26 May 2014

For some, every day is Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, we pause as a grateful nation to honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in our defense.

We used to think of them as stoic Heroes of wars fought long ago represented by white gravestones standing in silent memory across our land.

But now they are also today's sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends.

And in their sacrifice lies not just our liberty, but also the pain of those left behind.

As we honor our fallen Heroes, we also remember their loved ones and pray for those living with the pain of loss.

Nothing can ever replace their loss, but we pray they can find strength knowing that their loved ones died while fighting in defense of our country's founding principles.

If not for their commitment to a cause greater than themselves, we would not be here to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

As we pause to remember the high cost of freedom and honor those who paid the ultimate price to protect it, let us resolve to live lives worthy of their sacrifice.

God bless our Fallen Heroes and their families. We honor your sacrifice, and will love and remember you always.

For some, every day is Memorial Day.

23 May 2014

Flags In at Arlington

Photos courtesy 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

Here is a time-lapse video of the solemn 'Flags In' tradition of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sgt 1st Class Ryan Joseph, of the United States Army Drill Team talks about his final ‪#‎FlagsIn‬ and what it means to him to be able to pay respects to the hundreds of thousands that lay in Arlington National Cemetery.

"Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."

18 May 2014

Interviews with the Members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team

Terrific interviews with some of the members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team from WBNG, Binghamton, NY.

Leonard Anderson lost his left hand and suffered severe burns when an IED exploded during his tour in Afghanistan. His K-9, Azzah, survived the explosion with him.

"Probably about a month or two in the hospital is when I woke up and realized look, this isn't going to change unless I make a difference," Anderson said, "and then from there it's been the sky's the limit."

Greg Reynolds returned from his deployment in Iraq uninjured, but lost his left arm in a tragic motorcycle accident.

"Life as I'd known ended," Reynolds said. "I didn't really want to live anymore. Life as I knew, with two arms, now, I have one arm and I lost a lot of weight. I was skinny, malnourished; I lost confidence as an individual."

When they each thought they had reached rock bottom, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team gave them a new sense of purpose.

"There's a bond when you've served in the military that you always have and then the fact that we've all had some traumatic injury," said Todd Reed, who lost his right leg. "Playing on the ball field has just been so much fun."

Players said it has given the them a chance to be competitive again and put on a different type of uniform. But the message they send to their fans is one you'll have to see to believe.

"They come out and watch this guy missing both his legs dive for a ball, make a catch and throw it in for a double play," Reynolds said. "That's just so motivating."

Now, the team travels across the nation challenging local law enforcement teams at bat. They might all be missing a limb, but they're not missing their pride.

"We don't want nobody to take it easy on us, we're here to fight," Anderson said, "so we want to compete to win. Period."

You may remember Sgt. Anderson from this post of August 2012.

14 May 2014

KIA Bracelet outshines Medal of Honor for Former Army Sergeant Kyle White

“I also wear a piece of metal around my wrist… This is maybe even more precious than the metal symbol just placed around my neck. On it are the names of my six fallen brothers. They are my heroes.”

- Former Army Sergeant and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White

From Stars & Stripes.

The stainless steel bracelet on former Army Sgt. Kyle White’s right wrist far outshone the Medal of Honor that President Barack Obama placed around his neck at a White House ceremony on Tuesday.

White received the nation’s highest award for military valor in recognition of his actions during a patrol in the steep, rugged mountains near Aranas in eastern Afghanistan. He was serving as a radiotelephone operator with C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade when his team of U.S. and Afghan National Army troops were ambushed on Nov. 9, 2007 by a larger and more heavily armed Taliban force after a meeting with Afghan villagers.

“If you look closely at [White] on his way to work, you'll notice a piece of the war that he carries with him, tucked under his shirt sleeve: a stainless steel bracelet around his wrist, etched with the names of his six fallen comrades, who will always be with him,” Obama said.

The six — 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara; Sgt. Jeffery Mersman; Spc. Sean Langevin; Spc. Lester Roque; Pfc. Joseph Lancour; and Marine Sgt. Phillip Bocks — were White’s battle buddies who died in the ambush.

Much more at the link.

If you missed the ceremony live, you may view it here.

And from Army.mil, a complete description of the battlescape, including recordings of Sgt. White's own words here.

12 May 2014

Scott AFB deeply involved in evacuating injured soldiers to Germany

Another great report from FOX News out of St. Louis.

During the Vietnam War 42 days was the average time to get a wounded warrior home. Now critical cases can arrive stateside in only hours. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany has treated more than 70 thousand injured troops in the past 13 years. 99 percent of all battle victims have passed through there. It’s the largest American hospital outside the U.S. It’s only a few miles from Ramstein Air Base. Chuck Roberts is a spokesman for the hospital, “We almost put something equivalent to an intensive care unit in the back of an aircraft.”

The number of injured soldiers is dropping. During the height of the war a center on the Ramstein Air Base was opened to handle the overflow of patients. With the war winding down, 50 percent of the beds are not being used. They’ve cut staff there’s less of a need for them. Staff Sgt. Brent Merry works at the center he added, “Work ourselves out of a job would be the grand plan here.”

Until then medical experts push the envelope farther, even operating on critical patients on the plane after it’s landed it primitive locations. Lt. Col. Matthew Fehrman said, “That is currently an amazing capability that they have it is the cutting edge, that far reaching point of air medical evacuation.”

07 May 2014

Ramstein, Germany Air Base focal point for moving troops and supplies in and out of Afghanistan

FOX News out of St. Louis reporting from Ramstein, Germany.

Ramstein Air Base in Germany is the focal point when it comes to moving troops and supplies in and out of Afghanistan. Captain Joel Allen is with the Air Mobility Command which is headquartered at Scott Air Force Base. Allen said, “We have a very dynamic mission at Ramstein Air base.” 245,000 passengers move through here a year. While one group of troops is finally going home from Afghanistan another is heading down range, the war is not over yet.

The job of drawing down all happens while bullets are still flying. Major General Tim Zadalis added, “Combat operations are ongoing so we are bringing everybody and everything home in the midst of combat operations”

03 May 2014

Kentucky Derby Contender to Honor Wounded Warriors

Thoroughbred racehorse Uncle Sigh with jockey wearing the "Purple Heart" silks of George “Chip” McEwen's Wounded Warrior Stables. Photo: GradedStakes.com

We don't care if he's 30-1, we're rooting for Uncle Sigh in today's Kentucky Derby! Wishing owner George “Chip” McEwen and his special guests a wonderful day!

LOUISVILLE, KY. — The soldier was barely 27, carried from his seat on the plane as his wife, mother and young children followed behind.

Thoroughbred owner George “Chip” McEwen and his fiancĂ©e, Lynne Langermann, watched with other passengers as the procession filed through the narrow aisle outside the airport in Charlotte, N.C.

“He’d been hit by an IED and suffered some head trauma,” McEwen recounted. “As he’s carried off the plane (by his father), he’s giving everyone a thumbs up.”

It left many passengers — including Langermann — in tears.

“That was the moment that changed everything for me,” recalled McEwen, whose 3-year-old colt, Uncle Sigh, will run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. “When you think about somebody who’s been wounded in a war, you don’t really think about their family members and how that entire dynamic is changed forever — all because they put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.

“I looked at Lynne and said: ‘We’ve got to find a way to help these people.’ ”

In a matter of months, McEwen received the Jockey Club’s approval to change the name of his stables to Wounded Warrior Stables and switch to yellow silks emblazoned with a purple heart, symbolic of the medal given to those wounded or killed during combat.

He also began donating a least 10 percent of his horses’ earnings to charities that support injured troops and their families.

For the 140th running of the Derby, McEwen will be host for a soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan and a family whose son was killed in Iraq.

[Army Chief Warrant Officer Scott] Schroeder, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., was injured in 2010 when a pressure plate detonated a bomb directly beneath his vehicle.

Both of his legs had to be amputated above the knee, and his right arm was mangled by fractures and shrapnel. He’s had more than 40 surgeries and has been walking on prosthetic legs for the past three years, his wife Laura Schroeder said.

The Whitings lost their son, Army Sgt. Justin Whiting, when a roadside bomb struck the vehicle the special forces medical unit member was riding in six years ago. The family has two other sons — a daughter and a son-in-law, who also serve in the special forces — in addition to a son who is a civilian.

“I don’t think either family believed me when I first told them,” said David, who also will attend the Derby as McEwen’s guest. “They were so excited.”

The Schroeders and Whitings will watch the race from a third-floor box donated by Mike Penna, president of the Lexington-based Horse Racing Radio Network. Uncle Sigh opened at 30-1 odds.

“A few months back, I had Chip on the radio show and he told me what he wanted to do and it really touched my heart,” said Penna, whose best friend has been deployed three times.

McEwen said owners receive six box tickets and the opportunity to purchase a dozen more. With 48 friends and family members to find seats for, he was running out of time when Penna offered his box.

“I almost started crying,” McEwen said. “I was so worried because I just want to get everyone to Louisville and for them to have a great time.”

Uncle Sigh’s trainer, Gary Contessa, said having the veterans and their families cheering on the horse will be a “special feeling.”

“We don’t treat our war wounded and war veterans the way we should as a country. A lot of times they come home and they are forgotten,” Contessa said as tears welled in his eyes. “We can’t do enough for these guys and their families; it will be really special to have them be part of this day with us.”