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 2015.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2016.
Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.
- Ronald Reagan
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – On the battlefield, an air medical helicopter can mean the difference between life and death for an injured Soldier.
Getting to an injured Soldier in what is known as “the golden hour” after an injury greatly improves that Soldier’s odds. This requires a well-trained team of medics, pilots and crew chiefs who are ready to respond at a moments notice.
When a medical emergency that requires an air evacuation arises in the U.S. Army Central area of operations, Soldiers rely on medics and aircrews stationed at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
First Lt. Annie G. Fox, of the Army Nurse Corps, was the first woman to receive the Purple Heart for combat. She earned the medal for “outstanding performance of duty, meritorious acts of extraordinary fidelity and essential service” during the attack on Hickam Field, Dec. 7, 1941. At that time, the awarding of the Purple Heart did not require the recipient to be wounded in action.
As chief nurse at Hickam Field, Hawaii, Fox cared for patients during the heaviest bombardment of Pearl Harbor. She “administered anesthesia, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency, [setting a] fine example of calmness, courage and leadership of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact,” states her Purple Heart citation.
In honor of Fox and her heroics, a canine in the dog therapy program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) bears her name. Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan commissioned the mix-breed Labrador and golden retriever to first lieutenant Oct. 15 in front of the historic Tower on Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB). Keenan is deputy commanding general for operations at the U.S. Army Medical Command and chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.
Canines in the dog therapy program provide comfort, support, hope and “unconditional love” to wounded, ill and injured patients, as well as to staff at WRNMMC and NSAB, according to Keenan. The dogs can also assist with retrieving objects, providing balance for some beneficiaries, pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, and turning lights on and off. All bolster the healing process, Keenan explained.
”The service rendered the United States by the American mother is the greatest source of the Country’s strength and inspiration.
We honor ourselves and the mothers of America when we revere and give emphasis to the home as the fountainhead of the State.
The American mother is doing so much for the home and for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people of the United States and hence so much for good government and humanity.”
Whereas the American Gold Star Mothers suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters in World Wars, Public Resolution 12 provides: the last Sunday in September shall hereafter be designated and known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day”.
- The preamble to Public Resolution 123, approved June 23, 1936, the first legislation to provide recognition for Gold Star Mother’s Day.
455th EAES provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - After an Aug. 7 attack on a U.S. military installation in Kabul left service members injured, getting them from the battlefield to higher-level care in Germany was a task assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
While the injured service members were stabilized and prepped for movement in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital here, the 455th EAES alerted aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport teams to get a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ready to carry patients and provide medical care in flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
“Aeromedical evacuation has a vital mission here at Bagram; it’s a significant part of our nation's airpower and mobility resources,” said Col. Diane Difrancesco, 455th EAES commander deployed from the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. “The 455th EAES is the sole AE hub in the Afghanistan theater of operations. We serve as a specially trained team to sustain human life. We’re mission critical for patient movement to a higher level of care.”
The AE team is responsible for prepping the aircraft with the required medical equipment and providing additional support to the CCATT members, who act as an airborne intensive care unit for critically injured Service members.
The CCATT is a three-person, highly specialized medical team consisting of a physician who specializes in an area of critical care or emergency medicine, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist. Their primary focus is on the care of critical patients while onboard the aircraft.
“As the medical crew director, my responsibility was overseeing the overall mission of getting the patients moved from Bagram to Ramstein,” said Maj. Jonathan Freeman, 455th EAES flight nurse deployed from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 156th AES. “As the MCD, I was responsible for coordinating requirements with the C-17 aircrew, ensuring the aircraft was properly configured and to integrate the AE team with the CCATT team to provide safe medical care for the patients.”
According to Freeman, the patients on the flight were some of the worst he had seen but he had confidence the entire medical team’s expertise would ensure a successful mission.
“I was impressed with everyone on the team and it made it easy for me to focus on my responsibilities as the MCD. These are sharp professionals who know what they are doing. I felt really good about our mission because it is the best care you can get,” said Freeman.
One of those highly trained professionals on the mission was Senior Airman Margaret “Maggie” Mathewes, 455th EAES AE technician deployed from the Air Force Reserve’s 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
“Each AE crew consists of two flight nurses and three med techs. As nationally certified EMTs, we’re able to assist the flight nurses in the care of patients while enroute to a higher level of care,” said Mathewes. “It is the teamwork of the entire crew that ensures proper aircraft setup and functioning medical equipment for a safe and successful movement of the patients."
Mathewes said it’s satisfying to be part of the AE community.
“The entire AE system is a wonderful service that is provided to the men and women that serve our country. Being a part of that system—being able to move the sick and injured to a higher level of care and thus increasing their chances of recovering—is just very humbling," said Mathewes.
Freeman said the motivation, enthusiasm and professionalism of the Total Force team of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen serving as aircrew, AE and CCATT ensured the best continuation of care for the service members.
“It is tough dealing with the bad stuff that comes with this job, but it’s definitely rewarding to know you made a difference by providing critical care for those men and women who are serving on the front line for our country,” Freeman said. “It was a very good mission…we got them from the battlefield to higher-level care and that is what we do.”
According to Difrancesco, she was proud of the contributions of the AE team and said they were critical to saving the lives of the injured service members.
“This team of Airmen made a monumental life-saving contribution to those battle injured service members. Without our team those wounded warriors may not be alive today,” said Difrancesco.
A few months ago, our producers received a call from Wilma (“Tinky”) Stuart of Orlando, FL. She was touched by what she saw on the Military Makeover series that aired in November 2014, coming from a military family herself. Wilma wants to make a difference for a needy veteran — and has generously donated a home to our next Military Makeover family.
"It's the beginning of the largest chapter of my life. It's the best part of my life," [Army veteran Tommy] Travis said.
A woman whom he's never met, Tinky Stewart, 85, is giving her house to Travis to show her gratitude for his sacrifice. Stewart is the widow of a Marine.
"I'm of the age where it takes very little for me anymore. So, I thought, 'Why not donate it to a nice veteran and his family?'" Stewart said.
For Travis, his wife and two daughters, the home will mean the end of countless moves, courtesy of the U.S. Army. It will finally be a home upon which they can build.
"She's an angel for what she did. I can't say thank you enough. I could say it a hundred million times and it still wouldn't be enough to show the gratitude I have toward her," Travis said.
The house will be mortgage free.
The episode on the makeover will air in October.
For the past two years, history students from Lancaster High School raised more than $300,000 to build this tribute home to one of their community’s most severely wounded veterans of the Iraq War. The Gary Sinise Foundation and allies kicked in the rest of the close to half-million dollars to finish the grassroots housing drive that resulted from a classroom visit by Hancock.
“I just went to talk to the class to tell them about my experiences,” Hancock told the audience gathered at Friday’s event. “I wasn’t expecting anything from it.”
Supervised by history instructor Jamie Goodreau and led by student Nicole Skinner, the group that was inspired by Hancock’s account of ordeal and triumph organized their own organic nonprofit, Operation All The Way Home.
The students started raising funds two years ago, immediately after hearing Hancock share the grim facts of combat and catastrophic injury.
A remark Hancock made during a “living history” presentation to the students organized by Goodreau awed the students. A few of his words became the signature phrase of their determination to build a home for the vet who rolled his electric wheelchair into their class to talk to them.
“Life does have to go on,” Hancock said at the class event in 2013. “Whether I choose to sit and pout or go with the flow is up to me.”
Spc. Jerral Hancock, 1st Cavalry Division, was the driver. When the IED detonated, Hancock was immediately showered with white hot steel. The armored vehicle’s interior transformed to shrapnel that ripped and burned Hancock.
It was the present Hancock got for his 21st birthday. He was trapped, his body shredded and burning inside the vehicle.
The United States lost few tanks during eight years from 2003–2011, but the IED munitions supplied to Iran-backed Shiite militias found the 70-ton behemoth’s weak point: the thinly armored underbelly between the treads. Hancock’s crew mates jumped or were thrown free, but Hancock roasted in the burning hulk for 90 minutes before he was cut free, with some rescuers already believing him dead.
He surprised them.
Shrapnel severed his spinal cord to paralyze him below the chest. Burning metal and wiring charred his torso into a scarred, fleshy canvas creating ornate “tanker” tattoos he still bears today. His left arm was sheared off above the shoulder. He calls it his “chicken wing.”
Hancock’s 21st birthday became his “Alive Day,” the day the enemy almost, but not quite, succeeded in killing him.
“This is going to go a long way to help with my quality of life, and my independence,” Hancock said Friday, soon after hundreds of supporters, contributors, sponsors, donors and volunteer builders cheered, and sang “Happy Birthday,” with 8-year-old daughter Anastasia chorusing “Cha Cha Cha.”
“I’ll be able to help my dad,” fifth grader Julius said, darting in and out of the crowd, clad like his father, in a camouflage ball cap and t-shirt.
“This patriotic American military community … it’s something you don’t see,” Hancock told the group gathered Friday. “You guys basically did something that’s never been done, all the OATH students … mainly the community support was beyond what I expected, beyond what anybody expected. The community as a whole stepped up. I am really grateful for everything that everybody has done, and I just want to say ‘Thank You.’”
Five wounded service members, including two Medal of Honor recipients and last year's Army Times Soldier of the Year, visited Afghanistan Wednesday as part of Operation Proper Exit.
The troops who returned to Afghanistan were retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, Sgt. Tom Block, retired Sgt. Ralph Cacciapaglia and retired Cpl. Steve Martin.
Petry received the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 26, 2008. He is credited with saving the lives of his fellow Rangers when he picked up a grenade and threw it away from them during a fierce fight in Paktya province. Petry was then on his seventh deployment and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, on July 12, 2011. He retired last summer.
Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in February 2010. Carpenter, was part of the Marine assault in Marjah in southern Afghanistan. He was honored for throwing himself on a grenade to shield a friend and fellow Marine from the blast.
Block was the 2014 Army Times Soldier of the Year. Block, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded Oct. 5, 2013, during a raid in southern Afghanistan. Block and his fellow Rangers were on a mission to root out insurgents who had been planning suicide bombing attacks in the area when a suicide bomber — either woman or a man dressed as a woman — detonated. Block was thrown 35 feet into a minefield, severely wounded. Four other soldiers died on that mission, and nearly two dozen others were wounded. "This trip for me came to a head when we visited Craig Medical Center," Block said, according to a news release from U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. "They showed me the bed that I stayed in. That kind of came full circle for me."
Martin, of the National Guard, was wounded in September 2008 in Logar province, according to the news release. He now works as a trooper with the Arizona Highway Patrol. Since he lost his legs, Martin has participated in 29 half marathons and five full marathons, according to the news release. "I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today without the service members that helped get us through there," he said. "It's just neat to see a sea of green out here today. Going back into Craig [Hospital] this morning was huge. It was a big emotional moment for me because the last time I [arrived] was unfortunately via a Black Hawk ride on a stretcher. I was pretty banged up. They took great care of me. They took great care of my team when we were hit and rolled us out of there about four days later. It's a huge honor to be back here today and to see everybody. I just didn't think I'd get back over here to see it."
Caccipaglia, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded February 2012 in Helmand province. Four months after being shot through the leg by a 7.62mm round, he tried out for and made the 2012 All-Army Rugby Team. He's currently working on his master's degree in business administration at Boston College.
You probably don't know Michael Schlitz.
But you should.
Eight years ago, Schlitz -- a U.S. Army sergeant assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad -- almost died in a roadside attack.
He was burned beyond recognition, lost both hands and partial sight. The three soldiers in the vehicle with him were killed.
Today, Schlitz lives in southern Harris County and travels the country telling his story of service and survival.
He can talk candidly about suicide because he has contemplated it. He can talk about pain after 83 surgeries.
He recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams and shared his remarkable story.
A Navy SEAL who was shot 27 times and still managed to pull out his handgun and kill two enemy fighters is now training to run a half-Ironman triathlon in honor of his fellow veterans.
Mike Day is representing Dallas-based Carrick Brain Centers, where he was treated for PTSD eight years after he survived a gunfight while serving in Iraq.
In 2007 Day was hit 27 times by enemy fire after he was the first of his SEAL team to enter a room where four enemy fighters were waiting and quickly shot the rifle out of his hand.
Day managed to kill two enemy fighters with his pistol before he was knocked unconscious by a grenade that exploded less than 10-feet away from him.
Eleven shots hit Day's body armor while the other 16 wounded him, according to WTKR.
When Day woke up a minute later in the midst of a firefight, he grabbed his handgun and shot down two enemy fighters before the gunfire ceased.
The tough SEAL then got up and walked himself to the medical helicopter.
Day described the extent of his numerous injuries on his half-Ironman fundraiser page, writing that he was shot in both legs and arms, as well as the buttocks and scrotum. He said a shot to his abdomen also left him with a colostomy bag for a year, and his left thumb was almost amputated. Day's ribs were also fractured and he suffered contusions to his lungs after his body armor was hit so many times, but the bullets missed all his vital organs.
'This was a single gunfight at an ordinary day at the office,' he wrote on the page.
Release No: NR-040-15
February 06, 2015
Army Approves Awards for Victims of 2009 Fort Hood Attack
Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that he has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, following a change in the medals’ eligibility criteria mandated by Congress. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack by Major Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August, 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.
“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” McHugh explained. “Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal. It’s an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice.”
Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart by re-defining what should be considered an attack by a “foreign terrorist organization” for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart. The legislation states that an event should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator of the attack “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack” and “the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”
In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,” and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been “inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.” Previous criteria required a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization.
McHugh directed Army officials to identify soldiers and civilians now eligible for the awards as soon as possible, and to contact them about presentation of the awards. Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement. Recipients are also eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Following his 2013 conviction, Hasan was sentenced to death by a general court-martial. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes continue.
For additional information regarding this announcement, please contact Lt. Col. Ben Garret at 703-614-5302 or my email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this month, the Polish soldier became the proud father of a baby boy he named in honor of Ollis.
Robert Ollis and his wife, Linda, called the tribute to their son "unexpected" and "wonderful."
"I thought of the baby as a grandson," Ollis Sr. said "We are very happy and honored."
To thank Cierpica and his wife, the Ollis family sent the couple a teddy bear they had specially made out of their son's Army fatigues.
We are soldiers.
We are soldiers in the United States Army.
We are trained to be all we can be.
We fight for the freedom of many citizens of the United States. We are all ready to meet our fates.
We all volunteer to defend the red, white and blue.
Not only the flag, but for the citizens of our great country too.
Since our country's birth for all these years,
we have been trained to be the best on Earth.
Many times we have went to war.
We will be involved in many more.
Generation by generation soldiers continue to enlist.
Some of us will go to war and definitely be missed.
Some soldiers will return and some won't.
Those who do not, we won't forget and we hope you don't.
Many of us are going to Iraq.
Some of us won't be coming back.
We have loved ones we are leaving behind.
They will always be in our prayers, hearts and mind.
If we don't make it home safely at the end of the war,
just remember we died defending the beliefs of those of many more.
- Gunnar Becker