Monday, November 30, 2009

When you care enough to send the very best

President Obama,

Your job is to protect the United States.

And as Commander in Chief, your job is to send our military into conflicts with overwhelming force. That is THE advantage that the United States has.

We sent 10,000 troops to topple a Marxist regime in Grenada. A country with a population of 100,000.

We sent 28,000 troops plus 300 aircraft to topple Noriega in Panama. They had 47,000in their military.

We have no friggin' idea how many we are fighting in Afghanistan. The borders are pourous. The jihadists from around the world are many.

Since when do we have to announce how many and when they will arrive?

President Obama, please do not send not enough.

This issue could have been resolved nine years ago had we sent enough.

The recent Congressional report says, "We had bin Laden in our grasp."

The book, "Kill bin Laden", written by the head of Delta force in Tora Bora describes in great detail how we could have cut the head off the snake. But without explanation, after much bravery and skillful fighting, we allowed the sumbitch to walk into Pakistan.

President Obama, you have said you intend to finish the mission.

So, finish it. Do not be cowed by politics.

Lead from the front.

These bastards want to kill you, your family and everything you stand for. And they have proven that they will go to the ends of the earth to do that.

Stand up, President Obama.

The world needs to see it. Radical Islam needs to see it. The United States needs to see it.

Say what you must tomorrow night. But for God's sake, do the right thing.

Don't send our men and women on an unfinished errand.

End it. Stomp it out.

That's the kind of change we voted for.

The Really Scary News

Lots of headlines in the past few days. All worthy of much discussion.

"We had bin Laden in our grasp."

"Iran plans 10 nuclear sites."

"Swiss vote to ban minarets."

"President Obama to present Afghanistan plan Tuesday night."

But if you missed this one, buckle up.

"Iranian Revolutionary Guards take control of Iran's Navy."

This message means the most violent of the violent Iranian society now have control of the Navy. And there is only one target. The Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran is giving the world the middle finger and saying, "Try and stop us. Because we can and will stop the flow of oil from the middle East."

Check, Mr. President and U.N.

What's your next move gonna be?

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm still shakin' it, boss, I'm still shakin' it

"Small town...not much to do in the evenin'"

"I hope you ain't going to be a hard case."

"When a man's mother dies and, uh, he gets to thinking about her funeral and paying respects. Before he knows it, his mind ain't right."

"Nothin'. A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head."

"Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand."

"What we have is a failure to communicate."

"I can eat fifty eggs."

"Nobody can eat fifty eggs."

"They're just little ole bird eggs... Fish eggs practically!"

"Alright, stand back you pedestrians, this ain't no automobile accident."

"That's it. That's the end of it."

"Why you got to go and say fifty eggs for? Why not thirty-five or thirty-nine?"

"I thought it was a nice round number."

"It's like a ripe melon what's gettin' ready to bust."

"You're gonna hafta kill me..."

"I'll radio the local hospital and let them know you're bringing him in."

The Devil's eggs they were.

...and all that was before the turkey leg, dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and macaroni and cheese.

I lapsed into a coma before pie.

"You make a bad enough mistake, and then you gotta deal with the Man. And he is one rough old boy."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Miracle Cat

Bob the cat was our soldier to protect us from mice, snakes, etc. for at least 7 years.

Bob disappeared this past summer.

As She who will be reckoned with explains, he was either eaten by a wild thing, or he has a new happy life with a new cat.

That explanation gives me peace.

About a month ago, She and I were at Petsmart in Manhattan Beach. An adoption agency had a bunch of cats there for the taking.

There was a big orange cat that looked so much like Bob it was amazing.

The only difference was he had a bit of white tipping under his nose and on his front paws.

He was Bob's angel.

So I brought him back to Texas.

I let him out of his travel satchel over a month ago.

We haven't seen him since.

When your daughter adopts an animal, you know that losing it is not an option.

Over the past month, we did everything we knew to do to flush him out. Nothing worked. He had vanished.

We had a sense that he was still here. But, we also had a sense that he might have met a hungry coyote.

This has been like chasing a ghost. Every now and then, we would think we had seen an orange tail. Not a whole cat. Just the tail.

Today, my son-in-law called me and said he had seen the cat. Not a tail. Not a ghost. The cat.

So this evening, me and Peanut and Sadie and Zac and the two grandsons went into the garage.

As one wise catwoman advised, we used tuna as the bait.

And sure enough, he emerged.

Whole. Healthy. Purring.

He has been hiding in a pallet of boxes that are to be used for the Unsung Hero Fund.

Bobby Angel is alive.

Thank you, catwoman.

Thank you, Lord. I didn't kill the cat.

Thank you Bob the original.

Thank you Bobby Angel for emerging.

We are going to have a long, full life together.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mr. Purple

The only two words that rival "Snow Day" for a kid in school are "substitue teacher".

You know the substitute really can't teach, so it's basically one great long play day.

In fifth grade, we got the word that a substitute would be coming in.

Bobby Spurlin and I hatched an excellent plan.

We switched identities.

Bobby and I were great friends, but very different. He had a well earned reputation for hijinks. And academics were not his focal point. He majored in fun at Mount Olive Elementary.

It started when she called roll. Oh what fun to see Bobby raise his hand and say "here" when my name was read. What more fun to do it myself when his name was read.

It was on.

Bobby and I were in different reading groups.

His group was called together first, so I went in and pretended to stumble around trying to read the Hardy Boys book. She took pity on poor Bobby and tried to help me say the big words.

It was all going so well. Bobby attended my reading group. Then the principal walked in to see how things were going.

Bobby and I had some 'splaining to do. And it didn't work.

I really hated writing those notes to mom and dad and getting them to sign them.

I think Spurlin got his older brother to sign his.

She who will be reckoned with had a substitute teacher this week.

"The meanest substitute teacher, ever. He ruined my world."

And I think I know why.

His name is Mr. Turple.

Oh, Lordy. Why didn't he change his name long ago.

How would you like to go thru life as "Mr. Turple"?

Apparently, he doesn't either.

After he wrote his name on the board, a couple of the boys quickly touched his third rail and called him "Mr. Purple".

So far as I know, no notes to mom and dad had to be written.

But had I received one, I would have signed it "Mr. Burps."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Prediction

Iran will become one of our most important trading partners in the next few years.

We will "normalize" relations.

The U.S. has spent its wad on Iraq and Afganistan.

In the meantime, we have allowed the influence of Iran to spread across the Middle East.

The Shia have proven to be more capable and willing to fight than the Sunni.

Iran will take control of Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and every other place that has oil. Eventually including Saudi Arabia.

There was a time when the Soviet Union was the great threat. We now build McDonald's there.

There was a time that China was the great threat. They now own more of our Treasury bonds than any other country.

There was a time when we could have controlled or eliminated the fascist theocracy in Iran.

No more.

All we want is the oil.

If Iran is going to get it, and we can't stop it, we are going to become bosom buddies.

The arbitrary country borders of the Middle East drawn up in the past 60 years will go away. Don't bother studying the geography.

The U.S. will allow Iran to have its way, in exchange for oil and a form of peace.

The net result is until the U.S. stops its dependency on cheap oil, Iran will control the U.S., and Israel will quake in its boots for years to come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Waiting on Brother

Asha Murthy MacDonald is an artist.

Much of her life has been spent in Montana.

She has been inspired by God's natural art of land and sky.

A few years ago, she painted a landscape. If you study it closely, you will see subtly a yellow ribbon tied around one of the trees.

When Pete was first deployed to Iraq, we were living in the San Francisco area.

A great friend found her painting in a gallery, bought it, and gave it to us as part of their commitment to remembering Pete and his service.

That painting has had a special place in our home ever since. Especially since November 14, 2007.

In April of this year, American Airlines invited us to help fill a 767 bound for Iraq. Thru the Unsung Hero Fund, we were allowed to put two and a half tons of soldier care packages, soccer balls for Iraqi kids and school supplies on the plane.

I begged my way onto that plane and that trip. And got permission for my youngest son Zac to go as well.

We had no idea who else was on that trip.

We soon learned that Tony Orlando and his band were the key human element as they were going with us to entertain the men and women in the Middle East.

The yellow ribbon has quite a history, but it became really famous as a result of Tony Orlando and Dawn and their recording of, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" in the 1970's.

The yellow ribbon became a symbol for families and friends waiting for the return of members of the military away at war.

Tony learned Zac's and my story, and he made it a point to become very close friends. He is such a patriot. Such a giver. Such a supporter of our military.

When we got home from the trip, I tracked down Asha.

I learned that we had the original painting, and that no prints had been made.

I asked if she could make two.

Asha did some research and found that she did have a digital copy.

She made two prints, added some personal color and her signature and sent them to me.

I sent one to Tony in May to thank him for his selfless service to the military.

Surprisingly, I didn't hear back from him. I thought that was odd.

The second print was made to give to the employees of American Airlines for their selfless giving to our military.

I intended to present it to Gerard Arpey, the Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, at some future date.

A few weeks ago, American Airlines sponsored an event called Skyball. It is a huge fundraiser with the proceeds going to support an event called Snowball Express.

Snowball Express is a free weekend of fun for the families of fallen soldiers. American flies the families from around the country to some fun place so that spouses and kids can enjoy a great time and meet each other just prior to Christmas.

I took the print for Mr. Arpey with me to Skyball.

As I walked in, the first person I saw was Tony Orlando.

We hugged.

He asked what I had under my arm.

Sheepishly, I showed him and said, "Tony, have you ever seen this painting?"

He began to weep.

"Alan, this painting showed up a few months ago. It hangs on a wall in my home. I did not know where it came from. I told my wife today that I hoped I might learn who sent it while on this trip. God is so good."

A few minutes later, I had the opportunity to present the painting to Mr. Arpey with Tony at our side.

What a gracious man. What a good man. What a servant. What a leader.

Mr. Arpey was taken aback.

"Thank you, Mr. Burks. Thank your son for his service, and your family for allowing him to serve. I want you to know this will have a special place in my office. And I want you to know I will pray for your family tonight."

The circle was complete.


I needed to tell Asha the story.

I emailed her, but the email was bounced back.

I called the number I had for her, but it was disconnected.

I Googled her and found a connection in Montana. He gave me her new email.

Asha is a new mom. She, her husband and their baby just relocated to Ohio.

I received this email from her today.

Asha to me
show details 3:23 PM (7 hours ago)


Your email made my day and I am so glad that you were able to track me down.

My husband accepted a new job in Ohio this past August, shortly after our daughter was born so we had been in the process of relocating and have finally settled. Since arriving here, I had been feeling less than inspired to paint having to leave our friends, family and beloved home that was Montana. And so my easel had been sitting dormant in our garage for over a month.

Until I got your email today - I am honored to know that my art is so greatly appreciated by those who have done so much for others - yourself included. That in itself is inspiring, so I know you have thanked me for helping you make this all happen, but really, I thank you.

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Best, Asha

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

That's what she said . . .

Of all of the straight lines ever said, not knowing they were to about to be preceded by "That's what she said", I heard these marvelous words today.

If it never gets topped, that's ok. I'm glad I lived long enough to hear this one.

Innocent, well meaning, but oh so perfect.

The Hertz bus driver pulled into Terminal 4 at LAX. He then announced.

"In my front is regular American. In my rear is first class American."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Requiem for the masses

In 1967, the band called "The Association" was a top 40 hitmaker.

Their top song of all time was "Never My Love".

The "B" side of that single was a protest song about the war in Vietnam.

Momma momma forget your pies
Have faith they won't get cold
And turn your eyes to the bloodshot sky
Your flag is flying full at half-mast
For the matadors who turned their backs to please the crowd
And all fell before the bull

Red was the color of his blood flowing thin
Pallid white was the color of his lifeless skin
Blue was the color of the morning sky
from the ground where he died
It was the last thing that was seen by him

Kyrie Eliason

Momma momma forget your pies
Have faith they won't get cold
And turn your eyes to the bloodshot sky
Your flag is flying full at half-mast
For the matadors who turned their backs to please the crowd
And all fell before the bull

Black and white were the figures that recorded him
Black and white was the newsprint he was mentioned in
Black and white was the question that so bothered him
He never asked he was taught not to ask
But was on his lips as they buried him

Tremendae Majestas

Requiem adernaum Requiem adernaum

Two years ago

Pete and his men had finished an overnight security post in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad.

They had dealt with the night. They had kicked in the doors that needed to be.

They were rolling home.

The trouble seemed to be behind them.

They didn't know that they were rolling into a death trap.

There was a huge Iranian array of EFMP's waiting for them.

Outside of the Iraqi police station that guarded the entrance to the Green Zone.


And Pete was gone.

And Gage was blinded.

And Boekel will be full of copper to be pulled out later.

And the rest will be left to deal with the death and destruction in their truck.

The bastards that pulled the trigger didn't care.

All they wanted was payback.

They got it.

Oh, they got it.

Oh, you who pulled that trigger.

Oh, you who planted that bomb.

Oh, you Iraqi policemen that allowed it to happen.

You will get yours.

If you haven't already.

You will get what is yours.

A man is dead.

A man is blinded.

For what, you idiots?

Are you living better now?

I am thankful that I have a forgiving God. Unlike your wrongheaded Koran, we don't believe in killing infidels. We pray for them.

Otherwise, I would be on you like white on rice.

There is world war coming.

Let me tell you that you who choose Alluha Akbar are on the losing side.

See you soon.

The last communication

Two days before he was killed, Pete called me.

I was working in San Francisco.

"Hey, bud, how is downtown Baghdad?"

"It's really pretty safe, Dad. We've calmed things down alot."

Little did any of us realize the plot that was underway.

Whoever had received the cache of Iranian weapons and buried them in the soccer stadium was not happy to have seem them discovered and blown up the week before.

Someone was watching when 2nd Stryker Cavalry soldiers found the weapons. Someone was watching when the weapons were destroyed.

I don't know who it was. Due to security issues, I don't know if the military knows who it was. They can't tell me.

The best indications are that it was a Shiite militia. Most likely, the Mahdi Army controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr.

al-Sadr is a famous and respected name amongst Shiites in Iraq. They family also has close ties to Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr has taken exile in Iran several times since the war started.

Whoever it was wanted to payback 2nd Stryker Cavalry. Wanted to send a message not to mess with their stuff.

So as Pete and I talked, some bastards were planning to kill someone. They didn't know who. They just intended to send a message that they didn't appreciate their goodies being taken away.

Later in the day, I received my last email.

While Pete's death was being plotted, he was plotting asking Missy to marry him.

I had found a ring per his specs, gotten his approval, and bought it for him.

He wanted me to know he had a plan to pay me back.

Pete Burks Mon, Nov 13, 2007 at 8:18 AM
To: Alan Burks
sounds good. by the way, i sent all the checks that i will need to pay you back for the ring. have you gotten those yet? it ended up being 25 checks worth $216 each. please let me know when you get them.

thanks, and i love you,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From sea to shining sea

I know I'm not normal.

Stop it.

I mean, that I'm oversensitized to things military.

Is it just me, or is this Veterans Day different?

It seems more people actually are talking about the day. Honoring veterans. Being sincere about supporting the military, regardless of their feelings about these wars.

From left wing to right, from old to young, from gay to straight, from black to brown to yellow to red to white, from sixth generation families to newly sworn citizens, I've observed more outpouring of support this year than ever.

Patriotism is cool again.

Loving our country is politically correct again.

Honoring those that fight our fights for us is back in popular culture. You can see it on television and in the movies. You can hear it on the radio.

I attended the parade today in Dallas.

I just stood by myself and watched the people.

From 10 year old junior cadets to teenagers in high school bands to veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. Korean and Vietnamese soldiers that fought with us in those wars. American Indian veterans. Black veterans. Hispanic veterans. Jewish veterans. Cavalry on horseback. Marines in Humvees. Veterans on Harley's.

All waving, cheering, showing love for the military veterans of our country.

In Manhattan Beach, California there stands a piece of the metal skeleton from the World Trade Center. A somber reminder of love of country and fellow countrymen in a town known for fun and excess.

This morning, my 8 year old daughter and her Brownie troop led a ceremony of remembrance there. She volunteered to make the following speech:

Thank you all for coming to the ceremony today. We all appreciate it.

Veteran’s Day is very important to my family. My grandpa served in World War 2 in the Navy.

And a friend of mine, named OD was a Green Beret and served in the
Vietnam War. He is a great friend.

I also know a girl veteran. Her name is Sergeant Emily.

It also happens to be, my brother Peter was a Veteran too, but he died in Irak.

November 14, 2007 was very sad for everybody in my family.

My brother died just three days after Veteran’s Day two years ago.

My brother was crying, I was praying and my mother was taking care of my
brother Zac.

I lived in Texas and my dad was out here in California.

Two people came to my house who served with Peter.

I was still in my room praying and talking to my brother Peter and still do.

What I’ve learned is veterans are very important to our country because they help
us be safe and they help others around the world.

Peter and his troop used to hand out school supplies, clothing, and even soccer
balls to the kids in Irak.

Sergeant Emily helped soldiers who came into the
hospital wounded, like my brother Peter.

Veterans are people just like us, who miss home when they’re away and need some comfort.

Two years ago on Veteran’s Day, Peter asked his men what kinds of
things they would like from home and they asked for Oreos, Xbox games, Hot
Cheetos, Popcorn, Baby Wipes, pretzels, poptarts, and lollipops.

They just wanted some of the things we have all the time.

Imagine living without Oreos and Hot Cheetos!!!

We should remember the veterans that served our country and that are still serving,
not just today but every day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The next to last email

As he suggested, I stayed at Hotel Angerer last November when the Regiment came home to Vilseck.

Little did we know what the circumstances would be.

I miss you, son.


Pete Burks to me
show details 11/6/07

hey dad,

here is the e-mail that i promised to send you earlier today:

oakley boot size: 10.5 Regular. you can purchase them either through the oakley website, or you can buy them at

also, the hotel you should try to stay in if you guys come to vilseck is the hotel angerer. it's not far from the front gate, and it's probably the biggest hotel in town.

i love you so much dad, and thanks for all that you do. YOU ARE THE BEST!



Seven tons of love

Two years ago, Pete was alive and leading and inspiring his men.

He was a net giver.

This is the email that started what eventually became the Burks Country Store. This is the list that to date has created more than seven tons of care packages for our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is the list that we will continue to honor and support.

Our Hero

Pete and Missy
Sun, Nov 11, 2007 at 8:33 PM
To: Melissa Haddad , Pete Burks

Hi there!

Hope that everyone is doing great and getting excited for the Holidays.

I wanted to let you know that Pete is doing very well in Iraq. He is leading a group of guys over there, and they continue to complete their missions successfully and safely. I can't tell you how proud I am of him - he is not only a determined soldier, but also an outstanding role model for his men. He was able to send a couple of pictures recently, and I wanted to share the attached one with you guys. Doesn't he look wonderful? :)

On another note, Pete is definitely the most popular soldier during mail call, thanks to all of you. He LOVES all of the wonderful letters and packages from home. Thank you all so much for taking the time to write to him - it really keeps his spirits up. Many of you have asked for some suggestions on what to send in care packages, so Pete and the guys got together today and compiled the below list of what they're craving from home. Please don't feel obligated to send anything - just wanted to send some ideas along in case:

double stuffed oreos / double stuff chocolate oreos
chocolate chip cookies
snack packs
blue gatorade powder
microwavable popcorn
beef jerky
poptarts with frosting
honey buns
hot cheetos / hot fries
fudge cookies
xbox 360 controllers
good shaving cream (Aveeno, etc.) / after shave cream
tooth brushes
baby wipes
UNO cards / deck of playing cards
magazines to read (Sports Illustrated, ESPN, National Geographic, etc.)
hand sanitizer (big need)

Thanks again for everything, and happy Veterans' Day!

Much love,
Missy (and Pete)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Boots on the ground: A reporters view

Apprehensive? Oh yes

Nov-12-2007 » Filed Under: 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment

A reporter with the Guardian Unlimited is currently embedded with the 2nd SCR.
David Smith, Guardian Unlimited

The steel hatch swung up behind me like a drawbridge and snapped shut. My fate was sealed. I was sitting inside an armoured, eight-wheel Stryker vehicle and would spend the next 10 hours patrolling 'al-Qaida's last stronghold in Baghdad'.

Apprehensive? Oh yes.

Fortunately the Stryker is probably the best there is and, I was told, able to withstand roadside bombs, the improvised explosive devices that have taken such a terrible toll on US forces. I tried not to think about the even more lethal explosively formed projectiles, which fire a slug of molten metal capable of penetrating the thickest armour.

With body armour, helmet, notebook and camera, I was sitting towards the rear of the Stryker with my back to the driver, in the middle of four soldiers who spent much of the journey standing at turrets with assault rifles. To my left and right were TV screens, clusters of wires and control panels, a fire extinguisher, an industrial strength laptop and, I noted, a box of sweets and an iPod. A thin film of sand clung to everything.

If I turned and looked over my shoulder in the half-light, I could see another bank of screens. One seemed fixed on a patriotic image of an US bald eagle spreading its wings paternally over heroic troops and vehicles. On another was a satellite photograph of Baghdad with blue icons representing important locations. Most fascinating was a laptop showing a live, roving aerial view beamed to us by a remote-controlled drone known as a Raven.

Occasionally, after shivering and distorting for a moment, it would fix a suspicious vehicle in its crosshairs.

All in all, amid the beeps and voices crackling over the radio, it was like being inside a windowless submarine or space capsule, with a similar sense of venturing into the unknown as we passed beyond the perimeter fence which makes the vast US military base Camp Striker something of a safe haven.

On yet another screen I could follow our progress via an external camera. It showed a series of streetlights and palm trees flowing against the sky, and sometimes caught the sun as a bright, beautiful circle. Finally, after a bumpy ride, it showed buses, cars, billboards, bridges, mosque domes, telegraph poles, and rubbish-strewn streets. We were in town.

The confidence of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment platoon was infectious. If you had to trust your life to anyone, these professional men with their hi-tech weapons would be high on the list. Yes, they said, they still feel fear, but with routine they learn to control it: fear breeds alertness, and is better that than getting cocky or casual.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Primer on the Enemy

The photo above is a cache of arms caught by our forces in Iraq this week.

They are sophisticated, freshly made weapons made in Iran.

Iran has been shipping these weapons into Iraq since Saddam Hussein left power because of our invasion.

IED is an abbreviation for Improvised Explosive Device.

When we first went into Iraq, we encountered IED's.

These were homemade bombs. Gunpowder and nuts and bolts. It's what you and I would do with shotgun shells and our workshops.

What is in the picture above are sophisticated Iranian made weapons. They were intercepted this past week on the border between Iran and Iraq.

This is exactly the kind of weapon cache Pete's brothers found in the soccer stadium on 11/05/2007.

When the surge of American troops was sent into Iraq in 2007, we ran into Iranian weapnory. IED's were an issue, but we had learned how to deal with it.

We had not learned that the enemy was ahead of us. Nor did we know that the enemy was Iran.

If you look at the photo, you will see to the right of the photo a line of conical shapes. They are pure-copper shaped charges.

That cone is designed to be powered by world class explosives. Not gunpowder in a coffee can. You can see the C-4 explosives in the photo. The rings.

The C-4 powers the copper explosive cone to penetrate every type of armour known to man.

The power of the explosive turns the copper cone into white hot liquid.

Thus, they are known as Explosivly Formed Penetrators. EFPs.

Screw IEDs. EFPs are the issue.

That is the type of bomb that killed Pete.

A piece of Iranian made copper entered his temple and penetrated his brain as his platoon was outside an Iraqi police station guarding the entrance to the Green Zone.

It blinded Gage in one eye. Pieces of Iranian copper are still being picked out of the men in Pete's vehicle two years later.

These weapons have killed and wounded many in Iraq.

And now, these weapons are killing and wounding our men in Afghanistan. Because Iran is now shipping their weaponry to the new front.

IED is a term as old fashioined as musket balls.

EFPs have been killing our folks in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last six years.

And they will continue to kill our men and women until we find better armour, or, we change the strategy of the fight.

The Set Up

Pete Burks to me
show details 11/8/07

yep, that's us. my platoon wasn't the one that found that stuff, but i did hear about it over the radio, and i felt the shockwaves from the controlled detonation that the used to destroy it. fun stuff!

Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2007 17:25:14 -0800
Subject: is this your group?

Pale Horse Troop Finds Two Caches

Nov- 7-2007 » Filed Under: 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment

Story by Spc. Alexis Harrison

BAGHDAD – Soldiers from Troop P, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, currently attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, found two caches of weapons and explosives while on patrol in the Ramaniyah neighborhood, Nov. 5.

Buried under the bleachers of a soccer stadium in two locations, the Soldiers found 45 blocks of C-4 explosives, 33 mortars, almost 2000 rounds of ammunition, a rocket-propelled grenade and launcher, 2 Dragunov-style sniper rifles, 2 protective vests and a grenade.

Capt. Marcus Melton, commander of 'Pale Horse' Troop of the Vilseck, Germany-based 4-2 SCR, said the cache find was quite uncommon for the area he and his men patrol on a regular basis.

"We've found random weapons during cordon and knocks, but never a bulk cache like this before," he said. "The area is checked often, and we're still trying to figure out how they got [the weapons and explosives] in there."

The soccer stadium was checked just a few weeks ago, thus implying that the cache had been recently placed according to what Melton could tell from the last time his troops were there.

"This will definitely have an impact on whoever's operation this was," Melton said. "Someone isn't very happy with us right now; that's for sure."

Sgt. Chris Meyering from Rochester, N.Y, Spc. Danny Lee from Brooklyn and Staff Sgt. Elliott Davis from Lakewood, Wash., found the first cache buried under the bleachers after tamping the ground with a shovel. Meyering heard it hit something hollow-sounding and began to dig immediately.

"As soon as the shovel hit, I knew what it was," he said. "I was pretty happy knowing that weapons were getting taken off the street."

The first cache was the smaller of the two and was buried in a wooden box. After it was found, the troops began searching the stadium more thoroughly and came upon the second cache, which was slightly larger and buried in what looked like a chest freezer.

Melton said much of the mortar rounds and explosives found were in brand-new condition; still wrapped and in original containers with date stamps as recent as earlier this year.

Meyering, a combat engineer during the Gulf War, said the amount of explosives found could've been used to make "vicious" improvised explosive devices, even more powerful than ones made out of mortar rounds.

Melton said he was very proud of his troops and especially the three Soldiers who found the cache and dug it up. Meyering, Davis and Lee are expected to receive medals commending them for finding the weapons and taking them out of the hands of would-be terrorists.

"Regardless, medals or not, this takes weapons off the streets, and that means more to me," Meyering said.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Herding Cats

Bob, the trusty ruler of the back yard, went to that great litter box in the sky a few months back.

In order to get over our grief, my youngest daughter and I have recently adopted two new cats.

She wanted the all black ball of fur. I wanted the orange and white guy cause he's the same color as our high school sports teams.

So we made the Deion decision. (When Jerry Jones asked Deion Sanders, "What's it going to take, $15 or $20 million?" Deion answered, "Bofe.")

There was then the small issue of transportation. See, we adopted from a center in Los Angeles. The cats had to get to Texas. And I was the mule.

The black cat was named Midnight by she who will be reckoned with. And he was the first to make the flight home.

Having never traveled with a carry-on pet before, I was stupid enough to call reservations and ask what the deal was. The deal was I got to pay $100 to make a reservation for the cat to sit under the seat in front of me.

Airports always cause anxiety. That's what I blame the next move on.

Going thru security, I put the cat carrier on the belt and thru the xray machine. With Midnight in the carrier.

Not the best idea. The alarms went off. The TSA shut down the line. "Who just put a cat thru the xray machine?"

Well, nobody told me not to. I asked how they would know if there was a stash of black tar heroin or C-4 explosive up Midnight's butt. They said I didn't need to worry about that. Just don't put any more cats thru their machines.

Midnight made it home safe and sound and now rules the garage.

This past Sunday, it was time for Bobby Angel to learn that American knows why we fly. I wisened up.

No call to reservations. (And you know what, nobody ever asked at the counter.)

Back to the security line.

I must admit that I've rolled my eyes more than a few times when grown men and women pull some doorstopper size canine out of a travel bag.

I just got paid back. A grown man pulling a cat out of a bag had folks giving me the, "Is he a pitcher or a catcher?" look.

Bobby Angel is a big boy. With very sharp claws. Who apparently doesn't care for the TSA.

He sank himself deep into me as we strolled thru the metal detector. Then as I was attempting to gather my belongings off the belt, he goes wheels off crazy. I literally caught him by the tail or we'd still be searching LAX for him.

Now, happily, Bobby Angel is safe and sound in the garage as well. At least we think so.

He's hidden himself behind boxes, the old basketball goal, three bicycles, four golf bags, two garden hoses and a rocking horse.

It seems Midnight has established territorial rights on the garage. So Bobby Angel is either going to have to man up, or come sleep with me.

The good news is I never have to search for Midnight. He meets me at the door with that, "What have you been doing cause you haven't been paying enough attention to me" look.

And since he now glows from the radioactivity, this is one black cat that can be found in the dark.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Fathers of Dead Sons

Politically correct wars cannot be won in today's world.

Our enemies hide behind civilians.

This isn't the first time.

The Japanese were the first.

The Viet Cong mastered it.

Now the chickenshit "fundamentalist Muslims" have taken it to a new level.

In the attempt to be the most partial to local situations in war, the United States has lost more men and women than any country in history.

Pete wrote me about the "Rules of Engagement".

If their group was fired upon by a sniper, they could shoot the sniper if he was behind his gun. But, if he ran, they couldn't shoot him. They had to chase him down and arrest him.


A sumbitch just shot one of your men, but now he's running down back alleys and you have to try to arrest him? You see him at 300 yards just before he jumps another wall, and you can't kill the MF?

Every branch of our military has a warriors creed. Here is the Army version.

I am an American Soldier.

I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American Soldier.

Not a policeman. Not the Peace Corps.

Today, a former Marine, spoke out about this nonsense. He lost his son in Afghanistan. Read, weep, and understand.

Families outraged over engagement restrictions
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Nov 3, 2009 20:31:39 EST
Enough is enough. Retired 1st Sgt. John Bernard has had it with the war in Afghanistan.

Enough of “shameful” and “suicidal” rules of engagement that leave U.S. troops vulnerable to ambushes. Enough of worrying more about harming Afghan civilians than American forces. Enough of politics.

Bernard was a scout sniper and platoon sergeant during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, so he’s familiar with the warrior’s creed. But as the father of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, he has reached his limit.

The younger Bernard was killed Aug. 14 by a rocket-propelled grenade, an attack that became a national story after The Associated Press distributed a photograph of Bernard’s son’s last living moments in Dahaneh, Afghanistan. The father wrote his representatives in Congress several times during the weeks leading up to Joshua’s death, each time expressing apprehension about the more-restrictive guidelines put in place by the new commander of U.S. forces there, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

It wasn’t until he was thrust into the spotlight by the AP photo and the controversy that surrounded it that anyone paid him any mind.

After that, things changed.

Bernard, of New Portland, Maine, was mentioned by name Sept. 15 during the Senate confirmation hearing of Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Mullen that she had received a letter from Bernard before his son’s death that “expressed serious concerns about the rules of engagement” in Afghanistan. Those rules were altered in July by McChrystal in response to mounting civilian casualties.

The new guidelines call on U.S. forces to limit the use of heavy fire power — close-air support and long-range artillery — when ordinary Afghans may be at risk. A week before Mullen’s hearing, three Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed in an ambush after commanders allegedly refused their requests for fire support for fear it would kill women and children.

“I’m going to send you the letter so that you can read it,” Collins told Mullen, according to a congressional transcript. “I promised Mr. Bernard at [his] son’s funeral that I would do so. And I hope you and General McChrystal will look seriously at the concerns he raises ... about the rules of engagement.”

It wasn’t much, but it was a start, Bernard says now.

A fiery, blunt speaker, Bernard is just one among a growing group of vocal family members whose children were killed in fighting overseas. They support the cause and the troops still in harm’s way, these family members say, but they also believe U.S. forces are handcuffed by rules and tactics and vulnerable as a result, leaving them with little help when such ambushes occur. Some also question whether the U.S. should have launched a counter-insurgency strategy so quickly, rather than employing search-and-destroy missions that proved successful in Afghanistan during the early part of the decade.

“The rules of engagement are so convoluted, so open-ended, that it puts the people on the ground at risk no matter what they do,” said Bernard, who retired from the Corps in 2003. “It’s insane. You don’t let your guys languish there when these things happen. You err on the side of your guys, not the civilians.”

These are not anti-war families. They want the military to succeed in Afghanistan. They’re deeply proud of their fallen sons’ sacrifices.

Army, Marine and Afghan National Army troops experienced the effect of McChrystal’s tighter rules directly Sept. 8, when their small outpost in Ganjgal, in Kunar province near the Pakistan border, was blindsided by insurgents.

Three Marines and a corpsman died that day, and a soldier, 41-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, who was shot through the mouth and neck, died Oct. 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. An embedded reporter with McClatchy News Service, Jonathan Landay, reported that “U.S. commanders, citing new rules to avoid civilian casualties, rejected repeated calls to unleash artillery rounds at attackers dug into the slopes and tree lines — despite being told repeatedly that they weren’t near the village.”

In retrospect, it should have been obvious an attack was imminent, family members believe. Two days before the ambush, the trainers came under RPG fire that killed an Afghan soldier and wounded Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Williamsville, N.Y., and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22, of Riverbank, Calif.

Both decided to stick to their mission, and they were quickly pressed back into action. The morning of the ambush, a group comprising 60 Afghan soldiers, 20 border police officers, and 13 Marine and Army trainers were tasked with searching the fortified village for weapons and meeting with the elders to discuss establishing police patrols, McClatchy reported.

The first shot rang out about 5:30 a.m., when the Marines and Afghan soldiers first reached the village. It took nearly two hours for helicopters to arrive and provide fire support, McClatchy reported.

By then, more than a dozen Afghan troops were dead, as were Kenefick, Layton, Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson Jr., 31, of Columbus, Ga., and 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, of Virginia Beach, Va.

Westbrook, out of Fort Riley, Kan., was gravely wounded, but his medical care was delayed because troops carrying him to a helicopter were forced to stop and take cover from insurgent fire several times, Landay reported. The journalist said a Marine lieutenant tossed him Westbrook’s M4 rifle in the heat of the battle, in case he needed it.

While the Pentagon has questioned the accuracy of Landay’s report, the families want answers. They’re angry at the leaders who had a hand in putting the policies in place, including President Barack Obama, McChrystal, Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Commandant Gen. James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser.

Susan Price, Kenefick’s mother, said she’s still reeling from her son’s death but has begun to question how the incident could have taken place.

“I’ve spoken to all the other parents, and we’re all interested in knowing why it took so long for the aid call to be filled,” she said. “My son died the way he would have wanted to die. I have no qualms about that. I just have questions about the aid call being rejected and why we were late. It can’t keep happening over and over again. It’s inexcusable.”

Brent Layton, whose son was shot and killed while providing medical attention to 1st Lt. Johnson, agreed.

“They’re out there with their handcuffs on; that’s the way I look at it,” he said. “I was in law enforcement, and it’s just like it is in the military: Your strength is in knowing that you have help coming if you need it. These boys asked for it repeatedly, and they didn’t get it.”

Brian Johnson, the lieutenant’s father, said he had strongly supported Barrack Obama’s run for the presidency, but now is disappointed not only by the adoption of the new rules of engagement, but also by his delay in making a decision on when and if additional troops will deploy to Afghanistan. A decision is expected sometime after an Afghan runoff election scheduled for Saturday; the leading opposition candidate withdrew from the race Sunday, though, and it is now unclear if the election will take place.

An initial round of voting Aug. 20 was characterized by low voter turnout, widespread fraud and intimidation tactics. First Lt. Johnson sent an e-mail to his twin brother Danny not long before he died, according to their father, expressing frustration that on election day his Marines were not allowed to open fire on possible insurgents unless they had “proof positive” the Afghans had ill intent.

“For [Obama] to say he needs to wait because he doesn’t know which government he’s going to be working with is complete bull— because we need a plan that can working regardless of which corrupt government goes in there,” Johnson’s dad said. “I think the president needs to act like a commander-in-chief instead of manager-in-chief and make up his damn mind. Putting this thing off like a management decision is not sitting well with me at all.”

The parents agree on another point, as well: They doubt they’ll ever receive full disclosure on what happened the day their sons died, or who made the decision to deny the requested support.

“We want the names,” Price said. “We want the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how.’ We all have the flag on our home. We all love the Marine Corps; we just want answers.”

Officials with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, headed by McChrystal, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Pentagon officials have said previously that there will be a full investigation of the incident.

Bernard, the former scout sniper and platoon sergeant, says he knows it wasn’t the new rules of engagement that directly contributed to his son’s death. Lance Cpl. Bernard, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was killed in the opening salvos of a battle in which extra fire support had not been requested.

However, the senior Bernard says there is more to it than that. The overall strategy U.S. forces are using in Afghanistan — especially working side-by-side with Afghan forces whose intentions aren’t clear — should be questioned, he said. The Afghan troops have not proven themselves, but rank-and-file troops have been ordered to rely on their help in battle, Bernard said.

An embedded journalist with the younger Bernard’s company reported after the battle that a young Afghan approached the Marines before the ambush, promising to show them where insurgents had fired on them previously. He begged the troops not to tell them how they knew, though, saying insurgents would kill him if they found out.

When the ambush began, the tipster could not be found, and the interpreter took cover, raising questions in Bernard’s mind about whether they led the Marines into a trap.

“Call me cynical if you want, but some rogue element led them there,” Bernard said. “The bottom line is both of those guys were gone. It’s just another indication of how this counter-insurgency strategy can’t work.”

In an Oct. 13 letter to Collins, Mullen addressed Bernard’s concerns by saying that “the new tactical directive did not change the ROE in Afghanistan, but rather provided more clarification and guidelines regarding the use of force.”

“We have refined our procedures in order to reduce civilian casualties, but at no time have the ROE been modified to place our troops at greater risk,” Mullen wrote. “Our troops still operate under a set of ROE that allows them to protect themselves against enemy actions in balance with protecting the Afghan populace.”

Bernard said the letter is “smoke and mirrors” and overlooks his consistent concern: A counter-insurgency strategy won’t work as long as Afghanistan is filled with warring tribes that have no empathy for the U.S. and its way of life. Counter-insurgency may have helped to pacify Iraq, he said, but the gains came mostly because the U.S. “inundated the country with troops” after a surge in the number of U.S. troops deployed there occurred in 2007.

“I already talked to Collins’ office and said, ‘Don’t let him spin this crap,’ ” Bernard said. “There’s no indication that Afghanistan has changed anywhere. Our mission should be very, very simple: Chase and kill the enemy.”

Collins’ office did not respond to several requests for follow-up comments.

Bernard said he is frustrated that Collins, one of his home state senators and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has handled his complaints as that of a single constituent, rather seeing him for what he is: representative of the hundreds of people he says have contacted him in recent weeks.

“You can’t turn this into one lone idiot in the backwoods of Maine mourning his son,” he said. “This is bigger than that.”

God bless the police in the United States. If it's this bad in war, I can only imagine their frustration in dealing with the killers here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Next Big Push

From The Army Times:

Pentagon announces Afghan deployments

Staff report
Posted : Friday Oct 23, 2009 6:52:54 EDT

The Defense Department announced Tuesday major units scheduled to deploy as part of upcoming rotations of forces operating in Afghanistan.

Specific units receiving deployment orders include:

• 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. (3,700 soldiers)

• 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany (4,000 soldiers)

• 2nd BCT, 34th Infantry Division, Iowa National Guard (3,500 soldiers)

The 1st BCT and 2nd SCR are slated for a spring/summer 2010 deployment and the 2nd BCT will begin deploying in fall 2010.

Pete was a member of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.

When they deploy, the Burks Country Store goes with them.

We are starting to gear up the Unsung Hero Fund to make a major shipment to Pete's guys in early 2010.

So far, we have shipped over 7 tons of soldier care packages into Iraq and Afghanistan. It's time to load 'em up with love again.

If you are unaware of the background, please click here to learn more:

Veteran's Day is next week. If you are a school teacher or a parent, this would be a great project for kids of any age. They can gather supplies for care packages, make cards, write letters. We will ship it all.

The two year anniversary of Pete's death is November 14. It would be a great honor to Pete to make a donation of supplies or money in his memory to take care of his men.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hannukah are coming up. A great opportunity to add a soldier to your list to give thanks to.

This is how we carry on Pete's legacy. His life. His love. His smile. And that laughter.