Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trip to Hallowed Ground

Our squadron did a month long detachment to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. The Marines have many spots around the Western Pacific that are historic due to the many battles fought throughout WWII; Okinawa being one of them. However, whenever someone speaks of the Marines, what image comes to mind? I would submit to you that a picture of the flag raising at Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima comes to mind. The battle was the bloodiest battle for the Marines throughout the entire war. Almost 1/3 of the Marines killed in WWII died fighting for this tiny island. Over the month long battle that lasted from Feb 19 to March 26, 1945, 27 Medals of Honor were bestowed on 23 Marines and 4 Navy Corpsmen; 30% of the total Medals of Honor awarded during WWII.

Iwo Jima just happens to be approximately 600 miles east of Okinawa. Back in 2004, I was fortunate to be able to fly out there in an F/A-18 and tour the island with 7 other officers. All it cost was a bottle of Jack Daniels for the local Japanese as a bribe to get them to drive us to a few locations around the island. And, as I found out this time around it was well worth it.

This visit was entirely more strenuous. The squadron set up a trip to the island for the entire squadron. We all flew out on 3 C-130's from one of the local Marine squadrons. The plan was to take a 6 F/A-18s, refuel them with the C-130s and conduct an attack on the island. The trip out was to take 2 1/2 hours but ended up taking almost 5. The hornets were not able to take off on time due to airfield issues and never ended up joining the C-130s in flight. So we circled the island waiting.

Subsequently, the tour of the island was cut short almost 3 hours. This meant that the hike, yes, I said hike, would not make it's way up to the top of Mt. Suribachi. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Most of the Marines were upset since most of them have never been to the island and wanted to see the top of the hill, the sight of the historic flag raising. However, to do this all on foot in one day was tough. The turnaround point ended up being the beach where the amphibious assault took place. At least the Marines were able to collect some of the black volcanic sand from the beach.

At the end of it all, we were drenched with sweat (soaked from head to toe, literally), blistered feet and sunburned from the hot August sun. Below are some pictures of the trip.

The historic (2nd) flag raising.

A quick photo opportunity in the midst of battle.

A couple of Majors take a nap and read a book on the long flight out.

The English pronunciation of the island was changed to it's previous name of Iwo To, which means the same thing as Iwo Jima. It was updated on the side of the tower. I have a photo that has this tower with Iwo Jima on the side.

Picture of Marines on the beach during the battle in 1945 with Mt. Suribachi in the background.

A picture of a couple of knuckle-head Marines on the beach in 2008 with Mt. Suribachi in the background.

Another picture of the beach during the battle.

A photo of our squadron coin. The front side is our current squadron logo. The reverse is the WWII logo of our squadron that was born and cut it's teeth supporting Marines during WWII.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Goodbye, Ali Cat! We will ALL miss you. . .

On Aug 5, 2008, Alison Frances Kline was ushered up to the Lord after battling so hard against cancer. She was 27. Ali and Tom have in recent years become a close part of my family and will be deeply missed by all of us.

If you have been reading Kimberly's blog, you will know just how much she and Tom meant to us. Ali and Kimberly were like sisters. I have been reluctant to post anything on my blog for many reasons. However, with the passing of a friend in Afghanistan and a week to ponder many aspects of my own life I have decided to post.

We were very fortunate to come into contact with the Kline family. We met them soon after we moved to SC. They moved into the house across the street in the military housing complex not too long after we moved in. And the rest is history. There are so many memories that we will cherish; the "Tom-fires", the art projects, the holiday festivities. Most of all I am thankful for the way in which they shaped the lives of my little girls and support they have given to my wife while I was deployed. This being my third. They were like family to us and will be sorely missed. I just hope that even though Ali is gone that Tom will stay in contact and be a part of our lives. He is truly gifted in many ways (see Tom's blog in my list of fellow blogers and you will understand why). Our hearts are severely broken for his loss.

Goodbye, Ali Cat! We love you and miss you. But know this, you will live on in the lives that you have touched. I can see the affect of your inspiration, kindness, generosity, and creativity in the eyes of your adopted little girls, Madison and Mackenzie, and in my wife Kimberly. And for this I will always be eternally grateful!

Ali and Kenzie at Thanksgiving, watching a little TV after dinner before we head out side for a "Tom-Fire."

Ali and Madi doing a little jewelry shopping before Tom and Ali move to Indiana.

A crazy picture of Tom, Ali and Me at the last Chili Cook-Off (Oct 2007). Tom allowed me to cut in for a couple of dances with Ali that night. We all had a blast!

Death of a Brother

A Marine Brother-In-Arms was killed in Afghanistan recently. The following article is his obituary in the Beaufort Gazette. He was a member of our sister squadron, VMFA (AW)-224, the "Bengals." Take care, Garrett. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Beaufort-born Marine dies in Afghanistan

Beaufort-born Marine Capt. Garrett Tucker Lawton died Aug. 4 from wounds he suffered as a result of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan while conducting combat operations as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He was killed in Heart Province, which is on Afghanistan's western border with Iran.

Lawton, 31, served as an F-18 weapons and sensors officer and an air officer based out of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

He joined the Corps on July 3, 1996 and was promoted to captain July 1, 2004.

Lawton's military career included two Purple Hearts -- one for the incident that ultimately led to his death and another that he received in May for other injuries he received in an improvised explosive device attack.

Lawton's grandmother Beatrice Sampson, of Beaufort, said she has a picture of her grandson as an 8-year-old wearing a full Marine uniform.

"I mean, he is a Marine," she said. "He was doing what he wanted to do. He loved his country."
Despite being busy with his military career, Lawton always made time for his family, Sampson said.

"He always took time out for us. He was such a loving, kind person," she said.

Lawton, born Dec. 3, 1976, lived in Beaufort until he was about 4 years old.

Survivors include his wife, Trisha; two sons, Ryan, 6, and Caden, 4; his father, David Lawton; his mother and stepfather, Cathy and Cal Peters; his sister, Kenna Hubai; and his maternal grandparents, Robert and Beatrice Sampson.

Services for Lawton will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Chapel.

Published Mon, Aug 11, 2008 12:00 AM
Beaufort Gazette

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pictures from Abroad

Here is a pic of the aircrew that flew into Korat Air Base, Thailand. The Thia's greeted us with a lia and a beer. Gotta like that!

These two monkeys are pictured in their natural habitat. I got these for the girls at one of the National Parks while I was delayed in Thailand. They made a crazy monkey noise when you squeeze them. The girls loved them when I sent them home.

Here is an elephant that came strolling up the road while we were headed out to dinner. For a couple of bucks you could feed it sugar cane, pet it, and take a couple of pictures of your buddies getting molested!

This is Kimberly's birthday present and Anniversary present (which are about a week apart). These are the famous black sapphires from Thailand set in white gold. It was a must buy if you ever get to Bangkok.

This is a picture of Singapore as we were flying in from Thailand. The approach corridor goes right by the down town port area. It was a pretty good view of the Nation State.

Here is the hotel that we stayed at in Malaysia. It was right on the ocean! I left there with one hell of a sunburn/tan and a hang over. Malaysia would be a good place to vacation.

Here is a friend I made at work in Malaysia.

This picture was taken after our first mission fighting against the Malaysian MiG-29's. We are on the tanker with one of our adversary's waiting in the background for his turn on the KC-130J.

Here is a shot of both of the Fulcrum's tanking.

Here is a picture of me and one of my former GySgt's. He is actually in the Series photo that is on this blog standing next to me as well. It was good to catch up with him.

On the last day we were there, we got together with the Malaysians for a photo op. We got to climb on and in their plane. Here, Joe and I have a little fun.