Sunday, March 22, 2009

The 2009 Milblogging Conference

This time next month, many of your favorite military bloggers will descend on Washington, D.C. in a whirlwind of snark, booze and insightful panels at The Milblogging Conference. Someone made the grave error in inviting me to join a panel of my peers, and before they realized their mistake, I graciously accepted. I join a crowd that's really a who's who in the military blogging community and look forward to meeting a few heroes of mine. The panels are slowly coming together, so below are the panels already set for Saturday, April 25:


New Media Agora: What is the impact of the “new media” on issues concerning national security, military doctrine and concept development, training, education, and lessons learned? A discussion of the issue by those at the frontlines of the debate.

Moderator: Greyhawk

Dave Dilegge
Andrew Exum
Bill Roggio


Beyond MilBlogging: Taking the blog to the next level. From book deals to paid writing assignments, documentaries, speaking engagements, television and radio appearances and much, much more, many milbloggers have been able to branch out beyond the blog. We’ll find out how a few of them did it, and what projects they have in the works.

Moderator: David Stanford from The Sandbox

JD Johannes
Uncle Jimbo
Lily Burana
Craig Stewart


Back to Our Roots: Some say the “Golden Age” of milblogging has passed. The age when milbloggers were a small, tight community. Today, there are so many interesting milblogs. We'll meet some milbloggers you may or may not have heard of and get back to the finest tradition of milblogging - celebrating and highlighting the diversity of voices within our community.

Moderator: Matt from Blackfive

Alex Horton
Solomon Fein (Tentative)
Maggie of Boston Maggie and Castle Argghhh!
Rebekah Sanderlin

Would you like to be there to witness the shrewd wisdom of Abu Muqawama, the keen insight of Bill Roggio, and the disturbing laughter of Uncle Jimbo? Registration is still open! At last count, 75 seats were still available, and they sold out in 2007. It costs only $50 to attend, so reserve your seat now. The conference is held at the Arlington Westin, so it would be wise to book your room there.

I hope to see many of you at the conference!

The 2008 Weblog Awards

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Man at Sunset

As the days turn into months that become years, it becomes difficult to imagine that the collective experiences of second platoon Bravo company grow more distant from the present, drifting in a sea of time away from the shores of what was known, and loved. One fights to recall the names and faces of certain characters that were surely there, but not so easily remembered. Firefights and shootouts, dismembered bodies covering the earth (and below it), and uproarious fits of laughter grow fuzzy, their events occasionally muddied in skepticism - did they happen quite the way I remember, or did I simply fill in the gaps with piecemeal memories?

Some events transcend space and time, full of vivid color and smells and gut-feeling that will never go away, no matter what the calendar seems to read. Soon it will be two years since March 14, 2007 - a day that has been on the minds and hearts of everyone that knew and cared for Brian Chevalier.

He was a man that did his job without reservation and without complaint, far outshining and outclassing those of us that bitched at the slightest notion of additional work. His job in combat was a vital one: to navigate the treacherous roads, fields and alleys of Iraq and drop off his squad safely and quickly so they may carry out their mission. He was rarely seen by others not in his squad; the position of driver carries with it extra maintenance and care for the vehicle. While others in the platoon played videogames, smoked cigarettes and sat at the poker table, Chevy was in the thick mud of the motorpool making sure his vehicle was in peak condition. And he did it for his squad.

Perhaps it was best that Chevy never saw it coming. The only indication that something was about to go terribly, horribly wrong was the children on the outside of the school. They seemed to be the only living creatures along the far-reaching road our column of Strykers and Bradleys were on. The children watched each vehicle pass with dark, detached eyes. Baqubah was a city where insurgents operated with impunity, a place where a few men could cut into the street with a concrete saw and bury a massive bomb - and nothing would seem out of the ordinary. The children had a front row street to the mayhem, and almost in unison, they all plugged their ears with their fingers in anticipation for what they knew what was coming: an explosion from deep underground.

What happened next replays in my mind every single day. In an instant, a loving father and a good soldier lay dead on the ground, and the squad he so readily guided was a tangled mass of limbs in the back of the vehicle, turned sideways from the force of the blast. For just a a brief moment, Chevy was airborne. Even in death he was elevated far above his contemporaries. Yet the blast didn't just end his life. For each of us that knew him, it was the defining moment of our lives when we became not only familar with death, but intimate with it. We were a band of young soldiers, many in our early to late 20s. We were not accustomed to the idea of departed souls, and that explosion was the catalyst that set in motion a new reckoning of what it meant to truly love someone, only to see them go. From that day on, we fully understood the power of the bonds forged in the dusty plains of Yakima, in the sand-blasted tents of Kuwait, and on the muddied streets of Iraq. In a snapshot of time, we aged well beyond our years and gained a luminous insight into life and loss that we will forever carry with us in our hearts.

A friend from the platoon recently came to me, worried that he was thinking about Iraq, especially the time of year that Chevy passed.

"I don't know man, I've been thinking about him a lot lately," he said.

"Don't worry," I replied. I think about it every day. Almost anything reminds me of something."

"Yeah, me too."

I realized I wasn't the only one trying to sort out Chevy's death two years later, to search for the meaning behind it all. The explosion that shook our world to its core and ended the life of an honorable man changed something inside of us, a subtle transformation that we felt but continue to define as the years wear on. It took the loss of Chevy to make us whole, and for that, I cannot thank him enough for being a part of second platoon and the spirit for all of our successes and triumphs already accomplished and not yet realized. He brought us home, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude measured only in prosaic terms.

On March 14 and every day, I'll be thinking of him.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Man at Sunrise

For the past month I've been writing about my best friend Steve. He had been out of the Army for more than a year before he was ordered to report for medical screening and inevitably a deployment to Iraq. Having done more for his country in three years than the sum of whole organizations (I'm looking at you, College Republicans), Steve was once again called upon to do the work so many have shunned over the last eight years. I am more than relieved to report that today his exemption from involuntary mobilization has been granted and his orders canceled. Many people congratulate you when you get out of the Army like you're getting out of jail, but getting out of the IRR is like leaving purgatory behind. So many congratulations for Steve. Your future is back in your able hands. Now squeeze that GI Bill for all its worth!

As for the many more veterans in the IRR, I'm not giving up on this plight now that my friend is safe. There are still daily injustices that must be corrected, not only dealing with recall but the other back door draft of stop loss.

Thank you all for your e-mails and comments of support for Steve and others in his unenviable position. I truly appreciate it.