Daily Life of a Marine Mom

A Piece of My Heart is home from Iraq


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I hope everyone had a merry and safe Christmas. Mine was good because I finally got to talk to Eric for five minutes at least on Friday. It was great to hear his voice. He still sounds like my Eric so I am happy about that.

There is a lot going on in my life right now that I may get into later here, but for now I wanted to post a positive slant to news from Iraq. I found the following article lurking in USA Today. Enjoy.

By Caspar Weinberger and Wynton Hall
Tue Dec 27, 7:23 AM ET

This season, 155,000 of our men and women in uniform will spend the holidays fighting in Iraq. Though this period is traditionally a time for celebration and hope, our U.S. troops are being confronted with a message of a different sort emanating from the home front - news stories on the hyper-politicization of the mission to which they have been called.

One wonders what our men and women in uniform must feel when they flick on the TV at their base camp or log on to American newspaper websites only to be greeted by a seemingly endless barrage of negative news stories and opinion polls questioning a war in which they're putting their lives on the line each day.

The stories of extraordinary heroism in Iraq, some of which have been published, are being overshadowed by the mostly partisan name-calling and finger-pointing in Washington.

Were it possible to brush aside some of these clouds of ideologically driven negativity over the war on terror, the distraction from the bravery of our troops whose valor in Afghanistan and Iraq matches that of "The Greatest Generation" of World War II would come into fuller sight.

Alive by 'the grace of God'

Meet Master Sgt. William Calvin Markham, a combat controller from Waukesha, Wis., whom history will record as the first member of the Air Force to set foot on Afghan soil in the war on terror. Just one month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Markham, 37, part of a 12-member military team, was among the first U.S. special operations forces to enter Afghanistan.

"The Taliban would unleash everything at us," Markham recalls. "We took enormous amounts of fire: small arms fire, tank rounds, you name it. They also had ZSU 23s, an anti-aircraft weapon, and turned them on us, sending what looked like large, flaming footballs at our position."

Asked how he and his team survived the enemy's wall of fire, the 6'1", 250-pound Markham replies, "It was the grace of God. It was like we had a bubble over us."

When the smoke cleared, Markham's Silver Star citation credited him with directing 175 sorties that resulted in the elimination of 450 enemy vehicles and the killing of more than 3,500 Taliban fighters in a little more than a month.

Today, however, his greatest source of pride is the golf tournament he hosts each year, the Whomper Stomper Open, to raise funds for the children of fallen U.S. special operations forces.

When asked whether barbs by the naysayers of the war bother him, Markham says, "When I hear that kind of thing, honestly, it makes me glad because it means those individuals have the freedom to think and say what they wish."

First Sgt. Justin D. LeHew feels similarly. LeHew was an amphibious assault platoon sergeant in Iraq and was one of only 10 individuals to receive the Navy Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Moving into Nasiriyah, his column of 12 amphibious assault vehicles came under extreme fire by a massive Iraqi force that had burrowed itself inside buildings. When one U.S. vehicle took a hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, LeHew raced toward the fiery scene.

"The first thing I see on the ramp is the leg of a Marine. ... From what I could tell, everybody in the back was dead - at least that's what I thought at the time. As I was crawling through all that stuff into the center, I stepped on something and actually heard someone gasp for air. ... So I started digging around and underneath, bent in a V-position, was a live Marine."

That Marine's name is Cpl. Matthew Juska. He is alive today because LeHew refused to give up his search for fellow Americans, even as enemy fire pelted the flaming vehicle.

LeHew says the only thing he asks from war critics is that they support the men and women who safeguard their right to dissent. "You can say that you feel that this war is unjustified or whatever, but you support the home team, the American servicemen in the fight."

This humble plea - to stand with those who fight for us - is the one echoed by the 2.4 million men and women in our armed forces. And yet, even as the voices of those who oppose their efforts get louder, the voices that carry our heroes' stories remain but a whisper.

Bring on the good news

Those waging the war on terror this Christmas season are proud of the work they're doing - and we should be, too. Our nation would be well-served if we saw more images and stories about the positive and heroic work they are doing.

Men such as Master Sgt. William Calvin Markham and 1st Sgt. Justin LeHew couldn't care less about generating headlines; they're professionals who radiate humility. Besides, they don't consider themselves heroes.

The reason their stories should be retold is not for their benefit but for ours. Our heroes have much to teach us, if only we could clear away the fog that cloaks them.

Note: Caspar Weinberger is a former secretary of Defense and the chairman of Forbes. Wynton C. Hall, an author and speechwriter, is writing with Weinberger, Home of the Brave: Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror.

Semper Fi and God bless you all.

Comments: |
As Markham's ex-wife now, who stayed back keeping the house hold running while he was busy being everybody's hero in Afghanistan...I prayed everyday for his safety. I credit God for watching over him. It is sad to say that Markham's heroism ends in Afghanistan. Although everyone may see him as a "hero", which he may be at his job... Markham was busy thinking only of himself everytime he left home on a military trip hoping what happened on a trip, stayed on that trip. Well it didnt. After 10 years with my husband, I finally found out how "popular" he really was...with the ladies. I, and many who REALLY know who he is, choose to see him as a "Sgt Jeckle, Mr. Hyde"...living two lives: A hero and a Zero.
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