4-1-2016 11-23-46 AMAlabama Veterans’ Museum and their Director, Sandy Thompson, do a bang up job every year in March, when they put on a luncheon for the vets community in North Alabama. This year was no exception. Sandy had graciously invited me to attend, and I had gladly accepted, but I knew that because it was publication day for the March 31st edition of Athens Now, I was going to be pedal to the metal, and perhaps a touch pre-occupied with getting the paper to bed before midnight.

Sandy has a real gift in finding outstanding speakers for events at the Museum, and this year the guest speaker was Brigadier General Robert Stewart, (RET). General Stewart is a legend amongst Army aviators, and has a distinguished service record that is a mile long. I knew he would be good, I just didn’t expect to have my jaw drop open and my life to radically change yet another time as the result of a soldier’s willingness to speak the truth and set the record straight.

For those of you who are reading this column for the first time, “in another life” I was a radical, socialist, “Jane Fonda”-type feminist ‘70s college student who tried to shut down Wright Patterson Air Force Base while attending Oberlin College in Ohio. I bought into the idea that Vietnam vets were “baby killers,” and it took years of conscious, spiritual, voluntary, personal “re-education” to dump those beliefs. I went to Iraq from ’04 to ’07 and lived amongst soldiers for the sole purpose of saying, “I’m sorry,” “Please forgive me,” and “Thank you for your service,” and it was one of the most transformational things I have ever experienced. I recorded my adventures and theirs in the book A Ballad For Baghdad: An Ex-Hippie Chick VietNam War Protestor’s Three Years In Iraq, and honestly, I thought I had put the entire matter of Vietnam to rest.

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Enter General Stewart, who in his presentation began to systematically dismantle many of the myths that remain to this day about both the Vietnam War and those who fought in it. While I had long ago come to the place that I no longer looked down on ‘Nam vets, I had somewhat looked upon them as pawns who had been caught in a pointless war, and felt pity for them. This is something I learned during my time in Iraq that they don’t need, and understandably despise with a passion. But, I needed some facts, and the General most definitely supplied them.

4-1-2016 11-24-14 AMDid you know that:
• In WWII, (which most think of as a “good war”), 33% of soldiers enlisted, and 67% were drafted, but in Vietnam, 67% enlisted, and 33% were drafted? I had always thought it was the opposite.
• Vietnam was NOT the conflict where the poor man, the black man, the brown man were used as fodder, but that the casualty as well as the death rate reflected the population at large across the board? I had been told that if you were poor, brown, or black, you were expendable, and automatically sent to the front first.
• The level of education amongst Viet Nam vets is the highest of any war in U.S. History? I used to think that anyone with an education would have sat it out in Canada, thus demonstrating their superior intelligence.
• WWII vets who served in the Pacific theatre saw an average of 40 days of combat in 4 years, compared with Vietnam vets who saw an average of 240 days of combat in one year? The movies tell us that the majority of the time, soldiers spent their tours in Vietnam ripped on gonja, and sitting on their keesters for days at a time, when they weren’t setting the innocents on fire.
I am just getting started, here, and I don’t know many Soldier columns it is going to take for me to get through all of this, so I thank you in advance for your patience. See you in two weeks, when we will talk about “stolen valor.” And thank you again, General Stewart, for welcoming our troops back home, 50 years later. It means the world to them, and to me.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

4-1-2016 11-24-26 AM

3-18-2016 9-43-19 AMThere is a very interesting phenomenon going on all over the globe, and that is that young men and women are choosing to enlist in the Israeli Defense Force. There is no requirement for them to do so, but for any number of reasons, they feel that it is their duty. We are not only talking about what would be an understandable influx of recruits from Europe after WWII in connection with the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. However, these days they are coming literally from every continent, including Africa and South America, and places that traditionally are not thought of as having much to do with Israel, such as India, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and Southeast Asia, in addition to the USA.

One such young man is Louis Miller, a native of Huntsville, and a graduate of Indiana University. He experienced a life-changing trip to Israel in 2007, and knew then that he wanted to give some of the years of his youth to help protect the future of the land that had changed him so profoundly.

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Louis was able to go to Israel through a Birthright Project outreach, a program that makes it possible for young Jewish adults to make their first trip to Israel. Having made my own trip as a senior citizen, I can truly say that “once is all it took,” and I can understand why he was so deeply affected.

Louis chose to become a para-trooper, and won awards for his performance during training. On the last night of his training, he and his fellow recruits made a 55 kilometer ruck march up to the location of the graduation ceremony, which is in Jerusalem proper. They have to carry their ruck sacks on their backs, as well as stretchers that they hand off so everyone gets a chance to get practice transporting wounded. For the whole journey, they only get a chance to stop four times for a very quick meal on the run. As Louis was being interviewed during the march, he did complain that his feet were killing him, as were the feet and backs of his fellow soldiers, but other than that, the guy seems to be tough. You’d have to be, to endure jump training during an Israeli summer, and learn how to survive in the desert.

There is an interesting and touching tradition that is a part of the ruck march, and that is that after the march is nearly over, (which is when the soldiers literally march into Jerusalem), their parents and family members are allowed out on to a steep stretch of road to hug the soldiers. It is as though the love of family is poured out on them to strengthen them when they are the most vulnerable: just before they are triumphant. Louis’ parents came from Alabama to watch him exchange his olive drab inductee beret for the red and black one worn by the graduates, and to receive his commendations. The love and pride they showed for the boy was well deserved.

So far our boy from Sweet Home Alabama has been the subject of a number of videos and pieces written in the Israeli press, and my guess is that there will be more to come. My prayer is that God will keep him safe, and may he be blessed for being willing to take such a great risk for a land that is our ally.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

3-18-2016 9-43-47 AM

3-5-2016 9-11-13 AMLate in February, an ISIS operative was captured in Iraq by U.S. Special Operations forces. For reasons I do not understand, U.S. Central Command said the unidentified militant will only be held for a brief time. Col. Pat Ryder, who is Centcom’s spokesman, would not elaborate on any details, and that is something I respect. I am also glad to hear that the Spec Force guys have been successful in their mission since 200 of them headed over to the Great Sandbox in December. However, the question that comes to my mind is, if the operative who was described by the New York Times as a “significant” member of ISIS, why will he only be detained for what Ryder describes as “a short time?”

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in December of 2015 that the large team, which is comprised of an intel cell, aviation support, and an assault force were going to be based in Irbil, which is located in Northern Iraq. This is another thing I don’t understand. When I was in Iraq, I had to be so careful about discussing travel plans over the phone with my husband that we communicated through a code we had devised that included the names and birthdays of my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law. I just don’t get disclosing any aspect of the special team’s location to the world at large, and certainly not our enemies.

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Nevertheless, the purpose of this piece is mostly to celebrate some victories that we can now know about without compromising Operational Security, so I’ll press on. In October of 2015, there was a rescue of several dozen prisoners, most of whom were Kurdish, who were being held by ISIS in northern Iraq. It did come with a price, and that was the death of Army Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler, who was a Delta Force Commando. May God rest his soul and comfort his family. I do know this from having been amongst Kurds while in Iraq: you’ll rarely find a more grateful people, and I am sure his name will become an honored part of their history.

Backing up a bit further in time to May of 2015, in eastern Syria there was a Delta Force raid that resulted in the death of an ISIS commander by the name of Abu Sayyaf. His wife was detained, and has been charged by the Justice Department of the Kurdistan Regional government with conspiring to kill Kayla Mueller. Ms. Mueller, who was 26 when she died, was an American aid worker and was kidnapped by ISIS. She was held by the Sayyafs as a sex slave, and was repeatedly raped by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the fellow who describes himself as the emir of ISIS. I am glad for Kayla’s sake that at least one of her tormentors has been captured, and may justice on her behalf be served well.

Our commandos are on what is known as a “kill or capture mission,” and here are two examples of them doing just that. May we not forget that they are still fighting for our freedom, and paying for it with their blood.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

3-5-2016 9-11-40 AM

2-19-2016 9-17-12 AMWe are in a global war against jihad, and we are not alone in that battle. When I was in Iraq, I had several favorites as far as nations in the fight with us, rotating units that were unashamed members of the Coalition. They were focused, they were purposed, and they were not about to back down. Among them were the Ugandans, the Aussies, and the Brits. This edition of Soldier is going to talk about two particularly powerful operations that were recently executed with precision by members of the SAS, or the British Special Air Service.

By way of background, the SAS was formed during WWII, and reorganized in 1950. Their duties include, but are not confined to, counter-terrorism, “direct action,” covert reconnaissance, and human intelligence gathering.

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Some of this is not going to be pretty to talk about, but then, neither is jihad. The subject of the first discussion is the death of a jihadist who was in the middle of teaching other jihadists the ins and outs of efficiently beheading people. As he was making his point re: “making the final cut,” let’s just say that the SAS sniper’s bullet found its mark, and in that moment the instructor became the embodiment of that which he was methodically teaching.

His students scattered, some with gratitude back to their families. Again, what was discovered in Iraq was that terrorists would terrorize whole families, and force the men of the families to do all manner of evil or face the murder of their own families. The Nazis did the same. This “teacher” was known for his ruthlessness and brutality, feared even by jihadists, and while no one knows the percentages of “true believers” as opposed to those who were made to join ISIS on pain of death of their loved ones, this operation was inarguably successful. Lives were saved, and it took 3 teams comprised of 4 members each to successfully complete this mission.

The second SAS operation went off without a hitch with assistance from our own Air Force. This time, the SAS disguised themselves as women in burqas and raided an ISIS bunker, killing a Syrian ISIS leader.

This operation involved a squad of 8, and it is said that the targets were utterly flummoxed when the “women” shed their burqas and opened fire. The USAF released a Hellfire missile via a drone, and provided the safe extraction of all 8 SAS members.

An anonymous source told Britain’s Daily Star that “Gunmen were on the streets stopping everyone, lining people up against the walls and threatening to kill anyone who had ‘helped the spies.’” Sources also told the Daily Star that the kinds of missions that are described here were going to be increasing in frequency. The reason? Their current HVT (High Value Target) is a man by the name of Siddartha Dhar, who is also known as Abu Rumaysah. He has the nickname of being the new “Jihadi John,” after the other home-grown terrorist, ISIS propagandist Mohammed Emwazi was struck and killed by a drone last November.

Siddartha had the gall to tweet the following after he left London in September 2014. He was released on bail after being cited for “encouraging terrorism.” He said, “What a shoddy security system Britain must have to allow me to breeze through Europe to [ISIS].”

That may be, and hopefully both the UK and the US are learning from their mistakes. Even more, my hope is that they will continue to work together well to keep us safe, even if it has to get worse before it gets better.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2-19-2016 9-18-00 AM

2-5-2016 3-27-55 PMIn Israel, the equivalent of our Navy SEALS is known as the Shayetet 13, and thankfully, they have struck again. On January 31, they seized an Iranian ship carrying weapons that would have ended up in Gaza and launched against Israeli citizens, which, please remember, almost always includes Israelis of Arabic descent. The word Shayetet literally means “flotilla,” and they not only successfully brought the Iranian vessel into Ashdod, they displayed their “catch.”

From the realm of instilling psychological toughness into the Israeli psyche, as well as to illustrate what Israel is up against, the decision to display the weapons is a good one. It reminds Israel and the rest of the world of the fact that the Iranians are indeed our enemies, even if we did just sign an agreement with them, and it also forces the Iranians to respond, however predictably or clumsily. The weapons display was made in the presence of a number of a number of journalists from around the globe, virtually assuring reasonable media and by contrast, our media were virtually silent. My husband had heard one report on the radio, and called to tell me about what had happened. It was disturbing that I could hardly find anything that could give more detail, and the comments made by Israeli’s Prime Minister were virtually buried.

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Sure enough, and as expected, Mohammed Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister tweeted that the seizure was “An amazing coincidence! Or the same unsuccessful lies.” However, the take was substantial, and unfortunately, one of the containers was marked with strip seals that originated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, or IRICA.

All of the missiles that were in the shipment on board the ship were already spread out and displayed on a surface adjacent to the military port, along with boxes of Kalashnikov bullets and crates of mortars. The shipment included 40 short-range rockets, 181 121-mm mortar shells and about 400,000 7.62-mm-caliber bullets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the assembled journalists and said, “We have exposed the truth behind Iran’s fake smiles,” and also noted that this was not something the international community would find at all reasonable. “The world needs to awaken from its state of illusion and prevent Iran from acquiring the capability to create nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “The international community’s decision to ignore the seized weapons ship is biased, dangerous and unacceptable.”

So, once again, why should we focus on what is happening in Israel, when we have so many concerns at home, as well as a President to elect? Because Iran has always said that Israel is the “lesser Satan,” and America is the “greater Satan.” Make no mistake, at some point, our troops are going to have to protect us from Iran, either before or after the Islamic Republic of Iran attacks our ally, Israel, and in that hour our support for both our troops as well as Israel is going to be crucial to our own survival.

My faith causes me to be hopeful that Iran will not ultimately prevail against Israel, but I don’t want to think about what is going to occur before Iran is defeated, nor the price that ultimate victory will exact.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

2-5-2016 3-28-22 PM

1-22-2016 9-40-52 AMI have found, having lived in a combat zone, that the toughest things to endure are not what the enemy who is “outside the wire” tries to throw your way, it’s the stuff that comes from the people who are supposed to be “watching your six.” I do rest in the promise that “what is done in secret will be shouted from the roof tops,” and it seems that there was a recent slip of the tongue that exposed just what was done to our sailors in the Middle East by our administration when their ship encountered mechanical problems. As unbelievable as it sounds, they essentially turned them over to our arch enemies-turned-“friends,” the Iranians.

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This was probably not something that we were supposed to find out, at least according to Representative Louie Gohmert, a Republican Congressman from Texas.

“I understand that (Secretary of State) John Kerry has indicated, look, when he got word, he and (Secretary of Defense) Ash Carter called the Iranians to help take care of our Navy guys, because they had some mechanical problems,” Gohmert said in an interview with Dana Loesch.

Called the Iranians? Why would they do that? Were they in fact hoping for what happened, that our sailors got arrested? Were they at all concerned about our sailors while they were in captivity, worried for their safety? Were they thinking that this wouldn’t get out?

“When our Navy ships have problems, we don’t call Iran. We call the rest of the Navy. We can call the Air Force, the Army, the Marines, Coast Guard. We don’t call Iran,” Gohmert said.

I don’t even know what to think. Does it matter to POTUS, SEC DEF and SEC STATE that the Iranians would have been able to go over the vessel with a fine tooth comb and gain access to all kinds of technology that could be used against us sooner than later?

Representative Gohmert said further, there are secrets on every military ship we have … that has [sic] no business being in the hands of the Iranians.” Senator John McCain weighed in as well. He said, accused the administration of “pretending as if nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.”

The Secretary of State did his best to express his supposed outrage over the footage of our soldiers being made to kneel with their hands laced behind their heads, and he should. In an era when a similar sight could remind one of those who are about to be decapitated by ISIS, his use of the word “outrage” could have been anything from reasonable to strategic. But the part that makes me feel the very most as though the inmates are running the asylum was that the sailors had to “apologize” to their captors.

Apologize? For the fact that they wandered into Iranian waters when their boat broke down? If, in fact, they ended up where they should not have been as a result of an ill-conceived mission, then I suppose that an apology might be in order. However, my gut tells me differently, and I hope I am wrong. Thankfully, time will tell all.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

1-22-2016 9-41-20 AM

1-8-2016 9-23-20 AMSometimes I am tempted to become discouraged when I see what is happening globally with ISIS/ISIL. From my perspective, the alarming actions of the Islamic State, whether in San Bernardino, Paris, or Oklahoma are consistent with the timeless mission of jihadists: to force (through the use of terror), involuntary conversion to Islam, or at the very least, require non-believers to pay the tribute tax. As an infant nation, we tried that for awhile, and for a season we were allocating 16% of the entire US budget to pay jihadists/pirates in Africa for “protection.”

George Washington began the effort to put a stop to it, as did Jefferson and Adams, and the Barbary Wars were the result. It is not an exaggeration to say that we have been outwardly free of jihad for only around 180 years, however, the goal of worldwide control as administered by “the faithful” has never been abandoned. As King Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun”, and the present day term or application for this type of “protection-at-a-price” is called Mafia, Cartel, or Tong.

1-8-2016 9-23-28 AM

There is some good news, though, on several fronts. The US led military operation that is going after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is called Operation Internal Resolve. In Iraq, the IS has lost about 40 percent of territory previously held near Baghdad and Ramadi, and about 20 percent of the territory held in Syria. The Kurds, who are always the unsung heroes, and who, I believe shall remain undaunted in their quest for freedom,, have pushed ISIS back from places in Northern Iraq. Other victories have been along the Turkish Syrian border, and last year, Tikrit was recaptured by Iraqi forces along with Shiite militias, strange bedfellows to be sure, but thankfully Tikrit has stood. It warms my heart to know that the city that produced Saddam Hussein is beating back the bullies once again.

On the humanitarian front, close to 150 Iraqi Christians were rescued in December, and safely airlifted to Slovakia, as discussed at more length in the last Publisher’s Point. They have been the subject of a recently aired 20/20 episode, and their level of gratitude at having been freed is deeply touching.

There is one more thing that is in the formation stage, and that is a small squad of warriors with a number of specialized skills that are going in to Northern Iraq independently of our military. While it makes me nervous from the standpoint of operational security to even see their pictures posted anywhere online, or know the tiniest thing about their identities, I have to trust that they know what they are doing if they released the shot of their team to the media. They consist of a female veteran, formerly with the US National Guard, who heads up what she calls the “Dream Team.” The rest of the crew has experience in combat medicine, marksmanship, intel, humanitarian assistance, and mechanics.

Their specific purpose is to rescue wounded Kurdish fighters, using a truck for an ambulance. The former NG officer, whose “handle” is Kat Argo, has served in Afghanistan and near Russia. Her fields of expertise are in intel as well as journalism. The name of the Dream Team is Qalubna Ma’kum, which means, “Our heart is with you.” Words fail to express my gratitude for those like Kat and her crew; people who come out of retirement and refuse to give up when others think a situation is hopeless. Ultimately, it is exactly this spirit that will intimidate ISIS/ISIL into permanent oblivion, and while the work won’t be completed until the Millennium, the day will indeed come when “Mission Accomplished” will literally mean, “Well done, thou good and faithful servants.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

1-8-2016 9-23-44 AM

12-18-2015 1-31-20 PMI have to admit, I am shocked that Sgt Bergdahl is going to have his “day in court,” and I think it’s safe to say that this could be considered a Christmas gift to the men who spent 45 days in the desert looking for him when he went AWOL in Afghanistan. The year was 2009, and one day Bowe came up missing. It was later determined that he wandered off, and as such, the consequences of his actions include being court- martialed for desertion, with the possibility of spending the rest of his life in Leavenworth.

I remember when he was “found” in 2014, or rather was part of a highly controversial prisoner exchange, and what a strange experience it was. I was standing in line in the bank as the news was being broadcast. At first I was ecstatic that he had been released, and hoped that he was okay. However, as footage began to be shown of Bowe in “captivity” during the next few days, my joy evaporated. He was just way too “comfy” with the enemy, yet I still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe that he had been “flipped,” and I know that one of the things I learned while living in Iraq is that the process of psychological warfare and breaking someone can cause a soldier to appear to have become a sympathizer, or worse, a collaborator. This is especially true if he is alone and has no brothers with which to band.

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It needs to be remembered that six soldiers lost their lives while looking for their “brother,” and all the interviews I have seen have indicated that those who returned from the search and rescue detail believe Bowe is guilty of treason. For them, a desertion conviction may very well seem light weight. It is also disturbing that we gave up 5 jihadists for Bowe, and I question if that was wise.

I also must admit I did not expect him to stand trial. Literally hundreds of officers have been fired by the present administration, and when the Army made public that they are proceeding with the court martial, I wondered what will happen to the careers of the officers who pressed for it against a tide of pernicious political correctness.

To add to the strangeness of it all are Bowe’s comments about himself. Interestingly, there are over 25 hours of interviews with him that are on film, something that would make me nervous if I were his JAG lawyer. Then there’s the blog, wherein he talks about his motives for leaving his post.

“I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me … I was capable of being what I appeared to be,” Bergdahl says. “I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world I was the real thing.”

And what, pray tell would that be? I don’t claim to know what happened in the boy’s brain, but I do truly hope that he gets a fair trial, something about which his former “captors” would cringe. Why? For no other reason than to uphold the rule of law in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

12-18-2015 1-31-52 PM

12-3-2015 10-06-31 AM12 years ago, 32 year old Dudu Shevy was serving in the Israeli Defense Force when he was paralyzed from the waist down in a non-combat related auto accident. Since that time, he has been in a wheelchair, and had adjusted to seeing everything and everyone from that level. He built a life, fell in love, and at the very end of November, he was married.

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The custom in Jewish weddings is for the groom to walk down the aisle and meet the bride, so of course, she and all of their family and guests expected to see the undaunted Devy roll expectantly down the satin runner that ran the length of the aisle and up a few steps to the huppah, or nuptial canopy.

Raucous applause broke out when Devy began to walk down the aisle with the aid of some technology developed in Israel called the Rewalk Robotics exoskeleton system. The Times of Israel describes the technology as follows:
“ReWalk allows independent, controlled walking similar to that of an able-bodied person, as computers and motion sensors do the ‘heavy lifting.’ The system controls movement using subtle changes in center of gravity, mimics natural gait and provides functional walking speed, enabling even paraplegics to move independently — and even to run marathons, as one paralyzed woman did several years ago.”

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The device first learns and records the movements of the would-be walker, and then helps the legs move by way of remote control. It has also been used in the United States to assist Wounded Warriors, and each unit costs about $65,000 USD.

Dudu needed a bit of help from his personal trainer, who was literally behind him all the way, but Mr. Shevy made it all the way down the aisle, up the stairs, stood for the ceremony, and after the wedding was over, returned the Rewalk, which had been loaned to him.

Here’s the back story: One day, Dudu was watching the news, and saw the story of the man who developed the Rewalk technology. The inventor himself was paralyzed, and the IDF made it possible for Dudu to practice in secret, so that his debut on his wedding day would be a surprise to all. The Israeli Defense Ministry paid for the 3 months of training that it took for Dudu to pull off the surprise.

“Just walking. It was different, just seeing everyone at eye-level and not chair-level. It was totally different,” Shevy told the Channel 2 News in Israel. “It was really wonderful.” He also said, “People were very moved to see me walking.”

I can’t imagine the joy and surprise of Mr. Shevy’s bride, his family, and the guests. But I do know, with the beginning of Hannukah in just a couple of days, this story in the “Season of Light” should give us all reason to rejoice that our relationship with the Israelis has withstood the unprecedented strain between our leaders, is benefitting our soldiers and theirs, and is giving hope where previously there was none.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

11-20-2015 2-15-42 PMRecently I had the great privilege of attending an extremely intense personal and business development course which was held in Texas. There were close to 800 of us, and with this fired up crew, it is not at all uncommon for people to get up at 3 am to go down to get in line in order to get the best seat and pay the best attention.

A young man was there who is an active duty SEAL, and was attending the conference for the purpose of planning his next step. He is married, has four kids, and just “knows in his knower” that it is time for him to move toward a new chapter in his life.

We had a few moments to chat on three different occasions, and there are no words, ever, to adequately describe what these guys mean to me, and to be able to thank them for their service. He was interviewed on stage, as well as from the audience, and the woman to my left said to me, “I feel safer just knowing he’s in the room.” I whispered back, “Try living among them! There’s nothing like it!”

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It turns out this young man and I were in Iraq in the same area, but not at the same time. From a certain spot at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), he turned left to get to his camp, and I turned right to get to mine.

The onstage trainer, while not ex-mil himself, also demonstrated his gratitude for the SEAL’s service, as did the whole room, and I came away with two analogies I learned that I would like to share with you. The first is, “Be willing to be the sugar cookie.” What in the world is a “sugar cookie?” When it comes to SEALS, it means that during Hell Week, you gear up and endure the following: You allow yourself to be continually covered by sand until you look like you have been dusted with sugar, and then you roll around in it until every square inch of your body is raw. Every one. Then, you get to add to your discomfort by adding ocean water to your sandpapered skin. Why? Because SEALS have to be able to be raw and still do their duty. Since he told the story, I have had to face down the places where in my heart I need to do the same if I am going to be any good to anybody in these wild times.

11-20-2015 2-16-08 PM

The second was the mandate, “Never ring the bell.” Again, during Hell Week, “the bell” is made available to all candidates, and they are asked the question, “Do you want to ring the bell?” While it is true that everyone of them are so tired and sore, both emotionally and physically, that the great temptation is to answer in the affirmative, that one action signals the end of their chance to become a SEAL. Ringing the bell is never an option. Again, I thought of internal places where I am sorely tempted to ring the bell if it is dangled in front of me, and as the raw emotion of “growing pains” washed over me, I kept quoting my new SEAL friend. “Never ring the bell. No matter what, never ring the bell.”

We are still free because of “sugar cookies” and SEALS who refuse to “ring the bell.” May we be worthy of their sacrifice this holiday season and always.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner