To friends and loved ones who can't be with us; and to those who are no longer with us.
You are always in our hearts.
Auld Lang Syne (to days gone by)... farewell 2010.
I have finally finished the "scrap" quilt. It took 714 squares - 357 being the corners of blankets made for the soldiers. It took 90 blankets to get the scraps needed. The back side is denim with ragged edges (357 denim squares). The quilt will be raffled by the Sunshine Club to earn money for yardage.
"When I went there it was so another Marine could come home to his family. I want respect, not for myself, but something bigger than me, and that's love for one another."
- Marine Sgt. Joey Jones
"I'm just glad I stepped on that IED. Otherwise, it would have been one of my buddies."
- Army Sgt. J.D. Williams, triple amputee.
Harrison High graduate receives Purple Heart
By GEORGE PLAVEN Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
BUTTE — U.S. Army Sgt. J.D. Williams never really wanted a Purple Heart. Nobody does, he said.
The 23-year-old Harrison High School graduate is missing his right arm and both legs, amputated after he stepped on an improvised explosive device in October in Afghanistan.
Williams received the decoration Nov. 6 from his hospital bed at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. About 12 friends and family attended the ceremony, held the same days as his daughter's first birthday. The Purple Heart is awarded to any military personnel wounded or killed in an action against the enemy.
His wounds now closed and skin grafts removed, Williams told The Montana Standard in a telephone interview that it felt good to be honored, but that he hopes not to see any of his fellow soldiers have to endure the same pain.
"I'm just glad I stepped on that IED," Williams said. "Otherwise, it would have been one of my buddies."
An infantryman with HHC 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, Williams, who grew up in Anaconda, spent more than five months fighting the Taliban and pushing toward an end to the war.
On Oct. 9, at 8:30 a.m., Williams took one wrong step. The blast sent him 20 feet in the air, he said, and left a 6-foot crater in the ground.
When the smoke from the explosion cleared and Williams could finally see again, he rolled over and tried to assess his injuries. He remained conscious the entire time.
Taking long, deep breaths, Williams lay on his back and stared into the sky. He thought about his wife, Ashlee, and almost 1-year-old daughter Kaelyn back home.
"I always thought I was unstoppable," Williams said.
It took 19 minutes to load Williams onto a helicopter and out of danger. Doctors in Germany performed the necessary amputations and sent him back to the United States on Oct. 15.
Williams calls himself a lucky man.
"I really think God has a purpose for me on this planet," he said. "I will find it, whatever it is."
The cards, letters and support keep Williams motivated, his mother said.
"They keep him positive and remind him he is still a hero," she said. "If he did not have the support he has, the excruciating pain might have brought him down."
Military doctors are diagnosing hundreds of concussions among combat troops because of an unprecedented order requiring them to leave the battlefield for 24 hours after being exposed to a blast.
Doctors say the order helps prevent permanent brain damage that can result if a servicemember has a second concussion before the first one heals.
"For the last eight years prior to the implementation of these protocols, we weren't doing things the right way," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.
Roadside bombs are the most common source of injuries to U.S. troops. Troops in the past tended to shake off blast effects and continue fighting, according to Army field studies.
To treat symptoms of concussions, the military has set up five "rest centers" here [in Afghanistan] where troops can recover, says Army Lt. Col. Kristofer Radcliffe, a neurologist supervising the effort. Scientists warn, however, that it is unclear whether the brain has healed even if symptoms go away.
Zach grew up in Fort Worth and played baseball, basketball and football. Both of Zach’s grandfathers served in the Marine Corps and Zach knew he wanted to be a Marine when he was only 9 years old. In 2005, Zach joined the Marines and did his first tour in Iraq in 2006. His father died one week before his second deployment in 2007.
On November 29, 2007, Zach and his convoy were hit by an IED and an anti tank mine exploded under his Humvee. Both of Zach’s legs were blown off below the knee and he also broke his arm and has a plate in his wrist. For his service in Iraq, Cpl Briseno was awarded the Purple Heart for his sacrifice for our freedom and numerous other medals and awards.
Now he is faced with the daily challenges that result from the loss of both feet. Unfortunately he isn’t able to wear his prosthetics 24 hrs a day. Thus, he has to spend time at home in a wheelchair so he can get around and not overuse his prosthetic legs. He is a leader and is committed to giving back and helping other wounded heroes as they embark on their road to recovery.
“All of us at Standard Pacific Homes are proud to be a part of this project with the Helping a Hero organization. We want to make sure that every detail in his home will make Zach’s life easier. It is an honor and a privilege for us to build this new home for Zach and his son, Eli” Chris Matzke, President, Standard Pacific Homes, Dallas
This 4 bedroom, 3 bath home will feature wider doors, a roll in shower, a roll under sink, flush thresholds, lower counters, wheelchair accessible appliances, and many other safety features that will enable Zach to have a firm foundation as he rebuilds his life. He is a single Dad with a 5 year old son, Eli. Zach dreams of being married one day and perhaps having more children.
“Corporal Zach Briseno is a true American hero. He has battled back from a near fatal injury and has endured so much on his road to recovery. We count it an honor to help this young hero begin a new life in a brand new home where his ability to live independently will be maximized.” Meredith Iler, National Chairman, HelpingaHero.org.
“We are very proud to partner with HelpingaHero.org on Corporal Briseno’s home. Watching Zach throughout his recovery and seeing him now is an inspiration to everyone who knows him. He has that can do attitude and doesn’t let anything deter him from forging ahead.” Karen Guenther, Founder, Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
Using the game console's unique, motion-sensitive controller, Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. But patients become so engrossed mentally they are almost oblivious to the rigor, Osborn said.This kind of therapy seems ideal when working with wounded troops:
"In the Wii system, because it's kind of a game format, it does create this kind of inner competitiveness. Even though you may be boxing or playing tennis against some figure on the screen, it's amazing how many of our patients want to beat their opponent," said Osborn of Southern Illinois Healthcare, which includes the hospital in Herrin. The hospital, about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis, bought a Wii system for rehab patients late last year.
"When people can refocus their attention from the tediousness of the physical task, oftentimes they do much better," Osborn said.
The Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital west of Chicago recently bought a Wii system for its spinal cord injury unit.While the big annual fundraiser by the milblogs may be over, the need for our wounded troops is always ongoing. If you can, please consider donating to Project Valour-IT.
Pfc. Matthew Turpen, 22, paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident last year while stationed in Germany, plays Wii golf and bowling from his wheelchair at Hines. Turpen says the games help beat the monotony of rehab and seem to be doing his body good, too.
"A lot of guys don't have full finger function so it definitely helps being able to work on using your fingers more and figuring out different ways to use your hands" and arms, Turpen said.
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the therapy is well-suited to patients injured during combat in Iraq, who tend to be in the 19 to 25 age range — a group that's "very into" playing video games, said Lt. Col. Stephanie Daugherty, Walter Reed's chief of occupational therapy.
"They think it's for entertainment, but we know it's for therapy," she said.
"I stood in the Korengal with 1,000 of my guys."
- Col. Drew Poppas, commander of the 1st BCT and Task Force Bastogne
Poppas sat down with The Leaf-Chronicle while home on mid-tour leave. He shared what his task force has done in the eight months since being deployed to an area that he calls the biggest front in the war against the Taliban, al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters. It's the same area where Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta earned his Medal of Honor and the home of the Korengal Valley — once referred to as the "Valley of Death."
"This is the fight they wanted here," he said. "This is the infantry fight 101."
That fight sometimes brings the 1st BCT soldiers within 50 feet of their enemies, close enough to lob grenades and watch the fighters come at them before "destroying them in detail."
Poppas is aware that many of the headlines coming out of his area of operation have been negative. Six soldiers died in one operation two weeks ago, and another five were killed in a massive IED strike in June.
However, he said his task force of nine battalion-sized elements combined — a force more than twice the size of his own brigade — is making progress, both in security and on the governance and economic sides of the fight.
"I stood in the Korengal with 1,000 of my guys," Poppas said, describing a recent days-long mission to root out enemy fighters from the 6-mile by 1-mile valley once held by the Taliban and al-Qaida. He said the valley is now a safer place because of what his soldiers have done.
"We're taking away the mystiques of these valleys," he said.
The strategy Poppas used was a simple one. The Taliban like to fight from advantageous high ground, so knowing this, Poppas' soldiers took the high ground, came in on the floor of the valley and backfilled behind. The Taliban probably thought the Americans would be gone in a matter of days, but they weren't. The Americans stayed and waited for the Taliban to return, killing them on sight.
Poppas called it "the classic definition of defeat."
Since then, the local villagers have watched what the Americans' efforts to eradicate the Taliban, something the villagers could not have done on their own.
"(The Taliban) don't give anything back. They just take," Poppas said.
Now the villagers have formed an armed resistance against the once forceful and embedded Taliban fighters. Anti-Taliban sentiment is growing, too.
"The whole Pech River valley," Poppas said, referring to how far that sentiment has spread.
As that progress was made, the headlines in the U.S. were about six soldiers who died in the fighting. Poppas said they did not die in vain, though. Those men died "to change the dynamic of the entire (Kunar) province," he said.
In the civilian world, victims of car accidents and gunshots hope to get to a hospital that can save their life - and then stay there. The military strategy is pretty much the opposite - and is, paradoxically, part of the reason the care of soldiers wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been so successful.
In both those theaters, the military has placed a few extremely sophisticated hospitals very close to the battlefield. Within a few hours of being wounded, casualties can reach neurosurgeons, maxillofacial surgeons, interventional radiologists, ophthalmologists and intensivists - specialists that previously were farther "up-range" and days away.
Advanced care so close to the fight is feasible only if casualties don't fill up the hospitals and prevent new ones from coming in. To keep that from happening, patients are moved within hours of being treated.
The first living soldier to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam tells CBS's Lara Logan in an emotional interview just what he did to earn the nation's highest combat honor and how the recognition makes him uncomfortable.
Have you ever had an experience where you are so overwhelmed, that you were at a loss for words?
Lance Cpl. Felix Camarillo, 19, of Los Angeles was third in line, behind Nicely and the platoon's commander, Lt. Brian J. McGrath Jr., 27, of Glenside, Pa., who was along to interact with locals.
Camarillo saw Nicely engulfed in dust and debris. "Nice!" he yelled.
The explosion knocked down the whole patrol, Camarillo said.
McGrath tried to quickly sweep the area with a metal detector to make sure there were no other bombs. But there were so many fragments on the ground that he threw the detector aside and rushed to Nicely.
The blast had blown off Nicely's helmet and flak jacket.
He looked awful.
"I almost lost it," Camarillo said. "There were bones sticking out... His right leg was just completely gone. His left hand was gone."
Much of his right arm was also gone and his left leg was barely attached, other Marines remembered.
He also had a wound that looked like shrapnel had gone through the bottom of his jaw and come out his left cheek and an abdominal wound with part of his bowel protruding, his friends said.
Camarillo and Lance Cpl. Sean Harrigan, 19, of Methuen, Mass., who were trained to treat combat trauma, put tourniquets on what remained of Nicely's limbs to stop the bleeding.
A strapping corpsman, Jerrod Francis, 21, of Louisville, sprinted over from another squad and went to work on the other wounds. He was amazed that Nicely's vital signs were decent.
Nicely recalled: "I remember... thinking to myself... 'Just keep breathing so you can get back to your wife.' "
When a Taliban bomb drops a six-ton Humvee in your lap and, 21 months and 21 operations later, you can run backward up a hill, you believe in miracles.
Gunnery Sgt. Brandon Bailey believes.
The explosion threw the Humvee 138 feet. Five of the six Marines inside were ejected. One remained.
"My vest got caught on the truck's frame," Bailey says.
The Humvee flipped and landed with the top gun turret atop Bailey's pelvis. His torso was bent, like an envelope's flap, with him facing the ground. And conscious.
After the Humvee came to rest on that cold January night, "four Marines lifted that thing off of me," he recalls. "No jack. Just four Marines. That's a miracle."
100 Laptops for 100 Wounded Troops on Veterans Day
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, Nov. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Veterans Day (November 11), Soldiers' Angels is honored to host a celebration of thanks for America's veterans at the Soldiers' Angels Support Center, the organization's warehouse and support complex in San Antonio across from Brooke Army Medical Center.
In recognition of America's wounded heroes and to give them a "hand up" as they adjust to life as a wounded veteran, Soldiers' Angels will hand out 100 new laptops to severely-wounded military personnel at the event. The laptop distribution is funded by the third TRIAD grant Soldiers' Angels has received for project Valour-IT, which provides technology to support the recovery and reintegration of wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, including nearly 6,000 adaptive laptops in the last five and a half years.
Local members of the public are invited to the event, where they will be encouraged to pack care packages for deployed troops, fold small American flags, and write personal notes of gratitude that will be distributed to veterans and active duty personnel.
The sponsor for this event is Bank of America. Organizations partnering with Soldiers' Angels for this event are Operation Homefront, Mission Serve, Grainger, Best Buy, Herr Foods, eFusjon Energy Club, members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Miss San Antonio 2011 Dominique Ramirez, and local military and political leaders. Food will be served and attendees will have the opportunity to peruse the mementos and thank yous from the heroes Soldiers' Angels has supported.
Soldiers' Angels invites all San Antonio residents to this celebration of true American heroes, honoring those who have served and sacrificed in the defense of all Americans! For more information about this event, Soldiers' Angels, or how to donate to help our troops, contact Soldiers' Angels at firstname.lastname@example.org
Soldiers' Angels is an award-winning 501(c)(3) with hundreds of thousands of volunteers providing aid and comfort to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and military families through a wide variety of hands-on projects and volunteerism. For more information, visit www.soldiersangels.org or call 615-676-0239.
About Operation Homefront: Operation Homefront provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 4,500 volunteers across 23 chapters and has met more than 267,000 needs since 2002. A four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, nationally, $.95 of total revenue donated to Operation Homefront goes to programs. For more information about Operation Homefront, please visit OperationHomefront.net.
About TRIAD: Funding for the Soldiers' Angels Project Valor-IT project was provided in part by the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment (TRIAD) Fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation. For more than 40 years, the San Antonio Area Foundation, a publicly supported philanthropic institution, has been administering donors' funds and granting gifts from those funds to worthy charitable causes that significantly enhance the quality of life in the communities they serve.
SOURCE Soldiers' Angels
Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.
- Ronald Reagan
"When a son is on the front lines, the most exquisite cuisine loses its flavor, movies are no longer exciting, conversations of pettiness can’t be stomached, and the company of others going through the same experience is the only solace."
I just want to tell you a quick story: Last Christmas (2 months after my fiance got of the hospital), we got a Christmas tree and decorated it.
We were missing the star to put on the top of the tree, so we used the little angel you sent us in a letter.
I just thought you should know that. And, that we have promised ourselves the angel will be used every Christmas on our tree :-)
RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE, GERMANY—Standing in the bitterly cold wind blowing across the airstrip, Master Cpl. Karen Dickie waits for the giant C-17 aircraft to open its jaws.
After a few abortive tries, the mouth of the massive U.S. air ambulance opens and a whoosh of cool German air hits the faces of soldiers, acclimatized to the desert heat, as they lie on their stretchers.
Dickie, a Canadian Forces medic, walks up the metal ramp and scans the stretchers laid out in front of her in search of Toronto Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Tiffin. The naval diver was flown out of Kandahar eight hours earlier, after a bomb blew up in his hands.
Dickie is stationed at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the casualty hub for NATO troops airlifted from combat. She is one of eight specially trained Canadian soldiers whose sole purpose is to move our wounded from the battleground to this German safe haven before being flown home for further care.
She finds Tiffin, conscious and alert but with blackened, injured hands, and introduces herself. She explains he’s been brought here to Landstuhl, a giant trauma hospital deep in the heart of the Black Forest.
Landstuhl is often referred to as the German front in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Plane after plane of critically injured, baby-faced soldiers breathing on portable ventilators arrive daily suffering from blast injuries, severe burns and missing limbs.
All day, seven days a week, massive C-17 cargo carriers, each able to move nearly 80 injured soldiers in seats and stacked on stretchers three deep, land at Ramstein and are bused 15 minutes down the road to Landstuhl.
Since 2004, the hospital has cared for 65,000 patients — soldiers, diplomats, journalists — from 45 coalition nations.
January 18th, 2006
Dear Mrs. Smith,
It was brought to my attention that your organization, Soldier's Angels, did something very special for the Marines of our Injured Support Battalion. I want to take this time and thank you so much for your contribution to make special memories for those who sacrifice so much.
Your contribution of laptops is quite above and beyond. I am grateful that you have taken time to honor our injured heroes.
The surgeons here have a fierce dedication to saving every life. Only in mass casualty events must some patients be put aside and treated "expectantly," the euphemism for the assumption they will die. Even getting someone alive to Landstuhl, where their family can see them before they die, counts as a victory.
"We try not to withdraw care here in theater," Eastridge said.
But every once in a while it happens. It's usually someone with brain injuries so severe they're likely to die during transport. They're allowed to die here, with troops at the bedside. "That just affords them that last little bit of dignity," he said.
He stopped, and his eyes filled with tears.
The conference is run by Col. Brian Eastridge, a 47-year-old trauma surgeon with 23 years in the Army. He grew up in Damascus, Md., graduated from Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He now heads the Joint Theater Trauma System, which organizes trauma care in both wars.
Over five deployments, Eastridge has seen the entire arc of worsening wounds and increasing survival that has marked trauma care during the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Dressed in brown camouflage battle dress, he sits halfway around a large U made of wooden tables. Around him on the walls are idealized scenes of Afghan life painted by a local artist - a girl leading a caravan of camels, children being taught arithmetic at the base of a tree, kids flying kites.
Eastridge runs the conference with somber efficiency, offers comments sparingly and addresses his listeners mostly by location-"Kandahar," "Landstuhl," "Walter Reed."
The rapid-fire reports are dense with medical jargon and anatomical description. It's a narration of one disaster after another, and of how things were kept from getting worse, and made better, by skill, speed and attention. It's the aural equivalent of watching a dozen high-wire acts in which some people are rescued mid-fall.
Here's just one.
"Dismounted IED" injury is jargon for wounds caused by a bomb or mine that are suffered outside a vehicle. The soldier had tourniquets placed for partial amputation of both legs. One liter of a special IV fluid was given in the helicopter, and the patient arrived at the Kandahar hospital in and out of consciousness and in shock.
In the operating room, surgeons temporarily tied off the arteries going to the legs and repaired a tear in a major vein. There was massive damage to the area between the legs. One leg was amputated at the knee. In a second operation the next day his wounds were rewashed and a finger, broken in the explosion, was fixed with external hardware.
That same day the soldier was evacuated to Bagram, where his wounds were washed out and the pelvic region was re-explored. A "foreign body"- the speaker didn't say whether it was dirt, metal or something else - not seen in the first operation was removed. He suffered a collapsed lung after surgery, which was fixed.
He stayed there two days before flying by critical care air transport to Landstuhl.
Seven days after suffering his wounds the soldier arrived at a hospital in the United States. He had another collapsed lung, and pneumonia. His right foot, initially thought to be salvageable, wasn't healing and the surgeons planned to amputate it at the ankle. He had further surgery to his abdomen and numerous operations to start repairing the missing floor of his pelvis.
"This was one of the biggest pelvic injuries I've ever seen," said one of the surgeons in the United States. Eastridge later said he hears that a lot from surgeons in the United States who haven't been deployed yet.
This was not an uncommon case.