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 2012.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2013.
For uncommon skills and service, for the choices each one of them has made and the ones still ahead, for the challenge of defending not only our freedoms but those barely stirring half a world away, the American soldier is TIME's Person of the Year.
It is worth remembering that our pilots and sailors and soldiers are, for starters, all volunteers, in contrast to most nations, which conscript those who serve in their armed forces. Ours are serving in 146 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The 1.4 million men and women on active duty make up the most diverse military in our history, and yet it is not exactly a mirror of the country it defends. It is better educated than the general population and overweighted with working-class kids and minorities. About 40% of the troops are Southern, 60% are white, 22% are black, and a disproportionate number come from empty states like Montana and Wyoming. When they arrive at the recruiter's door, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told TIME, "they have purple hair and an earring, and they've never walked with another person in step in their life. And suddenly they get this training, in a matter of weeks, and they become part of a unit, a team. They're all sizes and shapes, and they're different ages, and they're different races, and you cannot help when you work with them but come away feeling that that is really a special thing that this country has."
Santa visits wounded warriors, staff members at hospital in Afghanistan
By Staff Sgt. David J. Overson, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Dec. 19, 2012) -- For many service members deployed to Afghanistan, Christmas can be a very emotional and depressing time of year, as they are separated from their friends and family back home. However, this year, Santa came to town and brought joy with him as he gave Christmas stockings to staff members and patients at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital, at Bagram Airfield, Dec. 18.
Santa wandered the halls passing out stockings filled with fun to every staff member and patient he passed. For those not on shift yet, he left some behind. For the wounded warriors lying in hospital beds, Santa was a sight for sore eyes.
Spc. Joseph Beldon, an infantryman with Delta Company, 3-187 Infantry Regiment "Iron Rakkasans," and a native of Danville, Ky., was excited to see Santa.
"It means a lot to get a stocking this close to Christmas," said Beldon. "I've been sitting here in the hospital for five days by myself, and seeing Santa here really cheers you up."
Santa's workshop was assisted this year by the Blue Star Mothers of Henderson and Boulder City, Nev., when they sent more than 300 hand-made stockings filled with items to Craig Joint Theater Hospital.
Once the hospital received the stockings, staff members reached out to Santa, who agreed to come early this year and spread some Christmas cheer.
"It's awesome to be able to give these stockings out," said Santa. "I know everyone here is missing their friends and families back home, so when I give them a stocking, I can see it really lifts their spirits."
U.S. Air Force chaplain Capt. Peter Drury, the hospital chaplain, feels this is the best medicine both the staff and patients can receive this time of year.
"It's great. It shows that both Santa and the people back home are thinking about us," said Drury.
Santa wanted everyone to know that though he arrived early in Afghanistan, his regular deliveries will be on time.
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.
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time [December 7, 1941], a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.
With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.
Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan's losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.
The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the U.S. entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.
The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.
Charlie Med Commander Passes on the MEDEVAC Legacy
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The 82nd Airborne Division’s MEDEVAC company commander passed on his role during a change of command ceremony at Simmons Army Airfield, Dec. 5.
Company C., 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Commander Maj. Graham Bundy handed over his command to Maj. Trent Short.
Bundy has been the company commander for the past two-and-a-half years, and says words cannot describe how he feels about his Troopers.
“The first part of the speech was easy but to articulate, but how special they are is more difficult,” Bundy said. “Every day I come to work I am surprised. They are just a great group of Paratroopers.”
Company C., better known as Charlie Med, provides ambulatory support for all division troopers and has earned the respect of their leaders and peers.
“Charlie med gives our aircrews courage because they know no matter what the conditions are, Charlie med will be there,” said Col. T. J. Jamison, 82nd CAB commander. “They are a very unique unit and gives all Troopers peace at night knowing they are going to be taken care of no matter what.”
Charlie med flew in brand new helicopters for their most recent deployment to Afghanistan. The HH-60M helicopter is the latest and most technologically-advanced medical evacuation helicopter to date.
“There is so much in flight care that can be done for patients in this new helicopter that could never be done before, and the value it added to the abilities of this Troop,” Jamison said. “It can be sealed, climate controlled, and just about anything you can do in an emergency room, this thing has. It is absolutely incredible.”
The soldiers received intensive training in a short amount of time with the new helicopters prior to the deployment.
“Maj. Bundy and his command team were able to bring all of his Troopers including crew chiefs and 22 enlisted soldiers to readiness level 1 within three months in preparation for their deployment last year,“ said Lt. Col. Landy Dunham, commander, 3-82 GSAB. “Because of his leadership and the Troops’ expertise, all of the ground forces, including coalition forces and civilians, had confidence in the fact that no matter what, these guys will be there if something happens.”
This confidence led several of their Coalition partners, including the Polish and French forces, to decorate these Medevac Troopers with their own national awards.
Bundy, whose next step is retirement, understands the credit to his success with Charlie Med goes to his Troopers and their unwavering ability rise to any occasion when called upon in a professional manner.
“We had a lot of transition and were the first unit to take the HH-60 into combat and these troops were just phenomenal in the training aspect and all the way through the deployment,” Bundy said. “I could not have asked for a better way to go out, and I am truly proud of these guys and all their hard work.”
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Monday honored four members of a Marine special operations team in a rare public ceremony for those who have served in the covert forces.
In a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Mabus awarded Worcester Marine Sgt. William Soutra Jr. the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest honor and the military's second highest honor, for tending to the wounded while guiding the platoon to safety during an attack in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in July 2010 that spanned over two days.
Three others on his team, including a Navy corpsman, were given Silver Stars.
Often the heroic actions of those on special operations teams are only known to each other and the leadership because of their covert work on classified missions.
"This is a chance to recognize people who don't get recognized much," Mabus said.
Soutra was a canine handler with a Marine special operations team when they were ambushed. After the team's assistant leader was fatally wounded by an enemy explosive during the ambush, Soutra jumped into action, repeatedly running into the line of fire as he helped direct troops to defend themselves and fight off the enemy, Mabus said.
At one point, the 27-year-old Marine from Worcester, Mass., placed a tourniquet on a wounded commando, before dragging him to a ditch for cover. He worked tirelessly for more than an hour after the initial blast and helped carry casualties through the sporadic gunfire, officials said.
His military dog stayed attached to his side during the ordeal. The dog had to be put down more than a year ago because it had cancer.
Maj. James Rose, Staff Sgt. Frankie Shinost Jr. and Navy Corpsman Patrick Quill were given Silver Stars for their actions that day.
The four men called it a horrible day because they lost their element leader, Staff Sgt. Chris Antonik.
"Every day I think about Chris," said Soutra, calling him a close friend and great warrior.
Soutra vowed to try to carry on as the kind of warrior that would make Antonik proud.
Soutra graduated from Worcester Vocational High School in 2004.
A ride out of Afghanistan these troops didn’t want
Bagram Airfield, 2:00 a.m., Dec. 5
We read about those killed in the Afghanistan war, but rarely hear about the wounded. Seeing them up close and personal brings home even more deeply the price many U.S. troops have paid during the 11-year-old conflict.
Early Wednesday morning, local time, 35 troops boarded or were loaded aboard a C-17 cargo jet reconfigured for what’s called the aeromedical evacuation mission. Eighteen were able to walk with unseen wounds or ailments. Another 17 were borne on litters.
The last two were testament to the remarkable advances in trauma medicine the war has wrought. These were the most grievously wounded. Each was moved by six large airmen struggling to lift the patient and the equipment that was keeping them alive. One, unconscious, his face wrapped and visible limbs heavily bandaged, was literally covered with gear: a ventilator, an IV pump, a heart monitor, a sequential compression device, and more.
As the AE crew specialists secured the litters to the stanchions jutting from the deck, doctors from a Critical Care Air Transportation Team hovered over the men to ensure their continued stabilization. Less-seriously injured litter patients were tended by the AE crew’s two flight nurses and three medical technicians.
Within minutes, the upload was complete and the ramp raised, sealing the huge jet for flight. Next stop: Ramstein, Germany, and a trip to nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. As is always the case – the Defense Department does not announce the names of those wounded and never acknowledges them unless they accompany a death in an attack that makes the news – the fates of those aboard the jet, even those most seriously hurt, will likely never be known – unless they don’t make it.