From my brother, former Captain James Byrne, USMC

Made in His Image would like to wish you a very happy and safe 4th of July! We would especially like to honor past and present members of the military. Your sacrifices for us are unfathomable, so we enjoy the comforts of everyday freedom. Thank you for your service, which depicts astounding courage and radiates patriotism. Happy 4th of July!

I would like to welcome a very special guest writer to our blog today, my brother, former Captain James Byrne, USMC. Thank you James. Thank you Susan for loving my brother, your courage and strength is extraordinary. I love you both.

By: Former Captain James Byrne, USMC

Over the past six years, I have served in the United States Marine Corps and as of June 26, 2012 I have left the Marines to pursue other adventures in my life. But, this 4th of July I have been left to ponder the meaning of the word Freedom. As I look back on my six years of service in the Marines, I am acutely aware of the meaning of freedom and I am convinced that the Marines’ I led understood it too.

Our founding fathers wrote these immortal words…That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As I look around this 4th of July and as I listen to the noise being generated from our nation’s capital and across this land about the meaning of freedom I am perplexed. I am perplexed because I don’t believe people understand what freedom means.

Freedom in a free society is not absolute and does not guarantee you the ability to act in the way that you want or to receive the things that you want all the time. Freedom is the ability to have life, liberty and to pursue happiness within one’s ability to do so. Freedom is not living off the hard work and sweat of others because you can’t afford to pay for the things that you want but cannot afford. Freedom is living as you would want within a set of moral and social constructs. But freedom in and of itself does not guarantee an easy road to happiness. It allows you to pursue your own happiness, but, not to be handed it. Nothing is this world is free and those that take for granted their freedom forget that it was purchased at a high cost. A cost of which none of us could ever repay.

Throughout my travels in the military, I have had the privilege to travel to many far away places. Places that do not enjoy the freedom that we enjoy as citizens of this great country. Things such as the ability to vote, the right to express yourself freely and openly without fear, the right to express your religious convictions in the manner in which you choose, as well as the ability to pursue your own personal happiness each and every day. These experiences have taught me to value this gift and it has also given me some perspective into the lives of other people. My conclusion has been, that our lives in America are far better because of the richness of liberty that we enjoy, than anywhere else in the world.

On this 4th of July, I pray that we all take time to contemplate what freedom means and how we can go about doing our part to preserve it for future generations.

In Honor of Captain James Byrne, USMC

Made in His Image would like to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Memorial Day! We would like to honor the past, present and future military of our country. I would especially like to honor my brother, Captain James Byrne, USMC, as well as his wife Susan for her sacrifice and love for James and our country. As a wife of a Marine, I’m sure often times her sacrifices and bravery are left unnoticed. Thank you Susan for your courage and strength.

What James, and the men and women who serve our country have sacrificed for us is unfathomable, as we enjoy the comforts of everyday freedom. Their service depicts astounding courage and radiates patriotism.

As you catch some sun down by the lake, grill burgers and pop open another cold one this Memorial Day, please keep in your heart those who have so lovingly given to us. And remember those who have given their very lives and all of their loved ones who suffer their loss.

Their bravery will never be forgotten.

To all our service men and women, thank you and Happy Memorial Day!

Thank you James! I love you!

In His Honor

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” – President Ronald Reagan

Today, on Veterans Day, I would like to honor all of our service men and women. Those who have served and those who are serving now. Especially my brother, Captain James Byrne, USMC.

I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world! – General Douglas MacArthur, US Army

The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle! – General Pershing, US Army

The Marines have landed, and the situation is well in hand. – Richard Harding Davis, war correspondent

A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons. -Admiral David Porter, USN

I can never again see a United States Marine without experiencing a feeling of reverence. – General Johnson, US Army

This will be the bloodiest fight in Marine Corps history. We’ll catch seven kinds of hell on the beaches, and that will be just the beginning. The fighting will be fierce, and the casualties will be awful, but my Marines will take the damned island. (concerning the upcoming attack on Iwo Jima)  – Lieutenant General Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, USMC

The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. LORD, how they could fight! – Major General Frank Lowe, US Army

This post would be deemed inadequate without honoring James’ wife – Susan. The miliary spouses deserve our respect for their sacrifice and courage too. Thank you Suzy for your bravery and support of James.

James and Suzy, I love you both very much and Happy Veteran’s Day! Thank you for your sacrifice for our freedom.

All of the photos in this post are credited to Robert Wagner Photography. Please keep him in mind if you need a photographer. His work is impeccable. Visit his website by clicking here. His work has been featured in New York Wedding Magazine.

Hero Awared Highest Military Honor

I have often mentioned in my writings that my brother James is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps. I like to brag about James because he is an awesome older brother. James is also an exceedingly courageous and humble soldier. I have witnessed the immense respect his soldiers, as well as his fellow Officers have for him. Some of my fondest memories are of visiting James in California, when he was stationed at Camp Pendleton. I just have to tell you a story – I can’t help myself.

The summer I returned from India my sister Clare and I flew to San Diego and waited for James to pick us up at the airport for eight hours. Now someone may think, eight hours that sounds boring. Well, let me tell you something, it was anything but boring. Clare and I turned it into an adventure and we had a blast together. I even had the time to call the chair of the Biology department at Seton Hall University during those eight hours to get signed into some bio classes that were full.

We spent a few days in San Diego surfing, jet skiing, running (sort of – I had just returned from India and had a parasite) soaking up the sun, eating dinner outside, getting our nails painted (well Clare and I). James wouldn’t let me date someone who rolled their luggage so I feel very confident when I say James wouldn’t be caught dead getting his nails done.

Then we got on a plane and flew to San Francisco, rented a blue mustang and drove to our hotel (which was really nice). James often slept in the field with his men during training so it all evens out. James took us horseback riding through Napa Valley and wine and chocolate tasting. Then he treated us to lunch at this old-fashioned place. It was a house that the owners turned into a restaurant, from the outside it liked picturesque and once inside it’s charm and attractiveness coupled with their gourmet food made it exceedingly quaint.

Then, as if there needed to be more to the trip we all flew to Chicago to run the Chicago half marathon (what was I thinking- yeah I wasn’t). The night before the race James took us out to dinner, to see the show Wicked, and to get ice cream sundaes at the Ghirardelli store on Michigan Avenue. Word to the wise – ice cream sundaes are not the best pre-race fuel and by the time we got back to our hotel we managed to get about four hours of sleep.

We all did really well at the race despite the lack of sleep and the ice cream sundaes. The next day Clare and I flew home to New York and James to San Diego. Clare and I often talked about that trip when James was deployed, as it was a memory with him we will cherish forever. And as usually, I went off on a tangent. The purpose of this post is to honor Former marine sergeant Dakota Meyer. The following two articles gave me goosebumps and are most definitely worth the read.

This article is taken from The Sydney Morning Herald.

President Barack Obama has awarded a fearless US marine, who five times defied a Taliban firestorm to save 36 ambushed men, with America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honour.

Former marine sergeant Dakota Meyer, 23, and comrade Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, defied orders and repeatedly drove into a village despite a blizzard of enemy fire, to rescue Afghan troops and American trainers after a deadly ambush in north-eastern Afghanistan.

”It was as if the whole valley was exploding, Taliban fighters were unleashing a firestorm from the hills, from the stone houses, even from the local school,” Mr Obama said at a ceremony in the White House.

He told how Sergeant Meyer, despite machinegun fire, bullets, grenades and mortars, loaded up injured and trapped Afghans into his vehicle and took them to safety, returning to the line of fire no less than five times. On his last journey into the inferno in the battle in September 2009, he found four fallen US comrades.

”Bullets kicking up the dirt, he kept going until he found those four Americans laying together as one team,” Mr Obama said. ”Through all those bullets, all the smoke, all the chaos, he carried them out one by one. In Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade in war.”

Sergeant Meyer, who was wounded in the arm by shrapnel, has said he was a failure as his four marine comrades were killed in the ambush. But Mr Obama looked the marine in the eye and said: ”As your commander-in-chief and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it is quite the opposite. You did your duty. Above and beyond.”

Striving to be the best

The article below is taken from by Bill Estep

Those who know Meyer best aren’t surprised at the grit and determination he showed on what he calls the worst day of his life.

Meyer, now 23, learned responsibility early, growing up on a farm in Adair County, near the Green County line.

When he was 4, he wanted to ride a three-wheel all-terrain vehicle. His father, Mike Meyer, told him he could if he could push down hard enough on a pedal to kick-start the engine, because the battery was dead.

He tried for weeks and finally got the machine started. “He’s always had that determination,” Mike Meyer said.

In the 8th grade, Meyer’s father told him he wouldn’t make it as a running back on the football team. Meyer transferred from Adair County High School to Green County for his junior and senior years.

He played running back during high school and he played well enough to make an all-star team that went to Hawaii.

“I proved him wrong,” Meyer said smiling.

Mike Griffiths, who coaches football at Green County High School, said Meyer worked hard in the off-season to get ready and played full-speed.

“He wanted to be the best at everything he did,” said Griffiths.

Teachers said Meyer was smart, confident and quick-witted, with a mischievous streak. A chemistry teacher told her students she gave them work because she loved them; Meyer dropped to his knee one day and proposed, Griffiths said.

Meyer also had — and still has — a strong will and firm opinions. He wanted to be pushed and he occasionally pushed back, earning him trips to the office when teachers thought his challenges had crossed a line.

“I had a good relationship with him because I saw him a lot,” said Griffiths, who was then an assistant principal.

Griffiths said he didn’t think Meyer was disrespectful to teachers.

Tana Rattliff, who teaches special-needs students at Green County High, said she saw what a good person Meyer is when he volunteered as a peer tutor in her class his senior year in 2005-06.

One autistic student had a Spandex body sock to help deal with sensory issues, but didn’t like to wear it.

Meyer put on the suit and went out into the hallway to show the student it was okay — something many high-school athletes would see as not terribly cool, Rattliff said.

“He’s a good guy,” said Rattliff, who calls Meyer her adopted son.

Meyer joined the Marines almost on the spur of the moment his senior year.

As Meyer passed by, a recruiter at school asked him what he planned to do after high school.

Meyer told the recruiter he was going to try to play college football.

The recruiter threw down the gauntlet, telling Meyer that was a good idea because “there’s no way you could be a Marine.”

Meyer told him to prepare the paperwork, which his father needed to sign because Meyer was only 17.

“There was a challenge,” Meyer said. “I believe that’s what’s motivated me my whole life, is challenges.”

Ann Young, a counselor at Adair County High and longtime family friend of Meyer, said she and her husband Toby, a state police officer, talked about what could happen if Meyer went into combat.

“We felt like if there was a fight he would be in the middle of it,” Young said. “We knew that he would not let a dangerous situation stop him or change his actions.”

Recognizing the ‘worst day of your life’

Adjusting to civilian life has been difficult, Meyer said, but the transition has been eased a bit by support of family and friends in Columbia and Greensburg, the small towns in which he grew up.

Meyer does excavation and concrete work for McDan Inc., a company in Louisville that is owned by his cousin. Meanwhile, he is working to raise money for a scholarship program to benefit children of wounded Marines.

He doesn’t think there is enough public recognition for the job done by U.S. men and women in uniform.

“I don’t think they understand the sacrifices that people are giving,” he said.

Griffiths said he doesn’t think Meyer sleeps well, and Rattliff said Meyer has trouble relating to some people his age because they do not appear to have any goals.

“He’s grown up really fast and really hard,” Rattliff said.

She said there’s a sense of sadness about Meyer at times.

“He’s never going to forget … but I just hope, in time, it’s easier. He deserves good things,” she said.

Meyer said if a person goes to combat, he or she will come back with problems.

“But, you know, at the end of the day that’s not an excuse to feel sorry for yourself,” he said.

There has been a crush of interest in Meyer as the date for him to receive the Medal of Honor nears.

He did two dozen interviews with national, regional and local media the last couple of weeks. The Marine Corps assigned a public-relations person to stay with him.

He has been asked to do everything from serving as grand marshal of the upcoming Cow Days parade in Greensburg to throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees-Red Sox game.

Obama phoned him at work, a spokesperson for Gov. Steve Beshear reached out to him and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now running for president, made three calls to Meyer, who lived in Austin briefly. Perry called the first time to congratulate him and later to check on him, Meyer said.

The attention has been amazing, Meyer said, but he has said many times the award is really for his comrades who died in Afghanistan.

“I’m going to meet the president. How do you put that in perspective?” he said. “But, you know, it’s for the worst day of your life.

“That would be the most amazing (thing) out of all this … if they could bring my guys back.”