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











Posted 3 months, 1 week ago at 12:06 pm.

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Starting 2017 – ARMY Magazine January 2017

It is an honor to announce a recent profile in this wonderful magazine of the Association of the US Army written by Chuck Vinch which highlights some of my current projects.  I look back at the last 16 plus years and cherish the time I’ve been allowed to spend

I look back at the last 16 plus years and cherish the time I’ve been allowed to spend among the US military –  from the US Army’s Special Forces, the 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard” and its fine soldiers along with the specialty platoons – Presidential Salute Battery,  Caisson Platoon.  Then there’s the Golden Knights – The US Army’s Ambassadors from the Sky – several rides in their airplane and BLUE, BLUE SKIES!   The US Army Band – TUSAB – “Pershing’s Own” and so much more.

I’ve highlighted two gems of the US Army’s crown in the books I’ve written:

and this website continues to deliver some of the unique items I find along the way

Continue Reading…


Posted 1 year, 1 month ago at 3:47 pm.

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Rangers Lead the Way – A Ranger is Laid to Rest

29 November 2016 – Beaufort National Cemetery

In a military honors ceremony, a hero was laid to rest today.   One who gave more than his twenty years of service in the US Army.

major gerard m devlin

MAJOR Gerard “Jerry” M. Devlin USA Ret. fought in two wars – Korea and Vietnam – it was a tour in Vietnam where he earned the Distinguished Service Cross awarded for his gallantry and valor during that conflict.  Beyond his service to the United States – his twenty years in the US Army, he became an author and military historian.

I met Jerry at an event commemorating Operation Dragoon, the second invasion of France during WW II.  He was introduced as the author of the book Paratrooper considered “The Bible of the Airborne”.  As I was in midst of completion of my first book Images of America  – Fort Myer, I shared that I was a new soon-to-be-published author. That was the beginning of a great friendship which was much more with his sage advice and insights.


I secured a copy of Paratrooper and immediately delved into the book.  I found it to be well presented and very informative.   Since Jerry lived in South Carolina and I was heading there in a few months, I contacted him to get the book autographed. What was supposed to be “over coffee” turned out to be a rather significant meeting. It also included LTG E. M. “Fly”  Flanagan, who commanded the Special Forces of the US Army in 1968 to 1971 and the author of the book Airborne.

The friendship continued and the coaching about the publishing world along with tips about successful book promotion came along with it.  Much sage advice was provided.  My annual trips to South Carolina always included some time with Jerry.  He also expanded my network in many ways, including befriending the command historian of the XVIII Airborne Corps.

We had what I believe a very symbiotic friendship. My second book,  Images of America – Fort Lesley J. McNair has been a great success with the insights and coaching from Jerry.   While he was working on a book about LTG William P. Yarborough,  The Father of the Modern Green Berets, I would locate items that might have been of interest or spoken to someone who had contact with the general.

I am thankful to have met him and shared many wonderful minutes with him.  He’ll be sorely missed.

I set up a memorial to Jerry on Find-A-Grave’s website


Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 2:00 pm.

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Special Forces Honors President John F Kennedy

A SPECIAL Special Forces Invite

invite to JFK honor by Special Forces


Earlier in October 2016, I received an email from the US Army Special Forces for the annual honoring of JFK at Arlington National Cemetery.  Something that reflects the strong bond even until now between the “silent professionals” and the President.

SF invite to JFK event

Wednesday 19 October 2016 – JFK is Honored

Surrounded by a cordon of US Army Special Forces Soldiers in commemoration of how they honored the fallen President in 1963, the Deputy Commander of the 1st Special Forces Regiment,  Brigadier General E. John Deedrick, Jr., Deputy Commanding General, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) and invited guests placed a wreath at JFK’s grave and final resting place within Arlington National Cemetery.  As in 1963 Soldiers from the 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard” and the US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own” complemented the military contingent – also reminisce of  the 1963 final honors of the President.


Tradition Began in 1963

The origins of the connection of JFK and the US Army Special Forces began on 12  OCTOBER 1961 when the President met then BG William P Yarborough, who was at that time Commander of the 1st Special Forces Regiment at a ceremony held at McKellar’s Pond on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  JFK was exposed to a comprehensive display of the Special Forces capabilities that afternoon after a morning spent among the 82d Airborne Division and their soldiers.

The arrangements for JFK to see the Special Forces was arranged through a back channel plan by then MG Chester Clifton and then BG William P Yarborough.  Since the President had back issues, the Soldiers with their specialties were paraded in front of him while they were on flatbed trucks.  At the end, the Special Forces Soldiers assembled in formation, removed their duty caps and donned their green berets.  General Yarborough went up to the President with his headgear – the green beret.   It was later that a Presidential Order came out that authorized that the Special Forces were offered the distinction of wearing the green beret.

When JFK was assassinated in November 1963, Robert Kennedy, brother of JFK called down to Fort Bragg requesting that a funeral detail of Special Forces Soldiers be included in the President’s final honors.  Among the 46 men chosen for the final honors, was SGM Francis J. Ruddy.  After the final honors were concluded, SGM Ruddy approached the casket of the President, removed his green beret and placed it on the casket rendering honors to his fallen Commander-in-Chief.

That strong connection between the 1st Special Forces and JFK is maintained with an annual wreath laying in Arlington National Cemetery at JFK’s grave.


Honoring JFK

P.S.   Yes, that is my latest challenge coin awarded by Brigadier General E. John Deedrick, Jr.


Special Forces Honors President John F Kennedy



Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 11:12 pm.

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US Army Special Forces – Happy 60th Birthday!

It was US  Army, Major General Robert A. McClure’s vision to create the Special Forces which resurected the WW II organization  the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) that with their behind the scenes work helped to win the war. Lietenant Colonel Russell W. Volckmann  built the plan for the Special Forces and Colonel Aaron Bank executed it.

Special FOrcesThe first Special Forces unit in the Army was formed on 11 June 1952, when the 10th Special Forces Group was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A major expansion of Special Forces occurred during the 1960s, with a total of eighteen groups organized in the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard. As a result of renewed emphasis on special operations in the 1980s, the Special Forces Branch was established as a basic branch of the Army effective 9 April 1987, by General Orders No 35 dated 19 June 1987.


Known to many as “The Silent Professionals,” over the years the Special Forces evolved to becoming the premier force of the US military


Posted 5 years, 8 months ago at 6:29 am.

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Story by: Donna Dixon FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The Golden Knights, the U.S. Army’s official parachute demonstration team, who have just celebrated their 50th Anniversary will be making a historical jump at Silk Hope, NC. The Gold Demonstration team will be conducting this commemorative jump in veneration of their fellow Gold Team demonstrators who lost their lives in a devastating C-47 crash.  Golden Knights - US Army Parachute Team - 50th Anniversary

The jump will take place at the baseball field next to the fire department at 1:00 pm on 17 April 2010 as part of a re-dedication ceremony. Approximately 5000 to 7000 people will be present for this event and the nearby Farm Heritage Day celebration.

March 8, 1973, the military transport left Fort Bragg at 8:18 am carrying 14 members of the Army Golden Knights parachute team to their first performance of the show season at Overland, Kansas. About seven to 12 miles north of Fort Bragg communication with the plane was lost. The plane traveled another forty miles to the Silk Hope area, still without further communication. At approximately 8:45 am, Mrs. Janelle Newlin, who resided on the opposite side of the field, reportedly heard what sounded like an explosion. Looking up, she saw one wing drop off the fuselage and the plane tragically spiraled downward and crashed in a cornfield on the Basil Perry Farm, two miles north of Silk Hope in Northern Chatham County.

It was said that among the pieces of debris that fluttered down onto nearby homes and yards were brightly colored brochures, proclaiming the mission of the Golden Knights, their legendary history and invitations to join the military and possibly come to Assessment and Selection to become members of the team.

For over 37 years this catastrophic event has been memorialized by a stone tablet at the base of the Silk Hope Fire Departments flag pole.

CWO Richard A. Del Conte [P]
PFC Paul D. Albritton
SSG Joseph C. Barbarick
SGT Michael G. Buckley
SSG Bartley L. Bullington
SSG Cecil E. Davis
SSG Raymond C. Kinser Jr
SGT Edward M. Parrish
CWO Rodney H. Pease
SSG Joseph B. Pelter
SSG James F. Rice
SP5 Michael D. Wasley
SGT Francis P. Welch
SSG Robert T. Wolfe



Please join us in this tribute by paying homage to our fallen comrades from the U S Army Parachute Team. For more information about the Golden Knights’ or to learn more about the team’s unique history and to view a schedule of events, visit the GOLDEN KNIGHTS Website.


Posted 7 years, 10 months ago at 1:20 pm.


Мерры Чристмас !

Or for those who cannot read Russian Cyrillic –


Continue Reading…


Posted 8 years, 1 month ago at 10:03 pm.


Let it snow … let it snow


Arlington National Cemetery is Closed!

I had plans on Saturday morning to capture the first major snowfall in Arlington National Cemetery.  A week before, the Wreaths Across America annual event added 16,000 wreaths in Sections near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. So I could probably get some great photographs.

I forgot I live in the area where snow is more than a 4-letter word – it’s rare and most people living in this area have experience of little or none driving or dealing with it – Washington DC and surrounds … closes down.   So I came back to the ranch and worked on Christmas cards.   

 Here’s a sample of a design for the US Army’s Divisions  –  Airborne All the Way!

82d Airborne Christmas Notecard
82d Airborne

They are currently for sale at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC  AND the 82d Airborne Division Memorial Museum on Fort Bragg, NC.   Only one of many designs and units that are available.   

Currently working on a new note-card for the 14th Infantry Regiment which was constituted in 1861 in Trumbull, CT


Posted 8 years, 2 months ago at 7:20 am.

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48 Years Ago…

Fort Bragg, NC –  An historic meeting occurred that changed the US military – specifically the US Army forever.  For it was on this day,  12 OCT 1961 a visit was arranged that forged a lasting effect that continues until this day –  Presidential validation of the Special Forces – “The Green Berets”

To understand the history though,  one must look back nearly 200 years before, one state south and consider “The Swamp Fox”…

Continue Reading…


Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 1:25 pm.


Part II – US Army — Golden Knights – Elite Ambassadors from the Sky

Somewhere near Fort Bragg, NC: It was late that 16 MAR 2009 day, as I sat watching the formation teams practice in this vertical wind tunnel chamber – weightless maneuvers with the 11 humongous-horsepower fans that kept them aloft… As they went through their routines to collectively form as many different geometric shapes in the less than a minute of time that they had, I sensed there was more to this entire unit than a few Soldiers who decided it would be something different to jump free-fall out of a airplane.

It intrigued me – immensely!

I sat there and LTC Tony Dill, the commander of this elite unit appeared and he was pleasantly surprised that this late in the day I was still here… seems all the major media headed back to file their stories of the events earlier in the day. I just wondered how much they really knew about the Golden Knights and the Soldiers who comprised this unit. I had spent some time exploring their website and found among them Soldiers who were Special Forces & Rangers, but also Helicopter mechanics & Medics, they came from all over the United States… the common theme was that they were AIRBORNE qualified and loved the US ARMY. Can’t ask for a better combination.

Back to LTC Dill and me, I asked if I could spend more time with the unit, since I saw something that needed to be shared, a story of how these men & women are risking their lives (it’s still dangerous jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 5, 10, 13 thousand feet… despite all the fail-safes and precautions that are taken. So each of these Soldiers puts their lives on the line up to several times a week to show the public a skill that I later learn transfers very well to the rest of the US Army.) My request to spend time with the Golden Knights was welcomed and I asked if I could get access to the team when they came to the Washington, DC area – the Andrews AFB Joint Service Airshow in MAY. This additional request was also welcomed and an airplane ride was offered much to my surprise!

The following day, I carried out another mission as I got acceptance of the notecards I had designed from the Golden Knights SSI (Shoulder Sleeve Insignia – though few of them wear the insignia on their shoulder.) – The notecards (along with other designs) are now for sale at the Airborne Special Operations Museum in Faytetteville, NC. I then responded to CPT Funderburk that the notecards were now available to the public and Thank you for the great warm hospitality while I was visiting.

Back to the story…

As the weekend of the Joint Forces Air Show approached, I hadn’t heard about how I would connect with the Golden Knights. Then Saturday 16 MAY, my cell phone had a voicemail on it from LTC Dill … the next day I was at Andrews AFB heading toward a rather wonderful “Golden Knights” aircraft… (I’ve learned that the airplane is the Golden Knights’ home-away-from-home = they spend about 42 weekends – and many weekdays away from their home base at Fort Bragg… and I thought I traveled a lot when I worked for Corporate America!)

I was escorted aboard and as I got strapped in, I watched as several of the Golden Knights reviewed and walked through what they were going to do in the air, right there on the ground (the US Army is always “On the Mission!”) They may have done this hundreds of times before, but again they made sure it was going to be perfect.

They next huddled and went through what I later found out was a ritual that has evolved over time… They then boarded the airplane and began donning their jump-suits – then the parachutes and harnesses went on then another series of staging practices occurred at each of the doors (they take such pride in their work!)

As final preparations were being made for takeoff… a very smooth takeoff mind you! they continued to prepare for their jump as more equipment was …. along with other necessary geargloves, altimeter, a final check of the parachutes.

All this happening while the airplane headed for 12,500 Feet above the Washington, DC area (the Washington Monument looked like a matchstick rising out of the ground!) It had rained the night before and there were still clouds lingering in the skies. As we went higher and higher, we lost 3 degrees of temperature for every 1,000 feet we climbed. Gloves! Need gloves since the brisk winds as the doors were open seemed to keep it cooler.

They even have their own camera man – who takes photos with his camera strapped to his helmet!


Yes, I’m leaving you up in the air…

… don’t they call that a

“cliff hanger?”


Posted 8 years, 8 months ago at 1:52 am.

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