28 July 2010

Rufus comes "home"

Remember Rufus?

February 16, 2010 - Rufus the Dog: Hero of Bravo 2-121
February 25, 2010 - A Tale of Two Dogs

Rufus the dog, recovering after having been hit while trying to keep a suicide bomber out of "his" Soldiers' living quarters in Afgahnistan this February. Although several Soldiers were injured, they credit Rufus with saving their lives. Courtesy photo.

Soldiers with the Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade maintained from the very beginning that the outcome of the suicide bombing which took place in their camp this past February could have been a lot worse if it wasn't for the stray dogs they'd adopted.

Five Soldiers from Newnan, Georgia-based Bravo 2-121 were wounded in the attack. But no one was killed, and the Soldiers say that's because their dogs Rufus, Sasha and Target attacked the intruder when he tried to enter their barracks.

Well, Rufus has finally come "home", thanks to the support of several non-profit groups.

"The dogs and the soldiers bonded in such a way that it would be a travesty to leave [the dogs] behind to fend for themselves in a war-torn area and the soldiers never knowing what happened to them," said Robert Misseri, of Robert's Cause, a nonprofit animal-advocacy group. "It's our mission to help these soldiers."

Another good Samaritan, Anna Canaan, 23, whose fiancé, Christopher Chiasson, is a soldier currently stationed at the same Afghan outpost in the Dand aw Patan district, created the Puppy Mission Rescue Facebook page to help the dogs.

Today, Rufus arrives in Manhattan before flying to Augusta, Ga., where he will spend the rest of his years with [Sgt. Chris] Duke and his wife, who is pregnant. Target, being flown out at the same time, will live in Phoenix with the Army medic who saved her life.

Rufus the dog, undergoing treatment after having been hit while trying to keep a suicide bomber out of "his" Soldiers' living quarters in Afgahnistan this February. Although several Soldiers were injured, they credit Rufus with saving their lives. Courtesy photo.

Full article here, and hopefully there will be pictures and stories about the reunions in Augusta and Phoenix!

21 July 2010

Soldiers' Angels Welcomes New Board Member

Soldiers' Angels Welcomes Another Board Member
Veteran Brings Capitol Hill & New Media Skills

PASADENA, Calif., July 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading military support nonprofit Soldiers' Angels announced yesterday the appointment of military veteran, new media expert and lobbyist Mark Seavey to its Board of Trustees. Drawing on thirteen years' experience advocating for veterans, Seavey will work closely with COL (ret) Henry Cook on legislative liaison efforts.

A strong advocate for veterans, Seavey began his career with The American Legion in 1997 as an Appeals Representative and later served with the National Legislative Commission as an Assistant Director and Grassroots Coordinator. Recently promoted to New Media Manager, Seavey serves as steward of the Burn Pit blog and also runs a highly-respected personal milblog (www.thisainthell.us), which specializes in debunking fraudulent military service claims.

"I couldn't be happier about being selected for the Board of Soldiers' Angels," says Seavey, who first encountered Soldiers' Angels through his work with military blogs. "When one looks at who is pre-eminent in the field of working on behalf of not just wounded warriors, but of all warriors, in the upper tier of such organizations one finds Soldiers' Angels. There are so many great people on the Board that I am honored and humbled to be accepted into their ranks."

In addition to advising on legislative matters related to veterans, Seavey hopes to serve the Board with his experience and knowledge in new media and his "enthusiasm for helping my brothers and sisters in arms." Soldiers' Angels Founder Patti-Patton-Bader adds, "We are thrilled to be able to combine talents with Seavey to help support our deployed troops and to improve their quality of life at home."

Seavey deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the National Guard in 1997, then led an infantry squad in Afghanistan from 2004-2005. Following his return from Afghanistan, he was one of the founders of Vets for Freedom, a nonpartisan organization focused on educating Americans about the importance of achieving success in the Global War on Terrorism.

Born and raised in New England, Mark is a graduate of The Citadel and has a Juris Doctorate from George Mason University School of Law. He will be taking the Indiana Bar Exam in July and will be married in September to Caroline, who joins him as a military blogger and strong supporter of Soldiers' Angels herself.

Established in 2003, Soldiers' Angels is an award-winning 501(c)(3) with hundreds of thousands of volunteers providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as 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. Tax ID# 20-0583415

SOURCE Soldiers' Angels

16 July 2010

Silver Star for Pendleton Marine

Marine Warrant Officer John W. Hermann (right) is awarded the Silver Star by Brig. Gen. Charles Hudson Thursday at Forward Operating Base Delaram II in Afghanistan. Photo: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer / USMC.

Another Marine "just doing his job": During an attack of rocket propelled grenades, mortars and gunfire, then-Staff Sgt John Hermann and a teammate ran across open terrain and charged an entrenchment of enemy fighters. One Marine went down with a shot to the leg. After Hermann “single-handedly destroyed the enemy assailants,” he ran back for the wounded Marine as insurgents shot at him from another direction. He applied a tourniquet, silenced another enemy machine-gunner, established a security cordon to protect the wounded, and directed Marines to hunt the remaining fighters.

Read the rest of the story about Warrant Officer Hermann's actions in Helmand back in 2008 that earned him the Silver Star.

Soldiers' Angels Charity Weekend at Ranger Up 17-18 July

Ranger Up is holding another charity day for Soldiers Angels - and this time it's doubling the support with TWO whole days in honor of its new Soldiers' Angels t-shirts!

A veteran-owned business known for military-themed clothing designs and gear, Ranger Up will be donating 20% of the price of everything they sell this weekend (July 17-18, 2010) to Soldiers’ Angels! In addition, another 20% of the cost of Ranger Up's three new Soldiers' Angels t-shirt designs will be donated to Soldiers' Angels.

The new shirts include a men's t-shirt featuring a fierce male Angel and the "May No Soldier Walk Alone" line from the Soldiers' Angels motto on the back. The new women's t-shirts feature a powerful female Angel in a light design or dark design, both with the "May No Soldier Go Unloved" line on the back.

This is the second charity day Ranger Up has held for Soldiers' Angels. As CEO Nick Palmisciano says, "Our first charity day was a success, but we wanted to do even more, so we are holding a full Soldiers' Angels charity weekend and simultaneously launching the new shirts. We think this will be out most successful Soldiers' Angels event yet!"

Charity Day is the latest in a rich history of Ranger Up support for Soldiers' Angels. Last year the company created the popular Soldiers' Angels Protector T-shirt and added the Angel logo to its Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters' shorts. "We aren't in a position to simply donate millions of dollars (yet)," says Palmisciano, "so we focus on raising awareness by asking our MMA fighters to wear the Soldiers' Angels emblem when they get in the cage, designing new shirts that make the Soldiers' Angels community proud while simultaneously raising money for the organization, incorporating Soldiers' Angels into the new EA Sports MMA video game promotion and holding charity days."

Encountering Soldiers' Angels while visiting military hospitals with its MMA fighters inspired Ranger Up to join the Angel team. "We found that every time we asked a troop who was taking care of him the best he said, 'Soldiers' Angels.' Every. Single. Time," Palmisciano reports. "Even as Soldiers' Angels grows, it maintains the 'boots on the ground' feel. Angels are writing troops, visiting troops, giving back - each and every one of them. No one is sitting in a corporate office simply thinking about the strategy of taking care of soldiers - each person is doing it, and candidly that's what we love the most."

Thank you Ranger Up for your continued service both in and out of uniform, and for your support of Soldiers' Angels!

To shop at Ranger Up, click here.

15 July 2010

They call him "The One-Legged Warlord of Ashaque"

Afghan soldiers examine Capt. Dan Luckett's prosthetic leg. The soldiers quickly gave him a nickname: "The One-Legged Warlord of Ashaque." Photo: Spc. Joe Padula/U.S. Army.

Heard my radios and one of my squad leaders said, 'Hey is everybody all right in 1-6 vehicle?' And I keyed the mike and went, 'Negative, negative my feet are gone.'

- Capt. Dan Luckett

Actually, it was his left leg and part of his right foot. But that was back in 2008 in Iraq. Today, Captain Dan Luckett is deployed with the 101st Airborne Division in the Zhari district just north of Kandahar city in Afghanistan.

Like everyone else, he goes on patrols and lifts weights in his spare time. The only difference is that he just has some additional gear with him - a collection of prosthetic legs.

"This one's 'combat-action ankle Luckett,'" says Luckett, as he shows off his collection of prosthetic legs.

"This is my running leg here. It's real light and gives you a lot of energy return," Luckett says.

He has a half dozen spares. Some sit on his foot locker, others lean against his cot, waiting to be picked.

"Then all these legs are held on through suction, so you have little air valve in the bottom — there you can see the hole," Luckett explains.

He talks about each one like a carpenter brags about a new set of tools. One leg wears a sneaker. Another has a plastic foot complete with toenails, he says letting out a laugh.

Luckett seems to joke about everything. The 26-year-old Georgia native is one of the Army's few — or maybe the only — double amputee serving on the front lines.

Immediately after being hurt, his first thought - after being grateful to be alive - was that his Army career was over.

"In my mind I was like, all right that's it. You're done being a platoon leader. You're going back to the States. You're done with your Army time," Luckett says.

He had a different thought when he arrived back in Washington, D.C., for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"By the time that I hit wheels down at Andrews Air Force Base, I had already made up my mind I was going to try to make it back to the unit before they redeployed back to the States," Luckett says.

For eight months, Luckett learned how to walk again, and passed an Army fitness test.

But to get back to combat duty, Army rules required that Luckett pass an even more grueling set of physical tests, including a 12-mile march with a 35-pound pack.

Even for a guy who likes to joke, it was no laughing matter.

"I was very nervous… this was really in my mind where I was going to make or break it as far as being able to return to duty successfully. Because if you're an officer in the infantry you should be able to do these expert infantryman tasks because you require your guys to," he says.

Luckett earned his Expert Infantryman Badge. Instead of giving him the standard-issue badge, his battalion commander gave Luckett the tarnished badge the commander had earned years earlier as a young officer.

"And he pinned it on me and he said, 'You've done great things today, Dan, and one day I expect you when you're a lieutenant colonel, I expect you to give this to a lieutenant who's done great things.' And it meant a lot," Luckett says.

Capt. Dan Luckett wades through a creek while patrolling earlier this month in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. He lost his left leg and part of his right foot to a roadside bomb in Iraq two years ago. Photo: Spc. Joe Padula/U.S. Army.

So Luckett deployed with his old unit, the 101st Airborne, to Afghanistan, and found himself this summer at Combat Outpost Ashaque in Kandahar province.

The Afghan soldiers here quickly gave him a nickname: "The One-Legged Warlord of Ashaque."

In this part of Afghanistan, Luckett faces one of the toughest landscapes for an Army patrol.

To avoid roadside bombs, soldiers trudge through jungle-like grape vineyards and climb over mud walls in 115-degree heat.

One story he can tell is how Taliban fighters opened fire on his outpost a few days ago.

Luckett was sitting inside a concrete building at the time, talking on the radio. Windows were stacked high with sandbags and covered with plywood.

Suddenly, a single bullet punched through the wood and zipped over his head.

"They were gunning for me. They were gunning for the One-legged Warlord of Ashaque."

He picks up the spent round, takes it back to his room, and puts it near his collection of legs.

There's more to the story at the link, including how Luckett "stole" his first prosthetic leg from the physical therapy department at Walter Reed...

One Team

U.S. Soldiers with 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 64th Brigade Support Battalion rally before a mission in Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq, July 7. U.S. Soldiers of 1st Platoon patrolled COB Basra to Camp Bucca. U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Jason A Young.

13 July 2010

Remembering the Heroes of Wanat

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

Im Memoriam:

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

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

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

Originally posted 13 July 2009.

Tankerbabe has more here, including updated information on the posthumous awards received by the Fallen for their heroism and bravery that day.

A Promise Fulfilled

Marine Pfc. Ricardo Peralta, 19, center, graduates from infantry school on Friday. He will now report to a battalion in Twentynine Palms. Photo: LA Times.

Marine hero's brother makes good on his promise

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Camp Pendleton-- At his brother's funeral nearly six years ago, Ricardo Peralta made him a promise: He would join the Marine Corps and carry on in his example.

On Friday, Peralta, now 19, fulfilled that promise as he graduated from the school of infantry.

He will now report to a battalion in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and, like his brother, probably deploy to a war zone as an infantry "grunt."

"I have big shoes to fill," Peralta, a Marine private first class, said quietly.

His brother, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, was killed at age 25 during the battle for Fallouja, Iraq, in November 2004. He is revered by the Marine Corps as one of the true heroes of the long battle in Iraq.

His story is told to every recruit at boot camp in San Diego — how he saved the lives of fellow Marines by smothering an enemy grenade with his body. Marine brass, famously stingy in recommending battle citations, nominated him for the Medal of Honor.

After his brother's death, Ricardo Peralta attended the 10-day Devil Pups program at Camp Pendleton. He enlisted just days after graduating from high school -- over his mother's objections.

"I'm very proud of being a Marine, but sometimes I don't think I deserve this," he said, pointing to his name tag. "My brother is such a part of Marine history. I'm just hoping that I can live up to him."

The entire story can be found here, and you can read more about Sgt Rafael Peralta at Blackfive.

Semper Fi and congratulations, Pfc Peralta!

06 July 2010

Remembering Kory and Cooper

Originally posted 10 July 2007.

From the Soldiers' Angels members forum:
It is with a very heavy heart that I make this post. We lost one of our K-9 teams. CPL Kory Wiens and his MWD [Military Working Dog] Cooper gave the ultimate sacrifice Friday 6 July 2007 in a combat mission / IED attack. They were assigned to Camp Victory.

Please say a prayer for these Heroes, their families, and the brothers/sisters they leave behind. I know Kory & Cooper had many other K9 teams stationed at Victory with them as well, so keep them in your hearts and prayers too.

May you both rest peacefully in God's arms, you will never be forgotten!!!

CPL Kory Wiens & MWD Cooper... RIP

Kory and Cooper were featured in an article earlier this year about Specialized Search Dogs (SSDs) and their handlers.

Pfc. Kory Wiens of the 94th Engineer Detachment has been with his dog, Cooper, for nearly a year. The 20-year-old combat engineer said he's grateful to be a dog handler. When Wiens first met the yellow lab, the pup didn't know simple obedience commands. That's all changed.

"I got to teach him all the things he knows, today," Wiens said. "Seeing him out there working is very rewarding. It's amazing to see how far he's come."

Cooper has become more like a kid than a dog to Wiens. He introduces Cooper to everybody as his son, and said being with him is just like watching a kid grow up.

"It's a lot of fun having him in Iraq," Wiens said. "There's never a dull moment with him."

Camp Pendleton Marine killed while carrying wounded comrade to safety

The body of Marine Cpl. Larry Harris arrives at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Photo: Associated Press.

No greater love.

The body of Cpl. Larry Harris Jr., 24, a Camp Pendleton Marine killed in Afghanistan, has been returned to the U.S. and to his family in Colorado.

And the details of Harris' heroism are beginning to emerge.

Harris, a mortar man, was killed July 1 while on combat patrol in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold. His patrol was ambushed and Lance Cpl. Jake Henry was wounded.

Harris was carrying Henry to safety outside the "kill zone." Brian Henry, the lance corporal's father, wrote on a Facebook page for family members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment:

"He was carrying my son when he tripped an explosive device. His life was lost but my son lives. [Our] prayers and love go out to the family of this hero who will never be forgotten by my family."

Harris took the brunt of the blast. He died instantly.

Harris' personal service awards include the Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

A prayer service for Cpl. Harris has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at King Baptist Church, 3370 Ivy St. in Denver. Funeral services will be held some time next week.

Update, July 2011: Marine squad reunites to honor fallen brother killed carrying wounded comrade to safety

The American Spirit on Independence Day Weekend

The Independence Day flag raising ceremony on Lake Naomi near Pocono Pines, PA. Courtesy photo.

I've often said that in my "business" I experience the best and the worst of what humanity has to offer. At one end of the spectrum are the horrific injuries resulting from the violent acts of those infuenced by radical ideologies. At the other end, the heroic acts of MEDEVAC crews and front-line docs, and the caring and dedicated professionals of our military medical facilities.

And then there's the spirit of the American people back home. People like Sandy MacNeill and Mark Dolfini.

Sandy MacNeill with her donations table outside “The Jubilee” restaurant in Pocono Pines, PA. Sandy collected donations to be distributed to patients at Landstuhl through Soldiers' Angels in Germany. Courtesy photo.

I received this email from Sandy MacNeill yesterday:

Maryann: I spent this July 4th weekend with a table and information on Soldiers’ Angels and receiving donations for items to be mailed to the wounded soldiers in Germany. I have enough money to send at least 8-10 boxes.

Sandy's sent donations to SAG before, but I had no idea she was doing a fundraising drive this past weekend. She went on to say,

I set up the table at our local family restaurant “The Jubilee”. We live in the Pocono Mountains of PA on Lake Naomi in a very small town called Pocono Pines. The Jubilee is owned by a local family and they serve wonderful breakfasts and have a huge crowd every weekend for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I got there at 7AM and stayed through 1PM to get both crowds. The table had two priority boxes filled with the items on your list to display what was needed. I also made a poster of photos from the website and an explanation of what was needed and why.

I was so impressed with the interest and caring of the people and their generosity was overwhelming. So many stopped, donated and then talked with me about the soldiers. I hope that I educated many who had no idea about Soldiers’ Angels. I gave out cards with the website and encouraged people to adopt a soldier. It was a wonderful weekend and I felt so content with the results.

"I was so impressed with the interest and caring of the people and their generosity was overwhelming." I've been doing this for 6 years, and not a day goes by when I don't think the same thing. Sandy, thank you so much for caring enough to take the initiative on this. You're a great American.

Marine Corps veteran Mark Dolfini is another person who decided to stand up. Literally. You may remember this story on May 20 about Mark, who contacted me back then about doing a drive for our wounded warriors at Landstuhl.

When he told me he planned to put on his Dress Blues and stand at various locations around Lafayette, IN every Sunday until July 4, I was impressed. Later, when he shared his plan to make his final drive a 24-hour "stand" on Independence Day, I thought he was nuts :-)

Independence Day dawns at the intersection of Highway 26 and Creasy Lane in Lafayette, IN. Courtesy photo.

Each Sunday's drive was a success. But the Independence Day Stand became an event. Laughing Wolf of Blackfive was there:

It was decided that a small ceremony would be held as part of it, with a few simple statements and a bugler to play taps. A number of people heard about this, and decided a bit more was needed. A local business had already donated the use of a crane with a large flag. Just before 1000 hours, two Lafayette Fire Department ladder trucks arrived, and the garrison flag you see in the first picture went up as well. Flags appeared behind small speakers' podium as well. There ended up being two buglers, and the echoing taps they did put dust in a lot of eyes. Darned dust, it was bad yesterday.

They were not the first thing to appear either. When Mark started at midnight, other Marines showed up. Two in particular stood out to me, as both are -- I suspect -- at least into their 70s. These men stayed most of the night, and then were back after a couple of hours to do more. Contrary to popular belief, Marines do have to make pit stops, especially when other veterans and friends are making sure they stay hydrated. When that happened, these two gentlemen formed the core of a group that stood in for Mark. One of them disappeared for a bit around 1330 hours, and returned with hot dogs, hamburgers, sides, and desserts for all from a nearby grocery deli.

They were not alone. A member of the Air Force, in the area on leave, pulled out his uniform and joined in for a couple of hours. A member of the Army also on leave in the area did the same. They stood with a brother in arms for all those who could not stand, and stayed in the sweltering heat in honor of them.

Here's a story from Mark's local TV station, but I also recommend that you read Laughing Wolf's entire post, which closes with this:

If you really want to see the spirit that is America and Independence Day, take part in or do something like this. It restores your faith in humanity, and it reaffirms your faith in the spirit that is America.

As I said at the beginning, I see the best and the worst of what humanity has to offer. And this is the best; this is what made America great, and this is what keeps us going.

04 July 2010

Born on the Fourth Of July

At Big Peace:

25 years ago today, Jacob Leicht was born in a Navy hospital in Lemoore, Calif. Known to his friends as Jake, he grew up with his adoptive parents on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country near Kerrville, spending his boyhood hiking the rugged hills and chopping trees.

At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he grew into an impressive man physically. But Jake was also known for his soft heart – and for his brains, which earned him an ROTC college scholarship.

After just one semester he dropped out and enlisted in the Marine Corps. “His greatest fear was that they would tell him he would have to sit at a desk for the rest of his life,” said Jonathan, his older brother. Jake knew his destiny was on the battlefield.

Read the whole thing. Happy birthday, Marine.

02 July 2010

Marine Corporal Todd Nicely comes home

"I figured I got another chance at life, so I might as well get up and go."

So after getting off the plane, he put on his legs and walked from the gate to the terminal.

The Prince and the Marine
Marine Corporal Todd Nicely update
"They got me home"
One of our Marines could use your prayers