Audie Murphy: honor returns to community

We toss the word “hero” around too generously at times.

However, I want to take a brief look at the real thing, an actual hero who happens to belong to a community near where my wife and I have lived for the past three years.

Farmersville — in eastern Collin County — claims Audie Leon Murphy as one of its famed sons. Why not? When he enlisted in the Army during the height of World War II, Murphy had the Army inscribe “Farmersville, Texas” as his hometown on his dog tags.

This weekend, Farmersville welcomed back its annual Audie Murphy Day celebration. The city had put the ceremony on the shelf for the past two years as it fought off the coronavirus pandemic.

The ceremony honors a young man who in January 1945, at the age of 21, saved a village in France from a German armored unit. He fought the Nazis virtually single-handedly. He earned the Medal of Honor for his heroism.

Murphy did not become filled with self-aggrandizing glory. Oh, no. He remained a humble man. He said often during his short life on Earth that the “real heroes are the men who didn’t come home.” Murphy died just short of his 46th birthday in a plane crash in western Virginia.

It’s more than just a little cool that one of our communities can claim a national icon as one of its own. Indeed, Murphy became the most decorated fighting man to serve in World War II. He received more than 30 combat medals, most of them for exemplary valor.

He knew what they meant. He wore them to honor the men with whom he served and those he watched die on the field of battle.

Audie Murphy was a hero to the nth degree and this weekend, Farmersville, Texas, was able to salute one its own.

Honor the fallen

Americans take time each year to honor those who died in battle. They died to protect our freedom at home. I join in honoring their sacrifice and thanking them for the liberty I continue to enjoy.

I was fortunate at many levels. I came of age in the 1960s. My generation faced the prospect of fighting a war in a faraway land. I found myself answering the call to duty in Vietnam, arriving there in the spring of 1969 to maintain Army aircraft in a place called Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang.

One level of good fortune is that no one in my high school class died in service in Vietnam. We have lost many of them over the years to an assortment of accidents and illness.

Nor did I lose any “buddies” in Vietnam, although one young man with whom I was acquainted died in June 1969 while ferrying soldiers on what intelligence said would be a “routine” troop lift. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Jose De La Torre died that day in a horrible fire fight.

I honor his sacrifice and truth be told, I am wondering at this moment how his loved ones in California are feeling this weekend as the nation honors his supreme sacrifice.

My hope is that we honor these Americans every day, not just a single day or a single weekend. I try to do my feeble part simply by offering quiet expressions of thanks for the service they performed.

I am doing so at this very moment.

With that, let us all go forward and enjoy the Memorial Day holiday while remembering why we’re still able to do so.

Juxtaposing two dates

I am going to juxtapose two commemorations with this blog post saluting a man who (a) didn’t die in service to his country but who (b) remains forever my favorite military veteran. 

We’re going to honor the memories of the more than 1 million Americans who died in battle during the course of our nation’s storied history. Memorial Day is set aside for the laying of wreaths at cemeteries and for quiet remembrances of those who gave their last full measure of devotion to the country they loved.

I honor them continually throughout the year. I love watching the pageantry associated with the president of the United States laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown. I am struck by the tradition of soldiers marching back and forth at the Tomb and I am awestruck by the precision of their movements.

We should honor these individuals — the men and women who died defending us — whenever and wherever we can.

My favorite veteran, of course, is my Dad. He died prematurely nearly 42 years ago. Indeed, today would be Dad’s 101st birthday. He came into this world on May 27, 1921. He left it on Sept. 7, 1980 at the age of 59.

What perhaps is most remarkable about Pete Kanelis’s devotion to his country is the impulse he exhibited in seeking to serve it. On Dec. 7, 1941, when Dad was just 20 years of age, he was listening to the radio broadcast of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was so incensed at what was happening in real time that he left the house where he lived in Portland, Ore., with his parents and six siblings, ventured downtown and sought to join the U.S. Marine Corps … on that very day!

The Marine Corps office was closed. He walked across the hall and enlisted instead in the U.S. Navy. 

Dad would experience his share of war’s hell in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He would survive a ship being sunk; he would shoot down a Luftwaffe medium bomber and would participate in three amphibious landings in Algeria, Sicily and Italy.

He fought like hell against tyranny and was among the 16 million Americans who suited up during World War II to comprise the Greatest Generation.

This weekend belongs chiefly to those who fell in battle. I also want to wish my favorite veteran a happy 101st birthday and honor his memory for the service he delivered to the country he loved beyond measure.

How does Ukraine persist?

When the Russians invaded Ukraine I was skeptical that the Ukrainians would be able to declare victory on the battlefield. The Russian army was numerically and technically superior to Ukraine.

Then the Russians discovered something in real time on the field of battle. The first thing, apparently, was that they weren’t as fearsome a fighting force as they — or many of the rest of us — thought they were. The second thing is that they likely underestimated the Ukrainians’ will to fight to protect their homeland against a foreign invader.

What astounds me is that the Russians’ misjudgment of Ukraine’s will to fight would exist at all, given their own country’s military history.

In June 1941, Adolf Hitler launched the invasion of the Soviet Union. He likely didn’t think the Russians would fight to the death in the manner that they did. The Red Army then turned the tide against Hitler’s forces in a city once known as Stalingrad. What’s more, Ukrainians were fighting alongside Russians in their struggle against the Nazi invaders.

This is what happens when a nation invades another sovereign state. They learn that their adversary is committed to the struggle to survive and their commitment well could carry them forward against a supposedly superior military force.

We hear now several things are going badly for the Russians. They have lost several field generals in the battle; the Russian troops are suffering from low morale; Russian soldiers aren’t obeying officers’ orders; Ukraine is getting plenty of help from allied nations — such as the United States; the Ukrainians are putting their military hardware to good use.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not about to declare that Ukraine will declare victory and that Russia is going to skulk off the battlefield. There likely will be much more struggle to take place.

It does make me wonder how much more humiliation Russian despot Vladimir Putin can take. Moreover, I will stand on my belief that Putin is not stupid enough to launch a nuclear strike, given his knowledge of how “mutually assured destruction” would play out.

If there is an exit to be found, my strongest hope is that Putin can look for it and get the hell out of Ukraine. I wouldn’t even mind if he decides to declare victory. Let him crow all he wants. The world will know better.

Stand tall, Marine!

Forgive me for picking a nit or two regarding the media’s coverage of the release of a Texan from a Russian prison.

Trevor Reed is now home with his family. I wish him all the very best. I thank President Biden and his team for negotiating Reed’s release. But … I have a question that just keeps nibbling at me.

Why are the media continuing to refer to Reed as a “former Marine”?  It seems that every news article I read about Reed has a lede that goes, “Former Marine Trevor Reed is home today.” Or, “Former Marine Trevor Reed was declared fit to see his family.” Or, “Former Marine Trevor Reed hugged his parents.”

What does his status as an ex-Marine have to do with … well, anything?

I am grateful for his service to the nation. But I need someone to explain what his Marine Corps veteran status has to do with his being arrested and imprisoned by the Russians.

Yeah, we sure learned his name

Eleven years ago, I posted an item about a seminal event in our ongoing war against international terrorism.

I wrote: I would pay serious money to shake the hand of the young man who took out bin Laden. But we’ll never know his name or see his face. Wow! What a turn of events.

Man, was I ever wrong about that, about not knowing “his name” or seeing “his face.”

Would I shake his hand now? No! Why? Because the special forces operator who claims to have fired the shot that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 violated what I always have understood be part of the Navy SEAL ethos, which is that no one should take individual credit for a mission that was executed by an entire team.

I won’t write this guy’s name here. He’s written a book about what he did and, I presume, made a ton of cash on his role on that mission.

I certainly want to offer a salute to our national security team for finding bin Laden, for working out the immense detail needed to accomplish the mission, for the incredible work that occurred during two presidential administrations since 9/11 to find this demon and for ridding the world of an existential menace.

Meanwhile, I will continue to scorn the nimrod who decided to make a spectacle of himself.

Rules of war have changed … or have they?

Those of us who can recall earlier conflicts between nations can remember a time when civilians lost their lives when military machines attacked unarmed targets indiscriminately.

Then the rules changed — supposedly — when the Geneva Convention adopted prohibitions against hitting “soft” targets. Nations would (more or less) follow those restrictions.

Now we have the horror unfolding in Ukraine. The carnage and destruction brought by Russian missiles, artillery shells and bombs on apartment complexes, schools, hospitals, houses of worship is beyond the pale.

The scenes being televised around the world of entire neighborhoods in Mariupol leveled by Russian ordnance should fill any of with rage.

Ukrainian forces repelled Russian invaders in their effort to take the capital city of Kyiv. The Russians pulled back, reorganized and have begun an all-out assault on the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine. The armed forces under Vladimir Putin’s command have acted in a throw-back fashion, reminding many of us of the brutality inflicted throughout Europe and Asia during World War II.

In this era of “smart bombs” and precise targeting of military installations, seeing the images from Ukraine should serve as a graphic reminder that Russia is governed by a monster masquerading as a world leader.

War with Russia? No way!

Let us settle down for a moment or two, shall we? I want to offer a word of assurance, admittedly from the cheap seats, about the prospect of American fighting forces marching into battle with Russians.

It won’t happen!

The Russians are getting their butts kicked in Ukraine, as they try to subvert the sovereign nation along Russia’s western border. The Russians appear set to conquer the seaport of Mariupol. Their attempt to take control of the Ukraine capital in Kyiv met with failure.

Neil Steinberg, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, seems to think war with Russia is possible. He writes:

Is the United States heading toward war? It seems a very real possibility. Some arms convoy in Poland will be hit, and the gears of general conflagration will start to turn. It’ll all seem inevitable, afterward. Then we can be haunted aplenty.

Just to be clear. I’m not saying the United States shouldn’t continue arming Ukraine. We have to. Which means we must accept the possibility of war. We don’t like to think about that. The whole strategy of handing weapons to Ukrainians and letting them actually pull the trigger is a tactic designed to avoid dragging ourselves into actual fighting. The easy way.

Read his essay here: Are we going to war with Russia? – Chicago Sun-Times (

President Biden has pledged on numerous occasions that there is no way on God’s Earth that American forces will fight Russians … on the battlefield, or in the air, or at sea. I am going to take him at his word on that pledge.

Americans are sick and tired of war. We cannot tolerate another protracted ground fight with Russia. Period. Full stop.

We should continue to aid Ukraine with arms and related supplies. I have no trouble supporting that effort. That is as far as it should go. We can speed up delivery of the materiel and we should do so.

I can see no circumstance where we will commit young Americans to a ground war with Russia.

Moskva sunk!

The Moskva — once the pride of the Russian navy — now apparently lies at the bottom of the Black Sea, sent to its watery grave by at least one missile fired from a Ukrainian battery.

The Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser, weighed in at 12,500 tons; it spanned 600 feet in length and carried a crew of 500 sailors.

Then it ran into trouble while Russian armed forces got bogged down in their effort to subdue Ukraine.

Info on Moskva, Russian flagship sank by Ukrainian missile (

What’s at stake now? Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin clearly is shocked that the Ukrainians would be able to inflict this most serious ship-sinking since World War II.

If only the Ukrainians’ stunning battlefield success would persuade Putin to give up his horrendous effort to subdue a sovereign state.

President Biden has labeled Putin a war criminal and accused him of committing genocide against the Ukrainians. Most of the world is reeling in horror at what Ukrainians are discovering on city streets as Russian troops retreat; they are finding corpses of civilians who were shot in the head.

Putin won’t give up the fight easily. That much seems clear. It also lays bare the brutality that lurks in what passes for this individual’s heart.

I am left only to hope that the Ukrainians can continue to inflict as much damage as possible on the invaders to the point that Russians will say “Enough is enough!” … and rid themselves of Vladimir Putin.

Putin becomes The Pariah

My ability to comprehend the depravity being brought to Ukrainians is being taxed to the max. Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin invaded a sovereign nation intent on occupying its capital city within three days.

His supposedly vaunted Russian military machine has failed in its mission. That has not stopped Putin from violating what appears to be every standard of decency established by the Geneva Convention in his effort to subdue Ukraine.

He has bombed and shelled hospitals, schools, churches, apartment buildings and has killed thousands of civilians. The scenes of destruction brought against Ukraine belie another truth about this war, which is that Ukraine is putting up one hell of a fight to fend off the invaders. Hence, the failed mission to march into Kyiv.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. The two sides supposedly are “negotiating” a possible end to the hostilities and yet the Russians also are reportedly gathering in eastern Ukraine and preparing for another all-out assault.

What remains arguably the most confusing element in all of this is how Putin can function day to day realizing that virtually the entire planet is aligned against him. The destruction and the visual images of the casualties his troops have left behind have turned this man into an international pariah.

There can be no coming back from the depths to which this individual has taken his nation.