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Photography by John Michael

"Preserving the memories so others will remember"™

Veterans Day 2017

WW II Pacific

What the Veteran Sees

Live as brave men, the gaunt gray man said with sunken eyes.
Go in the direction of thunder at whatever cost. As if describing some deadly game.
At daybreak, we charged together, through the trees. Side-by-side–into a hive of angry bees.
A sudden taste of baptismal fire. Visceral images of friends in elegant repose.
Flowing like mist over muddy fields of red. Below a dark, empty sky.
The symphony of guns fades away. And we the living are left to see what we cannot yet conceive.
The memories of comrades, and their acts of bravery. Hopelessly conflict with all that we have lost.
Incongruous, familiar faces, seen through granite, grey, and black. Fade away like smoke, in the trees–where eagles lay.
— John Fenzel, Veterans Day 2017
 Green Beret with Distinctive Unit Insignia and Flash

About John Fenzel

John Fenzel is a retired senior Army Special Forces officer who has served on battlefields throughout the world. He has served on the personal staff of the Secretary of Defense, as a Special Assistant to the Vice President, as a strategic planner for the Chief of Staff of the Army, and as a White House Fellow during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

He commanded a Special Forces Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and an Army brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In the wake of the 9-11 attacks, he served as Staff Director for Tom Ridge in the Homeland Security Council. He was the principal architect of The Homeland Security Advisory System, our nation’s first public warning system for terrorist threats. He is the author of the critically acclaimed thriller, The Lazarus Covenant.

In his 30 years of military service, John has served in numerous command and staff positions around the world.  During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he commanded a Special Forces “A-Team,” training, equipping and advising a Kuwaiti Battalion and accompanying them during the liberation of Kuwait. He has commanded three Special Forces companies, leading the first Army deployments to Pakistan and the Baltic States. In Bosnia, he commanded the special operations teams in the U.S. and British sectors, working closely with the United Nations to secure the indictments and convictions of those responsible for war crimes in Srebrenica.  He is the only active duty American military officer to testify at The Hague in support of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

John is a graduate of the Naval War College and the National War College*. Born in Iowa and raised outside Chicago, John lives with his wife and three children in Annapolis, Maryland.  The Sterling Forest is his second novel.


 

My Connection to COL John Fenzel

When two paths cross, one never can anticipate the outcome of the encounter. That was the case when I met COL John Fenzel. Our first face-to-face meeting occurred downtown Washington DC near the Army Navy Club. I had brought with me one of the recent ANC Memorial books that I had prepared from a final honors ceremony of a Special Forces Soldier. The reaction was unexpected, but in the next moment, I was the proud recipient of a US Army Accessions Command challenge coin. What later followed was a series of events at Fort Bragg, NC, Andrews Air Force Base and Patuxent Naval Air Station with the US Army’s ambassadors from the skies – The Golden Knights.

Another one of those events was the Army Strong Experience in 2009 held at Fort Meade, Maryland where over several days I was made “Army Stronger” as then the Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren described the results of the exposure on the participants. In addition to another exposure to the Golden Knights, I soon learned about and got involved with the US Army Marksmanship Unit, which is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was established by President Dwight D, Eisenhower in 1956 to highlight the proficiency of marksmanship in the Army.

COL Fenzel opened some doors that let me see a part of the US Army that is truly special.

Thank you, COL Fenzel!


 

*The National War College is headquartered at Roosevelt Hall and one of the colleges of the National Defense University at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, DC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted 1 month ago at 12:06 pm.

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The Iwo Jima Memorial Revisited

A War Story worth your time found on the net:

iwo jima

 

“Each year I am hired to go to (not me) Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capital, and each year I take some special memories back with me.

 

This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

Continue Reading…

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Posted 2 months, 2 weeks ago at 7:28 am.

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Defenders Day at Fort McHenry 09 SEP 2017

A Historic Celebration – Fortified!

 

Fort-McHenry-aerial

 

 

Celebrated annually to commemorate the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, Defenders Day is a Maryland holiday celebrated in 2017 on 12 September in which Fort McHenry played a pivotal role in the success of that battle.  The British with their array of warships in the harbor bombarded the fort repeatedly during the battle.   The soldiers of the fort responded in kind with a steady barrage and the Americans were victorious.

 

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Posted 3 months, 1 week ago at 6:43 am.

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The Most Dangerous Man in America

September 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri

all the world was on alert …

 

Serendipity is key in my exploring.  Those that know me, know that I nearly always have something to read in my hands, be it a book, a newsletter, a pamphlet, phone or …  I am a voracious reader.  It was something instilled in me by my family.   Many years ago, my parents signed me up for a “Book of the Month” club for young readers.  The books — there were two that arrived each month — were devoured immediately after arrival and finished off in a few days.  Sometime later, I received a letter in the mail from the club President — sending his regrets — I had exhausted their entire collection and they would not be sending me any more books.   So I discovered libraries and now it’s rare that I will leave these cathedrals of knowledge without at least a few books.

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Posted 3 months, 2 weeks ago at 6:02 am.

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Ronald Reagan’s thoughts on Constitutions

“I had a copy of the Soviet Constitution and I read it with great interest. And I saw all kinds of terms in there that sound just exactly like our own: ‘Freedom of assembly’ and ‘freedom of speech’ and so forth. Of course, they don’t allow them to have those things, but they’re in there in the Constitution. But I began to wonder about the other constitutions — everyone has one — and our own, and why so much emphasis on ours. And then I found out, and the answer was very simple — that’s why you don’t notice it at first. But it is so great that it tells the entire difference. All those other constitutions are documents that say, ‘We, the government, allow the people the following rights,’ and “our Constitution” says ‘We the People, allow the government the following privileges and rights.’ We give our permission to government to do the things that it does. And that’s the whole story of the difference—why we’re unique in the world and why no matter what our troubles may be, we’re going to overcome.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . .

~Ronald Reagan

 

 




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Posted 4 months ago at 2:12 pm.

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FDR’s D-Day Words

FDR Microphones

On 06 JUN 1944 THESE WERE TELLING WORDS:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity”

 

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Posted 6 months, 1 week ago at 11:38 am.

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Remember … Why We Celebrate Memorial Day

National Medal Honor Day Wreath Laying Ceremony

Wreath Laying Ceremony

REMEMBER…

ALMIGHTY GOD, WE GATHER TODAY ACROSS AMERICA, VERY MINDFUL OF THE COST PAID FOR THE FREEDOM WE ENJOY. WE GATHER ON THESE HALLOWED GROUNDS PARTICULARLY TO REMEMBER AND TO HONOR, WITH SINGULAR DEVOTION, MEN AND WOMEN OF IGNOBLE CLAYLIKE LIKE OURS WHO ROSE ABOVE THEIR HUMAN CONDITION WITH NOBLE HEARTS AND STEADFAST WILL. DESPITE THE BREVITY OR OF SECURITY OF THEIR LIVES, DIGNIFIED OUR HUMANITY AND THE PROFESSION OF ARMS, BY CHOOSING TO STAND FOR SOMETHING. WHO DECLARED WITH THEIR ACTIONS, THAT PRESERVING FREEDOM WAS A CAUSE TO LIVE FOR, TO SERVE FOR, AND EVEN TO DIE FOR. BLESS OUR COMMEMORATION HERE AND ALL OF ITS PARTICIPANTS, MAINTENANCE OF SERVANTS RENDER HONOR TO THOSE WHO REMEMBER — WE REMEMBER. FOR WHAT THEY GAIN, THEY DESERVE MORE THAN WE CAN GIVE. WE ASK YOU LORD, TO BESTOW UPON THEM THE GIFT THAT THIS WORLD CANNOT GIVE. GRANT OF THE PEACE THAT THEY FELT SO ELUSIVE IN THIS LIFE, AND LET THAT PEACE BE FULL AND EVERLASTING. AMEN.

— Chaplain Gary R. Studniewski

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Posted 6 months, 3 weeks ago at 10:49 am.

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The Eve of Decoration Day

First Decoration Day at

Arlington National Cemetery

Established in 1864 at the height of the US Civil War,  Arlington National Cemetery was

Major General John Alexander Logan - Decoration Day

Major General John Alexander Logan

carved out of the 1,100 acres of what was the Custis-Lee estate – the land owned by Mary Parke Custis, even after her marriage to Robert E. Lee.  The land was seized when she didn’t show up in-person to pay the taxes.   General Montgomery Meigs then ordered that fallen soldiers be buried on the grounds.

It was after the war that Major General John A. Logan, who was commander-in-chief of the Army, on 05 MAY 1868 issued General Order #11 which created Decoration Day on  May 30, 1868 (it later became Memorial Day) and the first Decoration Day was then observed at Arlington National Cemetery.

Following Decoration Days inspired patriotic expressions in many ways.  Samuel Francis Smith, who was known for the poem set to music “America” (more well known by its first few words: “My country ’tis of thee.“) wrote the following poem in honor of Decoration Day.

 

The Eve of Decoration Day

Samuel Francis SmithSweet in the innocence of youth,
Born of the brave and free,
They wove fair garlands while they sang,
” My country, ‘t is of thee; ”
How every bosom swelled with joy,
And thrilled with grateful pride,
As, fond, the whispering cadence breathed,
” Land where my fathers died. “

Fair flowers in sweet bouquets they tied, —
Breaths from the vales and hills, —
While childish voices poured the strain,
” I love thy rocks and rills; ”
Each face grew radiant with the thought,
” Land of the noble free; ”
Each voice seemed reverent, as it trilled
” Sweet land of liberty. “

And bud, and bloom, and leaf they bound,
And bade the living keep,
Unharmed and pure, the cherished graves
Where brave men calmly sleep
And thus while infant lips begin
To lisp ” sweet Freedom’s song, ”
Manhood’s deep tones, from age to age,
Shall still ” the sound prolong. “

I hailed the promise of the scene;
Gladness was in the strain;
The glorious land is safe, while love
Still swells the fond refrain.
And what shall be our sure defence,
Who guards our liberty?
Not men, not arms alone, — we look,
” Our fathers’ God, to Thee. “

by Samuel Francis SmithTomb of the Unknowns

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Posted 6 months, 3 weeks ago at 3:27 pm.

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John Michael – Appointed to Colonel of Rangers

FORT BELVOIR, VA – A New Colonel of Rangers

SATURDAY 22 APR 2017

A Colonel of Rangers Awarded

It came as a very pleasant surprise that John Michael was awarded a distinguished rank of Colonel of Rangers within the Mosby Rangers after delivering an outstanding briefing about Fort Myer and the unique book “Images of America – Fort Myer” to an audience of nearly one hundred of the 310th TAACOM at their annual meeting at the Fort Belvoir Officers Club.

The Evolving Fort Myer Briefing

Even before it was published, John Michael developed and presented a briefing about the then upcoming book “Images of America – Fort Myer”.  Over time, the briefing has remained fresh and vibrant to tell the story of the “Center of Innovation” – Fort Myer.  Its life began over 150 years ago when it was first known as Fort Whipple – designed by General John Gross Barnard, class of 1833 West Point.  The fort was part of the seventy plus fortifications that comprised the Defenses of Washington. He designed most of them.  Fort Myer, renamed in honor of General Albert J. Myer, who was the first chief signal officer of the US Army, is still carrying on its mission some near 160 years later of defending the Capital City.

Have Briefing Will Travel

Over the years, John Michael has had the distinct privilege of delivering the briefing about Fort Myer among many to include The Rocks of Washington DC,  Military Order of World Wars, the 3d Infantry Regiment – The Old Guard, 441st Counterintelligence Corps, Military Officers Association of America, Elder Study Group of Mary Washington University, Throckmorton Library of Fort Bragg, Monarch at Sea Pines and many more.

310th TAACOM

 As the 310th Theater Army Area Command, the senior combat service support element of the Army Reserve, was headquartered at the John S. Mosby Army Reserve Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The 310th Theater Army Area Command was the all-important backstage player making sure those out front had everything they needed to succeed. The 310th Theater Army Area Command had units in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. These included the 55th Materiel Management center, the 4th Movements Region, the 300th Area Support Group, the 131st Chaplain Support Team, and the 201st Public Affairs Detachment.

Deploying in support of real-world missions had already been becoming more and more common for Army Reservists by the 1990s. In late 1996, the 310th Theater Army Area Command deployed about 115 Reservists from 5 of its subordinate units, including the 4th Movements Region, 201st Public Affairs Detachment, 55th Materiel Management Center, 300th Area Support Group, and 2 detachments from the Command’s headquarters. The 201st Public Affairs Detachment, a 310th Theater Support Command (Provisional) unit, deployed to support the 1st Armored Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, during Operation Joint Endeavor. The unit returned home on 13 February 1997 after an 8-month deployment.

TAACOM’s Distinctive Unit Insignia

310th SustainmentCommand

Description/Blazon

A gold color metal and enamel device consisting of a background saltirewise blue and scarlet bearing at the center a gray confederate cavalry hat with a black band and plume on a white saltire with lower ends passing under and upper ends extending slightly beyond a gold, all enclosing, triple folded scroll inscribed “VICTORY THROUGH SUPPORT” in black letters.

Symbolism

The plumed gray confederate cavalry hat alludes to Colonel Mosby, CSA and his Rangers after whom the John Singleton Mosby USAR Center in Alexandria, Virginia, was named and where the unit was formerly located. The saltire is a symbol of support; the saltire also appeared on the Confederate Battle Flag and in this instance refers to Virginia, the area in which Mosby and his Rangers operated. Blue, red, and white are the National colors.

Background

The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 310th Field Army Support Command on 8 May 1973. It was redesignated for the 310th Support Command (Theater Army Area) on 10 May 1982. The insignia was redesignated effective 16 September 2007, for the 310th Sustainment Command with description and symbolism updated.

Colonel of Rangers Awarded

After a successful briefing of the 310th TAACOM unit, John Michael was then awarded the rank of Colonel of Rangers within the Mosby Rangers.  The replica of the certificate is below.
MOSBY'S RANGERS - Colonel of Rangers

Fort Lesley J. McNair

John Michael is also the author of another outstanding book about the 3rd oldest US Army Post – since 1791 –  “Images of America  – Fort Lesley J. McNair”   –   Purchase an autographed copy on his website.

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Posted 7 months, 3 weeks ago at 2:17 pm.

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Farrier’s Daughters Return to Fort Myer

15 APR 2017 – Fort Myer, Caisson Stables

The past history of the US Army has a deep reliance upon the horse. That past was celebrated when Fort Myer was designated in 1887 through general order to become the showcase for the cavalry.  General Philip H Sheridan had the vision and the US Army had the horses among the cavalry and field artillery.  And the post became that showcase with the numerous cavalry and field artillery units. They were occupying the historic acres which once was part of the Custis-Lee estate.  Fort Myer still celebrates that legacy with the Caisson Platoon of the 3d Infantry – The Old Guard.

Caretakers of Some Equine Celebrities

The Caisson Platoon, besides having the distinction of being the only remaining US Army platoon with horses, has another. Over time it has cared for some major celebrity horses.

When the Army Moved by Horse

From 1908 until 1948 the US Army Remount Service was activated to provide the horses and mules needed by various parts of the army, mostly the cavalry and field artillery. Several “remount depots” were activated across the United States.  Among them were:

The last one and largest at 22,000 acres is where “Blackjack” was foaled.  He was the last of the remount horses.  Named after General John J “Blackjack” Pershing, he wore the brand of his Army serial number 2V56 on the left side of his neck.  His role was as a caparisoned (riderless) horse. His celebrity came from among the more than 1,000 full honor funerals, the most visible of them was the state funeral for President John F Kennedy.   Blackjack is buried in a special grave on the east side of Summerall Field on Fort Myer, VA

A Man on a White Horse

On 19 MAY 1964, Warrant Officer McKinney mounted Conversano Beja and rode out of Madison Garden in New York City.  The Spanish Riding School of Vienna Austria had just donated this white stallion to the US Army.  It was in appreciation of saving of the horses toward the end of WW II.   General George S Patton, Jr. authorized a mission to rescue the Lipizzaner horses from the Nazis. Over the next years, Conversano Beja participated in events with the Caisson Platoon.  Upon the horse’s passing, it was also buried on Fort Myer.

It’s More Than Ketchup

For many years, the H. J. Heinz Company utilized a team of eight Percheron horses combined with an antique wagon as part of their ongoing marketing campaign.  On 16 AUG 2007 that all changed when the company donated the horses to the US Army with the Caisson Platoon of the Old Guard as the caretakers   Since then, the horses have provided service during the many funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.  One of them, named Klinger has even been honored with his own book.

 


 

3d Infantry Caisson Platoon – An Open House

The Old Guard’s Caisson Platoon had their “Spring Open House” with over 1,400 people attending throughout the event.  The day, however, began with a strong look back in history thanks to the daughters of a 3rd Cavalryman while George S. Patton, Jr was commander of both Fort Myer and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

Historic Revisit to Fort Myer

The last time they were on the post is when they were young girls and the MPs chased them away from the apple trees. Elaine Weber and her sister Joan returned to Fort Myer to make a donation of memorabilia and an album of their father’s photos from that era – including among them was the 16th Field Artillery which shared Fort Myer with the “Brave Rifles “ of the 3rd Cavalry  Their father was a farrier.  In February 1942 when the 3rd Cavalry was sent to Fort Oglethorpe to get mechanized, the farrier and his family headed south with the regiment.

CPT Austin Hatch awards Elaine Weber a Caisson Challenge Coin

 

PAGES AND PAGES of PHOTOS

Part of the time spent included a look back of decades ago showing glimpses of when the horse was a main “resident” of Fort Myer.  The Old Guard Soldiers of the Caisson Platoon enjoyed examining another chapter of their history – those that preceded them.

 

CPT Austin Hatch awarded Elaine Weber the Caisson Platoon’s challenge coin in appreciation of her selfless gift and her father’s service to the United States.

The Farrier’s Daughters with some members of the Caisson Platoon

John Michael Sees Stars – 48 of them!

During the Caisson Open House, John Michael was awarded the 48-star American colors by Elaine Weber.

 

More about the Military Horse

An excellent book about the horse Blackjack

 

Rescue of the Lipizzaner Stallions

 

Klinger – A Caisson Platoon Horse

 

 

Mounting the Cavalry with America’s Finest Horses

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Posted 8 months ago at 1:28 pm.

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