A Veteran’s Reflection on Veteran’s Day

Today, as our Nation pauses to honor its veterans, some Americans are enjoying a day off of work… some are cashing-in on some internet and retail sales presumptuously named after the federal holiday… and others are actually reflecting on what this day means to our Nation and her veterans.  While I don’t claim to speak on behalf of all veterans, I’m not soliciting for any charity or cause and I’m not prodding anyone to go out of their way to “thank a vet.”  After 20 years of serving our Nation, however, I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on Veteran’s Day from the perspective of just this one veteran.  I believe the veteran’s story is a compelling one that is worth sharing… for our veterans are both a product of and protector to the families, schools and communities that raised us.  In the following paragraphs, I will tell you about the history of Veteran’s Day, a very brief history of the American Veteran, and share an inter-generational message among veterans.

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The story of the American Military Veteran is both unique and inextricable from the story of the United States itself.  Since 1775, there have been over 49 million Americans who have served in our armed forces.  This includes 31 of 44 Presidents. (Click here to view the list)

However, the impact of the American Veteran goes far beyond numbers and titles alone. Today, I would like to discuss the role and impact of the veteran on the freedoms that we enjoy.  I would also like to pass a message from the current generation of veterans to those who have preceded us and those who will follow.

But first, I believe that it is important to study the importance of Veteran’s Day in the context of history.

Veteran’s Day draws its roots to the close of the First World War… when the Armistice was beaaleau-woodsigned on the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month in 1918.  It was first celebrated by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919, and continued through Congressional Resolutions and Presidential Proclamations every year until May 13, 1938, when it was formalized by an act of Congress which defined November 11th as: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”  On June 1, 1954, the act was amended to replace “Armistice” with “Veterans.”  It has been known as “Veteran’s Day” ever since.

While eminently important, Veteran’s Day is eclipsed by the impact of the veteran in American history.  We can trace the importance and impact of the American Veteran all the way back to the very formation of our country.  The seeds of bravery, selflessness and common purpose were sown by the first patriots throughout the original 13 colonies who chose “service” above “self.”  They left the relative comfort of the status-quo and made the tough decision to fight against what they called “intolerable acts,” and thus rose in active rebellion against the Kingdom of Great Britain.

lexconcord2At great peril to themselves, they set in motion the establishment of a new and sovereign nation based on liberty, freedom and self-government.  Realizing that the fledgling nation would not survive without a means of defense, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army and Continental Navy in 1775.  And thus, the American Military Veteran was borne.

From the opening salvo of the American Revolutionary War at the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 through all conflicts at home and abroad… in the fields of Europe, in the Pacific, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan through today’s fight in countless other areas, our Veterans have exhibited that same bravery, selflessness and common purpose every time they have been called to be the “MOST READY” when the Nation was “LEAST READY.”  The American Veteran always has and always will stand a vigilant watch.

I believe that we, as a Nation, need to routinely view our current liberty, freedom and prosperity through the lens of history.  In doing so, we can clearly see the important role the veteran has played in both establishing and guaranteeing our freedoms… and will preserve it for generations to come.

graunke_wideThere is no doubt that our current generation of veterans consistently exhibit the enduring virtues of honor, courage, commitment and selfless service as they have volunteered in a time of war and have been very successful in combating a complex enemy network in the most challenging environments.  I believe it is important to also view the current successes through the same lens of history and recognize that our current generation of veterans did not “create success,” we inherited a legacy of steadfast devotion to duty and unfailing mission accomplishment from the generations of veterans who preceded us… and we have a solemn obligation to both preserve this legacy and pass it on to the next generation of veterans.

By taking pause to celebrate Veteran’s Day, we are simultaneously connecting the generations of veterans with each other and, more importantly, with the citizens whom we serve.


Try as we may, few of us could communicate the inextricable link between the veteran and our Nation’s freedom better than former President and fellow veteran, Ronald Reagan, who said:  Ronald-Reagan-Scholarship“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  I believe it is eminently clear that the American Veteran has been at the forefront of this fight, sacrificing to preserve our freedoms, and passing them on to the next generation.

090524-M-1318S-123On behalf of today’s generation of veterans, I want to convey a heartfelt “thank you” to the veterans who’ve preceded us… for the service that they have provided this Nation during their time in uniform… and for their continued service in their communities.  Those of us who serve today recognize that our responsibility is not only to win our current battles and preserve our freedom; we also have the solemn responsibility to maintain this tradition of excellence by developing the next generation of leaders.

Veterans-DayPlease accept a heartfelt thank you from this veteran for taking the time out of your day to read this article.  As we all go back to our daily routines and the busy lives we lead, please never forget that “Freedom Is Not Free!”  It comes at a cost… and it is the American Veteran who has willingly paid the price for this freedom from 1775 through the current day… and always will…

About Author

Howard Hall – Range Master

Howard HallHoward has served for nearly 20 years in the Marine Corps. He has served as a Platoon Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer, Regimental Operations Officer, and Battalion Commander. He has multiple combat tours to include serving as a military transition team member in Fallujah. He is an NRA Certified handgun instructor and holds numerous Marine Corps training credentials. An active competitor in action pistol (United States Practical Shooting Association), long range rifle (NRA F-Class), and shotgun (Amateur Trapshooting Association, National Skeet Shooting Association), howard has earned numerous accolades and medaled during DoD competitions with the 1911 platform in bulls-eye shooting.

First Published at Aegis Academy


The Beheading of Colleen Hufford – Workplace Violence or Terrorism?

Jah'Keem Yisrael - Alton Alexamder NolanAlton Nolen is the man accused of beheading 54-year-old Colleen Hufford at Vaughn Foods. By accused we mean shot by the CEO (who is also a reserve Oklahoma County Deputy) as he was in the process of stabbing a second victim. He had recently been fired from a separate Vaughn foods store in the local area. The initial classification of the crime is as a workplace violence incident, which it is. The local police have requested the assistance of the FBI due his relatively recent conversion to Islam, but officially we have yet to call this a terrorist act.

Alton Nolan is exactly the type of person ISIS and Muslim terrorist recruiting efforts are focused on. He is grossly uneducated. This lack of education makes him incapable of discerning a logical argument from a fanciful one. He is on the outskirts of mainstream society (due to his extensive criminal past) and therefore desperate for acceptance. He is exploitable, as he has little alternatives in society. He certainly became more convinced that he understood the tenants on Islam over the past year. That said, this does not appear to be an attack conducted in accordance with the campaign of terror ISIS or Al-Qaeda or their affiliates are pursuing.

What we see here the combination of a semi-radicalized Muslim and an angry black man lashing out at anything and everything on which he can blame his problems. Were he acting in support of terrorist objectives we would see a string of justifications for his actions based on the treatment of Muslims blaming the American government. Instead what we see is a man acting largely in response to his termination from his employment. While his method certainly goes beyond what we typically see in workplace violence incidents, this probably falls well short of what we should consider a terrorist attack.

Who is Alton Nolan

Continue reading

Obama’s ISIS Strategy

An ISIS Strategy – From “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” to American Leadership

Barak Obama Strategy for dealing with ISISBarak Obama laid out his strategy for dealing with ISIS on Wednesday, and it was a massive improvement from what we have seen in the past. Aside from the irrelevant political spins, what he made was the clearest statement on foreign policy we have heard from this administration to date. He appeared confident and energetic. He did not waste time blaming the past administration, or lamenting the situation. Most importantly it was not about what he and America would not do. What he said that struck me as effective is that ISIS is unacceptable to America and the rest of the world – in that order.

Our Strategy – Destroy ISIS!

He said that America would lead a coalition to destroy ISIS. He threw in a fair amount of Syrian, Iraqi and Muslim support rhetoric to appear that a coalition of Muslim states was being established. The reality is that the coalition will consist of Western military force with enough locals to put a Muslim face on it. We can call ISIS a Muslim problem all we want, but the fact is that this is a largely American created Muslim problem, and they are incapable of solving it without American leadership and direct military intervention. Continue reading

DOS vs. ISIS – The war of Ideas

The U.S. Department of State vs. ISIS – The war of Ideas

ISIS Recrutiting - Think again turn awayWhile I was still on active duty, I witnessed some of the severely incompetent planning, policies and execution by the Department of State (DOS). De-Baathification, disbanding the Iraqi Army, rebuilding Fallujah and the use of contractor vice uniformed military details for standard security operations are but the tip of the iceberg. Their inability to adapt over the course of a decade at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their arrogant adherence to bad policy was, and continues to be staggering. Their latest foray into anti-ISIS propaganda was a video titled, Welcome to Islamic State Land. Like much of the entire Think Again, Turn Away program, it waivered between sarcasm, attempts and humor and grisly depictions of inhumane activity. It is indicative of the colossal gap between how the DOS views ISIS and what ISIS is actually trying to achieve. Here is their anti-recruiting video, and below are some samples of ISIS recruiting videos. Continue reading

The Beheading of Steven Sotloff

ISIS Steven Sotloff Beheading Aegis AcademyAs with the murder of James Foley, the video production is smartly produced, well scripted and designed and is intended to the tell Muslim world that the “Islamic State” is in control. If you have not read the analysis of the James Foley beheading, I would encourage you to do so first, as it was the precursor that set the stage for this second production. Once again, I do not recommend that you watch the video as you will merely witness the brutal murder of a helpless human being. There is, unfortunately, an underlying sophisticated message that is well communicated.

This video also starts out with a clip of President Obama responding to the James Foley beheading stating “America will continue to do what we must.” Not what we should, not what is right, not what he wants to do, but what “we must.” Despite his typically clear and engaged speaking style, ISIS has again chosen a clip in which Obama looks tired and emotionally disconnected from the message. They could not have chosen a clip in which he looks more reluctant or hesitant. This is not a critique of Obama, as that speaking style is not his norm, and certainly there are clips in which he does not appear defeated and or exhausted. From their perspective, this was again an intelligent choice visually portraying the leader of the free world as weak, unsure of him-self and/or reluctant. Continue reading

Should a nine-year-old girl shoot an Uzi?

A nine-year-old girl shot the instructor in Arizona at a shooting range
A nine-year-old girl shot the instructor in Arizona at a shooting range

I’ve had a number of phone calls and emails about this tragic incident asking questions about what happened, should it have been prevented and the like.  First off I have no access to any information that has not been reported by the media. I have nothing but a lifetime of experience teaching firearms skills, on which to base the following opinions.

This week at a shooting range in Arizona, a nine-year-old girl shot the instructor she was working with in the head with an Uzi sub machine gun. This has sparked debate on gun culture, how old is old enough to shoot, at what point is a submachine gun to be introduced, range procedures and a litany of other issues. From what we know so far, there is some room for improvement. Here are the general questions people seem to be interested it.

Should a nine-year-old shoot an Uzi?

First off the Mac 10/11(AKA Uzi) has very limited application in the tactical realm. Other than for entertainment or very close range ambushes, they are generally useless. The blow back system creates substantially more muzzle climb then other sub-guns making them very difficult to control. There are far more controllable sub-guns out there (like the MP5) which would be a more suitable starting point as an introduction to sub-guns. For someone with limited or no experience, that is one of the last guns I would choose. Continue reading

Is ISIS the future of Islam?

Is ISIS the future of IslamWestern leadership has denounced the beheading of James Foley, and both Obama and Blair have referred to ISIS as a “cancer”. Cancer is probably the most accurate analogy of what Islamic extremism really is to Islam as whole. The real question we need to ask is if we can treat it? In making that determination in a cancer patient, we would look at the location of the cancer, the growth rate and the degree of metastasis of the infection. For diseases, we would also like to know the vector (or mechanism by which it spreads). We have metrics to measure these all of these components of extremist Islam.

The National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) released an unclassified version of their 2011 Report on Terrorism, which shows that 56% of total attacks can be attributed to Sunni Islamists. They are also responsible for more than 70% of total global terrorist attack deaths, which tells us that on average their attacks are considerably more violent than other terrorist groups. If we do not face the fact that there is strong correlation between terrorists, terrorist attacks and Islam, then we are choosing to ignore the statistical reality of the problem. If we continue to ignore the causal factors of the problem, we have very little chance of solving it. Continue reading