Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Book review “Angels in the Sky” by Robert Gandt

October 16th, 2020 Posted in The SandGram v1.0 | No Comments »

Angels in the Sky

“How a band of volunteer Airmen saved the new state of Israel” by Robert Gandt

Over the years, I get asked to review books and movies.  This book I regret was lost in an office move only to resurface far later then the publishers would have preferred to review. I mean so long ago that I can’t even thank the publishing house who sent this to me.  Never the less, I had time to read this book last weekend and fell in love with it right away.  As a writer, Robert was able to truly capture the feelings of the young men, fresh back from WW2 and missing the camaraderie of their war time experiences.

This opportunity to participate in the building of the young Israeli Air Force formed one of the most ferocious fighting units, staffed with battle hardened vets ever assembled.  I know it was politics, but what really upset me was the lack of help the U.S. provided at the start of the State of Israel.  The Jews had to figure out ways to purchase surplus war planes (there were plenty) and then get them over to fight in the Middle East without violating the neutrality act the U.S was in with the United Nations. 

Somehow, they missed out on the surplus P-51’s sitting down in Mexico because they signed a contract to buy all the used Czech licensed and built German Messerschmitt’s.  These were dogs! No way around it, lets call them what they were, pieces of crap.  The Irony was not lost on the pilots that they would be fighting the Egyptian British made Spitfires in German designed planes flown by Jewish pilots.  This was to be a crazy war.  They acquired many different types of planes and through sheer will, made them perform against a better equipped force.  The losses were daily mainly through the attrition of crashes from the “Czech Mule” which was a beast to put down. 

The research Robert did for this book was incredible.  You really developed a sense of each person and bond that made your heart break when they died.  This was a war of wars in terms of 100 to 1 in the numbers and what they had to put up with along the way.  I’m ashamed of the British and American diplomacy back then and could feel the stress as they were forced to dogfight against the British Spitfires stationed near Egypt.  A lot of these pilots knew and flew with the Brits in WW2 and it wasn’t a proud day when they shot down 3 out of four British pilots who ventured over into Israel’s airspace to “see what was going on”, the 4th shot down by ground gunners.  It was a bad day of being in the wrong place at the wrong time but I think the IAF proved they were a match for the world, not just the pilots of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. 

As a pilot, I would highly recommend buying this book as it takes you into the incredible bravery of these volunteers (many not Jewish) who were part of the greatest trained pilots in WW2 and assembled for one last great adventure.  This will put you into the cockpit of the Red Sqd as they fought daily in crap airplanes but survived on their skill that the other side just didn’t have.  If you are into and interested in Israel and how these Angels saved the country during it’s time of need, then you will enjoy this book too!!

Hope this helps,

Semper Fi, Taco

Hero’s in your Hood-Tommy O. King

August 31st, 2016 Posted in Military | 1 Comment »

Hero’s in your ‘Hood

Sometimes you never know who your neighbors are and I don’t mean that in the ax murderer scenario way, but in the sense that you have true hero’s hiding out in plain sight.  Take Tommy King for instances.

One weekend we had a giant wind storm and my wife called me out of the blue from work on Monday morning.  An elderly gentleman she took care of named Tom King had dialed her and asked if she knew someone who could help him with his boat that was mangled on the dock from the wind.

She phoned me and I readily accepted the mission, heading over to his house in minutes.  Tommy was a quiet type of guy with a white beard and stooped shoulders.  We met in the driveway and he escorted me to his broken motor boat.  It was an easy fix but his pride and joy was going to need some work.

Walking back up to the house, he invited me in for some ice tea which I gratefully accepted.  The true surprise came when I noticed a small frame hanging on the wall.  As I approached it, it didn’t take long to realize I was looking at the Silver Star citation and there next to it was the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Two of our nation’s highest awards, just hanging on the wall in the lower level of his house, unseen by anyone for decades.  Tommy was a recluse with no children and some serious flying stories.

“Tommy, Holy Cow! That’s the Silver Star and DFC.  How did you earn those?”

Tommy just sighed and glanced at the wall for a second and then back to me.  “Well, I guess I stayed on station just a bit too long while over in Vietnam.”


tommy king SSDFC Tommy King

This was like finding buried treasure.  I had to know more about this man and fast!  Tommy agreed to take a meeting with me at his house later that night where we could discuss his life.  He seemed genuinely mystified that I would be the least bit interested in his past.

Man, did this guy surprise me.  He joined the Army Air Corps in November of 1942, flying all the different trainers until selecting bombers.  The B-17 was still the Queen of battle, slugging it out over in Europe,  so he was proud to be the Aircraft Commander for one.  Meeting his crew in Lincoln Nebraska, they formed a tight bond during their final combat training in Rapid City S.D. later on. (Tommy on the bottom far left)

Tommy B17

His dreams of entering the fight were ended when Europe fell in April of ’45 and halfway across the Atlantic, they were ordered to turn around and fly the B-17 back to Texas.

The Army decided to make him a B-29 pilot but that soon ended too with the fall of Japan.  With all the returning Vets coming home, they made him a flight instructor for a few years  before he jumped on a “Crappy” assignment flying B-17s in Guan and Iwo Jima for the Air Sea Rescue service.  They would drop a 17 foot lifeboat to stranded crews out there which included water and food.

One incident that stuck out in his mind was a Naval transport vessel that had a medical emergency on board.  They wired up Guam asking for a special medical package to help with the procedure.  The hospital made up two packages in case they missed the first drop.  He flew out 600 miles and found the ship steaming along just where she was supposed to be.  He lined up and dropped the first package over the ship, crossing his fingers.  The radio came alive with “Perfect drop, it landed on the deck!”

Tommy decided to drop the other package in case they needed a spare.  He lined up on his second run and released his load.  It was quiet for a minute and then the ship came over the airwaves.  “Hey guys, thanks for the drop and we sure are glad you are on our side and not an enemy bomber because that package went straight down the smoke stack!”

It was a boring job but it help build up his multiengine flight time as he had nothing else to do.  Like he said, there was a hot girl behind every palm tree on Iwo Jima.

The new Air Force decided that they could use him in the Cold War effort and he went on to fly the B-29 at Edwards, then the B-36 down in Puerto Rico followed by the B-52 in Fort Worth.  Oh by the way, he was a 2ndLt for six years, talk about slow rank progression!

tommy b52

As a multi engine bomber guy I was curious how he ended up in Vietnam flying the O-1.  “Oh that was easy, I made a screwed up General look bad during a SAC inspection and my payback was a set of orders to fly the F-105.  But I showed him, I got them changed to the O-1 where I ended up with the “Ravens” doing missions over Laos.”


Tommy ended his career with 224 combat missions and 702 combat hours, the Silver Star, the DFC, and the Air Medal before he returned to the states to retire as a Lt Colonel.


I encourage you all to seek out your neighbors and find these hidden Gems of history because there are many Hero’s in your “Hood” who have a great story!

GodSpeed Tommy, while you are gone, you are not forgotten!

Semper Fi,


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The Medal of Honor

August 23rd, 2015 Posted in Military | 1 Comment »

The Medal of Honor,

There is nothing in the world that symbolizes when a person has reached deep down inside of themselves in a time of crisis like the Medal of Honor does.  Everyone has the potential for acts of greatness and in the Military that is reflected by issuing this medal when it happens.  For the most part, that individual did not make it home and the ones who did will tell you that this MOH is representative of all their friends who didn’t make it back from war.


Purple Hearts Reunited received such a medal in the mail two months ago.  It was blank on the back and no return address.  There was a short note in a Female handwriting saying “I found this in the closet and it belongs to your organization” with no name or address.  I then contacted Col Leo Thorsness, VN USAF, MOH and POW about this medal.  He forwarded this to Tom Cottone, the FBI agent who helped get Loyd’s in NY shut down for producing illegal unissued actual Medals of Honor.  This Air Force Medal is one of the 300 that made it out of the factory and into the hands of the underground collectors.


Working with LtCol Hal Fritz, the president of the Medal of Honor Society, I asked for permission to display this in a local museum that I support called the Military Heritage Museum of North Texas.  See, you have a greater chance of winning the lotto then you do actually seeing this medal in person, never mind meeting one of the 79 recipients still alive.


Col Fritz agreed with me about the value of allowing it to be displayed and said that if we have “For Display only” engraved on the back so no one could make this a real medal, we could display it so school kids would know the history behind it.


One of my collateral jobs is working closely with over 20 Medal of Honor recipients through SkyBall, a large Gala in the DFW area so this made it easy to reach out to Leo and ask if we could build our display around him.   So on Oct 22nd  2015, I’m proud to say that Leo Thorsness will travel to the Military Heritage Museum for the dedication to the Medal of Honor and the men it represents.  There will be displays and interactive computer programs to educate the young men and women who visit and inspire them to do great things in their lives.


I would like to thank Zach Fike founder of Purple Hearts Reunited for donating it, Col Leo Thorsness USAF for allowing us to honor him, LtCol Hal Fritz USA for giving us permission to display this important Medal and Mark Witham for caring so much for our Service men and women that he has devoted his life to this.


If anyone has one of these Medals and would like to donate to our Museum since you can’t sell it, we will gladly take it anonymously; no questions asked and add it to our dedication to those who have given the ultimate measure for our country, send it to : Purple Hearts Reunited | P.O. Box 2121 | Georgia, VT 05468.


Semper Fi,

LtCol Bell


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Surviving the Collapse

May 6th, 2015 Posted in Military | No Comments »
end is near
I thought this was some good gouge. common sense but overlooked until it’s you sitting there in New Orleans when the Hurricane hits type things….Words from a Bosnian Survivalist Translator’s note: This tale had originally been recorded in French and then translated by two Russian survivalists who met the man. The Bosnian is anonymous for reasons which will soon be made clear from reading the articles. -MicroBalrog

I am from Bosnia. You know, between 1992 and 1995, it was hell. For one year I lived, and survived, in a city with 6,000 people, without water, electricity, gasoline, medical help, civil defense, distribution service, any kind of traditional service or centralized rule.
Our city was blockaded by the army, and for one year life in the city turned into total crap. We had no army, no police, we only had armed groups – those armed protected their homes and families.

When it all started, some of us were better prepared, but most of the neighbors’ families had enough food only for a few days. Some had pistols, a few had AK-47s or shotguns.
After a month or two, gangs started operating, destroying everything. Hospitals, for example, turned into slaughterhouses. There was no more police. About 80% of the hospital staff were gone. I got lucky – my family at the time was fairly large (15 people in a large house, 6 pistols, 3 AKs), and we survived (most of us, at least).
The Americans dropped MREs every 10 days, to help blockaded cities. This was never enough. Some – very few – had gardens. It took 3 months for the first rumors to spread of men dying from hunger and cold. We removed all the doors, the window frames from abandoned houses, ripped up the floors and burned the furniture for heat. Many died from diseases, especially from the water (two from my own family). We drank mostly rainwater, ate pigeons and even rats.
Money soon became worthless. We returned to an exchange. For a tin can of tushonka, you could have a woman (it is hard to speak of it, but it is true). Most of the women who sold themselves were desperate mothers.
Arms, ammunition, candles, lighters, antibiotics, gasoline, batteries and food. We fought for these things like animals. In these situations, it all changes. Men become monsters. It was disgusting.
Strength was in numbers. A man living alone getting killed and robbed would be just a matter of time, even if he was armed.
Today me and my family are well prepared, I am well armed. I have experience.
It does not matter what will happen – an earthquake, a war, a tsunami, aliens, terrorists, economic collapse, uprising. The important part is that something will happen.
Here’s my experience: you can’t make it on your own. Don’t stay apart from your family, prepare together, choose reliable friends.1. How to move safely in a city

The city was divided into communities along streets. Our street (15-20 homes) had patrols (5 armed men every week) to watch for gangs and for our enemies.
All the exchanges occurred in the street. About five kilometers away was an entire street for trading, all well organized, but going there was too dangerous because of the snipers. You could also get robbed by bandits. I only went there twice, when I needed something really rare (list of medicine, mainly antibiotics, of French origin).
Nobody used automobiles in the city: the streets were blocked by wreckage and by abandoned cars. Gasoline was very expensive. If one needed to go somewhere, that was done at night. Never travel alone or in groups that were too big – always 2-3 men. All armed, travel swift, in the shadows, cross streets through ruins, not along open streets.
There were many gangs 10-15 men strong, some as large as 50 men. But there were also many normal men, like you and me, fathers and grandfathers, who killed and robbed. There were no “good” and “bad” men. Most were in the middle and ready for the worst.

2. What about wood? Your home city is surrounded by woods, why did you burn doors and furniture?

There were not that many woods around the city. It was very beautiful – restaurants, cinemas, schools, even an airport. Every tree in the city and in the city park was cut down for fuel in the first two months.
Without electricity for cooking and heat – we burned anything that burned. Furniture, doors, flooring – that wood burns swiftly. We had no suburbs or suburban farms. The enemy was in the suburbs. We were surrounded. Even in the city, you never knew who was the enemy at any given point.

3. What knowledge was useful to you in that period?

To imagine the situation a bit better, you should know it was practically a return to the Stone Age.
For example, I had a container of cooking gas. But I did not use it for heat – that would be too expensive! I attached a nozzle to it I made myself and used to fill lighters. Lighters were precious.
If a man brought an empty lighter, I would fill it and he would give me a tin of food or a candle.
I was a paramedic. In these conditions, my knowledge was my wealth. Be curious and skilled. In these conditions, the ability to fix things is more valuable than gold.
Items and supplies will inevitably run out, but your skills will keep you fed.
I wish to say this: learn to fix things, shoes, or people.
My neighbor, for example, knew how to make kerosene for lamps. He never went hungry.

4. If you had 3 months to prepare now, what would you do?

Three months? Run away from the country? (joking)
Today I know everything can collapse really fast. I have a stockpile of food, hygiene items, batteries… enough to last me for 6 months.
I live in a very secure flat and own a home with a shelter in a village 5 kilometers away. Another six-month supply there too. That’s a small village, most people there are well prepared. The war had taught them.
I have four weapons, and 2,000 rounds for each.
I have a garden and have learned gardening. Also I have a good instinct – you know, when everyone around you keeps telling you it’ll all be fine, but I know – it will all collapse.
I have strength to do what I need to protect my family. Because when it all collapses, you must be ready to do “bad” things to keep your children alive and protect your family.
Surviving on your own is practically impossible. Even if you’re armed and ready – if you’re alone, you’ll die. I have seen that happen many times.
Families and groups, well prepared, with skills and knowledge in various fields – that’s much better.

5. What should you stockpile?

That depends. If you plan to live by theft – all you need is weapons and ammo. Lots of ammo.
If not – more food, hygiene items, batteries, accumulators, little trading items (knives, lighters, flints, soap). Also alcohol of a type that keeps well. The cheapest whiskey is a good trading item.
Many people died from insufficient hygiene. You’ll need simple items in great amounts. For example, garbage bags. Lots of them. And toilet paper. Non-reusable dishes and cups – you’ll need lots of them. I know that because we didn’t have any at all.
As for me, a supply of hygiene items is perhaps more important than food. You can shoot a pigeon, you can find a plant to eat. You can’t find or shoot any disinfectant.
Disinfectant, detergents, bleach, soap, gloves, masks…
First-aid skills, washing wounds and burns. Perhaps you will find a doctor – and will not be able to pay him.
Learn to use antibiotics. It’s good to have a stockpile of them.
You should choose the simplest weapons. I carry a Glock .45, I like it, but it’s a rare gun here – so I have two TT pistols too (everyone has them and ammo is common).
I don’t like Kalashnikovs, but again, same story – everyone has them, so do I.
You must own small, unnoticeable items. For example: a generator is good, but 1,000 Bic lighters are better. A generator will attract attention if there’s any trouble, but 1,000 lighters are compact, cheap, and can always be traded.
We usually collected rainwater into 4 large barrels and then boiled it. There was a small river, but the water in it became very dirty very fast.
It’s also important to have containers for water – barrels and buckets.

6. Were gold and silver useful?

Yes. I personally traded all the gold in the house for ammunition.
Sometimes we got our hands on money – dollars and deutschmarks. We bought some things for them, but this was rare and prices were astronomical – for example a can of beans cost $30-40. The local money quickly became worthless. Everything we needed, we traded for through barter.

7. Was salt expensive?

Yes, but coffee and cigarettes were even more expensive. I had lots of alcohol and traded it without problems. Alcohol consumption grew over 10 times as compared to peacetime. Perhaps today it’s more useful to keep a stock of cigarettes, lighters, and batteries. They take up less space.
At this time I was not a survivalist. We had no time to prepare – several days before the shit hit the fan, the politicians kept repeating over the TV that everything was going according to plan, there’s no reason to be concerned. When the sky fell on our heads, we took what we could.

8. Was it difficult to purchase firearms? What did you trade for arms and ammunition?

After the war, we had guns in every house. The police confiscated lots of guns at the beginning of the war. But most of them, we hid. Now I have one legal gun that I have a license for. Under the law, that’s called a temporary collection. If there is unrest, the government will seize all the registered guns. Never forget that.
You know, there are many people who have one legal gun – but also illegal guns if that one gets seized. If you have good trade goods, you might be able to get a gun in a tough situation, but remember, the most difficult time is the first days, and perhaps you won’t have enough time to find a weapon to protect your family. To be disarmed in a time of chaos and panic is a bad idea.
In my case – there was a man who needed a car battery for his radio, he had shotguns – I traded the accumulator for both of them. Sometimes I traded ammunition for food, and a few weeks later traded food for ammunition. Never did the trade at home, never in great amounts.
Few people knew how much, and what, I keep at home.
The most important thing is to keep as many things as possible in terms of space and money. Eventually you’ll understand what is more valuable.
Correction: I’ll always value weapons and ammunition the most. Second? Maybe gas masks and filters.

9. What about security?

Our defenses were very primitive. Again, we weren’t ready, and we used what we could. The windows were shattered, and the roofs in a horrible state after the bombings. The windows were blocked – some with sandbags, others with rocks.
I blocked the fence gate with wreckage and garbage, and used a ladder to get across the wall. When I came home, I asked someone inside to pass over the ladder. We had a fellow on our street that completely barricaded himself in his house. He broke a hole in the wall, creating a passage for himself into the ruins of the neighbor’s house. A sort of secret entrance.
Maybe this would seem strange, but the most protected houses were looted and destroyed first. In my area of the city there were beautiful houses, with walls, dogs, alarms and barred windows. People attacked them first. Some held out, others didn’t – it all depended how many hands and guns they had inside…
I think defense is very important – but it must be carried out unobtrusively. If you are in a city and SHTF comes, you need a simple, non-flashy place, with lots of guns and ammo.
How much ammo? As much as possible.
Make your house as unattractive as you can.
Right now I own a steel door, but that’s just against the first wave of chaos. After that passes, I will leave the city to rejoin a larger group of people, my friends and family.
There were some situations during the war… there’s no need for details, but we always had superior firepower, and a brick wall, on our side.
We also constantly kept someone watching the streets. Quality organization is paramount in case of gang attacks.
Shooting was constantly heard in the city.
Our perimeter was defended primitively – all the exits were barricaded and had little firing slits. Inside we had at least five family members ready for battle at any time, and one man in the street, hidden in a shelter.
We stayed home through the day to avoid sniper fire.
At first, the weak perish. Then the rest fight.
During the day, the streets were practically empty due to sniper fire. Defenses were oriented towards short-range combat alone. Many died if they went out to gather information, for example. It’s important to remember we had no information, no radio, no TV – only rumors and nothing else.
There was no organized army, every man fought. We had no choice. Everybody was armed, ready to defend themselves.
You should not wear quality items in the city – someone will murder you and take them. Don’t even carry a “pretty” long arm, it will attract attention.
Let me tell you something: if SHTF starts tomorrow, I’ll be humble. I’ll look like everyone else. Desperate, fearful. Maybe I’ll even shout and cry a little bit.
Pretty clothing is excluded altogether. I will not go out in my new tactical outfit to shout: “I have come! You’re doomed, bad guys!” No, I’ll stay aside, well armed, well prepared, waiting and evaluating my possibilities, with my best friend or brother.
Super-defenses, super-guns are meaningless. If people think they should steal your things, that you’re profitable – they will. It’s only a question of time and the amount of guns and hands.

10. How was the situation with toilets?

We used shovels and a patch of earth near the house. Does it seem dirty? It was. We washed with rainwater or in the river – but most of the time the latter was too dangerous. We had no toilet paper, and if we had any, I would have traded it away.
It was a “dirty” business.
Let me give you a piece of advice: you need guns and ammo first – and second, everything else. Literally EVERYTHING! All depends on the space and money you have.
If you forget something, there’ll always be someone to trade with for it – but if you forget weapons and ammo, there will be no access to trading for you.
I don’t think big families are extra mouths. Big families means both more guns and strength – and from there, everyone prepares on his own.

11. How did people treat the sick and the injured?

Most injuries were from gunfire. Without a specialist and without equipment, if an injured man found a doctor somewhere, he had about a 30% chance of survival.
It ain’t the movies. People died. Many died from infections of superficial wounds. I had antibiotics for 3-4 uses – for the family, of course.
People died foolishly quite often. Simple diarrhea will kill you in a few days without medicine, with limited amounts of water.
There were many skin diseases and food poisonings… nothing to it.
Many used local plants and pure alcohol – enough for the short term, but useless in the long term.
Hygiene is very important… as well as having as much medicine as possible. Especially antibiotics.

Top 100 Items to Disappear First During a National Emergency

1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. Noisy…target of thieves; maintenance etc.)
2. Water Filters/Purifiers
3. Portable Toilets
4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 – 12 months to become dried, for home uses.
5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)
6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.
7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.
8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.
9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar
10. Rice – Beans – Wheat
11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)
12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)
13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY – note – food grade if for drinking.
16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.)
17. Survival Guide Book.
18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)
19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, etc.
20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)
22. Vitamins
23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)
24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products.
25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)
27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)
28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)
29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).
30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels
31. Milk – Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)
32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)
33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)
34. Coleman’s Pump Repair Kit
35. Tuna Fish (in oil)
36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)
37. First aid kits
38. Batteries (all sizes…buy furthest-out for Expiration Dates)
39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies
40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)
41. Flour, yeast & salt
42. Matches. {“Strike Anywhere” preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first
43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)
45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, “No. 76 Dietz” Lanterns
47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)
48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting – if with wheels)
49. Men’s Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc
50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
51. Fishing supplies/tools
52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
53. Duct Tape
54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes
55. Candles
56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)
57. Backpacks, Duffel Bags
58. Garden tools & supplies
59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.
61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)
62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax)
63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
64. Bicycles…Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc
65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats
66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
67. Board Games, Cards, Dice
68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)
71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)
72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)
75. Soysauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soupbase
76. Reading glasses
77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
78. “Survival-in-a-Can”
79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog
81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
85. Lumber (all types)
86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)
87. Cots & Inflatable mattress’s
88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
89. Lantern Hangers
90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws,, nuts & bolts
91. Teas
92. Coffee
93. Cigarettes
94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc,)
95. Paraffin wax
96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
97. Chewing gum/candies
98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)
99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
100. Livestock

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20th Anniversary of the bombing of Oklahoma City Federal Building

April 22nd, 2015 Posted in The SandGram v1.0 | No Comments »

Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the bombing of the Murrah Federal building.  Randy Norfleet, Capt USMC is a friend of mine and asked me if I could help him write this.  It was an honor to help a brother out.


Stand by the Gap


They say that recruiting duty is a war on a different front, how true that statement became on April 19th, 1995 when the Murrah Federal building was attacked by an anti-government terrorist.  The events of that day are carried with me daily and for years, when small shards of glass would work their way out of my body from the blast and mentally as I purged the devastation in my minds eye.


I had just attended a local prayer breakfast with a friend and needed to stop by my headquarters to check on some packages that I had submitted earlier and visit with the command group.  Pulling up to the front of the building, I noticed an empty spot in front of a large yellow Ryder moving van with a young military looking man getting out.  My first thought was how lucky I was to get this spot which drifted to thinking that maybe this was a new member of our unit checking in. He took off before I could say anything, so I hurried into the building not knowing that a delay anywhere in the equation would spell death  as the bomb timer ticked down to zero.


The lobby was not crowded for a Wednesday and with a waiting elevator door open, I went straight up to the sixth floor where our Recruiting Station was located.  Entering the office spaces, there sat Sgt. Davis at his desk next to the front of the building, a sharp Marine applying for our Officer program.  His face lit up and he asked if I had heard any word on his package sitting in Quantico which was only a phone call away.


The Operations officer’s desk was free so I picked up the phone to ring MCRC. Capt Randy Guzman the XO, was walking by and detoured in to say hello.  As I heard the busy tone on the line, the phone rang and I answered., it was for the XO.


We both walked around opposite sides of the desk where he sat down in the seat I had just vacated.  I moved to the entrance to the  S-4 office only feet away from the desk to say hi to those guys when the explosion blew the front of the building inwards..  My instant reaction was to raise my arm to cover my face as the windows exploded towards us with Hurricane force.  The blast blew me into the West wall and the concession was so intense! Soon my world faded from gray to black.  I felt nothing.


Waking up was surreal, I could feel the cool outside breeze against my skin and I felt wet. It was hard to see because of the dust of the collapsing floors but the strangest thing was hearing the birds in the trees outside start up again, it was that quiet.  I had a large shard of glass protruding from my right eye and as it turned out, two major arteries cut that were producing massive amounts of blood flooding down my uniform and on the floor beneath me.


Sgt. Tad Snidecor and Gunny Bussell moved into action, their Marine Combat training kicked into overdrive especially with Sgt Snidecor who cleared off a desk, placing me gently down as he started to treat my wounds.  He secured bandages around my head and I remember hearing the two of them talking.  First reaction to the explosion was that perhaps a gas main had ruptured; little did I know I was the only person alive who could put Tim McVeigh at the truck that morning.


Because of the blood loss, I wanted to get outside fast before the rest of the building collapsed.  I had the feeling that if I stayed, I would die.  Moving off the desk, to my left I saw the gap where Sgt. Davis and Captain Guzman had been only moments before.   Sgt. Tad Snidecor and Gunny Bussell helped me to an emergency exit through the mangled mess and using the limited vision from my left eye, I followed the bright red blood trail that someone else had already left down the stairwell where I eventually made it to help and eight hours of intense surgery.


Although twenty years ago, the gut wrenching earthquakes still attack me when I close my eyes and think of that fateful day in April.


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GW Sprayberry, RM3… Comm Check 1 by 5 (Bad Comm check for a Radio operator)

March 26th, 2015 Posted in Military | 7 Comments »

GW Sprayberry, RM3… Comm Check 1 by 5 (Bad Comm check for a Radio operator)

Sitting in my barber’s chair, I noticed a nice coin amongst all the odds and ends on the table next to me.  There was a POW/Purple Heart coin belonging to one of his customers, a GW Sprayberry from Fort Worth Texas.  My curiosity was aroused and in the thirty seconds it took me to look up the POW/MIA list, I found there was no such name.  A damn shame, because it cost a lot of money to mint that little jewel.

GW coin1


So embarked the tale of finding out WHO this GW was. The first person I contacted was my friend Mary Schantag from the POW/MIA website and brought his name to her attention since she knows the entire living POW population out there, I mean THEM ALL.  It didn’t take her two weeks to secure his records from the NRPC and funny how real service stories don’t seem to match fantasy.

It turns out that no one had heard of him until a Master Chief at the FRC met him out in town at GW’s business and brought him into the fold over on the Joint Reserve Base.  The Navy has a high tradition of honor when it comes to the Chief’s mess and the Goat locker is a sacred place for them to gather and GW has been included in many events including the latest Chief’s Dining in where he cut the cake as the oldest Chief Petty Officer there.  He has spewed his tales of being a POW earning the Purple Heart in his actions back in ’66.

GW with medals


So the stories start coming out about how he was aboard the USS Gurke in 1966 and the Marines needed radio operators so bad out in the field that he was assigned “TAD” to a Marine outfit in Chu Lai where he was promptly captured and then freed later by a group of ROK Marines and returned to his outfit and then back to the ship.  How do I know this? Well GW told me over a phone call.  Here is a shot of his rack that the Chief’s mess bought him.  Sad to think of the money they spent on this guy.  Some of these medals are pretty pricey.

GW medals


When I pressed him more about his time with the Marines and being a POW, he went into all that pain he suffered and friends who died so “I don’t really like to talk about it” mode and thus ending the conversation.  That is a giant red star cluster to me, the next one is “it’s Top Secret or Classified” which he didn’t use during our talk but others do. His excuse was a stroke he suffered resulting in trashing his memory and things were pieced back by friends and family.  It’s a great way to deny the story later when you can claim you really don’t remember that time period of your life.  The problem will come for him imagewhen he has to explain the documents he used to get the Purple Heart Medal on his license plate and the DOD DEERS ID card he had until NCIS took it and he had to get a new one with the proper rank of E5.  This is the fictional war hero GW Sprayberry who actually served honorably but had to ratchet it up a bit to be the hero around our area.

The fun parts of these little investigations are the folks you meet as you start digging.  Going to his ship’s webpage, I located GW’s comments that he put on there, showing him as a RM1 but what he didn’t know is that we had a screen shot from his first post to when he modified it from his original rank of RM3.  See he had to modify this bio to make the promotions and rank fit…

Of course the Navy says this about GW’s service when it comes to Rank and time in Service. Note RM-2 (E-5), far cry from E-7 Navy Chief Petty Officer. Oh and note the awards.  Don’t see the POW/Purple Heart or the Combat Action Ribbon..

GW foia1

Tom Hinote, who served with GW on the USS Gurke, remembered him but he didn’t remember his little joint tour with the Corps.  He sent me a copy of his ship’s cruise book page where I located Phil Tilton, a Retired Master Chief out in Hawaii.  Phil served in his small group of Radio Operators (Radio Shack) on board the ship during the time that GW claims he was out in the bush with the Marines slugging it out with Charlie.

GW cruisebook

Took a bit to track him down but his reaction to this incredible story was…

I am so sorry, I just saw this…..I was stationed on the Gurke from 1965 to 1967…Grandville Sprayberry was onboard with me as an RM3. I can tell you that in 1966 he was onboard Gurke at that time, deployed to Westpac on the Gunline and Northern SAR duties. . I retired as an RMCM in 1986 I would have heard something about this I know he never made chief and as I recall, he got out of the Navy around 68/69.. His story is BS….”

By the way, he made Chief in 1969……That is impossible, 67 he was a RM3 or at best RM2 (HE COULD HAVE MADE IT AFTER I LEFT THE SHIP), its three years from E5 to E6 and three years from E6 to E7, there was a program that allowed for 1 year between E5/E6 in the mid 60s, that still puts him as an RM1 in 67 and the earliest he could of made chief is 70. Additionally without getting you too much in the weeds, it was impossible to make chief at that time first time up, impossible……I made Chief in 76, Senior Chief in 79 and Master Chief in 82…..I made it fast, and in line with DOD standards for promotion (E7 12 years, E8 15 years E9 18 years)……your document looks good send it on…and thank you…..Regards Phil”

So we know that he got out as an E5 with honorable service based on his personnel records, but he has a DOD ID card now showing him as a E7 with Purple Heart plates on his big Texas truck. How can that be?


Of course here is his Bio from the Chief’s Mess last Friday.

His bio that he provided, makes him 13 when he joined the Navy and shows him making Chief Sept 16th 1969, but it’s funny how his record shows him getting out as an RM2 Aug 29th 1969


GW ship2

Based off of his records, testimony from a shipmate in his radio shop (very small group) I can tell you GW Sprayberry is a fraud and was never wounded in action or a POW. As a matter of fact, I found a reference to another Sprayberry from Texas who was in the Navy and buried in the Philippines with a Purple Heart, maybe his Dad or Uncle? I mean, how many Sprayberry’s can there be and from Texas?  Could GW have used this cert and made it his own?


Well, today I brought all my research and confronted GW about his service with a good friend.  Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and I destroyed an old man(hell, maybe he’s a good actor).  What he had done to the Chiefs down on base was weighing heavily on him he claimed. He truly begs forgiveness if they can find it in their hearts but they seem to ignore the fact he exists now and he is the name no one mutters.  He admitted his fraud when confronted with the overwhelming evidence against him and he wrote a short letter to the base CMC confessing his fraud of not being a Chief, a POW or Purple Heart recipient. (They thought his email account was hacked)

Through an open records request from the DMV, I was able to get the forged DD 215 that he used to secure the PH plates on his truck.  Those are gone now.

GW DD215 Forgededit1

I was asked recently why I was going after this old guy so hard and the answer truly is all about the young men I saw wounded in Iraq.  The ones who earned the Purple Heart license plates the hard way and the POW’s like Leo Thorsness who spent six years as a POW in VN.  When he made it back to his wife, his first words were “Sorry I didn’t call sooner honey, but I was all tied up.” 

I won’t allow anyone to rob them of the sacrifice they endured while serving.  GW like many, have served honorably but got caught up on the moment and inflated it.  

I doubt I will see him on base much now.

So another example of trust but VERIFY even if he is a 70 plus year old guy telling a tall tale. 

Semper Fi,




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Eliza’s house

March 4th, 2015 Posted in The SandGram v1.0 | No Comments »
Eliza's house
Dear friends and family,
At dawn this morning Jake and I set out to Eliza’s house.  The main road that leads out to the valley where she lives was bustling with families on their way to church and motorcycle taxi drivers and cows being moved along slowly by boys with sticks.  It was a 7 mile hike in a light rain through lush hill country. Eliza is a Nuru Kenya employee in our Social Enterprise program and earlier this week she asked Jake and I if we would join her family for a Sunday meal.  “Of course,” Jake told her with his sincere West Virginia smile.  “It’s important to visit our employees in their homes and get to know them personally,” he told me later, “it’s a key foundation of the servant leadership we practice here at Nuru.”  On the walk to her house Jake told me her story.  Eliza had grown up here in Kuria as all people from Kuria grow up – in extreme poverty.  Eliza worked hard in school and showed great promise but her mother needed her help in the house after her father died, and so at 10 Eliza did what a vast majority of 10 year old girls do out here – she left school and became a caretaker to her own mother and to her two younger sisters and two younger brothers.  She carried water to the house each day and sewed old clothes and cleaned and helped in the shamba.  As a young teenager Eliza was married off to a raging alcoholic, abusive, animal of a man.  They had four children.  He would soon lose his job as a school teacher on account of his alcoholism. Eliza knew only she could feed her family and so she opened up a sewing business in her home, and then borrowed money to open up a small convenience store.  And then she met Nuru.  She came aboard as a field officer and quickly rose through the ranks.  She now serves as one of Nuru’s best performing Field Officers and daily manages dozens of people with incredible success by means of a tough, compassionate style of leadership. Eliza’s husband died last year.  She still works for Nuru, runs her sewing business, farms a two-acre plot of land, and raises 4 children ages 4, 6, 8 and 10.  Eliza is pictured in the attached photograph with me, her mama, and one of her sons, Geoffrey, who is in his Sunday’s best for our visit.  She cooked us a meal of chicken (which was boiled in a pot with feet and head still attached), rice, vegetables and tea.  We sat in a small, dark room in her home and ate the humble feast.  Eliza loved Jake and they talked about the earlier days of Nuru.  Jake asked her if she would be hungry this season because of the Maize disease and the drought.  She said, quietly, but assuredly, “my family will be ok.”  And with little Geoffrey in her lap happily eating from his mom’s bowl of rice, she looked down smiled, and said they serve porridge at school for breakfast and lunch to the children whose parents pay a fee, and since she had saved prior and payed the school, her children would eat.  She would have enough maize to feed them for dinners.  And then she looked at me and said her family blessed and that Nuru was a “miracle from God.”  Soon it was time to leave and we exchanged warm hugs and I thought about how much hard life Eliza had seen in her 32 years as we made our way back down the road and into the valley and back into town that was still full of church goers and motorcycle taxis and cows being moved along slowly by boys with sticks.
Observations.  (1.) The ex-pat Nuru Team here are some incredible, talented young people.  They possess a Marine’s dedication and a warrior’s heart. They are deeply passionate about their role in fighting extreme poverty.  They are extremely smart, low maintenance, and funny. They are world-patriots and tough.  Getting to know them personally this past month has been deeply satisfying – not only to the existential end that I have realized how much we all have in common but also to the quite selfish end that since they are all such talented field operators, my job here will be much less challenging and our hopes for success much, much greater.  As always, I find myself in the very fortunate position of leading a team of people much, much better and more qualified than myself.  Thank God for that!  (2.)  The people of Kuria are, first, a beautiful people.  They have high cheekbones and soft, kind eyes and bright, black skin.  They are, second, a soulful people.  They sing loudly in church and greet you happily in their valleys. They like to dance and laugh.  Most have never left their villages.  They are more sure about the absoluteness of God and the truth of the gospel than the are about the mystic, incomprehensible ocean.  Their world is that rich land which surrounds them and there is something deeply romantic about that.  The center of their universe is their family and their friends.  The life expectancy for a Kurian man is 42.  A Kurian woman isn’t much more.  And so they are, finally, a grateful and deliberate people who live life as deeply as they can while they are here.  There’s much to learn from them.  (3.) It’s only been a month here on project but I already feel that being here will have an enormous impact on my heart and consciousness.  War leaves us better and worse.  But this feels much different.  Our new war.  (4.) I listen to the radio online when I can.  I like to tune into the TED radio hour, or some such other program, and stare at my ceiling as the hard rain pound our tin roof.  I escape in that radio hour.  As I listen, my mind races to keep up with the story….I realize my imagination has atrophied.  I think about my grandparents generation and I miss a radio-listening culture that I never knew. (5.) Hemingway once wrote: “Going back to Africa after all this time, there’s an excitement of a first adventure.  I love Africa and I feel it’s another home, and any time a man can feel that, not counting where he’s born, is where he’s meant to go.”  I agree.
It’s raining now.  I heard thunder and so I stepped outside and saw crisp white lightening sparkle and dance in a wine dark sky.  I came back inside, wet.  I’m listening to an old John Prine album.  Tomorrow I’ll walk through the shambas and watch the farmers tend to their tobacco, beans, and chilis. And it will be a perfect day.
Here’s to Eliza, and family and friends, and laughing and dancing under sparkling lightening and wine dark skies,

Sgt. Merlin German’s trip home to the WWR

March 4th, 2015 Posted in The SandGram v1.0 | No Comments »

Dignified Journey home,

Colin Kimball, a local artist asked me if I could handle transporting a beautiful painting of a fallen Warrior, Sgt Merlin German up to DC to the Wounded Warrior Regiment where they are going to dedicate the call center in his name. We just had a conference this weekend and my right hand man, 1stLt Jose Valle volunteered to take Sgt German back to Quantico for us.

Now this isn’t a small painting and I wanted to make sure that Lt. Valle made it though security and on the plane in one piece with Sgt. German in tow.

20140928_154416 20140928_201604 20140928_141355 sgt german

I contacted the two pilots on the flight, Rex and Steve and explained the situation and just wanted to ensure that this painting made it on the flight with 1stLt Valle. They both emailed back right away about taking care of this special cargo to DCA. It’s nice to see things click together and Godspeed to a great Marine!!

Well, the check-in at AA was made super smooth when a wonderful AA employee named Cathy (gate agent at C24), helped Jose at the ticket counter (she was a mature lady with a Kevlar helmet, rifle, and boots the symbol of a fallen hero on her left breast. She went above and beyond the call of duty.)  She basically helped these two Marines navigate TSA and make it to the gate where Jose and the painting were accommodated on the flight up to DCA with the dignity that this fallen warrior deserves.  I have little doubt that without the express coordination provided by Rex and Steve, along with Cathy, this might not have gone so smoothly.  The Cabin crew treated Lt. Valle like Royalty all the way to DCA as well.  Knowing this outstanding modest Marine, it made him blush a bit but being a former Gunny, I know what the metal his heart is made of, he would do this for a Marine any day and twice on Sunday.  I’m honored to serve with a man of his caliber.

These kind acts for a Serviceman (no matter what the branch) go above and beyond and this painting of young Sgt German, a portrait of how he should look, will live on forever thanks to the awesome employee’s of American Airlines, a great young 1st Lieutenant, Jose Valle and the humble artist, Colin Kimble who expresses his love for our guys through a paint brush.

Semper Fi,


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Who is Mat Best and why does he make me laugh?

March 3rd, 2015 Posted in Military | No Comments »

Who is Mat Best and why does he make me laugh?

mat best

I am a Marine…nothing special, just a KC-130 puke who carried gas and cargo around the world.  Many times I had the chance to haul SEALs, Recon and PJ’s who would jump out of our planes into the dark with bat suits and GPS (back in the 90’s when we used sextants) all gear way before its time.  Yes utmost respect for anyone who jumps out of a great plane…

As military guys we all speak a different language that the average person doesn’t understand.  Our verbiage is cloaked with weird sounding terms that can put my wife’s face into an instant glaze as she relives her favorite “Desperate Housewives” episode in her head.

She claims that when a group of my brother Marines get together, it’s like we slip into some foreign tongue that no one else can understand.  I think she’s right and I have to curb what I talk about for the most part around her.

I guess that is why Mat Best and his crew of brothers in arms accompanied by his hot sidekicks make me laugh.  He takes all that is good from the different services and tweaks them into pure self-deprecation, highlighting the flaws we all see from the outside.

These videos are made by Vets and understood by Vets, especially the inner service rivalries between the different branches and the Special Operations within each one.  I’m sorry that this won’t resonate with the average American who doesn’t understand our lingo, but if you watch these, you might catch the subtle nuances that make the rest of us cry laughing…

If you have served in any branch of the Military, then I highly recommend about an hour’s worth of your day for the best “Time Sniper” YouTube channel out there.   They are guaranteed to make you laugh your ass off (he is insanely funny) and it will be followed by links being sent to your buddies.  I am going to buy some of their shirts only because they entertained me so much, it was worth it!

So Mat, if you read this, even though you make fun of the Corps…I’m thick skin and say produce more!!  Hell, you want some British Armour, we can provide that for you as well.

Semper Fi,


Here are some links for you to start out with…

Perception Vs Reality

How To Be An Operator.

and my favorite funny bust on everyone…

How To Workout Like An Operator

How To Be Tacticool

And I would be remiss if I didn’t include his Raps…

Epic Rap Battle: Special Forces vs MARSOC

Epic Rap Battle: Navy Seal vs. Army Ranger

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The little Angel from Hopkinton

November 12th, 2014 Posted in The SandGram v1.0 | No Comments »

The Little Angel:

Once upon a time, many moons ago in a far distant quadrant of Texas, there was a young man.  This young man was living in a Bachelors Officers Quarters (like an apartment building) with about 100 of his favorite buddies while they were attended flight training in Corpus Christi.

Corpus was next to the ocean and you always had a constant sea breeze blowing across the expanse of the base bringing with it, the smell of the sea.  From our rooms, we could watch airplanes take off, knowing they would fly over the “Whataburger” followed by a left turn to proceed to the different working areas.  Our days were busy prepping for the next class or flight but then something entered my life.

It was December and the anticipation of going home for Christmas was infecting everyone.  One day, walking by the front desk to see if I had any mail, I noticed a box full of letters.  I asked the young clerk what these letters were all about.  He said that school children had written them and mailed them out for a school project and somehow they ended up here at our base in Texas.

These letters were from all over the place.  I figured that if a child took the time to write us, we should at least write back.  This was 1989, way before the wars and back when a letter addressed to Any Marine or Sailor would find its way into a box like I was looking at.

It was in the late afternoon and I grabbed 30 letters from various places.  Sitting in my plastic chair outside of my room with a beautiful sunset dropping down, I began to open and read these letters.  Some were pretty funny, written in clear concise thought patterns only a 7 to 8 year old could come up with like “Sorry you have to be away from home for Christmas, but it’s really cool you get to drop bombs on bad guys, hope you don’t die, Merry Christmas.”

I started writing back to these kids when my brothers in arms began shuffling by.  Of course the subject of the letters came up as I showed them the really funny ones.  Pretty soon, I was left with only five letters as the rest were picked up with promises of writing the owner back to thank them.

That started off a pen pal relationship with a young second grader from Hopkinton Mass named Mary Elizabeth who was about 8 years old at the time.  Hers was a simple card that said “Wishing you a bright and beautiful Christmas” with her homeroom in there and address.  I wrote her back and I’m sure that it surprised the heck out of her.

From 1989 to 1995 we wrote back and forth and I watched her grow from a young outgoing Elementary to a smart young 7th grader.  I even had the chance to meet her and her awesome parents in Washington DC one year.  We lost touch when I moved back from Okinawa Japan to the states and only just recently reconnected with her on Facebook after all these years. I’m so proud of that little girl who started supporting a Marine with cards and letters and can only hope my children follow in her footsteps.

I encourage you to get your kids involved supporting out troops with letters of support like Mary-Elizabeth gave me.  She posted a simple one liner on my timeline (Happy veteran’s day! Thank you for your service to our country!) And I know the heartfelt love that she feels for our Military still and makes me so proud to have served all these years.  She and many others like her (i.e. young kids, Jake and Emily) are the Americans who we defend and this outpouring of support makes it all worth it! Thank you again M-E and thanks to all who have supported me and our troops over the years.

Mary-Elizabeth, sorry to embarrass you, but you are an inspiration that I will pass on my children. God Bless and Semper Fi,


angel card