14 June 2015

Happy 240th Birthday to the U.S. Army!



"Two hundred forty years ago, our nation's leaders established the Continental Army. Today, the Army is the strategic landpower of the joint force; called upon to prevent, shape, and win against our adversaries.

"This year, we celebrate 240 years of selfless service to the nation. Selfless service is at the core of what it means to be a Soldier - putting the welfare of others ahead of oneself. The willingness of our Soldiers - to place themselves in harm's way and to protect our nation's freedoms - is what makes us the premier all-volunteer force. The Army has served proudly, faithfully, and selflessly for 240 years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment."

Much more at Army.mil.

Flag Day



The emblem of the land I love!

03 June 2015

Wounded Warrior Receives New ‘Smart Home’ Thanks To Local High School Students



Then 27-year-old Iraq war veteran Jerral Hancock, sitting on an electric wheelchair, and members of Operation All The Way Home chant their slogans after a meeting at Lancaster High School on Oct. 21, 2013.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong.

Last Friday was Jerral Hanckock's birthday, Alive Day, and the day he received the keys to his new smart home after years of trying to maneuver his wheelchair inside his cramped mobile home.

From Dennis L. Anderson of Task & Purpose:

For the past two years, history students from Lancaster High School raised more than $300,000 to build this tribute home to one of their community’s most severely wounded veterans of the Iraq War. The Gary Sinise Foundation and allies kicked in the rest of the close to half-million dollars to finish the grassroots housing drive that resulted from a classroom visit by Hancock.

“I just went to talk to the class to tell them about my experiences,” Hancock told the audience gathered at Friday’s event. “I wasn’t expecting anything from it.”

Supervised by history instructor Jamie Goodreau and led by student Nicole Skinner, the group that was inspired by Hancock’s account of ordeal and triumph organized their own organic nonprofit, Operation All The Way Home.

The students started raising funds two years ago, immediately after hearing Hancock share the grim facts of combat and catastrophic injury.

A remark Hancock made during a “living history” presentation to the students organized by Goodreau awed the students. A few of his words became the signature phrase of their determination to build a home for the vet who rolled his electric wheelchair into their class to talk to them.

“Life does have to go on,” Hancock said at the class event in 2013. “Whether I choose to sit and pout or go with the flow is up to me.”

On the morning of May 29, 2007 - Jerral's birthday - his unit was on a mission supporting Special Forces troops in the search for high-value targets in Sadr City.

Spc. Jerral Hancock, 1st Cavalry Division, was the driver. When the IED detonated, Hancock was immediately showered with white hot steel. The armored vehicle’s interior transformed to shrapnel that ripped and burned Hancock.

It was the present Hancock got for his 21st birthday. He was trapped, his body shredded and burning inside the vehicle.

The United States lost few tanks during eight years from 2003–2011, but the IED munitions supplied to Iran-backed Shiite militias found the 70-ton behemoth’s weak point: the thinly armored underbelly between the treads. Hancock’s crew mates jumped or were thrown free, but Hancock roasted in the burning hulk for 90 minutes before he was cut free, with some rescuers already believing him dead.

He surprised them.

Shrapnel severed his spinal cord to paralyze him below the chest. Burning metal and wiring charred his torso into a scarred, fleshy canvas creating ornate “tanker” tattoos he still bears today. His left arm was sheared off above the shoulder. He calls it his “chicken wing.”

Hancock’s 21st birthday became his “Alive Day,” the day the enemy almost, but not quite, succeeded in killing him.

Eight years later, Jerral has finally come home.

“This is going to go a long way to help with my quality of life, and my independence,” Hancock said Friday, soon after hundreds of supporters, contributors, sponsors, donors and volunteer builders cheered, and sang “Happy Birthday,” with 8-year-old daughter Anastasia chorusing “Cha Cha Cha.”

“I’ll be able to help my dad,” fifth grader Julius said, darting in and out of the crowd, clad like his father, in a camouflage ball cap and t-shirt.

“This patriotic American military community … it’s something you don’t see,” Hancock told the group gathered Friday. “You guys basically did something that’s never been done, all the OATH students … mainly the community support was beyond what I expected, beyond what anybody expected. The community as a whole stepped up. I am really grateful for everything that everybody has done, and I just want to say ‘Thank You.’”

Happy birthday, Happy Alive Day, and welcome home, Jerral!





22 May 2015

Memorial Day: "Flags In" at Arlington


Pfc. Johnny Allen, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Charlie Company, places American flags at headstones in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery, Va., during “Flags in,” May 21, 2015. The Old Guard has conducted “Flags-in,” when an American flag is placed at every headstone, since 1948. U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue.

04 May 2015

Honoring a Ranger



Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn presents Sgt. Travis Dunn with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart on Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., April 29, 2015. Dunn was wounded while conducting combat operations in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 2, 2014. He maneuvered on multiple enemy fighting positions over six-hours of direct fire. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt.

24 April 2015

Aeromedical Evacuation out of Bagram Air Base


U.S. Air Force Capt. Maria Vazquez, 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, tests an oxygen mask in preparation for an AE mission April 19, 2015 at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The Aeromedical Evacuation team had traveled to Kandahar Airfield on April 19 to provide in-flight medical care to three service members.The U.S. Army Soldiers sustained multiple injuries when their mine resistant ambush protected vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device during a mission in the Central Command area of responsibility. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/released.

Read more about this team here.

23 April 2015

War Heroes return to Afghanistan for 'Proper Exit'



From the Army Times.
Five wounded service members, including two Medal of Honor recipients and last year's Army Times Soldier of the Year, visited Afghanistan Wednesday as part of Operation Proper Exit. 
...
The troops who returned to Afghanistan were retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, Sgt. Tom Block, retired Sgt. Ralph Cacciapaglia and retired Cpl. Steve Martin. 
Petry received the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 26, 2008. He is credited with saving the lives of his fellow Rangers when he picked up a grenade and threw it away from them during a fierce fight in Paktya province. Petry was then on his seventh deployment and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, on July 12, 2011. He retired last summer. 
Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in February 2010. Carpenter, was part of the Marine assault in Marjah in southern Afghanistan. He was honored for throwing himself on a grenade to shield a friend and fellow Marine from the blast. 
Block was the 2014 Army Times Soldier of the Year. Block, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded Oct. 5, 2013, during a raid in southern Afghanistan. Block and his fellow Rangers were on a mission to root out insurgents who had been planning suicide bombing attacks in the area when a suicide bomber — either woman or a man dressed as a woman — detonated. Block was thrown 35 feet into a minefield, severely wounded. Four other soldiers died on that mission, and nearly two dozen others were wounded. "This trip for me came to a head when we visited Craig Medical Center," Block said, according to a news release from U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. "They showed me the bed that I stayed in. That kind of came full circle for me." 
Martin, of the National Guard, was wounded in September 2008 in Logar province, according to the news release. He now works as a trooper with the Arizona Highway Patrol. Since he lost his legs, Martin has participated in 29 half marathons and five full marathons, according to the news release. "I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today without the service members that helped get us through there," he said. "It's just neat to see a sea of green out here today. Going back into Craig [Hospital] this morning was huge. It was a big emotional moment for me because the last time I [arrived] was unfortunately via a Black Hawk ride on a stretcher. I was pretty banged up. They took great care of me. They took great care of my team when we were hit and rolled us out of there about four days later. It's a huge honor to be back here today and to see everybody. I just didn't think I'd get back over here to see it." 
Caccipaglia, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded February 2012 in Helmand province. Four months after being shot through the leg by a 7.62mm round, he tried out for and made the 2012 All-Army Rugby Team. He's currently working on his master's degree in business administration at Boston College.

16 April 2015

Wounded Warrior Receives New Home




"It's been a rough road, but I can't thank the American people enough on their dedication to give back to the soldiers and just pay it forward," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Payne.

The 32-year-old Army veteran lost both his legs and severely injured his left hand in 2011 when an improvised explosive device detonated under him during a combat mission in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.

He was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center where he spent a year and a half recovering. After more than 100 surgeries his spirit remains unbreakable.

Payne will get the keys to his new home when it is finished sometime in June, according to ABC News in Raleigh, NC.

13 April 2015

Must-see Interview with Michael Schlitz






Fantastic interview with Michael Schlitz by Chuck Williams of the Ledger-Enquirer. Must-watch!

You probably don't know Michael Schlitz.

But you should.

Eight years ago, Schlitz -- a U.S. Army sergeant assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad -- almost died in a roadside attack.

He was burned beyond recognition, lost both hands and partial sight. The three soldiers in the vehicle with him were killed.

Today, Schlitz lives in southern Harris County and travels the country telling his story of service and survival.

He can talk candidly about suicide because he has contemplated it. He can talk about pain after 83 surgeries.

He recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams and shared his remarkable story.

30 March 2015

Former Navy SEAL who was shot 27 times to compete in half-Ironman for fellow vets



From the UK's Mail Online:

A Navy SEAL who was shot 27 times and still managed to pull out his handgun and kill two enemy fighters is now training to run a half-Ironman triathlon in honor of his fellow veterans.

Mike Day is representing Dallas-based Carrick Brain Centers, where he was treated for PTSD eight years after he survived a gunfight while serving in Iraq.

In 2007 Day was hit 27 times by enemy fire after he was the first of his SEAL team to enter a room where four enemy fighters were waiting and quickly shot the rifle out of his hand.

Day managed to kill two enemy fighters with his pistol before he was knocked unconscious by a grenade that exploded less than 10-feet away from him.
Eleven shots hit Day's body armor while the other 16 wounded him, according to WTKR.

When Day woke up a minute later in the midst of a firefight, he grabbed his handgun and shot down two enemy fighters before the gunfire ceased.

The tough SEAL then got up and walked himself to the medical helicopter.

Day described the extent of his numerous injuries on his half-Ironman fundraiser page, writing that he was shot in both legs and arms, as well as the buttocks and scrotum. He said a shot to his abdomen also left him with a colostomy bag for a year, and his left thumb was almost amputated. Day's ribs were also fractured and he suffered contusions to his lungs after his body armor was hit so many times, but the bullets missed all his vital organs.

'This was a single gunfight at an ordinary day at the office,' he wrote on the page.

Day, who spent 20 years with the SEALs and is also a Silver and Bronze Star recipient, said his life's mission is now to 'care for and lead my wounded brothers and sisters'.