“Talking Proud” honors service and sacrifice, focused mainly on our military, and where I can, on Canada’s as well. Feel free to send me a note using the Contact Form and, if appropriate, I will post your comments in our Letters section. My name is Ed Marek, and I run this site on my own, as a hobby. That said, a donation is always uplifting.
“Sacrifice: Without Fear There Is No Courage”
"Black Sunday" in Sadr City, April 4, 2004
April 4, 2004 was a bloody day for American forces in Sadr City, Iraq. Some of the troops call it "Black Sunday," sad, because it was Palm Sunday. What began as a routine patrol escorting sewage trucks, known as the "honey wagons," ended up in surprise ambushes that left eight US Army soldiers killed in action that day. We think about 50 were wounded, many of whom had to be taken back to the US. "Black Sunday" seems to have occurred at the confluence of various events. The city was and remains shamefully poor, but had been peaceful. Some political events were already in train that caused tensions between the city's independent-minded residents and American forces who were trying to improve the city's condition but were nonetheless increasingly seen as occupiers. Then some new political events emerged that made confrontation inevitable, all at a time when the US was finishing up a major troop rotation. At the end of the day, a routine patrol and patrols that would try to rescue it took the brunt of these and other converging events. As you will see, little in life is simple, little can be taken for granted, and one is always best advised to keep his or her guard up. Furthermore, every one of these kinds of fights has consequences, in Iraq, here, and around the world. October 19, 2004, re-published September 7, 2014. Go to story.
“Thunder Runs” and the drive from Kuwait into the center of Baghdad
I recall watching the US-led invasion of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the second Iraq War. It began on March 19, 2003 as US bombers pounded Baghdad and US and British forces crossed the line of departure in Kuwait. The US ground forces would drive all the way to downtown Baghdad. The image I retain in my mind is how quickly and seemingly easily US and British forces did the job bringing down the Saddam regime. I quickly learned how the planning effort was fraught with politics and new ideas for fighting war. I learned how complex an operation this turned out to be. This was no cake walk, and it was not easy. The entire operation ranks as among the first major joint and combined integrated combat endeavors involving all the US armed forces and forces of other nations. The choreography is something to behold, both planned and unplanned. This report focuses on the 3 ID, specifically its 2 Bde, from the time it prepared to leave Kuwait to the time it executed its two Thunder Runs into Baghdad. It also takea a look at the planning behind the overall Operation Iraqi Freedom invasion, and then the force movements and activities that led the 3 ID to positions outside Baghdad, and finally address the 2 Bde’s Thunder Runs into Baghdad. July 21, 2014. Go to story.
The American withdrawal from Iraq 2011, with a watch on 2014
The US agreed to withdraw all military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. As a result, I started tracking this withdrawal in a serial article updated as I got new information. I began my effort on May 3, 2011. Given the current fighting underway in Iraq and the apparent collapse of Iraqi Security Forces, I wish to alert you to this effort and invite you to check in for the latest updates. (061214) Go to serial report
Kapyong: Aussies - Canadians - New Zealanders beat back massive Chinese attack targeted at Seoul
Had they not held, the UN might well have surrendered the peninsula to the Chinese
If you were to study the Korean War in any depth, you would find yourself tracking one battle after another from the initial invasion to the regrouping at the Pusan Perimeter to the breakout from Pusan, the march to the Yalu on the Chinese border, the withdrawal below the 38th parallel, and then a push back above the 38th to the armistice that established a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) roughly following the 38th parallel as the border between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the former best known as South Korea, the latter as North Korea. Selecting a battle from all of them that ensued and labeling it as crucially important is a challenge indeed. We are about to look at one of those battles that was crucially important --- the Battle of Kapyong, also known as the Battle of Gapyong, April 22-25, 1951. It was fought, in the main, by the British 27th Commonwealth Brigade, led by the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment and the 2nd Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, supported by the 1st Middlesex Regiment, the 16th Royal New Zealand Artillery, and the Indian 60th (Parachute) Field Ambulance platoon. Had the allies failed to hold at Kapyong, it is no too far fetched to say that there would have been a good chance the United Nations Command (UNC) would have folded its tent and left the peninsula. February 26, 2014. Go to story.
Comin’ for you --- a special photo gallery
You see, nice try in your attempt to destroy the bridge. But the thing is, the engineers fixed it up well enough and the Marines crossed it because they’re comin’ for you.
This is a special photo gallery. Employ our forces the way they ought to be employed, be an enemy of the US, and as our enemy please know our men and women are “Comin’ for you” and they’ll get you. I began this effort on February 3, 2014. It will grow as we spot appropriate photos. February 11, 2014. Go to gallery.
America lost an Airman today - Medal of Honor
Colonel Barnard Fisher, USAF (Ret.) died on August 16, 2014, age 87. On March 10, 1966, he led a two-ship element of A-1E Skyraiders to the A Shau Valley, Vietnam to provide closer air support for troops in contact. All together six A-1s were attacking. An A-1 piloted by Major D.W. “Jump” Myers was hit and forced to crash-land on an airstrip used by Special Forces. Myers got out of the aircraft and took cover. Fisher directed the rescue effort. Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters were at least 30 minutes away and the enemy was about 200 yards from Myers and closing. Fisher was flying a four-seat A-1 and decided to land to rescue Myers. He landed in the valley, taxied to Myers’ position, and loaded Myers into one of the seats, all the while receiving hostile fire. Myers dodged all manner of obstacles on the steel planked runway and successfully took off, a bit to his surprise, since it had been so severely damaged and there were questions about whether he had the airspeed to get up, get over the tree line, and away. His aircraft suffered some 19 hits from the hostile fire. Fortunately the other A-1s in the area hosed down the enemy pretty well during the rescue and following his departure. He received the Medal of Honor from President Johnson. He was the first living USAF member to receive the honor. (082014)
America lost an Airman today
Colonel Larry Guarino, USAF (Ret.) died on August 18, 2014. He was 92. Guarino was a veteran fighter pilot of WWII and Vietnam, nd served during the Korean War. He was commissioned in 1943 and flew the Spitfire in North Africa, Italy, Southeast Asia and in China; for the latter flying with Claire Chennault’s “Flying Tigers.” Major Guarino flew the F-105 Thunderbird, the famous “Thud,” over North Vietnam. He was shot down and captured on his 50th combat mission on June 14, 1965. He served 2,801 days in captivity in North Vietnam, and shared a cell with John McCain. He was the 11th American to be captured. He endured physical and mental torture, and long periods of suffering and despair, but never lost his courage or his patriotism. Through his career, he received the Air Force Cross, the second highest military award, Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses with “V” for valor, three Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, 14 Air Medals and two Purple Hearts. (081914)
America lost a Soldier today - Medal of Honor
Sergeant Major Jon R. Caviani, USA, special forces, died on July 29, 2014 in Stanford, California. He is a recipient of the Medal of Honor for valor in Vietnam. In 1971 he was serving with a platoon of commandos tasked for reconnaissance and counterinsurgency missions. His job was to protect a remote hilltop in northwest South Vietnam, near the Laotian border. He and his men had special equipment enabling them to intercept enemy communications regarding movements along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. On June 4 and 5, 1971, the enemy placed his camp under intense fire. His captain was wounded and was evacuated, leaving Caviani in charge. He repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire so he could move about the camp directing his troops’ fire and to rally his Soldiers to fight. Enemy fire grew more intense, so he directed evacuation helicopters to take his men and the indigenous Vietnamese fighting with them out. A heavy fog came in and the enemy advanced. Caviani continued fighting, even though severely wounded, while his men tried to escape. He and a comrade jumped into a bunker and killed two enemy who entered. An enemy grenade came into the bunker killing his comrade, Sgt. James R. Jones. Caviani played dead, survived the fire, and was captured. He was imprisoned until released with the other POWs in 1973. Those who escaped the battle attributed their survival to him. (080314)
Ryan Pitts, Medal of Honor, Afghanistan
Former Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts, USA, received the Medal of Honor from President Obama for his valor in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. He was a Forward Observer for 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He was at the Battle of Wanat and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. An enemy force of about 200 (numbers vary from 100 to 500) attacked his observation post using intense rocket propelled grenade launchers, machine gun and small arms fire. Pitts was wounded in the assault, and sustained heavy bleeding from the arm and legs. His comrades were also sustaining heavy casualties. There were about 48 Americans and 24 Afghan troopers in and around this area. Bleeding badly, Pitts nonetheless took control of his observation post and returned fire at the enemy. As the enemy came closer, he threw grenades, first pulling the pin so the grenade would explode almost immediately after throwing it to inflict greatest damage on the enemy. Now suffering from a great loss of blood, he nonetheless continued to lay down suppressive fire until a two man reinforcement team came to him. He helped the two reinforcements, gathering ammo for them, and still threw grenades. He then crawled to a position where he could get on the radio and brief his command post. The enemy was now so close he could hear them, so he whispered his reports to the command post, which in turn was able to put down indirect fire. The enemy failed at its attempt to take his observation post and isolate it from the main command post, and he prevented the enemy from overrunning the area, enabling rescue forces to get to his wounded brothers. The US force lost nine KIA, experienced 27 WIA, the most deaths in a single battle since the start of this war. Pitts was 23 years old at the time of this battle.
Sergeant Israel Garcia died in Pitts’ arms Pitts remarked, “There was nothing we could do for him. He asked me to tell his wife and mother that he loved them. I met them at Walter Reed [(where Pitts was recovering from injuries suffered in the battle) and was able to keep that promise.
If that’s not enough, he spoke to a roundtable after his induction into the Hall of Heroes. Listen to what this young man had to say:
"The awards are just metal and cloth. I know what we did that day It's our medal, not mine. We all answered the call and Chosen Company became our family. We were dedicated to each other. The life of the man next to you was more important than your own, which was most greatly exemplified by the fallen. I still think about it every day. But most of the time, I think about what we did when we were together. I'm still awestruck. I saw what fellow Soldiers did. It was unbelievable ... I love the military. I don't think I'll ever be completely transitioned. It's been the benchmark which I measure all other experiences that I have."
Pitts was born in Lowell, New Hampshire, grew up in an American neighborhood in Mont Vernon, population 2,409, and Souhegan High School “Sabres” in Amherst, New Hampshire. This school has as its motto, “Respect, Trust, Courage.” Yes indeed. (072814)