God Speed, SSG Clinton Newman

The Civil Affairs (CA) team here lost a good man a couple of weeks ago. He and three other soldiers were killed in an IED strike. He was at a Special Forces firebase in another part of the province. I never got to meet the man. He volunteered to serve at the firebase shortly before I arrived here because the CA team was short on personnel. He was set to rotate back to Tarin Kowt.

Everyone here, not just the CA folks but everyone, was hit pretty hard. By all accounts he was a pretty cool guy and a go getter. This was his second tour in Afghanistan. He served at another PRT on his first tour.

The team leader was there at drill weekend when the call was put out for volunteers and SSG Newman stepped up. He didn’t have to but he wanted to come back to Afghanistan because he really liked the people here. He was in the middle of earning his Bachelors degree but he put it all on hold.

His parents and siblings survive him. He didn’t have a bride or children. He was in his twenties so he probably wasn’t even contemplating having a family just yet. He was still slogging through college.

The PRT had a memorial ceremony for SSG Newman last week. I have attended a few military funerals but never a memorial ceremony in a combat zone. It follows a format that has been handed down through millennia. A student of the classics, celtic, or Scandinavian histories will recognize it.

The soldiers assembled in front of the memorial to SSG Newman, which was a rifle and bayonet stuck into the ground, or in this case a block of wood with a pair of boots in front, dogtags hanging from the pistol grip, and a helmet on the buttstock. The unit was called to attention, given the order to present arms, then the national anthem was played. The chaplain gave a short prayer. The PRT commander, the CA commander, the team leader, and a fellow soldier all gave remarks about SSG Newman. The chaplain sang a hymm then the chaplains assistant gave a closing prayer, and then we had final roll call. The Sergeant Major called off a few names and then got to SSG Newman. The Sergeant Major called for SSG Newman three times. While SSG Newman was called, the firing squad fired three volleys. Everyone then presented arms and Taps was played. After order arms, the CA unit marched in front of the memorial and rendered a final salute. They were followed by the command team (CDR, XO, and the SGM). At that point, the formation was dismissed. The soldiers paid their respects to SSG Newman and gave their condolences to the CA team.

When I paid my condolences to the team chief who I now consider a good friend all I could see was how tore up he was. Losing a soldier is a helluva thing and it was something I have never experienced. As a former commander I can relate to what he was going through. Officers who have held the burden of command will know what I speak of.

We lost a man in the prime of his life doing what he believed in and serving alongside us. He was a volunteer on so many levels. He volunteered for active duty after high school. He transferred to the Reserves so he can start his college education. He volunteered for Airborne School when given the opportunity and he volunteered for Afghanistan twice. He volunteered to be assigned to the toughest, most dangerous part of this province after a fellow CA team member was shot in the arm and had to go on medical leave for rehab.

I am reminded of a passage that describes SSG Newman.

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

And I said, "Here am I. Send me!

Isaiah 6: 5-8

We here at the Tarin Kowt PRT send our deepest condolences to the Newman family. We won’t forget him and I regret not having met him. We will carry on the fight and will always remember SSG Newman’s sacrifice. Those of us who knew SSG Newman are proud to have served with him. We have picked up our guns and are now back at work. We are carrying on with our duty, just like SSG Newman would want us to.

God bless you and your family. God speed, SSG Clinton Newman.

CPT NightHawk


Dissent and Tolerance

I have been remiss in not posting to this blog and for that I apologize. It is so cliché to say that I have been busy yet what else can I say? When you are performing two or three staff functions plus extra duties, you pretty much run out of time. Anyway, on with the blog

Right now the big thing in the world is that a bunch of people who are Muslim are upset over cartoons that were published by a newspaper in Denmark. Interestingly enough, these cartoons were published last September as described in this article by Jack Kelly. The Muslim world didn’t get into an uproar until an imam from Denmark traveled the Muslim world showing the cartoons plus a few that weren’t published.

Mark Steyn commented in his article that it is amazing that in a poor Middle Eastern country you can obtain a Danish flag and burn it. If I were to protest something that Yemen did (like let the planner for the attack on the USS Cole escape) in Jefferson City, MO, I would be hard pressed to find a Yemeni flag to torch in front of the Post Office/Courthouse!

So what’s my perspective on this whole mess? While I agree with positions Mr. Steyn and Mr. Kelly staked out in their articles, Ralph Peters’ article is very compelling, especially after spending time in an Islamic country.

There is a point where we all have to agree to disagree. In modern Western democracies, we can yell and scream at each other until we are blue in the face yet still break bread with each other. I personally know this because I have engaged in verbal combat with many people in Jefferson City yet I am still invited to their homes and spend time with their families to eat, drink, and be merry. Maybe they enjoy the company of my bride more or they like the food I bring, who knows but God bless you all!

That is not the case in many Islamic countries. Dissent is not tolerated. My personal observations here tell me that while Afghanistan has come a long way, it still has a long way to go. So far, politicians haven’t gunned each other down in the Wolesi Jirga (the legislature) but there is still an active insurgency prosecuted by people who do not want to participate in the give and take of a democracy. In short, these guys aren’t tolerant of others views and will brook no dissent.

James Pinkerton in his article focuses on how multiculturalism is to blame for the mess. It is hard to be tolerant when you have some loudmouth screaming “more 9/11’s” when he can’t protest in his home country and he is advocating the destruction of your family. When my bride and I talked about this when I called home I pretty much said “screw em, if they can’t develop a thicker skin then they will never have a culture that will function in a democratic society”. I still believe that, but this whole mess over the cartoons misses the point and the article by Ralph Peters brings it home.

Instead of attacking the Muslim community over it’s treatment of women, it’s unwillingness to allow other religions to exist within their countries, or it’s denial of the occurrence of the Holocaust, they make a gratuitous attack on the centerpiece of the Muslim faith.

How many people remember the controversy back in the 1990’s about the Federal Government funding an art exhibit where there was a depiction of the Crucifix in a jar of urine? Or the uproar over the movie that had Jesus having sexual relations with Mary Magdelene? While the glitterati amused themselves by supporting these examples of “artistic expression”, many people in “fly over country” were clearly not amused.

I do have some sympathy for the Muslims, only because as a Christian I do not enjoy seeing my faith ridiculed by people who think they are superior to me. Having said that, I draw the line at calling for the death of people I do not agree with.

Democracy is not for the faint of heart. You have to have a thick skin, discipline, and a willingness to engage your opponent face to face verbally and having to listen to the vitriol that others say about you. What we are seeing here are the Europeans missing the mark by picking the wrong fight and Muslims demonstrating yet again that they still have a lot to learn about dissent and tolerance.