Military News

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Americans Asked to Recall Sacrifices of World War II

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2010 – One of the top U.S. Navy commanders called for today’s generation to remember the sacrifices of Americans during World War II, and to match those sacrifices as the country fights now into its 10th consecutive year of war.

Navy Adm. Jonathan Greenert, vice chief of Naval Operations, spoke to a crowd of about 100 veterans, troops and families, gathered here today at the National World War II Memorial to remember the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attacks on the United States.

On that early Sunday morning, the U.S. naval base on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, was attacked in what is widely recognized as one of the greatest military surprises in the history of warfare. In less than two hours, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was devastated, with more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded.

The next day, then U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it “a date which will live in infamy.”

The attacks “galvanized” America, Greenert said, as Congress declared war on Japan, thrusting the United States into World War II, a war that would claim heavy tolls both at home and abroad.

Standing just across the river from the Pentagon where terrorists slammed a commercial jet into its walls nine years ago, Greenert said the United States is fighting a “different kind of enemy,” but the support required of Americans in this war is the same.

“Today we have to emulate those values of the World War II generation,” Greenert said. “We look to their courage and their determination, and to their commitment.”

As World War II raged, families sacrificed, rationed and saved for war bonds, he said.

And, as troops returned home from war, their needs were the same as those returning from combat today.

“When they come home they want what those young heroes of 1941 and throughout World War II wanted – a job, an education, a home and a better life,” Greenert said. “We have to care for them, reach out to them, seek to understand them, and ensure that they do not suffer in desperation with wounds that are both visible and invisible.”

The number of World War II survivors is slowly dwindling, with only a few present at the ceremony today. This generation must embrace the responsibility to remind a new generation of what happened at Pearl Harbor, the admiral said.

“That’s why we came here today. That’s why you came here today,” he said. “Why we will always return and why we must endure to ensure that the generations that follow will always know the phrase ‘Remember Pearl harbor.’”

Jay Groff, an 88-year-old former warrant officer with the U.S. Army Air Corps will never forget that day, he said. He called it the “most important day of the 20th century.”

“The world changed for the United States,” Groff said. But, not only for the country, he added.

“I grew up overnight,” he said. “That morning, I realized that there was somebody out there trying to kill me. That changed my outlook on life.”

Sharlene Hawkes, a former Miss America, gathered with her extended family for the event. Alongside her sisters, she sang the closing hymn at the ceremony.

But, Hawkes was not there as a celebrity. Her father, Robert Wells, is a World War II veteran. And, in fact, a member of her extended family has fought in every conflict since World War II. At the head of the group were the four Walser brothers from El Paso, Texas: Roy, Stensel, Kenneth and Walter. Roy survived the attack at Pearl Harbor. The others all served in World War II, and some later in Korea.

Between the four, the brothers amassed 94 years of military service. Walter died last year, but the other three attended the ceremony today.

“I think the most important thing is we never forget,” Hawkes said. “We must never forget the service of anyone who has ever sacrificed and who has served. Both of those are fundamental to our way of life; to preserving our liberties.

“If we don’t recognize and honor that on a consistent, regular basis and put everything that we can behind it, then what we’re saying is ‘It’s not that critical and not that important to our way of life.’ And it is,” she said.

Hawkes’ sister, Elayne Harmer, said it also is important to remember the sacrifices of those who are still serving, and their families. “We go to the store, we go to games, and we take our kids to school, and we don’t often remember on a day-to-day basis what makes all those freedoms available to us,” she said. “And it’s important to have ceremonies like this as often as possible so that we remember the sacrifices that were made.

“Every sacrifice they make – from the families that are sacrificing, to the men and women who are putting their lives on the line – none of it is wasted,” she said. “We remember them. We think of them. We pray for them.”

Face of Defense: Marine Fought Adversity to Realize Dream

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jad Sleiman
Marine Forces Reserve

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 8, 2010 – Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matt McGuiness battled a collapsed lung and other challenges in realizing his dream of becoming a Marine.

The Chesapeake, Va., native comes from a military background. Both of his parents are Navy veterans and his family tree, heavy with sailors and Marines, reads like a ship’s roster, he said.

“He grew up around military,” said McGuiness’ father, Tom, the chief of police at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va. “He grew up always hearing, ‘If you want to be the best, join the Corps.’”

McGuiness said his uncle, a Marine veteran who died when he was a boy, provided most of the inspiration that pushed him toward the Marines.

“I admired his professionalism and his day-to-day efficiency,” McGuiness said of his uncle. “When he died of cancer, it just made me want it even more.”

It was no surprise to friends and family when, during his freshman year of high school, McGuiness began showing interest in the Marines.

“He went through four years of junior ROTC in high school,” McGuiness’ father recalled. “He went to every training thing he could go to, went to the recruiter’s office every day he could get away with it.”

When the day finally came for McGuiness to report to Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island, S.C., in the summer of 2008, he worried about the same types of things most recruits fret over.

“Am I going to make it? How hard will it be? How will I handle the stress?” he recalled.

As he ran and screamed with the other recruits still wearing their civilian khaki pants and collared shirts, he had no idea he had blisters on both his lungs that would soon rupture without warning.

“There’s no way to medically understand it or to medically find it until it happens,” McGuiness’ father said. “You had a six-foot kid who could run circles around anything.”

The fateful moment came well into McGuiness’ first phase of recruit training as he waited in line for chow.

“I felt a pop in my chest and I hunched over in pain and just tried to stand up,” McGuiness said. “I tried to make it look like I was all right so I wouldn’t go to medical.”

But McGuiness wasn’t all right.
A blister on his left lung had popped, leaving a hole. As he inhaled, air escaped through the hole and built up pressure around his lung, flattening it inside his body.

“Any movement you make is just ridiculous because your lung is no longer attached to your chest and it just bounces around,” McGuiness said. “When you walk, when you stretch, when you lie down, you just feel it.”

McGuiness said he was determined to not give up, despite not knowing what was wrong. “I thought I pulled a muscle or cracked a rib or something,” he said. “It felt more or less like someone stabbing you and twisting that knife constantly.”

His father said he understood his son’s stubborn refusal to quit.

“Like any good Marine, he tried to hide it,” he said. “I guess it’s kind of hard to hide losing a lung, though.”

It was the gas-mask training that finally ended McGuiness’ punishing charade. As he choked down tear gas in the chamber, his chest exploded with searing pain.

“I was coughing really badly and I kind of freaked out and started hitting the wall,” he said. His drill instructors, already suspicious something was wrong, got McGuiness out of the gas chamber and ordered him to see the doctor.

After a series of X-rays, McGuiness realized a medical discharge was almost certain. After a couple of short stints at area hospitals where his lung was stabilized, he was placed in a special platoon where recruits awaited a medical board’s ruling on whether or not they were fit to serve.

While he waited there, McGuiness watched his platoon march across the parade deck during what was supposed to be his graduation. They had become Marines. He would soon become a civilian.

“The medical discharge was one of the worst things that ever happened to him because all he ever wanted to be was a Marine. He felt like he failed his family and his Corps,” McGuiness’ father said.

McGuiness discussed treatment options with his father during the months he spent awaiting discharge. As soon as he got out, the pair went to work.

The two met Cmdr. Robert Strange, one of the Navy’s leading cardiothoracic surgeons, at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth.

“The problem you have with spontaneous neumothorax [McGuiness’ condition] is a 30-percent chance of it happening again, and after a second episode you have a 60-percent chance of it happening again,” Strange said.

The Marine Corps required McGuiness to wait three to five years before trying to enlist again in case his lungs developed more problems. With Strange’s help, however, that wait could be reduced to just one year.

“I told him I don’t want them just re-inflated, I want to be able to join,” McGuiness said. “Dr. Strange just hooked me up.”

McGuiness would need two operations, one for each lung. First, surgeons would have to remove and staple the blisters on both lungs using videoscopic surgical tools. Then, in order to make sure the lungs remained strong, Strange had to “mechanically abrade” McGuiness’ chest walls so that they would swell and stick directly to the lungs. That way, Strange explained, any future ruptures in the lung tissue wouldn’t form a hole and deflate the lungs.

The procedure can be very painful, Strange said.

“The best medication to stop this pain is an anti-inflammatory drug, but if you give that, you stop the process you want,” he said. “We weren’t able to give him the anti-inflammatory drugs to take the pain away.”

Even with the pain killers McGuiness was allowed, the weeks he spent recovering were some of the most painful of his life.

“You gotta breathe, it’s a natural process -– if you don’t breathe you die,” McGuiness said. “My problem was my lungs were just on fire.”

McGuiness’ father remembers watching over his son during those long weeks.

“I’ve never seen my kid in more pain in my life,” he said. “It broke my heart.”

After the first lung had healed, McGuiness went through the whole process again for the other lung. The pain killers’ effects on the body couldn’t be fully predicted, and ended up numbing the wrong side of his body.

“I woke up in the intensive care unit, screamed and then passed back out,” he said, adding he could remember the feeling of the four separate tubes that stayed in his chest during his weeks-long hospital stays. “I had to go back [to training]; all I thought about was going back.”

Looking back on the operations, Strange said he was impressed by his patient’s resilience.

“He was willing to do all that just to go into the Marines and not have to wait,” he said.

McGuiness returned to the recruiter’s office, back to the training functions and back to the gym. For eight months he worked to regain the body he once had.

It took “waiver, after waiver, after waiver,” to get McGuiness back to Marine boot camp because of his complex medical history, his father said. His son, he noted, wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

McGuiness returned to Parris Island and he graduated boot camp and became a Marine on Jan. 15, 2010, two years after he first arrived at the training depot.

McGuiness went on to make lance corporal and became an amphibious assault vehicle crew member with the 4th Amphibian Assault Battalion, 4th Marine Division, based in Little Creek, Va.

“I saw my sons being born, but the day I saw Matthew holding the battalion guidon during graduation, nothing prepared me for that,” McGuiness’ father said. “I’ve never cried like that.”

NEXCOM to Provide Free Phone Cards During Upcoming Holiday

By Kristine M. Sturkie, Navy Exchange Service Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) announced Dec. 7 that military members underway or forward deployed during the holiday season will be given a free $10 phone card to call loved ones back home.

This is the ninth holiday in a row that NEXCOM has offered free phone cards to deployed military members.

"Our military men and women do so much and sacrifice so much throughout the year to protect our country," said Jennie Zack, NEXCOM personal telecommunications specialist. "These free phone cards are a way we can give back to them and thank them for their service. That is especially important during the holiday season when they are away from their loved ones."

Each Sailor, Marine and Coast Guardsmen who will be forward deployed during the December 2010 holiday season on board Navy ships or submarines, as well as Coast Guard vessels, equipped with AT&T Direct Ocean Service phones will receive a $10 prepaid phone card. NEXCOM expects to distribute nearly 35,000 free phone cards during the holidays.

Flags lowered to half-staff in Wisconsin Thursday for Army Pfc. Jacob Gassen

Date: December 8, 2010

Flags at Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities across the state will fly at half-staff Thursday (Dec. 9) in honor of U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Gassen of Beaver Dam, Wis., who lost his life while serving his country in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Guard will render these honors in accordance with an executive order issued by Gov. Jim Doyle.
EXECUTIVE ORDER # 335 reads:

Relating to a Proclamation that the Flag of the United States and the Flag of the State of Wisconsin be Flown at Half-Staff as a Mark of Respect for Private First Class Jacob Gassen of the United States Army Who Lost His Life While Serving His Country in Operation Enduring Freedom

WHEREAS, on November 29, 2010, Private First Class Jacob Gassen, who was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky, died while serving his country in Afghanistan; and

WHEREAS, Private First Class Jacob Gassen provided faithful and honorable service to the people of the State of Wisconsin and the people of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the people of Wisconsin mourn the death of Private First Class Jacob Gassen; and

WHEREAS, Private First Class Jacob Gassen will be laid to rest on Thursday, December 9, 2010;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JIM DOYLE, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me by Federal and State law, do hereby order that the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Wisconsin shall be flown at half-staff at all buildings, grounds and military installations of the State of Wisconsin equipped with such flags beginning at sunrise on Thursday, December 9, 2010, and ending at sundown on that date.

—————

All Wisconsin state government facilities are covered by the governor's order and a 2007 amendment to the U.S. Flag Code now requires all federal facilities in Wisconsin to comply. Other government agencies, businesses and private residences with flagpoles may also honor Pfc. Jacob Gassen by lowering their U.S. and Wisconsin state flags to half-staff during the daylight hours on Dec 9.

McHugh: DOD Teachers Vital to Military Readiness

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2010 – Teachers are vitally important to military readiness, the Army’s top official said today during a ceremony recognizing the top teachers in the Defense Department’s worldwide school system.

Army Secretary John M. McHugh hosted the 2011 Defense Department Education Activity’s Teacher of the Year and District Teachers of the Year recipients at the Pentagon. McHugh applauded their achievements, underscoring the impact teachers have on the lives of military children whose mother or father may be deployed.

“Setting the Army standard is more than a bumper sticker. It’s about readiness,” McHugh said. “The last thing we want is to have that soldier [who’s deployed] in harm’s way having to worry about their children in school.

“They don’t have to,” the secretary continued. “You folks always do a great job taking care of young people.”

The annual Teacher of the Year program highlights the significant role that DoDEA teachers play in students’ lives and the contributions they make to the quality of life for military families, particularly the stability and consistency they provide during times of deployments and separation.

District teachers are selected after being nominated by a parent, student or colleague. There are 191 schools and 14 regional districts within the DoDEA worldwide school system. The DoDEA Teacher of the Year is chosen from the pool of district winners.

Angelica Jordan, a second- and third-grade Spanish teacher at Mannheim Elementary School in Mannheim, Germany, is the 2011 Heidelberg district Teacher of the Year and the DoDEA Teacher of the Year.

“There are so many fabulous teachers out there, and the only reason that I’m here today is because I’ve been able to watch my colleagues and collaborate with them and become a better teacher because of them,” Jordan said. “My job as Teacher of the Year is to glorify all of the fabulous teachers out there who are doing a great job with students.”

DoDEA teachers, she said, are true professionals with an important mission. They are specially trained to understand the challenges of being a military child. They’re also trained to help children deal with stress, she said.

“DOD teachers are experts at welcoming brand new students into the classroom and wishing them farewell when they [move],” she said. “Military teachers understand that, often times, we’re it for that kid. A parent may be deployed in harm’s way, and the parent that’s home is working and taking care of the kids and doing everything they can to keep it together for that year.”

Jordan taught at-risk youth in Minnesota for nine years before making the change to DoDEA. She began to realize the special needs military children may have with frequent relocations and parent who are often deployed, she said.

Teachers help build communities, Jordan explained, noting the need for a strong community isn’t as evident anywhere else as it is for the military.

“I felt truly called to be part of the military community where I can make a difference in the life of a child, because I felt like I could understand their worries and fears about losing a parent,” she said. “Their parents could be deployed, and they may or not come home, and I can really relate to military kids, because I was missing a parent.”

Military families can always rely on DOD teachers, Jordan said.

“When the kids come to our classroom, they deserve to be loved and respected and cared for,” she said, “and when kids come to DoDEA schools, they need to know that it’s going to be consistent, that it’s going to be the same every day, and that they are going to be cared for.”

Receiving the award is a humbling experience, Jordan said. But meeting McHugh and other officials during the groups’ Pentagon visit also is something she’ll always value, she added.

“It was humbling to walk through the halls and listen to the stories of 9/11 and how that impacted people here,” Jordan said. “It really gives you an opportunity as a Department of Defense teacher to realize that I am part of more than Mannheim Elementary School, that I’m a part of more than DOD Europe. I’m part of a huge system that’s here to support the teachers, and my primary role is supporting military families.”

Soldier Missing in Action from World War I Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War I, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Private Henry A. Weikel, 28, of Mt. Carmel, Pa., will be buried on Dec. 9 in Annville, Pa.

On Sept. 16, 1918, as part of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, his unit encountered heavy enemy artillery barrage and machine gun fire near Jaulny, France, in a wooded area known as Bois de Bonvaux.  Weikel was killed during the battle and his remains were buried with two other soldiers in a wooded area between Bois de Bonvaux and Bois de Grand Fontaine.

Attempts to locate his remains by U.S. Army Graves Registration personnel following the war were unsuccessful.

In September 2006, French nationals hunting for metal in the area found human remains and World War I artifacts.  A Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command team, operating near the location, was notified of the discovery and recovered human remains upon excavating the site.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the JPAC laboratory also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.

'We're at Your Side,' Mullen Tells South Koreans

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 8, 2010 – Following what he called “a very full day of meaningful discussions” today with South Korean leaders, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff condemned North Korea’s acts of aggression and praised South Korea for demonstrating restraint to keep it from escalating.

Mullen and General Han Min-goo, chairman of the South Korean military, also announced following their consultative meeting that they had agreed to strengthen their joint efforts to deter further provocations and war.

The leaders condemned North Korea’s Nov. 23 “deliberate and illegal armed attack” on Yeonpyeong island.

Mullen noted that the attack, which killed two marines and two civilians, brings to 50 the number of South Koreans killed this year at North Korean hands. Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed March 26 when a North Korean torpedo sunk the South Korean frigate Cheonan.

“Rather than meet belligerence in kind, you chose to meet it with restraint and readiness,” Mullen told Han. “The poise you have demonstrated befits the true strength of your position and the character of your people.”

Mullen emphasized, however, that North Korea “should not mistake this restraint for lack of resolve” or a sign of South Korea’s “willingness to accept continue attacks to go unchallenged.”

Han said North Korea’s provocations have become increasingly bold and he foresees a situation that could require “an alliance-level response.” He said he and Mullen discussed plans that would provide “an instantaneous and very firm response” to a possible future attack.

Joint exercises last week off the peninsula’s west coast improved interoperability between the U.S. and South Korean militaries, Mullen said, while also sending North Korea “a strong signal of our intent to deter future acts of aggression.”

Mullen, responding to a reporter’s question, said South Korea, as a sovereign nation, “has every right to protect its people and to respond as it sees fit to effectively carry out that responsibility.”

“They also have the right to choose the method with which they respond,” he said.

However, Mullen emphasized that the true goal of the U.S.-South Korean alliance is to provide a deterrence that would make such retaliation unnecessary.

The chairman praised Han for his leadership during “difficult times” in building the capabilities required to provide that deterrent effect.

“Your readiness to defend your territory and your citizens is unmistakable, and my country’s commitment to helping you do that is unquestioned,” he said.

Mullen recognized that the United States has stood at South Korea’s side for the last six decades and told the South Koreans that President Barack Obama had sent assurances that “we will be at your side for many more.”

Today’s talks with Han, National Security Advisor Chun Yung-woo, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Shin Kak-soo took “a long-term view” of the alliance to ensure near-term actions are guided by the Strategic Alliance 2015 framework enacted in October, Mullen said. The talks also centered on “ensuring our plans, training and exercises are focused on full-spectrum operations to deter, and if necessary, defeat, a rapidly evolving threat,” he said.

“That is why I am here today, quite frankly, to address those challenges together, to explore new ways we can overcome them, together, and to reaffirm America’s resolve to ensuring together with South Korea our mutual security objectives on the peninsula and in the region,” he said.

Mullen said he looks forward to working with Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, the top U.S. military officer in South Korea, as he works with his South Korean counterparts to develop specific plans and exercises supporting these goals.

Navy Competing in Armed Forces Bowling Championship

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shawnte Bryan, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The All-Navy Bowling Team started competing against other military branches in the Armed Forces Bowling Championship at Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) Dec. 7.

The four-day tournament consists of four teams of eight bowlers from the Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy.

The Coast Guard was represented at the tournament with two bowlers on the Navy team, one female and one male.

"This championship is the pinnacle of the bowling calendar in the Navy bowling program," said Ron Hodgen, commander, Naval Installations Command program manager. "We are quite honored to be hosting this year at such a great location."

The tournament being held at NBSD marks the first time in 13 years a Navy base has hosted the competition. Competitions include a team challenge, doubles, mixed doubles and singles matches. A total of 24 games will be played throughout the tournament, taking place Dec. 7-10.

"The good thing is that after all the blood and sweat dries up at the end of the week, it will remind us that we all are on the same team," said Cmdr. Vince Garcia, NBSD executive officer. "When it comes down to it, we all work together to get the job done."

Trophies will be given to the top two teams and individual bowlers with the highest final pin fall score at the end of the tournament.

For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, visit www.navy.mil/local/pacensandiego/.

Hawaii Commemorates 69th Pearl Harbor Day

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The National Park Service and the U.S. Navy hosted a joint memorial ceremony commemorating the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7 at the newly dedicated $56 million Pearl Harbor Visitor Center at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was formerly known as the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center.

Themed "A Promise Fulfilled 1941 – 2010," the ceremony was held on the lawn of the new visitor center, which looks directly out to the USS Arizona Memorial situated in Pearl Harbor. For the past five years, the ceremony has been held at Kilo Pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam while planning and construction of the new visitor center took place.

"I'm honored to take part in commemorating the opening chapter of one of the most powerful stories in American history," said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. "On a quiet Sunday morning nearly 70 years ago, the looming conflict that would consume the entire world announced itself with the sound of airplanes overhead."

Nearly 4,000 distinguished guests and the general public joined military personnel, members of the National Park Service and Pearl Harbor survivors for the annual observance of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the dedication of the new visitor center. More than 200 Pearl Harbor survivors and other World War II veterans attended.

At , the exact moment the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began, attendees observed a moment of silence. USS Chafee (DDG 90) sailed through the harbor and rendered honors to the USS Arizona Memorial while the Montana Air National Guard flew four F-15 aircraft over the memorial in a "missing man" formation.

Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Thomas Strickland was the keynote speaker for the commemoration and dedication.

"We are humbled to be in the presence of over one hundred survivors here today," said Strickland. "We thank you for your service to our country. This new visitor center will serve as a gateway not just to Dec. 7, 1941, but to all of World War II. Visitors entering the center travel the terrible destruction of Pearl Harbor to the moment of triumph on the deck of the Missouri."

A Pearl Harbor survivor from USS Nevada (BB 36), Woody Derby, said he was impressed with the new center. Derby said he hopes to live at least eight more years to become 100 years old.

Highlights of the ceremony included music by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, a Hawaiian blessing, a rifle salute by members of the U.S. Marine Corps, wreath presentations, echo taps and recognition of the men and women who survived Dec. 7, 1941, and a special remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Pearl Harbor survivor continues his service

Written by: LT Connie Braesch

On this 69th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, one survivor and Coast Guard veteran is still serving his country and being cited for his superior contributions.

At age 93, George C. Larsen is the president of the Pearl Harbor Survivor Association San Francisco Bay Area Chapter 2 and, more than 60 years after his service, was recently promoted to honorary Chief Petty Officer for his continued contributions to the Coast Guard community. Regularly conducting public speaking events and unit visits, Larsen shares his experiences and tells stories of his Coast Guard service during the Pearl Harbor attack and World War II.

It was early 1941 and Larsen had already served almost two years when he found himself on duty as a radioman at Coast Guard Radio Station Honolulu in the Diamond Head Lighthouse just east of Pearl Harbor. Taking an oath of silence not to tell anyone what he worked on, Larsen learned what he called the “Orange Code” deciphering top-secret Japanese military code.

On that fateful day in December, Larsen awoke to the rattling and shaking of his building. At first he mistakenly thought it was an earthquake, and it wasn’t until he went out the station’s back door and saw planes flying overhead that he knew something wasn’t right.

“There were three planes flying below the rim of Diamond Head, about 500 feet above me in ‘V’ formation, low-wing type with big red dots on the underside about 2 feet in diameter,” noted Larsen in a Coast Guard Memoir. “They flew right over me, as they disappeared towards Pearl Harbor.”

In the chaotic and frantic moments that followed, Larsen and his fellow radiomen tried to make sense of the scene unfolding in front of their eyes.

“We could see the entrance to Pearl Harbor out of one window and the Pacific Ocean westward out of another window. I had a fairly good picture of what those Japanese planes were doing,” noted Larsen. “The first thing I witnessed was three huge geysers of water shooting straight up for about 75 feet, each geyser about 25 feet apart in line from each other.”

On the morning of December 8, Larsen was ordered to the 190-foot buoy tender, CGC Kukui (WAGL-225), to help the crew pull harbor lights out of the water to black out the islands. After dodging a suspected Japanese submarine to complete the mission, the Kukui crew was then called to help the Army recapture Niihau Island after a Japanese fighter pilot who crashed on the Island had taken control of the natives. Upon successful recapture, Kukui was further tasked with marking shipping hazards in the harbor before returning to port.

“It was an ugly sight, being on loud speaker radio watch I was able to view all the damage that had been done,” recalled Larsen.

Following his time on Kukui, Larsen continued to serve on the 125-foot patrol craft, CGC Tiger (WSC-152), and eventually discharged from service in 1945.

Through his storytelling, Larsen keeps alive the memories of his some 2,400 shipmates who lost their lives on this day 69 years ago. His words pay respect to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

“Pearl Harbor Day serves as a stark reminder of the challenges the men and women of our armed services face on a daily basis, as they stand in harm’s way defending our liberty,” said Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Bob Papp. “I hope you will respect these lost Shipmates, by taking a moment to remember and reflect upon their service to our Nation.”

Mullen Calls on China to Help Curb North Korean Aggression

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 8, 2010 – The top U.S. military officer cited growing security challenges created by North Korean aggression and called on China to join other regional nations to help counter it.

“The regime in the north continues to isolate itself and to act in a manner detrimental to … security,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today during a joint news conference with General Han Min-goo, chairman of the South Korean military.

“Their relentlessness and reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons, highlighted by the brazen disclosure of a new uranium enrichment facility, flies in the face of international sanctions, violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and destabilizes the entire region,” he said.

Mullen cited strong international cooperation in helping curb such activities, but expressed regret that China has not stepped forward to join the effort.

He noted China’s strong influence over North Korea and responsibility to assert it. “And yet, despite a shared interest in reducing tensions, they appear unwilling to use it,” he said. “Now is the time for Beijing to step up to that responsibility and help guide the north, and indeed, the entire region, toward a better future.”

Mullen noted China’s offer to propose an emergency Six-Party Talks gathering, and reiterated Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s point that “we first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks.”

“There is none, so long as North Korea persists in its illegal, ill-advised and dangerous behavior,” he said. “I do not believe we should continue to reward that behavior with bargaining or new incentives.”

Meanwhile, Mullen expressed hope that other regional neighbors and partners, particularly Japan, will continue to play active roles in dealing with North Korea.

He said he hopes to see “more trilateral and multilateral interaction in the region” and that he was encouraged to see South Korean observers participate in the Keen Sword exercises near Japan this week.

The chairman also noted the “truly historic” trilateral summit Clinton hosted in Washington on Dec. 6 in which she, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara discussed the situation.

Japan, like the United States, has a stake in seeing the North Korean threat countered, and has “much to offer in terms of viable training opportunities and expertise,” Mullen said. He noted that he plans to travel to Japan later today to talk with Japanese military leaders about ways to leverage their experience and improve defense cooperation.

Discussions and engagements like these “illustrate and deepen our relationships,” Mullen said, and cement the countries’ unified position on the North Korean threat.

Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War

Captain Matt Gallagher is the 1234th US Military Servicemember to be added to Military-Writers.com.

Captain Matt Gallagher, USA, “grew up in Reno, Nevada. After graduating from high school, he attended Wake Forest University on an ROTC scholarship, where he majored in history. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.[1] He was then assigned to the 25th Infantry Division of the U. S. Army in 2005. In December 2005, his platoon was transferred to Iraq and stationed at Sabaa Al-Bour, a village northwest of Baghdad.” Captain Matt Gallagher is the author of Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.

Publisher’s Weekly said of Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, “In this hauntingly direct war memoir, a cocky West Coast frat boy becomes a reflective leader in the later part of the Iraq conflict. Not long after his 2007 deployment, Lt. Gallagher had become a much-read blogger, but his blunt account ran afoul of the higher-ups. In this blog-like memoir of his year-plus in Iraq, he provides an episodic, day-by-day account of life during wartime, covering everything from the fear of shooting innocent citizens to the impact of a Dear John letter on a unit. Gallagher employs a close eye and enormous compassion when recounting tragedies like a horrible explosive accident and pervasive poverty and despair in an area known as "trash village." Gallagher's vivid, atmospheric descriptions can occasionally get away from him ("It was modern Iraq, permanently soaked in a blood-red-sea past it would never be able to part"), but he provides much canny, moving commentary on the power of war to transform soldiers and civilians: "Suddenly the stare was the norm house by house, block by block, and town by town, and all of the flower petals dried up, and we suddenly recognized that those cheers of gratitude were actually pleas for salvation."

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