputee, disabled Army veteran who lost his legs while on his fourth tour in Afghanistan, and who removed a barrier to a military monument in Washington, D.C., during the government shutdown earlier this year using his Segway, said in a “Fox News” interview that he feels “betrayed” by the vote, and that his friends who are still in the Army are considering leaving military service if the government can’t keep the promises it made.

A Well Armed Militia: ItsTime for Veterans to Take a Stand
Photo Credti: Twitter via @andrewbcreech

I don’t own a gun, but I carried and used one in the service of my country in a combat zone. I’ll be damned if anyone tries to infringe on that right for myself or anyone else. It has crossed my mind in the past year or so, with all the writing on the wall about reduction in military benefits, that something is going to give: That something is the relationship between the soldier and the civilian leadership of this country.

I have considered purchasing a gun or two, and not just for self-protection or that of my family, but for the protection of my country and the ideals I swore, and never rescinded, to uphold upon my enlistment into the Army, and then again upon my commissioning as an officer. A well-armed militia contributes to a secure nation, and allows the many hundreds of thousands of veterans to continue to defend the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

That’s a serious situation for serious times. On Dec. 17, the Senate voted through a two year budget package that includes the cuts mentioned previously. The intentions of this government towards its military are clear. Trust no one, believe nothing, and only fools will join the military service. Why pledge your life, livelihood and the protection of your family should they survive you to such a noble cause if everything that was promised to you is a lie?

Our lives are the ultimate sacrifice, sacred, holy and complete. If that’s not good enough to receive basic benefits, promised upon enlistment, then the leadership of this country has surely lost its way. Like Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, D-Day and 9/11/01; Wednesday, Dec, 17, 2013, should go down as a day of infamy: when Congress voted to renege on solemn promises to the defenders of our freedom and liberty.

We, each of us veterans, is beholden to the promise we made upon swearing in to uphold and defend the Constitution, and now we have to make good on that promise. The question is, will our representatives in Washington listen or will the well-armed militia need to be mobilized?

What’s it like to take care of people who want to kill you?

“Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior”

“Hard as it is to believe, one of the most significant stories of the post-9/11 age is also one of the least known, life at Gitmo, the detention facility for many of the world’s worst terrorists. Few individuals are more qualified to tell this story than Montgomery Granger, a citizen soldier, family man, dedicated educator, and Army Reserve medical officer involved in one of the most intriguing military missions of our time. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is about that historic experience, and it relates not only what it was like for Granger to live and work at Gitmo, but about the sacrifices made by him and his fellow Reservists serving around the world.”

Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines

Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay, or “Gitmo: The Real Story,” is a “good history of medical, security, and intelligence aspects of Gitmo; also, it will be valuable for anyone assigned to a Gitmo-like facility.”

Jason Wetzel, Field Historian, Office of Army Reserve History

Then U.S. Army Reserve Captain Montgomery J. Granger found himself the ranking Army Medical Department officer wiht the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG) on a joint mission like no other before it; taking care of terrorists and murderers just months after the horrors of September 11, 2001. Granger and his fellow Reservists end up running the JDOG at Guantanamo Bay’s infamous Camp X-Ray. In this moving memoir, Granger writes about his feelings of guilt over leaving his two-day-old son, Theodore, his family and job back home.  While in Guantanamo, he faces myriad torturous emotions and self-doubt, at once hating the inmates he is nonetheless duty bound to care for and protect. Through long distance love, and much heartache, Granger finds a way to keep his sanity and dignity. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is his story.

Montgomery J. Granger is a three-time mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Ret.) who resides in Long Island, New York, with his wife and five children. Granger is the author of “Theodore,” a personal narrative published in the 2006 Random House wartime anthology, “Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Home Front in the words of U.S. Troops and their Families.”