The Heroes of the Long War
On the fourth anniversary of the surprise attack that announced to America that we were in a war whether we wanted one or not, I am recalling the names of some specific people and praying for their families as a way of reminding me to pray for the families of all those lost in this war.
The human cost of the war is staggering, and the sorrow that it has occasioned very deep and lasting. Each one of us owes the loved ones of those who have died defending us an eternal debt of gratitude, and to the families of the civilian victims, the sort of attention and honor we would hope for our survivors were we to be the victim of a jihadist atrocity.
The greatest memorial ever written by an American for Americans is this:
The Gettysburg AddressGettysburg, PennsylvaniaNovember 19, 1863
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
And just in case you missed these:
Subject: Iwo Jima Update ‘” 6 Sep 05 Hello All, Since I took over Iwo Jima over a year ago, I felt as though I had control of the destiny of the ship. I thought I lost it today, the first time ever, and that we were merely reacting to events rather than controlling them. Within the first 24 hours after arriving pier-side in New Orleans, Iwo Jima has become many things. We are one of the few full service airports in the area and have been operating aircraft on and off our deck for almost 15 hours each day. We are also one of the only air conditioned facilities within a ten mile radius and though we have had problems making water from the polluted Mississippi, we are also the only hot shower within miles. All day long we have been accommodating local policemen, firemen, state troopers, national guard, 82nd Airborne division personnel with hot showers and hot food. I met an ambulance team from Minnesota who just drove straight to New Orleans when they heard of the tragedy and have been supporting hospitals free of charge for the last week. They hadn’t had a hot meal in over a week and were grateful to have the opportunity to have lunch onboard. The Deputy Commander of the RI National Guard reported to me that he had guardsmen who were whipped, but after a hot shower and an Iwo Jima breakfast were ready to hit the patrols again. Rarely have I seen so many smiling, happy faces than on these people. After two weeks in the trenches sleeping on concrete floors, no shower, and eating MREs, good ship Iwo Jima has been a Godsend. I had an opportunity to talk to the Director of Homeland Security for a few minutes in my cabin. I asked him if there was anything more I could do for him, he asked if he could get a shower. I was glad to turnover my cabin to him. The local FEMA coordinator and his logistics and security teams were on my quarterdeck this afternoon asking permission to set up their command center on the pier next to the ship. While they had sophisticated command and control equipment, they had no place to berth their 250 FEMA members. We were glad to give them a home. Contrary to the press, all the FEMA people I met had been on station since last Sunday (before the Hurricane hit), never left the area, and have been in the field ever since. The command duty officer was told that one state trooper had driven 80 miles to get to the ship. He said that the word was out ‘” come to Iwo Jima. We expect that the flood gates will open on us. Early this morning we received our first medical emergency ‘” an elderly woman with stroke-like symptoms. Throughout the day we received about a dozen medical emergencies, the most serious was an elderly man who was stabbed in the chest and was bleeding to death. The doctors performed surgery on him and saved his life. I toured the hospital ward ‘” all our charges were elderly and disadvantaged individuals. As with Hotel Iwo Jima, we expect to see many more casualties tomorrow. Our curse appears to be our flight deck and our extraordinary command and control capabilities. Our challenge today was the tidal wave of Flag and General Officers that flooded onboard, 17 total, virtually all without notice. I couldn’t believe there were so many involved in this effort and they all wanted to come here. They poured onto the flight deck in one helicopter after another in order to meet with General Honore, the Joint Task Force Commander. The majority showed up around the same time and all wanted to leave at the same time, making it a nightmare for our flight deck team to control and coordinate flights on and off the ship for all these admirals and generals while supporting the humanitarian effort. I spent most of the day running around the ship getting these people off and on helicopters and in and out of the meetings and command spaces. It was like herding cats. But the ship performed superbly and “flexed” to meet the challenge. Regretfully, we expect nearly 20 admirals and generals onboard tomorrow for more meetings. To add to the challenges, virtually all of these commands are sending liaison staffs to help coordinate issues, and already a number of admirals and generals have “permanently” embarked. The Inn is full. I talked to one of the FEMA team members who had also worked the disaster relief for 9/11. I asked him how much more difficult was the Katrina relief effort compared to 9/11. He said it was without measure ‘” thousand of times worse than 9/11. He couldn’t articulate the magnitude of the destruction. Despite all the challenges, I think we regained control by the end of the day. We are forearmed for tomorrow’s onslaught. At our evening Dept Head meeting, I asked all my principals to tell me what the stupidest thing they heard or saw today. The list was enormous. But the most absurd item was when my Tactical Action Officer (TAO), who runs our 24-hour command center (CIC) got a phone call from the Director of the New Orleans Zoo. Apparently, there was a large fire near the zoo. It was so intense that the fire department had to abandon the cause, but military helos were heavily engaged in scooping up giant buckets of water and dumping in on the blaze in an effort to put it out. The director complained to us that the noise from the helos was disturbing the animals, especially the elephants, which he was most concerned about, and asked us to stop. The TAO thanked him for his interest in national defense. It is inspiring to meet and talk to such a huge number of individuals who are doing the Lord’s work to recover this city. They have had little sleep, little food, no showers, working 16-18 hours a day, and in some cases no pay, and they are thanking ME for a hot meal! Only in America. We have turned the corner. It will take an awful long time, but we have turned the corner. All the best, RSC
Subject: Iwo Jima Update ‘” 7 Sep 05
We finally had a chance to have Captain’s Call this morning. The ship has been running at full speed for 8 days straight with a myriad of changing missions and requirements piled on top of us. I thought it best to tell the crew where I thought this was going and what impact we have made. I told them that as with any contingency operations there is that initial surge of energy and inspiration that often times gives way to frustration and tedium. I did not want them to underestimate the magnitude of what they were accomplishing each day by their hard work on the flight deck, the galley, the well deck, CIC, Radio Central (JMC), on the pier, and in the engineering spaces to support this great undertaking. Every job on the ship is important and the contribution of Iwo Jima has already been enormous.
Our contributions have been growing. Today, we opened out doors to 900-1,200 Army, National Guard, and local law enforcement personnel to take showers and get hot meals. We were getting overwhelmed. There was a steady stream of 60 to 100 every hour on the quarterdeck asking to come onboard and get refreshed. The word has obviously gotten out. One Army Captain told the Command Master Chief that his unit of 60 soldiers had come from 60 miles away because his general told him to “go to Iwo Jima and they’ll take care of you.” We couldn’t say no.
Not satisfied with the record-setting flight operations yesterday, the flight deck team nearly doubled the number of aircraft hits. At one point the team was bringing in Army Blackhawks two at a time, one group after another in perfect sequence. It was an impressive sight to behold. Medical casualties continued to come onboard the ship, some by stretcher and ambulance, others by air or boat. After yesterday, the Medical folks reworked their procedures, so today everything flowed smoothly. Supply department has served up thousands of meals ‘” the mess line never closes. Deck department got back to their roots and conducted boat operations and a sterngate marriage with U.S.S. Tortuga’s LCM-8 landing craft, moving more supplies to our sister ship. But lest we forget, the bedrock of Iwo Jima’s strength lies in three simple things ‘” electricity, air conditioning, hot water ‘” all provided by the uncomplaining engineers.
But of all the manifold capabilities of good ship Iwo Jima, medical, logistic, and air support, our command and control capabilities have moved to the forefront. It almost sounds surreal but Iwo Jima has literally become the headquarters, the “center of the universe” for all Federal recovery efforts ‘” DoD as well as civilian. It is on this ship that the myriad efforts have all come together. Yesterday, for the first time ever, some 17 admirals and generals got together with the Joint Task Force Commander, General Honore, face to face to coordinate the numerous and ever growing military recovery and support efforts. Today, the same cadre of admirals and generals were back onboard but this time accompanied by the civilian side. FEMA has now established their headquarters on the pier along side (and onboard Iwo Jima) to better coordinate their efforts with us. But with this has come an ever growing number of staff members embarking on the ship. Our population has grown from a crew of some 1,200 to nearly 2,500 (including several hundred guardsmen and soldiers living onboard) with all the detachments, augments, and now senior staffs. I think we are now up to one three-star, one two-star, and four one-stars embarked aboard good ship Iwo Jima. We are bursting at the seams. We have spent the vast majority of our days taking care of and chasing down the myriad staff members. It is like herding cats, except these cats fly on and off our flight deck periodically.
I had a chance to meet Governor Blanco of Louisiana and her Lieutenant Governor today when she came onboard for the giant 1200 briefing with General Honore and were later joined by Admiral Nathman and Vice Admiral Fitzgerald. The ships Ready Room was bursting at the seams with senior officers and high officials ‘” you had to step outside just to change your mind. I had seen the Governor on TV many times. She looked different in person ‘” tired and worn out. She told me that she was averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, but smiled, “I guess that’s about what you get in the military.” You could see the severe strain of the past weeks events. I quoted her the famous line from Churchill the night be became Prime Minister of wartime Britain, “…that it was as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all of my past life had been but preparation for this moment and this trial.” The recovery from the damage of Hurricane Katrina is an unprecedented trial for the Governor and many, many others. My observation is that America, throughout her history, has always been slow to respond, but once that powerful engine gets into gear it is massive and unstoppable. I suspect this will also be the case for the Gulf Coast.
It has become our tradition at the evening department head meeting to go around the room and have each person list the stupidest or silliest thing they heard or saw during the day. As you can imagine, the log book is overflowing with accounts. Yesterday it was the helos and the elephants at the zoo. Today it was me. I have been inundated with doing interviews ‘” CNN, Pentagon press, Regina Mobley and Channel 13 news, the Boston Globe, Carla McCabe and the Army Times, and finally Greta Van Susturen. We did a spot with Greta on the pier this morning with the massive bow of Iwo Jima in the background and helos flying on and off the ship with great noise ‘” an impressive backdrop for this puffed up officer. As I was being interviewed by Greta, a pair of Blackhawks swooped onto the flight deck sending up a great wind which blew off my ball cap. I instinctively scrambled after it before it blew into the water. When I turned around the FOX News photographer looked at me and smiled, “I got that on film.”
Look for me chasing my hat down the pier on the next Fox News spot.
All the best,