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This blog exists only as an archive. It is a journal that serves as a window into my life as a Marine combat veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; it was written with no filter, no politics and no agenda. Please feel free to follow my journey from beginning to end. Welcome to my life.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Badger's in the News!!



Accolades Roll In For Thomas
Madison, Wis.-

Wisconsin senior offensive tackle Joe Thomas is quickly becoming one of Badger football’s most honored players ever.

The American Football Coaches Association has named Thomas as one of five offensive lineman on its first-team All-America squad. Thomas also has been named an first-team All-American by Rivals.com.

In addition, Thomas has been selected as a second-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Thomas majors in business: real estate and urban land economics and has accumulated a 3.49 grade-point average.

Thomas will be on the awards circuit next week. He will attend the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and banquet at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel where he will be recognized as a National Scholar-Athlete on Tuesday. Thomas will then head to Orlando, Fla., for the Home Depot College Football Awards Show Thursday evening (shown live on ESPN at ). He will also be part of the taping of an All-America awards show on Friday in Orlando.

Thomas already has been named a finalist for the Outland (best interior lineman), Draddy (best scholar-athlete) and Wuerffel (community service, athletic and academic achievement) Trophies this season.


Hill Named Nation's Top Freshman
Madison, Wis.-

Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill has been named the national Freshman of the Year in college football, Rivals.com announced Thursday.

Hill, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a first-team all-conference pick, also was named a third-team All-American by Rivals.com.

Hill leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game (127.8). He also leads the conference in all-purpose yards with 144.2 per game (No. 8 nationally) and scoring with 8.0 points per game (tied for 17th nationally).

Hill, a native of East Elmhurst, N.Y., has rushed for 1,533 yards and 15 touchdowns on 292 carries. He also has caught 18 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown.

Article in La Canada News about Showdown VI

Sports

Class of 1997 Tops Class of 2000, 22-15, in Thanksgiving Showdown

The La Canada High Class of 1997 won its second straight Thanksgiving Showdown last Friday at the LCH football field, 22-15.

With the victory, the overall series with the Class of 2000 is knotted at three games apiece after six years of competition. When asked how he felt after the game, game MVP Mike Riddell said, "Big time players make big time plays, in big time games," and that is exactly how he played.

The sixth annual Thanksgiving Showdown started the same as last year's game, with a Joe Schmitt safety. Except this time it was a Schmitt botched snap that gave the Class of 2000 a 2-0 lead only one minute into the game.

Schmitt then proceeded to break his foot and was forced to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines. This was no deterrent to the Class of 1997, though, as on the very next drive, 1997 quarterback Jeff Riddell hit his brother Mike Riddell on a 18-yard touchdown strike.

A 65 yard Jeff Riddell pass to Jared Kushida set up another short Mike Riddell TD and at halftime, the Class 1997 lead the Class of 2000, 14-2.

After an inspired halftime speech, the Class of 2000 came out flying in the second half. Class of 2000 captain Mike Schmitt, caught a 45-yard Nick Racklin TD pass on just the second drive of the half to narrow the gap.

*

That was soon followed by another Racklin TD pass, this time hooking up with Chet Blasucci in the end zone. Momentum had rapidly shifted in the second half and the Class of 2000 now had the lead at 15-14.

After a series of traded possessions, the Class of 1997 got the ball back on its own 20 yard line with less than five minutes to play. A sustained drive led to an eight-yard game winning TD reception by Dave Mieding.

This was Mieding's first TD in six years, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Class of 2000 got the ball back, but was unable to convert on a crucial fourth down, which sealed the contest at 22-15.

This tradition will be taken to a whole new level next year, as both teams will be competing for the overall series lead.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Then and Now



Top pic- Jeff and I in Madison at the beginning of last month.
Bottom pic- Jeff and I at my house in Iowa the night before I leave for bootcamp.

Common connection....the bottle of Rare Breed Wild Turkey that Jeff never fails to bring and we both never fail to regret. Except for this last time in Madison, we didn't quite drink it as easily as in times past.

BCS = something profane

Allright. I am going to be honest with you. I'm actually gonna come clean. I did not think that the Badgers were going to go 11-1 this year. Not even close. Not after losing the likes of Brian Calhoun, Brandon Williams, Owen Daniels and three offensive line starters. Freakin' awesome boys. Watching you this year was honestly amazing, and when I came back for the game in early November I felt like I was back on the team again. I applaud you, a much better season than the 9-3 one I had my senior year.

BUT YOU ARE GETTING SHAFTED.

In the Marine Corps we call it the Big Green Wiennie. And the man likes to put it where the sun don't shine. And the BCS is doing it to you. 11-1! And you're going BACK to the Cap One Bowl? Yeah, its Florida, but you're NUMBER 6 in the BCS! And they want to bring out some stupid rule that says only two teams from any conference can go to a BCS game? Well, hey sorry the other conferences are full of #@$%@#.

I guess it's back to Orlando, where my perennial Heisman candidate Johnny "Golden Boy" Stocco will lead us to victory once again over some overrated SEC team.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Showdown '06

Wow. Feel free to read the write up on ESPN about the annual Thanksgiving Showdown I played in this Thanksgiving weekend with my friends from LA. This was the 6th annual game, played between my buddy Joe's high school class of '97 and his brother Mike's class of '00. I was asked to play on the '97 team as a free agent pick up, of which each team is allowed 3.

The '97 team entered the game down 3-2 all time in the series, but we were coming off a stunning overtime victory in last year's game, so we felt we had momentum in our hands. We ended up winning the game 22-15, after dominating on both sides of the ball for both halves. I played on both the offensive and defensive lines, but I wish I could have made my presence more felt, but the day prior to the game, I sprained my ankle pretty bad, and I had to tape it up real tight and take a couple of "infantry cocktails" prior to the game just to play.

These guys take this game VERY seriously. Dell, who plays on the '97 team, has a brother who works for Fox Sports Net and the Best Damn Sports Show. He was kind enough to bring out two cameramen and a sideline reporter to work the game. His on the side production company, Dimes Production, is currently working on putting together the highlight film. In the meantime you can view the short version of the highlights on youtube.com, search for LCHS Thanksgiving football.

The post game party was probably the most anticipated part of all. It seemed like the entire high school class from both years showed up to suck down kegs purchased by the losing squad, and to witness the champaign shower that took place in the hot tub for the victors (yeah, 12 guys in a hot tub pouring champaigne on each other, I said it). I shouldn't even mention the drinking of Jaeger out of the traveling trophy.

Check out the highlights below...

Happy Thanksgiving

I know it's a little late, but I wanted to get on here and wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Unfortunately I was unable to get home for Thanksgiving this year, but I was there with them in spirit, and my family knows I love them. I tried to contact most of you in one way or another on Thursday, whether by phone call, email or text message. I just wanted you all to know that I love you and thank God that you are in my life.

I know that I have so much to be thankful for. I have an amazingly loving and supporting family that is behind me in everything I have ever done or attempted. I have made friends at every juncture of my life that will never be out of my thoughts. I have a job, I have my health (except for a nasty sprained ankle I suffered this year playing football on Thanksgiving Day), I have my faith, I have a country that allows me to have all these things. I have a passion for life and a reason to wake up every single time the sun rises. So I hope you never hear me complain about anything. God Bless.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The month in review

Well I suppose its about time to sit down and write about what I was up to for the ENTIRE month of October.

All in all, the training wasn't that bad. For the first three weeks we essentially repeated all the training that we had been doing for the four months leading up to Mojave Viper. So that would include the ranges that I have talked about below, 400, 410A, 210, and the DAC. One of the big differences was with the DAC (Deliberate Assault Course). Over the summer when we did it is was basically a giant waste of time, but this time we loaded up into amphibious assault vehicles and actually got out fo them to get in on a little of the action. While we were in them racing to the first objective an artillery battery was firing over our heads while planes and helicopters were flying by dropping bombs and shooting missiles, that creates some pretty intense fireworks. As we drew closer, we called off air and our tanks and AAVs started to engage the targets with their main guns. When we finally drew in close enough, we ceased fire with the main guns and me and the rest of the infantry guys dismounted and started rushing the objective over about 300 meters of open terrain. We seized that, loaded up and went to ojective two, about another 10 miles away. Objective two was a specially designed and built village of about 28 buildings made of special rubber walls that absorbed bullets, it was also equipped with pop up targets in the windows and bunkers. We advanced on the city outside our AAVs and started to cleard it building by building with live ammo and grenades. This was just about the scariest thing I've ever done because you have guys shooting in a 360 degree range, going into buildings and sometimes firing back at a target in your direction. At one point I was in a room that I had just cleared and a guy outside the window thought that he saw a target inside and sprayed a 20 round machine gun burst in through the window. I about lost control of my freakin bladder.

The last two weeks were spent out at an entire town that had been constructed and modeled after an Iraqi town, this one called Wadi Al-Sahara. It had a marketplace, police station, mayor's office, basically everthing. It also had about 100 full time Iraqi roll players that wore authentic Arab garb and spoke only in Arabic. Some of them were bad, and some of them were good. But we basically just trained in there everyday, interacting with the people, doing raids on suspected houses, gathering intel, handing out food to people, it was awesome training because it felt so real with the people there.

For the last four days of this training we basically had a 4 day war. The bused in about an extra 300 Iraqis and completely filled the town. From there we did everything like we would in Iraq, patrol, stand post, hand out generators, go meet with the sheikh, set up vehicle check points, but the situation was such that the majority of the town was hostile. Over the 96 hours I got about 4-5 hours of sleep total, we were constantly on ops, whether we were doing night insertions into a building to have overwatch on a bridge or raiding a suspected insurgent house. On the last night, insurgents over ran the perimeter of the Iraqi Army base and kidnapped a Marine in my platoon, so my whole batallion of about 500 infantry Marines surrounded the city and cleared every single room in every building until we eventually found him at about 4 am. It was a pretty crazy sight. At one point during all of this my observation post and a small patrol we had sent out in close proximity were ambushed. It was at night so all you could see were muzzle flashes and these artillery simulators going off every where. It was pure chaos, it looked just like that scene in Black Hawk Down when they are penned up in the building and attacked at night.

Anyways, I'm back, I'm done with it. I'm not too pleased that I had to miss an entire month of football, but I'm gonna do my best to catch up. Give me a call or leave me a message because I haven't talked to any of you in a long while.

Thursday, November 02, 2006