Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Remembering Our Troops at Christmas

I remember my Christmas in Vietnam in 1970:

Watching the Bob Hope Christmas show in Bien Hoa, playing cards on the firebase, drinking a lot of beer, looking at the stars and thinking about past Christmases, missing my family back home, recalling how hard my mom worked in the kitchen making cookies or a turkey dinner, listening to the far-off sound of artillery. I even watched a firefight in the darkness of the valley below - the good guys' tracers were red, the bad guys' tracers were green - the Christmas colors...

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and on lesser known battlefields throughout the world, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are fighting the good fight so that we may enjoy our Christmas in peace. Take time to think of them, and ask God to protect them. To my military friends who are at war or serving stateside, thank you for your service on our behalf.

Thanks also to everyone who has supported America's warriors. I extend my best wishes for a Merry Christmas to all of the readers of "American Ranger" and to each of your families. May God continue to bless America.

Charles M. Grist

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Fellow Cop Retires

He's a private guy, so I'll just call him Gary. By the time I joined our police department, he had been there for ten years. He retires this week after thirty years on the job. Before he made the decision to become a law enforcement officer, he courageously served his country as a door gunner in Vietnam, one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army.

When you think of a cop, this is the guy. He's worked patrol, risked his life on a motorcycle as a traffic cop, hunted down burglars and car thieves as a street crimes officer, and solved murders, robberies and scores of other crimes as a detective. Only recently, Gary and a couple of our other officers apprehended a bank robber only a block from the bank, recovering the money, the gun, and making sure not one single innocent person was hurt.

Except for his first few years, he's been a cop at the same police department for his entire career. As he has watched the older officers retire, Gary has mentored the younger cops who followed them. He is respected by his peers, by the citizens he has served, and even by the bad guys he's put in jail.

We will all miss him. I will miss our breakfasts at McDonalds, we will all miss his sense of humor, and the department will never be the same after his departure. We've talked about the fact that one door may be closing, but another will open. There is no doubt he will continue to serve his family and his community in some important way.

Gary reminds me that my own retirement is not far behind. As it was for me in the Army, so shall it be for us old guys at the police department. It is time to turn it all over to the young lions - the new, energetic cops who have followed us into a challenging profession. I'm not ready to go yet, but it won't be that much longer for me either.

Over the years, I have taught soldiers one important thing. Throughout history, there has always been one segment of society who was willing to protect everyone else; one group of men and women willing to stand between the innocents of the world and those who would hurt them. This part of society is the Warrior Class; the soldiers carry the weapons they must use against foreign enemies - the cops carry the guns that must sometimes be used against those who would hurt us here.

Gary has spent his life as a member of the Warrior Class. We should all be thankful for his service. I am grateful for his friendship and for his personal example of what a cop should be.

Godspeed, my friend...

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Gift Idea for Your Veteran: Give Them a Copy of "My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq"

Here's a great gift idea for Christmas! Give your veteran or active duty service member a copy of my book!

If you still don't know what it's about, go to where you can get information and watch the book trailer.

Here are links to and Barnes and where you can order the book. It is also available at other online retailers.


Charles M. Grist

Monday, November 30, 2009

American Ranger ALERT: We Must Hunt Down This Cop-Killer

All Americans, especially those in Washington state, need to keep a lookout for MAURICE CLEMMONS, the alleged murderer of four cops in a cowardly ambush killing. The following article is from Fox News:

* * * *

Police Seek Ex-Con in Ambush on Wash. Officers
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Fox News

A man with an extensive criminal past — including a lengthy prison sentence commuted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee nearly a decade ago — was being sought Sunday in a deadly ambush on four police officers who were gunned down inside a coffee shop.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told reporters that Maurice Clemmons, 37, was believed to have been in the area around the time of the shooting, but declined to say what evidence might link him to the shooting.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas, including aggravated robbery and theft, the sheriff's office said. He also recently was arrested and charged in Washington state for assaulting a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child. Using a bail bondsman, he posted $150,000 and was released from jail last week.

Still unclear was why a man entered the coffee shop and gunned down Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; and Officers Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards 42.

We have no motive at all," Troyer said. "I don't think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it."

The four officers were with the 100-member police department of Lakewood, which adjoins the unincorporated area of Parkland, where the shootings took place.

Richards' sister-in-law, Melanie Burwell, called the shooting "senseless."

"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," she said. "If there were more people in the world like Greg, things like this wouldn't happen.

An impromptu memorial of an American flag, flowers and candles decorated the front yard at Renninger's home. His family declined to speak with reporters.

On Sunday night, a motorcade of dozens of police cars and motorcycles with lights flashing escorted the bodies of the four officers to the medical examiner's office.

Troyer said investigators believe two of the officers were killed while sitting in the shop, and a third was shot dead after standing up. The fourth apparently "gave up a good fight."

"We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight ... that he fought the guy all the way out the door," Troyer said. "We hope that he hit him." Investigators were asking area medical providers to report any gunshot wounds.

In 1989, Clemmons, then 17, was convicted in Little Rock for aggravated robbery. He was paroled in 2000 after Huckabee commuted Clemmons' 95-year prison sentence. Huckabee, who was criticized during his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 for granting many clemencies and commutations, cited Clemmons' youth. Clemmons later violated his parole, was returned to prison and released in 2004.

Troyer said the gunman entered the coffee house and walked toward the counter as if to place an order. A barista saw a gun when the man opened his jacket and fled out the back door. The man then turned and opened fire on the officers as they sat working on their laptops

Troyer said the attack was clearly targeted at the officers, not a robbery gone bad.

"This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers," he said. "There were marked patrol cars outside and they were all in uniform."

Troyer said the officers were catching up on paperwork at the beginning of their shifts when they were attacked at 8:15 a.m.

Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. None were injured. All were interviewed by the Pierce County sheriff's investigators.

There was no indication of any connection with the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer.

Authorities say the man charged with that shooting also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a "one-man war" against law enforcement. Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested after being wounded in a firefight with police days after the Seattle shooting. He remains hospitalized in stable condition, the hospital said Sunday.

The officers killed Sunday were a patrol squad made up of three officers and their sergeant. No threats had been made against them or other officers in the region, sheriff's officials said.

"We won't know if it's a copycat effect or what it was until we get the case solved," Troyer said.

The coffee shop, part of a popular local chain, is on a side street near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of Seattle. The shop is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.

Investigators were checking surveillance video from multiple sources, trying to identify a possible getaway car, Troyer said.

"We lost people we care about. We're working to find out who did this and deal with him." Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told reporters at the scene.

* * * *

This guy needs to be brought to justice ASAP....

Charles M. Grist

The Future in Afghanistan from General Petraeus

The following article from Parade Magazine is written by Colonel Jack Jacobs, my company commander when I was in Infantry Officer Candidate School in 1969. He was an extraordinary young man as a captain then; he has become an expert commentator for NBC and has written his own book about his military experiences. As you will see at the end of the article, Jacobs was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam. He received this award just before our class graduated from OCS.

* * * *

He oversees U.S. forces in 20 countries—including Iraq and Afghanistan -
General Petraeus Gives A War Briefing

by Col. Jack Jacobs

published: 11/29/2009 in Parade Magazine

He looks like a wiry, weather-beaten cowboy, a coiled spring with a leather face. He talks quietly, in measured phrases. With a neutral accent you can’t quite place, his speech has a comforting cadence. Still, you can almost feel the dynamic tension in his brain as he pauses from time to time to choose his words carefully.

He is U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the boss of Central Command. He is responsible for everything that happens—or fails to happen—in an area of operations that spans 20 countries in Southwest and Central Asia, including two where American troops face danger and death every day: Iraq and Afghanistan.

As President Barack Obama recently studied his national-security team’s recommendations on how to prosecute the war in Afghanistan, I spoke with Petraeus at his headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Thirty-five years ago, I was an Army captain on the faculty at West Point, and Petraeus was a young cadet there. I remember him well. He was soft-spoken, but his eyes betrayed an intense, almost burning, spirit. I asked him why he became a soldier in the first place, and he said, “I lived not far from West Point and became familiar with its people. They had discipline and were dedicated, and I wanted to be just like them.”

Petraeus graduated among the top 5% of his class and chose to join the infantry. He became a paratrooper and a Ranger and was promoted rapidly. The Army sent him to graduate school, and he earned a Ph.D. from Princeton. In 2000, he was promoted to brigadier general. His subsequent rise from one star to four was extraordinarily swift.

Some critics say that Petraeus has always been voraciously ambitious, with his sights set on the highest rank and responsibility, but the general himself said, surprisingly, “Even at West Point I was never committed to a long career in the Army and instead fell in love with it incrementally.” Whatever his thirst for authority, he is now in charge of campaigns whose outcomes will affect America’s security for decades to come.

Petraeus made no bones about the problems he sees in Afghanistan, where operations are under the command of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who reports to Petraeus and was two years behind him at West Point. “Security has deteriorated in the course of the last two years,” Petraeus said, and he agreed with the assessment of his boss, Adm. Michael Mullen, who is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the situation in Afghanistan is now perilous.

Petraeus acknowledges that after eight years of war against a determined and elusive enemy, many Americans, including some members of Congress, question whether the war in Afghanistan remains worth fighting. Petraeus himself, however, has no such doubts, even as he predicts that the campaign there could last another decade—or even longer.

After quickly ousting the Taliban and its al-Qaeda comrades in 2001, the general explained, the U.S. became preoccupied with Iraq. Afghanistan was ignored, and the enemy returned. Permitting Afghanistan once again to become a homeland for Islamic terrorists and revolutionaries—as it is currently on the verge of becoming—creates too much danger for a large portion of the world, Petraeus said. Like McChrystal, he believes that the U.S. must fight both the terrorists of al-Qaeda and the insurgents of the Taliban—and that doing so successfully will require more troops.

The decision to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq from the current 120,000 to about 50,000 by August will allow some troops to be shifted to Afghanistan, where about 68,000 Americans already serve. But what kind of forces does the U.S. need there?

“Afghanistan is not Iraq,” Petraeus said. “Iraq has had strong central government for a long time. Afghanistan has not.” His view on the nature of power in Afghanistan—namely, that village and tribal traditions are what matter—results in a strategy far less dependent on massive force and more on helping local leaders provide for, and protect, their people. From such a perspective, conventional units like infantry brigades are less useful than special-operations forces—small, nimble, clandestine outfits that can eliminate pockets of terrorists in the most inaccessible places and train local militias to defend themselves.

I asked whether the U.S. has enough unconventional troops to implement such a strategy effectively. “You’re right,” the general replied. “We don’t have sufficient people who are trained in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. But Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates has directed an expansion of these forces. It’s a growth industry, and we will get what we require.”

The war in Afghanistan is complicated by the nature of the enemy. Its fighters don’t wear uniforms that identify them as Taliban or al-Qaeda. “There is a wide spectrum of enemy,” Petraeus said. “There are a few true believers, but there are many others who support the enemy only because they feel threatened or intimidated and are just trying to survive.”

Any strategy the U.S. puts in place in Afghanistan will be affected by the problems of its neighbor, Pakistan, a nation that is politically fragmented, culturally divided, unable to control large swaths of territory within its own borders—and armed with nuclear weapons.

“I used to think that Iran was the most dangerous place on earth,” I told Petraeus, “but now I’m not so sure. It’s probably Pakistan.”

He reflected silently for a long moment. “To be sure,” he said finally, “Pakistan is dangerous. But something happened about six months ago that may improve security in the region for a long time to come. The Pakistani military, government, and clergy joined hands and dedicated themselves to the elimination of security threats inside Pakistan.”

After the U.S. invasion in 2001, Petraeus went on, the Taliban fled Afghanistan for the lawless tribal territories of neighboring Pakistan. There, its fighters lived largely undisturbed. Eventually, they began to operate openly and with ease. In April, they captured Buner, a district of 500,000 people only 60 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. Though ultimately routed from the area, the Taliban’s resurgence was a wake-up call to Pakistan’s fractured leadership.

At the time of my conversation with Petraeus, Pakistan’s army was on the offensive in South Waziristan, a border province insurgents use as a staging area for attacks on Americans in Afghanistan. Thus far, the results on the battlefield had been good, but the Taliban was retaliating with deadly suicide bombings designed to weaken Pakistan’s resolve.

“The Pakistanis should be commended for their courage,” Petraeus said. Yet his statement begged the question of how long Pakistan’s fortitude can persist in the face of increasing carnage. Weakness in Pakistan will make Petraeus’ job in Afghanistan extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible.

Once the President settles on a strategy for Afghanistan, I asked, what will America need, besides more troops and good intelligence? “Time,” Petraeus replied, “and, as General McChrystal observed, lots of humility.”

Petraeus was deeply moved by an occasion in July 2008 when he presided over the simultaneous re-enlistment of hundreds of U.S. troops. Many had already served three tours in combat and were facing yet another separation from family and friends. “I don’t think I will ever forget the strength of their commitment to service and sacrifice,” he said.

I have met many generals and admirals. Many have often been outspoken, opinionated, and occasionally impolitic, especially in difficult circumstances. David Petraeus seems different. While all professed a love of their nation, Petraeus echoed my own experience and that of many other combat veterans.

“We fight to defend the country, and we fight to accomplish the mission,” he said. “But most of all, especially when combat is most difficult and dangerous, we fight for each other.”

Col. Jack Jacobs (U.S. Army, ret.) is the author of “If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in America’s Time of Need” and the on-camera military analyst for NBC. He received the Medal of Honor in 1969 for bravery in combat in Vietnam.

* * * *

If you put a man in charge because you have faith in his leadership abilities, then LET HIM LEAD. General Petraeus has stated his plan for Afghanistan. Considering his success in Iraq, he should be given the chance to carry out his strategy in Afghanistan as well.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Remember Our Troops at Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day in 1970, my platoon and I worked our way toward a landing zone where we were scheduled to receive a Thanksgiving dinner as part of a resupply. A few hundred meters short of the landing zone, we stumbled upon a North Vietnamese bunker complex which was, thankfully, unoccupied.

It was a gigantic complex, complete with large bunkers and even classrooms. We had to clear every single structure, but there were no bad guys or enemy supplies. I radioed the coordinates to my company commander, and we moved to the landing zone to wait for the resupply helicopter.

A couple of Red Cross girls (we called them Donut Dollies) were on the chopper, and they delivered our turkey, stuffing and other food. It was great to see a couple of attractive "round-eyed" girls. We were out in the jungle with enemy soldiers not very far away, but the touch of Americana raised everyone's spirits.

Just as we were about to enjoy the food, we received word that our unit was dropping gas on the bunkers we had cleared. This was an effort to make them unusable for the enemy. Unfortunately, those making the drop misjudged the wind, and we started to get a little tingling in our eyes.

We had to pack up everything, including the Thanksgiving meal and the Donut Dollies, and move to another landing zone a long distance away. The girls weren't used to moving through the jungle, so they were understandably a little scared about the proximity of the bad guys.

We eventually made it to the other landing zone and enjoyed the meal. The Red Cross girls flew away on the helicopter while we moved out on our next mission - with full stomachs and renewed energy.

Today, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other lesser known places around the world, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are holding the line in the war on terror. They have placed their lives on the line for all of us, and some of them have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Remember them in your prayers on Thanksgiving. Without their efforts, this would be a much different world.

For my fellow warriors who may read this, may God protect you this day and every day. You are indeed appreciated by those you left behind...

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Cop's World: Sometimes It Ain't Easy

The old woman died while her husband spent the night in the hospital. She was 83; he was 87. They had been married for over sixty years.

Shortly after the paramedics pronounced her dead, the old man arrived home. Along with another officer, I met him at his car and informed him of his wife's passing. He was stoic but obviously shaken.

I stood by with a social worker while the funeral home prepared to remove the old woman's body. Then the old man asked if he could see his wife one more time.

We walked him up the stairs to his apartment. Just climbing those stairs was tough for the old man because time has taken its toll. Walking is difficult, even with a cane. With halting steps, he entered the bedroom where his wife had been found; we waited by the door.

The old man walked up to the woman with whom he had shared over sixty years. He touched her face, her neck, and her hand. We had learned that there were no other family members and, at their age, the elderly couple had outlived all of their friends. The old man was now completely alone.

After a couple of minutes, he slowly turned and started to walk out of the bedroom. Then he stopped and turned to look at his wife again. With halting steps aided only by the cane, he walked up to her for the last time. He touched her face, looking at her as if he were waiting for her to open her eyes and smile. To tell you the truth, I was starting to have a tough time myself because the emotion of the moment was affecting all of us. Yeah, cops have feelings too.

The old man came out of the room and sat in a living room chair. Looking up at the social worker, he said, "What do I do now?" I looked around the small apartment and, even though I had never met the couple, the place now had an eerie emptiness about it. There was an unfinished sandwich on the kitchen counter. Next to the television was a stack of old movies from the 1940s. I looked at the small loveseat and pictured them sitting together, holding hands, and sharing memories while they watched some old Fred Astaire movie.

There was a time when they were young, when they danced to the music from some big band, when they looked into each other's eyes and shared their hopes and dreams. They had lived that future, but one of them was destined to be the first to die. The old man must now walk alone into a hazy, solitary future.

The rest of us will gather with our families on Thanksgiving. We will laugh, share food and memories, and savor the joy that fills our homes on holidays. The old man will sit alone, grieving for his lost love, and pondering the uncertain days ahead.

When we say our prayers before our Thanksgiving feast, give thanks, but also remember those whose own holiday will be a lonely one.

Remember the old man...

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Night Shift is a Health Risk for Cops

The following article appeared in today's Orlando Sentinel. Anyone who has had to work overnight shifts will relate to this:

* * * *

Health risk for cops: Night beat

By Jeannine Stein, Tribune Newspapers

Midnight shift workers often find it hard to get enough quality sleep on a consistent basis. Police officers are not exempt, often working late shifts and overtime as part of their jobs.

A new study suggests that their schedule may cause cops to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high triglycerides that advance development of such conditions as stroke, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The research, published in the current issue of Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, focused on 98 police officers who were part of the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress study, which began in 2003. The participants had their blood pressure checked, took a blood test and had their waist circumference measured. They also filled out a questionnaire focusing on lifestyle choices such as sleep habits, physical activity, smoking and alcohol use.

Researchers discovered that in general, those on afternoon and midnight shifts were younger than those working during the day, and predominantly male. Overall, 30 percent of the police officers on the night shift had metabolic syndrome. In the general population, that number was 21 percent, taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The younger officers on the night shift (average age 36.5 years) also had higher rates of metabolic syndrome than their age group in the general population.

* * * *

For those of us who have worked these shifts, such information really comes as no surprise.

Charles M. Grist

Check Out the Website for My Book: "My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq"

I hope you will continue to visit my new website at You can get information about my book, view the book trailer, and even order the book!

When you read the book, please give me some feedback, either by email to or by leaving a review at or Barnes and

Thanks again for your support.

Charles M. Grist

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lewis Millett Dies at 88 - Awarded the Medal of Honor

We have lost another great American warrior. The Washington Post tells the story of Medal of Honor winner Lewis L. Millett, who died on November 14.

* * * *

Lewis L. Millett, 88
Daring soldier was awarded Medal of Honor

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lewis L. Millett, 88, a career Army officer who was briefly and somewhat misleadingly court-martialed for desertion during World War II and went on to receive the Medal of Honor for leading a bayonet charge during the Korean War, died Nov. 14 at a veterans hospital in Loma Linda, Calif. He had congestive heart failure.

Col. Millett, who sported a red handlebar mustache, cut an audacious and unconventional path during his 35 years of military service. He led daring attacks in two wars and was instrumental in starting a reconnaissance commando school to train small units for covert operations in Vietnam.

He also was an Army deserter. He later said he had been so eager to "help fight fascism and Hitler" that he left an Air Corps gunnery school in mid-1941 -- months before the U.S. entry into World War II -- to enlist with the Canadian army and go overseas. He manned an antiaircraft gun during the London blitz before rejoining the U.S. Army, which had by that time declared war and apparently was not being overly meticulous in its background checks.

As an antitank gunner in Tunisia, he earned the Silver Star after he jumped into a burning ammunition-filled halftrack, drove it away from allied soldiers and leapt to safety just before the vehicle exploded. Not long after, he shot down a German Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter that was strafing Allied troops. Col. Millett, who was firing from machine guns mounted on a halftrack, hit the pilot through the windshield.

He had fought his way through Italy, participating in the campaigns at Salerno and Anzio, when his paperwork caught up with him. A superior officer told him that he was being court-martialed for his desertion to Canada and that his punishment was $52. He also received a battlefield promotion for fearlessness in combat.

His letters back home were unfiltered epithets aimed at the chain of command. "Letters were censored in World War II, and the next thing I knew I was standing before the battery commander," he told the journal Military History. "He told me that the War Department had ordered three times that I be court-martialed. They finally did it to prevent someone from really throwing the book at me later. Then a few weeks later they made me a second lieutenant! I must be the only Regular Army colonel who has ever been court-martialed and convicted of desertion."

During the Korean War, he received the military's highest awards for valor, including the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, for two bayonet charges he led as a company commander in February 1951.

"We had acquired some Chinese documents stating that Americans were afraid of hand-to-hand fighting and cold steel," he told Military History. "When I read that, I thought, 'I'll show you, you sons of bitches!' "

He was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading a charge up Hill 180 near Soam-Ni on Feb. 7. When one of his platoons was pinned down by heavy fire, he placed himself at the head of two other platoons and ordered the men to charge up the hill.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he bayoneted several enemy soldiers and lobbed grenades in their direction while rallying his men to fight. Grenade fragments pierced Col. Millett's shin, but he refused medical evacuation.

"Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill," the Medal of Honor citation read. "His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder."

Charles H. Cureton, director of Army museums at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said that Col. Millett's intimidating, close-combat bayonet charge was "very unusual. By the time you get to the Second World War, the range of lethality of weapons is such that a bayonet charge is very hazardous."

Lewis Lee Millett was born Dec. 15, 1920, in Mechanic Falls, Maine, and grew up with his mother in South Dartmouth, Mass., after his parents divorced. After his Korean War service, he went through Ranger training at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as an intelligence officer. He later was sent to Vietnam as a military adviser to a controversial intelligence program called Phoenix, which killed thousands of suspected Viet Cong and their sympathizers in an effort to destroy the Viet Cong infrastructure in towns and villages.

He said he retired in 1973 because he was convinced that the United States had "quit" in Vietnam. He championed the return of U.S. prisoners of war from Vietnam and then worked as a deputy sheriff in Trenton, Tenn., before settling in the San Jacinto Mountains resort village of Idyllwild, Calif., across the street from an American Legion post.

His first marriage, to the former Virginia Young, ended in divorce. His second wife, Winona Williams Millett, died in 1993. Survivors include three children from his second marriage, L. Lee Millett Jr. and Timothy Millett, both of Idyllwild, and Elizabeth Millett of Nevada; three sisters; a brother; and four grandchildren.

A son from his second marriage, Army Staff Sgt. John Millett, died in the 1985 airplane crash in Gander, Newfoundland, that killed more than 240 U.S. service members returning from a peacekeeping mission in the Middle East.

Reflecting on his career, Col. Millett once told an interviewer: "I believe in freedom, I believe deeply in it. I've fought in three wars, and volunteered for all of them, because I believed as a free man, that it was my duty to help those under the attack of tyranny. Just as simple as that."

* * * *

An inspiring story about a man who was a legend among his fellow warriors. Our condolences to Colonel Millett's family and friends.

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day: Thanking America's Warriors for Their Service

Another Veteran's Day dawns with America's warriors still fighting the good fight. In the streets and deserts of Iraq, in the mountains and plains of Afghanistan, and in many other lesser known battlefields throughout the world, our troops are engaged in battle with those who would destroy our way of life.

With the recent "Lone Wolf" terrorist attack at Fort Hood, we are reminded that our troops are in danger wherever they are. With strength of heart, goodness of soul, and the determination of warriors, they continue to stand between us and those who would hurt us.

On this very special day, American Ranger remembers all of those courageous men and women who have served in uniform throughout America's history, as well as those brave warriors who have died on our behalf.

Today, I hope that you will take time to remember them as well.

Charles M. Grist

Friday, November 6, 2009

Heroic Fort Hood Cop Stops Killer

She'll surely say that she was just a cop doing her duty, but Fort Hood police officer Kimberly Munley's training paid off. Wounded in her encounter with the Fort Hood killer, she will forever be credited with ending this bloody massacre:

* * * *

Fast-Acting Officer Stopped Rampage
From CNN

FORT HOOD, Texas (Nov. 6) -- A civilian police officer who shot the Fort Hood gunman four times during his bloody rampage stopped the attacker cold, a U.S. Army official said Friday.

Officer Kimberly Munley of the Fort Hood Police Department is a "trained, active first responder" who acted quickly after she "just happened to encounter the gunman," said Lt. Gen. Bob Cone, Fort Hood's commanding general.

Cone said the officer and her partner responded "very quickly" to the scene of the shootings -- reportedly in about three minutes.

Munley "just happened very fortunately to be very close to the incident scene," Cone told CNN's "American Morning."

He said she shot the gunman four times and was wounded herself in an exchange of gunfire with him.

"Really a pretty amazing and aggressive performance by this police officer," Cone said.

Authorities have identified the alleged gunman as Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, an Army psychiatrist. They said he opened fire at a military processing center Thursday at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding 30.

Cone was asked if Munley's shots brought down the assailant and stopped him from shooting.

"That's correct," Cone said. "The critical factor here was her quick response to the situation."

* * * *

Well done, Officer Munley!

Charles M. Grist

"Lone Wolf" Attack Strikes Fort Hood

We have talked about the dangers of the Lone Wolf terrorist before in "American Ranger". We had another post (link here) following a previous such incident.

Scattered throughout America, in our small towns and in the big cities, are Islamic extremists plotting to attack Americans. Some of these self-described "holy warriors" may be acting on behalf of Al Qaeda. Others are Al Qaeda "wannabees" who have created their own little terrorist "clubs". A few are individuals who believe they are creating plots inspired by God. When they are ready, or when some type of emotional crisis sets them off, they execute their attacks on innocent men, women, or children.

The incident at Fort Hood will be investigated, and we will eventually learn whether or not there were signs or warnings that this Army officer was preparing his own "jihad". So far, it sounds like he had expressed his fundamentalist feelings in arguments with his military peers. Such sympathies with our enemies should have triggered some type of investigation, but we do not yet know if that happened.

All of us must remember that the war on terror has no front lines. The fanatics who want to destroy us are the ultimate guerrillas. They are not only in Iraq and Afghanistan; they live and work among us here in the United States and within the borders of our allies around the world.

Their agenda is not a pretty one, so we must use our eyes, ears, and common sense when we see, hear, or learn about something that doesn't seem right. Then we must contact authorities. Every police agency in this country has someone who is designated to handle such complaints.

Whether it is a burglary in progress, a suspicious person, a questionable package, or some other unusual event, Americans have done a good job with their "neighborhood watch" programs. Community oriented policing has enhanced the communication between citizens and law enforcement.

We must extend this cooperation to the prevention of terrorist attacks. The American spirit will not permit these Islamic thugs to destroy our way of life. We will work together to protect our homes, families, and businesses.

If by chance YOU are a "Lone Wolf", or the member of a terrorist cell, or part of a group of "wannabees", understand this - we are looking for you, and we will hunt you down like the animals you are.....

Charles M. Grist

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marine Veteran Abie Gordon Dies: Veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam

This appeared in today's Orlando Sentinel:

* * * *

He served in 2 great Marine Corps battles

by Jeff Kunerth
Sentinel Staff Writer

Bill Gordon spread his father's life as a Marine across the soft green felt of the pool table.

There was the replica statue of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima that sat on top of the television in Abie Gordon's bedroom at his Longwood home. And the two photographs of that famous flag-raising autographed by the two photographers who were on that island with Gordon on Feb. 23, 1945.

There was the framed proclamation of his service in the Korean War with the inscription on the bottom: "We Few, We Chosin Few, We Eternal Band of Brothers" that hung on the living room wall and the framed acknowledgment of his Purple Heart that adorned the hallway.

There was his father's dress blue uniform that hung in a garment bag in his closet with its rows of medals and block of ribbons from service in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.

"These were things he got for doing his job," said Bill Gordon, 61, of Orlando. "From his point of view, in his eyes, I don't think he ever thought he did anything special."

Abie Gordon, the highly decorated Marine of 30 years and three wars, died Wednesday of complications from pneumonia. He was 89. His cremated ashes will be buried in Arlington National Cemetary with full honors.

Gordon, who joined the service at 17, saw action in two of the Marine Corps' most famous battles: Iwo Jima in World War II and Chosin Reservoir in Korea.

Iwo Jima was immortalized in the photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and the Clint Eastwood movie Flags of Our Fathers. But Chosin Reservoir in 1950 is just as revered in Marine Corps lore for the 15,000 men who fought in sub-zero weather against 120,000 Chinese soldiers. The survivors became known as "The Chosin Few" and "The Frozen Chosin."

Gordon didn't tell his son much about either of those experiences, except to admonish Bill whenever he complained about his life being too hard: "Let me tell you what tough is - tough is fighting in 35-degree-below weather and outnumbered 10 to one."

Gordon enlisted in the Marines in 1938 and left in 1968, around the time his son, also a Marine, was fighting in Vietnam. Abie, in essence, grew up in the Marine Corps, finishing his high-school education in the Marines, earning his officer's rank on the battlefield, and leaving the service as lieuenant colonel.

In the process, he earned more than 30 ribbons and medals, including the Purple Heart for being wounded in Korea, the Bronze Star, and five Presidential Unit Citations.

"The Marines taught him everything he learned, and it was duty, honor and country," Bill said.

Abie Gordon raised his don by the code in which he lived: Right was right, wrong was wrong.

"It wasn't about his way or my way. It was always about the right way," Bill said.

Following his retirement to a home on a golf course in 1968, Abie Gordon had a seond career of sorts as a PGA-USGA rules official for 18 years. It was the perfect retirement job for him, his son said.

"He was a right-and-wrong kind of guy."

Abie Gordon also is survived by three grandchildren, Hannah, Nathan and Luke Gordon, all of Orlando.

Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Lake Ivanhoe Chapel, Orlando, is handling arrangements.

Jeff Kunerth can be reached at 407-420-5392 or

* * * *

We extend our condolences to the Gordon family, as well as our gratitude for Abie Gordon's service to America.

Charles M. Grist

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Medal of Honor Long Overdue for Heroic Hawaiian

The Medal of Honor will likely finally be awarded to this heroic Hawaiian warrior. His story is inspiring in every way. Where do we find such men?

* * * *

Medal of Honor Likely for Isle Man

October 28, 2009
Knight Ridder/Tribune

A Maui man who gave his life in a one-man stand during the Korean War against "overwhelming numbers" of enemy troops so fellow Soldiers could survive," is expected to be approved today for the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.

The addition of Army Pfc. Anthony T. Kahoohanohano's name to the Medal of Honor roll represents a decadelong effort by his family and Hawaii lawmakers to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross he received and to give him the recognition they say he deserves.

Kahoohanohano, who was with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, of the 7th Infantry Division, was in charge of a machine gun squad supporting a company of Soldiers as a much larger enemy force advanced in the vicinity of Chup'a-ri, Korea, on Sept. 1, 1951.

Fight to the Death

According to his posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Cross citation, as the men fell back, Kahoohanohano -- although already wounded in the shoulder -- ordered his squad to a more defensible position while he gathered grenades and returned alone to the machine gun post.

As enemy troops tried to overrun Kahoohanohano's position, the 21-year-old from Wailuku fought back with bullets, grenades and then his hands, according to the citation.

"Private Kahoohanohano fought fiercely and courageously, delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy" until he was killed, the citation states.

A counterattack was launched, and the U.S. troops found 11 dead enemy Soldiers in front of Kahoohanohano's position, and two in the gun emplacement itself who had been beaten to death with an entrenching tool.

The Distinguished Service Cross was presented to the Soldier's family on Maui in 1952.

The Medal of Honor award is expected to be approved today with President Obama's signing of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act in the White House Rose Garden.

The upgrade of Kahoohanohano's recognition for valor represents a 10-year quest by the family started by Abel Kahoohanohano Sr., one of Anthony's brothers, and taken up by Abel's son, George Kahoohanohano, after his father died.

A 10-year Effort

A recommendation for a Medal of Honor was made by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink in 2001 but the request was denied by the Army. U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, then took up the cause.

George Kahoohanohano said his uncle's actions "more than earned the Medal of Honor."

Then-Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote to Akaka in March saying that after giving the request "careful, personal consideration, I have determined that the Medal of Honor is the appropriate award to recognize Private First Class Kahoohanohano's heroic actions."

All six Kahoohanohano brothers served in the military -- four in the active duty Army, one in the Marines and another in the National Guard.

Madeline Kahoohanohano remembered Anthony, her brother-in-law, as a fearless man of his word. The son of a police officer, he was a football and basketball standout at St. Anthony's School for Boys.

"He didn't seem to be afraid of anyone," Madeline Kahoohanohano said. "He always was a toughie. He always used to stand up -- even for his younger brothers. He would step up and protect his younger brothers."

From Knight Ridder/Tribune

* * * *

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Australian Singers Pay Tribute to American Military

Some of the best friends we made in Iraq were the extraordinary Australian soldiers. We shared security duties many times on joint convoys. It's important to all of our friends down under that they know how much we appreciate them for their service and their friendship.

You may not have heard of this group - the Ten Tenors - from Australia, but they have been traveling the world singing, and they offer this wonderful tribute to the United States of America's men and women in uniform. Wonderful singing and beautiful images.

Turn up your volume, sit back, and enjoy. This is beautiful.


Charles M. Grist

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Upcoming Interview on my book: "My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq"

Please check out this link for information about an upcoming radio interview about the book. As we get more information out via my publicist, we hope to have more of these events.

Please check out the website for the book at and recommend it to your friends.

If you happen to read it, I would love to hear from you at my email address of


Charles M. Grist

Friday, October 23, 2009

American Ranger the Cop: An Old Case Springs to Life

The one thing about being a cop is that you never know when some old case is going to raise its head once again.

Several years ago, my squad located an armed robber in a house near the crime scene. I managed to get a post-Miranda confession to the robbery from the suspect, he was identified by the victim, he was convicted, and he was sent to prison.

While one of our detectives was interviewing him at the police department, I checked on an arrest warrant for the guy from another state. I called the detective who handled the case, got the details of the major crime, and managed to get the robber to confess to the crime in the other state.

Now the trial in that state is finally happening, so I have to testify about the confession.

That's okay; glad to do it. Anything to keep a bad guy off the street.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Counterterror Strategy for Afghanistan & Pakistan - From the Warrior Legacy Institute

The Warrior Legacy Institute is sometimes described as a "people's think tank" and it offers a perspective on the strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This release also includes a link to their website which has videos and other information. This is presented here as simply another source of information for all of us as we watch the critical days ahead in the War on Terror:

* * * *

For immediate release:
October 22, 2009

Warrior Legacy Institute releases layperson's guide to Counterterror strategy for Afghanistan & Pakistan

There is an important debate underway about what strategy we should pursue in Afghanistan. This decision is important for all Americans, but many don't have a very good understanding of both the Population-Centric Counterinsurgency strategy advocated by Gen. McChrystal and a Counterterrorism strategy. The Warrior Legacy Institute (WLI) releases a paper today on Counterterror that doesn't require a military background to understand. This is a complement to the paper we released last week on Population-Centric Counterinsurgency. We are also releasing two short videos on these topics. Both the papers and videos are designed for you and anyone you want to share them with. They were produced for you and anyone you want to share them with. We believe that educating the public about the choices will allow them to make informed decisions about what they think is best.

The Warrior Legacy Institute (WLI) is a “people's think tank” designed to take the most important national security issues and explain them in simple language to the American people. The papers are designed for those who have an interest in what our strategies actually are, but who do not have a deep knowledge of military affairs. The papers and companion videos can be found here.

The debate about what our plan for Afghanistan should be is happening now, WLI believes all Americans should have a clear understanding of the specifics under consideration.



Jim Hanson
Director, Warrior Legacy Institute

* * * *

Charles M. Grist

Monday, October 19, 2009

Private Contractors Paying a Heavy Price in Iraq and Afghanistan

During my tour in Iraq in 2004, I was proud to meet many of the private contractors who served in civilian jobs. These men and women protected diplomats, guarded facilities, drove trucks, and filled a multitude of jobs that had to be done. They have also suffered comrades killed and wounded.

The following article from the Orlando Sentinel via the Chicago Tribune, talks about the tragedy of one of those civilians wounded in 2004 (Reggie Lane, pictured above). Sadly, these heroes don't have the same support system that awaits soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

This story will break your heart:

* * * *

In U.S. wars, contractors' pain is private

They suffer without support available to military veterans

By T. Christian Miller
Special to Tribune Newspapers
October 18, 2009

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. - -- A nurse rocked him awake as pale dawn light crept into the room. "C'mon now, c'mon," the nurse murmured. "Time to get up."

Reggie Lane was once a hulking man of 260 pounds. Friends called him "Big Dad." Now he weighed less than 200 pounds and his brain was severely damaged. He groaned angry, wordless cries.

The nurse moved fast. Two bursts of deodorant spray under each useless arm. Then he dressed Lane and used a mechanical arm to hoist him into a wheelchair.

Lane's head fell forward, his chin buried in his chest. His legs crossed and uncrossed involuntarily. His left index finger was rigid and pointed, as if frozen in permanent accusation.

In 2004, Lane was driving a fuel truck in Iraq for a defense contractor when insurgents attacked his convoy with rocket-propelled grenades. For most of the five years since, Lane, now 60, has spent his days in silence, a reminder of the hidden costs of relying on civilian contract workers to support the U.S. war effort.

His wife, Linda, said visiting her husband was difficult. They had been childhood friends and were fiercely loyal to each other.

"He was a good man. He paid his bills. He took care of his family," she said, her breathing labored from a pulmonary disease. "He's a human being who fought for his country. He doesn't deserve to be thrown away."

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has depended on contract workers more than in any previous conflict -- to cook meals for troops, wash laundry, deliver supplies and protect diplomats, among other tasks. Tens of thousands of civilians have worked in the two battle zones, often facing the same dangers as U.S. soldiers and suffering the same kinds of injuries.

Contract workers from the U.S. have been mostly men, primarily middle-age, many of them military veterans drawn by money, patriotism or both, according to interviews and public records.

Nearly 1,600 civilian workers -- both Americans and foreign nationals -- have died in the two war zones. Thousands more have been injured.

Many of the civilians have come home as military veterans in all but name, sometimes with lifelong disabilities but without the support network available to soldiers.

"These guys are like the Vietnam vets of this generation," said Lee Frederiksen, a psychologist who worked for Mission Critical Psychological Services, a Chicago-based firm that provides counseling for war-zone workers. "The normal support that you would get if you were injured in the line of duty as a police officer or if you were injured in the military ... just doesn't exist."

Before Reggie Lane went to Iraq, he and Linda Lane worked as a truck-driving team, steering tractor-trailers across the country.

But work was haphazard, and together they made about $32,000 a year. They had a hard time keeping up with bills and twice filed for bankruptcy.

In the fall of 2003, Linda heard that defense contractor KBR Inc. was hiring truck drivers to deliver fuel, food and supplies for the military in Iraq. The salary was $88,000 a year, more than they had ever earned.

By November of that year, Reggie was on his way to Iraq.

"He didn't go over there to fight a war. He went over there because (KBR) said you'll have armed guards," Linda said. "They promised big money. You'll be protected, no problem."

More than five years have passed since Lane's convoy was attacked. The total cost of Lane's care for the rest of his life could be as much as $8.9 million, according to an estimate from the insurance company AIG. The bill will be paid by the federal government, which reimburses insurers for combat-related claims from war-zone workers.

On July 10, Linda Lane died. She had been hospitalized after suffering respiratory distress, family members said.

Reggie Lane let out a wail when relatives told him the news. "I had never heard anything like that before," said Bev Glasgow, who runs Lane's current foster home.

* * * *

If anyone knows of any organization dedicated to helping these wounded civilian warriors, please let me know, and I will post that information here.

Charles M. Grist
(The website for my book: "My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq")

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Victory: The Conquest of the Enemy - or His Unconditional Surrender

Try to picture this scenario.

You stand still while I draw a circle on the ground around you. Now, here are the rules for this game.

If I want to hit you, I can throw rocks at you from outside the circle, or I can step inside the circle, punch you in the mouth, and then jump outside the circle. You, unfortunately, can only hit me back when I am inside the circle, not when I am in my “safe haven” outside the circle. You can throw a few rocks at me when I’m outside the circle, but all I have to do is to move or hide to avoid getting hit.

This, my friends, is Afghanistan. We are in the circle. The insurgents can enter the country to attack us, and then run to safety into Pakistan (or Iran). We can fly some drones over them and fire a few missiles, but all they need to do to survive is stay out of sight. We have all the rules; the bad guys have none.

This was also Vietnam. While our soldiers were “imprisoned” within the borders of South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese moved at will through neighboring Laos and Cambodia. They had their “safe havens” where they trained, resupplied, and “relaxed”. No fear of being attacked by us – except in 1970 when we briefly kicked their rear ends in Cambodia before politics forced us to return to the "walls" of South Vietnam.

In fact, we waged a bloody war against North Vietnam – inside South Vietnam, but we never mounted a land invasion of the north. We bombed their bridges, factories, and military facilities, but they simply rebuilt them. We waged a long, “half war” in Vietnam; we are at risk of waging another such war in Afghanistan.

When the Al Qaeda animals attacked us, we went after them. President Bush said you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. There shouldn’t have been one square inch of ground on the face of the earth where these bastards could hide from us. Yet we drove them into Pakistan, thus creating a brand new safe haven to use as a base for creating new terrorists.

Now we are withdrawing from the Afghan countryside, moving our troops back to protect the population centers because we don’t have enough soldiers to secure the entire country. If we will simply look back in history at the French colonial experience in Indochina (Vietnam), we will see that France chose to primarily secure the cities and population centers. That strategy allowed the Viet Minh (the forerunners of the Viet Cong) to infest the countryside at will.

The Viet Minh, as you may know, dealt the French a devastating defeat at Dien Bien Phu and drove them out of Indochina with their tails between their legs.

If we have any chance to succeed in Afghanistan, it will require that we listen to our military commanders. We must give them the resources they need to protect both the cities and the countryside. We must also convince Pakistan that they must save their own country from the Islamic fundamentalist plague. The best way to do that is to join forces with us in a massive ground offensive in the tribal areas. Once we wipe out the terrorists and their bases, we will leave, and Pakistan can establish law and order in these mountain strongholds.

There is only one way to fight the war in Afghanistan. We must fight it to win. Victory, by surrender or by conquest, is the only way to defeat any enemy…

Charles M. Grist
Also check out: - The website for the book about the C.O.B.R.A. Team - My Team's website.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Trailer for "My Last War"

Take a look at the book trailer for "My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq". Then take a look at the website at

Thanks for checking in with "American Ranger".

Charles M. Grist

"My Last War" is on Barnes & Noble's Rising Star Special Collection

I am pleased that my book is listed in the Rising Star Special Collection on the Barnes and Noble website. The link to that page is .

I hope you will forward this link to your family and friends. I would also invite you to visit the website for the book at where you can watch the book trailer and learn about the book.

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Book About the C.O.B.R.A. Team is Here!

I am pleased to announce that my book, "My Last War: A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq" is available as of this week. I hope you will visit my new website at You can learn about the book, view the book trailer, and, hopefully, buy the book!

As many of you know, finishing "My Last War" has been an adventure. Some of you previewed earlier versions, but I am proud of the finished product.

I have been honored to serve with warriors in two separate conflicts a generation apart. It is my sincere wish that my fellow veterans of Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom will enjoy the story of the C.O.B.R.A. Team as told by this old Vietnam vet.

I hope you will also let me know how you like the book by commenting here or by sending me an email at

As of today, the book is available through Barnes and Noble's website and my publishers website. will be updated regularly as new outlets are added including

Thanks for checking out "American Ranger" and I hope you enjoy the book.

Charles M. Grist

Monday, September 28, 2009

At the Crossroads in Afghanistan

The reality of Afghanistan is that any foreign presence in that country will always be viewed by most of the citizens as contrary to their welfare. This is a country where the majority of the people live the same way they did hundreds of years ago.

If you look at the tens of millions of people in Afghanistan, try to understand that the percentage of them who are fundamentalist in their religious beliefs far exceed the number of troops we will ever have in their country. These Afghans (and their supporters in Pakistan) will never accept the long-term presence of American troops any more than the Iraqis did. Remember that the new government in Baghdad insisted on a firm date for the withdrawal of all our forces when they negotiated that Status of Forces agreement last year.

Since I fought in Vietnam, I have always opposed “half wars” – wars where we dive in to save or introduce “democracy," but either our leaders didn’t know how to win, or they never planned to win in the first place. The soldiers who fight America’s wars must never have to die in such “half wars." After all, we didn’t enter Afghanistan to create a model of democracy in the first place.

We invaded Afghanistan to find, kill, and/or capture Osama bin Laden and the leadership of Al Qaeda. Since the Taliban government refused to turn over bin Laden, we dismantled their government and sent them scurrying into the mountains like the animals they are.

While we owe the innocent citizens of this defeated nation a chance to rebuild their government, no magical number of soldiers will ever conquer the ancient hatred of western occupying armies. This instinctive distrust of westerners will always remain the basis of an insurgency. We need to have enough soldiers to get the Al Qaeda job done (the "victory" we need), and then we should pack up and go home. Yes, we would continue to support and advise a democratic Afghan government, but they need to do the work.

With safe havens in Pakistan where we only wage war with rocket-laden drones, the insurgency in Afghanistan could never be defeated anyway. Just like Laos and Cambodia, where the North Vietnamese built their supply centers and base camps in safety, the Afghan/Pakistani insurgents have a free rein – as long as they pay attention to what is flying overhead. The safe havens in Pakistan are like bee hives, constantly breeding, training, and equipping new guerrillas. As long as these “hives” exist, the dead insurgents will continue to be replaced many times over by new fighters.

If the commanding general in Afghanistan wants more soldiers to hold the line while we get bin Laden and his pals, then the president better give him what he wants – and fast. Our troops deserve only the best in terms of equipment, supplies, and manpower.

But if the goal is to keep fighting another “half war” where we ask our soldiers to put their lives on the line for years when there isn’t a solid plan for real victory, then it’s time to re-evaluate how the war on terror will be fought now and in the years to come.

The definition of “victory” in military terms is the complete defeat or surrender of the enemy. If we are unwilling or unable to achieve this goal in Afghanistan, then we must change our strategy and choose a better way of fighting the plague of international terrorism.

Charles M. Grist

Monday, September 21, 2009

American Ranger in Nevada

My wife, Debbie, and I flew to Reno, Nevada a few days ago and it was an interesting trip. I got to see old Virginia City and also Lake Tahoe.

Here are a few pictures from the land of the Cartwrights and the Ponderosa:

On a scenic overlook near Reno:

The absolutely beautiful vista overlooking Lake Tahoe:

Looking down into the old town of Virginia City:

Debbie and I have considered moving to another state upon my retirement from the police department. I saw some beautiful potential retirement locations. Unfortunately, this old Florida boy isn't sure he could handle the snow.

American Ranger will continue to "range" throughout the country when he gets a chance - even as the war on terror continues and our brave warriors face a brutal, relentless enemy.

I can't help feeling guilty that I'm not there with them. But it also makes me feel good to see a little more of our great country - that beloved America that we have fought for.

Flying back from San Francisco was extraordinary as well. The Rocky Mountains, the desert southwest, the heartland of America. God, we are so fortunate to live in such a land.

Our warriors will continue to fight for us overseas. The rest of us must make sure we take a stand here against those who would change America into something none of us would recognize.

I won't let it happen and I'm sure you won't either. We shall use the power of the ballot and the ability to speak our minds to reinforce our determination to keep the America our founding fathers created...

Charles M. Grist

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering September 11, 2001

Those who lived through World War II will never forget where they were when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The members of our generation will always remember exactly what they were doing when the terrorists attacked on 9/11.

I was a police detective, standing in the Seminole County courthouse, teaching a new detective how to get an arrest warrant issued. County employees announced that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Just like that, all of our lives changed forever.

Since that terrible day when our fellow citizens were murdered on our soil, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have engaged Islamic fundamentalist terrorists throughout the world. Thousands of our brave troops have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

On this somber day, please take time to say a prayer for the victims of the 9/11 attacks, for their families, for America's warriors and their families, and for all of the men and women from America and its Coalition partners who have given their lives for the cause of freedom.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, September 3, 2009

British Army Medic Puts Other Lives Before Her Own

Every soldier who ever served in combat knows how important our medics are. Even in the worst possible situation, they are moving to help the wounded. In the following story reported by AOL News, a British medic proves once again that the medic's duty to fellow troops is their primary mission:

* * * *

Injured Medic Saves 7 Soldiers
AOL News

(Sept. 2) - A British army combat medic put the safety of her comrades above her own in saving seven fellow soldiers in the aftermath of a grenade attack in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Sally Clarke, 22, was serving with her patrol in the country's Helmand province when they came across a field mine. While waiting for a team to dispose of it, they came under a surprise attack from Taliban insurgents who fired a rocket-propelled grenade into their midst, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph.

After ducking for cover, Clarke realized that she had shrapnel wounds in her back and shoulder from the explosion -- and that seven fellow soldiers were also down with injuries.

Clarke immediately began moving from soldier to soldier, treating each for their wounds despite the searing pain from her own wounds, the Telegraph said.

The worst injuries were suffered by Cpl. Paul Mather, 28, who had serious puncture wounds in his arms, legs and buttocks.

"One of the pieces of shrapnel had torn a fist-sized hole through his skin," Clarke told the Telegraph. "I applied field dressings and a tourniquet to one of his wounds, while we waited for the Medical Emergency Response Team to arrive."

Clarke continued caring for all six other soldiers as well and even aided them in reaching a helicopter evacuation point. However, when it came time for her to take seat on the chopper and to get away from the battlefield, she refused on the grounds that the rest of the patrol required a medic and she couldn't abandon them despite her pain and injuries.

"I didn't feel like my injuries were bad enough to go back to the hospital particularly as I was the only medic on the ground at the time," she told the Telegraph. "I didn't want to leave them on their own."

Clarke later received medical attention and is headed home from Afghanistan.

* * * *

After serving with members of the British military during my tour in Iraq, I can attest to their overwhelming professionalism and courage. One day we were short of a turret gunner while transporting numerous senior Coalition officers along dangerous Route Irish. A British army lieutenant colonel volunteered to man the turret for us. This only confirmed what I knew about the warriors of the United Kingdom. They were the ultimate team players.

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Remember Why We Went To Afghanistan

In the swirling winds of the War on Terror, eight years of war has worn out all Americans as well as the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan. As our involvement in Iraq slowly comes to an end because of the Status of Forces agreement mandating our exit by the end of 2011, the war in Afghanistan moves to the top of the agenda.

After the attacks of 2001, we went to Afghanistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and the members of Al Qaeda who planned, directed and helped execute those attacks. We did not go there to build a new Afghan society. The Taliban's defense of Al Qaeda resulted in the need to drive them from power - that is how we came to the job of "nation building" in Afghanistan.

The mistakes we have made in entering many battlegrounds - whether Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan - come from a failure to understand the history of both Asians and Arabs. Most of the Afghan people are living in a society based on standards of hundreds of years ago. They don't understand "democracy"; they understand tribes, warlords, power, and what an empty stomach feels like.

Although I haven't served in Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to work with a group of Afghan soldiers and police officers who came to to train at Fort Bragg a few years ago. (The above photo shows me with one of them in a Walmart near Fort Bragg). Right off the bat, two of these guys fled Bragg and became the object of a frantic search by military and civilian officials. The men were finally located in Fayetteville, supposedly at a mosque.

Once the two "fugitives" were returned to Fort Bragg, all the Afghans were locked down in two barracks. They took a group of us who had gone there as trainers and used us as "guards" as we provided twenty-four hour security to prevent any more "escapes".

The Afghans who didn't try to leave in the beginning began to resent us and said they felt like they were "prisoners". Before they returned to Afghanistan, the only official trip off Fort Bragg was a bus ride to a Walmart. Each Afghan was accompanied by an American soldier. They were allowed to spend what they had as allowances. Then we bused them back to Bragg where they were once again confined to their barracks until they flew home.

The Afghans I escorted to the Walmart were like children being taken into a candy store. Most of them came from small towns and villages and had never seen such excess. They couldn't believe the televisions, cell phones, and the vast array of consumer goods. Like foreigners visiting Disney World for the first time, they took pictures of each other in Walmart, for crying out loud. It was impossible not to feel sorry for them.

We would all like to make everything right for the Afghan people, but they must rise to the occasion. It is their country. Unfortunately, their society is filled with corruption and a vast segment of that society won't ever accept the American presence any more than they accepted the Russians or other "interlopers" over the centuries.

Our warriors, our civilian experts, and those who have volunteered to help the Afghan people are brave and dedicated to their missions. They are also digging a hole in the sand right now that keeps filling up.

We cannot completely throw Afghanistan to the wolves, but the following op-ed piece by conservative columnist George Will makes a lot of sense. Ground troops in any number will never conquer the ancient, almost instinctive Islamic hatred for foreign armies.

We must remember our primary mission and focus on it. We must kill or capture those who planned and helped execute 9/11, no matter where they are. As President Bush said, other countries are with us or against us. When that mission is done, our assistance to Afghanistan can continue as it has for other nations. As long as they remain on the democratic path, we will trade with them, advise them, and be their mentors. But we cannot perpetually fight a war for them - any more than we could in Vietnam or in Iraq. If they want freedom, they must demand it for themselves, and they must be willing to fight for it.

A change in strategy is not defeat. We must acknowledge the limitations of our involvement in Afghanistan. Let's get the bad guys who killed our citizens, then offer assistance and encouragement for the Afghans as long as they head in the right direction.

Once we eliminate the leadership and core of Al Qaeda, we have achieved the victory that we went to Afghanistan for in the first place. By the time we leave that country, whoever ultimately runs it will understand that if you attack America again, we will return and hunt down every one of you.

I think they've gotten the message so far...

This is George Will's column for today:

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Say 'when' in Afghanistan - and 'when' means now

George Will
Washington Post Writers Group

"Yesterday," reads the e-mail from Allen, a Marine in Afghanistan, "I gave blood because a Marine, while out on patrol, stepped on a [mine's] pressure plate and lost both legs." Then "another Marine with a bullet wound to the head was brought in. Both Marines died this morning."

"I'm sorry about the drama," writes Allen, an enthusiastic infantryman willing to die "so that each of you may grow old." He says: "I put everything in God's hands." And: "Semper Fi!"

Allen and others of America's finest are also in Washington's hands. This city should keep faith with them by rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan.

U.S. strategy — protecting the population — is increasingly troop-intensive, while Americans are increasingly impatient about "deteriorating" (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.

U.S. strategy is "clear, hold and build." Clear? Taliban forces can evaporate and then return, confident that U.S. forces will forever be too few to hold gains. Hence nation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state.

Military historian Max Hastings says Kabul controls only about a third of the country and "'our' Afghans may prove no more viable than were 'our' Vietnamese, the Saigon regime." Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia. The New York Times reports a Helmand official saying he has only "police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for 'vacation.'"

Afghanistan's $23 billion GDP is the size of Boise's. Counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that development depends on security, and that security depends on development. Three-quarters of Afghanistan's poppy production for opium comes from Helmand.

Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan's recent elections were called "crucial." To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American "success." Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a "renewal of trust" of the Afghan people in the government, but The Economist describes President Hamid Karzai's government — his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker — as so "inept, corrupt and predatory" that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords.

Adm. Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan's "culture of poverty." But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many "accidental guerrillas" to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent re-establishment of al-Qaida bases, must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?

U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000 to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.

So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.

Contact George Will at

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Charles M. Grist