27 September 2015

Gold Star Mothers' Day

”The service rendered the United States by the American mother is the greatest source of the Country’s strength and inspiration.

We honor ourselves and the mothers of America when we revere and give emphasis to the home as the fountainhead of the State.

The American mother is doing so much for the home and for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people of the United States and hence so much for good government and humanity.”

Whereas the American Gold Star Mothers suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters in World Wars, Public Resolution 12 provides: the last Sunday in September shall hereafter be designated and known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day”.

- The preamble to Public Resolution 123, approved June 23, 1936, the first legislation to provide recognition for Gold Star Mother’s Day.

Words cannot express how much we love and honor our Gold Star Mothers.

13 September 2015

" ...our Flag was still there."

200 years ago today, The Battle at Fort McHenry (9/13-9/14 1814) – Perhaps the greatest moment in our flag's history is the one which inspired our national anthem. After witnessing Fort McHenry being attacked by British warships the night of Sept.13, 1814, from a neighboring ship, Francis Scott Key woke up the next morning to see through "the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” - intact and waving proudly.

In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill (1776–1857) was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The one that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag. After the Battle of Fort McHenry, the flag became a keepsake of the family of Lieutenant Colonel George Armistead, Fort McHenry's commander.

The flag remained the private property of Lieutenant Colonel Armistead's widow, Louisa Armistead, his daughter Georgiana Armistead Appleton, and his grandson Eben Appleton for 90 years. The publicity that it had received in the 1870s had transformed it into a national treasure, and Appleton received many requests to lend it for patriotic occasions. He permitted it to go to Baltimore for that city's sesquicentennial celebration in 1880. After that his concern for the flag's deteriorating condition led him to keep it in a safe-deposit vault in New York.

In 1907 he lent the Star-Spangled Banner to the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1912 he converted the loan to a gift.

Source: Smithsonian.

11 September 2015

Sorrow and Resolve

Like all Americans, my memories of that day are vivid: The unbelievable sight of the burning towers, the horror and despair of the jumpers, the shock of realization when the Pentagon was hit: America is under attack.

And as the towers fell – first one, then the other – time seemed to stop as I slumped forward in my chair and felt the cries of a thousand souls from a black void.

Then something else swelled up: Fury. They finally got what they wanted; what they've wanted since the first WTC attack in 1993.

Over time, it became clear to me that until then I’d been living in what now seems like my own little world, concerned with my own petty little problems. I’d taken so much for granted. In particular, I realized I’d never fully understood what it meant to be an American. I had no personal experience with the concept that our country was something worth living – and dying – for. It was a kind of Pinocchio moment: "Now I know I'm a real boy, because I can feel my heart breaking."

What I didn't know then is that a heart can break a thousand times.

Although 9/11 is often called ‘the day the world changed’, the fact is that for most Americans, our lives since then have changed in what are essentially inconsequential ways. But for almost 3,000 families – killed in an act of terror simply because they went to work that day, or because they responded to help their fellow citizens – every minute of every day for the past 14 years has been lived with the painful loss of a loved one.

And as the global war on terror that began as a result of 9/11 started, brave men and women stepped up to risk their lives to protect America and prevent future acts of terrorism. Their families stepped up with them, enduring long, multiple deployments filled with challenges, loneliness, and worry.

Over 45,000 warriors have sustained life-altering physical injuries, and many more suffer from invisible wounds. Close to 7,000 made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and another 7000 more families joined the original 3,000 in suffering every day from their indescribable loss.

For all of them, the world truly did change after 9/11.

It is said there is no greater love than that of someone who is willing to lay down his life for another. As a volunteer at Landstuhl, I have had the privilege to be in the company of Heroes, for whom the words Duty, Honor, Country are a way of life.

Fourteen years later, each and every time I see a Wounded Warrior, my heart still breaks with sorrow - and swells with pride and resolve.

“Today is a day to be proud to be American!” cried a warrior from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

September 11, 2015 is a an even prouder day to be American.

"Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."
- Ronald Reagan

24 August 2015

Warrior Sled Hockey Team Prepares for New Season

Christy Gardner, of the Women's National Team, plays with her dog Moxie as she anticipates Gardner throwing a puck to fetch. The San Antonio Rampage sled hockey team is made up of wounded warriors and is sponsored by the Rampage and Operation Comfort. They practiced at the Ice and Gold Center at Northwoods on Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo: Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News.

Made up of injured, ill and wounded veterans, service members and civilians — men and women alike — the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey Team is preparing for a new season of competition. The team just completed a grueling three-day training camp, with three-hour practices. From Sept. 2-22, they’ll test their skills against the South Korean national team at practices and games at the rink at 17530 Henderson Pass.

The team formed in 2007 with a handful of members. It’s grown to a roster of more than 20. Three of the players: Rico Roman, Jen Lee and Josh Sweeney, played on the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The team has won two Northwest league championships.

Read more at the San Antonio Express News.

18 August 2015

Air Force Medical Evacuation Team provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron provide in flight medical care to injured service members on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that departed Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, heading for medical care in Germany, August 2015. The 455th EAES Airmen are charged with the responsibility of evacuating the sick and wounded from Central Command to higher echelons of medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman/Released)

455th EAES provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - After an Aug. 7 attack on a U.S. military installation in Kabul left service members injured, getting them from the battlefield to higher-level care in Germany was a task assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

While the injured service members were stabilized and prepped for movement in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital here, the 455th EAES alerted aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport teams to get a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ready to carry patients and provide medical care in flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“Aeromedical evacuation has a vital mission here at Bagram; it’s a significant part of our nation's airpower and mobility resources,” said Col. Diane Difrancesco, 455th EAES commander deployed from the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. “The 455th EAES is the sole AE hub in the Afghanistan theater of operations. We serve as a specially trained team to sustain human life. We’re mission critical for patient movement to a higher level of care.”

The AE team is responsible for prepping the aircraft with the required medical equipment and providing additional support to the CCATT members, who act as an airborne intensive care unit for critically injured Service members.

The CCATT is a three-person, highly specialized medical team consisting of a physician who specializes in an area of critical care or emergency medicine, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist. Their primary focus is on the care of critical patients while onboard the aircraft.

“As the medical crew director, my responsibility was overseeing the overall mission of getting the patients moved from Bagram to Ramstein,” said Maj. Jonathan Freeman, 455th EAES flight nurse deployed from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 156th AES. “As the MCD, I was responsible for coordinating requirements with the C-17 aircrew, ensuring the aircraft was properly configured and to integrate the AE team with the CCATT team to provide safe medical care for the patients.”

According to Freeman, the patients on the flight were some of the worst he had seen but he had confidence the entire medical team’s expertise would ensure a successful mission.

“I was impressed with everyone on the team and it made it easy for me to focus on my responsibilities as the MCD. These are sharp professionals who know what they are doing. I felt really good about our mission because it is the best care you can get,” said Freeman.

One of those highly trained professionals on the mission was Senior Airman Margaret “Maggie” Mathewes, 455th EAES AE technician deployed from the Air Force Reserve’s 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

“Each AE crew consists of two flight nurses and three med techs. As nationally certified EMTs, we’re able to assist the flight nurses in the care of patients while enroute to a higher level of care,” said Mathewes. “It is the teamwork of the entire crew that ensures proper aircraft setup and functioning medical equipment for a safe and successful movement of the patients."

Mathewes said it’s satisfying to be part of the AE community.

“The entire AE system is a wonderful service that is provided to the men and women that serve our country. Being a part of that system—being able to move the sick and injured to a higher level of care and thus increasing their chances of recovering—is just very humbling," said Mathewes.

Freeman said the motivation, enthusiasm and professionalism of the Total Force team of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen serving as aircrew, AE and CCATT ensured the best continuation of care for the service members.

“It is tough dealing with the bad stuff that comes with this job, but it’s definitely rewarding to know you made a difference by providing critical care for those men and women who are serving on the front line for our country,” Freeman said. “It was a very good mission…we got them from the battlefield to higher-level care and that is what we do.”

According to Difrancesco, she was proud of the contributions of the AE team and said they were critical to saving the lives of the injured service members.

“This team of Airmen made a monumental life-saving contribution to those battle injured service members. Without our team those wounded warriors may not be alive today,” said Difrancesco.

15 August 2015

Wounded soldier fulfills dream of coaching football

Sergeant Kevin Downs suffered nearly fatal injuries in an attack on his Humvee in Iraq in 2005. Three other soldiers with him died.

When the Harpeth High School Indians take the football field this season, among the coaching staff is an American hero who almost lost his life 10 years ago this week.

Sergeant Kevin Downs was serving in Iraq in 2005 when the Humvee he was riding in with three other soldiers was hit by a bomb attack.

Everyone in the vehicle died, but Sgt. Downs. He survived but lost both his legs, suffered second and third degree burns over much of his body and suffered severe damage to his arms.

As for this football season, Sgt. Downs wants a lot of wins and for his players to remember this lesson.

“Don’t give up,” he said. “Get back up and try it again. Just get better each time because giving up is not something you can do.”

Read his incredible story and watch the video here.

07 August 2015

Purple Heart Day

Today is Purple Heart Day. On August 7, 1782, General George Washington - then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army - established the Purple Heart award, originally designated as the Badge of Military Merit.

The Purple Heart exists in its current form since 1932, and is awarded to service members "wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces".

During World War II, almost 500,000 Purple Heart medals were produced in anticipation of the huge number of casualties estimated to result from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. The invasion never happened due to the dropping of the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, the total combined casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number, so the Purple Heart medals awarded today are part of that stock.

As of 2010, a total of over 1,900,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded in our nation's history - over 35,000 to service members for wounds sustained in the Iraq War and over 7000 for the war in Afghanistan.

13 July 2015

Remembering the Heroes of Wanat

"I just hope these guys’ wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were. They fought like warriors." - SGT Jacob Walker

Im Memoriam:

1LT Jonathan Brostrom
SGT Israel Garcia
SPC Matthew Phillips
SPC Pruitt Rainey
SPC Jonathan Ayers
SPC Jason Bogar
SPC Sergio Abad
SPC Jason Hovater
SPC Gunnar Zwilling

All Sky Soldiers of Chosen Company, 2/503 Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. They were killed in action at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler near Wanat in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. 27 Americans and four Afghan soldiers were wounded.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and with all of the men who were there that day. We will always remember.

Originally posted 13 July 2009.

11 July 2015

85-year old widow donates home to wounded Veteran

The home is being renovated by the Lifetime TV show "Designing Spaces: Military Makeovers". According to them,

A few months ago, our producers received a call from Wilma (“Tinky”) Stuart of Orlando, FL. She was touched by what she saw on the Military Makeover series that aired in November 2014, coming from a military family herself. Wilma wants to make a difference for a needy veteran — and has generously donated a home to our next Military Makeover family.

WFTV - Orlando:

"It's the beginning of the largest chapter of my life. It's the best part of my life," [Army veteran Tommy] Travis said.


A woman whom he's never met, Tinky Stewart, 85, is giving her house to Travis to show her gratitude for his sacrifice. Stewart is the widow of a Marine.

"I'm of the age where it takes very little for me anymore. So, I thought, 'Why not donate it to a nice veteran and his family?'" Stewart said.


For Travis, his wife and two daughters, the home will mean the end of countless moves, courtesy of the U.S. Army. It will finally be a home upon which they can build.

"She's an angel for what she did. I can't say thank you enough. I could say it a hundred million times and it still wouldn't be enough to show the gratitude I have toward her," Travis said.

The house will be mortgage free.

The episode on the makeover will air in October.

03 July 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Today, Independence Day, we remember that our freedom and liberty are owed to a remarkable group of men and women who had the courage to stand up against the tyranny and injustice of the British Crown over 200 years ago.

56 men signed a document that denounced the “repeated injuries and usurpations” of their God-given rights and liberties. This bold and courageous act was not self-serving, but a pursuit to establish a new way of life where all men, created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

They pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to fulfill the principles of freedom our Warriors still fight for today.

God bless America, and happy Independence Day!