28 July 2006

The Heroes of Golani Brigade's Battalion 51

IDF soldiers comfort each other after returning from combat in southern Lebanon on Monday. (AP)

The famous Golani Brigade's Battalion 51 lost eight soldiers and suffered over 20 wounded on Wednesday in the battle for Bint Jbail in southern Lebanon. Most recently, the Golani Brigade were among the last to leave Gaza before the disengagement plan was implemented last year and after what are widely characterized as "extraordinary accomplishments", including the killing of dozens of terrorists.

They've also fought in Lebanon before.

Twelve years after losing nine fighters in Lebanon, Battalion 51 returns to field and loses eight more fighters Wednesday. Senior officer promises, 'after soldiers cry, they will take weapons and return to battle'.

One of the medevac helicopter pilots describes the scene he encountered upon arriving near Bint Jbail this way:

"This was definitely one of the most dramatic operations," he recounted during a conversation with Ynet.

"When I went in, the place looked like a battlefield you see in the movies. A lot of smoke, burned houses, cars upside down. At that moment I ignored everything and concentrated on my mission," Col S. said.

The battle at Bint Jbail from the perspective of one of Battalion 51's commanders:

The thing that most impressed Capt. Yisrael Friedler, commander of A Company in the Golani Brigade's Battalion 51, during the bloody battle in Bint Jbail on Wednesday, was the way the junior commanders conducted themselves after their officers had been hit by Hizbullah gunfire.

"The moment their officers went down," he told The Jerusalem Post Thursday, "the sergeants took their radios and began reporting in and managing the battle, while at the same time taking charge of evacuating the wounded. It was the height of professionalism," he said.

Just 2 miles from the border and overlooking northern Israel, Bint Jbail has a symbolic as well as military significance for the Hezbollah terrorists. It has the largest Shiite community in the border area, and the day after Israel ended its occupation in 2000, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah immediately entered Bint Jbail for his first celebration rally.

The firefight began early in the morning when two companies, A and C, began advancing down one of Bint Jbail's streets on parallel routes. Contrary to previous reports, Friedler said, the Hizbullah fighters were not lying in ambush. "Both sides were unaware of each other and it was actually one of our soldiers who saw them first and opened fire."

But the Hizbullah men were in upper stories of buildings and had a commanding view of the IDF force. In the initial firing, 30 members of C Company, a third of its total strength, were hit, as was the battalion's deputy commander, Maj. Roi Klein.
( ... )
Most of the fighting took place at extremely short-range, sometimes only a few meters, with both sides using hand grenades and anti-tank missiles.

Friedler's company began laying down supporting fire to enable the remaining soldiers of C Company to evacuate their wounded while continuing to shoot at the enemy. Two additional Golani companies were rushed in to help with the evacuation.

"The real heroism was that of the stretcher-bearers who went in to the killing zone no less than six times to carry the wounded out to the building where we began treating them," said Friedler.
( ... )
Five soldiers from A Company were also wounded in the fighting, including Friedler: A bullet went right through his hand. He continued commanding the force and was only evacuated the next day to hospital, where he underwent surgery.

"The battle began to their advantage. They were in a much better position, but we won and killed at least 20 Hizbullah fighters. None of the soldiers panicked, they were professional throughout, and that's our advantage over Hizbullah," Friedler said.

As part of their standard exercises, Golani soldiers practice scenarios where all the commanders and half of the soldiers are wounded, "but nothing can really prepare you for it when it really happens," he said.

The eight soldiers of Golani's Battalion 51 killed in Bint Jbail were named as:
Major Roi Klein, 31, from Eli
Corporal Ohad Klausner, 20, from Beit Horon
Corporal Assaf Namer, 26, from Kiryat Ata
Corporal Shimon Agada, 20, from Kiryat Gat
Sergeant Shimon Dahan, 20, from Ashdod
Sergeant Alex Schwartzman, 23, from Acre
Sergeant Idan Cohen, 21, from Jaffa
First Lieutenant Amihai Merhavia, 24, from Eli

Rest in Peace, Warriors.

Update: Blackfive has the briefing given by Captain Uri Lavie, a company commander in the Golani Brigade to his soldiers before crossing the border to engage Hezbollah the following day.

27 July 2006

NEO at Ramstein AB

Thousands of U.S. citizens being evacuated from Lebanon via Cyprus by the Air Force are passing through Ramstein Air Base in Germany:

Approximately 1,200 Airmen and civilians here quickly prepared to greet the arrival of the fleeing citizens. Preparations began at about 4 a.m. July 22 and the first arrivals showed up the same day at about 1 p.m. Food, lodging, medical support and a host of other services were quickly put into place.
( ... )
The citizens passing through seemed surprised and pleased with the extent of services set up for them, to include free phone cards, messages announced in both English and Arabic, cribs for babies, and even a birthday cake with a candle that appeared for a 3-year-old.

As approximately 1,800 U.S. citizens passed through here via Air Force aircraft, the U.S. ambassador to Germany paid a visit to meet the transient Americans and to give thanks to the Airmen providing support.
( ... )
Those citizens included a mother and her two teenage children that General Hobbins said he met that morning at the passenger service terminal with the ambassador. The family became stranded in Lebanon where they were on vacation from Boston. The mother was well-traveled but unfamiliar with the U.S. Air Force.

"She had traveled a lot through many parts of the world but never has she had the top-notch service of the U.S. Air Force to get her from one place to another. I was very proud of that," said General Hobbins.

Some of the C-17 aircraft and Airmen involved in the Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) are with the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron based at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan:

Det.1's primary mission is flying passengers and cargo into Operation Enduring Freedom's area of operations. Though usually flying folks downrange, they proved they are just as capable of flying people out of harm's way.

Two crews from Det.1 joined the assisted departure of Americans from Lebanon in Cyprus.

One crew, led by aircraft commander Capt. Lauren Palagi, flew from Manas to Cyprus to pick up the Americans from Lebanon July 23. The other crew went to supplement the 817 EAS fleet at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

I could make a snide remark here about how when the $#it hits the fan, everyone suddenly loves the U.S. military.

But I won't.

What I will say is that all of those passengers should adopt a deployed service member or make a donation to a veterans' support organization when they get home.

26 July 2006

This is what it's all about - Redux

Soldiers' Angel Arkansas Granny Dee received this message from a Soldier who got one of her Blankets of Hope downrange:

The blanket made me feel a little better about being there. Knowing that the people back home were still behind the soldiers made me feel better.

I am glad to say that I am back to 100% and returned to duty. I just wanted to thank you personally.

I am sending the blanket back home. My wife said that she will put it up for me till I get back.

Won't you step up and show our brave soldiers you care by sending a card, a blanket, or a box of snacks?

21 July 2006

This is what it's all about

From the Soldiers' Angels Forum:

One of "our" blankets was seen at the VA in West Haven today! My boyfriend Al works there and met a young man just in from Germany and on his way west.

He was in a wheelchair, and had a Blanket of Hope on his lap.

He said he cried when he got it, it made him feel loved!!!


- Blankets of Hope
- Vietnam Vet on Landstuhl Fundraiser: "We give them something the government can't give them - love"

Support Organization Founders Come Together to Honor Soldier Riders

From the Soldiers' Angels Network blog:

Support organization founders come together to celebrate and honor the heroes of this year's soldier ride.

Pasadena, CA (PRWEB) July 19, 2006 -- Several years ago, three ladies recognized a need to provide support and caring to our brave men and women in the United States Armed Forces. Frankie Mayo of Operation AC, Carolyn Blashek of Operation Gratitude and Patti Patton-Bader of Soldiers’ Angels were among the first to send a little thanks from home over to the troops deployed in support of the War on Terror.

Today, these amazing women are coming together with one voice to welcome and congratulate the brave heroes of Soldier Ride 2006 to their final stop on their journey across the nation. Beginning on May 6th in Montauk, New York and visiting over 70 cities across America, these heroes will end their cross-country ride in San Clemente, California on July 29th.

Also attending this event will be friends and supporters of our brave men and women in uniform from the Patriot Guard Riders the Military Order of the Purple Heart and from Yellow Ribbon America. These groups have planned a special welcome for Soldier Riders as a tribute to their accomplishment and all that they represent.

Each year Soldier Ride sponsors a cross-country cycling event to aid in the rehabilitation of the brave men and women who return home with injuries incurred in the current military conflicts abroad. Participation in our cycling events provides these wounded warriors a foundation for the development of a positive self-image and outlook on life, which in turn speeds the rehabilitation and recovery process.

What an extraordinary group of people and organizations. And meet one of the Soldier Riders here.

Cpl. Kevin Blanchard is a 23 year old retired Marine who lost his left leg and suffered severe wounds to his right leg in an IED explosion while serving in Iraq. Recently retired from the military, Kevin resides in Arlington, Virginia and will be pursuing a business degree at George Washington University this fall. Kevin joined us on the ride from Little Rock to Branson, his second cycling trip with Soldier Ride.

20 July 2006

Bad News Gets Worse

Looks like Froggy was on to something. As referenced in my post of July 13 This Is Bad News:

Over at Blackfive, Froggy explores the Worst Case Scenario... Coordination.

It is well known that Lebanon is a client state of Syria and further, that Syria is a client state of Iran. There are reports that Iranian defense officials are now in Damascus possibly pulling the strings on a coordinated assault of Israel by Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel has already buzzed Syria's dictator's house, and the leader of the "militant wing" (is there a non-militant wing?) of Hamas is also under the protection of the Syrians in Damascus. If you think that this is a potential nightmare scenario for Israel and the US, it gets worse.

Remember North Korea? They are very close with the Iranians as well, and it is postulated by intel sources that they have been sharing nuclear and missile technology for the past two years. KJI has no cash since we froze most of his assets in foreign banks for running a massive US currency counterfeiting operation, and the Iranians are wallowing in cash and hate the US as much as NK.

And today Reuters are reporting that US says Iranians witnessed N.Korea missile test.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One or more Iranians witnessed North Korea's recent missile tests, deepening U.S. concerns about growing ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities, a top U.S. official said on Thursday.

Asked at a U.S. Senate hearing about reports that Iranians witnessed the July 4 tests, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator with Pyongyang, replied: "Yes, that is my understanding" and it is "absolutely correct" that the relationship is worrisome.
( ... )

North Korea-Iran ties are of even more concern now as the militant Islamic group Hizbollah, which is backed by Iran, is trading rocket fire with Israel, Hill and Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia said during the hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

This is more than "worrisome". This really is the "Worst Case Scenario".

Soldiers' Angels Mourns SGT Nathaniel S. Baughman

From Donna of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen hero from Soldiers' Angels, Nathaniel Baughman.

Sgt. Nathaniel S. Baughman, 23, of Monticello, Ind., died of injuries on July 17 in Bayji, Iraq, when his HMMWV encountered enemy forces rocket-propelled grenades during patrol operations.

Baughman was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Nate is survived by his wife, Erin and son, Hunter.

Thank you for supporting the families of our fallen heroes and their Angels.


Nathaniel is also survived by his parents and siblings including a twin brother Nick Skorup, who serves in the U.S. Navy.

"He was definitely proud of what he was doing and he definitely wanted to protect his family and his friends and his country," said his mother Jill Baughman.

She said it was her son's last mission and he was scheduled to return home in a few weeks. Nathaniel had served in the National Guard before enlisting in the Army.

From this story about Nathaniel from the Pharos-Tribune, a local newpaper:

After being hugged by friends, Baughman’s mother, Jill, read a letter he had written to his family. She spoke to a few dozen friends, relatives, media and police officers gathered for a press conference. The text of the letter read:

“I fight for my country so that people can have their freedom and there are many who disagree with us being here. So anybody who is grateful and support us even by just writing a letter, it is a good feeling to feel that what we are doing is not done in vain, but with the support of great American people."

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for Sgt. Baughman pending family request.

Update: The Patriot Guard Riders will be riding for Sgt. Baughman on July 25.

Please take a moment to read the Army Sgt. Nathaniel S. Baughman tribute at the Soldiers' Angels Fallen Heroes blog.

Remember our Heroes.

19 July 2006

S&S Troop Morale Survey

Here's some of the results in graphs. Follow the links for related stories.

For Milblogger analysis and discussion, head over to John's post at the Castle.

One very postive result of note:

Seventy percent view support from home being strong, and that doesn’t surprise analysts.

Charles Moskos, a military sociologist and professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., says this stands in stark contrast to Vietnam.

Now we just have to work on the other thirty percent...

Happy Birthday Mary Ann Bickerdyke

It seems I have a namesake who was born on this day in 1817.

Mary Ann Bickerdyke 1817 - 1901

She was a Union nurse in the American Civil War. Affectionately called Mother Bickerdyke, she served throughout the war in the West and was a favorite of the enlisted men whose rights she championed. She was also a favorite with generals Grant and Sherman. After the war she lobbied in Washington to secure pensions for Civil War nurses and veterans.

From Wikipedia:
After the outbreak of the Civil War, she joined a field hospital at Fort Donelson, and worked on the first hospital boat. During the War she became chief of nursing under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, and served at the Battle of Vicksburg.
( ... )
By the end of the war, with the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Mother Bickerdyke had built 300 hospitals and aided the wounded on 19 battlefields.

I certainly would not presume to compare myself with this extraordinary woman, but it does seem as though we might have something in common besides our name:
When his staff complained about the outspoken, insubordinate female nurse who consistently disregarded the army's red tape and military procedures, Union Gen. William T. Sherman threw up his hands and exclaimed, "She outranks me. I can't do a thing in the world."


18 July 2006

Germany-based Dagger Brigade Returns to Iraq

It's official - the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division is heading back to Iraq.

After months of speculation, U.S. Army Europe announced Sunday evening that the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Schweinfurt, Germany, will deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the next few weeks.
( ... )

The brigade originally received notification of possible May deployment in November 2005. That date was postponed by the Pentagon, leaving the unit’s 4,000 soldiers and their families in limbo.
( ... )

The brigade is completing a recertification gunnery exercise in Grafenwöhr, Germany, and the various units within the brigade will begin deploying over the next few weeks to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, according to the USAREUR release.

This is the second deployment in Iraq for the brigade, which deployed in 2004 with other elements of 1st ID under Texas’ III Corps/Multi-National Corps-Iraq. During the upcoming tour, the unit will fall under the leadership of 1st Armored Division.

At the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 the Dagger Brigade orignally deployed to Turkey in preparation for the planned northern invasion of Iraq by 4th ID. When the Turkish government denied access through their border, the 2nd brigade returned to Germany before deploying to Iraq in 2004.

Godspeed to the soldiers of the Dagger Brigade, and special thoughts and prayers for Soldiers' Angel Kathy Hartmann, whose son is one of them.

"What kind of world are they living in?"

Although Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah was quoted as saying late last week that "the battle today is no longer a battle over prisoners or the exchange of prisoners", CNSNews.com is reporting today that the aim of the July 12 kidnapping of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in which eight other Israeli soldiers were killed, is to exchange them for a Lebanese prisoner named Samir Kuntar.

Meet Samir Kuntar, who has been in an Israeli jail for 28 years serving multiple life sentences.

Kuntar was one of a four-man group that crossed into Israel by sea, sent on the mission by the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), an affiliate of Yasser Arafat's PLO.

In the coastal town of Nahariya, the terrorists shot dead a policeman and forced their way into an apartment building, where they captured Danny Haran and his daughter, Einat, 4.

While the terrorists rampaged through the apartment, firing weapons and detonating grenades, Haran's wife Smadar hid in a crawlspace above the couple's bedroom together with their other daughter, two-year-old Yael, and a neighbor.

In an effort to prevent Yael from crying out and alerting the terrorists to their whereabouts, Smadar kept her hand over the child's mouth, and accidentally smothered her to death.

Meanwhile Kuntar and his group took Danny and Einat Haran to the beach.

"There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see," Smadar wrote later.

"Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar."

I think Nasrallah is right. This conflict isn't about the exchange of prisoners. It's about incompatible cultures.

At a press conference in Beirut's southern suburbs last week, reported on Hizballah's website, [Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah] said of the Israelis: "What do they want us to do? Hand over the soldiers and apologize? What kind of world are they living in?"

How about a world in which smashing a child's skull with a rifle butt is not considered acceptable behavior?

17 July 2006

From the Marines of the Double Dirty Dozen


It has been a long time since we last talked – the “Double Dirty Dozen” is down under 45 days left and we would like to say thank you for all that you do… below are comments from all the Marines, please post them on your website.


CWO-2 Brian


To all the Soldier’s Angels –

I asked the Marines of the Double Dirty Dozen to put into words their thanks for your organization and the people who take it upon themselves to support us. Your support has brightened the faces of all of us throughout our deployment of which is nearly over. Please continue to keep these Marines smiling by keeping all of us in your thoughts and prayers.

God Speed and Semper Fidelis

---- CWO Brian


The Soldiers' Angel program has been a great motivational program. It makes me smile to receive a letter or package from the program. The Soldiers' Angels have helped to make many of my bad days good days.
---- PFC Dustin

The soldier’s angels have been a true blessing to me. It always uplifts my day when I receive a letter form someone who doesn’t know me but still supports me. Thank you for caring.
---- LCpl Allen

Soldier’s Angels is an outstanding program. I couldn’t imagine making it through the deployment without them. My Soldier’s Angels sent me a set of study guides for the SAT and ACT. I will never forget the love that they have shown me.
---- LCpl Quincy

I want to thank the Soldier’s Angels Organization for all of the care packages and letters that remind me that we ARE NOT FORGOTTEN and thank you for the phone cards that have allowed us to keep in contact with our loved ones. Thank you for taking care of us you really have been “Angels”.
---- LCpl Andres

To the Soldier’s Angels thank you for your commitment and support. Keep doing what you’re doing from all of us out here, you are greatly appreciated. You are the reason we fight.
---- Cpl Jose

Thank you Soldier’s Angels, it’s good to know that there are people home that care and support the U.S. military. We appreciate everything that you do for us.
---- LCpl Daniel

Thank you Soldier’s Angels. Having the support of people like you gives us an edge that cannot be taken away. To know that there are still Americans that have love like this in their hearts is a great feeling.
--- LCpl Kimberly

Thank you to the Soldier’s Angels. You really help to lift the morale of the troops it reminds us that people still support and pray for us and we need those prayers. It has helped to keep my spirits up to know that there are people like you. Thank you.
--- LCpl Patrick

Thank you for all the support. It’s the little things that we take for granted that you send in the care packages. Body lotion facial scrub and especially female products give us such a boost out here. Thank you all so much.
---- LCpl Josefina

Thank you to the Soldier’s Angels. Being out here in Iraq it is nice to receive packages and letters from people and families who care and think of us as heroes. Thank you and continue to be Semper Fidelis which is the Marine Corps Motto and means Always Faithful.
----LCpl Juliana

Thank you very much we truly appreciate your support. It is very meaningful to know that people back home still care about us. The letters and packages are greatly appreciated. With your help it has been easy to get through this deployment without too much homesickness.
---- LCpl Levi

Thank you for the increase in morale for the junior Marines that you provide. Some of the junior Marines do not receive enough mail from home and you all act as a boost for them by your packages and letters. You have been a family member for people who don’t have or don’t have much contact with their family. Thank you.
---- Cpl Donald

I want to thank you for the way you have taken care of the members of my detachment to see the faces of the Marines when they received a letter from someone who they don’t even know and how it brought them so much joy has really been a great thing. Thank you so much for what you do, you are appreciated.
----- Cpl Khalief

I never thought that something as simple as a letter could mean so much. It is nice to know that the freedom that we are fighting for isn’t taken for granted and that there are still people who believe in America.
---- PFC Danielle

The Soldier’s Angels have been a blessing to all of us. They way they treat us they really must be angels. I have received countless letters and even a few care packages from people who truly go out of their way to show us their support. To all of you we say Thank You.
---- LCpl Mathew

I appreciate all of the mail and packages that you have sent us over the deployment here in Iraq. It has lifted the spirits and morale of all the Marines of the detachment. We can’t thank you enough for the job you have done. We appreciate the job you do to support us.
---- Cpl Jason

I want to thank you personally for your support. You are the reason that we do what we do well. Your support means everything to us and we thank you for it, please continue to keep us in your prayers and thoughts.
----- LCpl Zachary

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for what you do. Your letters really mean a lot to all of us. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
---- LCpl Edgar

My Soldier’s Angels letters reminded me so much of home seeing the ways that they helped us made me feel good about my country. Thank you for all your support and for helping to win this fight.
---- LCpl David

To all of the Soldier’s Angels I want you to know we appreciate you. We know that it’s a sacrifice for you to give your time to make us feel better. I just want to let you know that everything that you do for does not go in vain and is not forgotten. Many of us have sent letters but there is no real way to tell you how much we appreciate you except to say Thank You.
---- LCpl Nigel

Your help has meant everything to us I don’t have many family members that keep close contact with me so to have people who don’t know me send me items that I really need out here is unbelievable. You all have stepped into the role as family members when we needed them. Thank you and keep up the good work.
---- Cpl Keane

Being here in Iraq mail is one of the things that the Marines here take pride in it’s one of the things that we use as a way to keep us going. When you see others receiving mail and packages and you don’t get either it can hurt. You all ensure that this doesn’t happen to any service member; you stand in the place to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and loved; We thank you for it, we appreciate everything that you do. Keep being angels.
---- Sgt. Duane

Soldier’s Angels – Thank you for all the great support and a great program that you are running. Please continue to push your support not only to the Double Dirty Dozen but to all military personnel.
---- SSgt Wesley

Well done to Robin and all of the Angels who supported the Double Dirty Dozen, and Semper Gratus Marines!

Won't you step forward and become a Soldiers' Angel?

And thanks to the Mudville Gazette for the Open Post.

14 July 2006

More Iran. Or, if you don't go to war, the war comes to you.

Michael Ledeen:

No one should have any lingering doubts about what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s war, and it now runs from Gaza into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on to the multifaceted “insurgency” in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable.

Who quotes Omar of Iraq the Model:

I don't know for sure what made Hizbollah do what they did this morning but I can make some guesses starting from the fact that Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah collectively form one big axis of evil in the Middle East with connected interests and shared goals so the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers looks like an act planned to serve the interests of the members of the axis without the least regard to the harm it can bring upon Lebanon.
( ... )

Hizbollah is Iran's and Syria's partner in feeding instability in Iraq as there were evidence that this terror group has a role in equipping and training insurgents in Iraq and Hizbollah had more than once openly showed support for the “resistance” in Iraq and sponsored the meetings of Baathist and radical Islamist militants who are responsible for most of the violence in Iraq.

Robert Tracinski:

If, in the face of repeated threats and provocation by an aggressive dictatorship, you refuse to go to war, the war will eventually come to you.

That's the meaning of Iran's de facto declaration of war against Israel--which is, ultimately, a new war Iran is waging against the US. Iran is so desperate for war with the West that it is bringing the war to us, openly and willfully initiating a regional conflict that may soon involve three of Iran's proxies--Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria--fighting against America's proxy, Israel.

The danger for us is that, in seeking to avoid an unavoidable war with Iran, we have allowed Iran to start the conflict on terms that it believes will be most favorable to it.
( ... )

It is important to grasp that Iran is deliberately, intentionally drawing Israel into a war with its proxies. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been making increasingly ominous statements warning about a "conflagration" involving Israel, then two Iranian-funded organizations run out of Syria, a close Iranian ally, launched incursion into Israel to kidnap Israeli soliders--a provocation that cannot merely be shrugged off, but which demands extended Israeli military action. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah would have launched these attacks without Iranian permission and support.

13 July 2006

This Is Bad News

Very bad news.

Israel says it has learned that the Lebanese-based Hizballah intends to transfer the two Israeli soldiers it abducted on Wednesday to Iran. That word came today from a senior official in Israel's Foreign Ministry.
( ... )

"We also have specific information that Hizballah is planning to transfer the kidnapped soldiers to Iran," Meir told journalists in Jerusalem.

Syria, Iran and Hamas were also part of the same "axis of terror and hate threatening not only Israel but the entire world," Meir said.

Syria hosts the headquarters of about a dozen Palestinian terrorist groups in its capital Damascus, including that of Hamas and its political leader Khaled Mashaal.

Israel accused Mashaal of being behind the earlier Palestinian attack on an Israeli army outpost along the Israeli-Gaza border 19 days ago, in which Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted and taken into Gaza.

Over at Blackfive, Froggy explores the Worst Case Scenario... Coordination.

It is well known that Lebanon is a client state of Syria and further, that Syria is a client state of Iran. There are reports that Iranian defense officials are now in Damascus possibly pulling the strings on a coordinated assault of Israel by Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel has already buzzed Syria's dictator's house, and the leader of the "militant wing" (is there a non-militant wing?) of Hamas is also under the protection of the Syrians in Damascus. If you think that this is a potential nightmare scenario for Israel and the US, it gets worse.

Remember North Korea? They are very close with the Iranians as well, and it is postulated by intel sources that they have been sharing nuclear and missile technology for the past two years. KJI has no cash since we froze most of his assets in foreign banks for running a massive US currency counterfeiting operation, and the Iranians are wallowing in cash and hate the US as much as NK.

Read Froggy's post and the ensuing discussion.

And although I don't see this escalating into the next World War, I do find the timing of this provocation intriguing given the recent Israeli withdrawl from Gaza and the fact that there has not been a single Israeli soldier in Lebanon for years now.

Superstar Cher Visits Wounded Heroes at Landstuhl

Cher stops to pose for a photo in a hallway at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Wednesday. - Steve Mraz / S&S

From today's Stars and Stripes.

Cher, the singer/actress whose popularity and looks have spanned generations, spent hours Wednesday afternoon visiting with wounded troops and thanking the Landstuhl staff for the job they perform.

“I’ve been to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center),” she said. “I’ve been to Bethesda (home to the National Naval Medical Center). Now coming here, I have to tell you something ... You guys are unbelievable. I see the best care, the most heartfelt care.”
( ... )

The Oscar-winning actress told Wednesday’s crowd that she was ordered to visit the hospital by Landstuhl Commander Col. Bryan Gamble when the two met recently at Walter Reed. She decided to make the trip and traveled from France on Wednesday to the hospital.

Cher also planned visits to the outpatients at Kleber barracks and Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Ramstein Air Base.

11 July 2006

Vietnam Vet on Landstuhl Fundraiser: "We give them something the government can't give them - love"

I met Nick Mascolo of the BBC Salon in Tenafly, New Jersey while visiting my parents last Thanksgiving.

At that time Nick was working on a Christmas project for deployed troops, so naturally we got talking. I told him about Soldiers' Angels and he promised the next fundraiser would be for us.

Vietnam veteran Nick Mascolo knows the pain and loneliness of being a soldier injured in battle, fighting in a strange land far from home and the people he loves. Ever since then, Mascolo has dedicated himself to letting those troops know that the people back home care and thank them for their sacrifice.

Mascolo and his dedicated band of family, friends and volunteers -- including his more than 80-year-old mother -- were out on the sidewalk last week in front of his hair salon in downtown Tenafly, sewing booties and mittens.

For those unfamiliar with Mascolo, the scene was odd -- Vietnam vet and his elderly mother outdoors at the sewing machine, material and bundles stacked all around, in upscale Tenafly. But to those familiar with the BBC Salon, it was just Nick being Nick; he was concocting another scheme to help out his brethren soldiers.

Nick Mascolo at the sewing machine

Mascolo, 56, ( ... ) is currently working with Soldiers' Angels, a non-profit whose motto is "May no soldier go unloved."
( ... )

Soldiers' Angels requested large hand and foot coverings for the critically injured, because their extremities are often left unprotected. "Yesterday, we sewed about a dozen," says Mascolo, who plans to continue making them until the end of the month.

On a recent weekday morning, Mascolo and his crew moved the sewing machines onto the curb after the rains stopped. He and his mother sat and hemmed booties and mittens, attracting some attention from passers-by. "People just stop," says Mascolo, "It's a beautiful thing. One Saturday we collected $2,500.

"They see the old eccentric nut," he says self-deprecatingly, "It's a passionate thing. I won't take their money without signing a thank-you card, whether you believe in the war or not. I ask them to please fill out a thank-you card and with your signature." The cards then go with the bundles given to the soldiers.
( ... )

Mascolo wants the soldiers to know someone cares. "We give them something the government can't give them -- love. They'll know this didn't come from the Army," he says.

HOOAH, Nick! Thank you on behalf of Soldiers' Angels and our wounded and ill troops transitioning through the Landstuhl medical facilities in Germany.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post.

09 July 2006

Mak's Back!

Mak arrives in Canada. Photo courtesy Mak's friends

Master Bombardier Makthepharak of the Canadian Forces, who was seriously injured in the Taleban rocket attack on the coalition base in Kandahar on June 30 returned to Canada last Thursday. He spent several days in Landstuhl hospital, where Mrs. G and I looked in on him at the request of friends back home.

In my initial post about Mak, I noted that a statement from his mother showed where men like him come from.

This confirms it.

Master Bombardier Makthepharak's safe return is a happy ending for a family that has known much tragedy.

Born in Laos, Master Bombardier Makthepharak moved to Canada with his mother at age 10 after fleeing violence in their home country. Yesterday, it was revealed that Master Bombardier Makthepharak's father, Boutone Makthepharak, was the commander-in-chief of the Laotian army in the 1970s, but was jailed by Communists and eventually executed in 1980.

Master Bombardier Makthepharak and his mother, who was working as a secretary for the United Nations at the time, fled Laos two years later after a failed assassination attempt. The pair lived in a refugee camp for three years and wandered through many countries before being accepted to Canada as political refugees in February 1986.

Master Bombardier Makthepharak decided to follow his father's footsteps when he joined the Canadian army reserves in 1997. He has since participated in three overseas tours. In his application to the miliary, Master Bombardier Makthepharak wrote about how proud he was of his mother and how thankful he was for everything she had done for him.

Welcome home, Mak. Thank you and your mother for your courage and your bravery.

07 July 2006

Michael Yon Interviews Patti Bader, Founder of Soldiers' Angels

Where do you find inspiration?

The letters and messages we receive from our boots on the ground.

We cannot pick up guns and help because we are too young or too old or disabled for some reason. BUT– we can have their backs.

We can get supplies to them and comfort their families. We can stock the hospitals and provide for the Fisher House.


If you are rich you can write a check, if you are poor you can write a letter.

We all have neighbors right on our street with a loved one deployed; we can make an effort to comfort them.

Read the whole thing at Michael Yon: Online Magazine

And here's an example of one of those messages, received by Soldiers' Angel Toni from the Captain of a unit in Iraq.

The guys I gave you the names for are receiving all kinds of letters and that has really brightened up their days.

Please thank the Angels for all they have done for the morale of my boys! The morale booster of our Soldiers is all the support we are receiving from Americans all over the US. Just one letter can mean the difference in a good day or a bad day for a Soldier!

I would like to take this opporturnity to thank everyone for what you do for us. We will continue to serve proudly to protect the freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of our great Nation as well as the freedom of our Iraqi Allies.

Some more inspiration from Arnold Fisher of Fisher House:

And while there are many things that governments can do, there are some things, such as helping the fallen warriors of the voluntary armed forces, that citizens of a free nation should do.

"Don't use the word charity with regard to the military," Arnold Fisher declares passionately. "This is duty."

Won't you step forward and become a Soldiers' Angel?

06 July 2006

Happy Birthday CINC

"America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens." – George W. Bush, Inaugural Address, 2001

05 July 2006

Make Them Proud to Wear the Uniform

Soldiers submitting themselves for "adoption" at Soldiers' Angels are asked to leave a message for their Angel communicating any special needs, security instructions, etc.

Here's one of those messages from yesterday's submissions.




Won't you step forward and become a Soldiers' Angel?

04 July 2006

Hookah-Smoking Marines

All I can say is it's a damn shame there are no photos accompanying this story.

It was a far cry from the Fourth of July parties a world away, but five U.S. Marines in one of Iraq's most dangerous cities celebrated with what they had: a hookah, relaxing exhales of strawberry-scented smoke and thoughts of home.
( ... )

Some Marines chuckled about their last Fourth of July - also spent in Iraq on their prior deployment - when Sri Lankan dining hall workers dressed up in Uncle Sam costumes. In the distance, explosions sporadically echoed in the distance and helicopters raced across the midnight sky.

But the Marines still had their hookah, which had become a center point for socializing after they ran out of DVDs to watch. They bought the pipe for about $45 from an Iraqi shop on their base, which also supplied them with flavored tobacco.

"We get to know people better. We get to be tighter. It's a communal thing," Mallett said after taking a puff from the gurgling pipe.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post.

Happy Birthday America - Land of the Free Because of the Brave

Please meet Master Bombardier Bounyarat Tanaphon Makthepharak of the 30th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

So what does a Laos-born Canadian Soldier have to do with the American Independence Day holiday?

Well, I wanted to write about Mbdr Makthepharak because he illustrates that freedom is an ideal, not a country.

Makthepharak, alternately called "Mak" or "Boun" by friends and family came to Canada from Laos with his mother when he was 10 years old after spending time in a refugee camp.

The Army appealed to Mak because he enjoys being in good physical shape and was always determined to serve his country. He loves training for upcoming missions and looks forward to serving.

According to friends, the Army is like a second family to him. Not that he doesn't have plenty of friends outside the service - I've been told that Mak enjoys meeting people, socializing, going to the movies, dancing, having a drink at a pub but most of all he just loves eating and is always looking to eat out somewhere.

"I met him in high school about 13 years ago and we had some courses together like English and art," says Mak's close friend Nora. "I can still remember him asking me 'So how about that English homework? Do you think that I can take a peek at yours so that I can come up with ideas?' When in reality he just wanted to copy my homework!! He's always been a very funny guy. Never in a bad mood always smiling and wanting to do something."

Mak and his Mom don't have much contact with the local Laotian community, but the president of Lao Ottawa-Hull Association still wanted to weigh in:
"We feel very proud of him," Bounnom Souphilavong said. "And we're looking to help the family."

"We're definitely proud he's representing our community which is so small," said Vilaphong Suyavong, the past president of the organization. "We're all worried as well."

Last Friday, the day before Canada Day, Mak was seriously injured in the Taleban rocket attack on the coaltion base in Kandahar that also injured another Canadian soldier, five U.S. troops, and three civilian workers.

I was contacted by several friends of Mak's to ask if we could check on him at Landstuhl hospital, where he was medevac'd on Saturday. On Sunday, Mrs. G and I saw him in the Landstuhl ICU. His condition has since been upgraded to critical but stable.

As soon as he could speak, Mak asked the nurses to tell his mother he's "going to be ok."

Mak was on his second tour in Afghanistan, having been previously deployed there from December 2004 to June 2005.
Close friend Samearn Son, who works as a House of Commons constable, said Makthepharak wanted to go right back to Afghanistan after the first tour, but the rules kept him home.

"If anyone were to pull through something like this, he would be the most mentally and physically prepared. He is a great fighter," Son said.

We often wonder where men like Mak come from. After reading this statement released by his mother, I think I know the answer:
"I really wish that my son, along with his army friends in the Canadian Forces, have success and bring honour and come home safe and sound together."

Meanwhile, US troops are eager to find the attackers. Aircraft of the 10th Mountain division have been scrambled to hunt down those responsible. One AH-64 Apache assault helicopter crashed during the search on Sunday night, killing the pilot. The other airman on board was injured and evacuated to the military hospital. Enemy fire is not believed to be the cause of the crash according to Col. Steve Williams, 10th Mountain Division spokesman.

So on this 4th of July let's thank Mak and all of the defenders of freedom everywhere. We can never repay our debt to them, but we can bear witness to their sacrifices.