Archive for the 'Personal' Category

Paul Krugman’s Shame

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

Paul Krugman bears his soul to us on the events of 9/11 and thereafter.  He sets the framework for his short post with his title: The Years of Shame.

Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. Te (sic) atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.

Good grief.  A columnist for the New York Times leaves a spelling error in his post, and the Times runs it anyway.  And Krugman doesn’t seem to care enough to correct it.  Is it me or do many bloggers care more about their prose than the New York Times, and isn’t this odd?  Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

But on to the main point.  Let’s do this thing about Iraq … one … more … time.  My own son did a combat tour of Iraq, so I have the right to say just about anything I want to concerning Operation Iraqi Freedom (though not as much right as those families who paid the ultimate sacrifice).  Knowing something about nuclear technology and thus knowing the kind of infrastructure it takes to accomplish enrichment, I was ambivalent about the invasion (we call this phase Operation Iraqi Freedom I).  With Michael Fumento and others, I know that chemical weapons are a poor substitute for military weapons (conventional ordnance is much more effective), and so that justification failed with me.

But whatever policy differences or questions I might have had with that phase of the campaign, there was no vacillation in my support for Operation Iraqi Freedom II (generally taken to be late 2003 – 2006) and III (2007 and on, i.e., surge and post-surge).  During the height of the conflict, eighty to one hundred foreign fighters per month crossed the Jordanian and [mainly] Syrian borders to fight the U.S. in Iraq.

Al Qaeda poured an immense amount of capital into the campaign in Iraq, including money, philosophical  underpinnings and personnel.  Their writers went to work trying to justify suicide as a legitimate form of jihad, they spent a large amount of the monies donated by wealthy Saudis on Iraq, and they lost thousands of fighters who would otherwise have been able to fight in Afghanistan or come to the shores of the U.S.  And I don’t buy the notion that Iraq was their raison d’être.  I believe that they would have fought us anyway, anywhere.

Iraq was a quagmire for al Qaeda.  It was a tremendous loss for them, regardless of the final disposition of the campaign for Iraq.  I am proud of the role played by the American Soldier in Iraq.  As a Marine father, I am proud of the role played by the U.S. Marines in the pacification of the Anbar Province.  The ridiculous notions of … flipping … a tribe, as if this is some sort of parlor game, is a poor excuse for explaining what happened there.  More than 1000 Marines perished in Iraq, and years of fighting set the preconditions for “flipping” those tribes.

I am proud of the first responders on 9/11.  I am proud of how our nation responded, and I am proud of the contribution our warriors have made and are making to Operation Enduring Freedom.  I am proud of the strengthening of our nation’s security apparatus since 9/11, and have noted that much more is needed.  I am particularly proud of God’s grace to this country in the days since 9/11.  Lastly, I am proud of the combat tour my son did in the U.S. Marines.

Isn’t it telling that Krugman is ashamed of the days since 9/11?  It demarcates world views, no?  Is it just me and is it odd that this seems more like Paul Krugman’s shame than America’s shame?  I don’t think it’s just me, and it really isn’t all that odd.

Unlike the coward Krugman, I’ll leave comments open on this post.

Weapons and Personal Security

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

From National Review Online’s Corner comes a must read on the drop in violent crime and how it is inversely proportional to the number of weapons in circulation.  Note that I said inversely proportional, not proportional.  More precisely for myself, I have layers of security.  The first weapon I have is a living beast.

Her name is Heidi, and she is a red and rust Dobie, still growing at 70 lb.  She worships me, and she gets a mouthful of anyone who becomes a threat to me.  The next girl with which an intruder must contend is this one.

She is my Rock River Arms Elite Car A4, and so far it has been kitted up with rear iron sights, a PMAG, a military-issue forward vertical grip, a tactical light, and an offset mount for that light (so that the same hand that holds the forward grip can illuminate the light without use of a pressure switch because of the proximity of the light).  I still have a laser and optics to go.  If anyone from Trijicon wants to offer me a free set of optics (an ACOG with the Scripture still on it) for a review on TCJ, let me know.

In the first case, my baby gets a mouthful of the intruder.  In the second case, the intruder gets a mouthful of my baby.  In either case, the intruder gets what he deserves, and my babies still love me.

Badly Needed R&R

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

I have been on some badly needed R&R with the family. You know, the important things in life.  I appreciate your patience.  I will return to regular posting within about 24 hours.  In the mean time, pray for our country and our troops.  Pray for their safety.  When you’re finished with that, if you’re still in need of something else to do, contemplate Professor Alvin Plantinga’s views on Warrant and Professor John Frame’s views on cognitive rest – and both in light of one another.  Write a 5000 word paper and submit tomorrow.  I suspect you’ll find that you don’t have need of something else to do.

Good way to spend a birthday

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 3 months ago

With my oldest son in beautiful mountains … shooting.  Me first, then my son.

But the Small Wars Council gets prancy on me.  “Happy birthday from all of us at Small Wars Council.  We hope that your wisdom and experience grows alongside your rapidly advancing age, and that you will continue to share them with us for many happy years.”

Rapidly advancing age, huh?  Be careful what you say – I’m holding a gun.

Dude, where is my blog?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

The server was down and so The Captain’s Journal hasn’t been on line for about three days.  Fixed now, and for those readers who are just waiting around to see what we have next (all three or four of you), we should resume regular posting.  Thanks for your patience.


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The Fifth Deployment

BY Jim Spiri
6 years, 6 months ago

The Fifth Deployment

April 27, 2009.  My son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, deployed again to the war zone.  This makes the fifth time in his 9-year career. He is an Army aviator.  As usual, he goes willingly.  It’s his job.  And, as usual, as his father, I and the rest of the family say, “Amen”.  But this time, it is not any easier than before.  It is actually harder.  One would think we would get used to it.  No one gets used to sending their son to war.

We’ve been there, in the war zone.  Both my wife and myself.  We have spent over three years there.  We are parents that actually got see our son in the war zone.  I actually got to fly with him on missions.  I’m a combat photographer. My wife and I both have worked for the military on numerous flight lines doing a variety of ground operations. I’ve seen a lot and know what happens in war.  I’ve never met anyone that actually gets used to war.

This time, I know I have at least one more tour in me.  Somewhere, somehow, I will find a way to visit my son during his tour as well as many, many other sons and daughters of America currently serving in harms way.  It is what I do.  I just cannot stay away.  Parents are depending on me to tell them that their sons and daughters are fine and strong and doing their jobs, willingly.  It is what warriors do.  It is the least I can do to stand in the gap for all the parents that cannot be there.  I never tire of wanting to be there and relay back home, “well done, soldier, marine, sailor, airman”.  Mother, father, relax! They are fine.  They are holding and carrying the torch we’ve passed to them well, very well.  I never will stop getting used to this.

I know loss.  I buried one son, a Marine, in 2001.  His name was Jesse.  From that suffering has grown a deep commitment to all the troops deployed and an even deeper commitment to the families at home awaiting their safe return.  My wife and I have been blessed to have worked with America’s finest since 2004 in the Iraq theatre of operations.  We’ve been there loading the wounded; we’ve been present during patriot details as fallen angels make their final journey home; we’ve loaded personal effects with great care and sent them home to the families; we’ve ushered in thousands of incoming troops and ushered home thousands more back stateside; we’ve seen them come on one, two, three and more tours; we’ve been there during attacks and been there on the front lines during extremely tense moments; and much, much more, too numerous to list.

The fifth time sending my son is harder than all the previous ones.  Not that the times are better or worse.  Rather, it’s the war zone and anything can happen as all who’ve been there know all too well.  It is all part of the job.  But this time, my son has triplet boys at home who will be awaiting his return.  They are 10-months old as he leaves this time, and when their father returns, they will be more than twice their current age, and they will not know their father other than email photos.  This hurts me for my son.  And my son will have another child born to him and his wife less than two months after he has deployed.  This time, this deployment is more than just a tour of duty.  It is a real life family affair with suffering already taking place just by the nature of the duration and the everyday life experiences of a young family growing as daddy goes off to war, again.

It is all part of the job.  But it does not make it any easier.  But we are all patriots who see the bigger picture.  The entire Spiri family marches in unison when duty calls, both in the war zone and on the homefront.  We are in one accord.  It is what we all must do.

This is not now nor never has been a time to debate the right or wrong of the mission those in authority over us have tasked us all with.  My son taught me long ago, early in his military career that I, as his father am always on a need to know basis.  And most of the time, I just don’t need to know.  However, I also taught my son early on from his youth that I have been in war zones since the time he was very, very young and that I am the one that told him daddy would come to the war zone should he ever get the call.  He now knows this by our joint experiences that this has come to pass and will come to pass once again.  Like I said earlier, this deployment is a family affair for the Spiris.

Our other children along with their children, (our grandchildren) support their uncle by writing letters, sending care packages from their school classrooms and adopting whole units who are my sons’ comrades in arms serving in harms way.  And as such, it stretches not just from a family affair, but all the way to a nation’s affair.  This is the reality of how a nation supports its warriors at war.  It starts at home and grows to the neighborhood and to the schools and eventually all across the nation support gains for those young warriors defending freedom a half a world away in very dangerous situations.  This is not just a theory, rather, it has been and will continue to be our experience.  It is the part we’ve all recited since our youth, “One nation, under God…”  It is real to the Spiri family.

My son’s young wife, Pamela, will be delivering our next grandchild in mid June.  She already is missing the love of her life, my son.  And he’s only been gone two days as of this writing.  But she is a strong young woman who knows the phrase, “When duty calls.”  She is the daughter of an Army aviator and now the wife of one.  She knew what she was up against before she married.  But it does not make it any easier.  She will be fine.  There is a strong family network of support on both sides.  My son can rest assured that the support network is up and running and in full active mode, already.  It is what our families do.

The reason I’m writing this to all who will take the time to read it is this: Our nation is at war.  It is never time to let up on supporting the troops.  I can surely testify to this as one who is now in the current experience of sending my son to war, again.  But I know from past experiences that relaying the current experience as a fellow citizen to the rest of the citizens of our nation will in fact strengthen us all in a positive fashion.  This in turn will strengthen our troops abroad.  And even more importantly, it will result in comforting me as I know the rest of you will be on your knees praying throughout this deployment for ALL of America’s sons and daughters currently in harms way, of which, my son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, is one.  He just happens to be my son.


Jim Spiri

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Site Redesign

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

Joshua Smith of Stemwinder Productions has almost completed a site redesign for The Captain’s Journal. I found that I was inhibited from writing posts because some were succinct and pithy, while others contained sweeping linkage and analysis. I didn’t want the shorter posts to supersede the long analyses, but in a linear format, this is what happens. Further, while I called this a news and commentary website, the news part was lacking.

Joshua solved all of those problems. I can post more pithy articles now, under what continues to be a linear formating, but leave a previous article up front as a “feature” if I wish. Also, there is a new feature called “clippings.” It will contain links to news and information that I have read and thought my readers would be interested in, but didn’t wish to supply commentary to go with the article. Check out the seamless transition from one page of clippings to another (without having to reload the home web page).

I have also thrown away all previous pictures and populated the new archive of pictures with A-10s, Ospreys, other aircraft, and photos from the deployment to Fallujah of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (from the deployed website). I will add to the photo archives as time goes by. I promise to steal all good photos from my friends at OpFor and Blackfive and continue to populate my archive. So if there is a photo you recall and wish to see again, just refresh the page and another will appear (some photos are a little truncated at the top / bottom).

One problem remains to correct (that of removing the clippings from the archives). I hope you like the redesign (reader Dominique R. Poirier does), and I hope it causes you to visit more often. I might not have a new feature, but a short post may have been made. Or, I might not have a new feature or post, but I may have linked two or three new articles for your perusal.

I appreciate your patronage. As friend Michael Ledeen tells me, the object of writing is to change someone’s mind – we know not who. Finally, there are many readers who have registered to make comments, but who have yet to weigh in. Please do so soon.


BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

A son comes home from war, a crucial campaign has been won in Fallujah, and the homecoming of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Golf Company, a unit which has performed heroically in Iraq, is as remarkable for who didn’t show up as who did.

In answer to ten thousand prayers, our son, who has earned the Combat Action Ribbon, has come home safely from Fallujah. 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Golf Company, arrived home on Tuesday, October 16th, from Fallujah, Iraq. Families were ecstatic to see the busses finally arriving at Camp Lejeune from Cherry Point.


The busses arrive at Camp Lejeune from Cherry Point, to waiting family, most of whom had been there for two or more hours.

I had what I believed to be a reliable offer to embed with the Marines and report from Fallujah, but this offer dried up, and I was left with the wonderful reporting by Jim Spiri and Bill Ardolino, along with some of my own research, all of which was better than any report from the main stream media.

It has been a hard ride for me as father of a warrior. Upon the inevitable reports of deaths of Marines in Anbar (without names being released as is the practice), I found myself unable to sleep many nights, and I spent some amount of time at the front door waiting on that visit from Marine officers that thankfully never came. I will find a way to embed with 2/6 the next time they deploy, God willing.

But it has been a productive seven months for the Marines in Fallujah. With the advances against the insurgency in Ramadi and other parts of Anbar, Fallujah (and the surrounding area) had become a safe haven for rogue elements and a veritable witch’s brew of foreign terrorists and indigenous insurgents who were using this area of operations as a launching point not only for attacks in Fallujah, but Baghdad and other areas. It was the last stronghold of the enemy in the Anbar Province, and without pacification of Fallujah, Anbar could have been turned against coalition forces and the tribal “awakening.”

Upon arrival at Forward Operating Base Reaper by 2/6, the security situation had badly degraded in Fallujah, but due in no small part to the bravery and hard work of the 2/6 Marines, it has been reported that last week there was not a single military casualty — Iraqi or U.S. — in Anbar.

The 2/6 Marines (and in particular, Golf Company, 3rd Platoon), engaged in more kinetic operations than reported in the main stream media or the Multinational Force, and 2/6 engaged in more reconstruction and rebuilding activity than reported. From intense fire fights and endless patrols, to gated communities and biometrics and sewage system reconstruction, Fallujah is a model for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. It occurred at an accelerated pace, as if counterinsurgency on speed and steroids. It will be studied in war college classrooms for decades to come – or at least, it should be.

We stayed on Emerald Island, the Southernmost island of the Outer Banks, 20 miles from Camp Lejeune and an extremely well-kept secret and absolutely lovely and wonderful place. The next evening after receiving our son home, we fed him and six other Marines steak and all of the sides. They ate an enormous amount of beef that night, and we listened to stories until very late. It was a good time, and we knew that we were in the company of heros of Operation Iraqi Freedom, brothers to Marines who preceeded them in the great battles of the South Pacific – men, 21 and 22 years old, who had already played a pivotal role in something more important than most people will ever experience in an entire lifetime.

The day 2/6 Golf Company arrived home, only I (as a Milblogger) and Terry Nickelson were there to report on it (Terry embedded with 2/6, and is doing what he hopes to be a PBS special on Chaplains). For the next few days I monitored both the Jacksonville Daily News, and the Camp Lejeune news (The Globe), and there were no reports of 2/6 coming home.

Victor Davis Hanson observed approximately a year ago of the brave troops in battle in Iraq that “The safety of millions of brave Iraqi reformers, the prestige of the United States and its military, the policy of fostering democratic reform in the Middle East, the end to the nexus between failed autocracies and scapegoating the West through terrorists; success of the Bush Administration; the effectiveness of the Democratic opposition; the divide between Europe and America; the attitude toward the United States of the Middle East autocracies; the reputation of the Islamic terrorists — all that will be adjudicated by the verdict in Iraq. Rarely have so many ideologies, so much politics, so many reputations been predicated on just a few thousand American combat soldiers and their Iraq allies.”

Indeed. Those brave warriors recently returned to the States, and only their loved ones were there to greet them. I can recall not too long ago the press reports in the main stream media of returning warriors, their accomplishments, and their losses. It has all become so very passé, now, and few pay attention to the details. This attitude prevents us from feeling the grief that parents feel from the losses of Lance Corporal Dale G. Peterson, Lance Corporal Walter K. O’Haire, and Lance Corporal Jonathan E. Kirk; it prevents us from experiencing the joy that others feel upon the safe arrival of their sons or husbands; and it prevents us from being reminded of why we sent these men to war.

Marine Team Wins Wilderness Challenge

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

My boys and I are fairly athletic.  I have been told that I need to include more pictures – my content is too “linear,” so this should break it up.  Below are pictures of (1) me and (2) a certain Marine (older brother taking the picture) before boot, SOI, fleet and then deployment to Iraq, somewhere near Mt. Mitchell, N.C., looking at the magnificent vista.



 A few months later we were rafting the Ocoee with challenging whitewater.  I have also rappelled, and there isn’t much in the outdoors we don’t feel fairly comfortable doing.  I might do fairly well at the Wilderness Challenge.  Then again, perhaps not.  U.S. and NATO Armed Forces teams did the Wilderness Challenge as an expedition race.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The Marines are this year’s Wilderness Challenge champs.

A four-person team comprising leathernecks stationed all around the country ended the competition Saturday with a first-place showing in the two-day event’s final (and arguably most punishing) race: a 14-mile, largely uphill slog through West Virginia’s share of the Appalachian Mountains. They knocked it out in 2 hours and 26 minutes.

A team representing the Navy took second place overall, finishing less than two minutes behind the leaders’ total time. Last year’s champs, a Coast Guard crew, earned third place this year, more than 15 minutes off the Marines’ time.

Navy and Coast Guard teams also placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

The top Air Force team finished in seventh place; the best Army showing was good for 12th.

The Wilderness Challenge, now in its seventh year, is billed as a team outdoor adventure competition for all five branches of the armed forces.

Forty-six squads — including four representing NATO — participated. The top NATO team placed 14th.

The event is held each fall along the New and Gauley rivers in southern West Virginia, about an hour south of the state capital, Charleston. It consists of six races spanning nearly 54 miles overall: one on bikes, two on foot and three in the water.

Saturday’s competition began at 7:15 a.m., soon after sunrise, and ended with an awards presentation more than 12 hours later.

West Virginia claims some of the most beautiful mountains, forests and landscapes in the world.  This race should be a good one for some time into the future, until West Virginia destroys their beautiful state with mountaintop removal coal mining.  Then it might have to move to any one of a number of expedition race locations around the country.

Congratulations to the winners.  They set the standard, and I expect the same from the Marines in 2008.

Scenes from Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 4 months ago

From Iraq by an AFP stringer:


Another scene from an AFP stringer:


These pictures were taken during combat operations with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Golf Company, 3rd Platoon, fighting in Fallujah, and were available in the public domain via Yahoo.  Yet, I have a personal connection to these photographs.

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