“A Grieving Father’s Plea For Our Troops” By John Bernard

Last week, I told you about the tragic combat death in Afghanistan of  Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, and the abuse this remarkable Marine’s family has endured. Over the Bernard family’s pleas and objections, the Associated Press distributed a gory battlefield photo depicting Joshua, mortally wounded, just after a Taliban RPG had blown his leg off. Joshua’s father is John Bernard, 1st Sgt. USMC (ret.), and I’ve asked him to share from his heart. He wrote the following thoughts on Sunday, upon returning from the service that awarded his son’s posthumous Purple Heart medal. Please read and carefully consider what he has written. — Jim Bennett, The B.H.   

JBernardThe last few weeks since our son’s death have found me embroiled in a battle for the soul of the country and the lives of our Warriors. Both are inextricably linked because both are in the hands of some of the most immoral men and women in our history. I can say this with certainty because no one with a functional conscience would place a fellow American in a place where they knew they would be attacked, only to deny them the tools – or opportunity — to defend themselves.  Sadly, this is exactly what has happened, and both the political machine and the majority of the population seem to be unconcerned.I am alluding to the current Rules of Engagement (ROE) that have been in place since the end of June in Afghanistan. These rules govern the who, when and how our Warriors can engage in combat. The current rules force our Warriors to ‘break engagement’ with the enemy if there are civilians present; they also deny them the ability to prosecute a battle with the enemy if there is a possibility of civilians in the area; they further deny them the ability to chase the enemy or to seek to engage them if they cannot be absolutely sure there are no civilians in the area. The impetus for these rules is a philosophy fostered by the current administration. It essentially says that we, as Americans, are primarily to blame for the poor relations we are experiencing with the Muslim world community. Further, this philosophy insists that repairing those relations is paramount – even at the expense of the security of this nation and certainly the lives of our Warriors. I DO NOT SHARE THAT VIEW. Nothing should be more sacred to the elected officials of this country than the security of Americans. Anything less is sedition. We have a historical and biblical precedent for exporting violence to defend these shores. We are in violation of conscience and our many sworn oaths if we don’t.

The fruit of this philosophy and its ROE can be measured in body bags filled with the lifeless forms of our honorable Warriors, of whom my son was one. Another side ‘benefit’ of this philosophy is the forced integration of Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan Police among the ranks of our Marines and Soldiers. There have already been two well documented ambushes in the past four weeks, in which it has been suggested that either/both ANA and Afghan Police have either initiated ambushes or informed Taliban forces of impending plans. In both cases Marines were killed.

This save-the-civilians-at-all-cost policy is short-sighted and self-destructive. The point is that we are there, according to this current administration, to safeguard the civilian population from the Taliban, but we can’t fire at the Taliban if there are civilians in the area. Predictably, Taliban forces have exploited this weakness in our strategy and they now choose to engage us exclusively from civilian population areas where, of course, we are forbidden from engaging them. We are forced to patrol these areas to keep out the Taliban, but we can’t kill them when we find them. We are regularly denied the air and artillery support we need to protect the civilian population (which, again, we can no longer protect because we can no longer chase and kill the enemy, get it?)  The result is Marines and Soldiers being forced into killing zones without so much as the ability to defend themselves.

Your elected officials are to blame for this. They are to blame because they are kneeling at the altar of the White House in obedience, either with blind, reckless disregard for the lives that are being lost needlessly, or because they remain willingly ignorant. Add to this that only 20 of the sitting members of Congress have ever worn a uniform and what you have is a political institution making moral decisions about things they are not invested in or, even worse, they are complicit in, for personal gain, in spite of the cost to our Warriors.

Our Warriors are the best in our society. They always have been. They do the unthinkable, under the worst possible conditions, for the worst possible political motivations, simply because they have sworn an oath to do so. In the end, they are four years behind their peers and often come back into society with physical disabilities directly attributable to their service. Even more often they suffer mental maladies from the horrors they have witnessed. Add to this that now they are being led into killing fields laid by the Afghan forces they are ordered to work with (and who have been given carte blanche by our own politicians).

It’s time to get off the couch and hold these people accountable. I don’t want any more parents to take the trip to Dover Air Force Base that my wife, daughter and I had to take four weeks ago to receive our Joshua’s remains.  May God have mercy on us all.  


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  • Ken Anderson  On September 16, 2009 at 08:20

    As usual 1st Sgt. Bernard takes tragedy and uses it in a constructive message to our leadership about how to save American warriors lives as few can. Its seems almost inconcievable that we have to rely on leaders like the 1st Sgt to do this. Obviously not an indictment on our Sr. officers in the various branches, but, doesn’t Westpoint and the Naval academy teach us to learn from the failed strategies of history? How about the war college? Of course they do, so it must be asked why would our Sr. leadership allow an ROE policy that results in casualties and deaths of Americas warriors? I wonder if it is our Sr. officers that are running the show at all. Or is it like so much else in the current (and to some extent previous) administration? A nameless, faceless bureaucrat politicizing what should be a military operation with one clear goal. DESTROY THE ENEMY.

  • R. Linn  On September 16, 2009 at 13:24

    Well said, 1st Sgt. Bernard. I lost my Marine son and three fellow Marines in Iraq from an RPG in a well-planned ambush…

    Semper Fidelis,


  • Dennis White  On September 17, 2009 at 10:07

    All I can say is that I greatly appreciate our military, their dedication, their sacrifices, and their families. I will do my best to spread the word, and to share the link to this site. And, I will pray.

    I might also mention that I learned of this site from an Internet News Discussion Board, so this site is well on it’s way to becoming widespread. I have also posted a link to this site on my FaceBook page. And, I am only one.

    God Bless the USA

  • dudley rogers  On September 17, 2009 at 10:20

    I’m a grandfather of a Marine serving in Afganistan, and I’m very concerned after reading on new rules of engagement after two Marine’s and many other Afgan’s soldiers and Police got killed, because our Leaders would not send in Helicopter fire when they were pinned down. I’m sorry for all our Soldiers and Marines Killed , especially when this could have been avoided. We are in War and they don’t use rules of engagement, and if our leaders will not support our Troups we should get out of their and not get our people wounded and killed.

    I hope you understand me, I’ve had enough, I saw all the lives lost in Vietman, we are not the police of the world.

    Since we are their lets get the job done and come home safely.

    A Proud American, Dudley Rogers /985-510-9676

  • Rick White  On September 17, 2009 at 13:50

    You and your family have my deepest sympathy, and prayers this in my opinion this is uncalled for I am 58 yrs. old and it seems I remember the simularity in the (ROE) during Vieatnam. If those civilians allow them people to hide amongst them then may god have mercy on them. We are there to get rid of them bullys so the Gov. needs to stay out of how our trained men & women do there job. That is my humble opinion and as an American all of those warriors have my deepest respect for what they are trying to do. So let them do it we are there to win so let them, we have the technology to do so so let them use it. Again my deepest sympathy and God bless you and your family and all the other families of all the other families of our fallen warriors and the families of loved ones fighting for someone elses freedom. God bless America and our fighting soldiers (all branches)

  • Steven Belden  On September 17, 2009 at 14:41

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Perhaps America should bring all of our troops home and save lives of both sides fighting. May peace on earth return

  • DavidinAtlanta  On September 25, 2009 at 09:37

    I am very appreciative of the sacrifice that 1st Sgt. Bernard and his family has made for this country. Four years ago, I received a call that my son had been wounded in action in Afghanistan. I felt such overwhelming anxiety that I could not protect my son as I did when he was small. He is a grown man but still my feelings for him are very tender. My heart goes out to the Bernard family in this time of sorrow.

    My son who is in Army Special Ops told me that he has become more afraid, in the past 2-3 years, of the military lawyers who sit safely in rear areas than he is of coming up against the Taliban or Al Qaeda. He told me that nearly every action he has fought recently requires him initially to delay acting for fear that he could be accused of a war crime or a violation of the Geneva code.

    His officers have become more cautious about their careers and continuing advancement than safeguarding the lives of their men in split second decision making. As the father of this decorated soldier who has fought engagements every year since 9/11, this worry he has frightens me more than anything else he experiences in a combat zone.

    If it is a choice between identifying a civilian correctly in a firefight and my son’s white tombstone at Arlington, then as his father I want him to pull the trigger without hesitation.

    • Jim Bennett  On September 25, 2009 at 10:21

      This says it all. In my own brief and relatively mild experiences during the first Gulf War, I was able to function without such constraints. Perhaps that partially explains the brevity and success of that particular conflict. I cannot imagine trying to take care of business in combat while constantly second-guessing myself. My prayers and thanks go out to you and your son.
      – The B.H.

  • Nancy Stenske  On October 6, 2009 at 01:22

    I am very sorry about the death of your son. I am here in Afghanistan (4 years) and I agree with you 100%. I cannot get on your blog because my company has blocks on many websites. I feel that one statement that keeps getting overlooked needs to be addressed. Pres. Bush said we would find and punish those who attacked American AND THOSE WHO HARBOR THEM. Most of the villagers here in Afghanistan leave when they know the Troops are coming. Or, they come out to meet our troops and ask for help. The ones that stay in the compounds with the taliban are the ones harboring the enemy! They are sympathizers. Also, you must understand that women in this country are considered less important than the sheep so if they kill their wife or wives and blame it on the Troops, that is better for them because they get money from the Troops and they can alwas get another wife or have more children. As far as I am concerned, they are aiding and abetting the taliban and they need to be killed along with their “friends” if they don’t surrender. I am not sorry if this offends anyone—war is hell–get used to it. Not one lawyer jumped up to defend any of our families of the men who had their heads cut off with a knife and displayed on the internet,and yet they fight over who will represent the ones commiting murder so they can get a fair trial. I wonder what their real agenda is?
    Another good eyeopening book to read is written by retired General Ricardo Sanchez. His book will give you an idea just who the politicians really think about. It definately is not the troops. And tell me, when did we EVER give the job of running the war to journalists?Have any of these people ever been to War college or had any training at all that our Officers have had? Most of these people here in Afghanistan give OPSEC info out in every article they write. This is stuff we are told not to talk about even to our mates incase some of the local Afghanis working on
    camp might hear and pass on to the taliban. The journalists print it in the paper! And please don’t tell me they can’t read English. These people are smart like rattle snakes, they have been an occupied nation for many years and have the technique of “playing stupid” down pat.
    Also, the last point I would like to make is that I don’t believe these people bashing our troops have ever read the koran. If they did, they would understand that these people are taught by mohamed to lie, cheat, steal and kill from the people of the book(Jews) and any other believers(Christians). They are suppose to do whatever it takes to get what we have.This is very evident to anyone who has been here for any amount of time. The Afghanis who spend time on camp are always begging money(even though the American tax payers pay them to keep them off the streets). Someone in the family is always sick, or the roof leaks, or they don’t have a generator for electricity (since their “firends ” have blown up the power plants) or on and on it goes. After a month it starts all over again .
    If these Afghanis cannot HELP in defending their own people and their country for their FREEDOM then we do not need to be killing our boys by having them over here. So, these politions need to let our troops do the job without tieing their hands. Now one thing is that we can’t be like Saddam Husien and murder innocent people, but the women and children in the compounds or mosques are HARBORING the ENEMY and our troops should have the right to fight them and WIN!!!!!

  • Jack Corcoran  On October 9, 2009 at 19:30

    Where are our elected representatives? They should be coming out fighting for the men and women in our Armed services. The power of the people will be evident in 2010 and 2012 when we vote these cowards out of office. Our country is being taken over my socialists. and Marxists. Now is the hour.
    Korean Vet (USN)

  • Jim DePalo  On October 10, 2009 at 14:55

    I was in Vietnam back in the sixties with 3rd Recon and the politicians
    and government did the same thing to us. These ROE’s are outrageous and if Obama really wants us to win the war against the terrorists then he should let the military descide what the ROE’s should be not the politicians

  • Carroll Davis  On October 15, 2009 at 16:32

    First what I want to say to John Bernard and his family: Sorry for your loss and my heart and prayers go out to you during your time of grief. I appreciate your son and you as well for your service to the people of America.
    I am a single mother of two impressionable boys who have mentioned several times about joining the Armed Forces. For you see we live in a town very close to a military base. When I read about this very heartbreaking story I cried of course and now have become outraged. I can’t imagine how heart wrenching it would be to hear one of my sons talk about how much danger he was in because of this new Rules of Enagement. Then to lose them so soon after. I have always supported the war and the troops since 9/11. However the new policies of this administration are very scary to me. I don’t want mine or anyones son or daughter fighting under such conditions as these. I will definetly be writing my Congressmen about this issue. Keep up the fight!

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