Page: Richard's Blog
Sep 9th, 2013 by Richard Lowry
Syria – America’s Dilemma

Syria in Turmoil

The situation America faces today in Syria has been in the making for quite some time. Years of misguided foreign policy cannot be repaired with a ‘limited’ military strike. The famous Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. So, let’s take a minute to review what has happened in, and around, Syria in the last several years.

The root cause of the unrest in Syria today is the struggle between Sunni and Shia for control of the Muslim world.

The Alawites and Bashar al Assad maintain control of the current Syrian government. While Alawites are not technically Shia, they are more closely allied with the Shia than the Sunni. The theocracy in Iran is purely Shia and is one of Assad’s major allies. When including the Kurds, the majority of Iraqis are Sunni. The Sunni majority has ruled Iraq for many years, and Iraq and Iran have been enemies for quite some time, fighting nearly a decade-long war in the 80s.

During that time, Saddam Hussein imposed a totalitarian order in Iraq, gassing Iranians and his own people. Then, in 2003, the United States deposed Saddam’s regime and unwittingly brought chaos, anarchy and a civil war to Iraq. Al Qaeda, a primarily Sunni organization, seized the opportunity to fight their American enemy and their historic Shia rivals. They developed a foothold in the restive western city of Fallujah and spread their terrorist violence throughout the area.

At first, Fallujahans welcomed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his cutthroat thugs. Then, the al Qaeda extremists started evicting local families from their homes on the south side of the city. They dragged anyone who resisted into the streets and beat or shot them to death. Still, the predominantly Sunni population in Anbar Province sided with the Muslim extremists against the American invaders.

It took the United States Marine Corps many years to convince the people of Anbar Province that we were their friends and that the al Qaeda extremists were the real enemy. Finally, in 2007 the people rose up in the “Anbar Awakening.” Iraqi mothers encouraged their sons to join the local security forces and to help the Americans rid Western Iraq of the cancer that is al Qaeda.

Then came the 2008 presidential election. After his victory, President Barak Obama abandoned our Sunni friends, destroying the relationships our Marines invested hundreds of young American lives to develop, and left control of the nation in the hands of Shia leaders who maintain close ties with Iran.

An Iraqi businessman here in the United States, recently told me that America changed the balance of power in Iraq and then left the Iraqi Sunnis to fend for themselves. He feels that America betrayed his people. Things have not gone well in Iraq since our departure. The predominantly Sunni population of western Iraq has returned to extremism more and more and there has been a huge resurgence of al Qaeda sympathizers.

Now, the violence has spread to Syria. Again, President Obama had the opportunity to stem the tide by offering early support to the Syrian Free Army. If we had provided that assistance in 2011, al Qaeda would not have become as strong in Eastern Syria as it is today and Assad’s regime might have already fallen.

Obama failed in Iraq, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He failed in the early days of the Syrian conflict and now he has painted the United States into a corner. Leaving Bashsr al Assad’s use of chemical weapons unpunished is a bad idea; and nothing good will come of a US strike on Syria. So, where do we go now, Mister President?


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Feb 19th, 2012 by Richard Lowry
An unbalanced world

Sgt Oscar Canon

An active-duty Marine major who is currently serving in Afghanistan just sent me this message. It speaks for itself:

Where is the outrage with our media and with the consumers of that media? Where are the priorities of our countrymen? A hero dies and receives not one ounce of media coverage. A drug addict dies, and flags are lowered to half-mast while receiving untold amounts of media attention. Maybe this is the way it is supposed to be.

On Valentine’s Day, former Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Oscar Canon, a Marine that I had the honor of serving with in 2004 when I commanded Company K, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, succumbed to a staff infection. That staff infection appears to have been directly tied to the 87 surgeries on his leg that stem from injuries he sustained on September 23, 2004.

I first met then Corporal (Cpl) Canon immediately after taking command of Company K in June 2004. He was impressive, competent, hard working, and eager. He absolutely loved his wife Jennie and talked about her all the time. During the initial invasion of Iraq he was referred to as “Contact Canon” because he was continuously engaged with the enemy. When we first met he was the mortar section leader in our company and had a competently trained section–not bad for an organization that is supposed to be led by a much more senior Marine wearing the rank of Staff Sergeant. During our final work ups prior to deployment a Sergeant reported in to take charge of the section, so Cpl Canon stepped down and filled the role of Gunner/Mortar Squad Leader. On Sep 23, 2004, on our last day of relief in place w/ Company E, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, driving down the same road that E 2/1 had driven down countless times, less than 500 meters and in plain view of the observation post along Main Supply Route Mobile where Cpl Canon was to stand duty, the 7-ton in which Cpl Canon was riding struck an improvised explosive device (IED), wounding Cpl Canon and others. The IED initiated a complex ambush. Many Marines fought with valor to break the enemy’s will and save Cpl Canon.

Cpl Canon was medevac’d back to the States. He and his wife divorced and he underwent 87 surgeries on his wounded leg in an attempt to recover to normalcy. I know at one point he ran Marine Corps Marathon with a senior officer while he was still in uniform. I just learned that Canon donated his kidneys and his liver to 3 people and will be buried in Arlington in a few weeks.

Attached is a link to an NPR article written about Canon in 2005, when he had a mere 33 surgeries under his belt.

Through it all one must wonder why Canon and others like him receive no attention and why the consumers of media care about drug addicts instead of heroes that gave all defending their country. Where is the outrage?


Richard S. Lowry has been writing about the Marine Corps for many years. To learn more about his writing and how to purchase his latest book, visit

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Jan 14th, 2011 by Richard Lowry
Twenty years since Desert Storm

coverIt is difficult for me to believe that January 16th will mark the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. It is one of few historical events that stand out in my life. I remember our first man in space and the Cuban Missile crises. I remember walking across the football field in my high school and someone coming up to tell me, “The President has been shot!” I remember walking between buildings at work in Orlando and looking up to see a large ball of smoke where the space shuttle Discovery once was.

Most everyone remembers where they were when they first learned that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I was arriving at my office with my wife. I had pulled into my parking space when the newsman broke in and said, “We have just received a report that a plane has crashed into a building in New York City. We will have more on tomorrow’s news cast.” I don’t think any news event in history could have been more under-reported at that moment. Within minutes, America knew that this was no ordinary incident.

And, I remember the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. I had been following the events in Kuwait since Saddam invaded the tiny oil emirate in the previous summer. I had closely followed the American military deployments and when I stepped on an airplane on the morning of January 16th, I knew that the war would be starting soon. I was on business travel, flying from Orlando to Los Angeles to make a presentation to a perspective customer – the Air Force Space Command.

We landed in Los Angeles in mid-afternoon and I checked the television in the closest bar to my gate when I got off the plane – nothing. I collected my luggage and rode the bus to the rental car parking lot. I got into my car and turned on the radio to hear the first report that planes were in the air and Operation Desert Storm had begun. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was twenty years ago.

When the Operation was over, seven weeks later, I sat dumbfounded. The media did not give us the details of the fight. I immediately started researching to learn the details of our fight to eject Saddam from Kuwiat. And, twelve years later, I published “The Gulf War Chronicles.” Following is an excerpt from chapter 1:


Before midnight on the 16th of January 1991, the wheels had been set in motion for the most devastating air attack in history. Ships carrying Tomahawk missiles were in their assigned launch positions. E-3 Sentry, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft were flying in four surveillance racetracks just south of the Saudi/Iraqi border. One hundred eighty tankers were orbiting south of the AWACS, just out of range of the Iraqi early warning radar. Fixed wing and rotary aircraft were being readied for battle.

The staggering firepower of the United States Armed Forces had been brought to bear on the northern Saudi Arabian border in just a little over five months. The Marines were concentrated along the Persian Gulf and thinly dispersed along the Kuwaiti border in small, fast moving screening units. These Marines were mounted in High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs). The forward units were deployed to signal advance warning of Iraqi offensive thrusts into Saudi Arabia. Farther to the south, the remainder of the American force was positioned for counterattacks on advancing Iraqis or massed around forward supply and air bases. Every airfield within striking distance of Iraq and Kuwait was crammed full of Allied aircraft.

Six Navy Aircraft carriers ringed Iraq in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. Hundreds of aircraft from America’s newest F-117A Nighthawks, to the venerable B-52 Stratofortresses, were being readied for war. The airfields were so crowded that there was no room for the B-52s. They would fly their first missions directly from their bases in Spain, Diego Garcia, and even Louisiana.

The largest logistic chain in history stretched from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf all the way back to both coasts of the United States. The pipe was full. Supplies and additional heavy armor units from the United States and Europe continued to pour in to Saudi Arabia. The hammer was cocked. There were rounds in the chamber and the trigger was being squeezed.

January 17th heralded the culmination of years of acquisitions of high-tech systems and the build-up of a highly motivated and trained all-volunteer professional military; months of deployments, planning, and “sharpening the sword”; weeks of diplomacy; and days of tension. The U.S. was planning to fight a four dimensional war (Air-Land Battle) for the first time. It was to be orchestrated in a precise time sequence. The Iraqis, on the other hand, were preparing to fight a two dimensional war of attrition. They had no concept of air superiority, timing or tempo. The Coalition would fight World War III while the Iraqis would fight World War I.

At 0001 on the 17th, two-dozen F-117 Stealth fighters from the 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron started taking off from a secret airbase located deep in the mountains of Saudi Arabia. These ultra-high tech aircraft would lead the manned air assault deep into Iraq. Within an hour, over three hundred additional attack aircraft began taking off from aircraft carriers and airbases all over the Persian Gulf. These attack aircraft were refueled and stacked up south of the Saudi border like jets on approach to O’Hare airport on a snowy Christmas Eve. At exactly 0140 the USS Wisconsin started launching Tomahawk Cruise missiles to join other Tomahawks being launched from the USS San Jacinto in the Red Sea. Tomahawk missiles would be the first to penetrate Iraqi airspace, flying under the radar and racing toward their targets at an altitude of fifty to one hundred feet above the terrain. The Tomahawks were launched at precise times so that they would reach their targets in concert with the rest of the first attack.

At a remote base in Western Saudi Arabia two teams (each consisting of four AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 101st Air Assault Division and an Air Force Pave Low helicopter from the 20th Special Operations Squadron) took off at approximately 0100. Each Apache was armed with four Hellfire missiles, two 2.75-inch rocket pods containing fleshettes and 1,100 rounds of 30mm ammunition.

The Pave Low helicopters accompanied the Apaches to provide the GPS navigation needed for the mission, additional Electronic Countermeasure (ECM) and rescue capability. This small but deadly force, commanded by Army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cody, was code named TASK FORCE NORMANDY in honor of the “Screaming Eagle’s” spearhead operations nearly a half century earlier behind the beaches in France.

At 0215, the two teams of TASK FORCE NORMANDY crossed the border into Iraq in separate locations. Their objectives were two Early Warning RADAR facilities in Western Iraq. The Apaches of the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment approached their objectives at high speed, acquired their targets at the maximum range of their night vision sensors, locked on with their lasers, dropped down to only a few feet above the ground, and advanced on the objectives ‘low and slow’. All the lights in both facilities were on, suggesting that the Apaches’ approach had not been detected. When the Apaches came within range they ripple-launched their Hellfire missiles.

At exactly 0238, the first missile struck its target “like a thunderbolt from the skies.” Several missiles knocked out the facilities’ electric power generators. The Apaches (firing twenty-seven Hellfire missiles) destroyed radar antennas, operations centers, generators, and barracks. All of the missiles hit their targets. When the Apaches ran out of Hellfire missiles, they raked the area with rockets and thousands of rounds of 30-mm cannon fire. Both facilities were disabled within thirty seconds and completely destroyed in less than four minutes! Eight U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles streaked into Iraq behind TASK FORCE NORMANDY and destroyed the local air defense command and control center. These three attacks created a twenty-mile wide blackened radar corridor for our attack planes to enter Iraq.

Within minutes, F-117 s from the 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron bombed a radar control center one hundred sixty miles southwest of Baghdad, a radar facility in western Iraq, and an air defense site outside Baghdad extending the corridor farther into Iraq. Swarms of waiting attack aircraft then swept north through the corridor and fanned out toward their targets. EF-111 Ravens, EA-6B Prowlers, and EC-130 Compass Call Aircraft led the charge through the night sky. These electronic marvels of the night bombarded Iraq’s surveillance and communications equipment with billions of electrons. The Compass Call aircraft attacked the communications airwaves, disrupting military radio traffic. The Ravens and Prowlers targeted surveillance and air defense radars. F-14 Tomcats and F-15C Eagles raced into Iraq to their assigned Combat Air Patrol (CAP) areas. Their mission was to fly cover for the allied planes and engage any approaching Iraqi aircraft.

Air Force Captain Steve Tate approached Baghdad in his F-15C, along with his four wingmen just before 0300. Their assigned CAP area was over Baghdad and extending sixty miles to the east of the city. Captain Tate had a bird’s eye view for the opening moments of the war. “Baghdad was a really pretty city that night. As we started flying over the populous areas…F-117 s started dropping their bombs and then we started getting concussions all over the entire country. You could see it. At that point then, the sky started lighting up with AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery)…It looked like little sparkles going off all over…I figured we had some kind of cosmic weapon system out there just sprinkling all over the city…Then I started looking a little closer and I said, man-that’s triple-A that they’re shooting.” Shortly after 0300, Captain Tate was alerted to the approach of an Iraqi fighter, by an AWACS controller. He maneuvered his plane into attack position. At 0315 he shot down an Iraqi F1 Mirage with a single radar-guided Sparrow missile. This was the first air-to-air kill of the war and one of nine Iraqi aircraft to be shot down on the first night.

Read the entire story of Operation Desert Storm in Richard S. Lowry’s first published book – The Gulf War Chronicles.

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Aug 31st, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Kandahar is not Fallujah
Sgt Jason Carter - DVIDS

Sgt Jason Carter - DVIDS

While Kandahar and Fallujah are both located at ancient crossroads of civilization, the cities could not be more different. Fallujah lies in the heart of the ancient Assyrian civilization while Kandahar has always skirted two ancient empires. Fallujah is made up of a compact, densely-populated middle-eastern urban center while Kandahar is spread out over many thousands of acres with a central urban center and hundreds of outlying villages, nestled in some of the most rugged terrain on the face of the earth.

If you think it was difficult isolating the Fallujah battlefield, it was easy compared to the challenges of cordoning Kandahar. Clearing Kandahar will be a momentous task. The International Security Assistance Forces and the Afghan Army and Police will have a very difficult time clearing and holding Kandahar.

In the fall of 2004, Coalition Forces isolated Fallujah and evacuated most of the population before sweeping into the city to clear every room of every house. Then, they cordoned the city and only let residents back in. ISAF has no hope of isolating the battlefield of Kandahar, we will have to work to clear the area and we will have to work among the population. The Taliban know this truth. They will continue to use the people as shields and they will try to illicit violence that will cause civilian deaths.

The coming operation to wrest control of Kandahar and its surrounding districts will be tricky. I expect to see a sudden increase in ISAF military presence, followed by an inkwell strategy of expanding the ISAF security zone. There will be no massive sweep through the area like the fight to free Fallujah. Instead, the Taliban will wake up one morning and American, Afghan and Canadian soldiers will be on their doorstep. And, once there – they will stay.

Taliban leaders will be targeted; rounded up or killed. The rank and file Taliban soldiers will be given a choice – fight and die or surrender and re-integrate into the Afghan society. Once the streets of Kandahar City, Zhari, Panjwaii, and Arghandab are secure, the real work will begin.

The people of southern Afghanistan have lived through almost continuing struggles for control of their land for centuries. The only thing that the tribal elders know is struggle and maneuvering for power. They have learned that when their schemes fail, violence rules supreme. It will take more than a generation to change this mindset. Once there is a modicum of security in Kandahar, ISAF will help to set the people on the right track to peace and prosperity. Attempting to impose the Federal government in Kabul on the people of southern Afghanistan will not work. We must build a brand new Afghanistan from the ground up, not from the top-down. Let us all pray that General Petraeus succeeds.


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Aug 19th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Operation New Dawn begins
New Dawn

New Dawn

American combat operations have ceased and our work in Iraq has shifted to a support role under a new operation name. Now, with the departure of the last combat battalion, the effort will change to Operation New Dawn.

When LTG Thomas Metz, CG of The Phantom Brigade, began preparations for the final fight to free Fallujah in 2004, he named the US military Operation – Phantom Fury. Generals Metz and Casey worked very hard to bring the Iraqi Army on board. They wanted the new Iraqi Army to become a partner in Operation Phantom Fury and to help bring peace and stability to Fallujah.

When the Iraqi Army made the commitment to participate, they assigned their own name to the Operation – Al Fajr or “The Dawn.” Al Fajr is a passage in the Koran. It speaks of wrongdoers returning to the graces of Allah and of a “New Dawn” of peace and enlightenment.

I could have easily named my book “The Dawn,” but I took literary license and used NEW DAWN. There has never been an operation named “New Dawn.” The 2004 attack on Fallujah was Operation al Fajr.

Earlier this year, after reading an advance copy of New Dawn, General David Petraeus requested that the name of America’s operations in Iraq be renamed. Today, the Iraqis are free to forge their own destiny and Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. Many wrongdoers have returned to the graces of Allah and there is a New Dawn of hope for the Iraqi people.

But, in the words of one of the 21st Century’s foremost experts in counterinsurgent warfare, David Kilcullen, ““In modern counterinsurgency, ‘victory’ may not be final…”

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Jul 14th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
New Dawn Update


A Gold Star Mother recently thanked me for telling her son’s story. She went on to say, “My biggest fear was that he would be forgotten.”

New Dawn tells the stories of our brave young men and women at war half a world away. Ed Iwan, Jason Clairday, Antoine Smith, Chris Adlesperger and Kevin Shea will all live forever in the pages of New Dawn. Please help me to tell their stories to the American people. Go to my facebook page. Post links to my sites. Tell your frineds. Buy a book and then post a review on the site of your choice.

New Dawn tells a story you will never forget.

New Dawn has already been nominated for the 2011 Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s ‘General Wallace M. Greene Award.’ The award is given to non-fiction writers who excel in telling the story of the United States Marine Corps.

In addition, New Dawn has been nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in History.

My most honored endorsement recently came from a Marine Sergeant. He called me to tell me, “Your book is friggin awesome.” He went on to say, “I was there and it is ‘spot-on.’”









Thank you all for your continued support.

Semper Fidelis,

Richard S. Lowry

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May 29th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Remembering Fallujah
Photo courtesy Maj Rob Bodisch, USMC

Photo courtesy Maj Rob Bodisch, USMC

Throughout our short history, the American warrior has been fierce yet compassionate. Free men who fight for our nation have motivation unequaled anywhere. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen and Marines know that freedom is not free. They have sacrificed at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Belleau Wood, Normandy, the Chosin Reservoir, the Ia Drang Valley and in Kuwait.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who fought in Fallujah were no different; they paid a heavy price to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, many stories of these brave young men and women have gone untold. Among those heroes stood Juan Rubio, Jason Arellano, David Bellavia Jeremiah Workman, Nick Popaditch, Brad Kasal, Jeffery Lee and Todd Desgrosseilliers. They were just a few of many men commended for exceptional gallantry while fighting in, and around, Fallujah.

Nine Navy Crosses and twenty-two Silver Stars were awarded to participants of Operation Phantom Fury.

Marine Corps Sergeant Jason Arellano is one of my personal heroes, not because he charged into a house full of insurgents or risked his life to keep other Marines away from an exploding grenade, but because he led his squad, his Marines, through the bloodiest urban fight since Hue City, Vietnam, without losing a single man. Jason was the consummate squad leader. He led his men with determination, intelligence and attention to detail. There is no question that his Marines made it through the fight in Fallujah because of his leadership.

Jason was severely wounded in the bloodiest firefight of Operation Phantom Fury on December 12, 2004 when his company ran into a large group of fanatic diehards who had barricaded themselves in a block of buildings. Five Marines were killed clearing those fortified buildings and dozens were wounded. Many more would have been wounded or killed had it not been for Arellano’s selfless actions that day, warning fellow Marines of a live grenade and taking the brunt of the explosion himself. Jason nearly died in that explosion, but his fellow Marines were not hurt.

New Dawn tells stories of modern-day American heroes.

Jason wasn’t alone. US Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia expertly led his squad through the fight too. On one occasion, Bellavia single-handedly cleared an enemy stronghold in a fight that degenerated into hand-to-hand combat. David was awarded a Silver Star after receiving a recommendation for the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The stories from that battle abound, but for me the hero of heroes was a Navy Corpsman, Juan Rubio. He didn’t go to Fallujah to fight, he went to save lives. Yet, he was in the thick of many horrendous firefights and was nearly killed himself while trying to save the lives of Marines and soldiers in his charge.

He braved enemy gunfire many times to treat the wounded. He frantically worked alone to keep soldiers and Marines alive long enough to get them to surgical care. In his last firefight, Juan suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and is now retired on 100% disability. The Silver Star sitting on his mantle is not enough. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his selfless dedication to the Marines, the Navy, our nation and those in his care. We also owe our heartfelt thanks to all the young men and women who have gone off to fight our enemies in distant lands. They have risked everything for us.

Some fell at the hands of a hidden sniper; others died entering darkened rooms, and more gave their lives while trying to save their comrades. Still more American servicemen were wounded in the fight; some suffered superficial wounds while others were terribly disfigured. Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas Popaditch was one of the first Marines wounded in the fight in Fallujah. The Marine Corps was his home – his career. He was a Marine tanker, and a damn good one. Popaditch had fought in Desert Storm and had led the Marines into Baghdad in 2003. Then, on April 5, 2004, Popaditch and his wingman were in the first Marine tanks to attack into Fallujah.

After nearly twenty-four hours of fighting off repeated attacks, Popaditch was hit in the head with an RPG. The glancing blow knocked his helmet off and the explosion slammed him to the floor of his tank. His world went black. One of his eyes had been blown out of his head and the other mangled terribly. Popaditch’s gunner assumed command of the tank and rushed his Gunny out of the city to get him to medical attention.

Miraculously, the doctors were able to repair the mangled eye. Gunny “Pop” was out of the fight and his Marine Corps career was over, but the fight to free Fallujah was just beginning. The fight would be left to nearly ten-thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and the vast majority of those servicemen simply did their duty. They fought a treacherous enemy and slogged their way from the northern edge of Fallujah to the southern suburbs, putting their lives at risk every step of the way. Many of those soldiers, sailors and Marines returned with emotional scars that they will carry for the rest of their lives. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.

All American veterans have a common bond. They have been willing to lay down their lives in defense of our nation. Today’s generation of young men and women are no different. They are the best trained, best equipped, most highly motivated fighting force on the face of this earth. These remarkable men and women are no different than the millions who went off to war in Europe, the South Pacific, Korea or Vietnam. They do not seek riches. They do not seek notoriety. They do their job for our country and the person standing on their right and left. On this Memorial Day, search out a veteran and shake his or her hand. Thank them for their service to our nation. Let them know that you know that Freedom is not free.


Since 9/11, Richard S. Lowry’s mission has been to tell as many of these stories as is possible. He has strived to tell the stories of decorated heroes and of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, as well as just plain ordinary men and women who are serving their nation in these turbulent times. He has recorded the story of Operation Desert Storm and the 2003 battle of Nasiriyah in three published books. Now, he is about to release his most compelling book yet. New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah. It tells the story of America’s sons and daughters at war in the 21st Century. It tells the story of the largest fight of the war in Iraq. It is the first book to tell the entire story of Operation Phantom Fury and it honors many of the men and women who fought to free Fallujah. Their sacrifices turned the tide of the war in Iraq.

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May 11th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Courage on the homefront

Jason was a Marine infantryman, and a damn good one at that. Jason knew Lindsey was special the moment he met her at his cousin’s wedding. This was a girl he wanted to be around. By the summer of 2004, Jason began to think that Lindsey might be the woman that he wanted to marry. Lindsey kept reminding herself that Jason was a Marine and that he would soon have to go back to war. But that did not seem to make a difference, Lindsey was smitten too. She couldn’t help herself from falling in love.

Lindsey Woods

Lindsey Woods

Jason flew back to Iraq on September 11, 2004. Difficult as it was, Lindsey knew that Jason had a job to do and Jason was eager to get back into the fight. But this deployment was different. This time Jason couldn’t wait to get back home and ask Lindsey to be his wife.

Forced to endure a second wartime separation, they turned their attention to their work. Jason worked hard to prepare his Marines for the coming fight and Lindsey dove into her job, working 12-hour days. Jason’s Marines became entangled in the largest urban fight since Vietnam – the fight to free Fallujah – and on December 12th, 2004, Jason ended up in the bloodiest battle of the fight. He found himself on the second floor of an enemy stronghold with a live grenade cooking off at his feet. His first thought was to warn his fellow Marines. “GRENADE!” he shouted, just as he was showered with shrapnel and debris. Jason was thrown to the floor, bleeding badly.

It was a crisp cool Sunday half-a-world away in Kansas City. Lindsey’s day began just like every day. Her morning prayer for Jason always renewed her strength, but today, her heart was heavy – she hadn’t heard from Jason in over a week. She hoped she would hear from him today. He almost always called on Sunday. She thought about Jason all day but the call never came and Lindsey fell asleep with her phone at her side.

Monday was a busy day at work. Lindsey kept busy with constant phone calls and chaos. She was so busy that she ignored her cell phone when it first rang. When it kept ringing she looked at the number and didn’t recognize the area code, Lindsey didn’t answer. Then, the phone started ringing again. It was the same area code, but a different telephone number. “What in the world?” Lindsey thought “Who was calling? Maybe they would leave a message.” Lindsey shoved the phone into her desk drawer to muffle the sound and then resumed her typing. Today was just not the day for extra interruptions.

When Lindsey stood to go to the restroom, she felt the dog tags clink around her neck. She gently rested her hand upon them and grinned, wondering where he was today. Then she prayed, “Lord, please be with him today and strengthen him, send your angels to protect him.” She returned to her desk to hear that muffled ring tone again. This was beginning to get a little creepy. Nobody called her this often. The fifth time around panic struck.

Lindsey flung the desk drawer open. She read the name lit up in bright blue letters – Jaime. Suddenly it all made sense. “All this time, how could she have been so ignorant?” Fear slapped her. All of the calls were from New Mexico – Jason’s family. It was the moment she had prayed would never come. Her heart stood still as the realization sank in. Staring at the phone wide eyed, she nervously bit at her fingers. “No. Not now. How could this be happening?”

The fear of the unknown was paralyzing. She didn’t want to know. “This couldn’t happen. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. It was never supposed to happen this way.” But, she needed to know what was going on. She had to know what happened! She grabbed the phone so quickly it slipped and fell to the floor. As she bent to retrieve the telephone, Jason’s tags jingled and she wrapped her fingers around them tightly. She had to know everything, no matter how hard it might be. She dialed as quickly as she could.

Lindsey’s heart raced. Jaime’s voice was calm and collected as she answered the phone with a simple question. “Have you heard?”

The lump crawling up in Lindsey’s throat almost gagged her. “No. Tell me.”

“Jason has been shot” Jamie said. “I don’t know the details; just that he has been shot.”

Lindsey’s heart dropped into her stomach and she lost all composure. Her words were jumbled as she stuttered and stumbled through them before quickly hanging up the phone with the promise to relay important information. Fingers shaking, Lindsey dialed Jason’s mother. Two rings, three rings – no answer. She tried his brother. Three rings, four rings – no answer. “Why weren’t they answering their phones?” “Where were they?” She dialed Jason’s father. Four rings, five rings – no answer. This was not possible. She dialed his brother again. Five rings, six rings – no answer. She couldn’t be left hanging like this. “What was she supposed to do?” She could barely sit still with her knees and hands shaking. She pressed against the tags and tried to breathe. “What was his mother doing?” Lindsey thought. “Why wasn’t she answering?” This was all crazy! She dialed Jason’s mother one more time and there still was no answer.

“Lord, please let someone answer!” Lindsey prayed. She dialed Jason’s father again and decided to leave a message. “Danny, this is Lindsey. I just got a phone call and I would love to talk to you and find out more about what’s going on.” Then, she hung up and sat alone in her small bare office, staring at the wall.

Lindsey sat there in silence and shock. “Was this even real? Was it a dream? How could this be happening? Breathe Lindsey, breathe.” Blood was coursing through her body and heat began to rise up her neck. Small beads of sweat broke on her forehead. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. Her heart began to race faster and faster and it echoed in her ears.

The ring briefly stopped her heart. It was Jason’s stepmother, Trudy. She verified Jaime’s news. Jason had in fact been shot, probably in the leg. Nobody knew if he was alive, dead, or dying. Lindsey could only imagine the graphic details. Snapping the phone shut, she tossed it onto her desk and dropped her head into her hands. Tears erupted from the depths of her soul and flooded her flushed face. Lindsey’s mind raced. “How? Where? When? Would he survive? Would he lose any limbs? Would he be paralyzed? Was he being taken care of? Was he in pain? Was he conscious?” Minutes went by. Lindsey sat there barely breathing – sobbing and crying.
The ring of her cell phone startled her again. The voice on the other end brought more grief. “We just found out he wasn’t shot. He was actually hit with a grenade. They are taking him to Germany and that is all that I know.”

In complete shock, Lindsey tossed her phone into her purse, grabbed her keys and left her office. Her large dark sunglasses couldn’t hide the black streaks running down her cheeks and neck. She jumped into her car and began driving, with tears and mascara clouding her sight. She raced around the corner into the Hy-Vee grocery store parking lot and threw the car into park. All alone and with nobody in sight, she wept. The truth was just too much to handle.

Jason and Lindsey both knew that there was a good possibility of injury or death and still nothing could have prepared her for today’s news. Their last face-to-face conversation had been in the airport terminal, three days before Jason had to leave for Iraq. He had embraced her with tears in his eyes and had drawn her in close. “Whatever happens over there, just know that I will always be with you, watching over you.” Jason whispered.

Jason’s words replayed in her mind and she hit the steering wheel. Overcome with grief she sat alone in her car and cried out to God at the top of her lungs, “Jesus!” “Lord we need you!” All else was silent above her gasps for breath. “Lord God, Please!” Her head dropped to the steering wheel as her burdened heart grew weak. It was just too much to take in at once. “Jesus!”

An hour went by and still no word. Rolling the windows down, the cool December air felt fresh on her red hot face. She needed to start a prayer chain. When there was a need there was one person she knew to call. Quickly she dialed the phone.


Her mother immediately recognized the panic in Lindsey’s voice. “What?”

“I need you to pray.” Tears exploded again and the words seemed jumbled. “It’s Jason…He’s been hit with a grenade.” They prayed together and as always Lindsey was buoyed by her mother’s faith. Lindsey kept trying all evening to get in touch with Jason’s family and around 10 P.M. she finally spoke with his mother. The two cried together and promised to pray and stay in touch. There still had been no word. Exhausted and emotionally drained, Lindsey fell asleep just after midnight.

At 6:00 A.M. the phone startled her into consciousness. She knew the call had to be important. Good or bad, she had to know. She flipped the light on… “Hello?” It was the sweetest sound she could have possibly imagined. Somehow from the other side of the world Jason whispered back, “Hello.”

A wave of relief swept over Lindsey. He was alive. That was all that mattered. He was alive and he was able to talk and she immediately thanked the Lord.

It would be three weeks, several surgeries and many plane flights before the two would see each other. Jason had been hit by a grenade and had received shrapnel wounds throughout his body; some had barely missed his jugular vein. He had also been shot in the groin. The bullet barely missed his femoral artery, bones and joints. He is often told how lucky he was to have survived, Jason is quick to say that luck had nothing to do with it, he is blessed. The Lord really does work in mysterious ways.

Having bravely served his country and having brought his entire squad through the fight in Fallujah, Jason left the Marine Corps and married Lindsey. The Lord has more plans for Jason. Today Jason and Lindsey have two beautiful children and are living happily ever after.

Jason and Lindsey Arellano

Jason and Lindsey Arellano


Jason was wounded in the bloodiest fight of Operation Phantom Fury. Five Marines were killed in, and around, the house where he was seriously wounded. Jason’s story, along with many other heroes who fought in Fallujah, is told in Richard S. Lowry’s newest book – New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah – available in bookstores in May, 2010.

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May 5th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Chapter 1 (Part 3) Fallujah: The Most Dangerous City in Iraq

The Marines’ Initial Response

Within hours of the Blackwater ambush on the last day of March 2004, the Marines moved to cordon off the entire city. Inside, the enemy prepared for the inevitable assault. Major General James Mattis and Lieutenant General James Conway, however, recommended restraint. The Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General John Kelly, sought to temper America’s response in the Division’s daily report:

As we review the actions in Fallujah yesterday, the murder of four private security personnel in the most brutal way, we are convinced that this act was spontaneous mob action. Under the wrong circumstances this could have taken place in any city in Iraq. We must avoid the temptation to strike out in retribution. In the only 10 days we have been here we have engaged the “good” and the bad in Fallujah everyday, and have casualties to show for our efforts. We must remember that the citizens and officials of Fallujah were already gathering up and delivering what was left of three victims before asked to do so, and continue in their efforts to collect up what they can of the dismembered remnants of the fourth.

We have a well thought out campaign plan that considers the Fallujah problem across its very complicated spectrum. This plan most certainly includes kinetic action, but going overly kinetic at this juncture plays into the hands of the opposition in exactly the way they assume we will. This is why they shoot and throw hand grenades out of crowds, to bait us into overreaction. The insurgents did not plan this crime, it dropped into their lap.

We should not fall victim to their hopes for a vengeful response. To react to this provocation, as heinous as it is, will likely negate the efforts of the 82nd Airborne Division paid for in blood, and complicate our campaign plan, which we have not yet been given the opportunity to implement. Counterinsurgency forces have learned many times in the past that the desire to demonstrate force and resolve has long term and generally negative implications, and destabilize rather than stabilize the environment.

The Marine commanders did not want to further disenfranchise the people of Fallujah. They told their corps commander, U. S. Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, that they could find the perpetrators of the ambush and bring them to justice within two weeks. Sanchez passed on the Marines’ recommendation. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, however, was not impressed with the suggestion for a tempered response and ordered the Marines to attack. Conway and Mattis had delivered their recommendation as to how they thought they should respond, but when they received their orders, they—like any good Marines—unflinchingly obeyed

The Fight Begins: Operation Vigilant Resolve

On April 5, 2004, U.S. Marines charged into the city, destroying enemy positions and killing every enemy combatant who stood in their path. One of the Marines driving into Fallujah was Gunnery Sergeant Nicholas Popaditch. Angered by the heinous murders of the Blackwater contractors and the insurgents’ claims that Fallujah was the graveyard of Americans, “Gunny Pop” couldn’t wait to get into the fight. His tank platoon was one of only two armor platoons deployed around Fallujah. Popaditch’s First Platoon was attached to Lieutenant Colonel Gregg Olson’s Marines. With so few tanks, Captain Michael Skaggs, the 1st Tank Battalion’s Charlie Company Commander, was forced to split up his platoons. His Second Platoon, under First Lieutenant Troy Sayler, was assigned to Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne’s 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. The Marine tanks would operate in sections of two tanks each, and would be sent out to support the infantry companies as they were needed.

Olson’s 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, moved into attack positions in the northwest corner of the city on April 5, 2004, and Byrne’s Marines manned the cordon across town in the southeast corner of the city. On April 6, Captain Kyle Stoddard, 2/1’s Fox Company Commander, sent a small squad-sized patrol into the northern edge of the city to assess enemy strength. The squad was attacked within the first few blocks, and one of the Marines was wounded in the initial bursts of gunfire. Outgunned and
outnumbered, the squad called for reinforcements and a medevac. As soon as Stoddard heard the call for help, he ordered, “Roll the QRT.”

Gunny Pop, Charlie Company’s First Platoon Sergeant, was sitting in his tank under the railroad overpass in the northwest corner of the city, waiting as part of the QRT. Popaditch had been in Marine tanks his entire career. He had fought in southern Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm and had led the charge to Baghdad in 2003, where his tanks surrounded Firdos Square and toppled the large statue of Saddam. Straining at his leash, Popaditch asked Stoddard for permission to enter the city.

“Roll the tanks,” ordered Stoddard.


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Apr 24th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Chapter 1 (Part 2) Fallujah: The Most Dangerous City in Iraq

The Perpetual Problem

The war had never really ended in Fallujah, even though Saddam’s regime was quickly deposed in the spring of 2003. Subsequently the All Americans of the 82nd Airborne Division had been given the onerous mission of securing this restive town thirty miles west of Baghdad. Unfortunately, they never had enough combat power to clear the city of an increasing number of enemy fighters. On April 28, 2003, a protest within the city turned violent and fifteen Iraqis were killed, further inflaming the local population.

The increase in violence throughout the summer and fall of 2003 prompted the American commanders to withdraw their forces to a series of camps outside the city. Fallujah became a safe haven and rallying point for hardened Saddam supporters, former Ba’ath party leaders, Republican Guard members, Iraqi Army diehards and, finally, Islamic fundamentalists. “These were hardcore insurgents who wanted nothing more than to kill Americans,” explained a high ranking officer.

The lightly armed paratroopers developed a “Fort Apache” mentality, only venturing into the city in heavily armed groups. They had not expected so much civilian discontent, but they quickly realized that the people were tied to centuries of local tribe and clan loyalties. Initially, the paratroopers were completely unprepared to deal with the people of Fallujah, but the soldiers worked hard to understand them and their history.

The Euphrates River cuts a swath through the Iraqi wasteland, bringing life-giving water to the Fertile Crescent. Vast barren plains lie to the north, east, and west of Fallujah. The city is an ancient crossroads and Euphrates River crossing connecting Saudi Arabia in the south with Syria and Turkey in the north. The river and roads are lifelines of trade. Fallujah has always been a hub of commerce, both legal and illegal. The main east-west road— Iraq’s oldest and most important commercial artery— is its link to the western world and today known as Highway 10, connecting Baghdad with Amman, Jordan.

Because of Fallujah’s location, control of the city has been contested since antiquity. In the 18th century B.C., Hammurabi expanded his Babylonian empire when he acquired the ancient city of Sippar. During the 1st century A.D., the Romans, Trojans, Arabs, and Persians fought at one time or another for control of what is now known as Fallujah. When the Mongols laid waste to Baghdad in 1258 A.D., Iraq’s economy fell into ruin. Iraq’s civilization lay dormant for centuries until the Iraqi people were conquered by the Ottomans in the 16th century. Control of the Fertile Crescent flipped back and forth between the Ottomans and the Persians for hundreds of years until the Turks reasserted their rule in the early 1800s.

After the Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans in World War I, England fought a series of battles against the Turks along the Euphrates River valley. After the Allied victory in 1918, the British occupied what is now known as Iraq. In 1920 resistance to their occupation increased—and was uncannily similar to what America experienced in the months following the 2003 invasion. Fallujah, the divided city, was one of the flashpoints. The British learned quickly that reconciliation was the key to success in this ancient land. “Fallujah,” explained a regional expert, “had become the symbol of the resistance and had to become the symbol of the reconciliation process.” Thus the British worked to woo the tribal and clan leaders, and Fallujah soon became a model for the nation. As a symbol of national pride, the British selected Fallujah as the site for the coronation of King Faisal, the new pro-British leader, on August 23, 1921.

Throughout the turbulent history of Anbar Province, daily life, business, and government have all revolved around its families, clans, and tribes. The province’s rugged people depend upon one another to survive in an austere environment. Their ancestors learned that the only way to endure through the blistering summers, whimsical shifts in the Euphrates River, and even more whimsical changes in government, was by helping each other. The people are close-knit, fiercely loyal, radically independent, and distrusting of outsiders. They have been ruled by the leaders of their clans and tribes for as long as can be remembered. In 2003, the most prominent tribal leader was Sheik Abdullah Al Janabi, the self-proclaimed leader of the city’s governing Shura Council. Janabi’s tribe was the most hostile to the Americans.

With the ever-shifting political climate, the tribes and clans have had little regard for the country’s artificial international boundaries. To the people of Anbar, smuggling is all in a day’s work, a necessity of commerce. As a result, Fallujah is peppered with trucking industry businesses. Flatbeds and long-haul trucks continually clog the main road. Truck stops, machine shops, and junkyards dominate the industrial area. If you need a tire changed, a chassis welded, a radiator soldered, or a new radio installed, Fallujahans stand ready to provide the service. Once the Americans arrived, the people of Fallujah had the talent, resources, and inclination to smuggle weapons and manufacture IEDs.

Fallujah’s main thoroughfare teemed with BMWs, donkey carts, and long-haul trucks. The road was lined with a mixture of magnificent mansions, majestic mosques, multi-storied concrete buildings, and mudbrick shanties. Throughout the city there were many poor neighborhoods, some middle-class areas, and enclaves with luxurious homes. More large mansions and estates lined the banks of the Euphrates River.

Like most Iraqi cities, Fallujah was built of cinder blocks. Nearly every building was surrounded by a wall. Some walls had been meticulously constructed, the obvious work of a proud stonemason. But many had the look of the repetitive cycle of destruction, repair, more destruction, and hasty reassembly, thrown together in a helter-skelter fashion with blocks stacked upon blocks with little or no mortar, just waiting to be pushed over again. Most houses were small, two- or three-story buildings with concrete slab floors and thick roofs. Others were large, with landscaped courtyards, marble floors, and ornate furnishings.

Fallujah’s homes had been built to shelter their residents from the sweltering heat of the Iraqi summers. They also served to protect their residents from the continuous cycle of senseless violence. Concrete walls and roofs were sometimes three feet thick, with another three feet of dirt piled on the flat roofs. They were veritable bunkers. Most courtyard doors were made of sheet metal with two or three locks. Doors leading into homes were either metal or protected by a locked metal gate.

Because of this, Fallujah could not have been more attractive to the resistance. The population was distrusting of outsiders and naturally rebellious. Its workers provided the wherewithal to smuggle weapons, explosives, and foreign fighters. Its craftsmen provided the talent to build bombs, and every home was a mini-fortress.

As 2003 turned to 2004, the cancer inside Fallujah was growing. Most Fallujahans were unemployed. The insurgents launched attacks on nearby Baghdad and to control commercial traffic. The city was home to gunrunners and smugglers. It seemed as if every storefront had a backroom full of weapons. Everyone knew who specialized in particular items: some sold machine guns, and others provided sophisticated night-vision devices. The local bazaars were crawling with merchants of death.



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