Monday, April 27, 2015

A Mysterious and Powerful Memorial to Warriors Who Fought in Vietnam

A mysterious and powerful war memorial is tucked inside a clearing in the Colorado back country. A couple of motorcyclists found it while riding to the Continental Divide near Gunnison. According to the vid-maker, an old local at a trading post said the memorial is kept off of Park Ranger maps. According to local legend, the videographer says, a Vietnam veteran sneaked in the pieces via helicopter. However the maker did this, the result is stunning. If anyone knows the true story, give a shout. I'd love to hear it. H/T our faithful Navig8r for sending me the clip.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Battle of Gallipoli:One Hundred Years Later, ANZAC and the West Remember

100 years after the Battle of Gallipoli, ANZAC remembers. The overall campaign took part during World War I, and was fought on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey from 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916. It was a British and French operation to capture Constantinople and secure a sea route to Russia.

The battle was the first major engagement waged by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). The troops fought courageously, and took heavy casualties. These 100 years later, we remember and thank them for their service.

This rare footage captures but some of the action.

Second Amendment Saturday: Number One on Google Images

Thanks to my li'l baby Courtney, who also is Number One on images for "What is this woman afraid of?"  #ProudMamaMoment

Friday, April 24, 2015

Media Meets Power Meets Hollywood

I love the annual festivities surrounding the White House Correspondents Association dinner. Let the weekend begin!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Handoff Inside the Golden Knights

Today marks a big occasion for the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. My way-cool friend, First Sergeant Bryan Schnell, AKA "Top," is relinquishing responsibility for the team to Sergeant First Class Dustin Peregrin. The Knights will welcome the new guy, and say a sad farewell to Bryan. He's been at Ft. Bragg with the Knights for a long time, most recently as First Sergeant, and before that as a valued member of the team who spent a lot of air time out 'dere flappin'. 

My family and I first met Bryan some years back at the Manassas Airport in Virginia. The Knights appeared at an airshow there, and I reported a story about them. My daughters Kelly and Courtney also appeared at the show. Courtney performed a gymnastics routine dedicated to the Knights, and Kelly was the emcee. 

The airshow coincided with an epic windstorm that threatened to pick up the entire terminal and whisk all of us - including Joe Galloway, Barry McCaffrey, and some Tuskegee Airmen - to Oz, but that is a story for another day.

When there was a lull in the storm, the Knights jumped. From a perfectly good airplane. I'm pretty sure Bryan landed inside a tiny circle that he aimed for while still inside the plane. It was crazy watching him land precisely but casually, as if this were no big deal. 

Later, the girls and the Knights and I went out to the flight line. Bryan and crew rounded up a van, and brought us to visit one of the Knights' aircraft. Bryan let the girls try on a parachute harness, and gave them some GK posters and great bling. We all remained friends.

In the ensuing years, Bryan has done some amazingly cool things, including jumping out of a (perfectly good) airplane with former President George Bush (the elder) attached to him. That's Bryan and our then-80 year old daredevil former Pres in the photo. Bryan also jumped with Chuck Norris.

Bryan also is known for keeping his cool. One year I ran into some of his teammates during a gathering of mil-pals in Alexandria, VA. When it got really late (or early), we decided to call Bryan in Fayetteville and have him join us by phone. 

He was real nice about it, and didn't yell at us like I would have done in his position.

Now Bryan is heading to a new LZ. He will soooo be missed in Fayetteville. He will be a fantastic addition to his new unit. Seriously, folks: You will love this guy.

Congratulations to SFC Peregrin, and Go, Bryan! I know you are going to stay out 'dere flappin'!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Letters From Manila, 1989: "We're Still Reeling From the Shock of Col. Rowe's Assassination"

More from the Nick Rowe files. These are excerpts from a letter from a friend who was stationed in the Philippine Islands in 1989. Notice what he says in the second clip. Things don't change much, do they?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Raise a Glass to Legendary Green Beret Col. Nick Rowe, On the Anniversary of His Murder

Let's all raise a glass in memory of an old pal and legendary Green Beret, Col. James Nicholas Rowe, who died 23 years ago today. Nick was ambushed and killed on 21 April, 1989, while driving to work in the Philippines. At the time, he was assigned to the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in Manila.

He was only 51 when he died. I got to know him when I wrote about Vietnam-era prisoners of war for The Washington Times. I wanted Nick to tell me about POWs. He was happy to comply. But he wanted something, also - for me to join his effort to secure a posthumous Medal of Honor for his fellow Vietnam War captive, Rocky Versace. I included Nick's story and words in my 'Nam POW book, Prisoners of Hope.

Nick's story is an inspiration.

By the time the bad guys finally got him in Manila, Nick had evaded death many times. First, while fighting in Vietnam; and then, while being held captive in the hands of Viet Cong guerrillas.

In 1968, Nick pulled off one of the most spectacular POW escapes in history. He was one of only 34 Americans to make the break to freedom during the Vietnam War. He was a prisoner for five years. During that time, he repeatedly tried to get away. He never accepted the lessons his captors tried to beat into him every time they recaptured him. Finally, his guards got tired of him. They decided to kill him.

 On New Year's eve, a band of Viet Cong marched Nick to where they planned to shoot him. 

"When I saw Cobras, it meant only one thing.... we were in for a bad day."

The mission quickly became complicated. The band stumbled into the kill zone of a flight of American helicopters: the deadly Cobras. As Nick told me in 1987: "When I saw Cobras, I knew it meant only one thing. If they spotted us, we were in for a bad day."

There ensued a bizarre sequence of events, in which the communists relied on Nick to help them evade the lethal choppers. Nick - who was carrying his injured pet dove - complied, all the while formulating a plan and waiting his opportunity. At one point, he somehow got access to the group's radio. While tuning the frequencies, he found Petula Clark singing Happy Heart. The song, he told me, bolstered his courage to act. 

When the timing seemed right, Nick overpowered a guard and broke into the open. He waved his arms at the helicopters. It was a calculated risk. He knew he likely would be shot on sight. He was right.

Monday, April 20, 2015

In Which My Grandpumpkin Liam Celebrates Turning Five!

Has it really been five years? Yep. It sure has. 

Exactly five years ago today, I woke up early to a phone call from my oldest young'un, Erin, who was nine months into being pregnant. Erin was so out of breath she barely could talk, but I knew what she was saying. Her baby was fast on the way. 

A few moments later, youngest young'un Courtney and I were dressed and out the door and headed for the hospital. I guess it's safe now to admit that we jumped into the HOV-3 lanes with only two in the car - our only hope of making it in time to Fairfax through the thick of I-95's northbound D.C. morning rush hour. 

How thick was the traffic? So heavy that Shawn and Erin (who by now was in hard labor and hanging out the window) came to a dead standstill atop the equally congested I-66. Fortunately they happened to be next to a Virginia State Trooper. An ex-Marine like Shawn, the Trooper instantly got them onto the shoulder and safely in place for a roadside delivery. A firetruck arrived to block off the gawkers. The morning news announced that a woman was giving birth on I-66, and that commuters should avoid the scene if possible. Thankfully, though, an ambulance materialized to whisk Erin off to an actual delivery room.

Courtney and I arrived at the hospital soon after Erin did. We raced through the halls, shouting at nurses: "Where's the girl who came in on the ambulance?" We followed the hand signals, and kept on running.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

One Awesome Kid: My Cool Friend Kevin Meets Madison Rising

It started out as a seeming annoyance, and turned into every parent's nightmare. Last summer, my dear friend Dbie, who has appeared on this blog as our Official Squint, told me that her son Kevin hadn't been feeling well. No matter how much rest Kevin got, he didn't improve. Dbie thought maybe he might have a virus or mono. It was time to see the doctor. Dbie got off the phone telling me she'd let me know what the doc said. 

Our next conversation was both terrifying and heartbreaking. Kevin was in the hospital. With leukemia.

Many prayers and chemotherapy sessions later, Kevin is doing fabulously well. He is out of the hospital and back at school. A couple days ago, he road-tripped with his family to New York, to visit Fox & Friends for the launch of the Defend Freedom Tour. This is a way-cool tour, by the way, featuring Concerned Veterans for America and my besties from Madison Rising.

While at the event, Kevin encountered my good pal Dave Bray, Madison Rising's lead singer. Dave traded a CD for a "Pray for Kevin" bracelet.

I am so proud of my cool friend Kevin for conquering so much in less than a year's time. That is one awesome kid. You can follow his continuing progress here, at Keeping Up With Kevin. Tell him SKK sent you.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Madison Rising, Concerned Veterans for America Appear on Fox & Friends to Launch Tour

My absolute besties, the gang from Madison Rising, are in Manhattan today, along with Pete Hegseth and his Concerned Veterans for America, launching their Defend Freedom Tour. I soooo want to be there! But perhaps I shall join this fabulous endeavor at a later date!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Horror on Campus: Remembering What it Was Like to Cover the Virginia Tech Shootings

Eight years ago today, my editor at People magazine called from New York with a tentative request: 

"Hey... there's reports of a strange incident in Blacksburg. Something about a man with a gun on campus. Can you look into it?"

At the time he called, the only thing we knew was that someone had opened fire on people at Virginia Tech, the huge university southwest of Roanoke. Beyond that, though, we knew nothing. The police gave us little information; not because they wouldn't, but because they themselves were trying to find out what was going on. At first, the working theory was that a lovers' quarrel had turned violent, and that the shooter - presumably an angry boyfriend - was stopped speeding through the Virginia countryside and was in custody.

We were horrified, but partially relieved to think the incident had been contained. By the end of the day, we knew otherwise. An entire People team - and the international media - converged on Virginia Tech to cover the deadliest and most infamous shooting spree on an American school campus. 

Reporting this story was both surreal and intense. When we learned the horrible truth, that this was a mass murder spree, part of the People team mission was to write stories of heroism and survival. 

One student told me about his professor, Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who blocked the door so that students could escape. The student tried to pull Professor Librescu from the doorway, but the 76 year old held fast, refusing to move. The student told me: "He saved everyone in the classroom. He saved our lives. As I got ready to jump out the window, I turned back to look at the professor. He just stood there, holding the door. The last I saw him, he was blocking the door."

Radioactive Material Stolen in Mexico: Seriously Bad Juju

The theft of radioactive material in Mexico is not just a red flag. It's an entire stadium full of crimson banners. We know what this stuff is used for. It's the building block of a dirty bomb.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tempest in a C-Cup: Are Gina Elise's Pinups Too Sexy for Our Servicemen?

Do we prefer this...
Are fundraising pinup girls too sexy for our veterans and servicemen?

One hissy-fitting military spouse says, yes: Pinups be gone! The hissy fitter, SpouseBuzz editor Amy Bushatz, wants charity chief Gina Elise and her 1940's-style Pin Ups for Vets to sashay their curvy little selves away from the flight line, the chow hall, the hospital ward, and anywhere else these retro-dressing gals might encounter a married man. 

Amy's reasoning? That the classic American icon, the pinup girl, improperly thrusts her busty fantasy glam into real world marriages. In other words, one look at a set of costumed C-cups will turn a man's mind away from spouse, family, and all that is good.

Sounds silly, no? Especially in regard to Gina and crew. After all, what's more wholesome than a group of cute girls in dressup (showing far less flesh than you typically see at the mall), raising money on behalf of veterans and wounded warriors? Gina raises money by selling retro themed pinup calendars and holding live theatrical revues. So far, she has used the proceeds to give more than $50,000 in rehab equipment to VA and military hospitals. Gina and company also visit veterans in person in the hospital.

This is a worthy cause, deserving support.

And yet.

In a recent post on the site she edits, Amy Bushatz voiced complaint:

Barbies for Boys...

I want a Barbie like this!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Raven 23 Convictions: I Stand With Blackwater

I am profoundly disappointed in the Raven 23 convictions. This case was not directed at finding the truth, but at securing convictions in light of evidence that should have exonerated the accused. 

Justice was not served. I stand with Blackwater.

It Will Come to You; Wait For It...

H/T Mad Dog 7 for the belly laugh...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Marines Show Off Their Equipment...

Seriously. These are not Leggos. They are honest-to-gosh pieces of equipment...

A Marine CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter conducts slingload training at auxiliary airfield 2 near Yuma, Ariz., April 3, 2015. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jorge A. Dimmer 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Veterans Administration Acknowledges Toxic Substances at Ft. McClellan: VA Can Do Better

The veterans' community is abuzz with the latest from the Veterans Administration about toxic exposure at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. For those who are new to the issue: After many long years of ignoring the Ft. Mac issue, the VA now has acknowledged that service members may have been exposed to toxic substances on post.

In general, the grass roots response to this development is, the VA is vastly underplaying the range and the effects of exposure. I agree. The VA for now is minimizing the health effects from toxic substances at Ft. McClellan. It's important, though, to place the VA stance within context. Vietnam veterans waged a long and difficult campaign to gain recognition for exposure to Agent Orange. Today, the exposure and health effects are fully recognized.

The positive take-away for Ft. McClellan veterans is, the VA finally has recognized the presence of toxic substances at our former post, and is holding open the possibility that we were exposed. The fact that the VA has this on its website speaks volumes.

I strongly encourage all Ft. Mac vets who suffer health issues to contact their Environmental Health Coordinator; get this in your records; and proceed accordingly.

To the VA folks who routinely read my Ft. McClellan posts: Thank you for what you've done so far. I appreciate it greatly. But, come on. You can do better.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Russian Navy on Verge of Collapse? Or Not...

I have great faith in Vladimir Putin's ability to manipulate both the sword and the pen. And so, when I read David Axe's latest on an aspect of Russian military capability, the old Cold Warrior in me sprang to alert. I looked onto the page and saw "The Russian Navy is on the Verge of Collapse;" but read, Disinformazione. Even better when it comes from an unwitting source.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Catching Up on Fort McClellan, Over the Airwaves

Quite a lot of you have emailed to ask for the link to my radio interview discussing toxic exposure at Ft. McClellan. You can access the interview here, via the Fort Mac Vets webpage. I appear along with my fellow vet Joan Zakrocki, who has compiled considerable research on the toxins and their effects. If you are a Fort Mac veteran who wants to learn about toxic exposure and the possible health effects, please join my FaceBook page addressing this issue. We are 5,100+ strong and growing by the day. We have lots of good files and fellowship, and welcome you to the ranks!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rolling Stone, "Jackie," and Historical Narrative: Truth Matters

There will be much well deserved discourse today in light of the report about Rolling Stone and its handling of the "Jackie" campus rape story. The core issue is truth. It matters. It particularly matters when recording contemporaneous events, thus setting the groundwork for historical narrative.

Here is a post I wrote last year, about a different type of story where truth was elusive, and journalists played an important role.

"Here is something else to consider: The value of truth. If you think it's a cheap commodity, look what happened when bereaved family members tried to speak to my fellow journos in Malaysia. People were forcibly dragged away from reporters, and a BBC journalist was shoved to prevent him from talking to willing family members."
All of us in this business carry a huge weight of responsibility. We owe it to society to be faithful custodians of the public trust.

Continuing Our Easter Theme....

A nod to our snipers... remembering the incident of the Maersk Alabama and her crew.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Milspotters' Challenge: An Easter Theme Applies!

And that's all the hint you're going to get. In fact, I bet I already gave it away. Oh, and Minicapt isn't allowed to play, because he knows the answer.

You know the drill, My Lovelies!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Work Can Be Murder... In People Magazine

My People magazine colleagues (an amazing bunch!) and I have been hot on the trail of the unfolding Robert Durst saga.

The past couple days have been murder. Part of the story is up now, on the Dot (; and part is in the magazine, on newsstands today. 

I am so proud of our team, and of what we were able to pull together on a short deadline!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Work Can Be Murder...

New story coming soon, in PEOPLE! My colleagues on these stories are phenomenal. Stay tuned for a link to the latest.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Army's Golden Knights, Having Exited a Perfectly Good Airplane


Members of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights, perform an uncompressed three stack with the U.S., POW/MIA and the Army Flag during canopy training over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Larry Miller.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Lifesaving POW Tap Code in Vietnam; A Report From "Devil Dog Dad in Texas"

Smitty Harris, left, and the author, Colin Kimball

The POW Tap Code in Vietnam

By Colin Kimball, aka Devil Dog Dad in Texas

[Note from SKK: John McCain tried to teach me the Tap Code when I was researching my book, Prisoners of Hope. I never quite caught on; then again, I did not have the motivation that pushed these heroes to learn the lifesaving code.]

In the early 1960’s the United States Air Force shuttled pilots who were bound for Southeast Asia through a survival school outside Reno, Nevada. Most pilots, being single men, retired to the bright lights and beautiful ladies of Reno in the evenings after class in search of companionship and fun times with their buddies. Most, that is, except for one young devoutly married Air Force Captain, Carlyle “Smitty” Harris. Smitty carried on informal conversations with his instructors after hours and then retired to his barracks to go over the notes of the day.  

It was during one of these informal conversations that one instructor briefly mentioned a tap code based on a simple 5x5 grid of the alphabet, used by the British in World War II.  No formal instruction was given, just a brief conversation after class.

By 1965, young Captain Harris was assigned to the 45th Tactical Fighter wing, flying the F-105 Thunderchief, also known as the “Thud.” On his sixth combat mission on April 4th he was shot down by North Vietnamese gunners after successfully releasing his bombs on the Thanh Hoa Bridge, an important railroad crossing for the Ho Chi Minh Trail. 

Smitty became POW #5, the fifth American pilot to be held captive in Hoa Lo Prison, otherwise known as the Hanoi Hilton. 

After an extended period in total isolation, Smitty was placed in a room with three other POW's.  He took the opportunity to teach these men the tap code that he informally heard about while in Survival School a year earlier. These men passed it on to others. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In Which Old Mossback Laments His Inability to Sell a Story to Soldier of Fortune

The Old Mossback was thrilled to learn of my resumed gig with Soldier of Fortune. Mossy has been texting me nonstop since he read the announcement. For years, now, he's been trying to sell a story to SOF, with no luck. He doesn't understand why, and wanted my feedback. Herewith, he now leaks our comms...

By Old Mossback

To all the fans of the SKK blog: I thought I would share just one of the texts SKK and I have exchanged. 

OMB: Congratulations of your recent coup with Soldier of Fortune magazine. I have been a long time fan of SOF.

SKK: Thank You. 

OMB: By the way, can I ask you something? 

SKK: Sure. 

OMB: For some time I have been sending articles to Soldier of Fortune, based upon my years as an overseas contractor. I have not heard a word from them. I was wondering as to why?

SKK: I am sort of glad you brought that up. It could be I know what the problem is. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Going Home to Soldier of Fortune: A Riveting Combat Tale, Headed Your Way

I love happy news; and this news has me ecstatic.

My byline once again shall appear in a magazine I flat-out LOVED writing for, and whose publisher is all hijinks, all the time - in a totally positive way, of course. I am delighted to be writing once again for my longtime alma mater, Soldier of Fortune.

In prior years, I shared some wacky adventures with the gang from SOF. As a writer for the magazine, I also tackled some great subjects: American POWs forgotten in Korea; a hypothetical war featuring the United States vs. China; American POWs in Vietnam; a predicted Soviet coup against Mikhail Gorbachev (a story that proved prescient, by the way) and much more. 

This new turn of journalistic events, then, for me is like going home. It makes me feel all warm and cozy. And to think: no hijinks were committed in the telling of the tale.

Stay tuned for updates. OpSec for now on my new story topic, but trust me: it's a riveting combat tale, and is beyond kickass. It will be worth waiting for. I promise.

wink emotico Stay tuned for my story to appear soon in Soldier of Fortune.Robert Brown. OpSec for now on the topic, but it's kickass.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Tale of a Soldier's Soldier, in GX Magazine

This is one of my all-time favorite stories to write, about a soldier's soldier; a man so heroic he should serve as inspiration for the next GI Joe doll. The story begins like this...

The Soldiers knew they were going to die. Their nine-man squad was fighting from an old Soviet outpost in the mountains of Kunar province, Afghanistan, surrounded by 60-plus determined enemies.

Read the rest here, in the current edition of the National Guard's GX magazine. Prepare to be shocked and awed...