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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The First Duty is to Remember

This is a repost of something I wrote 3 years ago, commemorting the events of 25 years ago today in Beirut, Lebannon. (I did change the "22 years ago" to 25 today)

Here is a line to the online
Beirut Memorial, which was offline for a while but seems to be back up and running.

The title to this post is a link to a list that has great meaning to me. If you believe the War on Terror started on 9/11, you definitely need to follow the link, and remember, it started long before that. (I changed it on 10/24/05, after finding a wonderful entry in a guestbook about that day).

25 years ago today was my very first morning waking up on a Navy ship. I was onboard the USS Iwo Jima, waiting for a flight to my ship, the USS New Jersey floating around off the coast of Lebanon.

I didn't get to wake up to a bugle, or reveille, or some droll thing like that. Instead I was shaken out of a sound sleep, and asked what type blood I had, because they needed donations.

My blood type wasn't necessary, so instead I was sent to the flight deck, and told to unload helo's. That was the first time I had a chance to ask "What the hell's going on", and was told the Marine barracks had been destroyed by some kind of bomb.

When the helo's started landing we were told where to go, two at a time, and grab a stretcher. Believe me, this was not what I'd expected when I joined the Navy.

I don't know how many stretchers I carried, I only specifically remember one, that's because it was a SEAL I'd had a few beers with a couple of days earlier in Sicily, while we waited for a flight. I do know that medical overflow on the Iwo Jima held about 100 people, and it was pretty full.

Later that evening I was asked if I wanted to go to "the beach" and help with the search. I couldn't do it. I'd seen more death, and maiming in the first 10 hours I was awake that day than I had in 18 previous years (or the 23 since), and the idea of going and looking for people in ruble just wasn't working. Instead, I spent the next two hours on the fantail of the ship, alternating between crying and puking.

For the next two nights I slept in a Marine berth, directly above the wounded jarheads, sailors, and soldiers, listening to their pain, wondering what the hell I'd gotten myself into.

On 25 October I finally got a flight off of Iwo to my actual duty station, USS New Jersey. I will say I took great satisfaction in the fact that on December 14th we fired our 16" guns on some positions ashore. I was even happier in February 1984, when we fired 288 rounds on my watch. We completely depleted the stores for turret one that night, and had to give the duties to #2.

241 were killed 10/23/1983, hundreds others injured, many families destroyed, I will never forget them, you shouldn't either.

For those of you who believe George Bush or any other American is to blame for the "War on Terror", get a clue, the war started much earlier. It started even before my first hand experience, in April of 1983 when the US Embassy was bombed in Beirut killing 63, including 17 Americans.

I also wanted to note in here, that for many years I was kind of a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) doubter. I thought that "hey, I'd been through some trauma, and I'm okay", so folks must be whining. Then one night last year, The Travel Channel replayed Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" episode filmed in Beirut on 12 July 2006. For those who've forgetten, a new war started there on that day.

Seeing the images of the same types of landing craft I watched there for months, the same type helicopters (we haven't upgraded many) and shells going off in the same skyline during the evactuation caused me to start shaking, crying, and finally to turn the TV off. I didn't sleep right for the next few nights, and still haven't watched the whole episode. Some day.

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Blogger meesterjoneser said...

Right on right on right on!

See you on the beach, bud.


9:49 PM  
Blogger meesterjoneser said...

In l967, I joined the USNR as a seaman recruit, went to Great Lakes TC, and then to Radio School San Diego, and later to Avionics School, and then was assigned to the 7th Fleet Westpac command for 2 years.

I floated around Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam for 22 months total, and then did 4 more years in reserve duty stateside. During that time I worked on aircraft radios/radars and navigation systems until I was bumped up to Staff duty in Admiral's Country for my last Vietnam tour.

From time to time I would spend TDY duty at NAVSUPACT Danang, living with the Marines of the 1st Marine Air Wing/
From my workshop Quonset I could see the air strip and revetments and the constant line of trucks bearing the galvanized folding coffins of the KIA,
each solemnly onloaded by sailors, airmen, marines, soldiers --on their way home, and to the ages.

We took fire every night, some times
155 mm rockets, other small arms. We had a bunker club setup next to the hootch we shared with the Marines, and it was a good one. I turned 21 drinking a beer there.

On the carriers I served aboard USS KITTY HAWK, USS CONSTELLATION, and USS AMERICA, as well as several "smallboys"
when they needed help with sysops in their secure communications.

I'll not get into Intruders eating men on the flight deck, or guys who just blew off by jet blast and killed, or over the side and never found.

I wont' get specific about the steam pipe that blew out on Connie and killed 5 brave men, or the ejection seat that fired a plane captain into the overhead of the hangar bay, or any of the hundreds of other tragedies I encountered onboard the ship, or ashore.

As it's not bragging if you done (yogi berra, I think said it), I'll tell you now I have 12 medals and 5 citations.

To hear whining liberals who KNOW NOTHING of the military, or combat,
or who denigrates our troops (and I might remind them that Bush, as C-In-C is himself a troop), pisses me off to no end.

I have a soldier son, who came up in the ranks from buck private to First LT
in the USAR. He was at WTC hours after the planes crashed. His unit patrolled the perimeter, and the morgue. Frequently they had to sleep in doorways or in church pews. It was so horrid he won't talk at all about it.

To hear some whiner say that we should not retaliate, make me even more firm in my belief that such people do no love America and wish for it's downfall. And as such, they're also in the enemy category.

To hell with the lot of them.

I would not micturate in their ears if their brains were on fire.

Phantom Driver
Proud father of an American Soldier

10:11 PM  
Blogger Nedreck Milhunky said...

Helluva stories from both of yall.

From someone who couldnt find a reason to serve when he was young, and too old to serve now that he has a reason...I just want to say thank you.

11:09 PM  
Blogger meesterjoneser said...

Ah, I'm getting misty here. Thanks a lot my friend.


11:25 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

You're welcome NM.

Someone asked me once, if that was your first day, how could you do 20 years? The answer was actually pretty easy, "How much worse could it get".

3:29 PM  
Blogger Nedreck Milhunky said...

I cant even imagine. All I can say is that I think this country is a better place because of folks like you & PD.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Amen. and Amen.

10:41 PM  
Blogger on-my-mind said...

I love this article, CP. It made me cry last year and again this year. e-hugs and many thanks.

6:51 PM  
Blogger LargeBill said...


Thanks for the reminder. I was there with you. I was on the Virginia (CGN 38) then. If I remember right it was a quiet Sunday morning and then boom. We were just over a mile off the coast and the guys on watch could still hear it on the ship. We sent in about 30 guys to help with clean up. None of them came back the same. Some one had to do it, but no one should see that.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...


Definitely a crappy day that changed my very small town midwest outlook on the world.

I definitely agree no one should have to see that. The triage area in the hanger on Iwo was something that made the worst episode of M*A*S*H look like Scrubs.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

11 02 08

CP: Glad you are okay and sorry you had a panic attack. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and it is trippy. At times when I am okay a smell or certain color might stimulate bad memories. Usually I can control the kneejerk reaction to cry or yell or scream, but sometimes I feel like I am losing my mind. This is part of PTSD and I am happy there are more practitioners that treat it. Turns out that many of the standard antidepressants don't work, but EMDR and hypnotherapy, along with marijuana therapy (at least in Israel) have shown to be effective.

Take Care, and I hope you are enjoying your grandbaby!

7:39 AM  

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