Gold Star Dad

The thoughts of a father who has lost a son to war

Archive for September, 2009

Red River 44

Posted by fozzynok on 09/14/2009

Sunday September 13, 2009 I had the honor of being at the funeral and the memorial dedication for the crew of “Red River 44”. This was a crew of a CH47 “Chinook” that was lost in 2008. I went for several reasons but the most urgent was to support the crew’s families and the unit as they were forced to said good bye to their loved ones one more time. While I think we all think about our lost loved ones, saying good bye is one of the tougher things. I wanted to make something right with my self and with one of the members of the crew. When Michael Thompson came home, I felt that I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain. I had failed this fine young man and he deserved to have each and every American close enough to be there. I couldn’t do it that day, I had planned to be there for him and his family and I just couldn’t muster the courage to be there and feel the things I felt when my son came home to the same Airpark. There were just to many similarities and too soon for me. I have felt bad about this for sometime. I am not very sure how I will handle things like this for the KIA’s from here on out, but they and their families deserve all the support from the few Americans who do actually care and understand about them and why they do what they do.

I had planned to ride the motorcycle down to this event but the weather had been totally against this idea from the previous days of torrential rain. I hoped that the weather would clear at least enough time to get down to Dallas for the event and I could wait it out for the rest of the day if I had to get back. I awoke at ten till four in the morning and it was stone quiet! I was ready to get the bike gear out and head down. Within seconds though, the rain started beating the top of the house.. It would be a car trip after all. The drive down to Grand Prairie was really bad and marginally unsafe in spots for a car, let alone a bike like mine with someone who really is a tad rusty with wet weather on two to begin with.

I got to the airfield just as the sun was getting up enough to see. The rain was still falling. I followed the group who was walking towards the hangar. I stood there and look around a bit and then noticed that there were actually quite a few motorcycles over near the maintenance shop. I slogged over to the shop and met with a couple of the Oklahoma Patriot Guard folks who I knew and then finally got to meet Mr. Kory Thompson. I was really looking forward to this for some time. It was so nice to meet and feel the genuine warmth and support another man who has been forced to feel so many horrible things of the same degree as I had. I feel the support from the other guys and appreciate it greatly. I hope none of them misunderstand this. I mean no disrespect to them at all. This is just different. Being a gold star parent is something that places you in both (depending on the moment) a glass box and a deserted island. I can be in a huge group of people and feel completely alone at times. For once in the last couple of years, I was with someone who made me feel less alone.

I got to meet Cpl Thompson’s squad leader and CO and we gathered for the Patriot Guard briefing and it was very emotional for all of them. They led the unit off to war, escorted the 7 fallen soldiers when they came home and they led the unit home when they returned home from Iraq. These folks really feel these losses personally. They are some of the few people who have not abandoned the fallen or the families of the fallen. They never fail to ask if we need something or to include us in whatever they happen to be doing. More than that, they show enough respect to ASK the families what they think, what they feel and general give a damn about what goes on in our lives.

Since a few of us were in cars, it made more sense to ride the busses that were provided to get from the base over to the Dallas National Cemetery, the roads were deeply flooded and the local law enforcement got the route changed a bit to keep the bikes safely out of most of the deep water.. not ALL however. It was still a feat of complete love of duty that got this escort mission pulled off successfully. We got to the cemetery and I joined the line with the rest of the PGR and stood in what amounts to a line of support behind the families. The rain continued to fall in waves, the cemetery had gotten tents up for the families and dignitaries and they got out of most of it. The cemetery crew really did a fine job this day. I got in place and as we waited for the ceremony to begin, I started noticing a few of the sights. This being a national cemetery there are a lot of headstones. We were in the military section of the cemetery and the rows and rows of granite markers really made this event more somber for me.

The event was a very proper and military affair with the ceremony the flag presentations, the 21-gun salute, Taps and the piper. I felt like this was the most important place for me to be at that time. This crew will forever be together in a common grave with their brothers, a single marker bearing their names. Seven men, who all paid the ultimate price together. They left their families, but they did not leave them alone, the one thing that I have learned is that even though I have lost my son, I have gained entry into a special family who will never fail me as I do everything in my power to never fail them again.

RIP Red River 44
CPT Robert Vallejo
CWO Brady J. Rudolf
CWO 2 Corry Edwards
Sgt Major Julio Ordonez
Staff Sgt Luke Mason
SGT Daniel Eshbaugh
CPL Michael E. Thompson

You will never be forgotten..

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My First Mission with the Patriot Guard

Posted by fozzynok on 09/08/2009

I read the short notice announcement board on the PGR board on Friday afternoon. The family of US Navy Viet Nam Veteran Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class Johnny Maness had requested that the PGR attend and stand for him at his funeral the next day ( Saturday the 5th). This was short notice for everyone and the information was placed on the Oklahoma PGR board and I thought about it for a while and honestly did not know if I could actually do this. The fact that this was such short notice and that this veteran deserved all we could give him, I decided that I would go and see if I could help out.

I left the house at around 7:30. The air was nice and cool and there was no wind to speak of. My bike was topped off and it was very nice to get out there in the breeze and get some alone time on the beast. I pulled into Comanche at about 8:45 and saw that there was already one bike and a pickup truck there in front of the church. We talked a bit and I help them set up the flag line in front of the church. We got that done in short order. The gentleman who was driving the pick up was the same fellow who came to our home to set up the escort for my son when he came home, He has a lot of experience setting these things up and I admire him a lot for the strength and dedication that it takes to be able to do what it is that he does.

We got the flag line set up and moved our bikes across the road to a parking lot out of the way of the limos and the hearse. I should add that it was quite an emotional moment when the hearse showed up and unloaded the flag draped coffin. I have seen too many of these things in the last couple of years and it doesn’t seem to get any easier. We drifted back across the street to the parking lot where a few more riders had arrived. We talked a bit and the ride captain made the announcement about who it was that we where there stand for and what the events of the day would be. We gathered at the flag line again in the front of the chapel and the family and friends filed by and into the chapel. When they were all inside, we broke down the flag line and moved our bikes into position to escort them to the cemetery.

When their services were over we all moved back to the bikes, geared up and prepared to move out to the cemetery. We were escorted by a local police cruiser which blocked traffic at the first intersection as we made the left and headed down the road toward the cemetery of this little town. We arrived in moments and we all moved to the circle and tool our places. There were enough men and women there to completely fill the circle. The young sailors had taken their place at the flag draped coffin and when the Preacher had finished his short speech, they began the work of rendering honors, folding the flag and presented it to the family. I knew that the playing of taps was next and that moment is where I became fully aware of the sounds that I had heard at Micheal’s funeral. The sounds of utter despair and grief were pretty upsetting to me. I think it would have really been worse had this been a young KIA like Micheal.

I was on auto-pilot during Micheal’s services, I could have been a bit of shock or just plain old fatigue. I was so intent on keeping my family protected and watching over them that I honestly do not remember all that was said, I remember the 21 gun salute and taps being played. I don’t remember much other than the sounds of sorrow from the people in the crowd, this brought that flooding back. It made me feel very bad for what the family was going through at that moment.

As soon as the service was over, I helped secure the flags from the circle and load them into the waiting truck. As soon as we had finished, the cemetery was practically empty. I talked to the ride captain and one other rider, thanked them for allowing me to be a part of this and then rode home.. the ride home seemed to take a lot longer.

RIP Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class Johnny Maness.. You will be missed

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Thomas Curley = Inhuman Scumbag

Posted by fozzynok on 09/05/2009

Well I saw the story yesterday about the marine who was killed in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard was killed 8.14.09 after being struck by an RPG. He was a like the rest of our KIA’s with one exception. The Associated Press had a couple of embedded reporters with the Marines that day. The Marines were ambushed and during the attack, this young Marine went down. The Reporter sat there and took pictures of this young mortally wounded young man. I’m sure there were plenty of other things to take pictures of at that time. But instead, this woman took pictures of this dying Marine. The story of betrayal does not really enter there. I’m sure that there have been literally thousands of pictures taken in combat of dieing or dead troops. They were of course usually never released because these pictures were taken by military people and controlled by the military or at least people with souls.

Enter one of the most evil people on the planet and whom I now place up there with other horrid animals disguised as humans. Thomas Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. This man made the decision to release these photos of this young man in the final moments of his life. The story goes on to describe the corpman / medic’s attempts to save this young Marine. The whole issue was dropped in Curley’s lap. The AP talked to the Father of this Marine and in no certain terms was the family wanting the photos of their Son’s last moments broadcast across the world. The family’s wishes were trumped and completely ignored by Curley who fell back on the old standard that these vermin use in times like these. “The Associated Press reported in a story about deliberations about that photo that “after a period of reflection,” the news service decided “to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates took this case on personally and called this scumbag Curley and pretty much begged him to reconsider the family’s wishes for their son’s death photos to remain unpublished. The Secretary was politely told matter of fact wise to mind his own business. I am mortified as a Parent of a fallen soldier. It is not enough that these people have lost their son, now some evil scumbag wants to profit off of the gory pictures of their dieing son. I for one would simply remove all access to the military to the AP or anyone remotely connected to them. I would label the AP as a company who aids terrorism and toss every one of these parasites into federal prisons (ahead of all the poor little terrorists in Gitmo). If any reporters happened to be found in combat areas, they should be targeted as “terror operatives” and killed outright. The videos and pictures of these kills should be instantly transmitted to Thomas Curley’s cell with a message telling him that the military has deliberated on this and they decided to make a public image that conveys the grimness of being a terror supporting scum sucking ass clown.

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