Thursday, December 8, 2016

Is the Selection of General Mattis a Signal for Us to Expect a Continuation of COIN Philosophy?

History can either be a Schoolmaster or a Mistress. It depends on the intent of the reader. It also depends on what the reader considers sacrosanct. We all tend to hold certain things as so inviolable as to make objective questioning that might breach that privately held trust, unacceptable.

This is all fine when the only thing that might be defiled is our personal conscience or even the feelings of another.

But when the thing or person questioned, has power and the ability to send men and women, who have selflessly granted those certain powers unfettered access unto death, those things and people thought to be untouchable, must be questioned. 

When President Elect Trump announced, he was selecting General Mattis as his Secretary of Defense I was simultaneously elated and troubled;

I will not apologize for applauding the selection of a Marine Corps General to the highest influential position for the Military especially given Mattis’s demonstrated love for Marines, and the Corps. At the same time, I reserve the right to criticize what I believe to be the single most destructive decision made in the past 15 years of war; the decision to shift from a Hunt and Kill strategy to the historically failed, Counter Insurgency Operation (COIN).

This move from the violent – and effective, hunt and kill strategy to COIN really made national headlines following the second Battle of Fallujah. The Media and certain Political types were quick to credit General Petraeus’s institution of COIN strictures in the years that followed, for pacifying Al Anbar Province but the truth is, it was most certainly the surge of US uniforms that forced the Insurgents to displace.

It is astonishing that Military Leaders, including Mattis and Petraeus would so willingly adopt a strategy that history teaches us, has not been successful in its 76 years as a formal battlefield doctrine. It has failed to produce the intended result in every single application while simultaneously producing a grotesque and vaulted pile of body bags filled with the lifeless bodies of America’s Best, who were tricked into believing that America’s civilian government and her upper echelon military staff actually cared about a successful, and victorious conclusion to the wars that ended their lives.

It is a damnable truth, that Marines and all American War Fighters win every battle we enjoin, and that the political and upper military strategists manage to lose the wars. 

This, is the true legacy of COIN warfare.

All the major conflicts we have witnessed since the publication of the Small Wars Manual in 1940 and with the notable exclusion of World War II which was not governed by this insanity, have failed to produce a Victor or a repentant enemy.

Following World War II, there were several major shifts in the geo-political landscape, the first being the establishment of the United Nations. The Charter literally placed a perverted choice before each member Nation; accept the Charter, or retain complete National autonomy.

Many will argue with this assessment but in truth, a Nation and its leadership cannot serve two masters; the National people it represents or its allegiance to an outside entity which does not share the concerns of that Nation. The UN was the Orwellian concept made manifest and placed all member nations on notice that the needs of the “world”, outweighed the needs of the individual nations. While that concept may play well on the big screen depicting non-existent alien beings and a fanciful future galactic societal construct, it is a pitiful and treacherous way for a Nation’s Leader to treat the people he has sworn to protect.

The second major shift following World War II, was a general move away from colonization. Britain and France would be the first to experience the difficulties of navigating through the messy business of maintaining peace in their respective territories while being pressured by the UN to relinquish control of those territories to the indigenous peoples. Those existential pressures were exacerbated by both the French and British populations who were growing weary of war.

What precipitated these shifts, was a shared revulsion at the prospect of a third world war. All parties were determined to never see another global conflict like World War I or II. The 1940’s Small Wars Manual became the source document for what would become known, alternately as the Counter Insurgency Operation, Police Action or Peacekeeping Operation. These efforts identify three main elements within the Battle Space; a fledgling but legitimate government, a besieged civilian population and an unwanted insurgent element.

The grand powers-that-be, would determine if a Nation was experiencing an insurgency that rose beyond what its Law Enforcement agencies could contain and then offer assistance to that Nation – or that Nation could request help from the world community. The Military deployed to aid that Nation really acts more as an international police force than a conventional military even though, its members, are trained as hunter/killers.

Insistence on inserting the Armed Forces of your Nation into a country that is experiencing a hostile insurgency requires agreement between the besieged nation and the nation providing the military aid and just a little bit of arrogance and insanity.

No nation seeks to do battle – even limited battle unless it can be shown that the problem presents an existential threat to its own security. And given that every single COIN Op effort has failed since the formalized, modern expression of COIN in 1940, it is impossible to understand the justification to commit to yet one more incursion within its strictures.

We have seen several notable examples of the institution of COIN since 1940; The Malayan Emergency, the Indochina War(s), The US in Vietnam, the Korean War, Somalia, Bosnia, the Russians in Afghanistan, the US in Afghanistan post June 2009 and Iraq. As I write this piece, we are witnessing another slow build-up of US troops in Iraq, and on the Syrian border, presumably, to expel ISIS.

The Malayan Emergency – 1948 - 1960

The British found themselves embroiled in Malaysia from 1948 – 1960 to dislodge some 2500 Chinese Communist insurgents who crossed the Thai border into Malay at the behest of Mao Tse Tung. Those 2500 Guerillas, exploited the dwindling economy in Malay; stirring up feelings of resentment amongst the expatriated Chinese living in the largely pluralistic Malay. This was but one of many efforts by the Chinese Communists to spread their philosophy throughout the region.

By 1960, the British and their Malayan counterparts had suffered some 4271 dead and wounded with another 2400 civilians killed and 810 missing. The result, was the British giving up Malaysia which they had controlled for some 135 years. The relationship between the Malayan people and the British was truly symbiotic with British owning the plantations and hiring the Malayans. The society flourished. By 1967, the Insurgency was rekindled and troubled Malaysia until 1989.

The First Indochina War – 1946 - 1954

While the British were mired in Malay, the French were having their own troubles in what became, North Vietnam. An anti-French insurgency formed, instigated by the Chinese and led by the newly constituted Viet Minh. Further aggravating the situation was an influx of arms by the United States and Russia. By the 1st of August in 1954, the French had suffered a resounding defeat at Dien Bien Phu and racked up 76,000 Dead, 64,000 Wounded, 40,000 Captured and their Vietnamese counterparts had lost another 59,000 Dead and Wounded. The result? The French were forced to withdraw from the region with no resolution.

The Vietnam War – 1954 - 1975

The United States entered the region following the Geneva Accord in July of 1954 and we stayed embroiled in a largely unpopular and frustrating conflict until our shameful and final Operation of the war, Operation Frequent Wind; a massive Helicopter evacuation of some 7,000 personnel – American and Vietnamese collaborators from throughout South Vietnam and from the very roof of the US Embassy, in Saigon, 29-30 April 1975. This was 21 years after we took over from the French.

Our Cost? 58,315 Dead and another 304,000 wounded. The aggregate totals of other friendly nations who supported the effort are, 750,000 Dead and another 1,185,000 Wounded.

The Result? After a combined total of 29 years of combat via COIN, the Chinese Communists had their way, and the mission to keep Vietnam a Democracy – Failed!

The Korean War – 1950 - 1953

The Korean War was the UN’s first foray into battle and they chose to do it within the COIN paradigm.  The Mission was again, to keep South Korea Free.

By the end of that conflict, the United States had suffered 37,000 Dead and another 104,000 Wounded. The aggregate total of other friendly nations who participated are, 1,217,000 Dead.

The Result? South Korea remained free by Armistice; but at what cost? To this day, there are United States Service members standing guard on the 38th parallel and we will, into the unforeseen future. South Koreans are largely living in house arrest and continually threatened by a mad man raised by another mad man, who is quietly supported by his Communist neighbor, China.

The other dubious and failed efforts at COIN include Russia’s attempt in Afghanistan from 1979-1989 yielded them 84,000 Dead, Wounded and Missing without a single thing to show for their trouble.

Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and a growing commitment to the circumstances in Syria have done little more than activate a beehive of terrorists while creating even more friction with Russia and Islamic regimes in the area.


Years ago I was instructed to never offer a criticism without a solution and I have endeavored to live up to that rule ever since. So here is my vision of how combat and our exposure to the Battle Space should look:

1.    If you have an enemy that needs to be killed; kill him! Hunt him down with ferocity and unyielding determination. Deliver him such a level of unrelenting violence that his children’s, children will tell tales of the carnage you leave behind!

2.    If a Host Nation reaches out for help with an insurgency, it should be impressed upon them that every Mother’s Son of the indigenous population had best be personally invested in the effort to the point of death. The old axiom “Freedom isn’t Free”, is not just for America’s Sons and Daughters who serve in the polluted sands of the Middle East – it is for all who dare claim they want freedom!

3.    When you have the enemy bottled up like we had the ideological murderous Taliban in Tora Bora in 2001, finish the job! We could easily have killed everything in the region with FA Ordnance and simply left the sandy nation of Afghanistan the very next day and with a stiff warning, rather than spending the next 15 years floundering through the insanity of COIN and filling another 4,500 body bags plus, with American Warriors and years of broken promises!

I don’t know what the future holds and I certainly cannot say with certainty how General Mattis will advise President elect Trump in future considered campaigns. But he has shown a robust support for the Counter Insurgency Operation and an uncomfortable admiration for Islamists who inhabit the Nations we have been operating in. We have knowledge of the perverted practices of a troubling percentage of Afghan men who abuse their Bacha Boys; of devout Muslim men who brutalize and torture women and little girls. Those Generals who held Command in Afghanistan saw fit to follow COIN theory to the letter and turned a blind eye to those vile practices while ordering United States Marines to remove their protective glasses so “the people could see their eyes”.

Field Grade Officers who had the mission of meeting with village leaders were also ordered to remove their protective armor and leave it outside the meeting house along with their weapons; all in a misguided effort to win the hearts of a people whose hearts belong to a religious system that orders them to kill Infidels.

There has been a presumption of guilt and a legion of JAG Officers, giddy at the prospect of trying War Fighters for infractions of the artificially applied nonsensical rules promulgated by a strategy that is self destructive.

I do know, President Elect Trump, likes to win and by his own words, doesn’t like a loser.

I wonder if he is prepared to go toe-to-toe with some of his advisors who see the world differently? I hope so because, the American War Fighter has a right to expect his Leaders to make decisions that give him the best opportunity for victory – and life!

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Should We Learn from the Tuesday Election?

I arrive at my opinions the way most critical thinking people do. My opinions are derived from the study of History, the search for truth in the midst of clutter and personal experience.

Sometimes those opinions do little more than guide me from one decision to the next, and at times, they help me determine how I will react to a current event but again, not much different from anyone else.

Elections do a lot more than simply determine who will be filling a soon to be vacated seat, they tell us a lot about the electorate. Every once in a while, the results are so astounding and the reaction to those results so volatile that we get a peek at what truly motivates each and every one of us.

I recall sensing more than a little trepidation when I awoke after the election in 2008 to find out the most Socialist President in our History had just been elected.  I felt betrayal, anger, and concern for the future of my family, business and most of all, for the Nation.

Having spent a significant percentage of my life, living under the shadow of the Oath I had taken to safeguard the Constitution, I was now faced with the real possibility that in one day, all that I held dear could be threatened and the Constitution so fundamentally changed as to render it unrecognizable to those who fought for it.

Those were real concerns, about real, physical and ideological things; foundational things upon which the United States was anchored.

I remembered that overwhelming feeling of dread that all I had sacrificed for might be swept away by a flood of emotionalism which selected a man who would now occupy the White House for four, if not eight years; a feeling I carried again, all night Tuesday, the eighth of November 2016.

I recall the relief, the next morning when it was finally revealed that I would not have to endure the same sensations I had felt 8 years prior. I also began to consider how the other fifty percent of the electorate must be feeling having had their visions of a continuance of policies they wanted squashed, in one day.

That is truly the extent of my empathy however; simply understanding that when people lose something that large, what follows is a hollowed out feeling. And so, I resolved not to jamb my rhetorical or metaphorical finger into the collective eye of those who List a good deal further to Port than the Victors do. They will need time to come to terms with the loss, and time, to realize their lives will not change and certainly will not be as dramatically affected as our would have been, if Clinton had won.

It should also be a wake-up call to those who lost to consider what the 2008 loss meant to us and to remember that the Sun does not Rise and Set on one political ideology; it does so for all of us.

Collectively, we need to work a lot harder at remembering that we are all American Citizens from a wide spectrum of ideology and we still must learn to live together because there are real threats out there who do not care where we sit on the political spectrum; all they know is we are Americans and they want us all, dead.

To my fellow Christian Brothers and Sisters I would say this; we fell on unanticipated and opposite sides during this election. Maybe I was living in a bubble in 2012 – or even 2008; assuming we were all thinking together. This election taught me a lot, about how little I actually know about some people I simply assumed to know. I hope the rift I observed open up, is temporary because we, more than any other class of Americans, have more in common. We have watched this country move God further away from the Public Square than at any point in our History. Convincing people of that error will take more than high-minded shunning; it will take interaction and a willingness to accept that everyone has a history and sometimes, a lot of spiritual scar tissue.

Personally, I feel hope for the future because even though I tend to be that curmudgeon who hates change, this time around, I truly feel like there is a chance to dig our way out of the pit we have watched widen, these past 25 years. It is going to require that we all think differently than we have been – not like some hyphenated variety of organic cucumbers but an actual definable, like-minded, concerned, industrious, caring people.

You know; Americans!

Semper Fi;

John Bernard

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Speech Transcript, North Reading Veteran's 09/25/2016

I was privileged to be invited to give a speech to an assemblage of 158 Veterans and family members at an event hosted by the North Reading Veteran's Office in North Reading Massachusetts through the tireless work of Susan Magner, the Town's Veteran's Office Representative.

The event is held annually and seeks to show support for the Veteran community in the area with a dinner, guest speakers, Honor for the Fallen and the presence of a Marine Corps Color Guard and more.

It is a classy and well appointed affair held in a room filled with like-minded Americans who are concerned for the welfare of the Nation and most importantly, the welfare of the Veterans who have paid the price to secure the freedoms this Nation has enjoyed for 240 years.

Here is the transcript of the Speech without additional commentary:

* * * *

The origin of this quote is suspect, but it's value as a truism, is not;

“People sleep peacefully in their beds with the knowledge that Rough Men Stand Ready to do violence on their behalf.”

I went into a publi-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
May God always keep a hedge of protection around the American War Fighter and protect him from Friendly, and Foe alike!

I was just ten years old and attending Miss Doucette’s 5th grade class at the Swain School in Wilmington when BLT’s 3/9 and 1/3 disembarked the USS Henrico, Union and Vancouver at 0815, 08 March 1965.

They made their way ashore just north of the Da Nang Air Base. The mission was straight forward; take over security of the air base and relieve the South Vietnamese Army so they could return to the battlefield.

I don’t recall the particulars of the mission from the memory of that 10 year old child but rather as a United States Marine some years later and having studied the history of the Vietnam War. However, as a child who grew up during that time, I was bombarded with stories of the conflict on TV which included casualty lists, negative reporting and the souring of US opinion.

I recall the facts, figures, battles, names, weaponry and highlights of the ten years that followed; information lived out by men, some of whom are in this room today. Men who swore an oath, followed orders and shipped out to the tiny country that became a focus of effort in the greater region of Indochina where the Chinese Communists were attempting to spread the ideology of Communism to the entire region. Talking heads have since renounced the Domino Theory, but there is far more evidence supporting it, than not.

I also recall listening to students in my High School class disparage the very existence and character of the uniformed men some of whom were not much older than they and in some instances, former neighbors. I was both ashamed and frustrated by the anti-war movement of the day and left cursing the day of my birth because it left me too young to join in time to share in the hardships being experienced by men I already considered Brothers.

For those of you who fought in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, your return home was not to the sound of Brass Bands and the sight of unfurled Flags but to the ranting of the undisciplined, the uneducated, the amoral segment of society that all too often is offered both the microphone and the camera without scrutiny. You deserved far more for the indignities you were asked to endure; the loss of Brothers you still mourn, the wounds you suffered. There was little I could do as an underage school student appalled by what I was witnessing but I can certainly pause now and Thank you for the Courage and Commitment to the Oath you displayed and say Welcome Home!
As far as the average American citizen is concerned, that fateful day in March of 1965, marked the beginning of US involvement in Vietnam; a war that most school books say lasted 10 years.

In truth, US involvement began in earnest on the 7th of May 1954 with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu at the hands of the Viet Minh. The French had been fighting in the region since 1946; that conflict became known as the First Indochina War. When they withdrew under the influence of the 1954 Geneva Accord, France had suffered 76,000 dead, 64,000 wounded and another 40,000 captured.

By the time Operation Frequent Wind was complete on the 30th of April in 1975, WE had suffered the loss of 58, 315 American War Fighters and 303,644 wounded.

Sadly, history does not record a single positive thing to come from so costly an effort.

Not many miles away on the tiny Peninsula of Malay, the British were mired in their own unfortunate campaign to oust 2500 Chinese Communists who had crossed the Thai border with orders to destabilize the British backed Malay Colonial government and to build support for a replacement Communist regime.

The Malayan Emergency commenced in 1948 when those 2500 insurgent Chi-Coms murdered several Rubber Tree Plantation owners and their workers sparking a request for intervention by British forces. The British remained on mission in Malay until 1960 when it was believed the last of those insurgents had been eradicated or displaced. The experience cost the Malay people and the British some 12,000 dead, 5,000 wounded and Britain, control of Malaysia and this, after a 135 year symbiotic relationship with Malay as a colony of the Crown. Tragically, the Chinese inserted more combatants in 1967 and Malaysia continued the fight to extract them until 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and left the Communist effort disillusioned.

The history of war in that region, from the end of World War II until the disgraceful extraction of those last Americans and Vietnamese informants from the roof of our Embassy in Saigon on the 29th and 30th of April in 1975, was due to the misguided efforts of several retired Military Officers and a war weary Washington DC determined to never again see a world at war.

Their creation was a manual of strategic operations known as the Small Wars Manual published in 1945. That manual lays the groundwork for the worst possible strategy for operations in the battle space ever contrived by the mind of men; the Counter Insurgency Operation.

We called the Vietnam War, a Police Action. In the last few decades we have referred to these small wars as Nation Building Operations but by whatever name men choose to cloak it with, it is in fact, a Counter Insurgency Operation.

COIN ops put two dynamic pressures on American War Fighters that are unique in the Annals of History; first, it places a premium on the lives of non-combatants in the Battle Space while exponentially increasing the responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the PFC’s and LCPL’s forced to operate within its strictures.

It also scrubs from the vernacular the very definition and use of the word, Victory. It imposes artificial constraints on dynamic entities and demands all those working with those entities to treat them accordingly.

This is the environment into which those Marines were thrust, in 1965 as well as those of all Branches of the Service who followed. They fought for land that our leadership never intended to hold, forced them to endure patrols through jungles laden with booby traps, engaging villagers whose loyalties could not be ascertained; to be led by soft-handed politicians with no vision or publicly specified purpose only to then return home to a nation that seemed filled with hate for the war and warrior alike.

In the years that have followed, we have seen an unending list of operations forced into the COIN paradigm by politicians with no basic understanding of honor, of courage or commitment and who lack the basic character traits which are prerequisite for Leadership. These politicians dictate a need for Military force without an associated Mission Statement and no detailing of goal or mission conclusion.

Malay, Indochina, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the list goes on…. Are all failures and all drenched with the innocent blood of the Honorably serving Military Forces of America and her Western Allies…all, prosecuted within the framework of the most reviled strategy in the history of warfare; COIN. What a dismal tally.

In fact the only accountable victory since the Japanese surrender in September of 1945, is the defeat of Saddam’s forces in Kuwait, in 1991. We won in Kuwait, because the Kuwaiti government gave us carte blanche to enter Kuwait and to use whatever force was deemed necessary to destroy infrastructure and anything else to accomplish one thing; extricate the Iraqi Forces that had attacked and occupied Kuwait.

However, no matter how inept and vile this Nation’s politicians can be; no matter how lacking in basic intestinal fortitude, void of vision, uncaring, amoral and hamstrung; no matter the lack of any sense of righteous indignation for those intent to do us harm, there is one thing that remains certain….

No man or woman who has ever sworn the oath of enlistment should ever feel the least bit of shame or responsibility for the epic failures of the Political animal to provide a simple Mission Statement and to give the War Fighter every single weapon necessary to secure a victory for his Nation.
We are not responsible for the inanity emanating from the lesser creatures who occupy Washington DC. We who have sworn oaths to defend our Nations and Constitutions; our very cultures since time immemorial, do so understanding and living the concepts of Personal Honor, Personal Courage, Commitment to the Mission and the need to develop those character traits necessary to embody those Virtues..

The responsibility for the indignities we suffer on the Battlefield, the carrying of the memories of lost Brothers and families, lost Sons; blood shed on foreign lands at the behest of the political machine in DC, rests at the feet of the politician and the voter who put him there.

I would like to leave you with a quote from a Rudyard Kipling Poem entitled, Tommy Atkins which has given me comfort for all the years I served and all those years I watched the Vietnam Veteran serve. It is a metaphor for all of us who have carried water in the politicians sieve and gives me a comfort that can only come from knowing I have been numbered among men and women I hold in my heart as Brethren of the Sword. It is a reminder to me that we first, Serve. It is a reminder to me now, that I am served by those who have followed and that they are the best of their generation.

Now, for those of you who don’t know; Tommy Atkins is the British GI Joe. Rudyard Kipling served in his Majesties Forces and this is how he saw what we have been talking about:

The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play

Thank you;

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day 2016; Remembering LCpl Joshua M. Bernard, USMC, KIA Dahaneh, Afghanistan, 08/14/2009

Americans have been celebrating Memorial Day ever since it's inception in 1868. Regardless of Nationality, social structure, genetic makeup or creed, men have always held their War Fighters in high esteem and the sacrifices made by them, with reverential posture.

War Fighters, like all of those who have preceded them, have always sensed the solemnity of the duty they have enjoined, the responsibility to exude courage, personal honor with each other, the oaths they have struck and the determination to carry out the missions handed them.

It is into this unbroken lineage of remarkable people, that Joshua Bernard became ensconced in late 2006; a young man with unshakeable devotion to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, his Family, Church, Community, Nation and not the least of all, his Corps. From the earliest of age and his first utterance declaring when he grew up, he wanted to be a "saver-lifer", Josh massaged the knowledge that he had been uniquely called to serve his nation as a United States Marine; never lording it over his friends or acquaintances, as is the way of many, but quietly fostering the unique qualities of character required to wear the Eagle Globe and Anchor, in defense of all he held dear.

His announcement to his family and friends that he intended to join the Marine Corps in 2006, did not come as a surprise to any who knew him, but as is the case in all of these life altering decisions, hearing him say it, took their breath away. They all knew the risks and they all drew deep breaths of anxiety and concern for what the future held as he trained and prepared for combat on distant shores.

He took every difficult training evolution and exposure to the roughshod ways of young Marines in stride; never faltering physically, spiritually or communally as the many challenges all Marines are faced with, presented themselves. The Marines he served with, even while he lived among them, were both impressed and awe-struck that he could quietly attend to his personal relationship with God and the rigors of training without allowing one to subjugate the other; that he also managed not to sully himself on Liberty even as fellow Marines encouraged him to go places and do things his conscience knew better than to do, both annoyed and encouraged them, simultaneously.

His skill with the rifle and the grenade launcher, was legendary and the Officer in Charge of the M203 Range, presented Josh with his personal challenge coin because of the unique skill he displayed while on the range; making several direct hits on stacked tires all the way out to 300 meters - no small task with what amounts to a hand held, indirect fire weapon, at that range.

He was on his second deployment, this time to Afghanistan when 'G' Company, 2/3 received orders to occupy the FOB at Now Zad and to continue daily patrols of the town and the region; an exercise in futility and an immensely dangerous one. His Squad never left the wire without him as Point; a position he never failed to volunteer for. It is noteworthy that in all of the many dozens of Patrols he executed, he never lost a man to injury or death. This is the greatest testimony to both his skills of observation, and his dedication to the craft and the Corps he served.

His own men, gave him the Call Sign, Halo, honoring both his Christian faith, and his uncanny ability to recognize minute changes in the terrain they patrolled.

His last call home was on a Wednesday afternoon, and the eve of an escorted Company sized combat operation to clear the tiny village of Dahaneh of the Taliban that had been harassing the locals there. The Obama Administration had decided that making a show of force in Afghanistan during this period of time was necessary to give the Afghan people confidence that they could safely make their way to polling booths, to cast their votes, and that the United States Military, would have their backs.

The rewards of the mission itself would be short lived, as there had not been any commitment to keep American Forces in that town, but the short term gain, was hoped, to be a new found sense of personal dignity and courage as the average Afghan, dipped his finger in purple ink; a public sign that they had braved the dangers of the day to act as responsible citizens of Afghanistan.

It was during the third day of the operation, and late in the afternoon that Higher Echelon had called an administrative halt of all advancing units for reasons that are still unclear. That stop turned out to be a fateful one for Josh's Squad. Sensing the heightened security concern of the danger area they had just been compelled to stop in, the Patrol Leader immediately reached for the handset, to request permission to displace, in order to safeguard the exposed Marines in his charge.

That call was never completed.

Within seconds a barrage of RPG Rockets came careening in, in the midst of the Patrol, exploding as they hit.

Joshua Bernard, took a direct hit.

What occurred in the few hours that followed, is what happens whenever a beloved Marine succumbs to wounds earned in combat - and they are all beloved, and every wound is earned….

I was afforded the unique privilege of being Josh's Father, Brother in Christ, Brother Marine, and friend. It is a lot to carry and even more to have lost, so early in our relationship. The grief, the guilt, the sense of despair, all tending to creep up on you unaware, is tangible. Far too many speak of these things as if constructs in a piece of fictional writing; not actual emotions that take their physical toll, just oddly, impersonal.

Believe me, those emotions are palpable.

As a Christian, I have studied and believe, I will indeed see Josh again. I believe he lived his life in a way that makes me proud to have known him. Knowing I squandered my opportunity, early in life to live as he did, I am humbled by his resolve to not sully himself, our Family, our Savior, our Corps.

I also believe that his death, when viewed through an eternal lens, was not an ending nor a punishment but a beginning, and in fact, an honor bestowed upon him by God.

If civilians knew the truth about those family members which surround them who have served, and are serving, they would probably be horrified to learn that they, that we, always harbor a Warriors wish to die in combat. Not just to die, but to have died in a selfless act and in a very real sense, serving in uniform, having willingly suspended your Constitutional Rights and your anonymity; allowing a governing body of Representatives to determine your fate by compelling you into combat against those who would do the Nation harm.

Scripture says in John 15:13; " Greater love hath no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. " And while that verse was written specifically to define the actions of Jesus Christ on behalf of humanity, the principle is never-the-less, universal.

Many of us did not live the pristine lives we had hoped we would; Josh did! And it is my fervent belief that God allowed him to die a Warrior's death in honor of his devotion to God, Family, Corps and Country because he had lived a pristine life.

As we tread carefully, and thoughtfully this Memorial Day Weekend; recalling with reverence, the price paid by so many for the privilege of living as Free Men in the United States of America, it is worthy for us to recall the sage wisdom of our predecessors.....

" War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things.

The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse.

The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men, than himself."

John Stuart Mill
English Economist and Philosopher

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard