31 December 2011

Auld Lang Syne

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 2011.

30 December 2011

"I'd do it all over again"

U.S. Army Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry is tended to by medics after being wounded in a blast from an improvised explosive device on June 15 in Afghanistan in this picture taken by a Stars and Stripes photographer. Photo courtesy of the Hockenberry family to the Marietta Times.

Remember this photo of PFC Kyle Hockenberry being MEDEVAC'd after sustaining critical wounds in an IED blast in Afghanistan?

Today there's a great follow up in the Marietta Times.

Speaking to The Marietta Times from San Antonio, Texas, the 2010 Frontier High School graduate said he doesn't regret joining the Army, even after the June 15 blast from an improvised explosive device that cost him most of both legs and his left arm.

"I just always wanted to fight for my country," said Hockenberry, 20. "I'd do it all over again if I could."

Hockenberry continues to progress in his recovery since the June explosion. He was discharged from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in Nov-ember and is staying in a two-bedroom apartment while he undergoes rehabilitation at the nearby Center for the Intrepid. He's been fitted with a prosthetic arm and is expected to take his first steps on prosthetic legs this week.

"Physically it's been difficult at times," he said. "I've been having to relearn how to do things."

But Hockenberry said he's come to terms with his situation.

"It's not in my hands," he said. "I'm OK with it. I'm alive and I'm with my family."

Read the whole thing. Kyle looks great!

29 December 2011

Front Page Magazine's Man of the Year: The Wounded Warrior

Couldn't agree more.

The official end of the Iraq war this month is an occasion to reflect that, for many of America’s wounded veterans, the war will never be over, that they will always carry its scars. Over 32,000 servicemen have been wounded post-9/11, spanning all branches of the military. In the sands of Iraq, and in the mountains of Afghanistan, they have suffered horrific injuries, of which the most painful often left no outward mark. Limbs lost, lives turned upside down, futures permanently altered. For those of us safe in the comforts of civilian life, the enormity of their sacrifice is utterly beyond comprehension.

Just as awe-inspiring, though, is their resilience, their relentless determination not to surrender to the hardships imposed by their injuries, mental or physical. Where lesser spirits might have yielded, they have worked to embrace life, going to school, finding jobs, raising families. While others their age were playing at rebellion on the streets of New York and Oakland, they, who have so many reasons to complain, refused to turn their personal struggles into a public spectacle. They’re not the protesting kind. For these daily acts of heroism, no less than for the heroism they showed in battle, America’s wounded warriors are Front Page Magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Taking Them Home

24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas Tree at Landstuhl Hospital Fisher House. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.

For unto you
is born this day in the city
of David a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.

Thank you and Merry Christmas to all of our generous supporters. May you find joy this holiday season knowing you have uplifted our Wounded Warriors through the priceless gift of love.

23 December 2011

Gold Star Christmas

To our Gold Star families, with love.

Merry Christmas from Heaven

I still hear the songs
I still see the lights
I still feel your love
on cold wintery nights

I still share your hopes
and all of your cares
I'll even remind you
to please say your prayers

I just want to tell you
you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders
above all the crowd

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His grace
I came here before you
to help set your place

You don't have to be
perfect all of the time
He forgives you the slip
If you continue the climb

To my family and friends
please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you
In a new special place

I love you all dearly
now don't shed a tear
Cause I'm spending my
Christmas with Jesus this year.

--John Wm. Mooney, Jr

21 December 2011

Christmas DUSTOFF

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade "Warriors", 1st Cavalry Division, takes flight, stirring up the snow as it passes over another Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan Dec. 21. U.S. Army photo.

SFC Mark Allen homecoming scheduled for Friday - Updated

If you are in the Loganville, GA area please turn out to welcome Mark and Shannon back home!

Wounded Hero Returns to His Loganville Home Friday

December 20, 2011

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen will be making his way through Grayson and Loganville at about 2 p.m. Friday to be home in time for Christmas.

Shannon Allen, wife of wounded soldier Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, said her husband will be making his way up Highway 78, through Grayson and Loganville, at about 2 p.m. Friday.

Allen received critical head injuries in 2009 when he was hit by sniper fire furing a furious firefight in Afghanistan. After more than two years in the V.A. hospital in Tampa, Fla. Allen will be returning home to Loganville in time for Christmas.

Residents are encouraged to turn out and line the streets in support of the returning hero.

Shannon Allen said they will not be driving all the way up Highway 78, instead just passing through Grayson and Loganville before turning off at the Bay Creek Church Road exit. Information will be updated when it becomes available.

Update Dec 23, final arrangements:

Arrangements Finalized for Wounded Soldier's Homecoming
The route and time has been finalized for Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen's Homecoming Dec. 23.

By Sharon Swanepoel
December 22, 2011

Final arrangements have been made for the trip that will bring Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, a wounded soldier from Loganville, home in time for Christmas.

According to his wife, Shannon Allen, they will be meeting up with Snellville authorities at the First Baptist Church in Snellville at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23. From there the procession will continue up Highway 78 until they turn off at Bay Creek Church Road in Loganville. Anyone who wishes to show appreciation for Allen's service and sacrifice is encouraged to line Highway 78 during that time.

Allen received critical head injuries in 2009 when he was hit by sniper fire furing a furious firefight in Afghanistan. After more than two years in the V.A. hospital in Tampa, Fla. Allen will be returning home to Loganville in time for Christmas.

Update, Dec 24:

Grab a tissue and watch the huge turnout for Mark yesterday from the residents of Snellville, Loganville and Walton and Gwinnett counties, as well as Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders. Thank you to everyone who honored Mark.


Other stories about Mark:
Prayer request
Gold Star Father Robert Stokely interviewed about SFC Mark Allen fundraiser
Wounded Warrior's Spouse: "My husband is GI Joe in a National Guard uniform"
Two Newnan Guardsmen among three wounded in Afghanistan
Wounded soldiers arrive in U.S.
Injured soldiers helped by Soldiers' Angels
How Could I Know?

20 December 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

The first night of Hanukkah begins today at sundown. As you celebrate the Festival of Lights may your home be bright with happiness and love.

We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.

18 December 2011

Daybreak at Khabari Crossing

The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border at Khabari Crossing into Kuwait at daybreak Sunday.

“It’s difficult, because a declaration of it being over is different than a declaration of victory. I personally believe we were victorious in many ways, and absolutely left that place better than when we found it.

“One of the biggest things I saw when I was there, was people would wait in line, through several security check points, to vote. They would literally risk their lives. To me, if that continues to stick and there is that kind of democracy in the heart of the Middle East, that is also a huge victory.”

- Major Dan Kolenda, U.S. Army Reserve and a military lawyer, who worked on the “Rule of Law” section with the Multinational Corps in Iraq. Quote from this story.

THANK YOU to the men and women of the U.S. Military for your extraordinary sacrifices over the past 8 years in Iraq. You have freed an entire nation of people from a brutal dictator and given them a chance at freedom and self-determination. The rest is up to them. God bless our troops, their families, and God bless America.

16 December 2011

A Soldier's Dream

See how one Soldier's dream changed the Iraq war. Please take a moment to learn about Travis Patriquin... and to remember this Hero.

See also "Let history mention a hero... " at the Mudville Gazette.

The casing of the colors in Iraq

U.S. Forces Iraq colors are lowered during the flag casing ceremony on Thursday, December 15, 2011 in Baghdad. The ceremony marked the end of U.S. military operations in Iraq. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / POOL PHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES.

14 December 2011

Secretary of the Army at Landstuhl

Secretary of the Army John McHugh meets a Wounded Warrior during his Dec. 13, 2011, visit with staff and patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Army Photo/Phil A. Jones)

13 December 2011

Their motto: Life without a limb is limitless

The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team stands tall at the Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The team is comprised of athletic post-9/11 Veterans and active duty service members who have lost limbs. Through sports, they aim to show the resilience of our military and highlight their ability to conquer any challenge. Their motto: life without a limb is limitless. Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

11 December 2011

Wreath-laying at Arlington

Volunteer Pati Redmond of Frederick, Md., helps to lay holiday wreaths over the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington Saturday Dec. 10, 2011, during Wreaths Across America Day. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Volunteers lay 90K wreaths at Arlington cemetery

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Volunteers have laid tens of thousands of holiday wreaths at tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage joined thousands of volunteers Saturday in placing the wreaths. A convoy of more than 20 trucks left Maine last Sunday, bound for the cemetery across from the nation's capital.

The tradition began 20 years ago with little fanfare. Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, and others laid 5,000 wreaths on headstones that first year to give thanks to the nation's veterans.

Since then, it has grown into an organization called Wreaths Across America with ceremonies across the country.

Organizers said 15,000 people joined the effort at Arlington. The wreaths will be on view until Jan. 28.

10 December 2011

Army - Navy Rivalry at Landstuhl

Amazing what you can do with a couple of post-it notes and some paper clips...

An annual post.

08 December 2011

Double Amputee Special Forces Soldier Skydives with his Working Military Dog

From Military.com via Blackfive.

“I am still rocking! For those who haven’t heard, I was blown up, with my MWD, Axe, Feb 17th of this year. I lost both of my feet, and was back to work in July... ”

Watch this Special Forces Soldier and his Military Working Dog Axe on a jump.

07 December 2011

70th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The USS Bennington (CVA-20) passes the wreck of USS Arizona (BB-39) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Memorial Day, 31 May 1958. Bennington's crew is in formation on the flight deck, spelling out a tribute to the Arizona's crewmen who were lost in the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Note the outline of Arizona's hull and the flow of oil from her fuel tanks. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most significant events in American history. The surprise aerial attack by the Japanese on a U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii shook the foundation of the nation and killed over 2,400 Americans, wounded nearly 1,300 people, and caused massive damage to the Navy’s fleet. The next day the president declared war on Japan, entering the United States into WWII. These stories, videos and photos stand as a memorial in remembrance of those who lost their lives on that fateful day. Find out more about what happened in Pearl Harbor here including survivor interviews, archival photos and new content from the U.S. Navy at their "PH 70" special collection here.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta Message to Pearl Harbor Survivors

"Seventy years ago on a December morning, our nation sustained a cruel and destructive attack at Pearl Harbor. Our enemies thought that by this sudden and deliberate raid, they could weaken America. Instead, they only strengthened it. That day truly awoke a sleeping giant.

"As we join you in remembering the events of December 7, 1941, we honor you and your fallen comrades for your indomitable will -- and we remember the sacrifice and shared purpose of the American people, as well as the strength of our elected and military leaders during the war.

"December 7, 1941 was indeed a day that will live in infamy. But in the memories of that day we continue to draw determination and conviction to protect our freedoms, to sacrifice for our fellow citizens, and to serve a purpose larger than self. You, the survivors of Pearl Harbor and of the war that followed, embody this conviction, this determination to raise high the torch of freedom and sacrifice. From your stories, posterity records for all subsequent generations the emotion, the heroism, and the tragedy of a harrowing attack and the titanic struggle that would later unfold.

"As a young boy, I remember seeing troops move through Fort Ord during the war years in Monterey, California. My parents would invite soldiers into our home for Christmas dinner, and I remember seeing young men from all over the country about to go to war. And I remember thinking in that uncertain time: "This is going to be the last opportunity these young men have to enjoy the comforts of home for a long time.

"You are the veterans of that greatest generation. You have lived full lives and witnessed years of great prosperity because of the freedom you helped to secure for America and her allies. I know you take great pride, as I do, that your legacy lives on in today's men and women in uniform, who have borne the burden of a decade of war, and who are truly this nation's next greatest generation. The 9/11 generation, like you, has stepped forward in your image of service and sacrifice, volunteering for military duty after another sudden and terrible attack on our shores.

"We treasure you. You have brought everlasting credit to your fallen comrades. The men and women in today's military stand on the shoulders of your individual and combined sacrifice and service to our nation. Your example inspires those in uniform today, strengthens our nation's moral fiber, and proves that with united resolve our country can surmount any challenge. Thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your endless zeal to see to it that our children and grandchildren can pass along a better life to the next generation. This has always been the American dream, a dream we can realize because of the determination of our citizens to defend it.

"God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America."

25 November 2011

All-American DUSTOFF

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

ABC News' Jake Tapper reports from Bagram, Afghanistan about "Angels in Hell": the men and women of All-American DUSTOFF. This piece includes a tribute to fallen Flight Medic SSG Brian Cowdrey.

In the story below, Tapper gets a tour of a MEDEVAC helicopter from Flight Medic SSG Erin Gipson.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

24 November 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving 2009: A wounded warrior at Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan.

We're thankful for so many things - for the blessings that come with being citizens of our great nation, for those who defend our freedoms, for those who care for our wounded, and for generous and patriotic Americans like you who support them. We hope you and your family have a warm and happy Thanksgiving and reflect on the many blessings that we share as Americans. We ask that you pray for our wounded, and remember the families of our Fallen who will have an empty place at their Thanksgiving tables.

23 November 2011

'Angel' Serving US Troops Abroad

KVUE-TV News' Andrew Horansky reports on the Soldiers' Angels mission at Landstuhl. We love how the story turned out and thank Andrew for coming over!

22 November 2011

Portraits of the Fallen Memorial

Eight more portraits from the Portraits of the Fallen Memorial project were unveiled at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Veterans Day weekend. You'll recognize at least one of these Heroes and his family! Our thanks to Sherry Moore and all of the artists for this labor of love. The portraits are just beautiful.

From their web site:

The Portraits of the Fallen Memorial has a mission to tell the story of those who serve our country, with the painting of the California Fallen from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each soldier is matched with a professional artist, who does the portrait in the medium they choose. We are developing a travelling exhibition that will address issues of patriotism, why one volunteers to serve, and to tell the stories of these fine American heroes. The long-range vision is to transfer the portraits to tile for a permanent memorial to honor our California Fallen Heroes.

With the help and dedication of all the artists and volunteers we now have 100 finished portraits. As a partner with the Pasadena Arts Council's Emerge fiscal sponsorship program, we can now raise the funds needed to accomplish these goals.

We invite to you to be a part of our mission to paint the remaining 570 (to date) Californian Fallen Heroes who gave their lives for our country and to ensure there will be a permanent memorial where all Americans can come and pay their respects to these brave men and women.

14 November 2011

'Standing for the Fallen' at Landstuhl

We recently had a great visit from our friend and supporter, Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen. Since May of last year, Mark and the Marines of the Lafayette, IN Marine Corps League have have worked diligently almost every single weekend raising funds to purchase supplies for our warriors at Landstuhl.

Mark Dolfini at Landstuhl with one of the boxes of donations raised by the Standing for the Fallen events put on by his local Lafayette, IN Marine Corps League. October 27, 2011. Photo: Mark Dolfini.

Mark went right to work, unpacking boxes and taking care of the never-ending task of stocking the donations shelves. October 27, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Two of our patients show off their comfy new sweats. Soldiers' Angels distributes about $300,000 in donations each year at Landstuhl. October 28, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

The only thing I told Mark one afternoon was that we needed to go over to meet the Medical Transient Detachment commander around 1600... little did Mark know the Commander had prepared a little ceremony...

Captain Yourk, LRMC Medical Transient Detachment Commander, presents Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen a Certificate of Appreciation for his support of wounded warriors at Landstuhl through Soldiers' Angels at the Friday afternoon formation. October 28, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Presentation ceremony - The LRMC Medical Transient Detachment Commander presents Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen a Certificate of Appreciation for his support of Landstuhl patients through Soldiers' Angels at the Friday afternoon formation. October 28, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

"In recognition of your unbridled efforts in collecting donations for Wounded Warriors."

The following weekend, Mark was back on the road. First in New Mexico...

Mark Dolfini at the Standing for the Fallen event in Rio Rancho, NM, November 5, 2011. Photo: Helen Orozco, Soldiers' Angels.

...and then in New York City.

Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen outside the recruiting office on Times Square, NYC, raising donations for our wounded warriors at Landstuhl. November 11, 2011. Photo: Standing for the Fallen.

THANK YOU to Mark, the Marines of the Lafayette, IN Chapter of the Marine Corps League, and all of their generous donors for their support of those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. We appreciate you!

11 November 2011

Google for Veterans and Families

Today is a fitting day for Google to announce its new initiative, Google for Veterans and Families.

From the Official Google Blog, via Blackfive:

Bringing the very best of what we do to the veteran community
11/11/2011 06:00:00 AM

We believe that technology can be a force for good; one that builds and binds community. As a Googler, my proudest moments are when we take that technology and put it in the hands of people who can use it to communicate, collaborate, build and explore.

Today, on Veterans Day, I am proud to share a few Google tools and platforms for the military veteran community. They can be accessed on our website, Google for Veterans and Families, which was created by veterans and their family and friends, who work at Google. This single interface brings together Google products and platforms for servicemembers and their families. We believe it will be useful to all veterans, whether still in the service, transitioning out, or on a new path in their civilian lives. Here are some examples of what you’ll find on the site:

VetConnect - This tool helps servicemembers connect, communicate and share their experiences with others who have served using the Google+ platform.

Google Veterans Channel - A YouTube channel for discussion about military service for veterans, their families and the public. Veterans can share their experiences with each other as well as with civilians to help shed light on the importance and complexity of service. If you have not served, this is a great place to offer your thanks by uploading a tribute video.

Resume Builder powered by Google Docs - We found that Docs can be a particularly helpful tool to transitioning servicemembers seeking employment. Resume Builder generates an auto-formatted resume that can be easily edited, saved and downloaded to share with potential employers.

Tour Builder powered by Google Earth (coming soon). A new way to tell your military story. Today, you can view some sample “tours”— 3D maps of veterans’ service histories, complete with photos and videos. Stay tuned for more details and updates on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Much more here at the blog, and of course at the Google for Veterans and Families site.

Veteran's Day

To our Veterans past and present - you have served at home, and in far away lands. You have kept your fellow Americans safe and free at home, and you have freed millions throughout the world from tyranny. You represent the legacy of those throughout our nation's history who know the ugly of war, but who believe there are things even uglier than war. For you, the words DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY are a way of life. Thank you for your courage and for your sacrifices. Thank you for your service. God bless you all, and God bless America.

"We believe in fighting to keep all people safe and free to be themselves, because it is the right thing to do."

- Linda Ferrara

Veteran's Day Valour-IT Fundraising Auction

The eBay auction with items donated to Soldiers' Angels in support of Project Valour-IT is now LIVE! There are 23 items up for bid, with auctions ending anywhere between early Sunday morning and mid-day Monday.  Auction items include handcrafted jewelry, a handmade camo-print purse, and consumer electronics. Today, Veteran's Day, 100 laptops will be awarded to warriors recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Thank you for supporting our wounded warriors!

About Soldiers' Angels Valour-IT
Project Valour-IT provides technology to service members recovering from serious injuries. Technology supplied includes:
- Voice-controlled and other adaptive Laptops allow wounded service members to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
- Wii Video Game Systems which are used as part of physical therapy program, and
- Personal GPS, to build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

To date, Soldiers' Angels Project Valour-IT has supplied over 6,000 severely wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines with adaptive laptops and other devices to aid their recovery and reintegration.

10 November 2011

Birthday MEDEVAC

US Marines cover their faces and their two wounded comrades who were hit by an IED while a Medevac helicopter lands in Helmand province on Nov. 10. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

Through the smoke of a flare, US Marines carry a wounded comrade who was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to a Medevac helicopter of U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment in Helmand province on Nov. 10. Two US Marines were hit by IED had multiple fractures on both their legs. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

US Marines carry a wounded comrade to a Medevac helicopter. Two US Marines were hit by IED in Helmand province on Nov. 10 had multiple fractures on both their legs. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

US crew chief, specialist Saul Avila (L) and flight medic staff sergeant Noah Berg (R) give medical treatment to two wounded US Marines who were hit by IED in Helmand province on Nov. 10. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment medically evacuate two Marines on the Marine Corps birthday, November 10, 2011.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

The Commandant of the Marine Corps and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps present the 236th Marine Corps birthday message and honor the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and how the events shaped the lives of Marines past and present.

09 November 2011

Well Done, We Love You

Captain Matthew Charles Ferrara
14 October 1983 - 9 November 2007

Silver Star
For exceptionally valorous conduct during Operation Enduring Freedom on 22 August 2007 at the "Ranch House" near Aranas, Afghanistan. While assigned as a platoon leader in Chosen Company, 2D Battalion (Airborne), 503D Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 1LT Ferrara's courageous leadership and calm demeanor under fire were instrumental in repelling an overwhelming attack by an enemy force three times larger than his own. During three hours of intense combat 1LT Ferrara expertly led his men in the defence of the Aranas Outpost until he was able to call for air strikes Danger Close to his own position to neutralize the enemy threat. His actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Rock Battalion, the Bayonet Combat Team, and the United States Army.

I am a UH-60 pilot who flew over nine hours in support of a mission on the night of November 9th 2007 in the vicinity of FOB Bella Afghanistan. The events that happened there are something that I have thought of daily even though I saw many things over my 13 months in country.

My company was responsible for all of the resupply missions, air assaults, and air movements in Matt's area. I had the unique opportunity as an Aviator to see almost all of the terrain Afghanistan has to offer and can say without a doubt the area of Bella and Ranch House were the worst. I flew on many days in and out of Ranch House before it was closed down and on many days while they were under contact and know I flew Matt and his Soldiers on multiple occasions.

Shortly before November 9th I was asked to sit on a board to approve or disapprove awards that were recommended and the one that stood out during the hours of reading citations was that of Matt's Silver Star recommendation. His is without a doubt one of the most courageous actions I heard during the hours of reviewing them.

To see and know the area Matt had to work in daily and the smarts and ability to defend it with the relatively small numbers up there were amazing, and he did this from the front. I am thankful we had leaders like him up there to take care of his guys. The hair on my neck stood up when I read what he had done even though I listened to much of that morning's events over the radios.

I was not the MEDEVAC pilot on November 9th but was the Air Mission Commander that night for the operation and was one of the first UH-60s there dropping ammo out our doors for the guys and getting everybody consolidated when the ground reinforcements from Bella showed up.

There was a knot in my stomach when I connected Matt's name with the award citation I had read and recommended for approval shortly prior to the 9th. I knew as soon as I heard his name that night who he was.

An impressive story that night was who I talked to when I first got there and tried Matt's frequency on the radio. Somebody with broken English answered, an Afghan gentlemen named Alex who ended up being Matt's interpreter. He had taken the radio when he heard me calling. He wasn't sure of their position on the mountain so we found them by having Alex key the microphone: We listened to the sound of our rotor system in the radio and found them by making our noise "louder" or "quieter" in the headsets.

I guess what I'm getting at is Matt trained everybody down to the interpreter to a level that an interpreter from Afghanistan was able to get the helicopters there.

(Compilation of emails sent to the Ferrara family, edited.)

Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest respect are with Matt's family and the families of his brothers-in-arms who gave their lives for each other, their loved ones, and their country on 9 November 2007. We will remember them always.

* * *

SGT Jeffrey S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kansas
SPC Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, California
SPC Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, California
PFC Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Michigan
Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Michigan

* * *

To the MEDEVAC and other flight crews who worked that night: You have our undying gratitude for bringing them all home. May God bless you and keep you.

"They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right."

- Ronald Reagan

"We believe in fighting to keep all people safe and free to be themselves, because it is the right thing to do."

- Linda Ferrara

08 November 2011

Department of Defense Announces Overseas Service Photography Project

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

November 08, 2011

Overseas Service Photography Project Announced

The Department of Defense announced today that it seeks donations of photographs of U.S. military service life overseas from current and former service members for use in a photo recognition exhibition planned in conjunction with the State Department.

The project called “Serving Abroad…Through Their Eyes” will choose images that depict six specific categories: daily life, friendship, places, faces, loss or triumph. Selected images may be used for display in a special photography exhibition planned for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Pentagon and other prominent venues, stateside and overseas. Submissions will be accepted beginning Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2011, through Presidents Day, Feb 20, 2012.

“It is simply phenomenal, and absolutely fitting that photos by America’s bravest during tough duty abroad get this sort of national recognition. I can’t wait to see them and take part in the new conversations and relationships this is sure to inspire,” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

“America’s Foreign Service officers and military personnel represent our country all over the world and often in the most difficult of circumstances. This photography exhibition provides a unique view of their work to resolve conflicts and forge new partnerships and advance America’s interests and values. So I am delighted the office of ART in Embassies is honoring the service of these brave men and women,” said Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

New York Times photographer Joao Silva has volunteered to convene the photo jury, which will work with a panel of noted Americans to review the photographs and announce the selections on Armed Forces Day in May of 2012. The ten ‘Best in Show” photographers will be invited to Washington, where they will be honored and participate in the exhibition’s November 2012 -VIP opening celebration.

The selection panel includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Retired Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Retired Gen. Colin Powell.

Renowned video artist, Lincoln Schatz will create a video-audio montage of the images as a signature creation for ART in Embassies (AIE) 50th anniversary celebration with the exhibition additionally available via DoD, DoS and AIE websites – and social media.

Rules, entry form and submission guidelines may be found at http://www.ourmilitary.mil/their-eyes/serving-abroad-through-their-eyes . The Defense Media Activity will provide technical services to receive submissions and assist in screening for any operational security or privacy concerns. To help ensure suitability, entrants should consult with their public affairs officer before photographic submission is made.

This unique DoD and DoS collaboration is in conjunction with the office of ART in Embassies celebrating 50 years of international cultural exchange. The ART in Embassies program plays a vital role in our nation’s public diplomacy. The ART in Embassies program was originally established by the Museum of Modern Art in 1953 – and formalized by the Kennedy administration in 1962. It is one of the premier public-private partnership arts organizations in continuous operation, with a presence in some 200 venues within 180 countries worldwide.

Media point of contact is Lt. Col. Robert Ditchey at Robert.Ditchey@osd.mil .

07 November 2011

An American medic in a French tale

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan—U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Gipson (left), a flight medic with Task Force Poseidon, shakes hands with the French company commander, along with French Col. Jeand’heur (center), commander of French Battle Group 15/2, Oct. 28. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kenneth Scar, 7th MPAD)

During combat operations on October 4 in Afghanistan’s Surobi’s District, insurgent machine gun fire tore into the throat of French Pvt. 1st Class Kevin V. American MEDEVAC assets were called in.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Gipson, a flight medic from Piqua, Ohio, with Task Force Poseidon, attached herself to the UH-60 Blackhawk’s external winch and began the descent to the mountain’s slope.

“Surprises always come in small packages,” laughed U.S. Army Maj. Graham Bundy, from Holly Springs, N.C., Gipson’s company commander.

As Kevin regained consciousness, he saw Gipson come down from the sky and lift him to safety. He whispered later that she looked like an angel to him.

The French Soldier is considered a lucky man. With help from the U.S. flight medics, he was immediately flown to a Coalition hospital in Kabul where a specialist began surgery. He is now able to eat and speak.

“This is an amazing story; almost too good to be true, but there it is,” said French Col. Jeand’heur, commander of French Battle Group 15/2.

For her part in the rescue, Col. Jeand’heur, along with Kevin’s company commander, platoon leader and Master Cpl. Michael, presented Gipson with a letter of commendation in a small ceremony, Oct. 28, on Bagram.

For the French Soldiers of TF La Fayette, Gipson has become their combat angel.

02 November 2011

Made with love and hope...

Two more beautiful quilts for our wounded warriors made by the Angels of the Folk Art Class at The Campbell County Senior Citizen's Center in La Follette, TN. They're up to 40 quilts to date.

Prior story about these wonderful ladies here.

If you'd like to receive the guidelines for making and sending quilts or fleece blankets for our patients, please email me.

29 October 2011

Military Post Offices in Iraq to Close Nov. 17

By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2011 Because U.S. forces are coming home from Iraq by the end of the year, the U.S. Postal Service will stop accepting mail addressed to military post offices in Iraq starting Nov. 17, Defense Department officials said today.

Military post offices in Iraq also will stop processing mail Nov. 17, and service members there should begin now to advise those who send them mail about the Nov. 17 deadline.

Mail still in the postal system through Nov. 17 will be processed and delivered to service members in Iraq, officials said.
In November, U.S. military postal service responsibilities in Iraq will transition to State Department embassy or consulate post offices for service members assigned to Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

These sites will provide letter and parcel mail services to service members assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq.

The transition will be closely coordinated with the U.S. Postal Service Agency, which will delete ZIP codes for Iraq military post offices from the USPS database to prevent undeliverable mail from entering the postal system after Nov. 17, according to defense officials.
If APO mail arrives in Iraq after a service member departs, mail will be redirected to the new mailing address provided or, if no mailing address was provided, returned to sender.

Any mail mistakenly accepted by a USPS post office after Nov. 17 will be returned to sender once it reaches the International Gateway in New Jersey.

Service members in Iraq or returning from Iraq who do not receive a requested absentee ballot from their state can complete a back-up federal write-In absentee ballot at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Web portal. The form wizard will provide a PDF document for printing, including the completed ballot and instructions for returning it to their local election official. Contact installation and unit level voting assistance officers for additional assistance.

Service members who are remaining in Iraq after Nov. 17 and who are there on behalf of or are assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation or the Chief of Mission in Iraq should coordinate with their chain of command and the servicing State Department mail location to receive a new mailing address.

According to defense officials, conditions and situations in the Iraq transition change often. Officials recommend that service members check the Military Postal Service Agency website and USPS Postal Bulletins frequently for updates.

25 October 2011

All American DUSTOFF

Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009 (OEF X). Those of you who knew Brian Cowdrey will recognize him in some of the shots.

With love to the C/3-82 All American DUSTOFF family.

24 October 2011

Quilters touch the hearts of wounded warriors

Groton Women's Club member Jill McCaffrey stands by one of the quilts she made that will be sent over to Germany for the Blankets of Hope Project. Photo: Sun/David H. Brow.

Soldiers warm up to Groton quilts

By Hiroko Sato of the Lowell Sun
Updated: 10/22/2011

GROTON -- Scouring for gorgeous red, white and blue fabric at stores is Jill McCaffrey's way of showing her patriotism.

Whatever sewing project she may be shopping for, McCaffrey would always be looking for star and flag prints from the corner of her eye. She would spread pieces of those and other fabric fellow quilters from the Groton Woman's Club brought over to the tables at the Groton Senior Center to put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Before long, tri-color 42-inch-by-54-inch blankets with a handwritten thank-you note to soldiers stitched on would be shipped out to keep severely wounded men and women in uniform warm on their way to Germany for treatment.

Those who wear the blankets feel the quilters' prayers. One thank-you card from a soldier sent to Groton Woman's Club President Susan Slade said it all: "My parents could not be here but you were here for me. I will never forget you for that."

After touching the hearts of more than 200 injured soldiers, the club recently received a special award from Soldiers' Angels, a California-based national nonprofit organization that runs the Blankets of Hope project to provide soldiers with quilts made by volunteers.

"I have been holding this secret until now," Slade said as she unveiled the angel-shaped crystal trophy yesterday.

"I'm like a proud mama," she said, looking at the 15 quilters lining up to applause. With 229 quilts already made, "we are on our way to 300," Slade said.

The Groton Woman's Club recently received the Crystal Wing Award, a national award the Soldiers' Angels gives out to groups and individuals who have gone "above and beyond the call of angels." The nonprofit was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, mother of Army Sgt. Brandon Varn, to provide aid and comfort to members of the armed forces and their families. After hearing the organization was looking for blankets for wounded soldiers in 2007, Slade and other members asked for sewing volunteers. They quickly stepped forward and began making quilts with member Jan Dillon serving as coordinator.

Founded in 1913 as a service organization, the Groton Woman's Club has provided helping hands to whomever needs them, ranging from the bandage-making and other relief work during World War I to making meals for seniors. The club, comprised of more than 80 active members living in Groton, is also known for its annual holiday green sale to raise funds for scholarships for local students.

The Crystal Angel Award was given to recognize the quilters for having made and sent 100 quilts by June 2009 and 200 by May 2011, Slade said. So far, the quilters have made 217 blankets with 12 more ready to be shipped. One was donated to the Devens Museum.

The quilters said they never expected to receive an award. Besides, "I never thought we would still need to make them," Dillon said.

Mildred Wells, a quilter of 25 years who used to make bridal gowns and did other sewing work for people, has a 20-year-old grandson who recently joined the Army. While he is not deployed, another grandson of hers fought in Iraq before, and Wells knows too well how families feel about their soldiers. "It's such a pleasure to do."

The quilters said they are thrilled to receive the award.

"It's nice to know it's going somewhere there is a need," McCaffrey said.

Inscription on the 200th quilt made by the Groton Woman's Club and sent to Soldiers' Angels at Landstuhl hospital for patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Signatures of the quilters from the Groton Woman's Club on the 200th quilt made and sent to Soldiers' Angels at Landstuhl hospital for patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

We're honored to stand with the Groton Woman's Club in support of our wounded warriors. Thank you for your patriotism, compassion, and dedication to those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. You deserve those Crystal Wings!

Forever in our hearts

Marine LCpl Richard "Ricky" Slocum
Feb 2, 1985 - October 24, 2004

When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are.

You can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us.

It means... that if we meet again, you will know me.

It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

-- Frederick Buechner

Thinking of you Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends today. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

23 October 2011

They came in peace

Beirut, 23 October 1983

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers-in-arms"

From Brothers-in-arms: 'They came in peace' by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola.

Originally posted 23 October, 2005.

22 October 2011

Return to Iraq: "My Lieutenant didn't die in vain"

The war in Iraq is over for the United States, but not for the Americans who fought there. CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley reports on a remarkable therapy [Operation Proper Exit] that takes some of the more than 32,000 troops wounded in Iraq back there to confront the events that changed their lives.

Of the eight, returning may have been toughest for Steven Cornford. He left Iraq and was awarded the Silver Star for valor. But they don't give away Silver Stars for nothing. Sitting down with Cornford, you can learn what post-traumatic stress disorder is all about.

Cornford's nightmares are rooted in Easter Sunday 2007, when he was just 18 years old. His platoon assaulted an enemy machine gun nest. He was hit in the left shoulder. His lieutenant, Phillip Neel, sprinted forward to help, but was cut down.

Cornford returned fire and threw two hand grenades into the machine gun nest. Then, he carriet Lt. Neel a mile to a Medevac helicopter that took them both to a field hospital. Neel didn't make it, and Cornford cannot forgive himself.

During his visit, Cornford was heartened to see Iraq returning to normal. It means, he said, "my Lieutenant didn't die in vain."

20 October 2011

The angels of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars

They are the angels of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — the nurses and doctors who save the wounded, evacuating them aboard a cavernous C-17 transport plane headed for Germany, capable of conducting mid-flight surgery if need be.

“You do not have time to cry, you do not have time to feel. You basically put those feelings in a box and you put them over on the counter,” says Air Force Lt. Col. Sherry Hemby, a 19-year veteran who went to nursing school and then joined up.

At the behemoth Bagram military base in Afghanistan, medical transport planes — essentially flying trauma centers — slam fast on the runway, always after dark, trying to avoid enemy attack.

On a recent fall night, the huge hold of an Air Force C-17 was filled with stretchers stacked three-high. There was just enough room for doctors and nurses to squeeze between life-support equipment and severely injured patients bound for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

For 10 years, aeromedical evacuation crews like this one have been ferrying war casualties out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Trisha Fulton, chief flight nurse, has made hundreds of these trips. She was waiting for her latest group of patients.

Some walk on crutches. Others are carried on stretchers.

The most critically injured are sedated and cocooned in life-support equipment. They are brought aboard last, accompanied by a critical care transport team consisting of a doctor, a nurse and a cardiopulmonary technician.

By the time the severely injured, some of them amputees, get here, they have been stabilized at Bagram’s field hospital and prepped for flight.

At Landstuhl, the receiving point for tens of thousands of wounded soldiers and Marines, surgery or rehabilitation awaits.

People who have been thrust into each other’s lives by the consequences of war began a wordless eight-hour relationship of necessity.

Read the rest of this great article, Winged Wonders. And THANK YOU to all of our aeromedical evacuation crews for all you do.

19 October 2011

National Day of the Deployed Resolution Passes in Senate

"Day of the Deployed is a day to honor the many selfless actions demanded of military members and their loved ones across the globe serves as a tangible reminder of the sacrifice being made in homes across America every day. Every deployment reflects the deep commitment of not only the deploying member, but of the many friends and loved ones who are left behind to aid in answering our nations call. Selfless men, women and children who are called upon to set aside their personal comfort and convenience to support the heroes they call mom, dad, father, mother, brother, sister or friend."

- Patti Patton Bader, Soldiers' Angels Founder

October 18, 2011


WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven announced today that a resolution he introduced to continue honoring the nation’s deployed service men and women with a Day of the Deployed has unanimously passed in the Senate. Hoeven launched the first Day of the Deployed in 2006 while serving as Governor of North Dakota and spearheaded the effort to bring the initiative to the national level this year. The resolution, passed last night, calls on all Americans to reflect on the service of the nation’s deployed service members and to offer support to their loved ones.

“Our U.S. service men and women currently deployed, along with their loved ones, make untold sacrifices as they serve our nation,” said Hoeven. “A national Day of the Deployed pays tribute to their commitment to our country and their work to protect our freedoms. We want to ensure that our military members and their loved ones know of our appreciation and support before, during and after their service.”

On Oct. 26, 2006, then-Governor Hoeven launched the first Day of the Deployed in support of Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit organization that aids deployed American military personnel and their families. The effort spread, and in 2010, 40 states had proclaimed a Day of the Deployed.

“Working with John Hoeven on Day of the Deployed since 2006 in North Dakota has been an honorable way to extend appreciation to the deployed service members and their families. Day of the Deployed is recognition for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the United States of America. This day is all about them,” said Shelle Michaels, Soldiers’ Angels Deputy Director of Development.
“More than 2 million Americans currently serve in the Unites States Armed Forces. These men and women are making great scarifies to ensure the safety and security of our great nation.

Next Wednesday, October 26, is the Day of the Deployed. I encourage people in North Dakota and across our nation to take a moment to recognize and celebrate America’s heroes — our men and women in uniform. They deserve our support and the thanks of a grateful nation,” said Senator Kent Conrad, a cosponsor of the resolution.

Currently, more than 2.27 million people serve as members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those in the active guard and reserve components, with thousands of members deployed each year to 150 countries around the world. The resolution calls on Americans to reflect on the service of the nation’s soldiers and encourages ceremonies and activities on Oct. 26 to mark the Day of the Deployed.


1st Session
S. RES. 253

Designating October 26, 2011, as `Day of the Deployed'.

Introduced August 2, 2011
Passed October 17, 2011

Mr. HOEVEN submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

Designating October 26, 2011, as `Day of the Deployed'.

Whereas more than 2,250,000 people serve as members of the United States Armed Forces;
Whereas several hundred thousand members of the Armed Forces rotate each year through deployments to 150 countries in every region of the world;
Whereas more than 2,200,000 members of the Armed Forces have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks;
Whereas the United States is kept strong and free by the loyal people who protect our precious heritage through their positive declaration and actions;
Whereas the deployed members of the Armed Forces serving at home and abroad have courageously answered the call to duty to defend the ideals of the United States and to preserve peace and freedom around the world;
Whereas members of the Armed Forces and veterans personify the virtues of patriotism, service, duty, courage, and sacrifice;
Whereas the families of members of the Armed Forces make important and significant sacrifices for the United States;
Whereas North Dakota began honoring the members of the Armed Forces and their families by designating October 26 as `Day of the Deployed' in 2006; and
Whereas 40 States designated October 26, 2010, as `Day of the Deployed': Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--
(1) honors the members of the United States Armed Forces who are deployed at home and abroad;
(2) calls on the people of the United States to reflect on the service of those members of the United States Armed Forces, wherever they serve, both now and in the future;
(3) designates October 26, 2011, as `Day of the Deployed'; and
(4) encourages the people of the United States to observe `Day of the Deployed' with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

15 October 2011

Godspeed, SSG Robert 'Brian' Cowdrey

We are deeply saddened to learn that Staff Sergeant Robert 'Brian' Cowdrey was killed on October 13 while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. According to his wife Jill, he was on a mission treating patients when he came under enemy fire.

In the above photo taken in February of 2010, Brian was captured by AP photographer Brennan Linsley while comforting a patient aboard his MEDEVAC helicopter during Operation Mushtarak in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As Brian himself said about the photo, "this picture sums it all up".

Brian can also be seen in action during his 2009/2010 Afghanistan deployment here, and another article about his unit can be found here.

Brian was serving his fourth deployment in a combat zone. Prior deployments were Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004/2005, Operation Enduring Freedom 2007/2008, and Operation Enduring Freedom 2009/2010.

He loved his job, and he loved his family. To say he impacted the lives of countless people is an understatement. To some, he swooped down from the sky to rescue them on the worst day of their lives. To others, he provided inspiration through his career of compassionate and courageous dedication. One of his three sons has followed in his father's footsteps and is currently serving in Germany. To all three of them, he has been a Dad - and a Hero. To his friends, his faith, enthusiasm and caring nature were a joy. And to his wife, he was a loving partner and best friend.

Brian's shadow and that of his DUSTOFF helicopter as he goes down the hoist to treat the patients seen at the lower left in September 2011. Like many other MEDEVAC missions, it was carried out under enemy fire. Photo courtesy Brian Cowdrey.

This is how we will always remember Brian - his Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces. Our love, prayers, and deepest condolences are with his family.


Update: Others honoring Brian include Assoluta Tranquillita and Blackfive. Brian had just finished conducting this first of what was to be a series of interviews with War on Terror News when he was killed.

Members of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade held a memorial service in Afghanistan for Brian yesterday. The moving photographs can be seen here. And here is the Dignified Transfer at Dover Air Force Base.

12 October 2011

Former LRMC Commander new TRICARE Deputy Director

New TRICARE Deputy Director Brings Patient Focus to Job

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 – With a fresh focus on patient care –particularly for wounded warriors and their families -- the new deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity said today he’s committed to ensuring TRICARE’s 9.6 million beneficiaries worldwide get the care and services they deserve.

Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) W. Bryan Gamble, who assumed day-to-day oversight of TRICARE earlier this month, brings a long resume of assignments as a physician and commander in the military health system to the job.

Some of the most profound, he said, were his tours as commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany during the height of the surge in Iraq, as surgeon to the U.S. Central Command commander, and for the past two years, as commander of Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga.

All reinforced what Gamble called his central focus.

“My heart is with our wounded warriors and their families,” he said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. “And it is not just the wounded, but also their families who have needs and also require our love, attention and concern.”
Gamble demonstrated that commitment during his most recent assignment, where surveys at Fort Gordon revealed a 6 percent increase in patient satisfaction rates, to more than 93 percent. The number of patients who left its emergency room without being seen dropped to less than 1 percent. In addition, Gamble doubled the capacity of the post’s residential treatment facility and enabled its traumatic brain injury clinic to the Army’s first to secure a Category 1 validation.

Meanwhile, Gamble worked closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, developing a connection he called “really crucial” in providing rehabilitation to wounded, ill or injured warriors.

Now, at the helm of the Defense Department’s comprehensive health care plan, Gamble said he plans to build on the lessons he’s learned as he promotes readiness, preventive care and patient satisfaction – all while controlling costs within an integrated system.
Gamble isn’t a total newcomer to TRICARE. He served with the organization in 1999 and 2000 as it was introducing clinicians throughout its structure. The result, he said, is a more integrated system that’s more focused on delivering comprehensive and quality services to beneficiaries wherever and whenever they might need it.

Active duty service members and their families pay no enrollment fees and no out-of-pocket costs for any type of care under TRICARE Prime as long as care is received from the primary care manager at their military medical facility, or with a referral. All other beneficiaries, such as retirees, pay annual enrollment fees. Despite the first enrollment cost increases in 15 years, Gamble said, TRICARE still represents the best deal around. The increases, expected to be about $5 a month for family coverage, are “fairly modest,” he said, particularly when compared to what’s available in the civilian sector.

“When you look at the value of what the health care benefit is,” he said, “TRICARE really delivers value to [service members] and their families.”

The challenge, he said, will be to maintain this level of care and services through responsible financial management.
Gamble said he will continue encouraging beneficiaries to use the mail-order option rather than retail pharmacies to fill their prescriptions whenever possible. Navy Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, the previous TRICARE deputy director, was a big promoter of the mail-order option, which she estimated could save as much as $1 billion.

Gamble said he also plans to maintain TRICARE’s emphasis on preventive medicine, and the introduction of a patient-centered “medical home” concept that establishes a consistent, long-term relationship between patients and a team of providers.

As it focuses on keeping beneficiaries healthy, this concept reduces use of expensive emergency room services when patients don’t know where else to turn for nonemergency care. “It’s providing people the right care at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Gamble said he wants to hear from beneficiaries – through patient surveys, Facebook or any other means -- to ensure they’re getting the care and services they deserve. But for the most unvarnished appraisals, he said, he needs to look no further than his own family members, who rely on TRICARE for their own health care.

“My wife and children are beneficiaries, … and if something is not going to go right, I am usually the first that hears about it,” he said. “I and my family take part in this system, and I want it to be the best it can be.”

07 October 2011

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta Statement on Operation Enduring Freedom

Today marks ten years since our nation went to war in Afghanistan. In toppling the Taliban regime, we removed a government that had provided safe haven and support to Al Qaeda, and allowed its leaders to plan and launch the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history. Our military has been at war ever since, determined to prevent Al Qaeda from regaining a safe haven and the ability to launch attacks on our homeland. Over these years and especially this year we have dealt heavy blows to Al Qaeda's leadership, and terrorists now know that we will pursue them relentlessly in order to defend our country. In Afghanistan, we are reversing the Taliban insurgency's momentum, and our efforts are creating the right conditions for transition to Afghan security lead. Thanks to the progress we have made, we can draw down our forces while building a long-term enduring relationship with the Afghan people. But we must stay committed to this effort to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Over these ten years, our men and women in uniform and their families have borne a heavy burden to protect our country. Nearly 1,800 U.S. service members have lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom, and more than 14,000 have been wounded. On this tenth anniversary, our thoughts turn to those who have paid this heavy price for our freedom and our security. Our country is stronger, and the world is a safer place, because of their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of all who have served. We must honor them by staying committed to this mission of protecting America. This day, and every day, we must continue to fight for the goal of a better and more secure world for our children.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

29 September 2011

Air Force combat controller who saved lives while injured to receive Air Force Cross

Air Force combat controller Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez describes how he saved lives by continuing to return small arms fire and call in air strikes even after being seriously injured. (“I don’t get paid to sit there and fall down. I get paid to fight and do my job.”) His actions have earned him a nomination for the Air Force Cross for valor, to be awarded this Fall.

The Air Force Times:

Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez felt the pressure building in his chest. He couldn’t breathe. When he tried to talk, blood gushed from his mouth and nose. Gunfire popped and rocket-propelled grenades exploded nearby.

Gutierrez had seen an injury like this before. He figured he had about three minutes before he bled out.

“At that point, I decided I’m not going to be a burden to the rest of my team,” he said. “I’m not going to be dead weight to them. I’m going to do as much as I can, as long as I can, until it’s over.”

Oct. 5, 2009, is the day Gutierrez is convinced he would have died if a medic hadn’t jabbed a syringe into his collapsed lung.

Minutes later, Gutierrez himself saved the lives of a dozen U.S. soldiers in the Army Special Forces unit he was assigned to as a combat controller.

Read the rest of the story about Gutierrez’s extraordinary bravery and unwavering dedication that night nearly two years ago which have earned him a nomination for an Air Force Cross. Gutierrez will be the fourth recipient of the Air Force Cross for actions in Afghanistan, and the first since then-Senior Airman Zachary Rhyner received the honor in 2009.

27 September 2011

The "Blanket Ladies" of SoCal

Wilmington, CA VFW “Blanket Ladies”

West Point Parents‘ Club „Blanket Ladies“

Gold Star Mother „Blanket Ladies“

Torrance, CA „Blanket Ladies“

Linda and Corinne. All photos courtesy Linda Ferrara.

In September, Soldiers‘ Angel and Gold Star Mother Linda Ferrara held one of her regular appreciation luncheons at her home in Torrance, CA for about 40 of the „Blanket Ladies“ she’s recruited over the years. The various groups include women from the Wilmington, CA VFW, local members of the West Point Parents‘ Club, local residents of Torrance, CA, and local Gold Star Mothers.

Linda does most of the fundraising, then she and Corinne head out to make bulk purchases of fleece. The bolts of fleece are kept at Corinne's in a shed while she and fellow Blanket Lady Carole work on the pre-cutting. The pre-cut fabric is brought to the separate groups of “Blanket Ladies”, who meet regularly to assemble “no-sew” blankets. The completed blankets are then collected and boxed up by Linda and her daughter Simone, assisted by granddaughter Kaitlyn. Finally, Corinne and Carole take care of bringing the large boxes for shipment to Germany.

Their combined efforts generate about 100 blankets each month. The blankets are distributed by Soldiers’ Angels at Landstuhl hospital to patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Linda began making blankets for the wounded at Landstuhl hospital in Germany in memory of her son CPT Matthew Ferrara, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007. Linda’s other three sons are also in the Army, and one is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

Thank you, "Blanket Ladies" for showing our wounded warriors the love! You make a difference - one blanket at a time.