Jul 4, 2012


That picture right there sums up quite well just about how I feel. I see my republic beset upon all sides by strong forces, filled with blinding rage against things that they simply can’t comprehend… things that represent all that is right and good. In the last week, I have watched our Constitution that was so carefully and precisely crafted have its guts torn out and reinserted upside down. I have watched our Declaration of Independence, which was purchased at a high price, and defended over two centuries at even higher costs, be disregarded as we stood by and watched – our past monarchy of tyranny finally and fully replaced with a duly elected or appointed form of despotism that now derives its power from deceits, double-talks, and the creation of new and illegitimate methods of bending the constructs of the nation to make what was unlawful into the law of the land.

Four years ago, I wrote in this space while deployed in a far off, foreign land – Iraq. I now write from another land, even farther off and more foreign – Afghanistan. These are the conditions that make one all the more appreciative for a place such as the United States of America. Those who have only ever known freedom do not fully appreciate what it means. They will applaud as they watch parts of it taken away. They will nod as they agree to the removal of rights only because they do not personally exercise them, seeing no personal impact, and therefore no threat. Or even worse, they will stand and cheer as the hard work and savings of their neighbors is stolen at gunpoint to be redistributed to those “in need” – such as themselves – who feel they are owed this. They are “entitled”…

As Ronald Reagan reminded us,
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
I can only hope that I never have to tell my son any such thing, because he will still be living it for himself.

As a Marine, and defender of this great republic, I cannot – I WILL not – make any derogatory pronunciations about my chain of command, up to and including my Commander in Chief. As a private citizen, I can and will say this: I await this coming November with great anticipation.

All that being said, I will close with this. As noted before, this blog has become a bit cumbersome for me. Its design is out of date, I have become unfamiliar with the interface (which has totally changed to the point that I don’t recognize it), and I have had a steadily declining interest in coming here. Combine that with my current duties (of which I had little warning before being launched to the far side of the world) and I essentially have neither the time nor inclination to continue with this blog.

However, I think I still have some things to say and a few sea stories to tell. And so, at some point in the future, I would very much like to invite you all to some version of “Halls and Shores 2.0.” Just when, where and how that finally happens are anyone’s guess. But when it does, I will happily return to this space and let all (both) of you know. Until then, read a book.

Semper Fi,

Jun 30, 2012


You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen. This will ever be the sum total of the advice of your affectionate father.
 - John Adams, to his son John Quincy, 1781

Happy Birthday, Little D!

Apr 8, 2012

Casting about 

For those out there who have faced this dilemma, I have a question. I was recently emailed by the company that runs my comments that they will be discontinuing service on 1 October. I shouldn't be surprised. The outfit is called "Echo," and before that it was "JS-kit" if I recall correctly. What these SOB's did was buy out my Haloscan comments which I really liked and had used since starting this blog. They then completely changed everything I liked about the style, layout, and simplicity... and oh, by the way, started charging me for the privilege of using their junky new P.O.S., or they would just erase all my stuff. Now they've charged me for 2 years (only about $20 total, but that's not the point) and they are still going to dump all my stuff anyway.

I don't mind losing them. In fact, I welcome it - they're crap. What annoys me is this: they don't provide a way to easily export my comments to another system. Okay... I've got a couple months... I'll just move a few here and a few there and do it manually. But... but...

And here's where I start to show my age. This blog was created before Blogger supported comments (or pictures, but that's a whole separate problem). As a result, my template doesn't have the necessary code to make the Blogger-supported comments show up. I tried making a test blog and grabbing the comment section of the code from it and slapping it into this template, but all it does is turn this blog into a snapshot of the Matrix... one long string of unintelligible alphanumeric gobbledygook. Whatever changes have been made, I haven't kept up with the times, and now I'm VHS in a Blu-ray world.

Any ideas anyone? Few as the comments may be, I do like to hear from folks, and if that option went away then it would just be me talking to a wall (which it kinda is anyway, but...). I really want to keep this blog, but it's starting to get a bit cumbersome. So maybe I'm overly sentimental, but I don't want to shut this thing off. Not the least of which reason being that if I pull the plug here... I don't know how motivated I'll be to start up again.

Sad to say, but I feel like I'm losing the bug. When I started, I was going through a lot of changes in life. I was getting forcibly placed into a new job that was not what I had joined the Corps for, and while most of my buddies were out putting warheads on foreheads, I was stuck in the rear with the gear. Blogs were this new thing, and I felt like I had a lot to say, so I dove in. Now? Now it's almost a decade later, and I feel beaten down by reality. I don't have the time and energy to devote to this like I used to. It's nice to know this is here and swing on in now and again, but I don't feel the same urge to get here like I did once upon a time. I sometimes go weeks without looking at this site when I used to not be able to go a day without seeing if someone had responded to a post. I was never good about email, but now I literally can't remember the last time I checked the hallsandshores account. As in, I have no idea if it was before or after Christmas when I last looked... sorry if anyone's sent me anything.

So do I bite the bullet, start a new blog, and see where it takes me? Or does anybody out there have a few lines of html that will turn on the Blogger comments for a site that started circa 2003?

Mar 17, 2012

Lex, departing the pattern 

As I made the circuit around the web to check in on fellow Guinness lovers, I came to the sad realization that some news I had heard on the radio earlier in the week and had quickly prayed wasn't true, in fact was.

Lex has taken his last ride.

I heard that a retired Naval Aviator who was now performing civilian support to TOPGUN as an aggressor pilot had crashed, but the story did not provide a name. I quickly said a prayer for it not to be Lex, but I have been so busy I never checked on it until now.


I never met the man, but his ability to turn a phrase and his way around the English language always made me laugh. Others too, as evidenced by his "Milblog of the Year" win. He was a great American, and I don't know at what point he thought I wrote something that made me worth linking to, but he put me into his blogroll and his has been the site most responsible for my incoming links. On any given day, 50% or more of the people who come here, get here from Neptunus Lex.

Simply put, America, you have lost one of your finest sons. Fair winds and following seas, sir.

Video found via Castle Argghhh

Mar 16, 2012

It's not easy being green 

Been a good little while since I was here. I see the cobwebs are forming. Apologies to those out there (both of you) who might still drop in on occasion, but real life is very intrusive these days. Work has been overwhelming, the feces is impacting the rotary impeller in Afghanistan, and there seems to be no good news out there in the world...

All that being said, you had to know I wasn't gonna miss this one. Sláinte!

images found at my new favorite site, the Chive

But this one is direct from me to you.

Feb 3, 2012

"In keeping with the highest standards of the United States Naval Service" 

The Squeals have put on one hell of an ad campaign for their upcoming Hollywood blockbuster. I mean, first OBL and now this. And think of all the press they'd get if their gigs weren't Sooper-Ultra Top Special Secret...

Either way, "Act of Valor" opens in three weeks. Be there.


Dec 18, 2011

Ohhhh.... HERROOOOO! 

Sitting on my porch, enjoying a fine cigar (the first in many, many months) while ducking inside every couple minutes to enjoy "True Grit" as well (the new one), when I chanced upon Fox News. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a fat, dead commie, at this Christmas time of year.

Yes, the Jonger has become one with the Matrix.

So long, you chunky, commie rat. I can only hope your fat, idiot offspring joins you.

But I will always remember you fondly, Jonger. You are ronrey no more...


Nov 18, 2011


Well, he shelved that Batman vs al-Qaeda book I was so looking forward to all those years ago (or more accurately, wrote it... without Batman). But comic book legend Frank Miller, creator of 300, Sin City, and Batman: Year One (which heavily inspired the current Batman movies) has some choice words for the Occupy [wherever] crowd. Awesome.

So, I'll give him one. He is... Batman.

Nov 10, 2011

Happy Birthday 

I've heard a tale told - I don't know if it's true or just a good sea story - about a very old, very retired, Chesty Puller, being invited to a birthday ball once as the guest of honor. After an introduction bordering on an hour by whoever the General officer was who preceded him, Chesty stepped to the podium. You could hear a pin drop. And the entirety of Chesty's remarks were as follows: he lifted his glass, slightly nodded his head, and said, "Marines..."

He then took his seat... to the sound of thunderous applause.

I tell you that, to tell you this. Sadly, I will not be able to make my annual Marine Corps Birthday music video this year. I just don't have the time. That, I couldn't find a song that I felt was worth a damn, and - if you read the post below this one - I'm still working through a feeling of general malaise...

All that being said, please enjoy my previous USMC Birthday offerings, below. But as for this year, "Marines..."

Chesty went to Korea to kill Commies and eat cake. Sadly for the Commies, he ran out of cake.


Oct 18, 2011

Oh. Hell. NO. 

Subject: Sleeves down

To All,

The Marine Corps will roll sleeves down and remain sleeves down year round...at the start of work on Monday 24 Oct. There will be official SEPCOR [ALMAR/MARADMIN] released soon directing the uniform change. Please ensure
widest dissemination.


To those who don't get it, those are the initials of the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the top enlisted Marine in - well - the universe. And what he just told everyone is that he and the Commandant apparently took the advice of the last uniform review board and decided that we should be just like the Army and keep our sleeves rolled down all year long.

Unless you're a Marine, you probably don't have a clue what I'm on about, but let me say this: this is bull$hit. Once upon a time, rolling the sleeves of the camouflage uniform up in the summer and down in the winter was something that was done by all 4 service branches. And for Marines, though left to individual commanders' discretion until as recently as 2007, it became an expected event that in the summer the sleeves would go up, and in the winter they would go down. Many Marines would look forward to summer with relish, as they were zen masters of the sleeve-roll and could make the things look like they were chiseled out of a slab of white marble. Others could never quite get it right, and came away with "Gunny-rolls" that looked almost like bell-bottoms for your arms, they were so formless. But they were a tradition and a part of the brotherhood of being a Marine.

With changes to the cut and style of uniforms in the last 8 years, sleeve rolling has been tossed out by the Army and I've seen it only sparingly in the Navy and Air Force... although, truth be told, I'm not sure just what those guys are doing - especially the Squids. On any given day at my last base (which, granted, was a Joint command) I could see Sailors in virtually ANY uniform in their sea bag. It seemed as if they were not observing any discernable seasonal standard, because they would be in basically whatever uniform they wanted to be.

Now, however, the top USMC heavies are telling us that we're just going to unceremoniously dump that tradition. And we're probably going to do it because a couple guys who have spent the last 15-20 years getting dinged for not knowing how to properly roll up their sleeves have finally become senior enough that they got seats on the annual uniform board and thought "screw you all." What I can't believe is that the Commandant bought off on this. This is what you get when you put an aviator in charge... (that's a reasonably amusing statement, for those that might know me, but it also has a bit of truth).

But what difference does this make? After all, the SgtMaj already told us that when it came to DADT ending we needed to "get over it." So I suppose that this is just one more of those things we'll have to "get over," eh? Hey, what about when Big Army finally completes its 100 year quest to simply gobble up the Marine Corps and just incorporate it like it was any ol' unit in the Army? Should we be prepped to just "get over" that too? What else should I "get over"? Hey, when all the military retirements get yanked because THAT is what will save Social Security and all the other bull$hit entitlement programs, we should just "get over" that too, right?

The Marine Corps - much more than other services - appreciates its history. Marines are steeped in tales of past deeds from the day they get to boot camp. Dan Daly and John Basilone are still just as real and important to Marines today as Brian Chontosh and Dakota Meyer. Our traditions define us. From the way we talk to the way we dress, Marines do things in a very specific way that sets us apart from not just civilians, but from the other services as well. And while even the Marine Corps historians can't settle on exactly when rolling the sleeves started as a seasonal way to beat the heat, it has since become something much more than that. It's a distinctive look. There are no other service members - hell, no other military in THE WORLD - that are as instantly recognizable as "sleeves up" Marines. It's a look that is set apart. It stands alone. And now, we're going to let go of another piece of tradition... for nothing.

In Korea, the Chinese told their troops to avoid "the Yellowlegs" due to the distinctive Gaiters that Marines wore over their boots that the Army did not. In Somalia, the locals quickly learned not to mess with "the Black Boots" because Marines hadn't gotten issued the desert-tan boots that the Army had. During the early days of Iraq, word got out fast within the Fedayeen to avoid engaging convoys if guys were wearing strange-looking uniforms (the desert digital MARPAT, and the only digital US uniform at the time), because Marines would dismount and kill you, while soldiers would not. And in Haiti, because we rolled up our sleeves differently than the Army - with the lighter, inside part showing - nobody dared screw with "The White Sleeves."

All of those other things changed because the uniform changed. It got better. It became more effective. For the readers out there (both of you) who recall my last dissertation on the subject of uniform changes, though I was initially opposed, I changed my mind. The new cammies made sense. They were improvements. And today, if we were going to change to another uniform that made it impossible to roll up our sleeves, then that would suck, but we could "get over it." But we haven't. We're apparently going to kill a tradition... just because.

You may say I'm too attached. I'm too old and crotchety. Adapt or die. And maybe you're right. This is nothing new. Marines have lamented "the NEW Corps" since 1776, and most times it was about something that was nitnoid and petty and maybe didn't really matter much. In the grand scheme of things, so's this. But I'm working with Sergeants with less than 6 years in who are already saying "This is not the Marine Corps I joined. We're becoming too much like the Army." And you know what? I agree with them. Every day I feel like another thing that I thought I knew about being a Marine - and being an American - is getting changed. Each little thing, taken on it's own, doesn't mean much. Each one can be weathered, as it's own individual event. But it's every day... and it weakens structural integrity - ever so slightly - over, and over, and over again. The structural integrity of me... the Corps... the country.

Maybe I'm just too damn mopey. Maybe the idea was just to incentivize people to get out of the Corps so that we could slim down to 186,000 by next year. And if so, well done. It's working. But like I said before, unless you're a Marine, you probably don't have a clue what I'm on about...

Gen. Gray finds your lack of sleeve rolls disturbing...

Oct 15, 2011

Oh. Hell. Yes. 

The splash-prevention technique was so freaking awesome I rewound it twice to make sure that I actually saw what I just saw. As Allahpundit asks, "greatest war movie ever?"

It may have competition...

Sep 27, 2011

For Grandad (Devil Doc and Peleliu vet) 

This Date In Marine Corps History: 27 September 1944

The American flag was raised over Peleliu, Palau Islands, at the 1st Marine Division Command Post. Although the flag raising symbolized that the island was secured, pockets of determined Japanese defenders continued to fight on. As late as 21 April 1947, 27 Japanese holdouts finally surrendered to the American naval commander on the scene.

[courtesy of...]

Sep 10, 2011


Ten years. That’s both a long time and the blink of an eye, depending on how you want to slice it. Come tomorrow, everybody is going to spend the day recounting where they were, what they were doing, how they reacted. I could do that too, but what I have to say wouldn’t be appreciably different than anyone else. I suppose (in a certain way of thinking) I’m one step closer to the events of 9/11 than most – I have an uncle who was working in the Pentagon that day. Blessedly, he’s still here. Many are not. But personally, no… I’m just another voice among millions.

In the run up to tomorrow, a lot of TV channels have been doing remembrance programming. Most focus on sadness. As I’ve said before, sadness is not the emotion I reserve for September 11th. Even as I watch video of people throwing themselves from 90 stories up, I don’t feel sad. As I listen to 911 calls from people trapped above the fires who knew they were going to die – some of whom were on the line at the instant of collapse, and whose last moments were punctuated by the most horrified screams I’ve ever heard – I feel disturbed. I feel like I might throw up. I feel their confusion, despair, and panic. But I don’t feel sad. I feel a cold anger. And it will not go away.

Obviously, the event most comparable to 11 September 2001, was the attack of 7 December 1941. As has already been pointed out, 10 years after Pearl Harbor there were no such remembrances as we will see tomorrow. That anniversary came and went with barely any interest. But the reason given – that Japan was at that point our ally against communism – is wrong. The real reason that 10 years after Pearl Harbor nobody conducted a retrospective filled with tears and sorrow, was that that war was over, and we won. Hundreds of thousands of American lives had been lost since then. Millions more in other countries. But THAT fight had ended in victory. Today, the fight is still going on. That’s the difference. Either that, or we’ve just become a society of jello-spined weaklings who need to have a good cry once in awhile. While the first option is depressing, the second is even more so… and downright lethal when you cut to the heart of it.

It’s that second option that we cannot afford. In the last 10 years, we’ve had victories, great and small. Iraq was a painful exercise, but ultimately successful (relatively speaking). Osama bin Laden finally got his, as well. We’ve managed to squash most everything planned to hit us here at home, from the shoe and undie-bombers to the Fort Dix six. But Fort Hood happened because political correctness prevented anyone from doing the right thing and stopping a guy who had “soldier of Allah” on his business cards from conducting his own personal jihad. Moral weakness and a spineless unwillingness to confront reality led to the most preventable of scenarios.

“Peace through strength” was a cold war era motto that served us well. People have not so much forgotten it, as willingly discarded it. The need to be liked, fostered by a generation or two of self-esteem training and cultural sensitivity classes have created an unwillingness for Americans to feel the most basic and primal of human needs: to value their own lives.

So it all comes back to a word that I have increasingly come to loathe: feelings. People don’t think anymore – they feel. Tomorrow, everyone will sit around “feeling,” but how many will be thinking? I will be thinking of the pain and suffering caused by adherents to a political ideology that disguises itself as a religion. I will be thinking of all those people who say that 9/11 was a “tragedy” instead of an act of war. I will be thinking about what needs to be accomplished to prevent any more 9/11s from happening. Unfortunately, I will almost certainly be in the minority. These are all things that I’ve said beforerepeatedly. I’ll keep saying them until I don’t have to. I don’t know when that will be.

Last year, as we recommitted ourselves to the fight in Afghanistan, I made the video below. It remains relevant and will continue to be until - to quote the Rifleman’s Creed - “there is no enemy, but peace.” A little more thinking and a little less "feeling" might get us there sooner.

UPDATE: Read this. More people, THINKING. And a video that will make you do all the feeling you'll be able to bear...

Jul 4, 2011

We hold these Truths to be self-evident... 

Click it... you know you want to...

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

My fellow Americans, may your lives be better, fortunes greater, and honor never questioned. Happy Independence Day!

Jun 30, 2011


Four years of D!! Happy Birthday, pal!

Here he his, being way more amphibious than his daddy...

May 5, 2011

Stealth helo, FTW 

So, we don't get bin Laden headshot pictures... for now. But nevermind that. I am geekin' out so hard over this thing, I almost sicken myself. The implications of this helo are so game changing that it is hard to overstate. We obviously had the capability to get Special Operators where we wanted them, but now the whole world knows - especially the bad guys - that sleeping with one eye open ain't enough. They CAN'T sleep. EVER. And that gets tiring after awhile.

While the largest parts and pieces of this "stealth" helicopter are almost assuredly crated up and on their way to Beijing right now, I'm not entirely convinced that that is such a horrific turn of events. There are a couple reasons for this.

First, somebody, somewhere, made the determination that the juice was worth the squeeze sending these things in on the bin Laden raid. In an op like this, with the amount of planning time available, it wasn't like these guys were casting about looking for any ol' ride into the LZ that they could find. This was thought out, strategized and war gamed into the ground, and at least ONE operational consideration had to be the loss of a helo and its very existence being compromised. In the end, the size of the prize was deemed worth the risk... and I happen to agree with that assessment, whoever made it.

Second – and this is actually more to the point - how OLD is this tech? In all probability, this was not this helo's first rodeo. I'd be willing to bet everything I own that this thing didn't just roll off an assembly line somewhere last week. How long did it take for us to admit that the F-117 existed? Seven, eight years? Around a decade before anybody really got a good look at it when it went to Desert Storm? By then it was 1990, and the design was based in the mid-1970's. One could argue that by the time the public knew about it, it was no longer the state of the art, as the B-2 was already a more advanced capability. So if this helo falls into the same timeline – and granted, we didn’t make a conscious decision to expose it, but… - that means that we’re really talking about some kind of tech from… the mid-90’s? That begs the question: what are we working on NOW?... I just got chills thinking about it.

Furthermore, some of this technology is likely not as secret as most people think. For instance, check this out:

That’s available to civilians who want to reduce the noise inside their exec-helo transports when they move VIPs around between business meetings, and it started flight testing – in the civilian sector, remember – back in 2007. Take that noise signature, slap some radar absorbing/IR reducing paint on the airframe and you can start to see how this thing is a beast. And speaking of Beasts, don’t forget about other toys that we possibly used in this raid that we admit we have… and that’s all…

In summation, I actually think that this is a net propaganda GAIN… especially when combined with the fact that the raid got Uncle Binny. It tells our enemies that their future prospects are actually worse than they thought. It’s an unambiguous message to Pakistan that we have NO confidence in them (something they already must have known, but is now on display for everyone). It lets the rest of world know that America can still take care of business when the stakes are high, and that we can still create the most badass gear in the world without outsourcing it. In short, just knowing there IS a “stealth” helo probably has greater impact than actually seeing it and knowing what it does. The imagination runs wild at the possibilities.

The title of this post by the way, in its current incarnation, is a video game reference and not the… ahem… “saltier” term (see #2 at the link) that some of you old hands might be more familiar with (and for that matter how I first heard it used lo, those many moons ago, when I joined the Corps). I use it here because (1) I’m a gamer, and (2) that’s the next stop for this helo in our current pop-folklore: video games.

And in other media, today’s recommended reading is the “Super Hawks” series by Mack Maloney, which I’ve mentioned before... a very, very, very, long time ago now that I look at it. Back then, it was good fiction. Now? It could serve as the basis for a docudrama, apparently…

May 1, 2011

Holy shi'ite 

More like asshole Sunni...

Waiting for confirmation... if so, I'm standing by with a shot of Jameson...

UPDATE: 2339, 1 May 2011 - Confirmed. Adios OBL, you S.O.B.

UPDATE: It's now 3 May and I'm still savoring... Got over to Lex, who has the appropriate music.

Apr 27, 2011


It's kids like this that bolster my hope for the future of this country - individual Americans that take it upon themselves to do what their government bureaucracies have so utterly failed to accomplish. Insta-link. Kid's website is now on the blogroll to right, as well (in the "National Archives" group).
Teen makes digital record of Arlington graves

Ricky Gilleland, a tech-savvy 11th-grader, has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

By Faye Fiore, Los Angeles Times

April 26, 2011, 8:08 p.m.
Reporting from Arlington, Va.—

Rosemary Brown is standing over the grave of her son at Arlington National Cemetery when someone catches her eye. It's a boy in khaki shorts and muddy shoes, juggling a clunky camera and the Motorola Xoom he got for his 17th birthday five days earlier.

"May I ask what you're doing?" Brown inquires. The boy begins to peck at the Xoom tablet, and in seconds the image that Brown has come all the way from Cartwright, Okla., to see fills the screen. It's the white marble headstone of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Jason L. Brown, killed by small-arms fire in Afghanistan three years ago this day. Her face brightens.

"Most of Jason's family and friends are in Oklahoma and Texas. For them to be able to see his grave…," she says, her voice breaking.

Richard "Ricky" Gilleland III — 11th-grader and Junior Future Business Leaders of America computer ace — has succeeded where the Army failed: He has created the only digitized record of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans laid to rest at Arlington. His website, preserveandhonor.com, is a reverent catalog of the fallen, and one young man's response to a scandal of Army mismanagement, mismarked graves and unmarked remains that has rocked this hallowed place for two years.

"It's a tool to help remember people. They can go on and think, 'Wow, look at all these people who gave their lives just so I can walk around,' " Ricky says.

His "project," as he calls it, won't fix Arlington's considerable problems. A commission led by former Sens. Bob Dole and Max Cleland was formed to attempt that.

But his simple website has brought a measure of order and relief to military families unnerved by reports first disclosed by Salon.com in 2009: unidentified remains in graves thought to be empty, one service member buried on top of another, an unmarked urn that turned up in a dirt landfill.

The father of one Marine was so disturbed that he had the remains of his son — a 19-year-old private killed in Iraq by a roadside blast in 2006 — disinterred last year. He searched the coffin that held his son's ravaged body himself. A left-arm tattoo confirmed no mistake had been made, reassurance that came at a terrible price.

An investigation by the Army inspector general concluded in June that at least 211 graves were mislabeled. Top brass were fired. And the management of the 147-year-old American landmark, where about 300,000 fallen troops rest, suddenly seemed as chaotic as its uniform lines of unadorned white markers are orderly.

Cemetery operations were declared antiquated. Arlington still relies on paper records and index cards to maintain 200 acres where presidents, astronauts, freed slaves and heroes of every American war lie. "One fire, flood or coffee spill away" from irreplaceable loss, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) warned.

While discussing Arlington's outdated record-keeping over dinner one night last summer, Ricky — who had just gotten an A in his Programming 1 class at school — announced, "I can fix that." His mother didn't doubt it. She still remembered her older sons complaining they were locked out of the computer again because Ricky, age 4, had changed all the passwords.

"He was the kid who figured things out," Elisabeth Van Dyk, 46, said of her youngest. "He took apart remote controls and his brothers' toys and put them back together again. You could trust he knew what he was talking about."

Ricky didn't have his driver's license yet, so he hitched a ride with his mom on her 45-minute commute from their home in Stafford, Va., to her workplace in Washington. He hopped the Metro the rest of the way to the cemetery. This was July and he wanted an early start before the heat set in.

His focus was Section 60, where about 700 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are buried, more than anywhere else in the country. He combed all 18 acres of it, row by row, and found more than just names. At one grave was a baby's sonogram; he thought about the child who would never know his dad. He saw parents who looked a lot like his own, standing, staring.

Ricky took it all in. This is a side of service he had never fully appreciated, even for a military brat — his great-great-great-grandfather fought at Gettysburg, his father is a retired Army sergeant first class, his stepfather is a retired Navy lieutenant commander and both of his brothers are Air Force senior airmen. (He intends to apply to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and wants to be an officer.)

"Sometimes I look at the birth date and they are about the same age as my brothers, or a year older than me. It puts a whole new perspective on life to think there are 18- or 19-year-old kids who give their lives," he said.

One afternoon while he was out here taking pictures, a woman asked, "What number is my son?" She wanted to know where he fell in a casualty count that is nearing 6,000 for both wars. Ricky couldn't answer her, but later he told his mom that he didn't want them to be numbers; he wanted them to be remembered as people.

"From that point forward," his mom recalled, "it seemed to turn into more than a project."

He spent afternoons in a bookstore poring over Web development manuals for the right program language to create the site. At night, in his family's study, his computer hooked up to a 40-inch flat screen and his keyboard on a snack table in front of the couch, he input hundreds of names, photos, links to obituaries and newspaper accounts; he created a space to blog tributes.

By mid-October, the site was launched.

Army Times wrote him up. The local TV station did a piece. At North Stafford High, he was a minor celebrity. Friends and families around the country could view a loved one's grave thousands of miles away with the click of a mouse. So far, the site has received nearly 116,000 hits and about 300 emails, like the one from Jean Lockey, widow of Army Col. Jon M. Lockey, killed in Iraq on July 6, 2007: "I now have a site to go to when life overwhelms me, a place where I can pretend for a moment I am right there."

And Sarah Hall, mother of 1st Lt. Benjamin John Hall, killed in Afghanistan on July 31, 2007: "Ben was … the light of my life and I miss him every second of every day. To know that his loss is felt by others and acknowledged with such love and honor as you have shown here lifts my heart.…Thank you."

About 10% of the service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are at Arlington; the rest are in cemeteries around the country. Ricky's next goal is to enlist the help of the American Legion and record them all on the website. He figures it could be done in a few months.

But the work at Arlington is never really finished. Sadly, there are always graves to add, and he comes out every few weeks to update the list. That's what brings him here today, with his mom and stepdad, in the back seat of the silver Honda she said he could have if he stayed on the honor roll, which he did. (If his grades drop, she has threatened to sell the car for a dollar.)

He's eager to try out the Xoom. It's a gorgeous April Sunday after a hard rain. The red tulips stand straight as soldiers at the cemetery gates, but the grounds are soaked. Ricky starts patrolling the far end of Section 60 where the new arrivals are. It's muddy and his sneakers sink three inches into what he realizes is a grave so fresh the sod hasn't gone in yet. He winces and carries on. No way can he wear those shoes to school Monday.

That's what he's doing when Rosemary Brown spots him. She comes here twice a year — with her husband on the anniversary of Jason's death and by herself on his birthday in September. ("It's a Mom thing. That's my time.") In between, Ricky's website might be the next best thing.

"Continue this, please," she tells the boy she's only just met. He's shy and a little awkward, not so different from the one she raised. "It's so important that they never, ever be forgotten. Ever."

"I will," Ricky promises. "You can bet on it."

Apr 22, 2011

A place to start saving money 

This morning I got an email (along with everyone else in my unit) from our Security Manager (the guy who oversees the handling of classified material and the physical security of our building). In it, he related how we all needed to be on the lookout and show extra vigilance because recently $32,000 worth of UPS uniforms were sold on eBay to some unknown entity. Virtually anyone in a UPS uniform, therefore - either delivering to you at home, or possibly at work - should bear extra scrutiny due to this possible threat.

Being as we work in the same area, I turned to him and asked where he got that information. He said it came in one of the regular email updates he gets from a wide swath of government security agencies. So, probing deeper, I asked "What'd they do? Add up all the UPS uniform sales on eBay? Does NSA have a whole desk devoted to watching what kind of crap people buy and sell on eBay - millions of transactions - every day? Or did somebody just sell 32 grand worth of uniforms in one shot and we're just 'lucky' enough to have stumbled across it?" The look I got in return was a bit like "why do you ask, and why do you doubt the man behind the curtain?" Of course, I got a different look when - less than five minutes later - I turned back to him and said, "Dude, you got took..."

You see, being a master of the interwebs, I vaguely recalled having heard this story before. Also, being a detector of BS, I detected... well... BS. With the simple Google search "ups uniforms ebay" I was routed to Snopes and, well, see for yourself. Took me only slightly longer than it took you to click that link to come to the conclusion this was bad information.

Ahhh, but the source. Where did it come from? Having now seen that he was handed a steaming pile, that he then took and passed along, our Security Manager was less than enthused. What @sshole passed that info? So, he finds the email, scrolls back down it to the point of origin and finds... Homeland Security. No joke. Couldn't make this up if I tried.

Yes, some chick at Homeland Security had blasted a bunch of military security specialists (at least Navy and Marine ones from what we could tell by the email) with a thousand times forwarded junkmail hoax... from 2003. Great oversight, there.

But what do you expect from a bureaucracy on top of other bureaucracies? That's what it is, after all. All the government did was take a bunch of other organizations and attempt - badly - to stick them together... and then put a massive unwieldy headquarters at the top. Imagine creating another HQ specifically to sit over the Pentagon. Call it... the Hexagon. Yeah... pass the Tylenol.

So, while I always thought the color coded terror alerts were kinda dumb, and am glad they are replacing it, I didn't think they were replacing it with "
imminent and elevated threat" warnings based on 8 year old spam email. But then this is the clown running the show, so what did I expect? And, as Mark Steyn reminds, the crowning jewel of Homeland Security is the TSA... which has yet to actually catch a terrorist. (Side note: though the Coasties got stuffed into the pile at Homeland Security, I have the utmost respect for those guys. They do more with less. WAY less. Same goes for Border Patrol, who are on their own master's shit list constantly for the very act of DOING THEIR JOB).

So, there ya go. No terrorists caught. No real threats recognized. Fake threats mass disseminated. Your tax dollars at work.

Apr 11, 2011

Get thee to the theater 

If not for a rare stop over at Big Hollywood, I would have completely missed that this was coming. Either I'm totally out of the pop-culture loop (entirely possible), or mainstream Hollywood doesn't want this seen (more likely). Either way, I hadn't heard anything about this - no ads, no previews, no nothing. The last time it was even a blip on my radar was probably two years ago, back when it was supposedly going to be an Angelina Jolie movie. Whateves... if it's playing anywhere close to me I need to throw down some coin, because Ayn Rand is the wake up call this country needs right now...


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