Cuban refugee has a sacred mission

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My dear friend Fernando Marquet: Humanitarian, great patriot, freedom fighter, wonderful family man and friend,  has a great write up in a local newspaper, The Downey Patriot.  People such as Fernando are those who make our world a better place. I am very proud and honored to have worked with him on a number of his projects, including supporting and premiering the documentary, Oscars Cuba in Hollywood.  Congratulations Fernando, very well deserved!

Cuban refugee Fernando Marquet has a sacred mission
Marquet, who survived the botched Bay of Pigs, hopes for a free Cuba.

By  Henry Veneracion, Staff  Writer

DOWNEY – Fernando Marquet, one of the 1,400 Cuban exiles who took part in the botched Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961 to overthrow Fidel Castro and lived to tell about it, vows to propagate the cause of freedom in Cuba “until the day I die.” (In all, 114 were reported killed in the 3-day battle; the rest were captured and jailed.)

According to him, conditions in the Communist island nation of 11 million people continue to deteriorate today, even while Fidel, who’s pushing 88 and in bad health, has supposedly transferred the reins of power to his brother, Raul: repression is still very much the rule in the once vibrant country, there’s zero tolerance for dissent more than ever, and young minds are fed a steady diet of ideas and values fundamentally, diametrically opposed to our treasured ideals of liberal democracy.

Marquet was not yet 18 when he dropped his business classes at the University of Havana and flew to Florida because “I didn’t like what I was seeing” and didn’t want to live under Castro’s oppressive Communist regime. He soon after joined a like-minded group that continued to grow committed to unseating Castro, just as the latter, with the help of the charismatic Che Guevarra and Raul, overthrew Fulgencio Batista as 1959 began.

They were made to believe that the U.S. (courtesy of the CIA) would back them, including providing air cover and sea support. They would receive training, and when the invasion began, an uprising of dissident Cubans would join the battle. This added fervor to their undertaking.

Most of them, including Fernando’s group, trained in Guatemala. The organization came to be known as Brigade 2506, in honor of one of its earliest recruits who while undergoing training one day slipped and plunged into a ravine: his serial number was 2506.

Fernando was an infantryman in the 5th Battalion, as was his older cousin, Jorge Marquet. Together they survived the landing and fighting (they were strafed as well by one of Castro’s B-26 planes) on Red Beach, or otherwise referred to as Playa Larga.

Their ship was the commercial freighter “Houston.” When its captain managed to run it aground on a sandbar, 400 yards from shore, he saved the ship from sinking, while the men scrambled to reach the shore; some jumped in the water where sharks took care of a few of them.

To make the story short, Fernando was captured and, along with the other brigadistas, made the horrific trip to Havana. Horrific because the trip, which ordinarily took three hours, was stretched to nine hours. Making matters worse, infinitely worse, was the fact that the men, numbering about 150, were packed into this one paneled truck which had no opening whatsoever.

Here is how Jim Rasenberger describes the ordeal in his book, “Brilliant Disaster”: “As the truck rumbled north under the beating sun, the air became hotter and more stifling…Men shouted out for help. The devout prayed with rosary beads. Others desperately began to claw and scrape the walls, some using belt buckles to gouge small but precious air holes. ‘At one point, we felt rain inside,’ recalled one. ‘It was the condensation of our sweat falling from the ceiling. People drank it’. A paratrooper passed out and had a vision of his own death…By the time the truck reached Havana that evening and the doors finally opened to the fresh air, nine more men were dead.”

Most of them ended up in the Castillo del Principe prison. The prison featured stone dungeons “with thick, damp walls, snarling guard dogs, scurrying rats. The toilet was a hole in the ground. The food was tasteless gruel. Infectious diseases were rampant,” writes Rasenberger. “The biggest problem was the hygiene,” says Fernando. “I don’t know how we survived that ordeal.”

After almost a year of captivity, the brigadistas were tried and sentenced to 30 years of hard labor. During this time, though, efforts were already underway to have them released.

Finally, before the year 1962 was out, most of them were home.

One day after he touched down in Miami, Fernando, always alert to opportunity, was on his way to L.A. along with a few others, where Fernando eventually found work with Pan American Airlines, from 1968 to 1991. He says he did everything, ticketing, baggage handling, etc., and ended up as an accountant.

In the meantime, in 1972, he started his own cleaning business here in L.A. Today, he says, with a staff of 10, his thriving business cleans 18 major airlines.

There have been many accounts written of the plight of these Bay of Pigs ‘brigadistas’-but the basic narrative consists of how the invasion was doomed from the start because of aborted critical sorties, indecision and miscalculation at the top, unanticipated situations, loss of vital supplies of food, ammunition, and fuel, miscommunication, etc.

It was thus, alternately, a glorious and a tragic time. Historians, political pundits, and others agree the events that roiled those days shaped the course of history in many ways. But certainly one of its basic themes, perhaps its main theme, that’s safeguarded to this day is the inviolability of our democratic ideals.

It is in this context that, politically and socially, Fernando relishes his role as an ex-political prisoner and human rights activist.

His imprint is everywhere: he has organized, produced, and promoted video materials, projects and events for the benefit of former colleagues, friends, artists, and other worthwhile causes; he has fundraised for favorite politicians; he once went out of his way to assist a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses just because he realized they were in a real bind. “It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he says.

“What we hope to see is Cuba’s peaceful transition to a civil society,” he says. “Can you imagine a day when Cuba has free elections?”

This reporter is not exactly sure if the majority of the estimated 75,000 Cuban Americans living in Los Angeles has heard of the man and his “message.” Not to worry, that day is bound to come.

“Spread the word-this is my mission,” he says.

Do What’s Right, Online.

Read any Cuban newspaper or magazine from the early and late fifties you’ll learn that fidel castro and his Rebeldes were the best thing since sliced bread. Almost every major media source in Cuba supported his campaign and published accolades about the man and his “fight for change.” Many major American news sources followed suit, too, following the lead of Herbert Matthews and The New York Times. And when fidel castro and his Rebeldes “won” against the evil Batista, Cubans took to the streets in celebration. They were ecstatic. They were giddy. They were awash with hope for their futures, for their children’s futures. For the future of their country. They were convinced. Convinced! After all, they had been ensured by their major media sources that the man sitting atop a tank riding into Havana was their savior.

Now, in retrospect, we all know the truth. The people of Cuba were hoodwinked. Taken in not just by charm, a beard and a grin, but by those whose jobs as journalists wasn’t just to report the truth, but to dig behind that charm and grin and find the facts. The Cuban press never vetted fidel castro. They bought the bill of goods, whether consciously or not, that the man was selling and they not only gave him a free ride, they bought him the tickets, first class.

Ironically, when reality finally slapped the silly out of that press and they began to come to terms with the fact that they had bought the snake oil, it was too late. The press were the first ones jackbooted by the very same man they put in control over them. To this day, over half a century later, the Cuban press has been irrelevant.

I felt compelled to mention the above because we’ve faced and are facing a similar situation here in the Land of the Free. Those of you who read this blog regularly know this. You or your families have already seen this movie playing out before us. We all know the plot, and, unfortunately, we are all more than familiar with the ending.

There can be no argument that the Mainstream Media – or Legacy Media if you prefer – was instrumental in the election of Barrack Obama. Just like the Cuban press of the fifties, the MSM sold this country on Obama’s Hope and Change without even so much as a second thought as to what that hope and change would be, what consequences for same we’d have to suffer through and, most importantly, what motives the peddler atop the soap box hath.

And, for the past three and a half years, that Media has carried water for the man they put in office. Barrack Obama can do no harm. Esta es tu casa, Barrack. And make no mistake, the MSM will continue to hood wink us. They are all in. Their relevancy is as stake.

It’s not all gloom and doom, tho, folks. We don’t have to suffer the same fate as my island of birth as long as we are all willing to do one thing. We have to heed the words of Andrew Breitbart and GO TO WAR.

We’ve got our work cut out for us and in many respects it’s pretty nasty trench warfare, but if we don’t do it now, we may never get another chance. Either we do our time in those trenches right now and gain back our ground, or our children will live in the trenches to hold what little ground we’d have left them.

A week ago today I was in Las Vegas at the RightOnline Convention put together by Americans for Prosperity. It was there that I had the honor and privilege of meeting some of our fellow warriors who are in the trenches alongside us. Politicos, bloggers, social media gurus…people who understand the severity of our situation and who are already waging war on all fronts. From helping true Conservatives get elected into local, state and federal offices to facing off against the media sycophants and helping them off that precipice of irrelevancy.

We need more troops to stave off the lies and hypocrisy of the Left and their Media allies. Our greatest weapon, the internet, has already been deployed. Man it. Stay informed, read your favorite blogs, pass the information along. Use your facebook. Tweet the shit out of the truth.

Had there been an internet fifty some odd years ago, fidel castro would have never taken power. Mull that over a bit.

Fifty-three years of desperation and repression avoided by keystrokes.

Thankful…

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This need for selflessness – and the blessings that come with it – sharpened for me almost four years ago when I was given the gift of broader horizons, clarified priorities, and more commitment to justice and compassion for my fellow man who faces challenges and fears.

I was granted this through a gift that arrived in a tiny, six-pound, awe-inspiring bundle. We named him Trig.

I know America’s potential for goodness, thus greatness, because I see it every day through my son.

Nothing makes me happier or prouder than to see America’s good heart when someone smiles at my Trig. I notice it happens often in airports. Often a traveler passing by does a double-take when they see him, perhaps curious about the curious look on his face; perhaps my son momentarily exercises an uncontrollable motion that takes the passerby by surprise.

Perhaps, as an innocent and candid child announced when she first met Trig, they think “he’s awkward.”

But when that traveler pauses to look again and smile, and maybe tells me what a handsome boy I have, I swell with American pride. I am so thankful for their good heart. They represent the best in our country and their kindness shows the real hope we need today.

I am thankful that, as in so many areas of life, the bitter people who say bitter things about someone facing challenges are so outnumbered. There have been stinging criticisms, even from people still screaming that Trig should never have been born, but we know those critics may be the loudest and most malicious, but they’re not the majority.

To me, when individuals reflect the greater societal acceptance of someone facing challenges, they show the best of humanity – even by offering a simple pat on Trig’s head or a knowing smile shot our way.

Conversely, when a society works to eliminate the “weakest links” (as some would callously consider the disabled) or “the unproductive” (as some would callously consider the very young and the very old), it eliminates the very best of itself.

When a society seeks to destroy them, it also destroys any ability or need for sincere compassion, empathy, improvement, and even goodwill. And those are the very best qualities of humanity! Those are the characteristics of a country that understands and embraces true hope!

America can be compassionate and strong enough as a nation to be entrusted with those who some see as an “inconvenience,” but who are really our greatest blessings.

Wherever she goes … Whatever she ends up doing, I am thankful for Sarah Palin sharing her son Trig with us. We are the 10% of Mommies.

Remembering Laura Pollán

I will forever hold in my heart the image of Laura Pollán, dressed in white, carrying gladiolus, leading the column of  Las Damas de Blanco. How many of us waited every Sunday for news of their weekly act of brave resistance, their peaceful, dignified walk down Havana’s 5th Avenue, as we prayed for their safety, the release of their husbands and all political prisoners, and inspired by their bravery and dignity, dared to hope for more, so much more for Cuba.

Laura Pollán´s dissidence is reminiscent of China’s Tank Man.  She dared to stand down the might of an oppressive state, and sadly has suffered the same fate as that unknown rebel, but with one significant difference; unlike China’s invisible rebel, Laura Pollán is not going to disappear. Just as the weak and cowardly Castro dictators were rendered helpless to stop Laura from marching in life, her cause, Libertad, Libertad, Libertad, will prevail. They will be unable to stop Cuba’s inevitable passage out of bondage to freedom.

In the days ahead the Cuban diaspora and friends will be holding memorial tributes for Laura Pollán; we will wear white, carry gladiolus, and in her honor, we will raise our fists in solidarity with Las Damas de Blanco and all of Cuba’s dissidents.   They will continue their fight for freedom with her name added to the list of heroes and martyrs who inspire them and whose legacy they carry.  We will continue to support, as the MSM reminds us, those “tiny” number of dissidents.  The same tiny dissident movement always present during the 52 years of the Castro dictatorship, the same tiny dissident movement that Castro’s firing squads, concentration camps, forced re-locations, exile, actos de repudios, the 200 plus prisons—a gulag, has not silenced.  May God Bless and keep always, Laura Pollán.

The Nation’s Loyal Retrievers of 9/11

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I know … One more 9/11 Tenth Anniversary story. One I hadn’t thought of, however. I know dogs were brought in from around the nation to search the mountains of rubble and debris for days and weeks after the terror attacks. First looking for survivors … then retrieving remains. I even remember a story on the special paw protection shoes developed for these wonderful pooches to keep them from injuring their paws in all the jagged wreckage. But something that didn’t dawn on me until I saw this story tonight … Ten years is a long time in “dog years”.

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Out of over 100 loyal dogs that searched Ground Zero, only 12 are still with us in their ‘senior years’ ten years later. Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas had the wonderful idea to track down these survivors and take their portraits and document their stories for a book titled “Retrieved” (More photos and stories of the dogs here). I think that’s one book I will be purchasing when it comes out.

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The Hoof Blog has more information and photos of the dogs that answered the call to duty on 9/11, and for the days and weeks that followed as the dust settled.

All dogs really do go to Heaven… Some just lead the way.

HT: AoSH

“Untouched”: From Rescue To Redefining Recovery

You hear it in accidents and disasters, and on 9/11 … This has gone from a rescue to a recovery. That means there is no hope to find anyone alive. The job now is to find the victims’ remains and bring them home to their families.

I stumbled across another hidden story of 9/11. This is FDNY’s Firefighter John Morabito of Firehouse 10, Ladder Company 10 in Manhattan that was built in 1979 at the completion of the construction of the World Trade Center specifically to protect the WTC, answering roughly 600 emergency calls a year at the two towers. The firehouse was about 50-100 yards away from the South Tower. The guys were at breakfast in the firehouse and heard the first plane hit the first building. Firefighter John Morabito tells his jaw-dropping story of 9/11 from that moment on. It’s 4 parts from a TV program on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network called “Miracle Detectives” that I gather centers on finding and telling stories of miracles in people’s lives. Here are parts 1 and 2, and the links to 3 and 4. Please take the time if you can spare it to experience Firefighter John Morabito’s incredible story of impossible survival, and the faith that got him through moment to moment of that terror-filled experience of death and destruction to find his own clarity and perspective 10 years later. I promise you will not regret it.

Part 3 and Part 4

In part 4 Firefighter John Morabito’s revelation of walking across the bridge to leave Ground Zero and what he discovered on the other side is, quite simply, astounding. He also explains that he and the other surviving firefighters of Firehouse 10 came to the stark reality they were not going to rescue anyone from the rubble, and the post-9/11 determination that I call redefining recovery as his firehouse was tasked with not only recovering the remains of victims, but to keep and rebuild Firehouse 10 to recover, rescue, and rebuild their purpose as a firefighting company. They now have a new mission to be the extended family for those Firehouse 10 brothers that left families behind. I read last weekend during the 10th anniversary that Hollywood has dropped the ball on 9/11. They really have not given a good effort to make movies that depict any of the many stories of that day. This is one that deserves being shared.

I’m telling you … just when I began feeling we were getting hopeless drowning in all this “hope and change” I, just as Firefighter John Morabito, am seeing that glow of gray light through the choking dark cloud and share his conclusions of that day. I have a growing faith in the American people. The John Morabitos and the 9/11 boat lift captains are not anomalies. We are going to have to do this ourselves, but we are going to make it out of the rubble and redefine recovery…

Cross-posted @ CW

We are less for never having known them, but so much more because of them

One of our Navy SEALS killed in the Chinook chopper crash over the weekend, U.S. Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, is remembered by his parents and his wife. I am struck by the legacy of patriotism Aaron left behind with his family. It gives his family great fortitude and comfort knowing he did this nation a great service that can never be repaid, and did so knowing that with each and every mission it could be his last and he might not return home to them. I cannot even begin to imagine the incredible pressure within these people’s chests as their hearts break with the loss, yet swell with pride and honor.

These men are the best of the best the world will ever see. Aaron’s mother is right. The U.S. Navy SEALS are so guarded in their missions that you never hear about them until they are taken from us. We are less for never having known Aaron Vaughn and his SEAL brothers, but we are so much more because of them.

We all don’t have to be told how times are tough … But it just got a lot worse for more than 30 families. If you can, please help a little: Navy SEAL Foundation

Medal of Honor Recipient SSG Sal Giunta: “I Could Feel The Weight In My Ruck …”

“My name in lights doesn’t look that good … but if I can bring everyone else’s name with me then … cool. I think that looks good with everyone else’s name there …”

Medal of Honor Recipient SSG Sal Giunta recounts the battle where he and his men were ambushed, and friends were lost … but not taken:

(Some strong language …)

The Sal Giunta Story from SebastianJunger/TimHetherington on Vimeo.

(H/T Burn Pit)

The Ronald Reagan Centennial (UPDATED)

Here a selection of pieces published on the occasion of Reagan’s centennial. Feel free to add links to other tributes in the comments.

Click the link below for the tributes written by our contributors:

  • A Leader like few others by George Moneo
  • Guayaberas Blancas by Val Prieto
  • Ronnie Reagan: A Legacy of Love and Devotion by Maggie (DrillANWR)
  • Spoiled by Alberto de la Cruz
  • A Gift by Ziva Sahl
  • Idealist AND Ideologue by Henry Gomez
  • A Slobbering Love Affair — Cuban Americans and Ronald Reagan by Humberto Fontova

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Livin’ The Dream: Otto Padron Is Superman

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Otto Padron is one of America’s heroes with two careers, a mission, and an ultimate dream:

By day he works for the Univision television network, by night he flies through Florida’s night sky as a U.S. Army reserve officer. If that weren’t enough, he is marrying his leading lady –the star of the Mexican version of Ugly Betty, TV star Angelica Vale — all while going to school to complete his MBA.

On Presidents day in 2007, while sitting in his corner office of the Univision building in Miami, Padron, 47, was still trying to grasp his newest promotion to Senior Vice President of Programming for the network.

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As he closed the door to his executive office behind him to toast the accomplishment with coworkers — his cell phone rang. He picked up. It was his Army reserve unit. “Capt. Padron, we have good news and we have bad news,” the voice said on the other end. “The good news is you are being promoted to Major. The bad news is you are being promoted to Major in Iraq.”

In just two weeks time, he went from the confines of his executive office to the desert runway at Baghdad International Airport. Padron chose to accept the call for duty as part of the Iraq surge, putting his civilian career on hold.

“How do you tell your employer you are leaving in two and half weeks?”Padron said. “It was an amazing transition to make in a matter of 27 days.”

Padron, 47, has been in the Army reserves for 27 years, but his call up to Iraq was a life changing experience. As the executive officer and an imbedded maneuver military advisor to the 2nd Iraqi Army Division in the Ninevah Province in Mosul, Major Padron and his team found themselves in harms way. An improvised explosive device, IED, detonated while he and his team were on patrol, blowing up the armored vehicle in front of his. The force of the explosion blew open Padron’s vehicle door while violently lifting the front of his vehicle.

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Hey “Progressives,” We’re Not Dead Yet

From YouTube:

Elizabeth’s debut singing the national anthem on January 7, 2011 at the Norfolk Admirals game. The good news is that she did a wonderful job. The bad news is that the mike died after “gave proof.” However, the crowd picked up the song and she kept her composure and stood there singing. But nobody got to hear her amazing high note on “free.” But more good news–she was invited to come sing again, so I hope to post the complete version for you to enjoy soon…

The Voice of Clear Reason In The Choking Fog

This sweet and beautiful little lady was one of many babies born in the scorching fog of horrific tragedy on 9-11-01, and now has left this world in the blinding blast of another. Her father is one of the only clear-headed voices I have heard to date, and his heart and soul are sick with grief. HIS mind is fighting to remain clear and commited as he tries to not drown in his tears and misery for this crushing loss. If he can do it why can’t those who have not personally lost such a great gift do it … remain calm, collected and rational? Apparently he is a better man than most …

AMEN, John, and thank you! God bless him and the family (all the families of those affected by this insanity). God keep Christina-Taylor Green.

Christina-Taylor Green‘s Grandfather, Dallas Green, is a former MLB player and is currently involved with the MLB Phillies.

A Hero Makes His Last Jump

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Easy Company 101st AB’s leader on D-Day and throughout the European campaign in WWII Maj. Dick Winters.

UPDATE: Obituary below the fold …

I am being informed Maj. Winters has passed away, though it is unclear exactly what day, but it looks like last Sunday. My fellow Bandheads who are in close contact with the surviving members of Easy Company and their families say Maj. Winters’ loving wife Ethel did not publicize his passing (See the Winters quote at the bottom of this post …). Knowing the loyal following Maj. Winters gained since the airing of HBO’s “Band of Brothers” series I am sure the family anticipated a flood of attention during this time and was looking to avoid such.

From Maj. Dick Winters’ fan site:

REST IN PEACE MAJOR WINTERS
by Linda on Sun Jan 09, 2011 3:27 pm

Dear friends, I regret to inform you that Major Winters passed away earlier this week after a long illness.
Please do not contact the Winters family and respect their privacy.
Mrs. Winters will release the news to the public shortly. […]

The last jump is the best jump … The air never leaves your chute – Pvt. Jack Parker (82nd AB veteran) weeks before his passing summer 2009 (my Uncle/Godfather)

Dick Winters the night after D-Day: “That night, I took time to thank God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. And if, somehow, I managed to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace.”

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