Today I had the honor of carrying the Marine Corps Colors in the Pentwater Memorial Day Parade. There were over thirty veterans marching in the parade, from WWII veterans, to Iraq vets like myself, and several Korean War and Vietnam vets as well.

Tim White - Memorial Day Photos

Memorial Day Parade 2010 - Pentwater, MI

The turnout was phenomenal, and it warmed my heart to see so many come out to remember our fallen. We marched through town, carrying the colors of our respective services, with Old Glory leading the way. A drummer kept time, and we marched in step to the accompaniment of cheering and whistling onlookers.

We made our way to the marina, where a few words were spoken, a moment of silence was observed, and a wreath was laid in Pentwater Lake. The rifle squad from the Pentwater VFW fired a 21 gun salute, and we made our way to the Pentwater Village Green.

At the Village Green, veterans from the crowd were asked to join those in ranks already assembled. About 15-20 men and women from several generations came out to join us as the national anthem was played. The Pentwater marching band played a rousing military melody, and my spine stiffened with pride at the notes of the Marine Hymn. A veteran gave a speech, another moment of silence was observed, and as we departed, you could hear “Thank You” and “God Bless You” being said from every direction.

Finally, we headed out to the Pentwater cemetery, where Taps was played. After all these years, those magical notes still get me a bit misty-eyed, and today was no exception. A local clergyman led us in prayer, and we laid a wreath at the war memorial in the cemetery.

Memorial Day has always had special significance to me. I began playing Taps at funerals when I was about 10 years old. My Grandfather, a Korean War Era Marine, was the chaplain for his VFW post. He used to take me along to funerals and have me play. Later in life, as a Marine, it became even more significant, as I learned the stories of the heroes who gave all to defend freedom.

But it was in 2006 that Memorial Day really became personal. I lost several good friends in the fall of 2006 and early 2007. They were fellow Marines, Brothers, who are greatly missed. Men like Troy Nealy, Minhee Kim, Luis Castillo, and several others. While each of their lost lives hurt, one was particularly personal for me.

On Feb 19, 2007, Brett Witteveen died in Iraq, on patrol in Fallujah, with Alpha Co. 1/24 Marines. Brett was a great friend, and like a little brother to me. I remember when Brett used to come by my house, put on my pack, and talk about joining the Marines someday. I was so proud of him when he eventually did.  He was just 20 years old when he passed. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and miss him terribly.

Memorial to Brett Witteveen in Grand Rapids, MI

I hope everyone took at least a few minutes today to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many veterans. Without those that have come and gone before us, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have today. In closing, I wish to pay tribute to my grandfather, SGT Robert P. White, USMC. I miss you, Pop.

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The internet is abuzz with the story of a Marine in California who was recently asked to remove a Facebook group he created. Many people feel that the Marine’s First Amendment rights are being violated, and are even going so far as to claim that the Obama administration is attempting to silence the opposition.

You can read the articles as covered by Yahoo! and Fox News.

As a Marine currently serving in the Reserves, and active in local politics, this issue raised huge flags for me. I have authored several blogs promoting Republican candidates, am a member of the Republican Party, and have sponsored a Teenage Republican Chapter in my hometown. I have also expressed disagreement and outrage with the current administration. Could I be a potential violator of this directive?

In order to cover my six, I have researched the directive, how it applies to me, and how it applies to this case. DOD Directive 1344.10, dated February 19, 2008 Subject: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, details what actions individual members of the Armed Forces CAN, and CANNOT engage in. You can read the directive HERE.

Sgt Stein made the mistake of naming the group “Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots.” By naming it so, he implies that the DOD sanctions it. By the rules, they have him dead to rights. In fact, if they so chose, he could be punished subject to the Universal Code of Military Justice under Article 92, “Failure to Obey Order or Regulation,” Chapter 47 of Reference (b).

Now, had he created a group called “Gary Stein and the Tea Party Patriots” or some such, and included a disclaimer that it reflects his opinions, and is not intended to reflect the views of the DOD, he would have been good to go, in my opinion.

We do indeed, have freedom of speech. We just have to be a but more cautious of how we wield it. You can find many a blog on my website that criticizes the current administration. However, I do have the disclaimer that the views portrayed are my own, and are not made as a representative of the USMC, the DOD, or any other agency. They are my beliefs, and mine alone.

When I attend political functions, campaign for a candidate, or work with the community, I do not do so in uniform. I won’t even wear a Marine sweatshirt. While my military service is often mentioned, I stress that I act in the capacity of a concerned citizen, NOT as a representative of the USMC.

I think I’m covered, but if the DOD or my chain of command wants to bring the matter up, I’m willing to defend my position. I would never want to use my uniform to gain political advantage. To do so would be, in my eyes, a discredit to all who have served before me.

I do, however, have a responsibility as a US citizen to be engaged in the political process. The leaders we elect have the power to make decisions that affect the lives of all of us. Those of us in the military are especially affected by the decisions of the POTUS. To sit back and not be involved seems a gross dereliction of my duty as a citizen, and as an NCO. I encourage everyone to get involved, regardless of their political party allegiance.

In closing, I’m glad this matter was brought up. Having read the Directive, I feel that I am acting completely within the guidelines of what the Secretary of Defense has laid out. I would encourage Sgt. Stein to continue to be involved in politics, and make his voice heard. I would just encourage him to do it within the rules laid out before us, and to do so in good taste.

In this case, I have to defend the actions of the Marine’s command. They made the right call, and handled the matter well. Sgt Stein was not punished, and only asked to remove the group from Facebook.

US Flag at Half Mast to Honor the FallenAccording to Fox News Radio this morning, a US Marine was killed by an IED explosion this morning in Marjah, Afghanistan. The identity of the Marine is not released yet, pending family notification. Please join me in praying for the family of the fallen. Rest in peace, brother, your sacrifice will not be forgotten.

As Marines and Afghan Security Forces entered the fourth day of fighting, reports are coming in that the Taliban resistance is tapering off, consisting primarily of sniper attacks and a few small ambushes. Most of the fighting is done during the day, since the Taliban lack the night vision capabilities of the Marines. IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) are a constant threat. The Marines have avoided many IEDs by being inserted into the city by helicopter.

An embedded Fox News reporter described the rugged conditions the Marines are fighting in. Recent rains have left the desert sands muddy and difficult to maneuver in. The temperatures are extremely cold, and the Marines are equipped only with the gear necessary to fight. The Marines wear little or no warming layers, and no sleeping bags to keep warm at night.

I heard Shepard Smith earlier today preparing to go on a rant, leading with the statement, “There are those that would want to know WHY the Marines don’t have the sleeping bags they need to stay warm.”

Just as I was mentally firing up a retort, the embedded reporter answered for me, reminding Shepard that these are Marines, accustomed to hardship. The reporter commented on how impressed he was at how well the Marines were handling the cold. He even repeated one of our mantras that he must be hearing over and over: “Pack light, freeze at night.”

This is what it means to be a Marine, to fight in any clime and place. The Marines of 3/6 and 1/6 are making history, and honoring the memories of the Marines who came before us. Semper Fidelis, gents. Keep up the good fight, and come home safe.

I don’t have time for a lengthy post, but I want to put out a request for all the prayers we can muster for my fellow servicemen in Afghanistan tonight.

Map of Southern Afghanistan, Helmand, Marjah

Southern Afghanistan

The Marines are engaged in clearing Marjah, in the Helmand Province. Marjah is a Taliban stronghold, and they are encountering some resistance there. Please pray for all our servicemen serving, but for the next couple of days, keep the guys in Marjah at the top of your prayer list.

Semper Fidelis.

I’ve been asked a lot lately how, as a Marine, I feel about the possible repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in effect for the military.

Last night, I attended an event hosted by Jay Riemersma, where I had the opportunity to discuss a number of current issues with Jay and with several other great people  interested in my take on the situation as a member of the Armed Services Community. Here is the summary of my thoughts on the matter.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has never been more than a political game. Yes, there are gays in the military. Everyone knows this. No you are not allowed to flaunt your sexual preference in the face of everyone you work with. Do what you want to do in the privacy of your own home, but leave it there.

A common phrase we use when deciding what information to share is, “Need to know.” Quite frankly, whether you’re gay or not, I don’t need to know.

The military is not passing judgement on whether homosexuality is right or wrong. DADT is in place to prevent dissension and prejudice, and maintain unit cohesion. An issue such as this is an emotional hot button, and has the potential to cause a lot of strife among service members.

We have a rigid structure of discipline that allows us to be the single greatest fighting force in the world. We do not have time to let political games interfere with the performance of our duties. DADT was designed to prevent conflict among service members. As an NCO, it is my job to bring my Marines together, as a unit, and train them to operate as one. If we focus on our differences, we could never accomplish this.

So I would ask that everyone kindly leave your politics at the gate, we don’t have time for these shenanigans. We have two wars to fight, and need to remain ever vigilant against the threat of terrorism that our nation faces everyday. One would think that with all the nation’s ills at present, there would be more important things to worry about.