To friends and loved ones who can't be with us; and to those who are no longer with us.
You are always in our hearts.
Auld Lang Syne (to days gone by)... farewell 2010.
I have finally finished the "scrap" quilt. It took 714 squares - 357 being the corners of blankets made for the soldiers. It took 90 blankets to get the scraps needed. The back side is denim with ragged edges (357 denim squares). The quilt will be raffled by the Sunshine Club to earn money for yardage.
"When I went there it was so another Marine could come home to his family. I want respect, not for myself, but something bigger than me, and that's love for one another."
- Marine Sgt. Joey Jones
"I'm just glad I stepped on that IED. Otherwise, it would have been one of my buddies."
- Army Sgt. J.D. Williams, triple amputee.
Harrison High graduate receives Purple Heart
By GEORGE PLAVEN Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
BUTTE — U.S. Army Sgt. J.D. Williams never really wanted a Purple Heart. Nobody does, he said.
The 23-year-old Harrison High School graduate is missing his right arm and both legs, amputated after he stepped on an improvised explosive device in October in Afghanistan.
Williams received the decoration Nov. 6 from his hospital bed at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. About 12 friends and family attended the ceremony, held the same days as his daughter's first birthday. The Purple Heart is awarded to any military personnel wounded or killed in an action against the enemy.
His wounds now closed and skin grafts removed, Williams told The Montana Standard in a telephone interview that it felt good to be honored, but that he hopes not to see any of his fellow soldiers have to endure the same pain.
"I'm just glad I stepped on that IED," Williams said. "Otherwise, it would have been one of my buddies."
An infantryman with HHC 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry, Williams, who grew up in Anaconda, spent more than five months fighting the Taliban and pushing toward an end to the war.
On Oct. 9, at 8:30 a.m., Williams took one wrong step. The blast sent him 20 feet in the air, he said, and left a 6-foot crater in the ground.
When the smoke from the explosion cleared and Williams could finally see again, he rolled over and tried to assess his injuries. He remained conscious the entire time.
Taking long, deep breaths, Williams lay on his back and stared into the sky. He thought about his wife, Ashlee, and almost 1-year-old daughter Kaelyn back home.
"I always thought I was unstoppable," Williams said.
It took 19 minutes to load Williams onto a helicopter and out of danger. Doctors in Germany performed the necessary amputations and sent him back to the United States on Oct. 15.
Williams calls himself a lucky man.
"I really think God has a purpose for me on this planet," he said. "I will find it, whatever it is."
The cards, letters and support keep Williams motivated, his mother said.
"They keep him positive and remind him he is still a hero," she said. "If he did not have the support he has, the excruciating pain might have brought him down."
Military doctors are diagnosing hundreds of concussions among combat troops because of an unprecedented order requiring them to leave the battlefield for 24 hours after being exposed to a blast.
Doctors say the order helps prevent permanent brain damage that can result if a servicemember has a second concussion before the first one heals.
"For the last eight years prior to the implementation of these protocols, we weren't doing things the right way," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.
Roadside bombs are the most common source of injuries to U.S. troops. Troops in the past tended to shake off blast effects and continue fighting, according to Army field studies.
To treat symptoms of concussions, the military has set up five "rest centers" here [in Afghanistan] where troops can recover, says Army Lt. Col. Kristofer Radcliffe, a neurologist supervising the effort. Scientists warn, however, that it is unclear whether the brain has healed even if symptoms go away.
Zach grew up in Fort Worth and played baseball, basketball and football. Both of Zach’s grandfathers served in the Marine Corps and Zach knew he wanted to be a Marine when he was only 9 years old. In 2005, Zach joined the Marines and did his first tour in Iraq in 2006. His father died one week before his second deployment in 2007.
On November 29, 2007, Zach and his convoy were hit by an IED and an anti tank mine exploded under his Humvee. Both of Zach’s legs were blown off below the knee and he also broke his arm and has a plate in his wrist. For his service in Iraq, Cpl Briseno was awarded the Purple Heart for his sacrifice for our freedom and numerous other medals and awards.
Now he is faced with the daily challenges that result from the loss of both feet. Unfortunately he isn’t able to wear his prosthetics 24 hrs a day. Thus, he has to spend time at home in a wheelchair so he can get around and not overuse his prosthetic legs. He is a leader and is committed to giving back and helping other wounded heroes as they embark on their road to recovery.
“All of us at Standard Pacific Homes are proud to be a part of this project with the Helping a Hero organization. We want to make sure that every detail in his home will make Zach’s life easier. It is an honor and a privilege for us to build this new home for Zach and his son, Eli” Chris Matzke, President, Standard Pacific Homes, Dallas
This 4 bedroom, 3 bath home will feature wider doors, a roll in shower, a roll under sink, flush thresholds, lower counters, wheelchair accessible appliances, and many other safety features that will enable Zach to have a firm foundation as he rebuilds his life. He is a single Dad with a 5 year old son, Eli. Zach dreams of being married one day and perhaps having more children.
“Corporal Zach Briseno is a true American hero. He has battled back from a near fatal injury and has endured so much on his road to recovery. We count it an honor to help this young hero begin a new life in a brand new home where his ability to live independently will be maximized.” Meredith Iler, National Chairman, HelpingaHero.org.
“We are very proud to partner with HelpingaHero.org on Corporal Briseno’s home. Watching Zach throughout his recovery and seeing him now is an inspiration to everyone who knows him. He has that can do attitude and doesn’t let anything deter him from forging ahead.” Karen Guenther, Founder, Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
Using the game console's unique, motion-sensitive controller, Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. But patients become so engrossed mentally they are almost oblivious to the rigor, Osborn said.This kind of therapy seems ideal when working with wounded troops:
"In the Wii system, because it's kind of a game format, it does create this kind of inner competitiveness. Even though you may be boxing or playing tennis against some figure on the screen, it's amazing how many of our patients want to beat their opponent," said Osborn of Southern Illinois Healthcare, which includes the hospital in Herrin. The hospital, about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis, bought a Wii system for rehab patients late last year.
"When people can refocus their attention from the tediousness of the physical task, oftentimes they do much better," Osborn said.
The Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital west of Chicago recently bought a Wii system for its spinal cord injury unit.While the big annual fundraiser by the milblogs may be over, the need for our wounded troops is always ongoing. If you can, please consider donating to Project Valour-IT.
Pfc. Matthew Turpen, 22, paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident last year while stationed in Germany, plays Wii golf and bowling from his wheelchair at Hines. Turpen says the games help beat the monotony of rehab and seem to be doing his body good, too.
"A lot of guys don't have full finger function so it definitely helps being able to work on using your fingers more and figuring out different ways to use your hands" and arms, Turpen said.
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the therapy is well-suited to patients injured during combat in Iraq, who tend to be in the 19 to 25 age range — a group that's "very into" playing video games, said Lt. Col. Stephanie Daugherty, Walter Reed's chief of occupational therapy.
"They think it's for entertainment, but we know it's for therapy," she said.
"I stood in the Korengal with 1,000 of my guys."
- Col. Drew Poppas, commander of the 1st BCT and Task Force Bastogne
Poppas sat down with The Leaf-Chronicle while home on mid-tour leave. He shared what his task force has done in the eight months since being deployed to an area that he calls the biggest front in the war against the Taliban, al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters. It's the same area where Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta earned his Medal of Honor and the home of the Korengal Valley — once referred to as the "Valley of Death."
"This is the fight they wanted here," he said. "This is the infantry fight 101."
That fight sometimes brings the 1st BCT soldiers within 50 feet of their enemies, close enough to lob grenades and watch the fighters come at them before "destroying them in detail."
Poppas is aware that many of the headlines coming out of his area of operation have been negative. Six soldiers died in one operation two weeks ago, and another five were killed in a massive IED strike in June.
However, he said his task force of nine battalion-sized elements combined — a force more than twice the size of his own brigade — is making progress, both in security and on the governance and economic sides of the fight.
"I stood in the Korengal with 1,000 of my guys," Poppas said, describing a recent days-long mission to root out enemy fighters from the 6-mile by 1-mile valley once held by the Taliban and al-Qaida. He said the valley is now a safer place because of what his soldiers have done.
"We're taking away the mystiques of these valleys," he said.
The strategy Poppas used was a simple one. The Taliban like to fight from advantageous high ground, so knowing this, Poppas' soldiers took the high ground, came in on the floor of the valley and backfilled behind. The Taliban probably thought the Americans would be gone in a matter of days, but they weren't. The Americans stayed and waited for the Taliban to return, killing them on sight.
Poppas called it "the classic definition of defeat."
Since then, the local villagers have watched what the Americans' efforts to eradicate the Taliban, something the villagers could not have done on their own.
"(The Taliban) don't give anything back. They just take," Poppas said.
Now the villagers have formed an armed resistance against the once forceful and embedded Taliban fighters. Anti-Taliban sentiment is growing, too.
"The whole Pech River valley," Poppas said, referring to how far that sentiment has spread.
As that progress was made, the headlines in the U.S. were about six soldiers who died in the fighting. Poppas said they did not die in vain, though. Those men died "to change the dynamic of the entire (Kunar) province," he said.