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The X Files
Xavier Hermosillois the President of CrisisPros, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 20 years ago ( and is based in his native San Pedro, CA. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning print reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He is an elected member of the Board of Directors of CGI Holdings, Inc., ( a publicly-traded company that is headquartered in Chicago. He co-founded a NASDAQ company based in Chicago, serves as a Hearing Examiner for the L.A. Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds Honors degrees in Administration of Justice, Marketing and Management. He can be reached at

May 30, 2005

Are you one of those who only views the last Monday in May as Memorial
Day, another day off, the end of a three-day weekend, and the start of
a shortened four-day work week?

Please don’t make that mistake this year. I used to do the same thing.
Make this year’s celebration last a bit longer for those men and women
who still face many months overseas.

People who visit our home often ask me why we have a small white flag
with a red border and two centered blue stars, one strategically
positioned on top of the other, hanging in the front window. All they
have to do is look at the larger, three-foot by five-foot U.S. Air
Force flag next to it to get the answer.

Honoring, remembering, thanking, and praying for our men and women in
uniform and in harm’s way is a daily event at our house. At the height
of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we had three young men in the
Wild Blue Yonder uniforms of the Air Force. My nephew (son of my next
older brother) was the first to complete his service, spending most of
his time in the remote island of Diego Garcia, loading bombs onto
B-2’s, B-52’s and any other flying fortress that banged away at the

The two stars on the small Blue Star Flag at home are for my Staff
Sergeant Son and our Senior Airman Son-in-Law. I have never in my life
had anyone close to me serving in the military. It was always
“somebody else” whom I gave a passing thought to in the past. I
usually thought about a former high school classmate, Frank Mattera,
who was killed in Vietnam.

Now, for the last almost four years, like so many other parents, I have
been on the edge of my seat every time there is a report of a suicide
bomber on the streets of Baghdad, or a helicopter crash in Kabul, or
any other event that has killed or maimed our brave warriors. I have
always listened for military branch identifiers relative to the bad
news: “Two Marines were wounded today” or “An Army unit lost one of its
members….” because as tragic as that was, I thanked God the words “Air
Force” weren’t associated with the bad news.

Don’t get me wrong. It was VERY possible that my Son could be with a
Marine or Army unit. As a Special Forces Combat Control Team Leader,
his job was to be smack dab in the middle of the hostilities. When
your Son does this kind of work, you don’t get much detail and NO up
front notice of where he’s going, with whom, how long he’ll be there,
and of course, the nature of the mission.

My Son would joke that his job was to “paint buildings”, which is
Special Forces jargon for identifying places where the Taliban (in
Afghanistan) or the Iraqi terrorists were holding out or where they
stashed their bombs and weaponry. Once he made that assessment, his
job was to call in the jet bombers and “paint the building” by putting
a laser on the enemy target for the bomber.

I knew he worked with other Special Forces heroes like Navy SEALs, the
Delta Forces, Army Rangers, Marine Recon, or Green Berets, in the
Pentagon’s new interdisciplinary team concept, because CNN and the
network news would report that “Task Force so-and-so” (comprised of
different branches) took a city, or saved someone, etc. I knew he went
on dangerous missions where he dropped out of the sky, dove the depths
of dangerous waters, rode black or camouflage motorcycles in the
mountainous terrains of foreign lands, and explored the dark recesses
of ancient caves in search of Osama Bin Laden and his lackeys.

But I never got a real handle on what he did until a few weeks ago when
he walked onto center stage at a church to greet his beautiful
bride-to-be as she walked down the aisle to hook up arm-in-arm with him
for their meeting of a lifetime. He was wearing his dress blues and
Scarlet Red Special Tactics beret and my breath was taken away when I
saw his recent military history sewn on, and pinned to, his uniform.
The motto of the Air Force Special Tactics combat controllers is “First
There”. I could see my Son had witnessed all the dangers and horrors
of war from a front-row seat in the theater of war.

His uniform told an incredible story of accomplishment. One patch said
“sniper” and another spoke to the many languages he had apparently
learned to speak, courtesy of the world’s greatest linguistics school,
the Defense Language Institute. I later learned that Romanian, Urdu,
Arabic, Russian, and a few others were now part of his lexicon. He was
wearing his master HALO jump wings, his static line wings and his SCUBA
diver medal. By the way, HALO stands for High Altitude, Low Opening,
which means these guys jump out of perfectly good airplanes at between
12,500 feet (2 ½ miles) and 20,000 feet (almost 5 miles) high, wearing
an oxygen mask and not opening the parachute until the last possible
moment. It’s danger personified, but that’s why we call them heroes.

I also noticed that my Son had four rows of ribbons on his chest in
addition to all the metal pins, more patches on his arm, and an Honors
braided cord that encircled his left shoulder and armpit. Several of
the ribbons have Oak Leaf Clusters, which means he earned those medals
repeatedly. It was then that I realized how lucky I was; not just to
have a fantastic Son, but to have an Air Force Special Tactics Staff
Sergeant Son who survived his multiple tours of Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was more than my emotions could bear. While the women in the church
teared-up at the sight of a beautiful bide in her wonderful dress and
the cute flower girl, etc., I was thanking God for giving my Son the
chance to come home from the war and start a new life with his bride.
I realized how lucky I was and I thought about all those war heroes who
didn’t come home alive and the awful, horrible anguish their parents
must feel and will feel forever. My eyesight was getting blurry from
the tears as I tried to celebrate and share in my Son’s special wedding
moment, and at the same time, honor and appreciate the pain of the
loved ones who would never get to see or experience the joy of watching
their hero or heroine embark on a new life’s journey.

My Son had made a decision when he went into the Air Force that he
would not get married anytime soon because he did not want to drag a
family around the world, and in a worst case scenario, he wouldn’t want
to leave a young widow or infant children behind. To him, marriage
would come only after the sacrifice to freedom had been made, and he
was lucky enough to find his life partner. Smart kid.

However, the road to his military service and eventually his wedding
wasn’t without pain. When you serve in Special Forces as my Son has
done, you can’t talk about most of the missions you have under your
belt. In many cases, you will never be able to talk about them with
civilians because the events are classified, which is code for “a
mission that never happened, in a place that doesn’t exist, and against
enemies who weren’t there”.

Some missions have a sunset clause on them, which means that there is a
10-year moratorium on talking about them. I am not really interested
in the gory details. I just hope my Son can handle what he has been
through in terms of his mental capabilities. So far, so good. The
physical pain he had to deal with, before and after his ankle was
reconstructed from his unmentionable injury was just a minor
inconvenience to him. The self-proclaimed “172 pounds of steel and sex
appeal” worked out every day, even when he had to hobble on one foot or
hop along with crutches to get to the workout equipment. When doctors
cautioned him to take it easy, a term that doesn’t exist in his
vocabulary, he worked even harder to strengthen all the muscles around
the ankle to help it heal faster. His dedicated young fiancée, who
knew better than to try and talk sense into a Combat Control Team
Leader, helped nurse him to a full recovery.

They apparently teach you a lot more than weapons and bad guys in the
military. They teach you to survive and excel, even when you lose
temporary use of one of your limbs. And they must also teach you how
to make the right decisions about people, because my Son’s choice for a
wife was spectacular. More than her physical beauty, her incredible
intelligence, and her sassy savvy, is the unmistakable look of love
that sparkles, and at the same time, “paints the target” on my Son’s
heart with laser-like precision.

Our Son-in-Law, meanwhile, has been much more fortunate in that his
assignments overseas, and now state-side, have him protecting strategic
military resources. He can’t talk about the dangerous aspects of his
work either, but we’ve also gotten used to that. He’s still in the
service so we still worry about him and the rest of our defenders.

Even though we’re down to only one of our youngsters in the military
now that my Son has moved on to a new life, Memorial Day is more than
just an extra day for a barbecue or a trip. It’s a day to remember why
we live in the greatest nation in the world, with all its flaws, but
with the freedom to debate those flaws and fix them, without having to
worry about your life being at risk from some repressive secret
government agent or some bomb-toting suicidal maniac rushing to meet
his 72 fairy tale virgins in hell.

We live in the land of the free, my friends, because those we honor on
Memorial Day, and should thank every day, are also the reason we live
in the home of the brave.

P.S. – The history of the Blue Star Flag, also known as the Service
Flag, dates back to the World War I era. If you would like to learn
more, please go to