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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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US Army MSG Receives Distinguished Service Cross

27 FEB 2017  at The PENTAGON

MSG Henry F BeckDuring an event hosted by the US Army Chief of Staff,  General Mark A Milley,   MSG Henry F Beck USA (Ret) was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon.  While members of the MSG Beck’s family and friends looked on, the Chief of Staff cited the actions in Vietnam while with the 327th Infantry of the 101st Division which resulted in MSG Beck’s award of the Distinguished Service Cross.

During MSG Beck’s career with the US Army, he also served with the 5-0th Infantry and the 5th Group of the Special Forces. He was also a Pathfinder instructor.

The ceremony was held in the Hall of Heroes within the Pentagon.

Also in attendance, was the Secretary of the Army, many active duty Soldiers including the Commander and Command Sergeant Major of the 327th Infantry Battalion from Fort Campbell plus several members of the Special Forces Association, Chapter XI – Washington Capital Region.

 

 

The Ceremony

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The Distinguished Service Cross

The Distinguished Service Cross was established by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by Act of July 25, 1963), 10 U.S.C. 3742. It is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the Army, distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal Distinguished Service Crossof Honor while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his comrades.

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Posted 9 months, 2 weeks ago at 8:12 pm.

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ARMY MAGAZINE JANUARY 2017

ARMY MAGAZINE JANUARY 2017

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…

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Posted 11 months, 1 week 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

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Posted 1 year 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

 PART 2

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Posted 1 year, 1 month ago at 11:12 pm.

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Happy ANZAC DAY 2016 – 25 APR

ANZAC Day

Celebrating the Australian and New Zealand Military

Since WW I the Australian and New Zealand military have stood together to take the fight to the enemy.  ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. And each year since the 1920s there has been a commemoration of the valor and fight that these troops have offered in the battles and wars of the world.

They fought to take the Gallpoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies.

 

Some words from the current Special Forces Association National President, Jack Tobin:

April 25, is ANZAC Day, the Australians and New Zealanders have been beside us in every conflict since World War II, many of us worked with them in Vietnam, when allies were scarce, but the ANZACs were there, with “no worries mate” ringing across the radios. After the tragedy of 9/11, when America went on the offensive in Afghanistan, the Australians and New Zealanders were the first to join us, taking the fight to the enemy.
 
At the SFA Conferences and Conventions, we parade the Australian flag, not only to honor our Chapter in Australia, but it also to honor our long tradition of warriors marching together.
 
Having spent time in Australia and New Zealand, and having served with ANZACs in Afghanistan, I can tell y’all that the bonds have never been tighter, that our cousins “down under” are ready, as always, to stand with us, and we should be proud of that relationship, we could find no better friends or better warriors.
 
So, if you have a moment on Monday, remember the ANZACs, in your thoughts and prayers.
 
Lest we forget, Lest we forget.
 
Jack

More About ANZAC Day

Here You can read more about  ANZAC Day  and learn of the continuing support that the Australian and New Zealand armed forces offer in the battles faced today.
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Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 10:00 am.

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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

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

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Tribute to CSM Jack Lee Bonner Sr. USA (Ret.)

US Army Special Forces Distinctive Unit InsigniaWe lost another hero on 05 APR 2012 – He was a true patriot and one of the elite – The US Army’s Special Forces. I can’t really recall the first time I met Jack, but he was always glad to see me and thanked me for what I was doing for the Special Forces and for the US Army.

The true surprise came a few years ago in the US Mail – it was from the Freedom Team Salute – I was surprised to receive it. When I opened and read the letter it began:

” Dear John Michael.

CSM Jack Bonner has nominated you for the Freedom Team Salute for your support and promotion of the US Army… “

The next time I saw Jack, I asked him why he nominated me… He replied “Why are you doing what you’re doing for the Special Forces and the US Army?” I told him I believed in the value of what the Special Forces and US Army has done and continues to do for the US and the free world. – Jack said, “That’s reason enough to nominate you…”

Enclosed was an Army Star lapel pin along with a decal … I proudly wear the pin as a reminder of the man who thought enough to honor me.   It was great to know him.

 I wear the pin proudly. Jack, I ‘ll miss you … Thank you for your service!  Thank you for your friendship.

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Posted 5 years, 8 months ago at 3:14 am.

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A Milestone in Special Forces is Finally Honored

It WAS October 12, 1961, when a visit by then-President John F. Kennedy to Fort Bragg, North Carolina that would turn the tide and raise the awareness of these elite Soldiers of the US Army and award them officially their badge of honor – “The Green Beret”.   The President met General William P Yarborough and saw the Special Forces in action at McKellars Pond.

Continue Reading…

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Posted 5 years, 8 months ago at 7:12 am.

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Who Are These Men?

Written by someone who has been there, the following is a “guest” posting from a dear friend:

silent professionals

During the past decade since the attacks of September 11, 2001, we have been a nation at war.  In Afghanistan, our enemy has been the Taliban, Al Qaida and countless foreign fighters whose only goal has been to kill Americans, in great numbers.       

It has–and continues to be–a long war.  Against an amorphous, enduring enemy.

The centerpiece of that war has been a single, elusive icon of terror who personally directed the mass killings of innocent people around the world. 

From the first day, we fought back.  And we continue to fight.

We have lost friends, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers.  We have heard the sound of Taps echo and linger in the distance.  Many courageous men and women have returned with grievous wounds—sometimes invisible to the naked eye.

Despite the many obstacles, dangers and threats, we continue to fight.

In a long war, the sacrifice is often spread across generations.

Many of those operators who raided that compound 30 miles outside Islamabad were likely too young to drive when the 9/11 attacks occurred. 

And yet, these volunteers most certainly remembered that fateful day, and were thinking about it as they were being transported into Pakistan via Special Operations helicopters in the dead of night.  The images were likely decisive in their decision to take their oath– to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Fueled by adrenalin, a healthy dose of fear, and a supreme confidence in their equipment and training, warriors like these know well that things can and likely will go wrong.  That’s why they rehearse.  Whether they are on their target or supporting from afar, it’s why they look after one another, and will never leave a fallen comrade behind.

They are the best living definition of a team. Because they operate as a single unit toward a common, understood objective.  They never quit.  When the conditions change, they adapt.  They can communicate intuitively, with silent hand and arm signals through the green glow of night vision goggles, or single syllable transmissions spoken into a whisper mike. They often follow orders delivered a continent away.  They are brothers–closer to one another than their own immediate families.

When they are in pursuit of a target, political boundaries are irrelevant.  Moving as a synchronized team, they act decisively and selflessly, and inform their hosts later.

Mission first.

Fortunately, these operators are ours.

It is these remarkable men who are deployed forward in a land they do not seek to permanently occupy, and who, in the most desperate circumstances, continue to fight — for all of us.

–John Fenzel, May 2, 2011

John is a dear friend, a patriot who wears the uniform and author of the outstanding book  “The Lazarus Covenant”

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Posted 6 years, 7 months ago at 11:39 pm.

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