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Patrols and Turkey for Soldiers in Afghan War Zone


from the Associated Press:

BARAKI-BARAK, Afghanistan  —  Thanksgiving Day for soldiers in this valley ringed by towering snowy peaks began with a 6-mile slog to aid village schools without desks and windows, and promises to end with five, once scrawny local turkeys soldiers have been fattening up for the past month.

"Just another day, another mission," several soldiers said as a 25-man patrol from Able Troop, 3-71 Cavalry Squadron, 10th Mountain Division, set out on a cold morning under brilliantly blue skies.

Others let sentiment seep through their matter-of-fact, stoic shells.

"We're with our family just like we would be at Thanksgiving back home," said Staff Sgt. Ben McKinnon, of New Haven, Connecticut, nodding toward the soldiers around him that have daily shared hardship, suffering and some elation over the past year.

Commander Cpt. Paul Shepard said his unit had a great deal to be thankful for: the squadron has suffered two soldiers killed in action and a number of wounded but none have died in Alpha Troop.

"Knock on wood we've had some really good luck in our district. We've had a relatively good welcome from the locals and the severity of contact with the insurgents has not been great," said Shepard, of Black River, New York. "And we have tried to give out as much as we can."

Troops in Baraki-Barak, located in Logar province, just south of Kabul, have blitzed the district with humanitarian aid under an innovative "extreme make-over" concept that has had Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and civilian officials, helicoptering in to see how the model could be applied elsewhere in the country.

Thursday's patrol was part of an effort to supply the district's ramshackle schools with basic equipment.

Meanwhile, three cooks on the Joint Combat Operations Post, scurried to prepare the traditional meal. Putting a turkey on a soldier's Thanksgiving table isn't always easy in Afghanistan.

To enjoy the fresh thing, soldiers a month ago bought six turkeys at $20 apiece from local farmers, built a special pen under one of the base's guard towers, and fed them cornbread, crackers, and even chicken. One was slaughtered earlier to see how the birds were coming along and declared to be "awesome."

The unit's mechanics converted a 55-gallon drum into a smoker and Staff Sgt. Charles Hough, of Dexter, New York, who is otherwise charged with the unit's mortars, volunteered to supervise deep frying the celebratory birds, something he learned from his brother.

Spc. Seth Breesawitz, of Springfield, Missouri, who supervises two other army cooks on the outpost, said that to feed some 150 soldiers the local turkeys would be supplemented by pre-baked and pre-seasoned ones airlifted from the United States to the massive U.S. base in Bagram, and then trucked to Baraki-Barak via the main military camp in Logar.

"It makes me feel good to give them a piece of home," said Breesawitz as cooks finished slaughtering the turkeys Wednesday evening, preparing to pluck their feathers with the help of four, young and enthusiastic Afghan boys who perform odd jobs around a base where the troops have lived for almost a year.

All in all, it's hardly a place most would want to call home.

The soldiers live in tents or crude wooden huts, ringed by a 12-foot earthen defensive wall topped by barbed wire. The "dining hall" is a square wooden structure with bare walls but for paper cutouts of two turkey heads and maple leaves in autumnal colors. The kitchen, a tiny tent on a trailer, would drive most chefs mad.

Around the outpost lie barren fields and stark, fortress-like village compounds fashioned from mud brick. The landscape exudes a melancholy air: autumn's last leaves cling to apple trees, and the naked branches of willows are etched against a cold sky. In the distance, mountain peaks soar to 14,000 feet, capped by early winter snows.



Keeping the bad guys on the run

Gang-

Its been a freaking whirlwind to date. Getting ready to deploy, staying, getting ready to deploy again etc, then finally departing. Flying, no shit, around the world stopping in every third world country then arriving in country and start moving again. Now we are somewhat stationary.

Mail has gotten better as has our way of life. We have improved from Wag-bags (burning poop) to port a johns and we get two hot meals a day…pretty damn good chow too.  Living conditions are austere, no salsa nights here, just warriors patrolling their butts off and going where the enemy thought they owned terrain. The bad guys don’t like us very much, but on the contrary, the locals love us.  Are we making a difference?  Bet yer ass.  Email is limited as you can tell by the amount of posts produced, been busy supporting Marines.

Your Warriors are doing freaking outstanding things! You won't hear much in the news but I can tell you they are not only putting the fear of God into the enemy  & dealing with those that want to fight but at the same they are helping the locals up by the hand and I can tell you compared to my last deployment here in 2004, things are very different for the better.

Marines patrol non-stop and usually in deep mud and return soaking wet only to bear the cold nights. They are heroes, young studs going directly into danger with a grin on their face.  You got to love them! 

I have seen in the short time here the foundation that the Marine Corps stands for. It's beyond "no better friend, no worse enemy."  It's built of honoring your word to locals, defending off hard core fighters that hate and intimidate the weak.  Traits found in every conflict the Marine Corps has fought in are still solid today within our ranks.  Wicked smart leaders, nail strong NCOs and they all have hearts as big as Texas that protect those weak and can turn into your worst nightmare with a flip of a switch to deal with insurgents.  Discipline, dedicated professionals within all the ranks that have already made a difference in the short time here. I know all past/present Marines would be proud of them. I sure as hell am.  More as time permits. Be proud of your warriors, the bad guys are on the run.


An Amazing Man, an Amazing Team

Please read below a message from an amazing Marine.  Read down and then go check out his website at www.SemperMax.com:


Hello All-
Happy Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day. I hope you can take a minute andappreciate your self. Yes, yourself. If you are receiving an e-mail from me, then you either were/are a warrior; or you support warriors. And it is thosetwo groups that keep our country safe.

Of course, my primary focus is on wounded warriors.  As most of you know, I am retired from the Marine Corps. And I have now created a new unit; a Team. Let's face it, I'm addicted to being part of a team.
Being by myself is just too weird. Sitting around all day watching soap operas....people who can do that are tougher.

My Semper Max Team has existed for quite a while. But now, it is time to
recruit. To do that, I have created T-shirts, ribbons, stickers and magnets.
Their goal is to spread the word. Recruit wounded warriors all over the
world.  Through all of them, there is only one basic symbol. The SemperMax Team.

The concept is pretty simple. Wounded/Ill/Injured/Goldstar Families (WIIG)
should join the team. Let's face it; being a WIIG stinks. Why do it alone?

So I have created a Warriors T-shirt in which I try; I say again, try; to
represent us. I could not include every problem, of course. Some people have
injuries inside. And they have no scars. That is a big deal to me.
Lower-level TBI and PTSD can have it just as bad. But I did my best. Thank goodness
Semper Toon helped me out.

The next T-shirt is for EVERYBODY who supports us. Corpsman, medics,
doctors, nurses, family, friends, donators, visitors..... on and on.

What is the money for, you might ask?

Missing 1: Togetherness- it's that simple. It cost money to travel. If every
member of the SemperMax Team lived in the same town, this problem would not
exist.

Why not just request donations, you might ask?
Donations are certainly welcome. If you are interested in that, there is a
link
on the website (PayPal). Or you can just mail it to
SEMPERMAX, Inc
P.O. Box 969
Dumfries, VA 22026

But the overall reason that I have created a company instead of just taking
donations is coming. Let me just say that traveling, togetherness, is the
key.  Team gear is a very small part.

Please remember, T-shirts etc. are not the mission.  Passing the word for sharing time, sharing stories, sharing misery.... That is the mission. T-Shirts, magnets, etc. will help spread the word.
For other types of T-shirts, and other things , go to www.IraqandBack.com
<http://www.iraqandback.com/>
Very Cool Website, for wounded warriors, created by wounded warriors.

Enough is enough. If you have read this far down, that's a good sign! Please
check it out.

www.SemperMax.com

TA Maxwell
LtCol USMC (Ret)

Your Veterans

Nov 10th, 1775, was the date the Marine Corps was established.  Yesterday we celebrated the 234th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. On this Veteran's Day, and every day we are at war, your veterans are keeping the wolf at bay.

Throughout history your warriors take the fight to defend America in the most gruesome conditions. Regardless of location, the honor to defend our country is something that will stay with us forever and can never be taken away.  Even though your service members are all over the globe, your Marines stopped to pay honor and celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday, halted again and celebrated Veteran's Day.  We take this very seriously, regardless of climb and place.

Your Marines are doing great things around the world, be proud. Semper Fidelis


Departing


Try saying goodbye to your loved ones before you deploy. Then try saying good bye 5-6 times after flights get canceled. It’s a gut check from hell. Thinking you are departing then all of a sudden you are not. Departing is hard enough for service members but even harder for families. Its never easy….it never gets easier.