29 May 2010

"Most of us will go pro in something other than sports"

Photo: Army Athletic Communications.

"Just because my brother died, doesn't mean I don't have to serve."

- 2LT Andrew Ferrara, USMA Class of 2010

Linda Ferrara sends this terrific story about her son Andy written by Sports Illustrated's David Epstein and republished by GoArmySports.com. I've added the photos and links.

Spikes On The Ground

Army's Andy Ferrara will race for perhaps the last time as a collegian this Memorial Day weekend. After that he'll follow his three brothers into the infantry

The runner is all in black, except for his spikes. They are red, white and blue. The other men at the starting line look nervous. They are fidgeting. But the runner in black, Army cadet Andy Ferrara, is still, his hands on his hips. He's actually smirking. It's because he's reminding himself that this is serious, but it is also fun. It's not life or death. That will come later.

Ten minutes earlier Ferrara spoke on the phone with Jerry Quiller, the longtime Army track coach who recruited him five years ago and who retired in 2008, stricken by incurable multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that attacks the bone marrow. In 2000, Quiller had also encouraged Ferrara's brother Matt to come to West Point and to walk on. Quiller had called to tell Andy that the video of his anchor leg at the Penn Relays last month, where he went from fifth to first on the last lap of the collegiate heat of the 4 × 800-meter relay, brought a tear to his eye. [Video here.]

In a moment the starter's pistol will fire at the IC4A Championships, and Ferrara will cover 800 meters of Princeton University track in 1:48.57, faster than all but one Army runner ever has, and fast enough to extend the senior's career by another meet, to the NCAA Regional Championships, to be contested in Greensboro, N.C., over Memorial Day weekend. He will lean through the finish line as if he were a pearl diver breaking the surface for air. As the blood rushes back from his extremities to his stomach, he will amble Jell-O-legged behind an evergreen tree, drop to all fours and pay for the check his body just wrote with 10 minutes of retching.

Still on the ground, he'll pull off his West Point singlet, and the tattoo will be visible: MCF KIA 9NOV07. It's as big as a saucer on his left flank, at just about the same place where the bullet exited Matthew C. Ferrara's back 2½ years ago in Afghanistan.

An Army coach, standing five feet away, pays these guttural heaves no mind. This is what Ferrara does every time he competes. "When I'm throwing up after my race," he says, "I know I pushed."

THE FERRARA family calls it the Orbit. It's a two-mile stretch of neighborhood road that surrounds their home in Torrance, Calif., and anytime Andy and his brothers—Marcus, 34, and Damon, 23—and sister, Simone, 32, are home, they can often be found circling it together, with parents Mario and Linda tagging along on bikes. The elder Ferraras raised five Division I athletes: Marcus, Matt and Andy ran track at West Point; Damon ran at USC while on an ROTC scholarship; and Simone played soccer at UC Irvine. So where a less competitive clan might catch up with each other over the dinner table, the Ferraras do it while pounding out the miles over a stretch of suburban thoroughfare.

Maybe that's what happens when a father makes his kids memorize Rudyard Kipling's If. ("If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds' worth of distance run.... ") And since the brothers are no longer trying to expunge one another from the South Torrance High record books, this distance run is actually relaxing. "It's just time for us to chill out and b.s.," says Andy. The pace is slow enough for conversation, and the boys discuss topics of immediate concern—for example, the Army Ranger School, a grueling nine-week course that only Andy has yet to go through.

That will change within a year, as Andy becomes the fourth Ferrara brother to enter the infantry. His brothers' tales about food and sleep deprivation at Ranger School have made Andy a little anxious, but he feels track has prepared him in a unique way. "Ranger school isn't a school to teach you technical skills; it's a school to push you to your limits and teach you about yourself," Ferrara says. It teaches you how to separate your body and mind so one can function while the other cries out for mercy. "That's similar to what I see in running," he says. "With running, you single out that pain and push it to the back of your mind so you can push yourself to that next level."

Photo: Army Athletic Communications.

Now his time on the track is almost at an end. As the NCAA ad goes, "There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes, and most of us will go pro in something other than sports." For the 90 student-athletes who graduated from Army last week, going pro is more harrowing than it was a decade ago, before 9/11. Of the 1,002 American service members who have died in and around Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, 693 have come from the Army—including the Army National Guard and Army Reserve. A handful have been former student-athletes. One of them was [Andy's older brother] 24-year-old Capt. Matthew Ferrara.

Matt was leading his platoon back from a meeting with village leaders in Aranus, Afghanistan, on Nov. 9, 2007, when anti-coalition militia forces wielding guns and grenade launchers ambushed them. It wasn't the first time Matt's life had been in danger. He had earned a Silver Star for his conduct 10 weeks earlier, when his outpost came under heavy attack and he ran through an area buzzing with bullets to coordinate counterattacks that resulted in no loss of American lives. He was not one to flee danger.

But on that November day, as he hit the deck in a valley 7,500 miles from home and began to return fire, one enemy bullet found its way into the gap in the body armor near Matt's left collarbone. The round tore a diagonal line through his torso, killing him instantly. It tore a hole in the Ferrara family as well.

The Ferrara family at West Point Cemetery. From left: Linda, husband Mario, sons 2LT Damon Ferrara, MAJ Marcus Ferrara, and West Point Cadet Andrew Ferrara, and daughter Simone Carmichael with Kaitlyn, and her husband Pete. Photo courtesy of the Ferrara family.

Matt's parents struggled to focus on work at the Bay Cities Italian Bakery, which they run with Simone, and spent their time scouring the Internet for information about his death. It's while discussing that search that Mario Ferrara retreats behind his sunglasses. "I basically quit working for a year," he says softly. Andy consumed himself with researching the circumstances of his brother's death — "I wanted to know that he didn't make a mistake," he says — even watching a terrorist recruiting video that appears to show the very ambush in which his brother was killed. "You see men falling down the ridge," he says. "It isn't a nice video."

Linda seemed to "age overnight," as Andy put it, and Andy pondered leaving the academy. He wasn't scared for himself, but he fretted over what it would do to his mother if another one of her boys were to come home draped in a flag.

Then he saw how his mother responded to her grief: She didn't blame fate or the military or the President. She instead started sending care packages to injured American soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. She organized volunteers to make fleece blankets for soldiers. Now she sends 200 blankets every other month. Andy remembered why he came to West Point. "Just because my brother died," he says, "doesn't mean I don't have to serve."

Graduates toss their hats in the air after the US Military Academy graduation ceremony at West Point May 22, 2010. Photo: Peter Carr / The Journal News. Andy's in there somewhere!

On Saturday, cadet Andrew Ferrara turned pro, receiving his diploma, shaking hands with the President and earning the rank of second lieutenant. After he races in Greensboro, and then after he completes his infantry officer training at Fort Benning, Ga., he will report to the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He has requested assignment to the division's 3rd Brigade because they are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan next year. He is sure to hit the ground running.

28 May 2010

Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing

Honoring the Warriors who fought their final battles at Landstuhl hospital since last Memorial Day.

To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord

May 29, 2009 - Private Bradley W. Iorio, Special Troops BN, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

June 28, 2009 - Private Steven T. Drees, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

July 25, 2009 - Staff Sergeant Johnny Roosevelt Polk, 3rd BN, 82nd Field Artillery Reg, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division

August 16, 2009 - Sergeant First Class William Brian Woods Jr., 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

September 11, 2009 - Private First Class Matthew M. Martinek, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division

September 16, 2009 - Sergeant Robert D. Gordon II, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division

October 27, 2009 - Specialist Robert K. Charlton, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division

No more weeping,
No more fight,
No friends bleeding through the night,
Just Devine embrace,
Eternal light,
In the Mansions of the Lord

December 7, 2009 - Staff Sergeant Dennis J. Hansen, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division

December 26, 2009 - Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Dae-Ho Carrell, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3

January 26th, 2010 - Sergeant David Smith, Bravo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division

February 25, 2010 - Sergeant William C. Spencer, 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment

March 17, 2010 - Sergeant Joel D. Clarkson, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment

April 8, 2010 - Private First Class Jonathon D. Hall, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

April 27, 2010 - Sergeant Anthony O. Magee, 2nd BN, 69th Armor Reg, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division

Where no mothers cry
And no children weep,
We shall stand and guard
Though the angels sleep,
Oh, through the ages let us keep
The Mansions of the Lord

We will remember you always.

27 May 2010

"Flags In" at Arlington

Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags in front of fallen veterans grave stones. Each year for the past 40 years, the 3rd U.S. Infantry has honored America's fallen heroes by placing American flags before the gravestones and niches of service members buried at both Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldier's and Airmen's Home National Cemetery just prior to Memorial Day weekend. Photos: The Old Guard on Facebook.

Showtime Memorial Day National Television Premiere of Brothers at War

From Jake Rademacher, Director and Producer of the film Brothers at War, a winner at the 2008 GI Film Festival:

As we get ready to honor our service members for Memorial Day, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for continuing to tell their stories. Your blogs pay tribute to them by letting us all know more about their sacrifices, achievements and service on behalf of us all.

Thank you again for the support you have given Brothers at War. I wanted to share with you that Showtime has decided to make the National Television Premiere of Brothers at War at 8 PM on Memorial Day!

This ever greater exposure and viewing of the film means that the accurate portrait of our American Military Families is reaching an ever greater audience. It is my hope that audiences are as inspired by the people I got to know and those I got to know better on my journey into the lives of my two brothers. All of their experiences leave me humbled and deeply appreciative.

For your readers who are not able to watch it on Showtime or would like to own it and see the DVD extras we have set up the keycode “Memorial” for a 20% discount at brothersatwarmovie.com for them.

Thank you again for your support, and I hope you all have wonderful Memorial Day Weekends.

My best,

Jake Rademacher

Jake followed his two military brothers to Iraq in order to document their combat deployment and return home, helping to tell the stories of America's warfighters and their families. Here's the trailer.

26 May 2010

Wounded Warriors Fighting Back to Active Duty

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro and his wife, Carmen, finally had the church wedding and reception of their dreams in August 2009, four years after a roadside bomb almost killed Del Toro, burning over 80 percent of his body, and seven years after they tied the knot in a civil ceremony. In February, Del Toro became the first airman to re-enlist with a 100 percent combat medical disability. Photo courtesy of Israel Del Toro.

“People try to call me a hero. I’m not a hero. I’m just a regular guy who had a bad day.”

That's one way of putting it.

Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro was on fire.

A roadside bomb had exploded under the Humvee that Del Toro was riding in while supporting soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in a remote part of northern Afghanistan.

Flames engulfed his entire body. He jumped out of the truck and made it to a nearby creek with help from an Army lieutenant. Rolling into the water, “I heard the same sound you hear when you stick a hot pan in cold water,” he said.

Since the Dec. 4, 2005, explosion, Del Toro, now 34, has undergone more than 120 surgeries. He’s learned to walk and run with a carbon brace and breathe without a respirator, something his doctors expected would never happen for a man burned over 80 percent of his body.

When you look at him today, nearly five years later, it’s hard to see the old Israel Del Toro. His lips, part of his nose and his eyelids were burned off. He lost both ears. Facial reconstruction is ongoing.

But one thing hasn’t changed: He’s still in the Air Force.

Spc. Jake Altman aims at his target while competing for the German proficiency badge at the German Infantry School in Hammelburg, Germany, in February. Photo: Dan Blottenberger/Stars and Stripes.

The Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy allow disabled troops to apply for permission to continue on active duty after being found “unfit for duty” by medical boards. It’s not a simple process, and not everyone who is approved to return makes a successful long-term transition.

The services use special evaluation boards made up of medical experts, peers, senior leaders and recruiters to judge each application, military officials said in interviews this spring.

About 200 soldiers, 58 Marines, 33 sailors and six airmen have petitioned for, and won, the ability to continue to serve even though the military has found them unfit for duty.

The Marine Corps has approved all requests from disabled Marines who want to remain on active duty, said Capt. Rob Adams, who heads up the Marine Corps’ disability section. Currently, seven Marines considered 100 percent disabled are serving, including Cpl. Matthew Bradford, who in April became the first blind double amputee to re-enlist in the Marines. Last year, the Army approved 70 percent of those who asked for special permission to “continue on active duty,” according to Army Lt. Col. Kathie S. Clark, a medical policy officer within the Army’s personnel office.

“They are back in the fighting force,” she said in late March. “They are given assignments within the limitations of their (medical) profile. We have some who can deploy and some who can’t.”

Read the stories of SPC Altman, TSgt Del Toro, and Major Andrew Lynch, who spent eight months at Walter Reed relearning to walk, eat and eventually fire a weapon again after an EFP blasted through his Humvee destroying his right eye and causing TBI.

And Mrs G of the Mudville Gazette has written about TSgt Del Toro a few times.

24 May 2010

Soldiers' Angels partners with DCoE's Real Warriors Campaign

May 2010 marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s (DCoE’s) Real Warriors Campaign, which focuses on combating the stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health and traumatic brain injury concerns.

The Real Warriors Campaign Web site features articles and resources on a variety of psychological health issues, as well as video profiles of service members who reached out and received treatment, and went on to maintain successful military and civilian careers. By sharing their stories, these Real Warriors are proving to their fellow service members that they are not alone, that reaching out makes a difference and that individuals who have sought psychological health care can continue successful careers.

The Real Warriors Campaign makes reaching out easy. The Web site includes a live chat feature which any service member, veteran, family member or health care provider can utilize to connect confidentially with the DCoE Outreach Center for psychological health and traumatic brain injury information and resources. The DCoE Outreach Center can also be accessed tool-free 24/7 at 866-966-1020 or by e-mail at resources@dcoeoutreach.org. Service members, veterans, families and health professionals can also connect with each other through the campaign’s message boards.

The Real Warriors Campaign is proud to include Soldiers’ Angels as a partner in their efforts, and Soldiers' Angels is proud to encourage all Angels to spread the word about this important campaign.

Here's one of my favorite Real Warriors profiles (previously posted), that of Air Force Major Iwona Blackledge. As a nurse deployed numerous times in Africa and the Middle East, Maj. Blackledge saw many casualties and cared for wounded warriors and civilians alike. Her story sheds light on the important psychological health needs of warrior caregivers.

Medic receives Distinguished Service Cross, military's second-highest award for valor

U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Lollino looks over at his wife Ashley after receiving the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart medals during a ceremony at the start of Army's medical symposium at the Convention Center Monday. Photo: Jerry Lara/Express-News.

On May 17, 2010, Sgt. Joseph L. Lollino was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart by Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, surgeon general of the Army.

Lollino retrieved and treated five casualties when his convoy was ambushed June 20, 2008, in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan. He was serving with Company C, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team on his second deployment to Afghanistan.

Before that day dawned, then-Cpl. Lollino awoke knowing his column of 30 or so armored vehicles would roll through “ambush alley,” an infamous road sandwiched between two mountain ranges and rocky outcroppings, and dotted by trees — terrain tailor-made for insurgents. What he and other GIs on the mission didn’t know was that they were embarking on a 14-hour journey near the Pakistani border that would test Lollino’s vow to bring all his men home alive.

Part of Lollino’s column had already made it when the first rocket-propelled grenade was fired. Behind the wheel of a Humvee, Lollino drove into ambush alley, began to help the wounded and fired back at the insurgents, dropping two 30-round clips. Three of the wounded soldiers were hit by shrapnel, and a fourth suffered from smoke inhalation.

The enemy fire intensified, and Lollino was hit by shrapnel, too. But he covered one of the wounded with his body. He loaded the wounded in another vehicle as the convoy fought its way out of the ambush.

It was a straight-up gunfight with no close-air support, but the GIs made it to their objective. Lollino, though wounded, stayed with his troops and drove back through ambush alley on the return to their base.

“I just wanted to do my job, fix the guys, make sure no one died. Everybody has a family we all wanted to go back to,” Lollino said when asked what he was thinking.

Then he fell silent.

After he receiving his DSC and Purple Heart he was, according to friends, true to form: His acceptance speech was just two sentences. He thanked his wife, parents and his old unit.

23 May 2010

Chillin' in Marja

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James R. Borzillieri plays with a puppy during his break between patrols in Marja, Afghanistan, May 9, 2010. Borzillieri is assigned to Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers went out on a 48-hour operation, where they manned checkpoints and conducted patrols around the market and residential areas in the center of the city. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Clark.

20 May 2010

Marine helping wounded troops

Former Marine Mark Dolfini, 37, is leading an effort to collect good clothing and other items for recovering troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The effort runs from Memorial Day through July 4. Photo: Michael Heinz/Journal & Courier.

Thank you, Mark!

Starting Memorial Day through July 4, former Marine Mark Dolfini of Lafayette will begin collecting items for wounded U.S. troops.

Each Sunday, he will wear his Marine Corps dress blues and stand outside local retail stores to accept donations for troops recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Dolfini and other members of the local David M. Shoup detachment of the Marine Corps League are urging the public to make donations, including toiletry items and new clothing.

"These guys are shot up and we are just trying to give them comfort items and clothing," said Dolfini, 37.

"This is the least we can do for these men and women who have given so much," he said of the Soldiers' Angels Germany collection.

If you're in the Lafayette, Indiana area see the article to find out how to contact Mark, get information about drop off points, etc.

17 May 2010

Medal of Honor recipients' message to today's warriors

Medal of Honor recipients remind America's military of today. "Remember your Warrior Ethos: Refuse to Accept Defeat. Never Quit. Seek help when adjusting to life after combat, particularly for post-traumatic stress." You are the BEST we've ever had, and we don't want to lose you.

More at The Mudville Gazette.

Even more at Some Soldier's Mom, who has added links to useful resources.

On the way!

U.S. Air Force loadmaster Staff Sgt. Chris Rapp waits to airdrop container delivery systems bundles over Afghanistan, April 5. The airdrop will re-supply U.S. Forces with food and water in Afghanistan. Rapp is deployed from the 14th Airlift Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. Photo: Staff Sgt. Quinton Russ, USAF Public Affairs.

16 May 2010

Latest Soldiers' Angels Baby Shower held Mother's Day Weekend in San Antonio

Military moms and moms-to-be in the San Antonio area were the guests of honor during the most recent Operation TopKnot baby shower held at the new Soldiers’ Angels facility in San Antonio, TX. Volunteers treated guests to cake, flowers with surprise notes from their deployed spouses, giant baskets of gifts, and various prizes and activities as an expression of their support for military families in this time of war.

LRMC staffers will recognize Ashley Toppin, spouse of former patient Andy Toppin, with their beautiful new daughter Addi. Love you guys!

You can find out more about Soldiers' Angels Operation TopKnot here.

‘Red Cloud’ Marines rub elbows with Afghan locals

Sergeant Clifton Shackleford, a security team leader with Bravo Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) ‘elevates’ the spirits of several local children whom reside in the village outside Combat Outpost Cafferetta here May 10. The Marines conducted a series of combat logistics patrols in the region and spent the afternoon with dozens of locals from a nearby village whom welcomed the Marine’s presence in the area. Photo: Sgt. Justin J. Shemanski.

Like a Good Neighbor: ‘Red Cloud’ Marines rub elbows with Afghan locals

By Sgt. Justin J. Shemanski, 1st Marine Logistics Group (FWD)

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — During their latest combat logistics patrol in the region May 7-11, Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), were able to spend time getting to know the native population on friendly terms.

The multiple-day resupply mission in support of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, took the Marines of Bravo Company to several locations in and around Now Zad and Musa Qal’eh. Though these days consisted of long hours and hard work, the Marines were happy to spend some time with the curious groups of locals who gathered around to watch them in action at a few of their stops along their route.

Villagers, including dozens of children, flocked around the Leathernecks as they were eager to voice their wants and needs and discuss security and local issues with the patrol. They also took the opportunity to sell and trade items such as hats, toys, scarves and even food stuffs to include live chickens, turkeys, lambs, bread and vegetables.

The Marines enjoyed the experience perhaps even more than the villagers, as it was a welcome change of pace from day to day operations throughout Helmand province.

H/t to the Dawn Patrol.

15 May 2010

Armed Forces Day

Our friend Hartmut renders Taps inside the Memorial at Lorraine Military Cemetery near St. Avold, France last year on Armed Forces Day. Beautiful.

Staten Islanders offer heartfelt salute to wounded warriors

Motrorcyclists, 200 strong, escort wounded soldiers visiting from Water Reed Hospital in Washington along Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway. Photo: Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel.

I *heart* New York.

Staten Islanders offer heartfelt salute to wounded warriors
By Jeff Harrell
May 14, 2010, 10:48PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- It was impossible to miss the wounded war heroes today.

Behind an advance guard of 200 deafening choppers, their motorcade wended its way along Richmond Avenue past the Staten Island Mall, attended by fluttering flags and chants of "America rocks!"

It was a fitting New York City welcome for nine severely wounded veterans who ventured from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., to visit the Island as guests of the Tamburri Post, American Veterans (AMVETS).

"It's very exciting. I got goosebumps," said Tamburri Post member Dennis McLoone of Westerleigh.

"I'm just proud, proud, proud of our guys doing a job nobody else would want," proclaimed Kathryn Fixsen of Eltingville. "It makes America what it is."

Well-wishers lined Richmond Avenue in front of the Mall for more than two hours waiting for the heroes' motorcade -- which followed the bikers from the Islanders Motorcycle Club up the New Jersey Turnpike, over the Outerbridge Crossing and along the Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway before making its way up Richmond to Travis and South avenues.

Then the wounded war heroes enjoyed a well-deserved lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.

Students from PS 29 in Castleton Corners wave American flags as the motorcade passes. Photo: Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel.

As passing motorists honked while knots of veterans from the Cespino-Russo Post, American Legion, and a throng of residents waited in front of the Mall for the wounded warriors to pass, flag-waving fourth-graders from PS 29 led those gathered in chanting "America Rocks!" and "We love America!"

Barbara Camporeale, a fourth-grade social studies teacher at the school, said the children will long remember today's homage.

"We wanted to take them to be the welcoming committee for the wounded warriors," Ms. Camporeale said.

Seeing the wounded veterans pass by in vans took on a special meaning for Mary LaManna of Westerleigh, who served during the Vietnam War as a U.S. Army nurse at the Third Field Hospital in Saigon.

"Our wounded heroes," Ms. LaManna said. "Those are the ones that we should be here to honor, to welcome to Staten Island, and show how appreciative we are."

14 May 2010

Assault Breacher Vehicles: The USMC's latest answer to the deadliest threat in Afghanistan

Count me in as being in favor of anything that could save even one life, or one limb.

The Assault Breacher Vehicles are the Marines Corps' answer to the deadliest threat facing United States and NATO troops in Afghanistan, thousands of land mines and roadside bombs aka improvised explosive devices, that litter the Afghan Taliban region.

The Breachers are metal monsters that look like a tank with a cannon, carry a 15-foot wide plow supported by metal skis that glide on the dirt, digging a safety lane through the numerous minefields laid by the Taliban.

If there are too many mines, the Breachers can fire rockets carrying high grade C-4 explosive up to 150 yards forward, detonating the hidden bombs at a safe distance so that troops and vehicles can pass through safely.

The detonations, over 1,700 pounds of Mine Clearing Line Charge, send a sheet fire into the air and shock waves rippling through the desert in all directions.

The ABVs saw their first combat duty in the recent Operation Cobra's Anger in Afghanistan. The breachers are so valuable that they only travel along with a tank retrieval vehicle to drag them to safety if they are damaged.

13 May 2010

Ansbach-based 12th CAB Soldiers awarded German Gold Cross Medals in Kunduz

In this Wednesday, May 12, 2010 photo, German Lt. Gen. Kasdorf, left, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Chief of Staff pins a medal to a U.S. soldier, part of the NATO- led ISAF forces, during an awards ceremony in Kunduz, north of Kabul, Afghanistan. Fourteen U.S. service members have received Germany's Gold Cross Medal for their bravery in extracting wounded German soldiers from a firefight in northeast Afghanistan - the first time the award has been bestowed on non-German troops. AP Photo/Ahmad Massoud.

Well done. I'm sure the guys appreciate the recognition, even as they mourn your losses.

KABUL — Fourteen U.S. service members have received Germany's Gold Cross Medal for their bravery in extracting wounded German soldiers from a firefight in northeast Afghanistan — the first time the award has been given to troops from another nation.

The Americans, all members of the U.S. Army's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, received the medals — one of Germany's highest awards for valor — on Wednesday at a German base in Kunduz province.

The U.S. crewmen were honored for risking their lives to rescue German soldiers ambushed by more than 200 Taliban fighters during a patrol April 2 near the provincial capital of Kunduz. Eleven German soldiers were critically wounded, and the battle was still active when U.S. Black Hawk evacuation helicopters arrived.

"We came under very heavy fire," said Jason LaCrosse, chief warrant officer three. "We couldn't land at first, but we came back in a second time and loaded two casualties, brought them back to the hospital, then we went back to get more."

Three of the German soldiers died of their wounds.

"We've had a strong partnership with the German soldiers," said Sgt. Antonio Gattis. "These guys are like family to us, so we took it personally when they got injured and just went out there and did what we had to do."

In addition to LaCrosse and Gattis, the medal recipients were Capt. Robert McDonough, Chief Warrant Officers 3 Steven Husted and Nelson Visaya, Chief Warrant Officers 2 Jason Brown, Sean Johnson and Eric Wells, Staff Sgt. Travis Brown, Sgts. William Ebel and Steven Shumaker, and Spcs. Matthew Baker, Todd Marchese and Gregory Martinez.


“My thought was just for the wounded Soldiers,” after the ceremony a tearful U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Shumaker, crew chief, 5th Bn., 158th Av. Regmt., said. “My own safety wasn’t a concern. Our goal was to get those guys out or die trying.”

And here's the B-Roll of the awards ceremony in which ISAF Chief of Staff, German Army Lt. Gen. Bruno Kasdorf presents the Gold Cross of Honor to members of 5-158th Aviation Battalion. This is the first time the award has ever been issued to a service member outside of German armed forces. We're so proud of and grateful for this moving gesture by the German Bundeswehr, and very impressed by the speed at which the medals were authorized.

Warrior Games, Day 4

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Angel Barcenas and fellow Marines cheer on their teammates during the sitting volleyball during the inaugural Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Facility, Colorado Springs, Colo., May 11, 2010. The Marines went to win a nail-biter over Army 30 to 28. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III.

Today the games continue with the cycling and shooting competitions, the sitting volleyball finals, and the wheelchair basketball finals.

Tomorrow, May 14 is the last day of the games with track & field, swimming finals, and the closing ceremonies.

The inaugural Warrior Games, which run through May 14, feature about 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all five branches of military service in Paralympic-type competitions. All the action is here.

12 May 2010

Active Duty Amputee Soldier Carries Torch at Warrior Games

U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Price carries the torch at the start of its journey down the path at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10, 2010, during the opening ceremonies of the inaugural Warrior Games. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 11, 2010 – A soldier whose leg was amputated below the knee carried the torch into the Olympic Training Center here yesterday during opening ceremonies for the inaugural Warrior Games.

Army Sgt. Robert Price was the first servicemember to carry the torch before handing it over to representatives from each of the other services. Hall-of-Fame football player, U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Vietnam veteran Roger Staubach completed the short journey and lit the Olympic flame.

Price, who remained in the Army after losing his right leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq, is a cadre member at the warrior transition battalion at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He was given the honor because he made sure other soldiers had the opportunity to compete as well.

Follow all of the Warrior Games action here.

11 May 2010

A Mother's Love

Eva with her son and our Hero, Joseph "Jay" Briseno.

"Probably other mothers regret having their sons or daughters go to war, especially when they come home hurt. It's not easy seeing your child be in this position. We are so proud of Jay and we thank God every single day that we have him."

- Eva Briseno

A bullet in Baghdad, a son's need, a mother's love

By AP Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione
Sunday May 9, 2010

MANASSAS PARK, Va. – There are mothers who will spend today missing sons and daughters fighting overseas. There are women who have lost children in those wars, for whom Mother's Day will never be the same.

And then there is Eva Briseno.

Joseph Briseno Jr., Eva's 27-year-old son, is one of the most severely wounded soldiers ever to survive. A bullet to the back of his head in a Baghdad marketplace in 2003 left him paralyzed, brain-damaged and blind, but awake and aware of his condition.

Eva takes care of "Jay" in her suburban Virginia home where the family room has been transformed into an intensive care unit, with the breathing machine and tubes he needs to stay alive.

She sleeps a few hours at a time, when the schedule says it is her turn, often slumped in exhaustion by his side.

She has been out to dinner with her husband, Joseph Sr., once in seven years.

She could have a better life if she put Jay in a nursing home. Or if she went back to using the home health care nurses the government provided. But one looked indifferently without wiping Jay's mouth when he drooled. Others fell asleep on the night shift, inattentive while Jay suffered seizures.

What keeps Eva going is hope that stem cells or some future treatment advance will help her son.

"I do believe in miracles," she says.

Yet desperation clouds her prayers. "Most of the time I ask God if I can take Jay's place," she confesses, unable to suppress a sob.

Hearing his mother, Jay cries too, the tears silently slipping from his blind eyes.

Just read the whole thing.

You can visit Eva's Facebook page here.

Technically dead for 15 minutes after being wounded, Soldier returns to unit 5 months later

Capt. Joshua A. Mantz and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kan. Five months after he was revived, Captain Mantz returned to his unit in Iraq to finish a tour of platoon command, and he is preparing to deploy again, most likely early next year. Department of Defense photo by Cherie Cullen.

“I could feel myself starting to die, and I became desperate in my struggle to stay conscious. I started to repeat three names in my head over and over again: My mom, my sister Melissa, and my sister Kendra. For the last 60 seconds of my life, I rapidly repeated these three names in my head. They helped me hold on a little longer and knew I had to fight for them. But the feeling then crept to my chest, and I knew I was done. I calmly said my last thought, took my last breath, and died.”

- Capt. Joshua A. Mantz

April, 2007. Captain Mantz was patrolling with his Scout Platoon near Sadr City, Iraq when they were targeted by an enemy sniper using high-powered, armor-piercing rounds.

A round entered through the left arm of Staff Sgt. Marlon B. Harper, 34, of Baltimore, and exited through his chest, but only after severing his aorta and delivering a mortal wound.

The force and heat of the round caused the bullet to fuse with Sergeant Harper’s body armor. A chunk of bullet and melted armor plate the size of a human fist ricocheted into Captain Mantz’s upper right thigh, severing his femoral artery, another of the deadliest combat wounds possible.

But first the adrenalin of combat kicked in.

“I didn’t know that I was shot,” Captain Mantz said. “I was simply confused and knew that something was wrong. I experienced tunnel vision, as my attention immediately focused on the face of Staff Sergeant Marlon Harper. I looked into his eyes with crystal clarity and watched as his lifeless body fell to the ground. I experienced auditory distortion, in that I could hear nothing except for the muted shot of the sniper round, and hear my own voice call for my medic. I also experienced slow-motion time. I could feel my body absorb the shock of the round as it hit my body. I could feel myself moving backwards.”

Captain Mantz dragged Sergeant Harper out of the way and began to perform first aid on him while calling for assistance. “When my medic arrived, no more than 15 seconds later, I briefly passed out,” Captain Mantz said. “I regained consciousness when my men carried me into the nearest Bradley Fighting Vehicle and drove to FOB Loyalty,” the forward operating base that was their home in Baghdad.

During the 10-minute ride, the medic cinched-up a tourniquet and helped Captain Mantz stay conscious. “But I had to fight for every breath that I took,” Captain Mantz said.

The convoy was met by a team of Army medical personnel who within seconds were administering CPR and electronic defibrillation.

The medical team working on Captain Mantz did not quit. “I don’t know what possessed the brigade surgeon and his team to continue working on a dead guy for 15 straight minutes – many doctors will ‘call it’ after 6 minutes because that’s usually the point at which brain damage sets in – but they kept going,” Captain Mantz said.

When they restored a faint pulse, Captain Mantz was loaded onto a Black Hawk helicopter for a short flight into the Green Zone and more advanced emergency care. There, the military hospital team went through nearly 30 units of blood during a complicated vascular surgery. Blood was in short supply, and the medical team pulled soldiers into the surgery ward, drawing blood straight from their arms and putting it right into Captain Mantz. (He was ordered to take tests for a year to check for blood infections or disorders from the unprocessed transfusions, and he is fine.)

“Our military surgeons are gods in their profession,” he said. “With the proper resources, they can – and do – bring soldiers back to life against impossible odds.”

When he was stabilized, Captain Mantz was flown first to the larger military hospital at Balad, Iraq, north of Baghdad, and then to the military facility in Landstuhl, Germany, where it was determined that he had suffered no brain damage.

After 5 months of recovery at Walter Reed - which he described as “a utopia” of Army medical care - Mantz returned to his unit in Iraq.

Read the rest of this amazing story - the 2007 reunion with his Soldiers back in Baghdad, his current journey to Washington where he will visit the caregivers at Walter Reed, and his quest to help others by sharing his story.

During a recent counseling session for spouses and parents of those killed in combat Captain Mantz told the group, “Your experiences are valuable in ways you may not realize yet. I strongly encourage you to talk about them. You’ll never know who you’re going to help.”

Update: Great interview with Captain Mantz at CNN.

Zac Brown Band, Ram Trucks, and Soldiers' Angels Launch ‘Letters For Lyrics’ Campaign

On May 7, executives from Chrysler Group LLC, Zac Brown Band and Soldiers' Angels stood wingtip-to-wingtip to announce the launch of Letters For Lyrics, a massive, nationwide effort to send one million letters to support our U.S. troops stationed across the world.

The project begins May 10 and in exchange for a letter, participants will receive a "Breaking Southern Ground" CD featuring three all-new songs from Zac Brown Band and songs from artists signed to the Southern Ground label. Visit your local Dodge or Ram Truck Dealer to write a card and get your CD, or join the Band at one of their concerts this summer.

As the organization that will deliver the 1,000,000 postcards to from Americans across the country to our servicemen and women around the world, Soldiers’ Angels is honored to be part of this exciting endeavor. For video of the launch event and for more info on the Letters For Lyrics program, including the latest official news, please visit Chrysler's Blog and ZacBrownBand.com.

(r-l): Angels Dianne Moore, Jill Walls and Jeff Bader joined Fred Diaz (4th from left), President and CEO of Ram Truck Brand, and Zac Brown Band for the kick-off of "Letters for Lyrics."

Ram Truck Brand and Zac Brown Band Launch ‘Letters for Lyrics’ National Letter-Writing Campaign to U.S. Soldiers

• Write a letter and receive a “Breaking Southern Ground” CD featuring three all-new songs from Zac Brown Band.

• Goal to deliver 1 million letters to U.S. soldiers stationed across the world

• All U.S. Ram Truck dealerships will serve as collection points and provide letter-writing stations

• Letters to be collected at Zac Brown Band Concerts

• Soldier’s Angels to deliver letters to U.S. Troops on behalf of the Ram Truck Brand and Zac Brown Band

• Exclusive documentary-style footage of Zac Brown Band‘s USO tour directed by Darren Doane to debut on RAM Truck Brand’s Letter for Lyrics site

ATLANTA, May 7, 2010 - The Ram Truck Brand, in partnership with Zac Brown Band, kicks off “Letters for Lyrics,” a national letter-writing campaign targeted to U.S. soldiers. The goal for the Ram Truck Brand and Zac Brown Band is to send 1 million letters to U.S. troops deployed around the world.

In exchange for writing a letter to a U.S. soldier, participants will receive a special compilation CD titled, “Breaking Southern Ground.” This exclusive CD features three all-new songs from Zac Brown Band, as well as music from artists signed to Zac Brown’s label, Southern Ground Records – Sonia Leigh, Nic Cowan and Levi Lowrey.

“The Ram Truck Brand is grateful for the commitment and courage that U.S. soldiers give to this country each day,” said Fred Diaz, President and CEO – Ram Truck Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. “Our company has been steadfast in its support of America's armed services; we know these letters will help brighten a soldier’s day. We encourage our employees, suppliers and our customers to visit a local Ram Truck dealership to write or drop off a letter for these soldiers who protect our right to freedom.”

"We've had several opportunities to perform for the troops over the past year and each time we were deeply inspired by their positive attitudes and dedication to protecting our country and preserving our way of life," said Zac Brown. "We were so moved that we knew we needed to recognize their efforts in a big way. Our hope is that by combining our experience overseas, our music, and the good people at Ram Truck Brand, we will be able to rally a movement of support for our brave service members abroad."

Darren Doane, the CMT nominated director of Zac Brown Band's live 'Pass the Jar' DVD (Southern Ground/Atlantic) and their music video for the #1 hit "Toes," traveled with the band to the Persian Gulf to document the moving experience – capturing footage of the band performing for the troops and meeting individually with the men and women in uniform. Bringing the experience home, Doane has constructed several mini-documentary style videos which will be posted to RamTrucks.com starting today and updated throughout the coming weeks.

"This unique endeavor is derived from respect and admiration, from both the Ram Truck Brand and Zac Brown Band, for the men and women in the military,” said Marissa Hunter, Head of Ram Truck Brand Communications, Chrysler Group LLC. “It is our hope that these letters serve as a source of appreciation and comfort.”

Letters will be collected at Zac Brown Band concerts and all U.S. Ram Truck dealerships. People interested in writing a letter can visit any Ram Truck dealership where special “Letters for Lyrics” stationery will be provided.

Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit organization, will deliver the letters on behalf of the Zac Brown Band and the Ram Truck Brand. Soldiers’ Angels is a volunteer-led organization with over 225,000 members providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, along with veterans and their families.

“By standing wingtip to wingtip, the Ram Truck Brand, Zac Brown Band and Soldiers’ Angels will be able to help build morale to heroes in combat zones one million fold,” said Soldiers’ Angels founder and president, Patti Patton-Bader. “We are truly grateful to the Ram Truck Brand and Zac Brown Band for their help in ensuring that our heroes know they are loved and appreciated.”

The “Letters for Lyrics” campaign is part of an integrated marketing campaign for the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty and is supported with broadcast, print, digital and social media efforts that will run concurrently.

About Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band were named GRAMMY's "Best New Artist” in 2010. They also earned four Academy of Country Music Award nominations including one for "Entertainer of the Year." The band's double platinum-certified, major label debut ‘The Foundation’ (Atlantic) - one of Billboard's Top 20 albums of 2009 - features the band's first four #1 singles. Currently on the road with their "Breaking Southern Ground" national tour, Zac Brown Band will also join the Dave Matthews Band to perform at select shows across the U.S. this summer including New York's Citi Field. Zac Brown Band is represented by ROAR, a Beverly Hills-based management company. Additional information can be found at http://www.zacbrownband.com/

About Soldiers' Angels

Soldiers’ Angels is a full service deployed troop, military family, wounded and veterans service organization serving all those who serve all of us with over twenty very effective programs. We specialize in the unique needs uncovered by other agencies, military benefits and medical insurance. Founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, the mother of an army soldier deployed to Iraq, Soldiers’ Angels has grown from a small care package organization to major source of aid for all those who serve or have served in our Armed Forces. Last year, we provided over 25 million dollars worth of assistance. Our slogan, "May No Soldier Go Unloved," encapsulates the motivation behind Soldiers' Angels. By working together and sharing a common vision of service, the volunteers of Soldiers' Angels continue to demonstrate active care and concern for veterans, the wounded, deployed service members, and their families. From our very inception, the focus of Soldiers’ Angels has been: Helping bring home healthy soldiers. Visit www.soldiersangels.org, www.facebook.com/SoldiersAngelsOfficial and www.twitter.com/soldiersangels to find out more.

About the Ram Truck Brand

With a work-hard, play-hard attitude, the Ram Truck brand offers the boldest, most powerful and capable pickup truck lineup on the planet.

The Ram Truck brand will add to its award-winning truck lineup with the introduction of its all-new 2010 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty trucks, Motor Trend's Truck of the Year. The new heavy-duty trucks provide customers with first-time innovations and features along with new standards of strength, utility and driveability, building on the Ram's leadership in the heavy-duty pickup segment.

Introduced in 2008, the Ram 1500 is a game changer in terms of its ability to "outsmart" and "out-tough" the competition with its bold exterior design, crafted and refined interior, engineering excellence, superb innovation and best-in-class features and amenities. The Ram 1500 also ranks at the top of Strategic Vision Inc.’s (SVI) 2009 Total Quality Index™ (TQI) in the full-size truck segment. According to the survey, the Ram 1500 leads the way with the highest Total Quality score of any truck in the 15-year history of the study. Customers specifically noted that the Ram has the best added storage capability along with the best truck interior ever rated by customers.

The Ram Truck brand will further enhance its commercial vehicle presence with the introduction of a "new crew" of commercial-grade work trucks: the new 2011 Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs. Led by an all-new crew cab, the new 2011 Ram Chassis Cabs are built on a proven frame and chassis, and engineered for maximum uptime, optimum performance and enhanced commercial capability.

The Official Ram Letters for Lyrics website is

Calling all Veterans: Extreme Home Makeover is looking for YOU!

Do you know a Veteran and family whose home deserves an Extreme Makeover? If so, the producers of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition want to hear from you.

When you submit your Extreme Makover application tell them Troy Yocum of Hike for Our Heroes & Soldiers' Angels sent you!

What does it take to be picked for an Extreme Makeover? "We're looking for those special people who have amazing strength of character and never give up. Whether it’s keeping their chin up in really tough circumstances or going out of their way to help others. We want to help people whose stories have really affected their community or made a big difference in other people's lives. There are a lot of people who are heroes to those around them because of the way they inspire others and quietly serve their communities on a daily basis."

The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition producers are looking for families whose homes desperately need to be rebuilt. “We really want to help families whose homes present major problems for the family, those big issues that affect the family's quality of life on a daily basis. We want to find deserving people who just don't have the resources, ability, or time to fix those serious issues without our help.”

To be eligible, a family must own their own single family home and be able to show producers how a makeover will make a huge difference in their lives. (Will still accept applications from renters and encourage them to apply.)

Interested families should e-mail a short description of their family story to OperationFinallyHome. Please write the following in the subject line: (Family Name) - Military Veteran Home Makeover

Nominations may be submitted by the family or by a member of their community. Each nomination must include the names and ages of every member of the household along with a description of the major challenges within the home. Anyone submitting a nomination should be sure to explain why the nominated family is deserving, heroic, and/or a great role model for their community. If possible, include a recent photo of the family. All nominations must include a contact phone number.

The deadline for nominations is May 21, 2010. Don’t delay!

10 May 2010

River Watch

Sgt. David M. Poole scans the area across the Kunar River as he provides security in the Noorgal district in Afghanistan's Konar province, May 1, 2010. This was part of a community development council meeting. Pooler is assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503 Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173 Airborne Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lorenzo Ware.


The FST at FOB Lagman, Afghanistan:

I wasn’t crying because a great man just died in front of me with injuries that would make almost anyone else vomit. I was crying because I was overwhelmed with pride; I was proud to be a part of this outstanding team, doing incredible things, under austere conditions, in a fourth-world country. But mostly I was proud... of the corpsmen.

From the blog Healing Those Who Provide Our Freedom. Read the whole thing.

H/t the Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol.

How many Soldiers does it take to...

U.S. Army soldiers with the 1st platoon, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division help each other to climb a structure in Mian Joie village during a security opperation in Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, May 10, 2010. Photo: Reuters.

2010 Warrior Games

The first Warrior Games kick off in Colorado Springs with opening ceremonies today and competitions beginning tomorrow.

Under the motto "Once on the battlefield, now on the playing field", the Warrior Games are a celebration of the achievements and ability of the wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers through athletic competition.

Read about the events, see profiles of the athletes, and follow developments at the Warrior Games website.

06 May 2010

Celebrating National Nurses Week

Florence Nightingale as depicted in the BBC1 drama of the same name. Photograph: BBC/1A Productions/Faith & Values Media.

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale's birthday.

Inspired by what she took as a call from God, Nightingale announced her decision to enter nursing in 1844, much to the distress of her affluent English family. She is most famous for her work during the Crimean War, when she managed to have herself and her staff of 38 female volunteer nurses sent to Turkey after hearing about horrific conditions for the wounded British soldiers there.

During her first winter at Scutari hospital in Istanbul over 4000 soldiers died. At that time, ten times more patients died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery than from battle wounds.

Florence Nightingale's lasting legacy was her role in founding the modern nursing profession. She set an example of compassion, commitment to patient care, and diligent and thoughtful hospital administration.

2010 - the centennial of Nightingale's death - is The International Year of the Nurse.

Civil War

World War One

World War Two

Korean War

Vietnam War

Our Nurses Today

Soldiers' Angels salutes our Nurses' continued commitment to the professional and loving care they provide to our Nation's heroes. THANK YOU and God bless you all.

05 May 2010

Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act signed into law

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act (S. 1963), recently approved by Congress, was signed into law today by President Obama.

The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide training, health insurance, and a stipend to caregivers of about 2000 of our nations's most severely wounded warriors.

From a previous post:

Now I urge you to watch the PBS documentary called "Who's Helping Our Wounded Vets?" , which tells the stories of three families who have literally sacrificed everything to care for their severely wounded family members.

The families in the documentary had the option of putting their loved ones into nursing homes which wound have been paid for, but where their condition would have undoubtedly deteriorated. Instead, they have taken it upon themselves to provide qualtiy care to their loved ones - our wounded warriors.

Following on the example of the sacrifices their warriors made for our country, these families are now making their own. It's time for us to step up and provide financial compensation for their work. These families have already given enough.

As with every piece of legislation, other things have been included that are not directly related to the caregiver issue. But if you have any doubt as to the necessity of this bill, watch the PBS documentary here.

I personally know many families who will benefit from the bill. And I cannot think of anyone more deserving.

The most precious cargo

Members of a Critical Care Air Transport Team tend to a critically ill patient aboard a C-17 Globemaster III en route to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. A CCATT is a highly-specialized medical team made up of three members: a critical care physician and nurse, and a respiratory therapist, who operate an intensive care unit in an aircraft during flight. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Daniel Riley.

Medical crews transfer patients out of Afghanistan

Posted 4/28/2010
by 2nd Lt. Daniel Riley, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

4/28/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- If it weren't for the roar of the engines on the cramped KC-135 heading into Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, this flight would have been completely silent.

"I've never seen the plane this full before," said Senior Master Sgt. Chuck Smith, a boom operator for the Mississippi Air National Guard's 153rd Air Refueling Squadron.

The flight had two full Aeromedical Evacuation crews, one Critical Care Air Transport Team and several thousand pounds of equipment associated with each of these crews. This is all in addition to the normal aircrew and equipment aboard the aircraft.

With a few hours left before making the roller-coaster ride landing over the Hindu Kush Mountains and into the valley of Bagram, the medical crews all sat in silent reflection.

Some read books and magazines, but most were resting because as soon as the aircraft landed, their 18-hour work day would begin: unloading gear, loading patients, and working to get them safely to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Aeromedical Evacuation crews performed 19,025 patient movements in 2009, and have evacuated more than 140,000 patients since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These crews are all supremely dedicated to their mission of saving the lives of wounded warriors, and they all have an extensive medical background.

"It's amazing the number of years of medical experience we put to each and every one of our patients," said Master Sgt. Terry Starkey, a medical technician with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight.

Lt. Col. Patricia Fulton, a medical crew director with the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, tends to a critical care patient aboard a C-17 Globemaster III en route to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aeromedical evacuation crews performed 19,025 patient movements in 2009, and have evacuated more than 140,000 patients since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Daniel Riley.

Lt. Col. Patricia Fulton said, "I have been doing this for 23 years, taking care of these heroes like they're family is what I'm here to do."

Colonel Fulton is a medical crew director with the 10th EAEF and trauma nurse in Oklahoma in her civilian career.

Many of the men and women aboard these flights are Reservists and Guardsmen, who volunteer their time to deploy and take care of these wounded warriors.

The dedication of these men and women have pushed the survival rate of all wounded to above 98 percent today, said Maj. Ed Schmidt, a Guardsman and nurse with the 10th EAEF.

Multiple factors contribute to this high survival rate, including the amount of time it takes from moment of injury to successful evacuation to Landstuhl--the first stop for most of the evacuated patients. It takes only 12 to 15 hours to get an injured warrior to Landstuhl, he said.

Lt. Col. Shelby Mills said, "The better training, technology and equipment today also lead to a better survival rate."

Colonel Mills is a medical director with the 455th EAEF and a member of Scott's 932nd Airlift Wing.

"The experience of field medics, and the implementation of the Self Aid and Buddy Care program has pushed medical care to the very front lines, and that has helped immensely," she said.

As soon as the plane hit the ground there was a calm urgency as practiced hands re-configured the cargo-bay to accept litters. Soon the ambulances pulled up and volunteers from across the airfield came out to help carry the litters.

"The other day a young Airman who was working the flightline came up and asked if he could help," said Colonel Mills. "He started to help carry litters and equipment, and when all the patients were loaded he said he needed to get back to work and thanked us for allowing him to help. He wasn't assigned to our plane, he just saw us and wanted to lend a hand where he could. Since then he's been a staple around our flights and is always there when we're loading patients."

Sergeant Smith said, "We fly these missions in and out of Bagram, right up to the limit we are allowed to fly in a month, but that month-long limit is filled in a little over one week. These really are great missions, and we just love doing our part in every way we can."

With the patients loaded and secured, the massive C-17 taxied, cut off all of its lights, hammered down the throttle and pulled away from Bagram over the mountains on its way to Germany with its precious cargo.

03 May 2010

Laundry day with the Marines in Marjah

(Language alert: At least one F-bomb right at the beginning.)

Blech... even after "washing" the "rinse cycle" produces dark brown water.

Toby rocks Germany!

Toby Keith, singer, songwriter and entertainer, performs during a concert, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, May, 1. The Toby Keith concert was sponsored by the United Services Organization and Armed Forces Entertainment. U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Pierce.

Toby Keith was in town this weekend and put on a free concert for the Kaiserslautern Military Community in the jam-packed Hangar 1 at Ramstein Air Base. He's currently on a 14-day tour of several military locations in Korea, Germany and the Persian Gulf.

Toby Keith at the USO Warrior Center. Photo: USO Warrior Center Facebook page.

Toby also visited Landstuhl hospital, joining the outpatients at the Landstuhl USO Warrior Center for lunch and singing a few songs. Thanks for coming, Toby! We love you!