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May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Today is a time of remembrance when we pause, and in our own way, pay our respects to the men and women who have fought for this country, some even giving the  ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. For some Americans ('some' being a conservative number) it is just another few-and-far-between three day weekend to get drunk, sleep and have an unexpected Valentine's Day baby while most consider today the official kick off of summer.

I can count on one hand the number of duty free Memorial Day weekends I had  in my 20 years of service- par for the course for most submariners and something most of us came to grips with very quickly. For most military members family separation is the highest sacrifice they will make or endure. For a growing number of military families over the last 10 years the separation anxiety is compounded by the fear of combat injury or death as our fighting force is spread thin around the world fighting what many also fear as wars we cannot win.

I recall several instances during my career of submariners killed not in battle, but in the line of duty. Sometimes 'line of duty' is a vague term used to tell the families of the fallen service member who was killed with a ricochet bullet while trying to bullseye rats or from "friendly fire". My examples are sadder, not that my emotions are superior than others, but that they are etched into my military memory as events that should not have happened. Two of them are suicides, and the last was caused by head trauma as his submarine plowed into an underwater mountain. I recall another death caused by  heart attack when I was stationed in Mare Island but nothing you can really do about that except diet and exercise.

I come from an extensive military background as I have many past and present family members who have served. I am fourth generation Navy and my brother is currently stationed in Hawaii (poor guy). My grandfather on my mother's side retired from the US Army and my uncle is retired Air Force. My step mother's father is also retired Navy, and I only use "step" as an infrequent identifier when talking about my family tree. I estimate that my extended family has about 130 years of military service.

Our military men and women ultimately take their orders the their Commander in Chief, our President of the United States. The recent raid on the Pakistani compound that ultimately brought Usama bin Laden to justice could have had a much different ending as more information leaks out. I think Team 6 was lucky on many counts to make it back safely. I reminds me of the day, which has been counting down in the upper right hand frame of this website, when Saddam Hussein was brought to justice and hanged by an unruly mob in what looked like a basement. I cheered and even shed a few tears of joy and relief with my fellow Americans on both days.

The speeches made by The President after both captures are also very different from each other. Bush genuinely and humbly gives credit to the forces that hunted Saddam while Obama makes it sound like he was running point during the raid. Even the tone is different between the two presidents and I have included the videos below. One can almost forgive the egregious and shameful actions of Bush over the years after listening to his speech.

December 14, 2003. George W. Bush
Good afternoon. Yesterday, December the 13th, at around 8:30 p.m. Baghdad time, United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein alive. He was found near a farmhouse outside the city of Tikrit, in a swift raid conducted without casualties. And now the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions.The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate 'em.

May 2, 2011 Barrack Hussein Obama

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

God bless this country and the men and women who fight for it.

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