07 August 2016

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 2016

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.

Scroll down at this link to read about the MEDEVAC Heroes of that day, as well as the many awards - some posthumously - received by the warriors of Wanat.

30 June 2016

Happy Independence Day!

On 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!

06 June 2016

“Soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!"

Photo: National Archives.

“Soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you."
- Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Eve of D-Day

On June 6, 1944 the D-Day invasion, Operation Overlord, began with a dangerous attack by American paratroopers who were dropped behind enemy lines. With their parachutes, men weighed in at 90 to 120 pounds over their body weight.

By dawn 18,000 parachutists were already on the ground; the land invasions began at 6:30 a.m.

Due to heavy fog and German guns, the pilots were unable to drop the paratroopers precisely as planned, causing great loss of life and supplies. Still, the 101st and 82nd Divisions managed to form smaller improvised squads and began to fight.

By day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops–Americans, British and Canadians–had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.

The Allied casualties (killed, wounded, missing in action) figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000 (2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans), including 2500 dead. However, ongoing research suggests a that as many as 4400 Allied personnel were killed on D-Day, including 2499 Americans.

30 May 2016

For Some, Every Day is Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, we pause as a grateful nation to honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in our defense.

We used to think of them as stoic Heroes of wars fought long ago represented by white gravestones standing in silent memory across our land.

But now they are also today's sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends.

And in their sacrifice lies not just our liberty, but also the pain of those left behind.

As we honor our fallen Heroes, we also remember their loved ones and pray for those living with the pain of loss.

Nothing can ever replace their loss, but we pray they can find strength knowing that their loved ones died while fighting in defense of our country's founding principles.

If not for their commitment to a cause greater than themselves, we would not be here to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

As we pause to remember the high cost of freedom and honor those who paid the ultimate price to protect it, let us resolve to live lives worthy of their sacrifice.

God bless our Fallen Heroes and their families. We honor your sacrifice, and will love and remember you always.

For some, every day is Memorial Day.

09 May 2016

2016 Invictus Games Open in Florida

From Stars & Stripes:

“You will see people that should have died on the battlefield but instead are going for gold on the athletic field,” Prince Harry said to a thunderous crowd during the opening ceremony at the ESPN Wide World of Sports arena at Disney World. “You will be inspired.”

Prince Harry launched the Invictus Games in 2014 in London after he saw the rehabilitative power of sport at the U.S. Warrior Games and wanted to take that healing spirit global.

01 May 2016

Five Years Ago: bin Laden Killed by U.S. Forces

This is a repost from 2011.

"A lot of people were upset we celebrated the death of another human being. I told them the only thing I as upset about is that I didn't do it. They've got to understand that people have to do terrible things so that things like 9/11 don't happen again."

- Sgt. Christopher "Kit" Lowe, wounded in Afghanistan, 2009.

Words like "grateful," "relief," and "calming," were words local veterans at the Soldiers' Angels Support Center in San Antonio, TX used when they talked about the "most wanted terrorist" Osama Bin Laden being taken down. The words hardly describe the peace and closure many military men and women and veterans say they're feeling.

Here are more reactions from Wounded Warriors and Gold Star families.

"While bin Laden may be dead, America still must defeat the Taliban and the rest of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We're still not through losing soldiers on the ground over there. There's still a job that we have to do. And we need to complete that job before we come home."

- Donn Edmunds, Gold Star father of Army Ranger Spc Jonn Edmunds, who was among the first combat casualties in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

"I always believed in the cause; whether it was against fighting Al Qaeda, or the Taliban, or whoever, but I really think it means a lot more now that we've actually stuck with this war and caught him."

- Robert Riley, former Navy Hospital Corpsman wounded in Afghanistan in 2010.

“I feel like celebrating, but I don't feel like celebrating his death. But I think it's a huge relief that he died for anyone involved in 9/11-- every American, you know.” Nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, he says the U.S. mission is not over.

- Marine Cpl Todd Love, wounded in Afghanistan in 2010.

"A lot of thoughts ran through my mind, with a pounding heart and some relief that this just may be the beginning of the end of what was started with our country’s biggest assault... September 11th. My grandson Seth would have been so proud to see the demise of bin Laden.”

- Ron Garceau, Gold Star grandfather of Army Sgt. Seth Garceau who died at Landstuhl hospital in 2005 of wounds sustained in Ramadi, Iraq.

"I was personally happy to see that. Any time evil is defeated, that's a great thing and it's something to be happy about. Do I take a lot of satisfaction, a lot of semi-quiet satisfaction, in knowing that bin Laden is dead? I do. I guess a small part of that is personal. But for me, it's for my country."

- Layne Morris, former Army Special Forces wounded in Afghanistan in 2002.

"I'm more proud than ever to be an American. There is no better military in the world than ours. I remember after the 9/11 attacks, when Bush said we will not falter and we will not fail. This event speaks to the commitment, intestinal fortitude and perseverance of our military."

- John Walter Wroblewski, Gold Star Father of Marine 2nd Lt. John Thomas "J.T." Wroblewski, who was killed in Ramadi, Iraq in 2004.

"For guys like me who have lost personally so much, and friends, it's like, are we going to be there forever?" He hopes the county's leaders learn something from the costly wars.

- Retired Staff Sgt Joe Beimfohr, wounded in Iraq in 2005.

"When you're fighting an ideology, you're not facing off with a nation-state that can surrender. The only way we can beat them is to stop them from conducting their actions. And we do that by showing them that they will pay an ultimate price."

- Former Staff Sgt. Phillip Baldwin, wounded in Afghanistan in 2006.

‎"I have a vested interest in what happens in Afghanistan. I feel like (bin Laden's death) hopefully will be a turning point and I know it will be a great morale booster for our troops."

- Linda Ferrara, mother of MAJ Marcus Ferrara, who served in Iraq, CPT Matt Ferrara, KIA in Afghanistan in 2007, 1LT Damon Ferrara, just returned from Afghanistan, and 2LT Andy Ferrara, deploying to Afghanistan in May.

"What can you say? Everything I signed up for is finally completed. I was instantly emotional. It was amazing."

- Former Army Spc Rob Kislow, wounded in Afghanistan in 2005.

"The first thing that went through my mind was elation. And relief that everything that we're going through hasn't been for nothing, because it kind of feels like that sometimes."

- Leslie Kammerdiener, Silver Star Mother and caregiver of former Army Spc Kevin Kammerdiener, wounded in Afghanistan in 2008.

"In war, the only cause for celebration, in the eyes of a warrior, is its victorious end. There will still be the empty chair at the table, the salt of tears, the bitterness of friends and family no longer among us, and the emptiness that comes from their loss. We will continue this fight, and so will our enemy."

- Major Charles Ziegenfuss, wounded in Iraq in 2005.

19 March 2016

On This Day in 2003 - Operation Iraqi Freedom Begins

Sgt. Matthew LeVart carries injured Cpl. Barry Lange off the battlefield as members of India Co., 3rd Batt., 7th Marine Division engage Iraqi soldiers in battle at the headquarters of the Iraqi 51st and 37th mechanized infantry divisions near Az Bayer, Iraq on March 21, 2003, the first day of the ground war. Photo: Laura Rauch.

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

The air operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom began 13 years ago today, followed by the official start of ground operations 2 days later. We will always remember the courage and the bravery of our troops, and we will never forget our debt of gratitude to all of you, especially the wounded and the Fallen. We pray for you and your families every day. May God bless you all.

21 February 2016

Groundbreaking ECMO treatment used at Bagram and Landstuhl to breathe life into NATO ally

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team combines efforts with the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO ally at the Craig Joint-Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where he will receive 7 to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- A specialized team dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center combined efforts with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group to perform life-saving treatment on a NATO partner Feb. 18.

The patient was suffering from adult respiratory distress syndrome secondary to influenza B, and had to be admitted and intubated to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital on Feb. 13. His condition worsened over the next 48 hours, and the decision to rapidly activate and deploy an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team was reached in order to keep the patient alive.

ECMO works by bypassing the lungs and infusing the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. This procedure requires a team of eight, highly-qualified medical personnel to initiate and continue around-the-clock treatment.

“I am grateful for the team that came from SAMMC. This is truly the only chance our patient has of surviving,” said Maj. (Dr.) Valerie Sams, the 455th EMDG trauma czar who coordinated the life-saving care. “With his lung failure and kidney decline, he is still at about a 50 percent mortality risk. However, I think with his relatively young age and lack of significant chronic medical conditions, there is considerable hope.”

The hospital, supported with a staff of 40 providers, nurses, technicians, pharmacy, radiology, and lab personnel, provided tireless care in the intensive care unit. On top of that, around 30 transport medics were used to ensure that the patient could be moved out of theater to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Altogether, nearly 80 military members provided 120 hours of continuous medical care for one NATO ally to have a chance at life.

“I am extremely proud of how all the medics came together to care for this patient,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, the 455th EMDG commander. “They worked non-stop around the clock for six days. They had an unfailing commitment to serve this patient. They never gave up as a team and continuously problem solved to keep him alive. This is a great example of medics providing trusted care, anywhere.”

The patient will need at least seven to 14 days of additional ECMO treatment, and while his condition may still be grim, it is because of the combined efforts of deployed teams he now has a chance at recovery.

A 455th Expeditionary Medical Group team combines efforts with the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team to save the life of a NATO ally at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Feb. 18, 2016. The ECMO team, dispatched from San Antonio Military Medical Center, uses technology that bypasses the lungs and infuses the blood directly with oxygen, while removing the harmful carbon dioxide from the blood stream. The patient was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)