Friday, April 18, 2008

Slain Soldiers' families see Afghan war zone

I've had my gripes about the Candian military high command in the past but now they seem to understand that the Soldiers and their families come first. I'm impressed.

'I Feel Him Here'

Ryan Cormier, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN - Shortly before he went to Afghanistan, Trooper Darryl Caswell invited his mother to CFB Petawawa, near Ottawa, and insisted she buy a pair of military-issue hiking boots just like the ones he would wear overseas.

"He said the good thing was, Mom, your boots will never get to Afghanistan," said Darlene Cushman.

This week, they did. Ms. Cushman wore the boots when she stepped off a plane at Kandahar Airfield on Tuesday and throughout her two-day tour of the mission for which her son died.

"I wanted to see what my son had dedicated and given his life to," she said. "I wanted to feel as much as I could about what Darryl felt. It's difficult, yet it's comforting. Even though Darryl is resting in Ottawa in the military cemetery, I know that I feel him here."

Trooper Caswell, 25, of Bowmanville, was killed by a roadside bomb on June 11, 2007.

His mother and sister, Jolene Cushman, joined family members of four other soldiers who have died in Afghanistan to tour the Kandahar Airfield and be briefed on the progress of the mission.

The military offers the trip to all family members of those killed in Afghanistan as a step in the healing process, said Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Blais, director of casualty support for the Canadian Forces. It is the second such trip, after a similar one in November. The military limits each trip to members of four or five families to sustain a close feeling among them.

Some take the military up on their offer, others don't.

When the invitation came to his Bridgewater, N.S., home, Jim Davis decided to go "in a heartbeat." His son, Corporal Paul Davis, 28, was killed when the light-armoured vehicle he was in crashed and rolled on an Afghanistan road six weeks after he arrived.

"I always wanted to come when I heard my son was killed," Mr. Davis said. "I knew I had to come to Afghanistan. He sacrificed his life for what I believe was a good cause. I believe in that cause. I wanted to come here and see it for myself."

As part of his trip, Mr. Davis rode in the same type of vehicle in which his son died.

For Barry Mellish, the trip from Truro, N.S., was important for two reasons. He wanted to confirm for himself that there was still progress being made in the country and to see how his son was being remembered.

As he sat next to the Canadian cenotaph, his eyes watered whenever a soldier passed and saluted the monument to fallen soldiers.

Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, 38, died during a ground offensive on Sept. 3, 2006.

Each family was provided with a military escort who served with their son in some way. For Barry Mellish, it was Master Warrant Officer John Barnes, who was standing near his son when he died and was injured in the same attack.

"He was right there," Mr. Mellish said. "We were able to ask him questions about the incident. You look them in the eye and they look you in the eye and you know they're not misleading you. You see their feelings, too. They have a lot of memories, hurt and pain from losing fellow comrades. It helps to see that."

The trip concluded yesterday with a memorial ceremony attended by family members, senior Canadian officers and members of the Afghan National Army. Each family laid a wreath at the cenotaph in honour of their sons and brothers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Into The Valley of Death in Afghanistan

I was made aware of this great article over at Blackfive. Given that not much is getting into the MSM about what's happening in Afghanistan it's a great thing that these two men are doing embedded with American Soldier's in one of the most dangerous areas in Afghanistan.

Into the Valley of Death

A strategic passage wanted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley is among the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces. One platoon is considered the tip of the American spear. Its men spend their days in a surreal combination of backbreaking labor—building outposts on rocky ridges—and deadly firefights, while they try to avoid the mistakes the Russians made. Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington join the platoon’s painfully slow advance, as its soldiers laugh, swear, and run for cover, never knowing which of them won’t make it home.

by Sebastian Junger January 2008

"The Korengal is widely considered to be the most dangerous valley in northeastern Afghanistan, and Second Platoon is considered the tip of the spear for the American forces there. Nearly one-fifth of all combat in Afghanistan occurs in this valley, and nearly three-quarters of all the bombs dropped by nato forces in Afghanistan are dropped in the surrounding area. The fighting is on foot and it is deadly, and the zone of American control moves hilltop by hilltop, ridge by ridge, a hundred yards at a time. There is literally no safe place in the Korengal Valley. Men have been shot while asleep in their barracks tents.

Second Platoon is one of four in Battle Company, which covers the Korengal as part of the Second Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne). The only soldiers to have been deployed more times since the September 11 attacks are from the 10th Mountain Division, which handed the Korengal over last June. (Tenth Mountain had been slated to go home three months earlier, but its tour was extended while some of its units were already on their way back. They landed in the United States and almost immediately got back on their planes.) When Battle Company took over the Korengal, the entire southern half of the valley was controlled by the Taliban, and American patrols that pushed even a few hundred yards into that area got attacked."

This is a must read article. It is in depth and there is also video footage as well some of the best war photography that I've seen. Follow the link:

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Unfinished Business by Cpl. David Thibodeaux

This song is a powerfull reponse to the cut and run crowd.

Cpl. David Thibodeaux (active duty U.S. Marine, musician, father, husband, and combat veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq) along with Toby Keith's Easy Money Band eloquently and cleverly "answer" Dixie Chicks' hit "Not Ready To Make Nice"

Hat tip to Subsunk at BLACKFIVE

Friday, April 04, 2008


SFC Toby Nunn, a Canadian citizen from Terrace BC, is the platoon sergeant for Bad Voodoo Platoon, National Guard Soldiers who were carefully picked fot this tour of duty in Iraq. SFC Nunn is also the author of the book Northern Disclosure about his experiences in becoming the leader of men he is today. You can find a link to his blog by scrolling down to the right.

BAD VOODOOS WAR is a must see. You can watch it here:

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Outside The Wire 2007

JD Johannes went to Iraq in 2005 to embed with his former Marine unit. I have that DVD. It's good. I've just ordered the latest compmpilation. From what I've seen it will be better than the 2005 documentary. It can be purchased as a compilation or as 3 separate discs.

About the Documentary Series

The 'Outside the Wire' series of four documentaries about Iraq started when JD Johannes went to Iraq with his old Marine Corps unit in 2005 to produce syndicated television news reports.

Johannes returned to Iraq in 2007 to see 'The Surge' and the 'Anbar Awakening' first hand.

The 2005 trip resulted in the the release of the original 'Outside the Wire: Call Sign Vengeance' which follows one Marine infantry platoon through their deployment to the Fallujah area in 2005.

The 2007 trip resulted in three documentaries: 'Danger Close', 'Anbar Awakens' and 'Baghdad Surge'.

'Danger Close' is an up-close, in-depth look at a complex attack by Al Qaida on small, distant U.S. Army outpost on the edge of the Euphrates river valley. JD Johannes was the only reporter to witness the attack and followed the US Army paratroopers into combat--nearly getting himself killed.

'Anbar Awkens' shows the greatest turn-around of the Iraq War--the tribes of Al Anbar province joining with the coalition to fight Al Qaida--from the perspective of the Jumayli tribe. The Jumayli tribe--with no prompting from the Coalition--turned on Al Qaida and engaged in a serious gun-battle with Al Qaida before formally joining with the coalition.

'Baghdad Surge' is a look at the surge from asphalt level. This episode follows a U.S. Army infantry Captain through a 'day-of-the-surge' and the modern three-block-war.

The interviews with Soldiers and Marines were conducted at the Combat Outposts they lived and worked at by JD Johannes.

With the exception of digital animations and brief clips of insurgent video--everything was shot by JD Johannes.

Nothing was staged, recreated or rehearsed. The bullets, bombs, blood and bad guys are all real.