Category: military


Baathists quit over Syria’s Deraa crackdown

Protesters are seen holding placards during a demonstration in Douma townhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110427/wl_nm/us_syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis Khaled Yacoub Oweis 23 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – More than 200 members of Syria’s ruling Baath Party quit on Wednesday over President Bashar al-Assad’s violent repression of pro-democracy protests, the first public sign of serious dissent within the governing ranks.

Resigning from the autocratic Baath Party, which has ruled Syria since taking power in a 1963 coup, was unthinkable before pro-democracy protests erupted in the southern city of Deraa on March 18.

A rights group said the violence had killed more than 450 people and international criticism sharpened after 100 people were killed on Friday and security forces began an attack on the southern city of Deraa on Monday.

Two hundred party members from Deraa province and surrounding regions said they had resigned in protest against the attack, in which security forces killed at least 35 people.

“In view of the negative stance taken by the leadership of the Arab Socialist Baath Party toward the events in Syria and in Deraa, and after the death of hundreds and the wounding of thousands at the hands of the various security forces, we submit our collective resignation,” they said in a declaration.

Another 28 Baathists in the restive coastal city of Banias also resigned on Wednesday in protest at the “practices of the security forces against honorable citizens… and torture and murder they committed.”

Analysts say the demonstrations that have spread across Syria have grown in intensity, with protestors who began calling for reform of the system now demanding its overthrow.

Bashir’s attempts to appease discontent by lifting emergency law, while keeping draconian powers of the secret police and the Baath Party’s monopoly on power, have not stopped protests.

Security forces earlier on Wednesday surrounded Banias, while tanks patrolled Deraa and troops moved into the Damascus suburb of Douma, another seat of anti-government protests.

Assad’s decision to storm Deraa echoed his father’s 1982 suppression of Islamists in Hama and drew threats of sanctions from western powers.

Germany said it strongly supported EU sanctions against the Syrian leadership, and the bloc’s executive body, the European Commission, said all options were on the table for punitive measures against Damascus.

France summoned Syria’s ambassador to protest at the violence and said Britain, Spain, Germany and Italy were doing the same. “Syrian authorities must meet the legitimate demands of their people with reforms, and not through the use of force,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

The United States, which imposed a limited economic embargo against Syria in 2004, says it is considering further targeted sanctions in response to the “abhorrent and deplorable” violence by security forces deployed in the crackdown on protesters.

Amnesty International has urged the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, impose an arms embargo and freeze assets belonging to Assad and others involved in serious human rights abuses.

DEATH TOLL

A witness told Reuters that a convoy of at least 30 army tanks headed early on Wednesday from southwest of Damascus, near the Golan Heights front line with Israel, in a direction which could take them either to Douma or to Deraa.

Overnight, white buses had brought hundreds of soldiers in full combat gear into Douma, from where protesters have tried to march into the center of the capital in the last two weeks, only to be stopped by bullets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had names of at least 453 civilians killed during the protests across the country against Assad’s 11-year authoritarian rule.

Syria has been dominated by the Assad family since Bashar’s father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, took power in a 1970 coup. The younger Assad kept intact the autocratic political system he inherited in 2000 while the family expanded its control over the country’s struggling economy.

The unrest could have serious regional repercussions because Syria straddles the fault lines of Middle East conflict.

Assad has strengthened Syria’s ties with Shi’ite Iran, and both countries back the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups, although Damascus still seeks peace with Israel. Syria and Israel are technically at war but the Golan frontier between them has been quiet since a 1974 ceasefire.

BODY “RUN OVER BY TANK”

A resident in Deraa, where electricity, water and phone lines were cut when the army rolled in at dawn on Monday, said fresh food was running out and grocery stores were giving away their produce. “It’s mostly tinned food they are distributing to us,” he said by telephone.

A relative said his neighbor saw a tank driving over the body of a young man in the main Tishrin square on Tuesday.

“They are telling us: ‘You have to accept us and we will remain forever your rulers, whether you like it or not. And if you resist us, this is your fate’,” he said.

He said the army push into Deraa was also a warning to other cities of what they could expect if protests continued. “But God willing, we are steadfast and this only strengthens our resolve to get rid of them — not tomorrow, today,” he added.

Diplomats said the unit Assad sent into Deraa on Monday was the ultra-loyal Fourth Mechanised Division, commanded by his brother Maher. Reports from opposition figures and some Deraa residents, which could not be confirmed, said that some soldiers from another unit had refused to fire on civilians.

Syria has blamed armed groups for the violence. Protesters say their rallies have been peaceful and security forces have opened fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Assad, a member of Syria’s Alawite minority, nevertheless retains some support, especially among co-religionists who dominate the army and secret police and could lose preferential treatment if majority Sunni Syria was to transform into a democracy.

An alliance between the ruling minority and the Sunni merchant class, forged by the elder Assad through a blend of coercion and the granting of privileges, still holds, robbing protesters of financial backing and a foothold in the old bazaars of Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s second city.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110427/wl_nm/us_syria_baath

AMMAN (Reuters) – Two hundred members of Syria’s ruling Baath Party from the province of Deraa and surrounding regions resigned on Wednesday in protest against an attack by security forces on the southern city.

Resigning from the Baath Party, which has ruled Syria since taking power in a 1963 coup, was unthinkable before pro-democracy protests erupted in Deraa on March 18.

“In view of the negative stance taken by the leadership of the Arab Socialist Baath Party toward the events in Syria and in Deraa, and after the death of hundreds and the wounding of thousands at the hands of the various security forces, we submit our collective resignation,” said a declaration signed by the Deraa officials.

A separate declaration sent to Reuters said a further 28 Baathists in the restive coastal city of Banias also resigned on Wednesday to protest the “practices of the security forces against honorable citizens… and torture and murder they committed.”

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2011/0411/Road-map-to-Libya-peace-comes-as-both-sides-show-signs-of-fatigue

Johannesburg, South Africa

Libyan rebels are studying a truce proposal from the African Union, a day after Libya’s embattled President Muammar Qaddafi signaled that he would be willing to explore a cease-fire to allow humanitarian organizations access to civilians caught in the crossfire.

The AU’s proposed “road map” to peace comes at a time when both Mr. Qaddafi’s forces and the rebels have shown signs of fatigue, with battlefield gains by one quickly erased by the other. A long-term settlement is still far off, as rebels say the only way they’ll agree to open discussions with the regime is if Qaddafi’s forces retreat and if Qaddafi himself steps down. Yet even if the cease-fire proves to be temporary, the AU’s efforts may help to quiet criticism of the AU as ineffective in times of conflict.

“This has significance beyond Libya,” says Steven Friedman, a senior political observer and head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg. “Five years ago, some of the responses we are seeing today would not have been possible. We are now at the stage where the AU is willing to step in and intervene in a conflict.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

Presidential panel

A panel of five African presidents, including South African President Jacob Zuma, flew to Tripoli on Sunday to propose the cease-fire on humanitarian grounds, urging both sides to explore dialogue that would lead to a peaceful settlement.

The AU presidents also urged NATO to stop its air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces, a campaign that was itself backed by the United Nations Security Council in the interests of protecting civilians against Qaddafi’s use of heavy weapons in urban areas.

By organizing talks in Libya, the AU is taking back responsibility for resolving conflicts that many African leaders see as having been taken away from them when the UN Security Council approved a “no fly zone” in the spirit of protecting civilians.

In addition to its work in Libya, the AU has also been active in trying to broker peace talks in Ivory Coast, albeit with much less success so far. The AU has sent several high-level delegations to persuade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and President-elect Alassane Ouattara to support a cease-fire and explore the possibility of a power-sharing government. Both men claim to have won the Nov. 28, 2010, runoff elections, although Mr. Ouattara’s claim has the benefit of broad support from the international community as well as the Ivory Coast’s own independent electoral commission.

‘Libyans must decide’

In Tripoli on Monday, the AU commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters that “it’s not up to any outside force, even the African Union itself, to decide on the behalf of the Libyan people on who the leader of the country should be.”

President Zuman of South Africa portrayed Qaddafi’s acceptance of the proposed “road map” to peace as a victory for the AU, and urged NATO to curb its aerial attacks.

“[Qaddafi’s] delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” Zuma said after meeting Qaddafi. “We have to give cease-fire a chance.”

But analysts caution against a plan that Qaddafi could see as bolstering his long-term prospects.

“If the deal is simply intended to allow humanitarian relief to have access, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with that,” adds Mr. Friedman. “The fear is that this will be an attempt to prop him [Qaddafi] up and keep him in power.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110408/ap_on_re_eu/eu_nato_libya

By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Slobodan Lekic, Associated Press 10 mins ago

BRUSSELS – NATO acknowledged Friday that its airstrikes had hit rebels using tanks to fight government forces in eastern Libya, saying no one told them the rebels used tanks.

British Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the NATO operation, said in the past, only forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi had used heavy armored vehicles.

Harding says the rebels and government troops are engaged in a series of advances and retreats between the eastern coastal towns of Brega and Ajdabiya, making it difficult for pilots to distinguish between them.

NATO jets attacked a rebel convoy between these two towns Thursday, killing at least five fighters and destroying or damaging a number of armored vehicles.

“It would appear that two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in (rebel) deaths,” Harding told reporters in Naples, where the alliance’s operational center is located.

“I am not apologizing,” he said. “The situation on the ground was and remains extremely fluid, and until yesterday we did not have information that (rebel) forces are using tanks.”

The strikes, including an attack earlier this week, provoked angry denunciations of NATO by the rebels. At the same time, NATO officials have expressed frustration with the Libyan insurgents, who now view the alliance, whose mandate is limited to protecting civilians in Libya, as their proxy air force.

NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, however, expressed regret over the loss of life, saying alliance forces were doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

NATO last week took control over the international airstrikes that began March 19 as a U.S.-led mission. The airstrikes thwarted Gadhafi’s efforts to crush the rebellion in the North African nation he has ruled for more than four decades, but the rebels remain outnumbered and outgunned and have had difficulty pushing into government-held territory even with air support.

Harding said Friday that NATO jets had conducted 318 sorties and struck 23 targets across Libya in the past 48 hours. They have flown over 1,500 sorties in the eight days since the alliance assumed overall command from a U.S.-led force.

NATO’s jets have destroyed Gadhafi’s anti-aircraft missile defenses, T-72 tanks and ammunition dumps, Harding said. The attacks also targeted Gadhafi’s loyalist forces in the besieged city of Misrata, where rebels continue to hold out.

Critics have questioned NATO’s limited strategy of only protecting civilians threatened by Gadhafi’s troops, rather than trying to eliminate the threat completely by destroying the strongman’s regime.

“By not striking at the regime from the outset, Gadhafi was granted the initiative to embed his forces in urban settings hiding behind human shields in a form of guerrilla warfare,” said Barack Seneer, a researcher on the Middle East at the Royal United Services Institute, a British military think tank.

“A no-fly zone is not equipped to contend with guerrilla warfare or with a stalemate that places rebels and loyalists at close proximity with one another.” he said

Despite the attacks on anti-aircraft sites, Gadhafi’s forces still pose a danger for NATO warplanes. They retain radars and surface-to-air missiles, as well as automatic cannons and shoulder-launched missiles that can hit planes at altitudes up to 5,000 meters (15,000 feet).

Over the past week, Gadhafi’s forces had switched tactics by leaving their heavy armor behind and using only light trucks armed with heavy machine guns and fast-firing anti-aircraft cannons on the front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya. These have proven very effective in disrupting repeated rebel attempts to push west toward Tripoli, but Gadhafi’s forces have not been able to drive the rebels back toward Benghazi or establish a solid front line in that sector.

“These trucks cannot hold ground,” Harding said. “When you see their tanks coming up, those are the vehicles that can cause the greatest harm to civilians.”

On Thursday, the situation in that sector “was very confusing, vehicles going back and forth,” he said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110407/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya_anchorwoman

By DIAA HADID and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Diaa Hadid And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press Thu Apr 7, 7:54 am ET

TRIPOLI, Libya – Hala Misrati once wrote romance tales about lost love. Now she’s the ferocious face of Libya’s regime, a star talk-show host on state TV lashing out daily against Moammar Gadhafi’s enemies.

She railed against a Libyan woman who claimed to Western journalists she had been raped by Gadhafi militiamen, calling her a “liar” and suggesting she was a “whore.” On live TV, Misrati grilled an arrested journalist for an hour with all the doggedness of a secret police interrogator.

“Say the things that you said in your recordings!” she barked at the journalist, Rana al-Aqbani, apparently referring to taped recordings of al-Aqbani’s phone calls, as she tried to make her acknowledge that she sought Gadhafi’s ouster. Al-Aqbani, a Tripoli-based journalist, has since disappeared.

With her attack-dog demeanor, Misrati stands out even in the field of presenters of state-run news channels throughout Arab countries, whose autopilot response has been to denounce protesters in the anti-government uprisings around the Middle East.

“She’s clearly a very strong mouthpiece for the pro-Gadhafi forces,” said Dina Eltahawy, a researcher for Amnesty International, which has issued an urgent alert to try find al-Aqbani.

Misrati appears daily on her hour-long call-in show, “Libya on This Day” on the state-run satellite channel, Al-Jamahiriya 2.

In her 30s, with long dark hair, heavy makeup and often decked out in gaudy outfits, she often gives long monologues crusading against Libya’s rebels, the NATO-led alliance bombing Gadhafi troops from the air and anyone perceived of sympathizing with them or fueling the campaign against Gadhafi. That includes Western media and, particularly, the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, which she refers to as “the pig channel” in a rhyming play on words — the Arabic word for pig is “khanzeera.”

Libya’s crisis has made her a star — beloved by Gadhafi supporters and viewed with a mix of loathing and bemused fascination by the opposition.

Miriam al-Amani, a 23-year-old student in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, called Misrati “a clown.”

She said Misrati was not well known before, but her new incarnation since the uprising made her famous. “Now she’s well known. Everyone in Libya knows who she is,” al-Amani said with a laugh. “She lies so badly that nobody believes what she says,” added al-Amani, who studies medicine at Benghazi’s Garyounis University.

In contrast, an upper-class woman having tea with friends at a five-star hotel in the capital Tripoli was full of praise for Misrati.

“Libya runs through her veins,” said the woman, a Gadhafi supporter. “She is bold. She has been able to show the truth in Benghazi and tell us what it’s really like over there, no one else was brave enough to tell it how it is.” The woman spoke on condition of anonymity because her husband holds a job in the state.

In one show, Misrati blasted Libya’s U.N. ambassador, Mohamed Shalgham, who turned against Gadhafi, calling him “ignorant” and “an idiot” and saying “he is good for nothing but barking like a dog.”

In another, she said the prominent Qatar-based Muslim cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi was “the devil” after he criticized Misrati. “Al-Qaradawi is too stupid to judge me or (Libya’s) press,” she coolly said.

Her fiercest diatribe came against Iman al-Obeidi, a Libyan woman who last month burst into a Tripoli hotel where Western journalists are staying and told them she had been gang-raped by troops before security officials dragged her out.

“Iman, in the end, is a liar,” Misrati said in a 10-minute rant, accusing al-Obeidi of pulling a media stunt. She dismissed her claims, saying no Arab woman would bring shame on her family by publicly admitting to rape. She told viewers that it was rebels who were raping women in the eastern territories they control. Misrati urged al-Obeidi to come clean with the truth because her claims were fueling the “bombardment” of Libya.

“Even sometimes a whore has nationalism toward her homeland, when she knows her homeland is in danger!” Misrati sneered. “Even a whore!”

Misrati has since vowed to “uncover” al-Obeidi’s real life.

She aired footage of a later attempt to interview al-Obeidi. Misrati’s film crew taunts the woman, who is seen curled up on the ground and refuses to be interviewed. It ends suddenly with Misrati screaming at al-Obeidi, “You and your kind have frittered away this country!”

Days later, Misrati conducted an interrogation on live television of al-Aqbani, a Syrian-Libyan journalist who the rights group Amnesty International said was snatched from her Tripoli home along with her brother by plainclothes gunmen on March 28.

Misrati accused her of helping prompt the international air campaign with her reports. As the defiant al-Aqbani tried to explain herself, Misrati interjected, “Sometimes a person lives in a fantasy … But when you take fantasy outside (your head), without realizing, you pass on rumors and mistakes, and we pay the price of those mistakes under shelling.”

Misrati later reassured her viewers that al-Aqbani wont be put to death. “She and her friends are not the head of the snake. Maybe the tail.”

Eltahawy of Amnesty International said the whereabouts of al-Aqbani and her brother remains unknown.

Opponents relish in posting YouTube videos of her bloopers. In one famous misstep, she insisted that Muslims could not accept the U.N.’s move to “adopt” the resolution authorizing airstrikes over Libya, because Islam bans adoption — of children.

Misrati’s launch as a fierce defender of Gadhafi’s regime is all the more striking considering her past. In 2009, she was pulled off air during a live interview and interrogated by security officers, according to a report on the incident by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli released on the WikiLeaks site.

Misrati was interviewing Mustafa Zaidi, a senior member of the Revolutionary committees, a quasi-pro-Gadhafi paramilitary group. Although Misrati “downplayed” the incident, she “criticized the strictures placed on journalists in Libya by reactionary regime figures,” according to the embassy report.

She began on TV only three years ago, according to her Internet resume.

Before that, she was an aspiring writer. She published a collection of short stories in 2007, “The Moon Has Another Face.” A review by an Internet magazine Middle-East-Online praises the collection for Misrati’s “humane honesty” and describes the woman who “is angry like a child about the lies of others.”

Her lengthy blog — untouched since December — is a mix of personal reflections, essays about the Internet (with a law degree, she is a self-professed expert on cyber law) and short stories on lost love.

“I watched the movement of the clouds, with the sun hiding ominously behind them, annihilating the heavy rain,” one of her stories begins, before tumbling into a tale of a woman disappointed in marriage.

The title of a series of entries on her blog even holds a bit of philosophy about how changeable life can be — like her surprising leap from writer to regime celebrity.

“Between today and tomorrow is chaos,” it reads.

________

Hadid reported from Cairo. AP correspondent Ben Hubbard in Benghazi contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110331/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

By RYAN LUCAS, Associated Press Ryan Lucas, Associated Press 2 hrs 13 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya – The defection of Libya’s foreign minister, a member of Moammar Gadhafi’s inner circle, is the latest sign that the embattled regime is cracking at the highest levels as the West keeps up pressure on the longtime leader to relinquish power.

In another blow to the regime, U.S. officials revealed Wednesday that the CIA has sent small teams of operatives into rebel-held eastern Libya while the White House debates whether to arm the opposition.

Despite the setbacks and ongoing NATO airstrikes on government forces, Gadhafi loyalists have been logging successes on the battlefield, retaking much of the territory the rebels had captured since airstrikes began March 19.

Britain’s government said Wednesday that Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa had arrived in Britain on a flight from Tunisia and was resigning from his post, though the Libyan government denied it. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the resignation showed the regime is “fragmented, under pressure and crumbling.”

Koussa is not the first high-ranking member of the regime to quit — the justice and interior ministers resigned early in the conflict and joined the rebellion based in the east. Koussa, however, is a close confidant of Gadhafi’s, privy to all the inner workings of the regime. His departure could open the door for some hard intelligence, though Britain refused to offer him immunity from prosecution.

Koussa was Libya’s chief of intelligence for more than a decade. The opposition holds responsible for the assassinations of dissidents in western capitals and for orchestrating the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and the bombing of another jet over Niger a year later.

In later years, however, Koussa played an important role in persuading Western nations to lift sanctions on Libya and remove its name from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. He led settlements of Lockerbie, offered all information about Libya’s nuclear program and gave London and Washington information about Islamic militants after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“His defection is a serious blow” to Gadhafi, Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, said in a story posted on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website. “This is the first loss of such a close comrade,” he said, adding that he may have be able to identify other potential defectors.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

Abrams, who met Koussa in 2004 in negotations over Libya’s handover of weapons of mass destruction programs, described him as a handsome, well-dressed man speaking perfect English. Koussa attended Michigan State University in the 1970s.

Abrams said the simple fact that Koussa was able to make it to England “suggests that the regime is falling apart despite its battlefield victories in the last two days.” His departure suggest that Gadhafi’s inner circle “now know how this story ends, and do not wish to be with the dictator when that end comes,” he said.

On Thursday, the rebels came under heavy shelling by Gadhafi’s forces in the strategic oil town of Brega on the coastal road that leads to Tripoli. Black smoke billowed in the air over Brega as mortars exploded.

“Gadhafi’s forces advanced to about 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Brega,” said rebel fighter Fathi Muktar, 41. Overnight, he said the rebels had temporarily pushed them back, but by morning they were at the gates of Brega. “There were loads of wounded at the front lines this morning,” he said of rebel casualties.

The poorly equipped rebels’ setbacks are hardening the U.S. view that they are probably incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press.

The U.S. has made clear that it is considering providing arms to the rebels. Still, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday no decision has been made yet.

“We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in,” he said.

Obama said in a national address Monday night that U.S. troops would not be used on the ground in Libya.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110308/ts_yblog_thelookout/wish-comes-true-for-cancer-stricken-10-year-old-inducted-into-army

By Zachary Roth

Most kids might hope to get an Xbox or an iPod Touch for their 10th birthday. Brennan Daigle got a reception from a formation of soldiers, a ride in a camouflaged National Guard Humvee–and induction as an honorary member of the Army.

Since October 2009, Brennan, from Sulphur, Louisiana, has been battling embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma–a rare form of cancer in which muscular tumors attach themselves to bones, writer Rachel Reischling reports in the Fort Polk Guardian. Last month, doctors told his family there was nothing more they could do, and gave Brennan just weeks to live.

Brennan has always loved the Army.  His mother had created a Facebook page–Brennan’s Brigade–to keep family and friends informed of his condition. People from around the world, including soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, have left comments of encouragement and support. One group of soldiers in Afghanistan posted a picture of themselves holding an American flag, and told Brennan: “We’re flying this flag in honor of you; we’re here to back you. Stay Army strong.”

Becky Prejean, who runs a charity for sick kids called Dreams Come True of Louisiana, heard about Brennan’s illness, and got in touch with his mother, Kristy Daigle. Brennan’s greatest wish, Daigle told Prejean, was to meet some soldiers in person, before his illness worsened. So the two women contacted the Fort Polk Community Relations Office, which put out a call for a few soldiers to attend Brennan’s tenth birthday on Feb. 26.

Forty showed up.

Brennan had been told he was going fishing with his father. But when he got out of his dad’s truck, he was greeted by a formation of 1st MEB soldiers, standing at attention in front of a National Guard Humvee. After a moment, they all shouted “Happy Birthday, Brennan!,” and broke into applause.

Brennan was speechless, according to his mother. “All he could do was giggle,” she said.

Brennan and his best friend Kaleb were invited to check out the Humvee, and Brennan sat behind the wheel. Then soldiers took the two boys out for a spin. Afterward, Brennan and Kaleb put their heads out the hatch on the vehicle’s roof, while the crowd snapped pictures.

But it wasn’t over. Brennan got out of the Humvee and was led to the front of the formation, where he shook hands with each soldier. He was inducted into the Army as an honorary member, then given a coin symbolizing merit and excellence, as well as a military jacket with his name on the pocket, and other Army-themed gifts.

“Brennan, you exemplify what personal courage means,” Pfc. Kamesha Starkey, 1st MEB, told him.

Finally, the mayor of Sulphur, La., gave Brennan a key to the city, and the title of Honorary Mayor of the Day.

“Words can never express what I felt seeing all those soldiers there, knowing some of them had just come back from Iraq and still took time out for just one little boy,” Kristy Daigle said. “Just to know that they care enough to give their all, to give their love and support to a little boy is phenomenal. It says so much about our men and women who serve our country in the armed forces.”

Some of the soldiers said the event helped put things in perspective for them. “It was good to be able to give back,” Pfc. Kyle Frederick said. “It opened my eyes to a lot of things: How I take my kids for granted, how lucky we are, how we complain on a day-to-day basis and we really have it good compared to others.”

As for Brennan, it took a while for his new honor to sink in. The next day, he asked his mother, “Am I really in the Army?”

“You most certainly are,” she answered. “They don’t swear in just anyone.”

“That’s awesome,” said Brennan.

(Photo: Capt. Gabriel Araujo swears in Brennan Daigle at Fort Polk, Louisiana. www.thefortpolkguardian.com)

This is the most heart-warming article I have ever read. Very good.

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