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May 28, 2005

Memorial Day 2005.

The Milblog world is full of great posts this weekend. When casting about for what I was going to do for Memorial Day, everywhere I looked, other people had already done it and generally better than I ever would. These two posts will stay up all weekend, anything new will be below - and the second post will have links to other bloggers stuff.

Since active operations continue, and my email box pings daily with several DoD Casualty notifications, I'm going to do what I did last year. Give you a glimpse into what happens behind those casualty notices.

With the permission of my old Army buddy Tony Cerri, and his daughter Sarah, who had to bury her essentially brand new husband, 2LT Leonard Cowherd.

*This* is what Memorial Day is about. Especially as long as my email inbox pings with casualty notifications. Remember - this was written last year.

This is my Memorial Day post. It's the only post up - until the final chapter comes in. It's long. Just the story of 2lt Leonard Cowherd, Sarah Cerri Cowherd, and the Cowherd and Cerri families, as seen through the eyes of my Scorpion brother-in-arms, Tony Cerri. This is a great country. And this is just one proof. This is the price of freedom, hope, and the fight for the future. As has been asked before - where do we find such men? Answer: look around you - they are everywhere. You just don't notice them. It is not my intent to exalt 2lt Cowherd above other casualties of this or any war. Just to tell the story.

Do not stand by my grave and weep ...
I am not there;
I do not sleep.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds circling in flight.
Do not stand by my grave and cry ...
I am not there.
I did not die.
-- Royster

I am the great-grandson of a soldier of the Civil War.
I am the grandson of a soldier of the Great War.
I am the son of a soldier of Korea, and Vietnam.
I was a "Brat".
I was a soldier.
I am still a soldier, albeit in the Retired Reserve.

In a different life, now seemingly long ago and far away, I answered a ringing doorbell. I opened the door, and there stood the Western Union man. I was 12. I knew this was Not Good. Mom came up. She saw the Western Union man. She froze. The Western Union man looked miserable. I took the offered envelope. Opened it. Mom was a statue, frozen in her own private hell. The Western Union man was fidgety, and downcast.

I opened the envelope. Read it out loud.

"The Secretary of the Army regrets to inform you that your servicemember, LTC Timothy H. Donovan was wounded in combat in the Republic of Vietnam.

He was shot while flying in a helicopter. The a/c did not crash or burn."

That's it. Dad was wounded, not dead. Mom could breathe again. The Western Union guy was all smiles.

All smiles. And that didn't strike any of us as a Bad Thing. Because we were giddy, too.

Well, over 800 times [now 1600. ed] since the crossing of the LD for OIF, teams of officers have made visits like that one.

Only there were no giddy smiles of relief.

Just recently, they made one of those visits to the home of one of my Army buddies, whose daughter's husband had just been killed in Iraq.

Since the Founding of the Republic, some form of this process has played out 2,621,552 times, give or take.

America's Wars Total (Less conflicts after Gulf War 1)
Military service during war 42,348,460
Battle deaths 651,008
Other deaths in service (theater) 13,998
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 525,256
Nonmortal woundings 1,431,290

Joseph Stalin observed: "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."

Those are the statistics. Read now the story of one man, and his family and friends - and the impact of the death of one man, a soldier, Leonard Cowherd, Second Lieutenant, Armor, United States Army.

This is the story of a military family dealing with the death of a soldier. This is the story of bravery, fortitude, family, love. It is a story that plays out across all the services. It's real, it's true. It happened. And will happen again, as long as warriors have to man the ramparts against the darkness.

I have fought a good fight
I have finished my course
I have kept the faith.
-- 2 Timothy 4:7
We will carry the torch for you, Leonard.

It's a long post - this makes for good background music: Barber's Adagio (right click, open in a new window)

So, let it begin (and yes, I have the family's permission to share this with you):

Friends---below are a series of emails,edited only to delete all the headings, from my good friend LTC(R) Tony Cerri...His son in law 2LT Leonard Cowherd was killed last week in Iraq. Leonard's death puts a face on the growing list of young men killed in Iraq. I think you will find these emails will touch your hearts....


The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

2nd Lt. Leonard M. Cowherd, 22, of Culpeper, Va., died May 16 in Karbala, Iraq, when he received sniper and rocket propelled grenade fire while securing a building near the Mukhayam Mosque. Cowherd was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.

1st Platoon, C 1/37 Armor. 2LT Cowherd stands in front of the tank on the right.

My son-in-law, 2LT Cowherd, was killed this morning in Iraq. He is the armor soldier currently being referred to in the news. Platoon Leader. USMA class of '03.

My daughter has been staying with us since Leonard deployed. I was with her when the car pulled in the driveway and she was notified by the team from Ft Eustis tonight. Surreal is not the word.

You can imagine that this is a numbing time for us.

We expect an onslaught of details and issues tomorrow. I will be at home until such time as we are settled.

I know you'll ask, "Is there anything I can do?" I appreciate and I will not hesitate to call should something arise.
Sorry it has been so long since I've sent an update. Things have been busy. I also apologize that what will follow has the shape and sound of an FAQ and that's not the intent. However, I want to tell you what's going on and where we are and answer your questions; that just leads me to a particular kind of format. It's late and it's been a long day I apologize for grammar errors.

First - how are we?
We are as fine as can be expected. I realize that sounds trite and rote.
However, it is heartfelt and rings true while living it. I have come to understand that we are on a journey of stages and phases and, all things considered, we are doing fine. We have gone through the initial moments of absolute shock, horror, disbelief, rage, and soul emptying sorrow. I classify the next large chunk of time as numbness.

Finally, and currently, we are in emotional, and sometimes physical, exhaustion. And all are exactly right. The initial notification and emotions are something I wish on no one. The numbness and exhaustion are welcome.

They allow us to get on with things and deal with the realities.

We are making decisions. There has been some degree of normalness return. There has even been some laughter and lightness in the house. We are fine.

How is Sarah?
My daughter is strong and has proven to be a warrior's wife but I ache for her. No one should be a war-widow at 23. While Beth and I experience ups and downs, she is more so. If we are at a 7, she is at an 8. If we are at a 3, she is at a 2. She comforts others as she is being comforted.

Although she's a brat, she did her serious growing up years right here. She has a large circle of friends and family that have reached out to her. Further, and to digress a moment, she attended the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership and Leonard attended the United States Military Academy. Both institutions forge strong relationships amongst their graduates. Both nstitution's graduates have a respect and place in their hearts for their owns spouse. Sarah has had her hand held by people literally around the world; generals, lieutenants, civilians, male, female, serving, retired, her friends, Leonard's friends, their friends. She obviously grieves. She is proud of what her husband was doing and believed in. She wishes he had done something else. She understands he wouldn't have been Leonard if he had. Further, she has a special friend - Leonard's identical twin brother Charles. You've read and heard about twins. If my experience is normal, everything you've ever heard about twins is right.

Sarah, Leonard, and Charles were always the three musketeers. We kidded Sarah that she was actually getting two husbands. And she reveled in it. Charles is not and has never been Leonard for Sarah - he is Leonard's other half as Sarah was Leonard's other half for Charles. They are both missing something significant...and together they form a whole of sorts.

Charles is spending time with us and I couldn't ask for anything better for the two of them. Sarah is fine.

How is Leonard's family?
About the same as we...but no one should ever have to bury a child. Do NOT take that wrong. They are incredibly proud of their son and everything he believed in and stood for. We spent last night together after they drove down from Culpepper.

We celebrated Leonard's life.

There were no second guessings, misgivings, or hesitation. They miss their son and grieve for him and are going through the same stages as the Cerri's but are strong in their faith and the certainty that Leonard was doing what was important to him. They are comforted by the principles of a small town and a close knit family. Their 3 other children and an extended family are around them and providing both solace and support. I suspect they'd have no problem reading that I say they are as fine as can be expected.

Is there anything you can do?

Sarah, Charles and I have discussed this. We need nothing. We appreciate everything. However, if you want to 'do' something we have two requests. First - somewhere in your 6-degree circle of friends and family find a deployed soldier, sailor, airman, or marine. Talk to them. Send them an e-mail, a letter, or package. Tell them you're there. Tell them you care.

It doesn't have to be Iraq or Afghanistan.

We have folks around the world that are doing our business. Just reach out to one of them. One of Leonard's biggest concerns was the soldiers in his platoon who received no mail or support from folks outside the company. Our warriors shouldn't have this problem. Second - stand a little stiller, stand a little straighter the next time you hear the National Anthem. There are generations of warriors that have made that possible.

What happened?

Leonard caught a sniper's round in the chest. He did not suffer. As far as we know at this time, his platoon and company had been engaged in relatively heavy combat all day long in Karbala. Leonard died at around 1720 Iraq time on Sunday. We do not know if he was off his tank or if it happened while he was mounted. During the same period two other soldiers were wounded although they do not appear to have been with Leonard's platoon. Again, as far as we've been able to determine, the unit returned fire and carried the field. Some reports indicate they killed the sniper.

When will his body be returned?
We were notified that his remains were due to arrive in Dover today. It will take some 24 to 36 hours for the Army to finishing positive identification and other details at which time the remains will be released.

What are the plans?
At this point we are planning on a civilian ceremony in Culpepper, VA on Saturday with eventual internment at Arlington. The Culpepper ceremony will be in Saint Stephens Episcopal Church at 1400. Please note - this is a small church in a Middle America with ~100 seats. This is where Leonard grew up and he is a hometown hero. PLEASE feel welcome if you would like to attend but be prepared to stand outside, or in an aisle, or in a tent. The Arlington ceremony is yet to be nailed down. I will notify all when details are known.

What about flowers and such?
Sarah and Charles are still discussing this and are narrowing the field. Flowers already fill our house (and our thanks). They are discussing everything from donations to the USO (if you've ever deployed - you understand. Leonard constantly talked about how well the USO took care of him.), to establishing a history award at Leonard's high school (history was his thing, he was good at it, he believed in it), to establishing a scholarship to attend summer camp (Leonard was a camp counselor for many years and strongly believed that every child should be able to attend). Give them some time and they will sort it out.

How has the Army treated Sarah?
Wonderful. Dignified. Caring. You may know that I am retired Army. I always believed that the Army took care of its own. I now know it is true. We are in Yorktown but the unit is in Germany. Regardless, the Army has wrapped its arms around Sarah as only the military can do. The notification occurred as you've seen it in the movies or read about it.

The car pulled up in the drive way and two officers came down the walk. They were professional and Sarah-oriented. They had a horrible message but delivered it in a manner worthy of emulation and admiration. Those poor guys. The causality assistance officer is equally squared away and Sarah-oriented. He will be with her till all the details are finished. He's done his homework and has thus far been able to answer everything we've asked up to the point it is known. Again, the poor soul. He has drawn one of the most awful details any soldier could ever dream of. He has deported himself well and I couldn't ask for better. The Army will carry many, if not most, of the funeral and interment expenses. Sarah will continue to receive full military benefits. Some of the next details might raise an eyebrow or two but they are available on many web sites and I share them so you may understand. She was given a check today for $12K. This benefit is not a quantification of the value of a soldiers life. It is the Army's way of providing immediate help to a spouse. Sarah is young and living with us. However, if she was a Private's wife, on her own, or with children, the fund would be a god-send of help. She will receive the Serviceman's Group Life Insurance (SGLI) payment. She will not be wealthy but she will have time to think and plan. We have received offers of help from General Officers to Lieutenant friends. From local, to Korea, to Germany, to West Point, to points around America. The Army is closing ranks to take care of my daughter. I am proud and grateful.

They both went to military schools. What's going on there? Leonard is the first USMA '03 grad to die in combat. I'll just have to report that the Corps had a moment of silence and his company is holding a military memorial. The emotions behind these ceremonies can not be put in an e-mail. If you're curious, ask me when I get back or ask a grad. They are soul searing and will stay will the Corps forever. Sarah is the first VWIL grad to experience this - ever. Her military friends around the world have reached out and her civilian friends as well.

The Commandant and the Corps have been very much a part of all this.

When am I coming back to work?
I know, I know, I know - you didn't ask and every body and their brother has said to take the time I need. I will. However, I need to get on with things as well. As of this point, it looks like Monday next is as good day to shoot for as any. I'm sure I'll need to take some periodic time off in the upcoming weeks to help Sarah and the Cowherd's settle things but they'll taper off with time.

OK y'all...LONG e-mail and it's late and I need to hit the sack. However, this is what I know as of the moment and wanted to share. I'll keep you posted.
All that follow is beside the point above and perhaps more for my sake than yours. However, I know friends have questions and I'll try to answer as best I can. I'll move on to what I'm sure is the number one question on your mind - how was the memorial in Culpeper?

I can't really explain this weekend without explaining a little about Culpeper. This is a place that still has a thriving Main Street. This is a place where banks still occupy Main Street corners with big stone buildings. This is a place where the magnolias are taller than the houses they shade.

A.P Hill is a local boy done good and very much alive in conversation and pride. Hooker, Stewart, and Davis are contemporaries that inspire with their prowess and ideals of loyalty and devotion to higher calling.

Main Street on Friday night is packed with cars...because that's what you do in a town like Culpeper on Friday night. It's a place where you stop your car in the middle of a country lane to help a turtle across the road and the 30ish lady behind you rolls down her window to tell you thanks. BTW - Yes I did and yes she did.

It's a place where the owners and workers of floral shops, bed and breakfasts, hotels, funeral homes, media recognize values and heroes. It's a place where a Virgie Atkins comes out from behind the counter to give your wife a hug and sit through some sobs with her.

Everybody knows everyone and family reputation is borne as a matter of honor through the generations. It's a place two 9/11 flight attendants called home; a home with the values of the vast majority of the American land mass. The limos taking us to the church didn't fly funeral flags - they flew American flags. People noted and took as a good sign a hawk circling the steeple.

The ceremony was a town event; hero falls in battle. The mayor (ex-Special Forces) had American flags lining Main Street a la Fourth of July. The Governor had the state flag at half mast for the week. People just flat bent over backwards to honor Leonard's name and his country's cause and his service.

I really don't know how many hundred people attended but the local paper's Saturday morning edition headline described the preparations...and the fact that they really weren't sure if the plan to run sound and video to the outside tents was going to work.

The afternoon was Southern-heat still but many attended the almost two-hour Episcopal ceremony standing in tents under the church's massive shade trees... as attendants offered bottled ice water. These men and women were in addition to the full church and congregation hall. I know I speak for the Cowherd's and the Cerri's all when I say the support at the ceremony was truly infectious.

This was tragedy and celebration writ large for those who knew Leonard - child to man, West Point Cadet to Armor Platoon Leader, single to married.

The minister and speakers distinguished themselves with moving acknowledgment of Leonard the man, the officer, the brother, and... the husband.

Military senior was General (Ret) McCaffrey and his remarks would have made Leonard happy. However, perhaps most significant were two 82nd Airborne PFC's in attendance. No one knew them and they left before we could talk to them - they just attended. There were dozens of Lieutenant's in attendance; from Korea, and Colorado, and Italy, and New Mexico, and Alabama, and North Carolina, and Georgia, and Kansas, and Texas, and Florida, and other points around the US and the world. The West Point and Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership Corps' alumni were present en masse.

And it was a righteous salve. Acceptance, pride, and promise filled us all as we departed the church.

And afterward? Well, the Lieutenants, and the Cowherd's, and the Cerri's
and et al went to a pub in downtown Culpeper. Amidst the open beams, the cigarette smell, and the dim lighting two guys with electrified acoustic guitars played songs like Tennessee Waltz, and Take Me Home to West Virginia and Whiskey for My Men and Beer for My Horses. We drank, and talked, and laughed, and yes - even danced a little. If you don't understand, what can I say.... We were there to tell Leonard-stories and family-stories and military-stories. And we cried and held each other when the need arose. And I looked those family members and Lieutenants in the eye and saw our nation's future - selfless, capable, proud, and determined.

And how is Sarah?

It is difficult to believe this is my daughter. 'Grace under fire' is a tired old cliché but I now certainly know its meaning. One of her VWIL buds paid her a compliment today that I hope you'll understand even a little as it says so much. She said, "Sarah, you are certainly a Mary Baldwin girl." Sarah has uncertain times ahead but this young woman, this warriors-wife has acted with a dignity and purpose that is surely based on love. She leaned back on my chest today during the viewing and whispered through her tears,

"Dad, I'm so proud of Leonard."

And one can't talk of Sarah without talking of Leonard's twin - Charles.

He is Sarah's strength and I think vice versa as well. The two of them have
brought us to a point where laughter is OK again. His memorial service remark about missing 'twin time' was telling but well balanced by not having to worry about Leonard. He, like the rest of us, is moving on.

And the Cerri's and the Cowherd's?

Frankly - beat. Thank God for sleep; the great elixir of life. Each day gets a little better. We have miles to go in this run but we know we're not alone and we're getting the hang of it. We are OK. Everyone has their own moments but mine happened when one of Leonard's friends slipped a CD in the funeral home's sound system today. Had two songs - The West Point Alma Mater and The Corps. Suddenly, there were thousands and thousands of the Long Grey Line filling that room. Generations of soldiers and leaders were striving to encourage and support. Those songs were written for and about Leonard.

A final observation and I'll be done. 5 hours ago it had been a week since that notification team walked down our path. Today was the most emotional since it was the day chosen for close family to actually visit with Leonard. As Beth and I were headed to the funeral home I stopped in a 7-11 for some water. Standing at the check out line I saw a picture that froze me in my tracks; three helmet-topped M16s with a soldier saluting. In this week, in this time - that picture could only come from one place on earth and for one thing only; it was the military memorial held by Leonard's unit. So many emotions ran through me. Those services are unlike anything else. Even now I'm getting a little empty space as I imagine what the Roll Call sounded like... If you've participated, you understand. If you haven't, imagine the simplest and most dignified ceremony specifically designed for soldiers to honor their fallen. It can be done anywhere but where ever it's done takes on the feel of Saint Patrick's Cathedral.


I'd told the Cowherd family that this tradition would be upheld and now I had graphic proof. Point in passing, courtesy of a phone call from BG Hertling, the 1st AD ADC, tonight I know that this memorial in Iraq was on going within hours of the Culpeper service and that it had been attended by near a thousand. A young Specialist had spoken about 'his' Lieutenant. Imagine that Specialist's moxie and caring to address those hundreds of soldiers and you understand the honor this was for Sarah and Leonard's parents.

I looked closer and saw the picture was on the front page of the NY Times. This wasn't the Culpeper daily or the Richmond times. This was one of the most respected, global newspapers on earth. Hmm... I picked up a copy and read it. I found quotes by Leonard's Battalion Commander describing the action wherein Leonard had been killed and the completion of that action in a satisfying manner. I tucked a copy under my arm and checked out.

Viewings can be rough and this one was against my better judgment but Sarah can be hard headed... and was right. My daughter's final moments with the husband she hadn't seen in 5 months and with whom she'd only lived for 5 months ended sweet. She and Leonard's mother and Leonard's twin brother and all the rest of the extended families stayed long enough to get through all the emotions. Sarah, the Cowherd's and Beth and I were all truly the better for this final visit. But what about the NY Times?

About half-way through the viewing I went out to the car and brought the paper in. There, in that room, with Leonard with us, we made a connection with not only his unit and their actions but with the entire world. We were one. There was closure. Information from the war zone to a funeral home in rural VA and shared around the world. The story about the fight was just as important, if not more so, than the picture itself. I could physically see the Cowherd's relax just a little bit.

And as this first week was drawing to a close, one of Leonard's closest West Point friends came up to Mr. Cowherd and said, "Leonard will always be a hero." And so he will...

Tony Cerri

Leonard will be buried on Wednesday at 1100 at Arlingon National

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance. In Memoriam, to all the fallen of the Armed Forces and our Allies, in all our conflicts.

They shall not grow old,
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them . .
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them!
-- Lawrence Binyon



The funeral is covered in the post below this. I'll be linking to other blogger's efforts at the bottom of that post.

I have no idea how many links this post will get - but please, if this post and the one below only move you to make hateful or political comments, save it for another time, and another post. I won't be impressed with your brave political commentary, and I'll simply delete it. This isn't for the discussion of the war. This is about Memorial Day. Sad enough I feel the need to add this paragraph, but the chances are pretty good that Tony and Sarah and others will be here this weekend.

by John on May 28, 2005 | Something for the Soul
» Hyscience links with: Tidbits on Terrorism
» Mostly Cajun, All American and Opinionated links with: Memorial Day
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» Michelle Malkin links with: MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND: IN REMEMBRANCE
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» The Glittering Eye links with: Catching my eye: morning A through Z
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2LT Cowherd, Final Roll Call.

This is the final chapter of last year's post. To keep in synch, read the post above this if you haven't already.

"First Sergeant, Call the Roll."

Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd...

Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd...

Lieutenant Leonard Cowherd...

"First Sergeant, let Lieutenant Cowherd's name be stricken from the roll."

Play this as you read. Amazing Grace (right click, open in new window, and return to the post)


Before all that is to follow, I want to thank the Agnew's for hosting a gathering after the Arlington ceremony. They are the parents of Charles', Leonard's twin, roommate from VMI. This was 'just' the thing; you can't put that many high-energy young people together without laughter and good memories finding a way to the surface. This gathering was vital to lifting spirits and providing a steam valve for emotions. At the end - the young ones stuffed the 'old folk' in one limo headed back to Culpeper while they went out in another to find some adventure.

As it should be. Thank you for opening your home and your hospitality.

I now have to apologize to all of you who attended the Arlington ceremony. We know this wasn't a trivial thing for your to accomplish. We are sad that we couldn't visit and thank you personally. I now know that an Arlington internment is one of being 'whisked' - here and there and it all makes sense but... So many friends and we didn't get to say hello rightly. Thank you. Your presence and support meant more than you'll ever know; to Sarah, to the Cowherd's, to the Cerri's, and to veterans everywhere.

And what to say of the ceremony itself?

We left Culpeper with a motorcycle escort and through every county and interstate we were handed off to the next jurisdiction's protection. At points there were up to 6 motorcycles and police cars guiding us through the various turns and road nuances. The coordination and dedication to make this possible were not lost on us. At the end, the motorcycle police managed to array themselves at the entrance to Arlington with a standing salute to Leonard. We never had the chance to meet, know, or thank them... They just honored him.

Of Arlington?

An old friend who lovingly...sadly opens his door for what must come. Arlington is America's memory of what makes the nation. Other memorials on the mall are wonderful and meaningful - but Arlington is not only for is of us. Generations have made this place part of the national fabric. Rich man, poor man. General, private. Lifer, conscript. All services, all heritages. Men and women who gave the full measure; honored in perpetuity.

There are no surprises at Arlington. Everything is as manicured and as perfect as nature can be made. Acres and acres of military order. Simple. Dignified. Elegant. As long as there is Arlington, there will be America.

Pulling in we were momentarily amongst the tourists. And they were not interruption - they were purpose. I too have been on the outside looking in. Now, with roles reversed, I was thankful to see those throngs coming to learn and experience and teach. I saw more than one parent pull their child aside to point and whisper a lesson of our country. I saw many stop and put their hands over their heart as we passed; simple, dignified, elegant.

The day was early-Summer, Southern gem. Hot but not stifling. Blue sky with wispy white. And the cicadas? Strangely appropriate. For you in other parts of the country, they are big but gentle things. I doubt anyone who attended didn't have at least one land on them at some point in the day. And the sound? A distant jet on the runway waiting to take off. A constant whine. And it was good...nature carrying on. And Leonard would have been fascinated and investigating.

And the ceremony?

These words, my feelings, are insignificant to describe the wash of emotion in all of this.

As the hearse door opened I placed my hands upon my daughters shoulders...and I felt her shudder. MG Blount holding her to the left,
Charles to the right, her mother, her brother, and I to her rear. The
Cowherd's a part of the single family we've all become.

The Old Guard does not make mistakes. The wooden casket came off the hearse rails with precision and practiced timing.

There were 12 chairs under the small awning erected beside the grave site; just enough seats and space for immediate family. Sarah to the right-front in her black dress. Again, her mother and I found ourselves directly behind. My son to my right shoulder and the hundreds of family and friends closed in around us. It is hard to imagine intimacy in all of this, but it was there. There were quiet and peace in that little circle amidst the vast openness of Arlington.

Have you heard Amazing Grace on bag pipe? If that little bag of wind was put on earth for no other reason than to play this one song - it would still have a place amongst all the wonderful instruments the world has ever known. And the kilted-piper didn't end his song, he just turned and walked away...till the strains faded in the cicada whine.

The prayers offered by the family minister were perfect; a soldier's prayer born of powder, honor, and hope.

The 21 guns were three, crisp firings of seven. Again, the Old Guard does not make mistakes. However, a moment to speak of those guns. Like Leonard, I am a West Pointer. Like Leonard, I religiously counted guns whenever a dignitary arrived at school. 21 reports signified a visitor with enough importance to grant the Corps amnesty for all the various troubles and peccadilloes cadets seem to manage. West Point has a lot of visitors and a lot of cannon fire but rarely 21. 18 - "peon." 20 - "oh good Lord, another wanna be." and so on.

And on this day, on this sacred ground, 21 guns were fired to honor 2LT Cowherd.

Taps... An American will always struggle during Taps. While surely a
harbinger for many, it is our heroes we cry for. Not of sadness per se - of loss. How to measure against their lives? How to reconcile against their sacrifice? How to deal with what it takes to keep America? Simple, dignified, elegant...

The flag was creased, folded, and lovingly presented to my daughter.

She understands its meaning. It currently rests in an oak case with the Army seal. It will have a place of honor always. Leonard's mother and brother each received one as well.

Stand a little stiller during your next National Anthem. That song and that flag are paid for.

And my daughter?

Leonard's Kiddo. Leonard was her everything and she is his honor.

We all have our moments, Sarah more.

I'll offer historic perspective that seems most appropriate. Stephen Pressfield recreates the words of Greek king to the families of the 300 Spartans:

"When the battle is over, when the 300 have gone..., then will Greece look to the Spartans, to see how they bear it. But who ladies, who will the Spartans look to? To you. To you and the other wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of the fallen. If they behold your hearts riven with grief, they too will break. And Greece will break with them. But if you bear up, then Sparta will stand and all Greece will stand behind her. Why have I nominated your men and you to bear up beneath this most terrible of trials, you and your sisters of the three hundred? Because you can."

If these words ring true, then look to my daughter, Leonard's mother, my wife, and all the rest of the families' members. They are bearing up. America stands strong and proud. In Sarah's love, she has found an open heart for friends and a strength of belief that will carry her through.

Sarah's future is now at hand. I know there is a large community waiting to see... wanting proof in their faith that families are cared for. Believe. Army, VA, AER, TAPS, AFSC, Social Security and a bunch of other acronyms have checked into the net offering help both immediate and long-term. The years ahead are waiting and will write their own story. For now, no one could ask anything else.

To all of you that have been part of this thread - its been a way to keep you up to date and answer questions we know you have. I grabbed your names that first night because you needed to know or I knew you would want to know. Others have joined along the way as arrangements and details fell into place. As I tap these last words on this Memorial Day - I hope you haven't minded one man's view into what the day is all about.

Thank you for cards, and flowers, and prayers, and visits, and trips, and food, and errands, and arrangements, and condolences...and for holding our hand. You friends around the world have truly helped.

Our sails are filling with wind again and we'll all be back to work tomorrow. We know there will be awkward moments. Don't worry. Believe us...we understand. We'll all get through it. It's OK.


Tony Cerri

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance. In Memoriam.

I have no idea how many links this post will get - but please, if this post and the one above only move you to make hateful or political comments, save it for another time, and another post. I won't be impressed with your brave political commentary, and I'll simply delete it. This isn't for the discussion of the war. This is about Memorial Day. Sad enough I feel the need to add this paragraph, but the chances are pretty good that Tony and Sarah and others will be here this weekend.

And don't forget the Minute of Silence at 3PM your local time today. Take a time out at that softball game, or from soccer, and volleyball, and whatever else you are doing (unless you are operating heavy machinery - I'll give you a break there!) and take a minute to reflect on all of those who have answered Final Post.

But don't forget to have FUN! That is part and parcel of what they bought for us. Just make sure your children understand the meaning of the holiday extends beyond the end of school and opening of the pool! And that you remember that, too...

What other bloggers are saying this memorial day:

Neptunus Lex leads with a thoughtful piece.

For another Naval take on the holiday see the sea-going Lawyer (yes, I *know* you were Surface qualified before you sold your soul...)

Blackfive leads with: Opening the Gates of Heaven

Mudville Gazette follows with Memorial Day

Val Prieto at Babalu chimes in with: "It is the soldier"

Mark Steyn apes a great mind (mine) and reruns last year's column - Memorial Day.

Michelle Malkin gives us a push to

Powerline has a Memorial Day pic.
as does Florida Cracker.

Jennifer at A Collection of Thoughts posts Memorial Day, a Day of Thanksgiving! by Col Bob Pappas, USMC (ret)

Indigo Insights, links to Passing of a Generation

Brian at Memento Moron honors his father and grandfather in his Memorial Day post. (Hat tip to Russ for this one)

Right Thinking from the Left Coast has has interesting stuff.

Russ at TacJammer offer his thoughts and an continually updated linkfest.

Mostly Cajun talks of his Forever Young comrades.

Barb, the Castle Adjutant reminds us to Remember the Fallen.

Cassandra returns from her break with this thoughtful piece. You should then just read up the line.

AFSis asks you to remember it's Memorial Day, not just Get Drunk at the Barbecue Day. (If you're going to get drunk, at least spill a little for those who are doing their drinking at Fiddler's Green, eh?)

I really like No Pundit Intended's piece.

Sergeant B waxes poetic.

Delftsman also indulges in a poetic tribute.

Airborne Combat Engineer points to some history of Memorial Day. ACE also points to Virtual Markets, which has an interesting non-blog linkfest of information pertinent to the event.

ALa at Blonde Sagacity has a suggested Memorial Day activity... while you are there - don't miss Justice's link.

RomeoCat at Cathouse Chat has a nice post that covers it all - from soldiers to families.

Laughing Wolf notes the day.

Citizen Smash gives us his take. His (and our) great pal Da Goddess weighs in here and here.

Jim Joyner at Outside the Beltway shares the President's Radio Message and has a linkfest going.

Commander Salamander posts Secretary Rumsfeld's message to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

Joe Katzman and Robin Burk over at Winds of Change chime in.

Michael Demmons has his say.

As do Kevin McGehee and Michele Catalano (Command Post|ASV)

Cox & Forkum speak in their idiom.

Jeff Quinton lays out his thoughts.

LaShawn Barber puts in her two cents.

Terry Oglesby gives us a 'possum's-eye view.

A Jawa Reports

Professor Cori Dauber rants...

Reference those who think that not having served somehow diminishes one's patriotism and commitment - I dare you to suggest that of Dean Esmay.

Early One Morning reminds us that not all the dead from America's wars wear uniforms... yet they were also targets, not just collateral damage (and being collateral damage in no way diminishes the loss).

Scared Monkeys take time to see, hear, and speak.

Urban Grounds speaks from Austin.

Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy shares her daughter's letter...

A sailor speaks.

Red State, Rants nicely!

And take some time to visit Defense Industry Daily - links there to many more stories and some fun stuff, too. Like Rolling Thunder. But perhaps as importantly, DID highlights the sacrifices of other nations - in support of the GWOT. Since we don't observe their national days of remembrance, it *is* apt that we include them in our thoughts on this day.

by John on May 28, 2005 | Something for the Soul
» Techography links with: Memorial Day Post
» TacJammer links with: Memory - 2005
» Airborne Combat Engineer links with: Memorial Day links
» CatHouse Chat links with: Memorial Day
» Quotulatiousness links with: Memorial Day
» Winds of Change.NET links with: Memorial Day, 2005
» The Glittering Eye links with: Catching my eye: morning A through Z
» The Indepundit links with: Memorial Day
» The Indepundit links with: Memorial Day
» MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy links with: My thanks
» Sneakeasy's Joint links with: Sneak's wide world 30: Soldier's Memorial Day

SWWBO has assumed a new duty.

Safety Officer. She Who Will Be Obeyed is now in charge of locking up all sharp, pointy things. Cassandra has been delegated to act in her absence (which really means Cassandra will be in charge alla time).

I'm only allowed to use elementary school scissors Correction: plastic knives like you get at airports. No scissors. I run with them.


In unrelated news... Mmmmmm! 15 inch Rodmans (also known as Columbiads) In barbette mounts of the Third System of Coast Defense of the US. While the Columbiads were developed during the Civil War, most of the ones you see around the country are in Third System mounts. The Castle Adjutant notwithstanding (you'd have to ask the hubster about *that* Barbette mounting) a barbette mount is essentially a nose-pivot, originally designed to allow easy traverse and firing from within a fort, firing through an embrasure. The utility of the barbette in open parapet mounts like this is the service of the piece. Since they are muzzle-loaded, keeping the muzzle in the same general place simplifies and speeds up crew drill in loading.

Hi-res here.

This pic was emailed to me with no further explanation, anybody know where these two monsters are?

by John on May 28, 2005 | I think it's funny!
» Villainous Company links with: The Unkindest Cut Of All...

May 26, 2005

Sigh. When will they *I* ever learn?

What have I learned today?

That I'm a slow learner.

That I will never compete with Neffi regarding bayonets. But not for the reasons you think.

The Staff at Cushing Memorial Hospital are *very* nice.

When you're the Armorer, even little arteries can spurt several feet.

Remember this post?

Well, I'm a slow learner.

Seven, yes, seven stitches.

Sigh. I'm an idiot.

But! But! Nice staff at hospital aver that hydrogen peroxide would clean the blood off of my nice pants.

They were right.

The *very* nice staff sent this note home:

Dear Mrs. Donovan,

While we thoroughly enjoyed your husband's visit today, we feel that perhaps the Castle Household needs some more adult supervision.

In the future, if you are going to be gone for any length of time, and your son Andy is going to spend his time with his friends in Lawrence, *please* lock up all the sharp pointy things at the Castle.

Frankly, Mrs D, your husband can't be trusted with sharp objects.

Hope your trip to London was fun,

Warm Regards,

The Emergency Room Staff.

PS. We're serious. *Seven* stitches. Oh, and don't forget the knee pads and helmet, too!

Sigh. I think I'll take tomorrow off.

Update: As Were-Kitty and Boquisucio point out- it's an epidemic!

The Brits, it would seem, are keeping tabs on the Armorer and RedSix... well I fooled them! The kitchen knife I used wasn't that long! So there! Hat tip: Confederate Yankee!

Heh. Once again the Denizens are trying to steal my thunder in the comments. No fair, guys - I'm typing one-handed, waiting for the drugs to kick in.

Anyway, sorry Boq - not the cartridge, simply the projectile. And it's the Navy-produced projo for the Army 3inch antitank gun, discussed elsewhere around here, though I'm too lazy to go look right now.

Here it is. The hole in it is the official demilitarization action. That is in the 'ballistic cap' part. The ballistic cap is light sheet steel, intended to improve the aerodynamics of the round.

This is a different view. This is a tracered (glowing phosphorous in the base, so the gunner can follow the projo in flight), armor piercing round with a small charge of Composiiton B (this round, being demilled, has no tracer or Comp B, *John*). The actual part of the round that was to do the piercing was pointed and hardened- but during the war they discovered that solid or semi-solid shot like this would deflect when the round hit sloped armor. So, they put a cap on the projo, the purpose of which was to keep the round in place as it hit sloped armor - the 'cap' has a much blunter profile and is not hardened, so it tends to deform as it hits and the actual damage-producing part passes through, slightly lubricated by sublimated superheated material from the cap. That is what you see in the picture below. I can't take off the cap without a lot of effort - and then it won't stay on, so trust me about the pointy part...

Anyway, this was in a very tight cardboard tube. I was being careful (reeeely!) with the knife... when the blade hit the spiral of the cardboard wrap.... which diverted the knife... into my hand.

Sigh. What the heck, semi-gun-porn!

Update: Boquisucio, Commander of the Moat Fleet and Castle Latin Grammarian, asked in an email whether or not Zirconium Oxide, vice Phosphorous, was used in tracer compounds. Well... I dunno about Zirconium Oxide, but he's prolly right in re phosphorous, given that we use red and white phosphorous as screening agents (smoke screens)... I did find a corporate website that showed what mil-standard chemicals they provided for modern tracer use:

Tracers The tracer composition is used mainly in small arms ammunition for spotting, incendiary and fire control purposes. The light produced by the burning tracer composition is used for tracking.

IPI manufactures the following materials that are used in the production of tracer compositions:
Barium Nitrate, MIL-B-162D
Barium Peroxide, MIL-B-153A
Calcium Resinate, MIL-C-20470A
Coating Compound (Bituminous Solvent Type, Black), MIL-C-450
Magnesium-Aluminum Alloy Powdered, JAN-M-454
Magnesium Powder, MIL-M-382C
Polyvinyl Chloride, MIL-P-20307A
Strontium Nitrate, MIL-S-20322B
Strontium Peroxide, MIL-S-612B
Vinyl Alcohol Acetate Resin Solution (VAAR), MIL-V-50433

That's at least a partial list of what is currently in use... I'm not that motivated to find out what was used in the past!

by John on May 26, 2005 | I'm an idiot...
» TacJammer links with: No Pain, No Gain
» Confederate Yankee links with: And Finally, They Came For Our Sporks
» The Glittering Eye links with: Catching my eye: morning A through Z
» Villainous Company links with: The Unkindest Cut Of All...

I've been in internet hell today...

So, maybe this will post, maybe not!

Why didn't I spend a lot of electrons on the Women in Combat thing? I never thought the bill would pass. For once, on something political, I was right.

Advice for the day:

Given some of the discussion on the Ersatz Tiger below - does anyone know which museum has this one? Bovington, St Cyr, Tankograd? It's an 11meg video, dial-up users should right-click and save-as.

Next, we have this - a pdf of an alleged Terrorist Sniper Training Manual that was pulled off of a terrorist website by a government civilian and made into a PowerPoint presentation, which he then sent to several websites (not us, different sourcing) as a service to the troops.

I have a different take on this. With it's focus on Geneva Convention issues, and seeming solicitous concern for collateral damage... this is an agitprop piece, not a training manual. While many of the things in this bit *are* useful considerations for the sniper... *I* do not believe this is anything other than a propaganda piece. But I made it into a pdf for your viewing pleasure, anyway.

Click Here.

Update - upon rereading (and Ry's comment), I'm being unclear. I think this is propaganda from the jihadi side, for western consumption. The use of agitprop was inapt.

The charges against LT Pantano have been dropped. Looks like justice was served here, even if LT Pantano might justifiably feel a little chewed up and spit out.

The Distaff side speaks out - For Love and Country.

May 25, 2005


First - Bad Cat Robot sends this, claiming it to be the new Canadian Aircraft Carrier in final prep before transiting the Straits of Juan de Fuca:

The TWX was broken. Here's the text that finally came with the photo...

Canada, the leading non-violent 3rd world dictatorship, may soon lose its coveted status in the UN as one of the ‘nice countries’ who cowed to the terrorists in recent years. Canada is apparently getting serious about it’s expanding role in defense of the Great Lakes, and may even venture into some rivers, as long as the First Nations council allows them.

Unbeknownst to many outside the circle of enthusiasts of the Military Trivial Pursuit board game, the CDN Ministry of Silly Walks, er, Defense, has secretly purchased a new aircraft carrier, and christened her the HMCS Jean Crétien, in honor of the former Prime Minister. The funds for this purchase were apparently made available through something known as the ‘Sponsorship Deal’.

The following surveillance photo was shot last week in B.C. waters, showing the HMCS Jean Crétien carrying Canada’s newest secret four-engined Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) maritime patrol aircraft.

Heh. May get some grief from the Brigaded Blogs! I'm *sure* I'm gonna get snarked by CAPT H, and bombarded from the North with links to *Silly US Military Ideas*... Bring it on!


Why do men's hearts beat quicker, go weak in the knees, get dry throats and think irrationally when a woman wears leather clothing?

Check the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry...

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

by John on May 25, 2005 | I think it's funny!
» Airborne Combat Engineer links with: First photo of Canada's aircraft carrier
» Blog o'RAM links with: As A Concerned Parent
» Quotulatiousness links with: New class of ships?

Something to reward you for visiting!

Hindrocket has a good point. Of course, the answer is - good news ain't news. That said, in defense of the MSM... it *is* Memorial Day coming up, not Veterans Day - though they did miss Armed Forces Day, too. Hat tip to the Commissar, who has his own points to make... and we have to Hat Tip to Conservative Thinking for send us to the Commissar in the first place...

Then we there's this:

You don't see these too often!* Hi-Res, click here.

And then there is "Why Soldiers Like UAV's...," courtesy the Israel Defence Force. What you are seeing is some Bad Guys® servicing a mortar firing on Israeli settlements (near the cursor, you'll see some muzzle blast and people scurrying around) who are clueless (and have bad crew drill, anyway) to the fact they are being watched... until the missile arrives.

Oh! Ry - still working it, dude. I keep trying to write a book!

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

May 24, 2005

Oh, I wanna be a Powerpoint Ranger!

From Battalion Staff to Joint Staff... we've been here, done that.

Via CAPT H (apparently Her Majesty's Northern Horde are afflicted, too). This is now officially a Joint and Combined Post! (Those who know, know.)

Order a PowerPoint Stand-down

Captain E. Tyler Wooldridge III, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Proceedings, December 2004

A recent study by a Washington think tank found that children now spend more time playing computer games and watching television than they do reading. Subsequent to the report’s publication, child education and psychology experts speculated about the long-term effects this trend could have on children’s development. They cited such risks as failing to develop critical thinking skills, inability to interact with people, and inadequate physical activity.

The military should be concerned about fostering those same flaws in its junior officers. In this case, however, the culprit is PowerPoint. The art of creating a PowerPoint brief frequently has become a substitute for real planning, thoughtful discussion, and cogent analysis. The military should worry it is not breeding innovative thinkers.

Read the rest here, in the The Proceedings of the Naval Institute.

For those of us already afflicted with the curse of being a Powerpoint Ranger, you can at least get recognition of same:

There are also PowerPoint Ranger and SF (Slide Flipper) Tabs...

Click the patch to be taken where you can score your PPRanger Products! (BTW, if you link to this post, please *also* link directly to Jim Placke's site so he gets proper exposure!)

And yes, Ry - the review is almost done.

May 23, 2005

A Promise to Keep

Two years ago, I promised Kate the LudditeWife we'd go somewhere for our 20th. She's an oenophile (no, Neffi -- it means she knows about wine) and has friends in Napa, so naturally I figured she'd pick a trip to Wine Country.

She did. She gets Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Cognac...not the wines, the provinces and towns.

Good thing she gave me a little advance warning--it took two years to pay for it. And, since she's a Luddite, I have to tag along to work the digital cameras.

Drat. At least I talked her into seeing the invasion beaches.

I'll see all y'all on 4 June. I may even retain a semblance of sanity...

by CW4BillT on May 23, 2005 | I'm an idiot...
» Quotulatiousness links with: Disguising yourself as a Canadian

TINS! You picked it…

6. “Sir? The world’s biggest tracer just came offa Nui Coto an’ -- geez, it’s following us!” -- my introduction to the game of helicopter vs. heat-seeking missile. I won. Barely.

Might’ve guessed you guys would pick one of the longer ones…

We were playing the usual Nighthawk game of lone Huey annoying the neighbors and had just finished beating up some infiltrators with more guts than brains. We’d picked them up while they were still in Cambodia, then lazed around at 1,500 feet until they crossed the border and made the particularly foolish mistake of skirting a patch of woods rather than seeking cover in it when we flew over.

It was dark, but not so dark that we couldn’t see them -- the other mistake they made was not extinguishing their lanterns. They didn’t need them, once we dropped to 500 feet and turned on the million-candlepower xenon light…

Afterwards, I decided to break early for fuel and re-arm and I headed south, still at 500 feet, sweeping the canals with the xenon for a while, then ordered it turned off as we approached Nui Coto. The usual situation on the mountains in the Delta was that we owned the bottom and (sometimes) the top, and the bad guys (a mixed bag of VC and NVA) owned everything in between. Nui Coto was different -- the bad guys owned the whole thing.

As we drew abeam the eastern slope, my crewchief hollered, “Sir? The world’s biggest tracer just came offa Nui Coto an’ -- geez, it’s following us!” Now, tracers will drift as you’re watching them, but they don’t make curving turns to follow you. One thing which will, though, is a heat-seeker. In this case, an SA-7. A Strela.

Continued in Flash Traffic.

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows... »

by CW4BillT on May 23, 2005 | This is no Sh*t!