Discover more from The View from the Front. By Stan R. Mitchell.
The Stan R. Mitchell report for 2/8/22.
Happy Tuesday, everyone! Hope everyone’s week is off to a great start.
So far, things remain calm in Ukraine, despite the looming invasion.
President Biden hosted the top German official, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the White House, and following the meeting, Biden stated that a controversial gas pipeline project designed to send gas from Russia to Germany would be halted if Russia invaded Germany. (Nord Stream 2.)
This was the most explicit threat yet of this potential counter-move, but it ratchets up the cost of war for Russia, if Putin decides to go into Ukraine for the third time. (I know, most news sources don’t say “third invasion,” but first Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula. And they followed that up by invading the eastern part of the country in the Donbass region.)
Already, America has stated that if Russia invades, it could remove Russian banks from SWIFT. (What is SWIFT and why it might be the weapon Russia fears.)
But things remain super tense and Biden has advised Americans to leave Ukraine.
A few more points on this before we move on.
First, there’s this:
More about conditions here:
The second thing I wanted to share is that Putin is utterly failing at coming anywhere even close to winning over the Ukrainian people. Ten-plus years ago, there was a good portion of the population who either didn’t care or actually supported Russia.
Many on the western part of Ukraine grew up speaking Russian and reading Russian books and watching Russian media. The idea of Ukrainian independence was something that was a younger generation thing. You can find evidence of this with just a little research, including this article (In the Trenches of Ukraine's Forever War.)
But look how things have changed. Two scary invasions, plenty of cyber attacks, and threats of a massive invasion have led to this:
Finally, check this:
In many ways, assuming a massive invasion doesn’t happen, all Putin has done is made Ukraine a stronger, more unified country.
Let’s talk a moment about media stoking and blowing things out of proportion. Remember all the screaming headlines of late about U.S. troops deploying to counter Russia?
Here’s a great way to put that in perspective:
Don’t get me wrong, though. These troops are crucial and needed because they hem Russia in on its options. You can’t go into any of those countries and kill American troops without unspeakable repercussions.
A good move by President Biden, but this isn’t some kind of massive escalation.
You may have remembered a drone attack in the United Arab Emirates a couple of weeks ago. (Drone attack in Abu Dhabi claimed by Yemen's rebels kills 3.) There’s some news on that front.
And I literally wanted to add this link, too. I haven’t even read it yet, but it was breaking news just before I hit the publish button.
In Mexico, on our southern flank, things are getting uglier with the fight against cartels. This is something that’s really sad to see.
Finally, there was some tragic and sad news recently. Navy SEAL candidate dies, second hospitalized following 'Hell Week' training.
Most have probably heard that news, but I wanted to share this great interview below. It’s from a former SEAL instructor and he not only speculates on what potentially occurred, but discusses all the safety protocols in place.
I tend to agree with him. I think some of the SEALs are hiding their injuries to prevent having to go through BUDs again.
Speaking for myself, I hid an injury that literally almost cost me my life.
It started innocently enough.
I dislocated my shoulder (probably blew it out) in some non-supervised hand-to-hand fighting with our sister platoon in Alpha Company (Weapons Platoon) back in 1997. I was a squad leader, and I went to fight their biggest man, despite the fact I was the second-smallest man in Third Platoon. (It’s called leadership, right? And sometimes you got to earn that sh-t.)
I thought that MAYBE with my martial arts background, I’d have a chance. I tried to hip toss him, but I learned much to my chagrin as he lifted me and slammed me to the ground with his body atop mine, that he had gone to State in Ohio as a wrestler. In short, I’d never in a fair fight be able to whoop a guy like that.
Needless to say, as we were flying through the air and toward the ground, I knew I was going to get hurt. He was probably 210 and I was barely 150.
So I tried to use my arm to stop me (and him) from the high-speed, approaching collision with the ground and snap, my shoulder ripped out of socket as my arm went backward in a way it’s not made to go.
Me fighting that guy sort of made me a legend (and I’d do it again, because everyone wants to be a legend when you’re that young and stupid). But legend or not, it severely dislocated my shoulder. And I didn’t want to tell any of the leaders. And I CERTAINLY didn’t want to go give up being a squad leader to go have surgery.
So, I sucked it up. For two-plus years, it would regularly re-dislocate in training activities and I’d deal with the horrendous pain of having that happen. I could literally do the Mel Gibson Lethal Weapon shoulder trick almost on command; that’s how destroyed my shoulder was.
None of this would have mattered, and it’d be a small footnote in the history of probably thirty men in 3rd Platoon A/1/8 back in the late ’90s, but that shoulder nearly cost me my life two years later. We were doing a mountain course in South Korea with the ROK Marines. And as part of the confidence-building part, before you do some of the huge rappelling exercises, you do some rock climbing across some gaps. It wasn’t even that challenging, but there are no ropes. And the ground is like 200 feet below.
If you’re even half a dope, you can do this no problem. You find handholds and footholds, and you cross a gap of like ten or fifteen feet. High schoolers could do this. Maybe even middle schoolers. Just don’t look down, and take your time. It IS scary, but it’s not challenging.
But there was one problem. The exercise was from the right of the mountain, climbing over toward the left. So, your left arm leads the way. And you had to mostly use hand holds of gaps in the boulders that were shoulder high or head high. And well, reaching up with my left arm (and out) was precisely the motion that would regularly cause my arm to dislocate.
I was halfway across before my left shoulder said, “Hello?” And I was suddenly reminded that, it regularly dislocated when I had it raised that high.
It started to disclocate and roll out of socket as I reached for the next handhold with it. I knew if it went out of socket, I’d scream in pain and fall off that rockface. So I lowered my arm and I prayed. What else could I do?
After a moment to regain my composure, I lifted my left arm again (but not as high). And with every bit of sanity and composure that I could drum up, I tried to keep moving, trying to find handholds about waist high — not how it’s taught, for sure. And not that easy; try it, if you don’t believe me.
Somehow I made it across that gap and I can tell you with absolute certainty that in four years of infantry training, including getting shot at and a near helo-crash off the side of a ship (The details of my military career), that was the closest I came to dying while in the Marine Corps.
I absolutely hate that we lost another Navy SEAL in training, but I don’t know the fix. The training has to be ruthless, and our service members will continue to hide injuries and not tell the truth about what’s going on. (For instance, once I reached safety, it occurred to me that if I had told my lieutenant, “Hey, I probably need to skip this exercise because of my shoulder,” he would have said, “Absolutely.” I had already proven my courage. And he knew about the constantly dislocating shoulder — though he thought it was an old injury. Heck, he was the one who had to approve the surgery that netted me three new screws and some wires a couple of months later; thanks, taxpayers!)
But I didn’t ask him to skip that event. I had too much pride. And the kinds of people who do dangerous things don’t feel sorry for themselves or skip training exercises. Ever. And honestly, maybe that’s the price of freedom?
People in the military REGULARLY say they’d rather die than quit. And unfortunately, we often do. Including a friend of mine, Lance Corporal Andre Foster. He died a couple of months after my near fall. We were back in Okinawa and doing jungle training. (Well, I was recouping after my surgery, but I digress.)
Back to Foster, I think if Foster were here with us, he’d admit to you that he wasn’t the strongest of swimmers. He was incredible at everything else. PT. Leadership. (He was older than most of us; had a wife and two kids.)
But instead of allowing a safety rope to be used on a dangerous creek crossing (which was roaring and deep; not the kind of creek you’re imagining), Foster didn’t request a safety rope to keep him attached to the rope that went across. Worse, he also didn’t ask to NOT be the one to try to get a light machine gun across, when he could have probably given it up to a stronger swimmer and toted across an M-16 like everyone else.
And thus, unfortunately, he courageously tried to do what I’m pretty sure his brain told him that he couldn’t. And for that, he lost his life (may his name and sacrifice never be forgotten).
I guess I’m rambling at this point, but my larger point is we will never have perfectly safe training situations. Every infantryman out there can tell you stories exactly like mine. Times they nearly fell or got seriously injured. It’s almost routine, honestly.
But if we want to keep the tip of the spear sharp, you train while you’re hurt. You cross creeks you’re afraid to cross. You lie about symptoms of pneumonia to doctors. That’s just the way it is. And that’s also why most military members won’t talk to you about what’s it like.
You wouldn’t understand. It doesn’t even make sense, once you’re re-acclimated as a civilian. For me, now in my 40s, all of that just seems stupid. Just young people stuff.
But when you’re in? You don’t blink when you’re scared. You don’t quit. You don’t whine or complain. You suffer in silence.
I guess, to wrap this up, as tragic as these losses are, we have to remember that the people who gave their lives in defense of our country? They knew the price. They knew the cost. They knew the dangers. And they volunteered and took an oath so that we could sleep in some level of comfort at night.
It’s tragic and I’m not even sure it’s fair. But it is what it is. I remember with almost tears in my eyes telling my Dad once as a high schooler that I wanted to go to Bosnia, to help defend those innocent civilians and children who were dying and under siege.
And he asked, “Why would you want to go there?”
I still remember saying, “Because those that can sometimes have to defend those who can’t (defend themselves).”
It’s a calling, I firmly believe, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Well, I typically like to end on a lighter note, but quite frankly, I think it’s more fitting to end with some solemnity and gratitude toward the Lance Corporal Fosters of the world. To the Seaman Kyle Mullens of the world.
These men would have given anything to serve their country bravely in wartime, and they signed up to do so. And they for damn sure didn’t blink from paying the full price in peacetime.
May God rest their souls and give their families peace.
That’s it for this edition. As a reminder, please be kind and endeavor to love your fellow Americans. We need to pull this country together, and that starts with all of us.
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Stan R. Mitchell
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