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.

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.

A few months back, someone slipped a pill in my drink, while I wasn’t looking.

No, nothing as scandalous as a ruffie, nor even as trippy as ecstasy. Instead, someone slipped me the Red Pill, and I began to wake up and see what was going in our government.

In case you’re not familiar with the pill I am referring to, allow me to share a quote from The Matrix:

You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Obamacare, wake up!

OK, so nobody really physically slipped me a pill. Nevertheless, I have been driven of late to stay abreast of political goings-on, and obsessed with researching and understanding the inexplicable push by Democrats to force through a Healthcare Bill that is rife with controversy, encompasses one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and provides healthcare to…well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

The reason I use the Matrix metaphor is because the majority of my fellow citizens seem to still be asleep. The deeper I look into this bill, the more disgusted and sickened I become. I try to shake those near me awake, to no avail. They either don’t see the problem, or refuse to. They have become so desensitized to government corruption that they don’t realize how severe our plight has become.

Equally disconcerting is when people are aware of what the current administration is doing, they shrug it off, or try to justify it by pointing out the indiscretions and wrong-doings of past administrations (namely, President Bush). I seem to remember learning a  lesson as a child, a lesson like: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

By this logic, I guess the next administration can just come in and do whatever it pleases. Then again, why wait for the next administration? Obama has two years left. Will we give him a blank check to continue unraveling our country?

I saw a similar defeated attitude in Iraq. When patrolling the villages around Fallujah, as elections were drawing near, I had the opportunity to ask the Iraqis of Al-Anbar how they felt about the upcoming elections. The prevailing theme was, “They’re all liars, and what we think won’t make a difference, anyway.”

There were some exceptions, where people were excited about the elections, but they were in the minority. I did what I could to encourage the people of Iraq to stay motivated. After all, this is what my fellow Marines and I had fought for. The right for Iraqis to have free elections, and liberate themselves. Had it been for nothing?

The lesson I took away from my time in Iraq in 2008 was a painful one. You can’t help those that won’t help themselves. If you believe you are beaten before you even begin, you will surely be defeated.

Now, here I am back home, 18 months later, seeing some disturbing similarities. People believe that the government will do whatever it wants, and that all politicians are liars. A people so discouraged in their leadership that they are convinced that resistance is futile. (Yes, I spent too much time watching Sci-Fi movies in my younger days.)

President Obama, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Harry Reid and their party have managed to bull through H.R. 3962 – Affordable Health Care for America Act. The Act was passed and signed into law today by President Obama in spite of the objections of the American people. Numerous polls indicated that this was not healthcare reform that the American people want.

There are plenty of sources to cite that claim this is because of misinformation propagated by the Republican Party. The GOP has been accused of fear mongering and spreading lies about the bill. Allow me to toss my chips in with the GOP on this one. I have spent hours reading the bill, and have found nothing in it that convinces me otherwise.

On the contrary, I have found it much easier to debunk the supposed benefits the Democrats claim are being provided. It’s been said that we need some true Bi-Partisan effort to achieve heath care reform, yet the only thing Bi-Partisan about this bill has been the opposition to it. Not one single Republican voted for this bill, but several Democrats voted AGAINST it.

President Obama has made claims that the Republicans are fighting the bill just to be stubborn, labeling them “The Party of No.” In fact, in an attempt to make an appearance of bipartisanship, the Democrats tacked on some Republican amendments to the bill. They refused, however, to address the problems that Republicans had with what was already in the bill. When the Republicans held their ground on the issues, and refused to vote for a flawed bill, they were again accused of being “The Party of No”.

I’m so sorry, Mr. President, that the Republican Party wasn’t as easy to buy off as some of your Democratic colleagues in Nebraska, Louisiana, and Northern Michigan (Yes, YOU, Mr. Stupak!). The Republican Party was on the right side, this time. The side of the people.

In conclusion, I ask that my fellow Americans do one of two things: Either wake up and get involved, or have the decency to plug me back into the Matrix. I’m getting too old to fight these battles alone.

Besides, I can’t pull off the leather trench coat look like Keanu Reeves, and I would damn sure look ridiculous in leather pants.

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.

OIF VeteranI am a Marine who served in Iraq. I led a Marine company level intelligence cell in western Fallujah. I have seen firsthand the attitudes displayed by insurgents when threatened with the prospect of being interrogated by Coalition Forces. The most common response was laughter.

The insurgents know all too well how limited we are in what we can and cannot do to them, and they use it against us regularly. I remember one particular insurgent that we detained in Al Saqliwiyah.I knew he had information regarding a high value target I had been pursuing. He refused to cooperate, however, and practically begged us to send him to the CF detention facility. He told me that life in American prison was better than life in Al Anbar. He would get more sleep, more food, and better medical care. I would have had better luck using the prison threat as a bribe.

Now let me tell you why I wanted the information this guy had. I had been tracking his nephew for several months. The nephew specialized in recruiting adolescent males as suicide bombers. That January and February, three children detonated themselves outside of Iraqi Police checkpoints in our AO (area of operations). I received a tip that the nephew was back in the area, and the uncle (my detainee) knew where he was. Had I been able to use even some of the techniques Iraqi Police used, I most likely would have got the information. Instead, I was forced to release the detainee, and the nephew left the area shortly thereafter.

About a month later, three more young boys died when they detonated themselves following an attack on a local sheik. The sheik was friendly with coalition forces, and was killed in the attack also.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the latest witch hunt being conducted by liberals in Washington in blogs and on the news. I wonder, though, how much research anyone has really done on the subject. I researched the subject prior deployment, received training in it as we deployed, and learned a lot on the fly as we were pursuing terrorists across Iraq. I think a lot of people are confused as to what is really happening in the world.

ACLUThe ACLU has issued a call to “Demand Accountability for Torture!” and has published the “torture memos” on their website. They seem to feel that by not pursuing and prosecuting the senior government officials that were in place at the time the memos were published, we (the American people) are in danger of losing our civil liberties.

Read the memos, please. I am certain that you will find the idea of prosecuting the authors as ridiculous as I do. The fact that law enforcement personnel have to request permission, IN WRITING, to slap a detainee is ridiculous. How can you expect our military and intelligence agencies to protect you if you handicap them at every turn?

I do not condone the use of torture. At least not in the sense that most sane people would define torture. Beating people with sticks, burning them with branding irons, breaking their fingers; these are all torture in my mind. I might add being forced to listen to Britney Spears albums to that list.

Anyone in the intelligence field will tell you that physical torture will only lead to bad information, as the subject will say anything to make it stop. But the techniques referenced in the memos are an entirely different matter. These techniques are routinely used on military members undergoing SERE training. Read this excerpt from one of the memos:

“These same techniques, with the exception of the insect in the cramped confined space, have been used and continue to be used on some members of our military personnel during their SERE training. Because of the use of these procedures in training our own military personnel to resist interrogations, you have consulted with various individuals who have extensive experience in the use of these techniques. You have done so in order to ensure that no prolonged mental harm would result from the use of these proposed procedures.”

SERE stands for Survival Evasion Resistance Escape. It is training that selected military personnel undergo to learn to resist interrogation efforts. Our government is not condoning any activity or behavior in intelligence gathering that anyone with a military background finds dishonorable.

At the end of the day, THAT’s what matters. When the ACLU straps on a flak jacket, goes condition one, and steps out to patrol in a combat zone, then, and ONLY then, will I lend any credence to their opinion of what is right and wrong in warfare.