28 September 2010

Best friends killed 3 years apart to be buried together

Another moving story of brotherhood.

Lt. Travis Manion, killed in Iraq in 2007, was originally buried near his home town. Now, he will be moved to Arlington National Cemetary to lie next to his best friend and roommate at the Naval Academy, Lt. Brendan Looney, who was one of 9 troops killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last week. Bonded in brotherhood through the military and both killed fighting for their country, their families are sure this is what Travis and Brendan would have wanted - to be together in life and side-by-side in death.

Read the whole thing.

Update: 6abc.com has added a video report to the story.

Update, October 4: CBS News covers the story, including part of the ceremony at Arlington.


Two U.S. Soldiers injured during a roadside bomb attack hold hands as they are evacuated aboard a helicopter of the "Dustoff" medevac team from 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Shadow, Charlie Co, from a Tactical Control Point in Kandahar province, Afghanistan September 27, 2010. Reuters photo.

Montana ranch offers wounded warriors a chance to enjoy the outdoors

John Masters smiles as he waits to begin a horseback ride at the Howling Wolf Ranch in Shields Valley, Mont., on Sept. 16. Masters is one of six wounded warriors who spent six days at the ranch. AP photo.

“I’ve got this beautiful place here, why not share it with this great group of guys?”

- Bill Cohen, owner of a 520-acre ranch in Montana

Bill was inspired to share his ranch with wounded warriors after hearing about other similar projects.

“I just knew there was a need out there,” said Cohen, a retired managing director of a Wall Street firm.

Cohen has converted his six-bedroom home into a guest lodge of sorts for servicemen. Groups of six to eight soldiers are invited to enjoy a six-night stay at Cohen’s home and participate in activities such as horseback riding, fly-fishing, ATV riding and trapshooting.

This summer, Cohen hosted three groups of servicemen from major military hospitals at his 520-acre ranch in the Shields Valley.

Last Saturday, the group went out for some target shooting.

“They’re soldiers,” said Ross Colquhoun, who coordinates excursions for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “They enjoy putting a weapon back in their hands.”

Josh Rector, a 20-year-old Missouri Army specialist, has a prosthesis that allows him to operate a firearm after he lost his left hand and lower arm in the gears of a gun turret in Iraq four months ago.

“There’s a way to do everything I did before,” he said. “It’s just different.”

Rector said he grew up in the country, and being on the ranch reminds him of home.

“This trip is great,” Rector said. “I’m going to cry. We don’t want to leave.”

Cohen calls the program a “smashing success.”

“I just want to show them all that we all care,” Cohen said.

Read the whole story here.

27 September 2010

Operation Dragon Strike

The combat phase of the long-awaited Kandahar offensive, known as Operation Dragon Strike, began last week. About 8000 U.S. and Afghan troops are involved in these anti-Taliban operations in the Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai districts of Kandahar. DOD video courtesy of William Bonnett via the Army Times.

Good luck, guys. You're in our prayers.

26 September 2010

25 September 2010

Civilian surgeons volunteer at Landstuhl hospital

Civilian vascular surgeons share their impressions of Landstuhl hospital after their recently completed 2 week volunteer service. "What I found was without a doubt the highest quality of medical and trauma care you can imagine," said Dr. RC Whalen.

Dr. Whalen and Dr. Anthony Comerota from the Jobst Vascular Center at Toledo Hospital traveled to Germany after learning of the U.S. military's shortage of vascular surgeons. Both of them plan to volunteer at Landstuhl again next year.

24 September 2010


Earlier today near Marjah, Afghanistan.

U.S. Army flight medic SGT Tyrone Jordan of Charlotte, NC attached to Dustoff Task Force Shadow of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade surveys the area for a wounded Marine after jumping out of a MEDEVAC helicopter September 24, 2010 near Marja, Afghanistan. Two Marines were wounded at the location by an improvised explosive device (IED). Task Force Shadow is responsible for evacuating wounded Afghani and Coalition forces as well as local nationals throughout southern Afghanistan. Photo: Getty Images.

U.S. Army flight medic SGT Tyrone Jordan of Charlotte, NC attached to Dustoff Task Force Shadow of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade carries Marine LCpl. David Hawkins of Parker, CO to a MEDEVAC helicopter after he was wounded by a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) September 24, 2010 near Marja, Afghanistan. Photo: Getty Images.

A U.S. Marine comforts a fellow Marine before he lifts off in a MEDEVAC helicopter September 24, 2010 near Marja, Afghanistan. The Marine was wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol. Photo: Getty Images.

SGT Derek Williams (L) and SGT Daniel Schluter of the 31st Combat Support Hospital help to remove a wounded Marine from a MEDEVAC helicopter at Camp Dwyer September 24, 2010 near Marja, Afghanistan. The Marine was wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol. The 31st CSH is responsible for treating wounded Afghani and Coalition forces as well as local nationals in the Marja region of Helmand, Province in southern Afghanistan. Photo: Getty Images.

23 September 2010

Our Medics' Littlest Patients

U.S. Army medic Sgt. Adam Montavon and U.S. Army crew chief Spc. Bryan Channon from Dustoff Task Force Shadow, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, help an injured boy on a Medevac helicopter near Marja, Afghanistan. The child was flown to a U.S. Army field hospital after being injured in a motor vehicle accident. Photo by Scott Olson, Getty Images.

22 September 2010

Remember Soldiers' Angels during the CFC season!

If you aren't familiar with the Combined Federal Campaign:

The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee focused, cost-efficient, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all.

CFC is the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, with more than 300 CFC campaigns throughout the country and internationally to help to raise millions of dollars each year. Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal and military donors during the campaign season (September 1st to December 15th) support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

Soldiers' Angels is part of the Combined Federal Campaign. If you are a federal employee, you can contribute directly to Soldiers' Angels with the CFC # 25131.

19 September 2010

Kandahar MEDEVAC

An injured Afghan soldier (foreground) and a U.S. soldier from a roadside bomb blast are evacuated aboard a DUSTOFF medevac helicopter from 101st Airborne Division, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Shadow to a U.S. military base hospital in Kandahar September 18, 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Erik de Castro.

Members of a U.S. military medic team carry a U.S. soldier who was injured from a roadside bomb blast onto an ambulance after evacuated aboard a DUSTOFF medevac helicopter from 101st Airborne Division, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Shadow in Kandahar, September 18, 2010. Photo: REUTERS/Erik de Castro.

14 September 2010

Landstuhl's new Command Sergeant Major

Video interview with Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, who is taking on a new role as Command Sgt. Maj. of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. He is currently the Sgt. Maj. of the Division Surgeon Section for the United States Division-Center in Iraq, but will soon move from his current office in a plywood aid station to the hilltop hospital in Germany.

13 September 2010

Former Landstuhl Commander visits Iraq for first time since being held Prisoner of War in 1991

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum tours the medical clinic at Taji, Iraq. The tour was given by Lt. Col. Dan Johnston, Surgeon for the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div. It was Johnston who initally asked Cornum to come back to Iraq for the first time since 1991. Photo by Capt. Efrem Gibson, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

“The last time I was here, I was blindfolded in the back of a truck so I didn’t see much.”

- Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, who spent eight days as a POW during Desert Storm.

Also trained as a helicopter pilot, she was serving as a flight surgeon when her helicopter was shot down during a MEDEVAC mission, killing five of the eight crew members aboard. Cornum had a bullet lodged in her shoulder, both her arms were broken, and she suffered a knee injury. During the drive to a prison in Basra Cornum was molested by one of her captives.

She went on to continue her medical career in the military and became the Commander of LRMC during the summer of 2003, where she remained until June 2005. When things got busy, such as after the 2004 battles in Fallujah, Cornum stepped in to do everything from admitting patients to assisting in the operating room. She often consoled patients and their families, telling the soldiers, "Don't be discouraged. It's going to take you a long time, but you're going to come back if you want to."

In 1992, Cornum published "She Went to War: The Rhonda Cornum Story".

Retracing her steps
Story by Capt. Efrem Gibson

TAJI, Iraq – “Certainly, it’s a homecoming of sorts.”

That is how Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum described her first visit back to Iraq 19 and a half years to the day she was released as a prisoner of war.

The catalyst for her return to Iraq was an invitation. Currently serving as Director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness for the Army, Cornum was the guest speaker for the grand opening of the Taji Warrior Resiliency Campus Taji, approximately 15 miles north of Baghdad. The center is operated by the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and is the first of its kind in Iraq. Cornum was thankful for the brigade’s invitation, because it was an opportunity to speak to soldiers on resilience.

The CSF concept was not around in 1991, but Cornum demonstrated great resilience back then, surviving eight days in captivity by Iraqi forces. The goal of CSF is to improve a soldier’s “resilience” by focusing on five dimensions (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and family). Cornum credits her spiritual strength for getting her through her time in captivity.

“I had great confidence in the Army and felt we were doing (in Iraq) was right. I also believed that if I stayed alive long enough, the Army would come and get me.” The General also felt being able to put it in perspective was a key factor that helped her stay alive.

Cornum’s experience as a prisoner of war has helped her realize there is a need for CSF. She is able to personalize the teachings of CSF and relate them to a real-life incident she’s experienced.

“No matter how grave or mundane the situation is, I always try to take a disadvantage, and turn it into an advantage” she stated. “I live my live every day like that.”

Although she was glad to be in Iraq again, Cornum does not consider the trip to be closure for her. “It was an event. I don’t look for closures to events, they just end,” she said. The general said she was happy she had came back to Iraq to demonstrate that a person can return to the scene of a bad experience and be OK. Cornum does not even hold animosity toward the men who held her captive.

Besides being a guest speaker, Cornum had other plans while she was in Iraq.

“See the country and all of the progress,” Cornum said. “The last time I was here, I was blindfolded in the back of a truck so I didn’t see much.”

12 September 2010

Our Rendezvous with Destiny

"There's something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which - whether we like it or not - spells duty."

11 September 2010

"We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."

5:01pm, September 11, 2001

New York City firefighters George Johnson of Ladder 157, Dan McWilliams of Ladder 157, and Billy Eisengrein of Rescue 2 raise an American flag in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Photo: Thomas Franklin of The Bergen Record.

Today, on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, all of us at Soldiers' Angels honor those who were lost and give thanks to those who continue their sacrifice to keep us safe. God bless our troops, and God bless America.

10 September 2010

Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta to be awarded Medal of Honor

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Six servicemembers have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in the current wars - two for Afghanistan, and four for actions in Iraq. All of them died in the line of duty.

Until now.

Soldier will be first living Medal of Honor recipient from current wars

By Leo Shane III and Stars and Stripes
Published: September 10, 2010

WASHINGTON — Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, a soldier who risked his life to stop Taliban fighters from kidnapping a fallen comrade, will be the first living U.S. servicemember from either Iraq or Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor, White House officials announced Friday.

On Oct. 25 that year [2007], then-Spc. Giunta’s squad was ambushed by insurgents and two soldiers were cut off from the rest. In the initial moments of the firefight, Giunta ventured out into enemy fire to pull a comrade back to cover.

“Everything kind of slowed down and I did everything I thought I could do, nothing more and nothing less,” Giunta told Junger.

Giunta and two other soldiers assaulted the enemy position with grenades to move forward and link up with the seperated soldiers, one of whom was Sgt. Joshua Brennan, one of Giunta’s closest friends. When Giunta sprinted to where to he thought Brennan would be, he saw two enemy fighters dragging him down the hill. Giunta fired his M4 and ran after them, killing one insurgent and forcing the other to drop Brennan and run away.

Army officials say Giunta provided medical aid to his comrade while the rest of his squad caught up and provided security. Brennan later died, but Giunta’s actions prevented his body and equipment from falling into enemy hands.

Brennan’s father told the Wisconsin State Journal that though his son did not survive, his family is deeply grateful for Giunta’s efforts.

“For us, it’s a very emotional thing that Sal was able to get Josh’s body back to us,” said Terry Brennan. “Who knows what the Taliban would have done to him? ...

“Not only did he save Josh, so that we were able to have him back and have an open coffin at the funeral, he really saved half of the platoon.”

There's much more at the link.

Congtatulations and thank you, Staff Sergeant Giunta. We're so proud of you.

Real Warriors Profile: Major Jeff Hall

Following his second deployment to Iraq, in which he lost troops and a clear sense of mission, Army Maj. Hall became increasingly angry, began pushing away his family, and contemplated suicide until his commanding officer helped him get needed help for PTSD.

Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Real Warriors, like Maj. Jeff Hall, who have had the strength to reach out for treatment and are proving through example that reaching out makes a difference.

Maj. Hall and other Real Warriors are asking Americans to help spread the word about the many psychological health tools and resources available for active duty service members, members of the Guard and Reserve, veterans and military families.

Service members bear the great responsibility of protecting our nation, and as Americans, it is our duty to support their physical and psychological strength.

Real Warriors like Maj. Jeff Hall, who have had the strength to reach out for treatment, are proving through example that reaching out makes a difference and getting help does not mean the end of a military career.

09 September 2010

"Contrast of Respect"

From our friend Robert Stokely.

Maybe take a moment to read this news article I found on AOL.

Yes, that is right, folks sucking off the good ole' American Freedom straw want to show Taliban killing our military personnel who are actually dying in real time while this video game is being produced and promoted. Wow, that builds support for the home team by marginalizing the lives of our beloved military personnel who are serving in a real war and dying real deaths, coming home really maimed, and that leaves lives really altered for all time to come, whether emotionally or financially or both. Wow, what patriotism these video artists show.... (sick).

Now contrast that with this rendition of the National Anthem, which by the way, I happen to have had a non-singing part along with my son Wes and 20 plus other family members of Georgia Fallen Soldiers as we held a 50 x 80 foot American Flag.

Pay attention to the respect for America given the Star Spangled Banner; how it is passionately sung, watch the reverence of 93,000 plus fans, and look at the drivers, crews and their family as they show respect, especially those who held their hands over their heart. And hey, who can discount a couple fighter jets overhead....

I have watched over and over and I can't say what is my favorite part, but if I had to make a call, then the scene where the wife / mom holding her little blond child next to her husband / Matt Kenseth NASCAR driver track side speaks volumes to me.

It reminds me of those many times I held Mike and a moment in time shortly after he died when I sat in a parking lot and began to cry as I watched a parent walk by holding the hand of their small child. As I cried I asked myself how did I go from a car seat to a casket in 20 short years... and I was again reminded how much I had lost. But the scene I just described brings joy to my heart, for a new day emerges for a new young family to look hopefully to the future with freedom abundant.

So, take a few minutes to watch this live moment in time from the other night at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sprint Cup NASCAR Race, as captured on YouTube:

You know, a bomb exploding and sending shrapnel flying through the air killed my boy. Many others in the War on Terror have died in a similar fashion. When the Star Spangled Banner is played, I stand at Attention, place my right hand clutching my boy's Dog Tag over my heart, and even though my singing is horrible, I at least mouth the words to my best ability. And when it gets to the part "bombs bursting in air" I can't help but softly sob as I lower my head and shut my eyes in reverence and envision my boy going down for Freedom that early morning near Yusufiyah.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do something. But those with their video game killing American Soldiers are fortunate they don't have to worry about it. You see, they don't operate under Taliban or Al-Qaeda rule. The video game promoters are free to produce and sell this "game" because of the sacrifice of the very soldiers they want to mock through an exercise of free speech / expression, even as they disrespect those who paid a high cost for such freedom. Even as they disregard the feelings of the family of the Fallen.

When people ask me what can they can do to make it better for me and my family, I tell them nothing can really make it better unless we get Mike back. But I also tell them they can come close by Making it Matter what Mike and so many others like him have given. To Make it Matter all one has to do is Remember with Honor.

Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ernie Haas Signature Sound and those in attendance who showed respect the other night, and especially Mrs. Kennseth holding her small child and obviously showing such respect while enjoying the moment, Made it Matter and Remembered with Honor what those who die on the field of battle and their families have paid toward the high cost of freedom. A price that is too dear to quantify in dollars.

A Lifetime of Love.

Robert Stokely
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely, Bronze Star and Purple Heart
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq

08 September 2010

'No regrets'

Terrific interview with Cpt Dan Berschinski, wounded August 2009 in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan. You may remember Dan from this video of his moving homecoming speech in Georgia this past Memorial Day weekend.

07 September 2010

Chuck Ziegenfuss and Soldiers' Angels Project VALOUR-IT in People Magazine

Don't miss the article about wounded warrior MAJ Chuck Ziegenfuss and Soldiers' Angels Project VALOUR-IT written by Susan Katz Keating in the current issue of People Magazine (the one with Michael Douglas on the cover)! After being hurt, Chuck helped develop a program that has to date awarded 5000 adaptive laptops to injured service members.

Door gunner takes bullet to helmet during MEDEVAC mission

Spc. Patricia Fowler, right, receives the Purple Heart on Aug. 5 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Fowler, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief, was a crew member of a chase helicopter on a medevac mission May 6 when the aircraft came under enemy fire while flying over Helmand province. Five rounds impacted the aircraft, and one round ricocheted off the window frame striking her helmet. The bullet rattled around inside Fowler’s helmet, then exited without wounding her. Photo: US Army.

Just "doing her job"...

101st Airborne helicopter gunner took bullet to helmet in Marine rescue


Fowler, a crew chief and door gunner on a Blackhawk medevac helicopter in southern Afghanistan, earned the Purple Heart following that incident in May in which she was fractions of an inch from a much more serious injury, probably death.

"I was just doing my job, and they happened to get a lucky shot off," she said in an phone interview with The Leaf-Chronicle from Afghanistan.

Fowler is part of Task Force Shadow and B Company, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. In May, she was on a helicopter that was in the role of "medical chase," providing air support to another helicopter sent to pick up wounded Marines.

"I feel worse for those guys than I do for us," she said of her fellow aviators, who set down in the midst of Taliban gunfire to rescue the wounded Americans.

Fowler's helicopter was circling the rescue site at about 300 feet when gunfire started pinging off the helicopter. They began to climb, and Fowler described a sensation of being hit in the back of the head and scratches on her neck.

What she would later learn is now a remarkable story of luck and bravery.

A bullet from the gun of an enemy fighter had bounced off the helicopter, into her helmet and back out, effectively navigating around her head thanks to a bracket in the helmet.

"I had no idea at that time I had been shot," she said.

Her fellow crew members could easily see what was a gaping hole in her helmet caused by the ricocheting bullet.

"(A fellow crew member) poked the other crew chief, and I was like 'What's going on,'" she said.

She took off her helmet and saw the hole, and "a good chunk of Styrofoam" missing. Fowler had no idea what had happened, having never lost communication from the radio device mounted in the helmet.

"Amazingly, the helmet still worked," she said.

Fowler's helicopter made it to a base where she could be seen by doctors. She had severe pain in her shoulder, which turned out to be shrapnel embedded in her arm from the pinging bullets.

"I thought, 'Cool,'" she joked.

She admits she had a small breakdown, realizing the narrow miss she faced.

"If I'd have been sitting a half an inch further back, it'd have gone through my neck," she said.

And even though Fowler admits she missed certain injury or death by mere fractions of an inch, she said, "it justifies to me that I was doing my job."

"We took fire away from them," she said of her fellow aviators and Marines, who were in the heat of battle below.

Fowler and her commanding officer, Capt. Nick Horn, laughed while discussing the event and camaraderie in the unit, a sign that morale with them is high.

"Sometimes I guess these guys are really amazing, but I have my few friends that keep me grounded," she said.

She also shrugged off the notion of being a sort of pioneer for women in the military.

"I'm a soldier first," she said. "I'm not the first female (to be a door gunner), I'm not the last."

"I just work."

MEDEVAC bird at FOB Dwyer

A medevac helicopter from the U.S. Army's Task Force Shadow is pictured from above, at Forward Operating Base Dwyer in southern Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 6, 2010. Aeromedical teams with the 101st Airborne's Task Force Destiny provide the fast medical evacuation of those wounded throughout southern Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)