This meme hit my Inbox this morning. It is a soldier in Iraq growing grass in front of his tent. I cannot verify the accuracy of the rest of the Email that accompanied this image, but scenes like this were not uncommon. When I left for Iraq in 2010, the folks who worked for me gave me a cookie sheet, a pair of scissors, a bag of US topsoil, and a bag of grass seed to take with me. I was living in a shipping container that had been converted to quarters. It was not uncommon for soldiers to grow a cookie sheet of American grass under their hooch to remind themselves of home. It takes a tremendous amount of water for grass to survive through sand storms and blistering heat. I don’t have any personal pictures of this, but the picture above struck a chord for me. Pause a moment between glasses of egg nog to think of our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen far away from home this holiday season for whom a bag of American dirt is a special gift.
US Military personnel are deployed in over 120 countries. Regardless of your feelings about the politics or wisdom of a particular war, action, or mission, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen server their nation’s call all over the world. We might complain about traffic or crowds at the mall. These Americans face much worse every day until they return to their families and friends.
Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.
I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live
As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.
With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.
I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.
He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.
Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.
I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.
Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt, 1986
Most of us are braving traffic and crowds to do that last-minute shopping. Many of us think fondly of white Christmases and snow, of logs on the fire and roasting chestnuts. These Soldiers braved bullets and bombs. They spent Christmas in steamy climates. Pause a moment to think of the Soldiers serving overseas and away from home this Christmas.
A great disappointment of my 30+ years in the military is that I never had the opportunity to see Bob Hope in concert. Bob Hope is a real hero. He never concerned himself with the politics of the war. Wherever Soldiers served, Hope was there (pun intended). Bob Hope spent many, many years having Christmas dinner with the troops and bringing a little joy to break up the monotony of the war.
As we get ready to celebrate Christmas with our families and friends, let’s not forget how Soldiers have celebrated Christmas in years past in lands far away from their families and friends. Freedom is not free.
This selection of photos is from World War II. The images were gathered from various Internet sites and are not attributed.
This year, get the gamer in your life something that will make him (or her) very happy: a copy of Combat Patrol(TM): WWII.
Information about the rules, including where to get them, a bunch of free downloads, and how-to videos are located here: http://www.bucksurdu.com/Buck_Surdu/Combat_Patrol.html
The rules are available with professionally printed cards on War-games Vault: http://www.drivethrucards.com/product/158116/Combat-Patrol-Set-A or http://www.drivethrucards.com/product/158122/Combat-Patrol-Set-B
They are also available in the UK and Europe from Sally 4th: http://wargamesbuildings.co.uk/Combat-Patrol
Finally, get them from On Military Matters in the US: http://onmilitarymatters.com/pages/dfindex.php
On Sunday my buddy JJ was in town for business, and so I took the opportunity to schedule a Combat Patrol(TM) game with some of the HAWKs. The Mexican American War is largely overlooked by gamers, but it provides excellent gaming opportunities. We used the soon-to-be-released Napoleonic supplement for Combat Patrol(TM), written by Duncan Adams. While written for WWII, with a few adaptations, the rules work well for black powder era games.
The scenario was inspired by some readings of naval “cutting out” parties sent to capture and sail away with Mexican ships. In this scenario there was a ground assault by the Army along with a naval cutting out party in small boats.
The ships were moored at docks in a small Mexican village upstream from the Gulf of Mexico. The Mexicans thought that their mission was to protect the supplies in the town against US attempts to steal or burn them. They were allowed to place themselves anywhere on the map, but no two units could be within 18 inches of each other.
The American plan was to launch a feint from one edge of the table on land. This was designed to pull the Mexican from the town. Then they would launch the rest of the land forces and the naval landing party from the other end of the table. The American objective was less about the supplies and more about seizing a Mexican ship.
During the war, the Mexicans had very poor quality control in the manufacture of gun powder and used inferior bullets. As a result, their fire accuracy was very poor. To represent this, I gave most of the Mexican units an Accuracy rating of Green (possible ratings are elite, regular, or green). Also, as these forces were not main line Mexican soldiers, most of them had a Guts rating of Green as well (possible ratings are elite, regular, or green). Most of the Americans had an Accuracy of Regular and a Guts of Regular; although, there were a few that were rated as Elite.
The American plan was partially successful. Many of the Mexican units redeployed toward the advancing American feint. The Mexicans, however, were suspicious that there were more Americans coming from somewhere, so the left a couple of units on the ships and a couple more facing the other table edges.
Some of the Mexican cavalry had been deployed facing the board edge where the American feint entered. Duncan quickly found himself outnumbered three to one and tried to disengage. He forgot that cavalry gets to draw two movement cards, not one, and so spent a long time trying to get his lancers out of the woods. Eventually, the three US infantry units were able to gun them down with surprisingly accurate musket fire.
With the Mexican cavalry destroyed, the US infantry faced little opposition advancing toward the town. It was about at this time that the naval cutting out party arrived. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures of the sailors climbing aboard the first Mexican ship and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. In typical fashion for our club, the folks with the best odds failed and the folks with the worst odds succeeded. (Many of us are notorious in several states for bad dice — or in the case of Combat Patrol(TM), cards). The sailors climbed aboard the ship and did well clearing the decks.
Additional US infantry advanced into the town and managed to set fire to one pile of supplies. At this point, JJ had to head to the airport, so we called the game a draw. The Mexicans had retained the majority of their supplies, but it was likely the Americans were going to get away with one boat.
The Napoleonic supplement worked quite well for this game, and I am anxious to put the Mexican American figures on the table again soon. Watch for the FREE supplement to be released in late December or early January. We are just doing the final edits and formatting.
I was doing some Christmas shopping and came across these on ThinkGeek.com. They are bullet-shaped dice. I need more six-sided dice like I need a hole in my head, but I couldn’t resist. Zeb has been using Combat Patrol(TM): World War II for cowboy games. I may have to start using these as the command dice for those games. My local hobby store said they couldn’t order these dice, so you need to get them from either the manufacturer or ThinkGeek.
Things have been pretty busy at work, and it seems like the weekends have been jam packed with activities as well. As a result, I haven’t gotten much painted lately. This Sunday I had a few minutes, so I completed some things that had been sitting on the painting table for a couple of weeks. The first two items were these two science fiction “computer cars.” I found them at the local hobby shop. I think they are for Infinity. I don’t use slot bases, so I took the ones that came with the ducks (see below) and made a science fiction shipping container.
I had been looking for this figure since the first Agent Peggy Carter miniseries. Greg found it in a bin full of figures in the flea market at Fall In last month.
In an earlier post, I provided pictures of these duck men from Rebel Miniatures. I have been using them as the foundation of my gang in our Frostgrave games. Everyone else has their Frostgrave figures mounted on snow bases. I ordered a second set of figures, painted them, and mounted them on snow bases for our upcoming second Frostgrave campaign.
I tried a few different things on the bases. First, I painted the bases light blue. Then I applied snow flocking. On top of that I added a little of this white flakey stuff O got from Scenic Express. When I sprayed the figures will dull coat, the white flocking became translucent, with too much of the light blue showing through. So I dabbed on more glue and added more of the white flocking. The look is okay, but not quite what I wanted.