Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Photo......As Promised

History and Museums Division Field History Detachment (I'm back row, far right)

This past Saturday evening my Marine Corps Reserve unit had its annual Marine Corps Birthday celebration. One of our members, Major Joe Winslow, surprised us with the presentation of medals and membership in a newly created military order, the Military Order of St. Nicholas. (A photo of the event will follow.)

The precedence for this medal and order goes back to the George Medal of Guadalcanal fame. Major Winslow in his civilian career is an uber talented industrial/commercial designer and fabricator. You can check out his company's website here.

Here is the background for the Military Order of St. Nicholas according to Major Winslow:

Similar to the George Medal of WWII, this is an informal medal to recognize the the efforts of Field Historians.

The medal is based on an Iraqi Army badge. The Marine Corps EGA is super-imposed on a Persian star, surrounded by palm fronds, from under which radiates the bright rays of the desert sun. I hand sculpted the medal in plaster, poured a firing mold from concrete used to rebuild parts of the MEF(fwd) HQ building, and workded with Seabees and their torches to cast the first prototype-all this aboard Camp Fallujah, literally while the camp was at times under mortar and rocket fire. The silver was shipped to Iraq by a metal dealer in Texas. The final medals were cast by a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Guadalcanal veteran.

The Society is named after Colonel Nicholas Reynolds, who drafted the first Field Historians for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and saw to it that they were deployed to the opening salvos of what has turned into a rather long and historic engagement....

The Society is an association of Field Historians who have deployed to combat zones in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and others, who have served the History Detachment in a beneficial manner. Form and function is similar to the Artillery Order of St. Barbara. All that being said, it's generally a way to ensure we have yet another occasion to get togther for a beer or two.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

National Museum of the Marine Corps Pics

Last Monday I spent the day doing a "gallery talk" of sorts at the newly opened National Museum of the Marine Corps. I was invited by the educational staff to share about my experiences as a combat artist and to work with kids wanting to draw a picture to send to the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those that are new to Fire and Ice, my academic background and occasional civilian career is in art and special education.

A good friend and coffee shop compatriot, Robert Martin, a photographer for our local newspaper, The Free-Lance Star, was on assignment covering this first day the museum was open to the general public. If you go here you can see a slide show of the pictures he shot, which include two of yours truly.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

War Rant Officer

Hey everyone, sorry I've been off-line for a bit. Myself and two historians spent the better part of last week touring the various activities aboard the US Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba. We visited the Marines manning the fence line, the Joint Task Force detainee facility and walked the Cuzco Wells Battlefield of Spanish American War fame. The Marines of the security force company graciously invited us to and paid for our attendance at their Marine Corps Ball on 10 November.

All this activity took some of the edge off the election results. Though expected, the turn-over of Congressional and Senatorial power to the Dems is disappointing during this time of war. They'll no doubt outlaw war, and we'll all be able to go home and I'll be able to stop my war rants.

As might be expected, there isn't much I can share with you substantively about our visit to Cuba. I can tell you that the conditions under which the terrorist detainees live are far better than you can possibly imagine. And, if you compare their detention with the treatment of our few unfortunate POWs (torture and beheadings), the difference statistically would have to be expressed in astronomical percentages.

Unfortunately my digital camera has had to be turned in for repairs, so until I can borrow another these postings will be short on pics. However, if you go over to the Leatherneck Magazine website, you can see a two page spread of my work appearing in this month's issue. Click on the "Contents" section top left of the page, and then click on "38 Faces in a Combat Zone". Note: click on the "Faces in a Combat Zone" and the images will enlarge.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Then and Now

Then-1945 Flags of Our Fathers

Now-2006 Banners of Our Brothers

Go Army! Hooah! (I never thought those words would ever cross these old jarhead lips!)

Few things are as powerful in communicating an idea or a sentiment as comes close, but pictures are worth the proverbial thousand words. And there are those few images that manage to speak volumes and arrive on the scene with perfect timing. Here are two.

My career in the Marines has encompassed a number of fields; infantry mortarman, bookkeeper, helicopter avionicsman and crewchief, classified materials custodian, and now combat artist. You would probably assume that being a middle-age artist running around in the thick of a fire fight with 20 year olds tops the list of challenges I've faced.....WRONG. The toughest job, bar none, ever served up by the Marines to me has been recruiting duty.

I won't regale you with war stories from the recruiting trenches.....and there are plenty. My old retired gunny buddy and I every now and again brainstorm the idea of writing a sitcom based on this unforgiving duty. In the course of an average week recruiters get exposed to and involved in situations worthy of a Greek play...Irony, Tragedy and's all there in spades.

By the end of my tour I was actually going through the process of legally immigrating to Canada. My wife at the time was a citizen of the Great White North and we were Nova Scotia bound. Why share this with you? Because after 3 years of working 6 and 7 day weeks from sunup to many a midnight I was completely burned out with what seasoned recruiters refer to as the greatest threat to democracy and western civilization; Moms of America. For the better part of three years I bit my tongue listening, in one form or another, to how enlisting in the military was a waste of time and talent. If elitist upper middle class condescension could kill I'd be a dead man many times over.(It was amazing to me how many parents still thought we were recruiting from the inside of judges chambers.) I recruited in the whitebread Washington, DC suburb of Fairfax County, Virginia. The attitudes that people go in the military by default and not design, and somebody elses kid should serve was rampant. During that tour I managed to be Marine Recruiter of the Year twice. I was pretty good at countering this mentality......but at the end of the day I was toast.

So, little wonder the good senator from Taxachusettes hit a raw nerve with me. He apparently apologized today. Vice-President Cheney, someone who can be funny, had a great one liner about "he was for the joke before he was against the joke". We can now add that he was against the apology before he was for it. Waffles anyone? The bottom line for me is that he voiced a prevalent and pervasive sentiment meant to play well in the ears of the Dem's constituency, a college campus crowd. His hand got caught in the cookie jar. That's the only thing he's probably genuinely sorry about.

I don't think many in the military really give a hoot one way or the other about this apology. The sentiment that joining the service is a waste is something all of us have had to deal with in one form or another, and often with those closest to us. It's a first cousin to "I support the troops but not the war" mentality.

At the end of the day we're just left feeling a little like the cavemen characters in the GEICO Insurance TV commercials....readily stereotyped, slightly forgotten and easily marginalized. Little wonder that just as there are few atheists in foxholes, there are even fewer Democrats.........and I should know, I was once both.